Saplings, Eaglets, and Little People


I want us to pause for a bit and consider a few other arguments for abortion. Judith Jarvis Thompson (and others) have put forward reasons for accepting abortion. We should listen to the best arguments and think about them because there are people who think they are doing good by supporting abortion rights for women. So, let’s have a conversation with a few of the better arguments for abortion.

First, some would say that the child (fetus, conceptus) in the womb is not a human life. Rather, they would say that it is a potential human life. Just as an acorn is not exactly an oak tree; so, the fetus is not a human baby. They would argue that it has the potential to become a tree, but it does not yet possess “tree-ness.” In the same way, the fetus does not yet possess humanness, even though it has the potential to become a human being. So, they would conclude that aborting the fetus is not killing a human being; rather, it is terminating a process which had the potential to produce a human being.

In response to this first argument, let us say we must compare apples to apples, or, in this case, acorns to acorns. The analogy does not hold between an acorn and a fetus for the simple reason that the acorn is not germinated, and the fetus is already fertilized and already in the growth process of what it is meant to become. If one were to compare an acorn to a fetus, then he would need to make the comparison between the fetus with a tender, young shoot of the acorn as it has germinated in the ground and broken through the surface of the earth. Even a sapling is not yet a tree, but we do not doubt the “tree-ness” of the sapling. If one were to pull the sapling out of the ground, we would understand that he just killed the tree, wouldn’t we?

Even more clearly, the point can be made by looking to our environmental and animal protection laws (even as crazy as some of them can be). Father Tad Pacholczyk, in an article titled “Imposing Our Beliefs on Others,” points out that our federal laws protect the eggs of eagles, yet allow for destroying the human child in development. We have seen bumper stickers like, “Save the baby whales, but kill the baby humans.” Something appears to be amiss in a culture which protects plants and animals in development but not human beings. We may wish to agree that saplings and eaglets have value and deserve a measure of protection, but wouldn’t we also want to agree that human beings have value, too?

Whose Body Is Aborted?


So, I wasn’t the only one thinking of putting out helpful, practical guides for speaking about abortion. Turns out, the guys over at “Between Two Worlds” are doing the same thing. They have published an article by D. A. Carson on practical strategies for discussing abortion. If you want a truly brilliant man’s advice on speaking about abortion, check out Carson.

Modestly, I still recommend reading the articles here simply because they are intended to serve a different function. These articles will give you the real components of meaningful conversation, as suggested by Carson. In this post, we will examine the claim that abortion should be the mother’s choice because it concerns her body.

There are a couple of quick responses which challenge the notion that a woman is free to have an abortion because the baby is a part of her body. First, is the woman (or a man) free to do whatever she wishes with her body? We once had laws against suicide. We have laws against prostitution. We have laws restricting nakedness. It isn’t completely clear that women are free to do whatever they wish with their own bodies.

But, more to the point, is a baby really a part of the woman’s body? The evidence says a baby is not part of the mother’s body; rather, the baby is a human entity in its own right. For instance, from the time of conception, the baby has its own, unique genetic code. As the baby develops in the womb, he develops his own two eyes, his own two arms, his own two legs, his own heart, his own lungs, his own brains, his own sexual reproductive organs. Does the mother claim to be both male and female? Does the mother claim to have four legs, two brains, four nostrils, and twenty fingers?

Finally, scientists have demonstrated the unique nature of conception by fertilizing a white baby in a Petri dish and implanting the conceptus into a black mother. When the baby is born, she is white, not black like the birth mother. So, while it is true that the baby is attached to a mother’s body, it does not appear to be true that the baby is part of the mother’s body. The baby is attached in the same sense a nursing child attaches to the mother in order to get nutrition; it is not attached in the sense a wart might be attached to her elbow.

So, the question really is not a question concerning what the mother should do with her body, but, rather, what the mother ought to do with her child’s body. We ought to pass laws which protect children in cases where a parent wishes to do harm.