Does a Fetus in the First Trimester Have Value? Ben Shapiro’s Answer to a ProChoice College Student

From Randy: Fetus is a Latin word variously translated “offspring,” “young one,” or “little child.” Though fetus was once a good word that spoke of a young human being, it is now used with a subhuman connotation. Referring to the fetus allows us not to use the B-word (baby). The prochoice movement labors to avoid the B-word for it reminds us of the reality that abortion kills a child. This reality must be denied at all costs, because anyone who is understood to be arguing for the right to kill babies is fighting an uphill battle.

It is scientifically inaccurate to say an embryo or fetus is not a human being or doesn’t have worth simply because she’s at an earlier stage of development than a born infant. This is like saying that a toddler is not a human being—or is less of a human being—because she is not yet an adolescent. Or that an adolescent is not a human being because she is not yet an adult. Stage of development has nothing to do with human worth. Sadly, many people in our culture today have chosen to ignore this fact in order to justify abortion.

Conservative political commentator, talk show host, and lawyer Ben Shapiro recently gave a speech at UC Berkeley and also did a Q & A with students. One question he was asked was, “Why exactly do you think a first-trimester fetus has moral value?”

I appreciated Ben’s articulate and straightforward prolife answer. You can watch his exchange with the student in the video, or read the transcript below:

Student: My question was about abortion, and I just wanted to know why exactly do you think a first-trimester fetus has moral value?

Ben ShapiroShapiro: Okay, so a first-trimester fetus has moral value because whether you consider it a potential human life or a full-on human life, it has more value than just a cluster of cells. If left to its natural processes, it will grow into a baby. So the real question is, where do you draw the line? So are you going to draw the line at the heartbeat? Because it’s very hard to draw the line at the heartbeat because there are people who are adults who are alive because of a pacemaker, and they need some sort of outside force generating their heartbeat.

Okay, are you going to do it based on brain function? Well, what about people who are in a coma? Should we just kill them? Right, the problem is anytime you draw any line other than the inception of the child, you end up drawing a false line that can also be applied to people who are adults. So either human life has intrinsic value or it doesn’t. And I think we both agree that adult human life has intrinsic value. Can we start from that premise?

Student: I believe that “sentient” has, is what gives something moral value, not necessarily being a human alone.

Shapiro: Okay, so when you’re asleep, can I stab you?

Student: I’m still considered “sentient” when I’m asleep.

Shapiro: Okay, if you are in a coma from which you may awake, can I stab you?

Student: Well then, no I guess.

Shapiro: I’m glad you answered that, because I have no interest in actually killing you.

Student: But that’s still potential sentience and it’s still potential, like…

Shapiro: I agree with you about potential sentience. You know what else has potential sentience? Being a fetus.

Student: The issue I have with that is, if I’m in a coma and I’m not like doing anything to anyone, I’m not causing any issues amongst the world—whereas, an unwanted child may or may not be a burden to people.

Shapiro: There are lots of people’s parents who are unwanted. Right? Or a bunch of college students. The problem is that now you’re shifting the argument. Right? Before you were making the argument based on the intrinsic value of a life based on sentience, and now you’re talking about the level of burden that somebody presents as a separate moral argument. Okay. I don’t believe that you being a burden on somebody is justification for them killing you, as a general rule.

Student: I’ll leave it at that, but I appreciate you, and thank you.

Shapiro: Thanks.

Randy again: You may not be a lawyer or a talk show host like Ben, but all of us can graciously and intelligently present the prolife facts to those we talk with. One great tool to use is the acronym SLED, created by Scott Klusendorf, which I’ll briefly summarize:

Size: Does how big you are determine who you are?

Level of development: Are twenty-year-olds more human than ten-year-olds, since they are smarter and stronger?

Environment: Does being inside a house make you more or less of a person than being outside? Does being located in his mother’s body rather than outside make a child less human?

Degree of dependency: Does dependence upon another determine who you are? 

(For more, see the blog post SLED: A Simple Way to Talk with Those Who Are Prochoice About the Personhood of the Unborn, as well as my books Why ProLife? and ProLife Answers to ProChoice Arguments.)

Ultrasound photo credit: Pixabay | Shapiro picture credit: Gage Skidmore

Randy Alcorn (@randyalcorn) is the author of over sixty books and the founder and director of Eternal Perspective Ministries