Abortion Fact #5: The Right To Not Be Killed Supersedes The Right To Not Be Pregnant

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The Virginia Christian Alliance recommends to our readers to visit “Abortion Facts“, which lists 20 facts on abortion.  We have published Abortion Fact #5 and the links to the rest below. 

The comparison between a baby’s rights and a mother’s rights is unequal. What is at stake in abortion is the mother’s lifestyle, as opposed to the baby’s life. Therefore, it is reasonable for society to expect an adult to live temporarily with an inconvenience if the only alternative is killing a child.

Of course a child does not have more rights than her mother. Any two people are equal, and any two people have equal rights. Hence, a mother has every bit as much right to live as any child. But in nearly all abortions, the woman’s right to live is not an issue, because her life is not in danger.

The mother has not only the right to live, but also the right to the lifestyle of her choice—as long as that choice does not rob other people of even more fundamental rights, the most basic of which is the right to live. The right to a certain lifestyle is never absolute and unconditional. It is always governed by its effects on others.

Planned Parenthood states: [1]

The desire to complete school or to continue working are common reasons women give for choosing to abort an unplanned pregnancy.

Completing school and working are desirable things in many cases, and pregnancy can make them difficult. But a woman normally can continue school and work during pregnancy. If she gives up a child for adoption, she need not give up school or work. If she chooses to raise the child herself, there are childcare options available if she must work outside the home. I am not suggesting this is ideal, nor do I say it callously. I have worked with single mothers and know their difficulties. I am simply pointing out there are alternatives, any one of which is preferable to an innocent child’s death.

Regardless of the challenges, one person’s right to a preferred lifestyle is not greater than another person’s right to a life.

Rebutting Judith Jarvis Thomson’s “A Defense of Abortion”

Abortion-rights advocate Judith Jarvis Thomson invented an analogy that has been widely quoted in pro-choice literature and debates. She compares pregnancy to a situation in which someone wakes up strapped to a famous but unconscious violinist. Imagine, Thomson says, that some group called the Society of Music Lovers has “kidnapped” you because you have a certain blood type. Now you are being forced to stay “plugged in” to the violinist’s body for nine months until he is viable, or able to live on his own.

Thomson then asks what if it were not just nine months, but nine years or considerably longer? (Apparently this is a comparison to having to raise a child once he is born.) Thomson assumes that readers would find such a situation “outrageous” and would not consider it their obligation to be subjected to nine months—at least—of bondage and misery for the sake of the violinist, who is little more than a human parasite. [2]

This analogy is worth a closer examination, both because of its popularity and because it is typical of the way the abortion issue is framed by pro-choice advocates. Here are six fallacies of this argument that cut to the heart of the abortion debate:

Rebuttal #1: Over 99% of all pregnancies are the result of sexual relations in which both partners have willingly participated.

One is rarely coerced into pregnancy. Though pro-lifers may be in Thomson’s mind, neither they nor anyone else is parallel to the Society of Music Lovers. No one is going around forcing people to get pregnant. The outrage the reader feels at the idea of being kidnapped and coerced is an effective emotional device, but it is a distortion of reality.

Rebuttal #2: Pregnancy is a much different experience than the analogy depicts.

Pregnancy is portrayed as a condition in which one is unable to leave the room, to socialize, to have a job, or even to get out of bed. Carrying a child is depicted as a horrid, degrading, and debilitating situation. Both medical science and the personal experience of millions of women argue against this bleak and twisted picture. Carrying a child is a natural condition in which there is some inconvenience. But few women are bedridden during their pregnancies. Most are socially active, capable of working, traveling, and exercising almost to the day the child is delivered.

Rebuttal #3: Even when pregnancy is unwanted or difficult, it is a temporary condition.

Since the great majority of abortions take place from seven weeks to six months of development, the actual difference between the woman who aborts her child and the woman who doesn’t is not nine months but three to seven months. The analogy to nine years or even a lifetime of being chained to someone is obviously invalid since after birth a woman is free to give up her child to one of the hundreds of thousands of families waiting to adopt infants in this country. While pregnancy is a temporary condition, abortion produces a permanent condition— the death of a child.

Rebuttal #4: In this scenano, mother and child are pitted against each other as enemies.

The mother is at best merely a life-support system and at worst the victim of a crime. The child is a leech, a parasite unfairly taking advantage of the mother. Love, compassion, and care are nowhere present. The bonding between mother and child is totally ignored. The picture of a woman waking up in a bed, strapped to a strange unconscious man is bizarre and degrading to women, whose pregnancy and motherhood are natural.

Rebuttal #5: The child’s presence during pregnancy is rarely more inconvenient than his presence after birth.

