The Skeptics Society & Skeptic magazine

Anti-Abortion: The Case for Life

Abortion is one of the most relevant issues of our time. As with many other subjects capable of arousing strong emotion, people tend to assume that the U.S. public is evenly divided, in this case between the “pro-choice” and “pro-life” positions. And some frequently cited polling would lead you to believe that it is indeed the case. For example, a recent Gallup poll found 49 percent self-identify as pro-choice and 47 percent as pro-life.1 But I consider these data to be misleading, seeing that more nuanced research paints quite a different picture. A 2021 survey conducted by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows that while 61 percent of Americans agree abortion should be legal in some or most circumstances in the first trimester, the vast majority of Americans (80 percent) oppose abortion in the third trimester, and a significant majority (65 percent) even oppose abortion in the second trimester.2

Such polling numbers help to clarify this issue and show that most Americans do not align with the most extreme pro-choice view, which supports the right to even late term abortions. I am pro-life, and in my 2020 book, The Choice: The Abortion Divide in America, I countered 21 of the most common pro-choice arguments, from “a fetus is a cluster of cells” to “my body, my choice” to “abortion empowers women.”3 Here I will address a few of the strongest of these arguments, and in so doing make the case against abortion, and thus, for life.

Myth: “You must be religious to be pro-life.”

In the 2000s, I had the pleasure to get to know the famous atheist and prominent writer Christopher Hitchens when my father and Hitchens engaged in a number of public debates on the existence of God. In the January 1988 issue of Crisis Magazine, Hitchens wrote an article titled “A Left-Wing Atheist’s Case Against Abortion.”4 Hitchens was not only an atheist but a materialist, by which he meant that he believed the material body is all there is. “As a materialist I hold that we don’t have bodies, we are bodies,” he asserted. “And as an atheist, I believe that we don’t have the consolation of an afterlife. We have only one life to live. So it had better be good.”

Precisely because of that, Hitchens argued, we have to give human life, including developing human life, protection. In other words, if we truly have only one life to live, and that is this life on Earth, to stamp out someone’s existence is to commit the ultimate crime. If we are truly only bodies and without a soul, then every child that has been killed has not gone on to Heaven but only to the grave. Those who do not believe in an afterlife would call this “pure annihilation.” It literally is, in every sense, the end. And this is irrevocable not only for the physical signs of life—your pulse, your brain waves—but also your consciousness, thoughts, experiences, and future; it ends your whole life story. Hitchens rightly states that taking away someone else’s existence, without cause, is unacceptable. Remarkably, Hitchens wrote:

Look, once you allow that the occupant of the womb is even potentially a life, it cuts athwart any glib invocation of “the woman’s right to choose.” If the unborn is a candidate member of the next generation, it means that it is society’s responsibility. I used to argue that if this is denied, you might as well permit abortion in the third trimester. I wasn’t as surprised as perhaps I ought to have been when some feminists—only some, and partly to annoy—said yes to that. They at least were prepared to accept their own logic, and say that the unborn is nobody’s business but theirs. That is a very reactionary and selfish position, and it stems from this original evasion about the fetus being “merely” an appendage.

Hitchens also discusses the fact that so many pro-choice advocates argue that the fetus behaves in ways that are inhuman, drawing attention to how it doesn’t have the same complex thoughts as we do. To this argument Hitchens replies: “Dialectics will tell you that you can’t be meaningfully inhuman unless you are also potentially human as well. It’s pointless to describe a rat or a snake, say, as behaving in an inhuman fashion.” We don’t argue about whether rats are human because they obviously are not. Every time we argue about whether a human is “really human,” they always are.

When asked whether he would like to see Roe v. Wade overturned and the issue returned to the states, Hitchens said, “If the unborn is a candidate member of the next generation, it means that it is society’s responsibility.” Thus, he concluded, “I would prefer to see abortion as a federal issue.” In fact, Hitchens believed that there should be a federal prohibition of abortion, with exceptions for rape, incest, and the life of the mother. “We need a new compact between society and the woman. It’s a progressive compact because it is aimed at the future generation. It would restrict abortion in most circumstances. Now I know most women don’t like having to justify their circumstances to someone. ‘How dare you presume to subject me to this?’ some will say. But, sorry, lady, this is an extremely grave social issue, it’s everybody’s business.”

