want to make it clear that I agree that, abortion should remain legal through all nine months of pregnancy, that we should trust woman to do with their own bodies as they wish, that pro-lifers should not impose their views on others that don’t agree, that abortion is a personal decision between a woman and her doctor, that the government should fund abortions and make it available to every woman regardless of her age and without parental consent; if, the unborn is not human.
Suppose I’m outside gardening and I hear my girl, ask me this question “Papa, can I kill this?” Before I can make a decision about how to respond, what should I ask her in return? Naturally, I would take a look and ask the question, “what is it?” Suppose it’s a pesky garden snail. My response would be “yes you may, sweetheart” without any hesitation. Suppose it’s a frog; well that’s less obvious now, isn’t it, and I would hesitate in bewilderment. Suppose its your neighbors puppy, or suppose she has her little brother by the neck, now that is serious cause for concern and probably demands some professional counseling sessions. What has changed? The only difference is the value of the thing in question. We must first determine what the unborn is to know whether the unborn is valuable and whether we have moral obligations concerning it’s abortion. In this article we will look at evidence from science and philosophy to see if the unborn is a distinct living whole human being, or not, by answering the three most common objections.
Objection #1: The unborn is NOT human
The pro-choice claim, disregarding the unborn as human, usually goes something like this; the fetus is a part of the woman’s body tissue and she has the right to do what she wishes with her own body. Getting rid of the fetus is simply like pulling a tooth or removing an appendix, according to this view.
As a response to this position, let’s look at the imperial evidence from the science of embryology to find out what the zygote is.
“Human life begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm (spermatozoo development) unites with a female gamete or oocyte (ovum) to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.” “A zygote is the beginning of a new human being (i.e., an embryo).”
-Keith L. Moore, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, 7th edition. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders, 2003. pp. 16, 2.
“In that fraction of a second when the chromosomes form pairs, the sex of the new child will be determined, hereditary characteristics received from each parent will be set, and a new life will have begun.”
-Kaluger, G., and Kaluger, M., Human Development: The Span of Life, page 28-29, The C.V. Mosby Co., St. Louis, 1974.
“The first cell of a new and unique human life begins existence at the moment of conception (fertilization) when one living sperm from the father joins with one living ovum from the mother. It is in this manner that human life passes from one generation to another. Given the appropriate environment and genetic composition, the single cell subsequently gives rise to trillions of specialized and integrated cells that compose the structures and functions of each individual human body. Every human being alive today and, as far as is known scientifically, every human being that ever existed, began his or her unique existence in this manner, i.e., as one cell. If this first cell or any subsequent configuration of cells perishes, the individual dies, ceasing to exist in matter as a living being. There are no known exceptions to this rule in the field of human biology.”
-James Bopp, ed., Human Life and Health Care Ethics, vol. 2 (Frederick, MD: University Publications of America, 1985)
We can see from these quotes scientists, agree that human life begins at conception. What about some other scientific facts that can help us determine that the unborn is human.
- DNA- At conception the zygote has a completely different genetic makeup than the mother. The zygote has 23 chromosomes from the father and 23 from the mother to make a complete set of 46 unique chromosomes. This means that at the moment of conception there is a complete set of distinct DNA in the mother.
- The zygote is alive- At the moment the zygote is formed it starts to develop from the inside out. It will soon develop its own brain heart and organs. Notice that the zygote is not constructed from the outside-in like a car manufacturing plant, where pieces are added. The Zygote has everything that it needs to build itself, without requiring parts from the outside. The Zygote is alive.
- Blood type- The blood type of the unborn can be completely different from the mother’s blood type. Actually, the blood of the unborn never comes in contact with the blood of the mother, it comes close enough to exchange oxygen and nutrients but never touches. If the blood of the unborn comes in contact with the mother’s blood, the mother’s immune system would attack it like any foreign body.
- Gender- the unborn could be a male which would mean that it is unique and distinct from the mother, regarding gender.
- Race- A Dutch mother might have an Korean unborn developing inside her. The race of mother and unborn can be separate if the father’s ethnicity is different from the mother’s or if the mother is a surrogate for a different family.
So we can see that the unborn has a unique set of DNA information, it’s alive, has it’s own distinct circulatory system, could have a distinct gender and could have distinct race from the mother.
Is an abortion like pulling a tooth or getting rid of an appendix? Lets think about it. When a woman has a tooth pulled she is missing a part of her own body, she is missing a tooth. And when the woman has her appendix removed, she is missing her appendix. Now, when a fetus is removed from the mother, is the mother missing any part of her body? The answer is no, she is not missing any significant part of her body because the unborn has a different genetic code. The mother and the unborn are separate humans, therefore abortion is not like pulling a tooth or removing an appendix at all.
I have shown that the unborn is a distinct living whole human being through undisputed scientific facts. Lets move to another common objection,
Objection #2: The unborn is a human parasite
This objection affirms the scientific evidence for the unborn as a living human, but denies that the unborn is valuable, often equating the unborn with a parasite. To help me answer this objection I will be using the acronym ‘S.L.E.D.’ to show that the unborn is valuable regardless of size, level of development, environment or dependency.
Allow me to point out, right away, that the unborn is not a parasite.
- (a) A parasite is defined as an organism of one species living in or on an organism of another species (a heterospecific relationship) and deriving its nourishment from the host (is metabolically dependent on the host). (See Cheng, T.C., General Parasitology, p. 7, 1973.) (b) A human embryo or fetus is an organism of one species (Homo sapiens) living in the uterine cavity of an organism of the same species (Homo sapiens) and deriving its nourishment from the mother (is metabolically dependent on the mother). This homospecific relationship is an obligatory dependent relationship, but not a parasitic relationship.
