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Would you allow a mother to kill an already born 2-year old? Of course not! We can all agree that such an act would be murder. What about if the child was just born; could the mother choose to have that baby terminated? Again, such an act would be punishable as murder. Does anyone become a different individual when they change location? Once again, such a statement is absurd; if you’re in the United States, you don’t suddenly become a different kind of thing or person when you cross the border into Canada. That’s because your physical location has nothing to do with what or who you are. Well, if this is true, then a baby is just as much of a unique individual prior to being born as it is after being born, since the only difference is physical location. Nothing magical happens when a baby exits its mother, it is a person before and after.
Many people will read that and still disagree, but if you want to say that it is acceptable to kill a baby because it is still in the womb, then as we’ve seen, you are logically committed to also accepting that it is acceptable to kill someone at any time after they’re born, since physical location does not change what you are.
Now, some people may realize that it is not a good argument to say that someone is not a person just because they are still in the mother’s womb, yet they will still object to the idea that abortion is murder at all stages in the pregnancy. They will say that it is not the physical location that justifies terminating the pregnancy, but instead it is how much the fetus has developed. They agree that at the end of the last trimester the fetus has developed into a person, but will claim that before that it is just a clump of cells. First, I would like to point out that you are also just a clump of cells, but also there are enormous problems with this argument. If it is true that when a pregnancy starts as a fertilized egg, it is not a person, but rather just a cell like any other cell in the mother’s body, then that must mean at some moment in the progression of that organism’s development it goes from not being a person, to suddenly becoming a person. That is an incoherent concept.
The reason that is incoherent, is because there is no point in time in which the organism is not a person at one moment, and then a nanosecond later becomes a person. If no such point can exist, then it follows that a person is a person at all points of their existence from the moment of conception onward. The reason I say conception, is because that’s the only time where there is a precise moment which can be identified. There is a point in time in which there did not exist a unique organism one moment, and then immediately upon fertilization it becomes an entirely new organism, distinct from all others. Even if a scientist says that at some particular point the fetus is not a human, just because he/she says it doesn’t make it right. It is equally as arbitrary when a scientist makes such a claim.
To say there is a gradual transition from being merely a clump of cells to becoming a person is also an incoherent idea, because that means that at some points you can be only partially person. What could that possibly mean, to be part of a person? That makes absolutely no sense at all. If what people mean by that is that some of your body parts either do not exist or are not working yet, and therefore they’re not a complete person, then we’re committed to the idea that any handicapped individual is less of a person. That is a close-minded and disgusting view, that by and large nobody is prepared to accept.
One argument that may be pushed back on this, is that individuals in support of legal abortions will say that a fetus becoming a person is similar to an acorn becoming an oak tree. Clearly an acorn and an oak tree are not the same, but they say my argument would mean that it is the same thing the entire time. The problem with this analogy, is that it is comparing the wrong things. At every stage, from being an acorn to becoming an enormous oak tree, it is the exact same organism. An acorn doesn’t become a different kind of thing at any point. What the difference is between an acorn and an oak tree, is those are terms to describe the same organism at different stages in its life. Saying an acorn is not an oak tree is the equivalent of saying a child is not an adult. Of course a child is not an adult! However, adults and children are not different kinds of things, but rather they are terms for the same thing at different stages in its life. An acorn and an oak tree are both members of the species oak, just like from the first cell in a pregnancy, to the last moments in someone’s life, they are of the species human.
Another argument those in support of abortion will use to try to counter my argument, are examples of other things that have no defining moment, and are not just describing different stages in a life. For example, a sound at the volume of a whisper is not loud, but a sound at the volume of a jet engine is loud. Or the classic example of one grain of sand not being a heap, but a million grains of sand is certainly a heap. The point of those examples is to show that it is impossible to find a specific moment in which the sound goes from quiet to loud, or the sand from a small amount to a great heap, just like my argument that it is impossible to identify a moment of going from an undeveloped fetus to a person. The problem with this argument, is that both loudness and heapness are both subjective things. There is no objective property of a noise that is loud, and there is no objective property of a pile that is heap. These are subjective terms, that will change depending on the individual observing them. To a mostly deaf person, perhaps a scream that is otherwise incredibly loud to most people, would be relatively quiet for them. The quality of being loud, and the quality of being a heap, are both things which are just arbitrarily decided by the observer.
Before I conclude this argument, I would like to bring up one more point, and address one common argument those in favor of abortion use:
- The point I want to bring up is that any re-definition of what constitutes a person given to a fetus, is not only arbitrary, but also can equally apply to adults. Saying having sentience is what makes it a person, commits one to the conclusion that it is acceptable to kill a person in a coma who would wake up in 9-months. Saying it is a heartbeat that makes a person human or any other inability to preform an otherwise ordinary physical activity, has declared all people with disabilities or necessary medical intervention as people who can be killed.
2. The common argument I would like to address is when individuals say, “My body. My choice.” What they mean by that is that we all have a right to do what we wish with our own bodies, and preventing abortion is preventing them from doing what they wish with their body. The fundamental problem with this, is it fails to recognize the difference between what IS someone’s body, and what is IN someone’s body. A fetus/baby is in the mother’s body, but that doesn’t mean it is mother’s body. Remember, there’s a difference between what is, and what’s in.
The summary of my whole argument here would be this:
A fetus is a person from conception onward, because it is impossible for an individual to not be a person at one moment and then become a person at the very next moment.
There are other aspects of the abortion debate not covered here due to post length limitations, however more will be written to address abortion in the cases of rape, incest, and threats to the mother’s life.