The burden of a born child is usually greater on a woman than the burden of an unborn. Yet if a parent of a two-year-old decides that she is tired of being a parent and that no one has the right to expect her to be one any longer, society nonetheless recognizes that she has certain responsibilities toward that child. She can surrender him for foster care or adoption, but she cannot abuse, neglect, or kill the child. If the solution to the stresses of pregnancy is killing the preborn child, is killing not also the solution to the stresses of parenting the preschooler?

Rebuttal #6: Even when there is no felt obligation, there is sometimes real obligation.

If a woman is being raped or murdered, what do we think of those who make no effort to rescue the woman? Don’t we recognize that there is moral responsibility toward saving a life, even if it involves an inconvenience or risk we did not ask for or want? For the woman carrying a child, isn’t it a significant consideration that her own mother made the same sacrifice for her? Can we forget that every one of us was once that “leech,” that “parasite,” that “violinist” dependent on our mothers in order to live? Aren’t you glad your mother looked at pregnancy—and looked at you—differently than portrayed by this pro-choice analogy? This argument for abortion is based in utilitarianism, the idea that whatever brings a person momentary happiness or relief is the right course of action. This is a shaky foundation for any society that hopes to be moral and just in its treatment of the weak and needy.

If the unborn are human beings, then they have the right to live. Period!

See if you can spot what’s wrong with the following statement:

Even if the unborn are human beings, they have fewer rights than the woman. No one should be expected to donate her body as a life-support system for someone else.

Does this sound reasonable at first glance? WAIT!…

Once we grant that the unborn are human beings, it should settle the question of their right to live. 

One pro-choice advocate, in the face of the overwhelming evidence, admitted to me that the unborn are human beings. He then added, “But that’s irrelevant to the issue of a woman’s right to have an abortion.” But how can one’s humanity be irrelevant to the question of whether someone has the right to kill him? Wasn’t the black person’s humanity relevant to the issue of slavery, or the Jew’s humanity relevant to the ethics of the Holocaust? Not only is the unborn’s humanity relevant, it is the single most relevant issue in the whole abortion debate.

In the Roe v. Wade decision, Justice Harry Blackmun stated: [3]

We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins.

In fact, this question is not difficult at all, as the many scientists quoted under fact #1 attest. But no matter what answer we come to, isn’t the question of whether living children are being killed by abortion precisely the question we must resolve?

Writing in the New York Times, pro-choice Barbara Ehrenreich says: [4]

A woman may think of her fetus as a person or as just cells depending on whether the pregnancy is wanted or not. This does not reflect moral confusion, but choice in action.

In this Alice-in-Wonderland approach, one’s choice is not made in light of scientific and moral realities. One’s choice is itself the only important reality, overshadowing all matters of fact. But if society operated this way, every killing of a person would be justifiable. The real issue would not be the worth of the person killed, but the free choice of the one doing the killing. If a man doesn’t want his wife, he can think of her as a nonperson. If he chooses to kill her, it would not be “moral confusion,” but “choice in action.”

Ms. Ehrenreich goes on to say: [5]

Moreover, a woman may think of the fetus as a person and still find it necessary and morally responsible to have an abortion.

We must not miss the implications of this viewpoint. It says that one may acknowledge the personhood of a fellow human being, yet feel that for one’s personal benefit it is legitimate—even “morally responsible”—to kill that other person. Though this is a logical conclusion of abortion-rights thinking, if carried out in our society it would ultimately mean the end of all human rights and social justice.

Naomi Wolf admits that her fellow feminists have lied to themselves in depersonalizing and dehumanizing the unborn: [6]

This has led to a bizarre bifurcation in the way we who are prochoice tend to think about wanted as opposed to unwanted fetuses: the unwanted ones are still seen in schematic black-and-white drawings while the wanted ones have metamorphosed into vivid and moving color. Even while Elders spoke of our need to “get over” our love affair with the unwelcome fetus, in entire growth industry—Mozart for your belly; framed sonogram phoios; home fetal-heartbeat stethoscopes—is devoted to sparking fetal love affairs in other circumstances, and aimed especially at the hearts of over-scheduled yuppies. If we avidly cultivate love for the ones we bring to term, and “get over” our love for the ones we don’t, do we not risk developing a hydroponic view of babies—and turn them into a product we can cull for our convenience?  
Any happy couple with a wanted pregnancy and a copy of What to Expect When You’re Expecting can see the cute, detailed drawings of the fetus whom the book’s owner presumably is not going to abort, and can read the excited descriptions of what that fetus can do and feel, month by month. Anyone who has had a sonogram during pregnancy knows perfectly well that the 4-month-old fetus responds to outside stimulus—“Let’s get him to look this way,” the technician will say, poking gently at the belly of a delighted mother-to-be. The Well Baby Book, the kind of whole-grain holistic guide to pregnancy and childbirth that would find its audience among the very demographic that is most solidly prochoice reminds us that: “Increasing knowledge is increasing the awe and respect we have for the unborn baby and is causing us to regard the unborn baby as a real person long before birth….”  
So, what will it be: Wanted fetuses are charming, complex REM-dreaming little beings whose profile on the sonogram looks just like Daddy, but unwanted ones are mere “uterine material”? How can we charge that it is vile and repulsive for prolifers to brandish vile and repulsive images if the images are real? To insist that the truth is in poor taste is the very height of hypocrisy. 