If the fetus truly is a person in the meaningful sense of the word, no state should be allowed to invalidate its personhood and take its life.

Hitchens argued so persuasively, and I agree with him, there must be a federal ban on abortion. We need Roe v. Wade overturned as well as a federal ban on abortion in the form of an amendment to the Constitution. Just as the Thirteenth Amendment ended slavery, the Fourteenth Amendment gave equal rights, the Fifteenth Amendment gave blacks the right to vote, and the Nineteenth Amendment gave women the right to vote, we need an amendment that protects the rights of the unborn.

A child in the womb must be protected from intentional violence and killing. If the fetus truly is a person in the meaningful sense of the word, no state should be allowed to invalidate its personhood and take its life. The idea of abortion as a state’s rights issue does not line up with the nature of the fetus, which is the fact that it has universal human dignity, just as you or I do. I recognize that Roe v. Wade must be overturned first, and the issue will then be a state’s issue, and that will be the first victory. But we must not stop there. A federal ban is needed in order to protect the unborn.

I begin this case for pro-life with Christopher Hitchens because I know that he is widely respected and admired by readers of Skeptic magazine. Importantly, Hitchens was not just indulging his sometime tendency to be the “rebel, even among rebels,” nor was Hitchens alone in his views. Another forceful advocate for the pro-life position was the atheist and human rights activist Nat Hentoff, who argued that all human rights need to be unequivocally protected, and if we compromise on human rights of any group, we endanger all human rights.5 I know that many pro-choice advocates assume that the only basis for the pro-life position is religious. Not so.

Myth: “A fetus is a cluster of cells.”

People routinely post pictures on social media, announcing “I’m pregnant” with captions such as “Family of 3” with a photo of an ultrasound. Many couples post photos throughout the pregnancy and keep people updated as their baby develops. Friends and family hit the “Like” button and comment on the photos, usually writing “Congratulations!” or “I’m so excited for you!” Soon-to-be parents have gender-reveal parties and baby showers, inviting their loved ones. People feel the tummy of the woman, and when they feel a kick, they say, “She’s going to be an active one!” or “What a big guy!”

Are we all simply delusional? Should we say, “You are with fetus” or “Nice cluster of cells?” When it comes to the abortion debate, we act like what’s inside the woman’s tummy is a big mystery; meanwhile, as we debate this issue and go back and forth, babies are born every day. They come into this world with their pudgy faces and scrunchedup eyes. Then, before you know it, they’re crying, laughing, and walking, and they keep growing until they are the same size as the rest of us. To act as if the nature of the entity in the womb is entirely unknown to us is absurd.

The abortion debate often revolves around the question of when life begins. Let’s take a step back from the abortion issue and think about life as such. We begin with these basic questions: What is pregnancy? and What does it mean to be pregnant? When a woman takes a pregnancy test and the little stick comes up pink or is marked with a plus sign, what does this mean? Clearly something in her body has changed. We can all agree on that. She is getting morning sickness, her period stops, she’s feeling tired, and her belly is growing. Let’s take a look inside. Wow, the ultrasound shows a tiny human in there! So, what is happening here?

Consider the first trimester. According to the Mayo Clinic, in the first trimester alone, the baby’s toes, fingernails, bendable elbows, nose, head, hormones, and heartbeat develop.6 Much has been made recently of detecting the fetus’s heartbeat at around six weeks. In fact, there is evidence that it starts beating earlier, but in any case, from that point onward, the heart never stops beating until the moment the person passes away, a continuity from beginning to end. In just the span from conception to birth, the baby’s heart beats about 54 million times.7 The blood its heart pumps is not blood from the mother but blood the baby has produced.8 The heartbeat is the point at which we unequivocally know there is life there. To say that the baby is not a person when it has a heartbeat goes against science and our intuitions of how we “determine life.”

