A Fundamental Question Concerning Abortion

by Doy Moyer

Many of the arguments concerning abortion are emotionally based. Those who oppose abortion can fall into the emotional trap by pointing out how cute a baby is and asking how anyone can hurt it. It’s the same appeal made by those who oppose killing cute baby seals. Those who fight for abortion get on the emotional train by arguing that stopping abortion hurts poor women who can’t afford to raise children. There is a great deal of question-begging. It’s an emotional issue all around, and that makes getting through to either side really tough.

I have read, heard, and discussed the arguments on both sides for many years. I am, without shame, pro-life. I do not wish to denigrate, mock, or make light of those who argue for abortion on the grounds of women’s rights or difficulties from having unwanted children. I am making a point about why I think most of these arguments are missing the most foundational question, and I personally cannot move on very far in the debate without some satisfactory answers.

The question that I believe needs answering at the foundational level is this: Is it morally permissible for one human needlessly to terminate the life of an innocent human based on that life being an inconvenience?

The follow-up would be the why, but that primary question needs to be answered before other questions can fully be addressed. The reason is that the other questions assume moral permissibility that has not been adequately established. We cannot just assume that some humans have the moral authority to take the life of innocent humans unnecessarily and then, with that premise in place, start making other arguments that build on the assumption as if it is a given. It’s not. By “inconvenience,” I mean something that causes some sort of trouble, difficulty, or discomfort. (Note: To avoid getting off track, I’m not here including the question of saving the life of the mother because that goes beyond inconvenience. This needs more discussion than this post can address.)

I am not saying that other questions do not need to be addressed. They do. I am saying that we have to know whether humans taking an innocent human life because it is inconvenient to us is morally acceptable in the first place, and why. If that can be established, then the other questions are less pressing. First things first. If people bypass this question, I will keep asking it.

If it is not morally permissible in the first place, however, then talking about it as a “right” is presumptuous. Most will not argue that it should be a right to terminate another human being just because that person is inconvenient (though some do). The point is that if this first question is answered in the negative (and I believe it should be), then other arguments in favor of abortion are not so persuasive because they are built on a beginning faulty premise. I do not mean for that to sound cold. If it is not morally permissible for some humans to terminate the innocent human life of another, and a child is brought into this world, then we do indeed have other matters that must be addressed and handled with love and compassion. But I am, here, simply trying to get to the bottom line. What is the moral justification for one human taking the innocent life of another human on the grounds that it will be a problem after it is born? Once that is answered, we might also ask why that same justification could not be used for a child that is already born. Life is the most basic of rights.

There are other questions that I believe need answering as well, but the first one is critical to further discussion. Answer this first, and then we can start discussing other matters and talking about solutions that grow out of children being born into this world. There is nothing more fundamental than life itself.

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