לא תרצח׃ ס
Those Hebrew words above are from Exodus 20:13, which is generally rendered in English as "Thou shalt not kill." Many modern English translations more accurately translate the text as "You shall not murder." There is a difference between murder and killing. Killing someone in self-defense or while involved in a military engagement may sometimes be morally permissible. Murder never is.
The original Hebrew word means unlawful, violent killing, and so "murder" seems to be a more precise translation.
Those who are pro-life believe abortion to be wrong because abortion is equivalent to murder. Both involve killing an innocent human being.
Those who take the pro-choice position must disagree with at least part of the preceding statement. They must deny either that abortion ends a life, or that the life it ends is human, or innocent. Let's look at each of these three points in turn.
1. Does abortion end a life?
If the unborn fetus is not alive then it either is dead, like a corpse, or made up of some non-living matter, like a stone. But a dead corpse or a non-living stone cannot magically turn into a living human being. The question of when life begins in the womb is surprisingly simple to answer. There is always life! A man's sperm cell (which is alive) unites with a woman's egg cell (which is alive). The DNA of the two are combined to form a brand new zygote, which from the very moment of conception is also alive and growing. Abortion ends that life -- that is the whole point of abortion, after all.
We end life all the time. Whenever we swat a fly or pull a weed from the garden, we kill something that is living. Neither of these actions is murder, because murder involves the taking of a human life. Many pro-choice advocates claim abortion is no more immoral than swatting a fly or pulling a weed. So our next question is important.
2. Does abortion end a human life?
If the unborn fetus that is killed by abortion is not human, then it must be something else. It must either be some other species that somehow becomes human at birth, or some sort of non-differentiated bio-mass that morphs into a human baby at some point. Both of these positions are easily proven false with basic science. When a human male and a human female reproduce, they form a human child. From the moment of its conception, that child is identifiably human. Its DNA can be identified in a lab as that of a human being.
Some may argue that even a fingernail clipping has human DNA -- and indeed some say abortion is no more immoral than getting a hair cut or clipping your nails. But this argument is absurd on the face of it. A fingernail -- or even a finger or a hand -- is but a part of a human being. Removed from the whole it withers and dies. A fetus, though small, is a whole being. Yes, it is smaller and less developed than a baby, just as a baby is smaller and less developed than a toddler or a teenager. We are talking about human beings at different stages of development, not different species (although teenagers can sometimes seem like a different species).
3. Does abortion end an innocent human life?
The first two arguments for abortion -- that the unborn either is not alive, or is not human, and therefore it is permissible to kill it -- are easily dismissed. It is a matter of science that the unborn fetus is a living human being in the earliest stages of development. It would seem obvious that the unborn fetus would by definition be innocent. After all, what could be more innocent than an unborn baby? The unborn can commit no crimes, no offenses. They have done nothing deserving of the death penalty.
Yet some pro-abortion advocates argue this precise point. They recognize that abortion means ending an unborn human life, but argue this is permissible because the fetus is not innocent. They take the position that the fetus is an unwanted aggressor, a parasitic invader in its mother's body that can legitimately be killed in self-defense.
This is best argued against by appealing to common sense. An invader is someone aggressively inserting himself where he does not belong. But where else does a human fetus belong but in the womb of its mother? Indeed, the womb is the fetus' place of origin. The womb is where the new human being was created. The womb is its home.
The female reproductive system is designed for gestation. It is precisely where new human life is meant to develop and grow. So rather than being an aggressor fighting against the mother, the fetus works with the mother's body to carry out the purpose of engendering new life. Yes, pregnancy can sometimes lead to complications (as can any function of the human body). In only a tiny fraction of a percentage of all cases do those complications endanger the life of the mother. There are approximately 4 million births in America each year. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, about 600 women die each year in America from childbirth or pregnancy related complications. In other words, in 0.015% of cases does pregnancy end in maternal death. In fact the true percentage is even lower, as the above calculation is based on number of births in America. The number of pregnancies would be much higher as many pregnancies end in miscarriage or -- tragically -- abortion. It is estimated that about 20% of all pregnancies in the US end in abortion.
To return to our question, is the developing human life innocent? Or to phrase it another way, what crime has the fetus committed? She is exactly where she is supposed to be, and doing exactly what she is supposed to do -- growing and developing in her mother's womb. Her only offense seems to be her existence. To allow abortion for this reason is to allow one human being to say to another, "Your existence offends me; therefore I can kill you." This is the justification for every holocaust or genocide ever committed. Is this really the argument anyone wants to make for abortion? Yet it seems to be the only honest argument.
The Fourth Denial
Sadly, there is one other position the abortion advocate can hold. The pro-abortion advocate can understand and admit that abortion means killing an innocent human being, but deny that killing an innocent human being is always wrong. All but the most hard-hearted sociopaths recognize the fact that killing an innocent human being is evil. Even most murderers have to first convince themselves that their victims somehow "deserve" it in order to justify their violent crimes. But this is exactly the position of all those who are "personally against abortion" but feel the decision needs to be left up to individual choice. It is the relativist position that says, "it may be wrong for me, but it may be right for you." It is a tacit acceptance that it can sometimes be legitimate to choose to end the life of an innocent human person.
That, my friends, is never permissible. As Mother Theresa once famously said, "If abortion is not wrong, then nothing is wrong."
October is Respect Life month. I encourage anyone who holds the pro-choice position because it seems non-judgmental or compassionate to reexamine their beliefs about abortion this month. Look at it honestly, with open eyes, and see it for what it truly is. Don't be fooled by euphemisms such as "terminating a pregnancy" or "product of conception." Abortion means killing an innocent human life -- every time. To be pro-choice means shutting your eyes to this reality. October is a good month to open your eyes.