About six weeks after conception, modern technology can detect the baby’s brain waves.9 The heartbeat and brain waves are both commonly referred to as “vital signs,” that indicate whether or not someone is alive. If someone’s heart stops beating and they are brain-dead, then they are dead. However, the absence of only one of these vital signs means the person is still alive, and not dead. For example, if a person’s heart is beating but their brain is not functioning, they are alive. When a person’s heart has stopped and needs to be revived while the brain is functioning, that person is considered alive. So for us to categorize a baby with a beating heart of its own, along with its own brain waves as “nothing more than a cluster of cells,” is factually incorrect.

By week six, the baby’s fingers have formed on the hands.10 Even though the woman usually doesn’t feel it until later, the baby begins to move around five to six weeks into the pregnancy. The baby can hiccup by seven weeks, and the diaphragm muscle is completely formed, with intermittent breathing motions beginning. About eight weeks into pregnancy, touching the baby will typically lead to squinting, jaw movement, grasping motions, and toe pointing.11

By the end of the first trimester, the fetus now has every organ it will ever have, throughout its life, and development of these organs merely continues.

At about nine weeks, the baby has developed a unique set of fingerprints and doctors are able to distinguish the sex of the baby. This is typically when the parents find out the gender and you find gender announcements and gender reveals posted on social media. The baby is now producing its own reproductive cells. If it is a girl, she is already developing a uterus and ovaries. At about 10 weeks in, the kidneys and gallbladder are functioning. By the 12th week, the baby can cry.12 All this development occurs in the first trimester.

By the end of the first trimester, the fetus now has every organ it will ever have, throughout its life, and development of these organs merely continues. Terms such as “fetus” merely describe the stage of development the human is in, not unlike later stages of development: infant, toddler, teenager, or adult. We continue to develop for many years, and the brain is not finished developing until our mid-20s. If a person is at a different developmental stage, then what we are discussing is an issue of form, not an issue of nature. A child does not “become human” as it grows older. It already is human.

We don’t have to take this on faith—we can see this human with the naked eye thanks to the power of the ultrasound. If pro-choice activists truly valued science as well as transparency, then they would insist on women seeing their ultrasound. But pro-choice advocates will often argue for the opposite—that it is better that a pregnant woman not see the child in the womb before proceeding with an abortion. While they claim this is “cruel” and “inhumane,” the real reason they don’t want her to see the ultrasound is that once a woman sees her baby, it will make her reconsider going through with an abortion. In other words, science, truth, and conscience all point her in the direction of allowing the baby to live. Often, while the abortion doctors can hear the baby’s heartbeat go from a beating pulse to silence, the woman does not hear this and is thus shielded from the reality that there’s a tiny human inside her. The abortionist can see the baby’s gender, but the woman does not. Women are purposely led through the abortion process so that they remain in such denial, and so only later in life, long after the procedure and upon reflection, do many women realize the loss of the child that would have been their son or daughter.

Pro-choice advocates used to make the “it’s a cluster of cells” argument, but to be honest, that argument is outdated. No modern person who accepts science as their basis for reasoning can deny that the child in the womb is in fact a human being. It is particularly telling that when the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health case was being argued before the Supreme Court in December of 2021, neither the Justices nor Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar (representing the Biden administration) disputed the fact that we are talking about a human life. No member of the High Court, neither Justice Kagan, nor Justice Sotomayor, implied that the fetus is a cluster of cells.13

Myth: “There is a difference between a human being and a person. Even if the fetus is human, it is not a person with rights.”

Once the above analysis is understood, the pro-choice argument often shifts from the “cluster of cells” argument to the “it may be a human, but it’s not a person” argument. As such, it concedes the humanity of the unborn (member of the species Homo sapiens) but denies its personhood. This lays the groundwork for pro-choice advocates to argue that the Founders never intended for rights to apply to the unborn. When we read the Constitution, for example, it speaks of persons. The Fifth Amendment, for instance, talks about the due process rights of persons. The Fourteenth Amendment speaks of equal protection of the laws, which applies to persons. This creates an opening for abortion advocates to say that human beings are different from persons. While being human is a given, “personhood” is a special status. So, our rights—to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—accrue not to human beings per se but only to persons as understood under the law.

