The article in today’s blog is a simple, straightforward and powerful model for what we as supporters of the right to life can also say to friends and neighbors and fellow employees who are immersed in a prochoice worldview. I follow with some supporting facts from the revised and 50% larger version of my book Why ProLife?.
By Keith Mathison
We have been neighbors for many years, and on several occasions you have both expressed some consternation about my position on abortion. You have told me that when you have discussed this with our other neighbors, none of them can comprehend how I can take a position that “sets women’s rights back fifty years.” As you know, a few of our neighbors have even gotten angry, especially during those months leading up to elections, arguing that I want to let politicians control private medical decisions.
You asked me if I could give you one good reason why you should change your view. I can and will. The reason why I oppose abortion, and the reason why you should oppose abortion is actually quite simple, and it is this: The fetus is a human being.
Notice that I did not say, “I believe that the fetus is a human being.” Such a statement would imply that this is a matter of opinion or faith. No, it is an objective fact that the fetus is a genetically distinct individual human being from the moment the sperm cell fertilizes the ovum. It is a human being in the earliest stages of its growth and development, but it is a human being nonetheless. Read any standard textbook on embryology used in any college or university, and you will find the same fact stated in all of them.
Once this very simple and basic fact is grasped, once we understand that conception results in a living human being, it changes everything. We can no longer look at abortion as simply a debate over a woman’s right to choose because the choice involves the life or death of another human being. We can no longer look at abortion as a private medical decision involving only a woman and her doctor because there is always a third distinct human being involved as well. We can no longer look at abortion as merely the ending of a pregnancy. That is a euphemism. Abortion is, quite simply, the killing of a living human being.
The fetus is a genetically distinct individual human being from the earliest stages of embryonic development. It is not a “potential” human being or a “potential” human life. Arguments comparing the embryo to a sperm cell (which does contain the “potential” to initiate human life) are red herrings and irrelevant. A sperm cell and a human embryo are qualitatively different things. One is a genetically distinct human being in the early stages of development. The other is not.
There is no rational excuse for supporting abortion today. Every competent scientist knows what a human embryo is. Every competent scientist knows that conception is the time at which a new genetically distinct individual human being begins to live. They knew this in 1973, and they know this now. And if it is a living human being, no one has the right to kill it any more than they have the right to kill any other human being.
People continue to support abortion, however, because they have concluded that other “rights” are more basic and more fundamental than the right of a human being not to be killed. I am hardly exaggerating when I say that in our modern culture, the most fundamental and cherished of all “rights” is the right to engage in any kind of sexual intercourse imaginable without fear of consequences. And if the preservation of this “right” involves the killing of another human being, so be it.
You can easily find numerous quotations by prominent advocates of abortion, acknowledging that it is the killing of a human being. Most who support abortion, however, redefine the fetus and deny that it is fully human. History has not been kind to those generations who deprived certain people of their basic rights to life and who did so by defining them as less than fully human. When the history of our generation is written, will you be among those who shut their eyes to injustice on a massive scale, who looked the other way as human beings were systematically killed? Or will you be among those who spoke up for those who could not speak for themselves?
The fetus is a living individual human being. The unjust killing of a human being is murder. If these two statements are true, and both are true, then the only conclusion we can reach is that abortion is murder. You asked me why you should change your view of abortion. This is why.
Famous intrauterine photographer pioneer Lennart Nilsson is best known for his classic photo essays in Life magazine and his book A Child Is Born. In his “Drama of Life before Birth,” he says this of the unborn at forty-five days after conception (before many women know they’re pregnant): “Though the embryo now weighs only 1/30 of an ounce, it has all the internal organs of the adult in various stages of development. It already has a little mouth with lips, an early tongue and buds for 20 milk teeth. Its sex and reproductive organs have begun to sprout.”
By eight weeks hands and feet are almost perfectly formed. By nine weeks a child will bend fingers around an object placed in the palm. Fingernails are forming, and the child is sucking his thumb. The nine-week baby has “already perfected a somersault, backflip and scissor kick.”
The unborn responds to stimulus and may already be capable of feeling pain. Yet abortions on children at this stage are called “early abortions.”
By ten weeks the child squints, swallows, and frowns. By eleven weeks he urinates, makes a wide variety of facial expressions, and even smiles. By twelve weeks the child is kicking, turning his feet, curling and fanning his toes, making a fist, moving thumbs, bending wrists, and opening his mouth.
All this happens in the first trimester, the first three months of life. In the remaining six months in the womb, nothing new develops or begins functioning. The fully intact child only grows and matures—unless her life is lost by spontaneous miscarriage or taken through abortion.
It’s an indisputable scientific fact that each and every surgical abortion stops a beating heart and stops already measurable brain waves.
What do we call it when a person no longer has a heartbeat or brain waves? Death.
What should we call it when there is a heartbeat and there are brain waves? Life.
Every abortion ends a human life. That is a simple and scientifically certain fact.
When it comes to sharing these truths, one thing I encourage prolifers to realize are the vested interests, denial, and rationalization surrounding this issue. Many of the people you speak with have had abortions, recommended them, paid for them, or driven their girlfriend, wife, or daughter to get one. They have personal reasons for not wanting to believe abortion kills children.
It’s vitally important that we approach subjects such as abortion in a Christlike manner. Jesus came full of grace and truth (John 1:14). If people are to see Jesus in us, we must offer the truth with grace.
May we all continue speaking out about the humanity of the unborn in a spirit of grace and truth.