- a) A parasite is an invading organism — coming to parasitize the host from an outside source.b) A human embryo or fetus is formed from a fertilized egg — the egg coming from an inside source, being formed in the ovary of the mother from where it moves into the oviduct where it may be fertilized to form the zygote — the first cell of the new human being.
Now that we have looked at the scientific evidence against the claim that the unborn qualifies as a parasite, let’s continue by unpacking the acronym S.L.E.D. first developed by Stephen D. Schwarz
- Size – The size of a human does not determine the value of the human. Should my children be less valuable than adults based on their small stature? No. Let’s consider that the average size of woman comparative to men is smaller, should we allow woman to be devalued simply based on size? No. The size of a human being has no bearing on the value of the human being. We have determined that the unborn is a human, therefore, the unborn is valuable, as a human, regardless of the size of the unborn.
- Level of Development – Level of development is not a reason to devalue a human. Consider that my oldest girl, who is five years old at the moment, is still developing her reproductive system. She is prepubescent and will not fully develop until she is in her early teens. Is that a good reason to devalue her as a human? No, this is simply not a valid reason to devalue any human being. As the zygote develops from a single cell, you and I also are continually developing new cells to replace old ones, therefore, we are all in a constant state of development.
- Environment – Our location in the world does not determine our value. The unborn should not be devalued because it is in a different environment, separated only by seven inches of birth canal. Consider an astronaut who is in a vastly different environment altogether, does our society devalue astronauts based on their physical location, miles above the earth? How about a deep sea diver, who dives hundreds of feet below sea level, are they devalued in any way? No, where a human being is does not determine the value of that human.
- Dependency – The fact that some humans are dependent for their survival does not devalue them. First consider the astronaut and the diver again, they are dependent on their breathing apparatus and protective equipment to survive in those hostile environments. Secondly, we do not devalue a human who is differently able than ourselves based on dependency. Nor do we devalue the elderly as their dependency grows. The dependency of a human being is related to the value of that human being.
Looking at these examples, we can see that these are non sequiturs in the fact that value has no bearing on size, level of development, environment or dependency, value is only effected by what the unborn is.
Objection#3: The Rights of the mother outweigh the rights of the unborn
To answer this objection we need to think about whether the unborn is human, or not. To help us understand the significant implications of this kind of emotional thinking lets substitute a toddler for the unborn. Let’s look at three really common pro-choice objections to see if the logic makes sense.
- Women who are raped or victims of incest should not be forced to continue the pregnancy.
- Laws against abortion don’t stop abortions, it simply makes it very unsafe.
- Women should not be forced into poverty because of unexpected pregnancy.
1.) Would it be alright to kill the toddler of a rape or incest victim? We would agree that it is not alright because the toddler is a human.
2.) Would it be acceptable to pass laws to kill toddlers because we can’t stop the death of toddlers? No, because the toddler is a human.
3.) Would it be justifiable to kill a toddler to avoid being driven to poverty? It, by no means, would be justifiable because the toddler is a human.
We can see that the rights of the mother cannot simply trump the rights of the unborn if the unborn is human. We have seen evidence from science that the unborn is human, therefore, the rights of the mother cannot overrule the rights of the unborn.
Say we are driving down the road and there is a coat in the street ahead and you are unsure whether it’s a person or not. Do we simply drive over it or do we err on the side of caution and avoid it? We err on the side of caution because the risk is not worth the benefit of staying relaxed in the car, by refusing to respond. This third objection is especially troubling because it appears that a motivator for abortion is the many benefits that accompany the killing of an unborn human being. There is no justification for considering the rights of the mother above the rights of the unborn, to life itself, if the unborn is human.
There is one more objection that I would like to discus briefly: abortion is legal and therefore its ok. Let me just remind the reader that when the Nazis exterminated the Jews in their death camps they were not in violation of the laws of Germany. The Nazis passed laws to make the holocaust legal on German soil. Allow me to state the obvious, just because the government allows murder, does not satisfy the moral necessity to protect the right of every distinct living whole human being.
We have covered a lot of ground, but lets recap. I mentioned that if the unborn is not human then there should be no limitations on abortion because, without the moral component involved, it would be similar to other medical procedures like pulling a tooth. We looked at embryology to discover that, in fact, the unborn is human after all. To determine that we compared the DNA, blood type, gender and race of the mother to the zygote. We saw that abortion is not the same as pulling a tooth because the mother and the unborn are separate, distinct humans. We analyzed whether the unborn is a parasite and we saw that that claim is scientifically false. We also looked at the acronym S.L.E.D. and found no good reason to devalue a human life based on size, level of development, environment or dependency. Finally we looked at three common pro-choice arguments and established that the mother’s rights cannot outweigh the rights of the unborn if the unborn is human, however emotionally persuasive they might be.
I want to take a minute and express my sympathy for the girls that have been victims of rape and incest, for the young girls that have felt tremendous pressure from parents, teachers, doctors or a boyfriend to abort their pregnancy, and for the women who didn’t have the support or finances to continue with their pregnancy. I sincerely sympathize with you and want to offer you hope. The only hope I can offer is that we are all equally separated from God because we all fall short of perfection, but through Jesus we can all have access to grace and forgiveness, God’s unmerited love and acceptance.
Romans 3:23-25 (NIV)
23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 25 God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood—to be received by faith.
The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture Paperback – March 10, 2009
Precious Unborn Human Persons Paperback – July 1, 2014
by Gregory Koukl