In this view, our rights are conferred by the law, which is to say, by the Constitution. And so the law, and indeed society, can determine who has rights and who doesn’t. Rights become something that is granted not by a higher power but by the state. And if the state decides that some people should have rights, then they do; and if the state decides others should not have rights, then they don’t. Pro-choice advocates typically see personhood as something that can be debated, as something that is arbitrary.

A common pro-choice argument is that personhood begins at birth—a human fetus spends nine months in the womb as “a cluster of cells” and then poof, he or she is a person at the moment of birth. Others say personhood is achieved when the baby becomes “viable”—a point that is always shifting around on the gestational timetable. Still others say it is a continuum, where the fetus gets more rights as it develops. By this reasoning, a baby who is one month old has less value than a baby who is eight months old because the eight-month-old has been around longer. And so rights, in a sense, only become manifest at the time that suits the advocate. Only at that moment does this human become a person and attains rights. Before that, they have no rights.

Hillary Clinton has stated that she believes that rights of personhood begin only at birth. Here is what she said when she was running for president in 2016: “The unborn person doesn’t have constitutional rights.”14 Those who are pro-life found this morally wrong and emotionally cold. Even those who are pro-choice and in Secretary Clinton’s camp criticized her for the mistake of referring to the unborn as “a person,” because they know that as soon as you refer to someone as a person, even by accident, it becomes problematic to argue that the person can be lawfully killed. This pro-choice argument denies the notions of intrinsic or inalienable rights. There are only the rights that are conferred by the state. Roe v. Wade, in a sense, proclaims the non-personhood of the fetus prior to viability.

What is the difference between a “human being” and a “person”? If we really think about these two terms, we realize that they are indistinguishable. When it comes to your human rights or your basic or natural rights, all human beings are persons, and all persons are human beings. As soon as we differentiate between “humans” and “persons,” we set the stage for humanity’s most perverse horrors, such as when slave owners argued that blacks are humans but not persons, and therefore can be owned property. By saying someone is a human but not a person, you are saying this as a justification to do with them as you wish—torturing them, killing them, using their skin for lampshades. And indeed, this is exactly what pro-choice activists believe can be done to the human in the womb, airily saying that “it may be a human, but it doesn’t embody personhood.”

What we’re talking about here is an important distinction between natural rights on the one hand and civil rights on the other. Civil rights, of course, are rights conferred by the state. But here I want to focus on natural rights, which are different from civil rights. Natural rights are rights that we have by virtue of being human; just by virtue of being a person. These are rights that we have, you may say, prior to being part of a civil community. These are rights that we have, as the early modern philosophers used to say, in the state of nature. That’s why the Declaration of Independence calls these rights—the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness—inalienable. They’re inalienable in the sense that we can’t sell them or barter them away, even if we wanted to. America’s very foundation is rooted in these inalienable rights.

Thomas Hobbes, the English philosopher who conceived of a virtually all-powerful state in his highly influential 1588 Leviathan, says that we turn over our rights to the state when we enter a social compact. But, he argues, we only owe allegiance to the state when it protects our life and safety. And if the state doesn’t give us the right to life, then we have every cause to rebel and resist. In other words, we confer some of our rights to the state in exchange for protection of life, but when that protection is withheld or denied, then the deal is off. The right to life is the fundamental right. It is the right that ultimately makes all other rights possible. Without it, we have nothing. It is the most natural of natural rights and the most human of human rights. These reasons are why we speak of the Right-to-Life movement. It is a movement that is fighting for the most basic right of all—life.

Myth: “My Body, My Choice.”

If I had to pick a single mantra we hear most often from pro-choice advocates today it is “my body, my choice.” They try to muddy the waters by arguing that the woman is exercising power and exercising choice over her body alone. But is it only “her body” she is referring to? Is it her body she wants to abort? Of course not. Here she is referring to the fetus’s body. She’s not talking about removing an appendix or tonsils. A fetus is not a body part but rather a living being with its own heartbeat and body parts. No matter in which developmental stage the fetus, at no point is it “an organ.” The “my body, my choice” argument breaks down when we realize that during pregnancy, there are two sets of body parts—those of the mother and those of the child. The fetus is inside her body temporarily during the nine months of pregnancy, but it is not “her body.”

