When is elective abortion wrong?

If you support elective abortion – defined as on-demand abortions for non-medical reasons – then you have to answer this question, “At what point is it wrong?”

  • Is abortion wrong when the life that’s ended has its own genetic coding, metabolism, reproductive potential, and growth? In other words, when they first exist as human beings – at conception?
    Is it wrong when their heart starts beating after 3 weeks?
  • Is it wrong when their blood cells, kidney cells, and nerve cells all develop at 10 weeks?
  • Is it wrong when they can feel the pain of an abortion, the metal pliers or suction tearing their skin apart?
  • Is it wrong when the pregnant woman can sometimes feel her offspring kick and turn in her womb at 18 weeks?
  • Is it wrong to kill at viability when her offspring can live outside the womb with medical intervention at 24 weeks?
  • Is it wrong to end the life of a baby before they’re born, or right after they’ve been born?
  • Is it wrong to end the life of a baby who isn’t self-aware and doesn’t have consciousness?
  • Is it wrong to kill a toddler who doesn’t know what life, death, thought, or joy is…just because their brains have not developed enough to recognize those concepts?
  • Is it wrong to intentionally kill a human – any human – when he or she is inside their mother’s womb?

If the answer to the last question is yes, then if the fetus is human, elective abortion is wrong. If the answer is no, then choose your arbitrary date and your arbitrary reason why humans need (X) or (Y) to have the right to not be killed…and go for it.

Most academics who look at the ethics of abortion don’t bother examining arbitrary points in a fetus’ development – like viability or nervous system development – and conclude that killing a being that is self-aware is ethically okay, or that all elective abortions are wrong. Abortion ends a human life. The question we need to ask is “Is this life worthy of the right not to be killed? Why?”

There are some people who would look at an infant, and say “Because that infant is not self-aware, and does not have consciousness, they are no more entitled to the right to life than bacteria or plants. Therefore, this infant can be killed.” These same people would say killing an adult cow or monkey is wrong, but killing a one year old child – or, at the other end of life, an older person with dementia –is ethically acceptable.

The abortion issue, at its core, boils down to whether you think it’s okay to kill a human that cannot know of its own existence, or advocate against its death. Even if we lived in a utopia where there was no social or financial reason to get an abortion, the question still remains: “Is it okay to kill?” This is probably one of the most complex and divisive ethical issues human beings have faced. It causes us to question much of what our society believes in.  Can we say abortion is permissible if we believe all human beings are equal and should get human rights?


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