Pro-Life Apologetics: Pro-Life Answers to Common Pro-Choice Arguments
Danny Akin: Hello, my name is Danny Akin, and I have the honor of serving as President of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina. And my wife and I have been very active in the pro-life movement since we married all the way back in May of 1978. My particular assignment is providing for you pro-life answers to common pro-life arguments.
And what I’m going to be doing is trying to give you some aids and some assistance in making arguments or presenting your case where we do not appeal to the Bible. And the reason is, many of the people that we encounter when it comes to this issue will not accept the Bible like we do as their final authority for this particular issue.
And so, what I’ll be doing is trying to help us understand how we can engage the conversation and do so using reason and logic and yes, even an appeal to human experience as well.
But let me say before I walk you through some of the more common arguments, and I’m actually going to deal with 15 of them very quickly. It really matters how we engage people when it comes to this particular issue. In fact, we need to understand that our goal is not so much to win an argument as it is to persuade others of our particular perspective and hopefully win them over. And what that means is we really do need to strive to be winsome when we engage this very difficult issue.
I like to say it this way, we really need to be like the Lord Jesus, whom the Bible says in John chapter 1 and verse 14, was full of both grace and truth. And so, we want to make sure that we are full of truth. But at the same time, we want to balance that with being full of grace as well, because again, you might win an argument, but you drive the person away from your particular position.
Winning an argument is not our goal, but persuading others to see the rightness of the pro-life ethic and the pro-life position is our goal. So it really does matter that we say. I like to say it this way, we want to say the right thing at the right time in the right way and for the right reason. And so let’s just keep in mind that how we present our position and how we engage others really does matter if we’re going to be successful in this area.
So, when it comes to some commonsense answers to common pro-choice arguments, what are some of the more common ones that are out there in the marketplace? And as I begin, let me also make a recommendation to you. It’s a very simple book. It’s very short, but I think it’s really, really well done. Randy Alcorn wrote a book, Why Pro-Life? Caring for the Unborn and Their Mothers. This book was updated in the year 2012, and it is really very clear, very simple, and would be, I think, very, very helpful.
And some of the things we’re going to talk about even goes into greater detail, so this might be a really helpful source for a number of you that might begin a conversation but need some more information and some additional assistance. And so that would be a really helpful source, I believe, for you.
What are some of these common arguments that we hear from those who take a pro-abortion, a pro-choice perspective? Number one, no one knows with certainty when human life begins. Now, that was a much more popular argument before the advent of the ultrasound and the technology that we have today.
But, if you’re trying to, again, engage someone in a winsome and trying to be persuasive in a gentle kind of way in your argument, you might say this: If no one knows when life begins, it might just begin at conception, and wisdom would say, give the benefit of doubt to that life. In fact, we cannot justify taking the life of someone that just might be human.
But as I mentioned a moment ago, actually we do know when life begins. It begins at conception. Genetically, it is now irrefutable. The fertilized ovum is a human being with its own lifelong characteristic code and identity. Really, from this point on, it is simply a matter of that embryo- its growth, its location, and its age. And so, we want to give the benefit of doubt always to life. And if we allow, in this context, science to speak, we do know that life does begin from the moment of conception.
Secondly, and this is a very common argument, the mother has the right to control her own body. And that sounds very powerful at the beginning, but if you just step back and again think through it carefully, you might ask the question: The baby- is it really a part of the mother’s body? In other words, is the baby like a kidney or like the pancreas or like a liver or some other organ in the body of a human being?
And of course, the answer is no, it’s not. It’s a human being. It has its own separate body, its own separate identity, and its own genetic and so freedom from bodily harm should apply, yes, to the mother. The freedom from bodily harm should also apply to the baby growing inside the mother as well.
Number three. The unborn is not really human until it is born. Now again, this was an argument that was more common in past days. Not so much now because it’s really a very poor and weak argument. But again, we might respond by raising a question: If a baby is not human before it is born, then what is it? It’s not a mineral. It’s not a vegetable. It’s not even an organ. It is simply a very small and developing human being.