Let’s turn to the issue of choice. We have a whole movement that calls itself not the “pro-abortion movement” but “the pro-choice movement.” And prochoice, on the face of it, is basically the notion that choices are good and choices should be wide open. Each individual should be able to make her or his own choice, the argument goes, particularly on something as important as pregnancy. The ultimate champion of choice, and champion of freedom, is the philosopher John Stuart Mill. He articulated these ideas in his 1859 work On Liberty. As one of the fathers of utilitarianism and libertarianism, he lays out the doctrine of limited government and maximal individual freedom. There’s a wise libertarian suspicion of the government intervening in choice and I think this skepticism of government makes sense because most things are better resolved by the local community and by the individual. It seems, then, that Mill’s argument would fall on the pro-choice side. But not so. He says, “No one pretends that actions should be as free as opinions.”15 To limit the mind is to limit individuality and uniqueness, so it should never be limited. However, he finds that there is a limit to freedom of action; it can never be absolute.

The central tenet of libertarianism states that my right to swing my arm only extends as far as your face. In other words, my rights stop when they begin to harm or affect others. So freedom is paramount, but to a point. Why to a point? Because harming someone or killing them is to take away that person’s freedom. You cannot, in the name of freedom, take away another’s freedom. So while the government should stay out of most things in order to allow for maximum individual freedom, a true libertarian would have to agree that if there’s one thing the government must stop, it is the killing of other innocent people and the robbing of their freedom. Rand Paul, one of the most outspoken libertarians today, says, “I am 100 percent pro-life.”16 Abortion comes to the forefront of our minds when we think of the fact that today in America, people can be legally killed at whim, their freedom and future obliterated. It might seem as if we wouldn’t be able to think of a similar scenario, where the side that strangely advocates for a horror such as this calls themselves “pro-choice.” But we can.

When we think about American history, we find a parallel that is almost identical to the abortion debate today—the debates over slavery leading up to the Civil War, most notably those of Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas.17 Both men were running for the Senate in Illinois, which turned out to be a preview of their presidential campaigns against each other four years later. Lincoln was the Republican; Douglas—the Democrat. With regard to slavery, we might think of Douglas as pro-choice. In these debates, he made clear that he’s neither for slavery nor against it, and instead proposed a democratic solution of agreeing to disagree and embracing the principle of choice through what Douglas called “popular sovereignty.” By this he meant to let every community, territory, and state decide for itself if it wanted slavery. In this way, Douglas continued, we’re able to have a society in which different sets of values can coexist. By affirming a pro-choice slavery position, Douglas saw himself building a framework that is very consistent with the core principle of America and of the Founders: the principle of freedom.

Let’s now consider Lincoln’s refutation of Douglas because Lincoln makes, I think, one of the strongest arguments not just against slavery but, as it turns out, for the pro-life position as well. Lincoln agreed that choice is a good thing, but choice always depends on what it is that is being chosen. If a Black man is like a hog, then sure, it makes sense to choose whether you want to buy or sell it. But on the other hand, if the Black man is a human being, that same argument now collapses. Why? The answer is in the difference between a human being and a hog. For Lincoln, the difference is this: we do not, as human beings, have the right to use choice to deny others their life choices. We don’t have the right to use our choice to cancel out the choices of other people. As he famously said, “As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master.”18

This argument applies with equal force to abortion as it does to slavery. We don’t have the right to choose to enslave others, and neither do we have the right to choose to kill others. If we do claim this right, the right to enslave or the right to kill, Lincoln argued that what we’re embracing is the right of the powerful to exploit the vulnerable. And, worse still, is that this exploitation is then masked in the language of freedom. Lincoln very poignantly said that the wolf and the sheep both use the language of freedom, but they mean two different things by it. For the wolf, the freedom is the freedom to eat the sheep. For the sheep, freedom is the freedom to be free of the wolf. To quote Lincoln:

The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep, for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as his Liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act as the destroyer of liberty. Plainly, the sheep and the wolf are not agreed upon a definition of liberty.19

Ultimately, then, the pro-choice position is a contradiction in terms because it legitimizes a choice that cancels out the choices of people who have not even had a chance to make any choices in the world at all. Regardless of personal belief in God, the taking of an innocent life is a case where the government should intervene. Why? Because it is the core function of government to protect our right to life, upon which all other rights flow. The right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as outlined in the Declaration of Independence, is sacrosanct.

