Abortion is a huge topic within America’s political landscape, yet emotion and deceptive rhetoric often cloud the issue. The purpose of this article is to outline the pro-life position, providing a logical argument to serve as a basis for further discussion. The pro-life position is as follows:
1. Human beings have intrinsic value.
2. Therefore, it is prima facie morally wrong to kill an innocent human being.
3. Life begins at conception.
4. In every stage of development, a human zygote is “human” by definition and biological necessity.
5. Abortion is the practice of killing an innocent human zygote/embryo/fetus.
6. Therefore, abortion is morally reprehensible.
While pro-life advocates may differ on how they formulate their argument, all receive foundation in the same principles (mainly premise 1 and premise 3). For the pro-choice advocate to be successful, he/she must refute one or both of these premises. It is also important to acknowledge the fact that this is not inherently a religious debate, as none of the premises appeal to a religious text or belief system.
The first premise provides the foundation for the entire argument. We intuitively understand that human life is valuable, which is why we fight for fundamental human rights (including, but not limited to, the right to life, justice, and liberty). These concepts only make sense if people actually possess inherent value. Legislation and our personal reactions toward injustice, all affirm the intrinsic value of human life.
Since humans have intrinsic value (premise 1) it is therefore prima facie morally wrong to kill an innocent human being. We understand this intuitively, and actively seek to protect, and preserve human life. This is why every society on earth has legislation prohibiting murder. Again, this only makes sense if humans possess intrinsic value. If humans do not possess intrinsic [moral] value, then there is not a moral problem with arbitrarily ending another person’s life. This is why people don’t need justification to kill a cockroach, destroy cancer cells, or end the life of a mosquito. None of these things possess intrinsic value, and therefore, it is not morally reprehensible to kill them, even when it’s done arbitrarily.
Since human life has intrinsic value, and it is therefore morally wrong to kill an innocent human being, the question becomes, when does life actually begin? All scientific evidence points to conception as the logical point at which life begins. At the point of conception, a genetically unique organism emerges, and the process of development begins.1 The unique genetic makeup categorically differentiates the new organism from the mother, thus signifying the beginning of a new life. Moreover, the created organism is a genetically complete human being, who—through the process of natural development—will eventually become an adult person.
Some pro-choice advocates will object, stating that although the zygote/embryo/fetus is “alive,” it is not “a person” with the same inherent rights/value of a fully developed human being. If human life begins at conception, then that living human being possesses intrinsic value, regardless of its stage of development. The argument is as follows:
1. If something has a constitutive property at any point in time, then it has that property at every point in its existence.
2. You are a constitutive human being with intrinsic value.
3. Therefore, you are intrinsically valuable at every point of your existence.
4. You are the same living being/organism as the zygote from which you developed.
5. Therefore, the zygote from which you developed was a human being, possessing intrinsic value.
From the point of conception, the developing zygote is human, both biologically and by definition. Philosopher, Dr. William Lane Craig remarks, “Here it seems to me that it is virtually undeniable scientifically and medically that the fetus is at every stage of its development a human being. After all, the fetus is not canine, or feline, or bovine; it is a human fetus.”2 It is completely illogical to assert that human offspring, is anything other than human, regardless of its state of development.
Abortion is the practice of killing a human zygote/embryo/fetus. This is merely an explanation of the medical practice of abortion, and this remains an uncontested fact.
Since abortion is the practice of killing a human zygote/embryo/fetus, and that zygote/embryo/fetus is alive, is innocent, and is human (possessing intrinsic value), then abortion must be morally reprehensible.
- Patrick Lee and Robert P. George, Body-Self Dualism in Contemporary Ethics and Politics (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 119-121; Jerome Lejeune, “A Scientist’s View of Abortion,” Chicago Tribune, May 13, 1981, http://archives.chicagotribune.com/1981/05/13/page/16/article/point-of-view.
- William Lane Craig, Hard Questions, Real Answers (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2003), 115.