On 20th September 2014, Premier Christian Radio hosted an “Unbelievable” programme featuring a debate about the ethics of pregnancy termination, usually referred to by non-medical people as abortion.
A commenter referred to an article (cited here because I haven’t quoted it in full below) on a religious/political web site, that contained sufficient sweeping statements and logical fallacies that the only thing to do was to comment upon it at length. It would have been messy to do that in the confines of Premier’s discussion page, so that’s the purpose of this post.
Note that the (anonymous, so I’ll assume it’s a he) author is arguing from a religious, not scientific, perspective – if that’s not your bag, don’t bother to read further. Let’s cut to the chase – the article started out like this:
Many people think that a human being is created at the time of conception but this belief is not supported by the bible. The fact that a living sperm penetrates a living ovum resulting in the formation of a living fetus does not mean that the fetus is a living human being. According to the bible, a fetus is not a living person with a soul until after drawing its first breath.
OK, this is the first sweeping statement. But where, if at all, does the bible say such a thing about a foetus? The writer gives his justification here:
After God formed man in Genesis 2:7, He “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and it was then that the man became a living being”. Although the man was fully formed by God in all respects, he was not a living being until after taking his first breath.
So we have the story of Adam, a fully formed and (perhaps) adult male, who did not come to life until God breathed life into him. How is this relevant to a human embryo, which is a very small, living, growing person with a beating heart? Exactly what part of that is not living?
The writer goes on to quote Ezekiel’s famous prophecy about the valley of dry, dead skeletons:
Again, to quote Ezekiel 37:5&6, “Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord.”
Once more a reference that’s nothing to do with the subject. Remember that what is under discussion is a living, growing foetus. But there’s a more serious point to follow:
In Exodus 21:22 it states that if a man causes a woman to have a miscarriage, he shall be fined; however, if the woman dies then he will be put to death. It should be apparent from this that the aborted fetus is not considered a living human being since the resulting punishment for the abortion is nothing more than a fine; it is not classified by the bible as a capital offense.
It’s very understandable that anyone would gain the wrong impression from this passage, especially as it is usually translated. Hebrew scholars, however, have a different opinion. This is expressed very clearly at www.christiancourier.com/articles/786-does-exodus-21-sanction-abortion, and also with greater linguistic detail at www.str.org/articles/what-exodus-21-22-says-about-abortion
Moving on, the author comes to a sweeping statement:
One can not kill something that has not been born and taken a breath. This means that a stillborn would not be considered a human being either.
Well, the first sentence is, at the very least, a very contentious opinion that needed to be supported by at least some sort of argument – it would certainly come as a surprise to the legislators who framed the Unborn Victims of Violence Act. That act is, of course, vilified by those who have a vested interest in denying the humanity of the unborn. As to whether a stillborn baby would be considered human, I wonder why the author didn’t go on to suggest that stillborns should be thrown out with the trash! No, of course I don’t wonder. I think he just wasn’t willing to go where his faulty logic was leading him.
Of course, every living sperm has the potential of becoming a human being although not one in a million will make it; the rest are aborted.
It’s an error of category to compare the loss of seed with the loss of a fertilised egg. The seed is indeed merely a part of the father, and the egg is indeed a part of the mother. But let them come together, and an entirely unique, never-to-be-repeated, human life has been made, and is starting to grow. Embryologists know this; you can easily find plenty of references to it, but here are a few.
Then he attributes a particular attitude to the Almighty:
God has decreed, for one reason or another, that at least one-third of all pregnancies shall be terminated by a spontaneous abortion during the first trimester of pregnancy and that a number will be terminated after the first trimester. It would appear that God does not have any more regard for the loss of a fetus than he does for the loss of a placenta or a foreskin despite the fact that these were living tissue as the result of conception.
Let’s be clear: this is an opinion. If you can find where the bible claims that God ever made such a decree, please let me know. The author is freely quoting the bible, but note that he provides no reference here. That’s probably because he knows that the story arc of the bible is about a perfect creation spoiled by sin. The bible never says that God’s pleased about that. But if God exists (I think He does) then I’m dead sure He’s not specially chuffed about being misrepresented. Just saying.
I’ll skip the bit that further impugns God and quotes a Baptist minister who expressed the same opinion as the author. But I can’t let his closing comments go unanswered:
If you don’t like abortion, don’t have one. But don’t judge others who may be in terrible circumstances that you can’t possibly understand. Especially when your judgements are based on a politically motivated and questionable interpretation of the Bible (at best). When women don’t have personal choice over their own reproductive decisions they end up butchered in back alley abortions or thrown in jail for having a miscarriage.
“If you don’t like abortion, don’t have one”? Where to start? This is such a tired argument that it’s frustrating to have to address it. But let’s go ahead: “If you don’t like theft, don’t steal – but let others get on with it”. “If you don’t like genocide, don’t kill a foreigner – but let others get on with it”. Or the obvious: “If you don’t like murder, don’t kill anyone – but let others get on with it”. All based on the same logical and just as foolish. It’s a view that says nobody has the right to require others not to do wrong, but if that view were correct there would be no law at all; laws are framed because society has the right to expect people to behave in a civilised manner.
Then we come to not judging others. Let me surprise you and say I’m with him here. Of course we shouldn’t be condemning, which I think was what he meant by judging. But this argument is always used to imply that we mustn’t use discernment, and that’s a completely different issue. As for the discernment being based upon political motivations and questionable interpretation of the bible – well, he’s the one who’s publishing questionable interpretations on an avowedly political web site.
Then the old lie about back street abortions. Will this untruth ever lie down? I don’t even need to comment, as I can just point to en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unsafe_abortion#Illegal_abortion and www.spuc.org.uk/youth/student_info_on_abortion/backstreet
Finally we get:
Certain types of birth control are outlawed when a fertilized egg is classified as a “person” as well.
That’s absolutely true, and it’s a very good reason for not using certain types of “birth control”. Interesting that the author just throws out this statement with no justification. The purpose, I surmise, is that he is hoping that people who wish to use “certain types of birth control” will heed his opinion because of their desire to use it, rather than heeding the logic of the pro-life argument at the expense of their own wishes.
We’re nearly there, but there’s still this:
In the end, if abortion was such a grievous sin Jesus would have mentioned it. He said nothing.
Classic argument from absence. Pick your subject, or your vice – if Jesus didn’t say anything about it you are in the clear. Mind you, He did reiterate the importance of obeying God’s law, and most people interpret that to be pretty firm on the subject of the value of human life.
That’s all, folks. If you’d like to comment here that’s OK, but you might wait a while to see your words, because I’m away a lot and I have little time to do the moderation. I’d prefer it if you post your comments to the Abort67 group on Facebook, because there are folk there who will continue the discussion. If you do post here, remember that this place is my home, my rules, so please be civil.