Myth: “Abortion is never an ideal choice, but I give preference to the woman, the person already here.”

This argument concedes that abortion is evil, but it’s the lesser of two evils. It goes like this: there’s something worse than an abortion, and that is destroying the emotional and personal life of the mother. This argument is typically made not by the woman having the abortion but by a third party defending the woman’s right to have an abortion. I’ll often hear something along the lines of “We can’t really understand what she’s going through. We can’t fully grasp her situation. She’ll make the best decision for her circumstances. Admittedly, she might have made decisions that have put her in this predicament, but we aren’t perfect; people make mistakes. Women shouldn’t have to live with a mistake. No one should be made to raise children against their will.”

This is one argument that Michael Shermer makes in his article defending the pro-choice position in this issue, and I’ve heard similar arguments from others, such as Dave Rubin, host of The Rubin Report, who has described himself as “begrudgingly pro-choice.”20 They agree that the fetus does have a claim to life, but they say that when weighing the claim of the fetus against the claim of the woman, the woman takes precedence, that is, the woman’s life should be prioritized over the child’s. Here you have two lives pitted against each other, and while they acknowledge that abortion is not ideal, they believe that forcing the woman to go through an unwanted pregnancy is worse. After all, they say, she knows herself better than anyone else so we must leave this up to her. Here the woman’s right not to be forced to complete her pregnancy has greater weight than the unspoken claim of the fetus to live.

It reminds me of the old conundrum of two people in a lifeboat. The lifeboat is not strong enough to hold both. One person has to go overboard. It’s not going to be easy, but you try to choose the lesser evil. It may seem shocking that pro-choice people compare life in this way. It seems like a heartless and crude utilitarian calculus. How can you really weigh the value of one life against another? When someone says, “I choose to side with the person already here,” they are saying they choose the woman because if the child is aborted, then the woman is freed up to do other things. Favoring her, the argument might go, is better for society. But this utilitarian comparison is not fair. First, this is not a lifeboat situation where there are two people and only one can survive. We’re not in a “death-guaranteed scenario” where one party must die.

Leaving aside here such cases as pregnancies with medical complications in which the fetus is a deadly threat to the life of the mother and there is no way both can survive, for most cases we are not comparing the death of the mother, on the one hand, with the death of the fetus, on the other. We’re comparing the emotional pain of the woman, on the one hand, with the death of the fetus, on the other. That’s what’s on each side of the scale, and it seems rational to conclude that death is a far worse consequence than temporary emotional pain.

Myth: “Carrying out an unwanted pregnancy causes too much emotional pain for the woman.”

What about the emotional pain of a woman with an unwanted pregnancy? The problem when we hear this argument is that it examines one type of emotional pain—the emotional pain of having a child—but doesn’t compare it to its counterpart, which is the emotional pain of having the abortion itself. Let’s compare adoption and abortion, since those are the two options women typically consider in the case of an unwanted pregnancy. Should anyone be forced to raise a child against their will? Of course not. No one is forced to because there’s always the option of adoption.

“No one wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream cone or a porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal, caught in a trap, wants to gnaw off its own leg.” —Frederica Mathewes-Green

Frederica Mathewes-Green, a writer and former prochoice feminist herself, noted poignantly, “No one wants an abortion as she wants an ice cream cone or a Porsche. She wants an abortion as an animal, caught in a trap, wants to gnaw off its own leg.”21 Many women who get an abortion choose to do so because they feel they have no other option. Abortion clinics do a dishonest service to frightened women who are in a desperate situation and looking for answers by not promoting the option of adoption more. Many women, especially among the poor, don’t even know how to go about giving their child up for adoption, and most of these clinics don’t educate them on it. When it comes to abortion, many women tell themselves they just want to get in there, get it done, get it over with, and forget it ever happened. But this is nothing more than the memory trying to erase itself, almost as if through consumption of alcohol or drugs one can numb oneself and blot out reality. Of course, memory doesn’t disappear in this convenient way. It stays with many women for the rest of their lives, even when they don’t want it to.