So, call it what you want. An embryo. Call it a fetus. Does not change the reality that what is actually inside the mother is a very small, but very identifiable human being. And we’ll note later in a moment, already very early, taking on the characteristics of a human being.
Number four. Babies are not conscious, personal beings. Now, this is an argument where we really do want to bring in logic and sound reasoning. And we would begin by saying: Let me ask you a question. Is personhood really identified by consciousness? In fact, if consciousness defines and determines humanness, then we have to say a sleeping adult is not a human. In fact, if consciousness is the test for one being human, then those who lapse into a coma, at least during that particular time, lose their humanity.
But again, science has been our friend in this particular context once more. We do know now that babies are conscious before they are born. For example, by one and a half months after conception, they have a brainwave. As early as three months, they react to stimuli. They can consciously by then sense pain and also pressure. In other words, what we are capable of seeing now in the womb through technology makes it abundantly clear that babies are very early in their development, conscious, personal beings.
Number five. Every child has a right to a meaningful life. Now, initially, in terms of its persuasiveness, this sounds like a very strong and a very powerful argument. But again, I think the way to get at this is by simply raising some particular questions. For example: What are the criteria for a meaningful life? Secondly, who is it that determines what a meaningful life is and what a meaningful life looks like?
This much we do know. If we take the life of an unborn child, we are taking the only chance this child will ever have at life. In other words, this particular child, this particular baby, will never get a better chance at life. They only get this one, and if we take it away, then we have taken away their only chance to ever live and to ever experience life.
No, I think it’s much better to say: Isn’t it actually better to give this child the life that he or she actually has? No, that is a much better way of pursuing this particular objection when it is raised by those who are pro-choice or pro-abortion in their perspective.
Sixth response or sixth argument. It is better to have an aborted child than an abused child. It’s better to have an aborted child than an abused child. Again, let’s respond using logic and sound reasoning. This objection makes a massive and really an unwarranted assumption. That assumption is this. It assumes that non-abortion of unwanted babies will lead to the abuse of that child when it is born.
Here’s what we know in terms of sociological studies. The opposite is just the case. Child abuse cases have actually increased as abortions have gone up. Now, we have to just simply again raise the question: Is there potentially here a cause and effect, whereas as abortion has become more prevalent and we have cheapened the life of a child inside the womb of a mother? Is it also the case that the logic follows that we might cheapen the way life is treated once it is outside the womb as well?
Furthermore, this particular objection wrongly assumes, or at least ignores, that abortion itself is a great abuse. In fact, it’s one of the greatest abuses that one can endure because it is the taking of an innocent life and also an innocent and defensive life as well.
No, the idea that a child being born that might not be wanted is automatically going to be abused simply does not, is not supported by the evidence, and it is not, I believe, supported even by our own experiences as well.
Number seven. We must stop overpopulation, or we will all starve. Again, this particular argument makes a very unwanted and inappropriate assumption. Question: Do we have to choose between abortion and overpopulation? Isn’t that really something of a false dichotomy? Furthermore, why limit, if overpopulation is really that severe of a problem, why limit taking the life of infants, but not extend it beyond that?
And of course, we know today that life is being cheapened, not only on the front end, but also on the back end as well, and therefore, as a result of that, where is the logic that would limit taking the life of the infant, but not taking the life, perhaps, of newborns, and taking the life of the elderly as well?
No, what we need to understand is that if overpopulation really is a problem, there are other alternatives that do not involve death in curbing overpopulation. But we also need to recognize that today the problem really is not so much with overpopulation, but with a massive declining birth rate and it’s usually in developing countries.
In fact, a study has just recently come out that has demonstrated that now in China, the birth rate and the death rate have become even. And it has been moving in a negative direction for many years, and now it is evened out. And of course, we know that will not allow for a proper replacement of those who die moving forward.