“The height of hypocrisy” is one feminist’s appraisal of this double standard. Yet, amazingly, in this same essay Wolf still defends abortion, saying it should be done with grief and mourning for the loss of the child. In some ways, her bottom-line message is even more frightening. She is telling people:

Stop lying to yourselves about the unborn…these are real babies, just as real and just as precious when we don’t want them as when we do. Keep that tragic fact in mind as you go ahead and kill them.

The child’s right to not be killed is more fundamental than the woman’s right to not be pregnant.

Some have suggested that prohibiting a woman from having an abortion is to place the value of an embryo or fetus above that of the woman herself. Restricting abortion does not imply that the child is more valuable than the mother. Rather, it recognizes that the child’s right to not be killed is more fundamental than the woman’s right to not be pregnant.

Politically speaking, abortion is an issue that involves competing rights. On the one hand, you have the mother’s right not to be pregnant. On the other hand, you have the baby’s right not to be killed. The question that must be answered is this. Which right is more fundamental? Which right has a greater claim? Abortion advocates argue that outlawing abortion would, in essence, elevate the rights of the unborn over and above those of the mother. “How can you make a fetus more important than a grown woman?”, they might ask. In reality, outlawing abortion wouldn’t be giving unborn children more rights, it would simply gain for them the one most fundamental right that no one can live without, the right to life.

If a baby is not to be aborted, then the pregnant mother must remain pregnant. This will also require of her sickness, fatigue, reduced mobility, an enlarged body, and a new wardrobe. Fortunately, it is not a permanent condition. On the flip side, for a pregnant woman not to be pregnant, her child must be killed (unless she is past her 21st week of pregnancy, in which case the baby may well survive outside the womb). Abortion costs the unborn child his or her very life and it is a thoroughly permanent condition. This is what’s at stake, both for the child and for the mother. It is not an issue of who is more important, but rather who has more on the line.

Any time the rights of two people stand in opposition to each other, the law exists to protect the more fundamental right. We see this all the time. For example, if a car is driving down a street while someone is crossing that street, the law requires the driver of the car to slow down and stop (giving up their right to drive where they want, when they want, and at what speed they want) so that the pedestrian may cross the street in front of him. Why? Why must the driver temporarily give up his right to drive down the street just because someone else is walking across the street? Why is the right of the man on foot upheld while the right of the man in the car is denied? It is not because the pedestrian is more valuable than the driver but rather because, if the driver doesn’t stop, the pedestrian will likely be killed. In order for the driver to proceed down the street at full speed, at that moment, it will cost the pedestrian his life. In order for the pedestrian to finish crossing the street, at that moment, it will cost the driver a few minutes of drive time. The autonomy of the driver must be temporarily suspended to protect the life of the pedestrian. Though a pregnant woman gives up far more than a few minutes of drive time, she gives up far less than the baby, who would otherwise be killed.

At a basic level, the driver/pedestrian example helps illustrate how the law should respond when the rights of individuals conflict with each other. Namely, the less fundamental rights must yield to the more fundamental rights.

The comparison between a baby’s rights and a mother’s rights is unequal. What is at stake in abortion is the mother’s lifestyle, as opposed to the baby’s life. Therefore, it is reasonable for society to expect an adult to live temporarily with an inconvenience if the only alternative is killing a child.

<-   HomeFact #6: Poverty, rape, disability, or “unwantedness” do not morally justify abortion.   ->


  1. ^ Planned Parenthood Federation of America, “Abortion: Facts at a Glance,” 1.
  1. ^ Judith Jarvds Thomson, Philosophy and Public Affairs 1 (1971): 47-66
  1. ^ Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S., 1973.
  1. ^ Cited by John Leo in “The Moral Complexity of Choice,” U.S. News & World Report, 11 December 1989,64.
  1. ^ Ibid.
  1. ^ Naomi Wolf, “Our Bodies, Our Souls,” New Republic, 16 October 1995, www.epm.org/naomiwolf.html.


The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views the Virginia Christian Alliance

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