If you take away another person’s life, if you become their judge, jury, and executioner, that is going to be a source of deep, emotional pain, very likely far more than if you had birthed the child and given it up for adoption. If you know that you are choosing the death of your child intentionally and directly for your own benefit, don’t forget to factor in the emotional burden you will bear for making that choice. I know many women who have lived the rest of their lives with this painful skeleton in their past.

At least after nine months of pregnancy, you can know that in giving up the baby for adoption, it is going to people who want the child. Even if those nine months are the worst of your entire life and you truly believe you are enduring deep emotional suffering, this will possibly produce less emotional pain for you than killing the child. Among women who have given their child up for adoption, almost none say they wish they had aborted it.

As a result of this lie, the emotional toll associated with abortion is often buried deep or hidden behind closed doors. Pro-choice advocates often don’t want to talk about women who suffer emotionally from abortion because they don’t want women to think too much about what abortion actually is. If women do suffer emotionally from an abortion, they will say that’s just a personal feeling and it doesn’t bear any weight on a woman’s “right to choose.” Is it ethical for doctors who perform abortions to lead women through those doors and into that operating room without explaining what the emotional tolls of the procedure may be? No, it is not.

While abortion and adoption both provide an answer, these two options have entirely different results. While abortion leads to death for the child, adoption results in life. Abortion takes the woman’s current situation, already difficult, and makes it worse by leaving her emotionally scarred. Adoption offers a solution for both mother and child. While abortion is punitive and involves permanent loss, adoption is redemptive and allows for the child to have a life.

The reality is that both options—abortion and adoption— tug on the heartstrings and are emotionally difficult for the mother. No one denies this. And even setting aside the difficulty of abortion, adoption isn’t easy. It takes strength to give up your child to another family and to say goodbye. Adoption is a form of love because it involves self-sacrifice. Whenever we look at situations of adoption, we see that many people were putting thought into this child: the mother who chose to have the child and sought out a plan for its future, the adoption agency or organization that facilitated the process, and the family that adopted the child and awaited its arrival. So we see that lots of love and thought were poured into this child and its welfare. In both situations (abortion and adoption) you are separating from your child. But taking away the child’s life is entirely different than giving it a better life.

The fact that there are 36 families waiting to adopt a child for every 1 child available shows that there is a vast desire for adoption.22 While abortion is on demand, adoption is at least a yearlong process. It’s sad that adoptive parents wait so long to adopt a child, hoping that a mother picks them. The CDC reports that over 57 percent of couples who struggle with fertility treatments consider adoption, and yet many of these couples never get to adopt because there is such a shortage of children being given up for adoption.23 If organizations like Planned Parenthood were truly focused on “parenthood” as their name suggests, as well as on women’s health, then they should be promoting adoption as a viable alternative to abortion.

Myth: “The debate is between the religious and the secular.”

To return to where I began this analysis on the matter of religion and pro-life arguments, some pro-choice advocates dismiss pro-life arguments on the (incorrect) assumption that they are based solely on religious dogma. They say pro-life advocates based their position upon the Bible, or some other religious text or dogma, and so to impose that argument on the public violates the norms of democracy and specifically violates the doctrine of separation of church and state. Liz Hayes, who writes for Americans United, puts it this way: “The aggressive abortion ban bills being considered in states across the country may not explicitly mention religion, but it’s clear that these bills and the restrictive policies they propose are religiously motivated.”24

Some of what Hayes says here is true, inasmuch as when you go to a pro-life demonstration or rally you do see a lot of religious people there—nuns, people saying the rosary, evangelical Christians praying to end abortion. If you listen to pro-life speeches, you will hear references to God. Clearly, there is a religious aspect to this debate. The Catholic Church has consistently opposed abortion throughout its history, and evangelical churches represent a similar perspective. Orthodox Jews are strongly pro-life as well. So there certainly is a religious contingent within the broader pro-life coalition.

But I want to take a step back from religion as such, and instead think about morality. We must remember that there is a sense of morality in each of us that precedes a belief in a religion. When we think about morality, we can think of the morality that comes from revelation or sacred scripture, or you might say from “on High,” and then there is the morality that comes to us from conscience. The morality that comes to us from conscience is innate to every human being. Those who lack a conscience are considered sociopaths or psychopaths; in fact, in legal terms, if extreme enough we don’t hold them accountable for their behavior because we find them incapable of knowing the difference between right and wrong. Most of us don’t fall into this category (and the insanity plea in the criminal justice system is rarely successful). Morality and conscience are part of the human experience, whether or not we choose to be religious. We all have that little voice in our head telling us not to do something bad. This doesn’t mean we listen to it; we may ignore it, even contort it, but the voice is in there somewhere.

The Judeo-Christian worldview argues for the dignity of every person, including and especially every child, but even if you do not believe in God you can begin with your intuition that harming others or killing them is wrong. You see someone kicking a dog, you recoil. Beating an old lady over the head…you know that’s wrong. You know this naturally, in a sense, without even having to think about it. If you see a man with a knife stabbing a pregnant woman in the belly you know that this is something more than stabbing her in the back or on the thigh. Our laws acknowledge this intuition, and killing a woman and her unborn child is charged and adjudicated as a double homicide.

My Appeal: Let’s Unite

In the many rights revolutions we have witnessed in recent centuries, we have heard activists say that civil rights and women’s rights are human rights. Well, I argue that abortion is a human rights issue because fetus’s rights are human rights. In this sense, everyone can be pro-life because of what we see, because of scientific and medical facts, because of observation, because of empathy, and because of conscience.

My challenge to atheists, agnostics, skeptics, and humanists reading this article is, after careful and critical thinking upon all the evidence and all the reasoning, to take up the pro-life torch. Join forces with your religious neighbor on this unifying issue. I often hear atheists and humanists argue in debates that they don’t need religion to be “good people,” so my challenge to them is to act on this retort! If you want to be a good person, then fight for a person smaller and weaker than yourself. Prove to Christians, Jews, and other religious people that you aren’t the cold, heartless person your opponents may paint you out to be. Demonstrate to them that you do in fact value human life—even and especially that of the most vulnerable. END

About the Author

Danielle D’Souza Gill is a young author, commentator, and the host of Counterculture with Danielle D’Souza Gill on Epoch Times. She is the author of two books, most recently The Choice: The Abortion Divide in America. Her articles have appeared in Newsweek, The Daily Caller, American Greatness, and others. She has also filmed videos for PragerU, has been a Turning Point USA ambassador, and appeared on various TV and radio networks including Fox News, One America, Newsmax, and Salem Radio. She is a graduate of Dartmouth College.

  3. D’Souza Gill, D. (2020). The Choice: The Abortion Divide in America. Center Street/Hachette Book Group.
  8. Sproul, R. C. (2010). Abortion: A Rational Look at an Emotional Issue (p. 54). Reformation Trust Publishing.
  9. Moore, K., Persaud, T.V.N., & Torchia M.G. (2020). The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology. Elsevier.
  10. Sproul, R.C. (2010).
  11. Moore, K., Persaud, T.V.N., & Torchia M.G. (2020).
  12. Sproul, R.C. (2010).
  15. Mill, J. S. (1859/1978). On Liberty (p. 53). Hackett Publishing.
  17. Jaffa, H. (2009). Crisis of the House Divided: An Interpretation of the Issues in the Lincoln-Douglas Debates. University of Chicago Press.
  18. Lincoln, A. (1858/1953). In R. P. Basler (Ed.), The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln (p. 532, Vol. 2). Rutgers University Press.
  19. Lincoln, A. (1864/1992). In G. Vidal (Ed.) Selected Speeches and Writings By Abraham Lincoln (pp. 422–423). New York: Vintage Books.
  23. Ibid.

This article was published on September 27, 2022.

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