And so, what you wind up having, and we see this very much so today in countries like China and also countries like Japan in particular and America and Europe is following right along behind them, is we’re seeing a continually aging and older population because we’re not replacing it because we are having less children, both in terms of choosing to get pregnant and terminating pregnancy as well.
Number eight, and this is probably one of the most popular arguments of all: We cannot legislate morality. First of all, this is a terribly flawed argument, and again, you can raise the question: So, we never legislate morality? If you’ll just wait, pause, and think, you come to realize, all societies legislate morality, and they do so in all spheres of life.
We legislate today against murder, cruelty, child abuse, incest, rape, stealing, and so on. In fact, anti-slavery laws and all civil rights legislation, legislate moral behavior. And so, the fact of the matter is, we do legislate morality. That then simply begs another question where? And how do we legislate morality?
And, of course, we believe, and I think we can make a very common-sense argument, that the aim of all legislation should be to put into law what is morally good, what is morally just, and what is morally right as well.
Number nine. No mentally disabled child, or as we, I think, more appropriately say today, no special needs child should be brought into this world. Now, I must confess to you all that I have a gut-level reaction immediately when I hear that type of argument made because, in my mind, these especially deserve our care and especially deserve our protection.
Furthermore, let’s just do a little sociological analysis and what did we discover? We discovered that virtually no organization of parents with special needs children have endorsed abortion on demand. Furthermore, children with disabilities are children with special needs. They’re still human. And so, when we kill a special needs child, we are still killing a human being.
Furthermore, just because the unborn are smaller, defenseless, and may have some impairment, does not justify killing them. Similar to an argument that we dealt with a moment ago, even a special needs child is entitled to the only life they will ever have. And if we take that life, they do not get a second chance.
Number ten, and this is perhaps the most emotionally charged argument of all. Rape victims should not be forced to bear a child that they did not will to have. Now, we need to start by acknowledging in this particular area that rape is indeed a horrible, horrible evil. It is one of the most tragic indignities a woman may ever experience.
And so, our starting point when it comes to this particular argument is to demonstrate great love, great compassion, great patience for those who have suffered the indignity of rape. But, we then need again to bring in some careful thinking when it comes to this particular issue as well. And let me just note two things in particular.
Number one, there is no way to become unraped. I wish there were, but there isn’t. And so becoming unpregnant via abortion does not make one unraped. Secondly, justice is not served to the rape victim by punishing the unborn baby resulting from the rape, and we do know that conception through rape is very rare.
But when it does happen, we are patient. We are gracious. We are loving, and we are kind. But we also try to help the victim understand that adoption is better than abortion. Giving life is better than taking the life of this child that is the result of the horrible evil called rape.
Number eleven. People are going to have abortions anyway, so we might as well legislate them. Again, this is an argument that really is flawed from the very beginning. But again, one of the things I’ve learned is when we’re trying to be persuasive more than argumentative, we simply need to raise some very good questions. A question that we might raise here is: Okay, would you then say that we should legalize rape? Should we legalize child abuse since people are going to commit these atrocities anyway? Should we legalize murder? Should we legalize stealing? Should we add incest and cruelty to the list because people persist in them? No, what we must understand is legalizing an activity does not necessarily curb its abuse. And so, we do not do away with something because of its abuse. We try to deal with the issue of the abuse.
Number twelve. Legalizing abortion will save the lives of mothers by making abortions safer. Again, this is a very common argument. On the surface, it has a, kind of an attractiveness to it until you just get beneath the surface and just do a little research.
So, what do we find is actually the case? Statistics show that number one, most abortions still occur outside of hospitals. And now with the prevalence of the abortion pill, sadly in the future the overwhelming majority of abortions are probably going to take place in the privacy of one’s home and in the privacy of one’s bathroom.
Furthermore, abortion clinics are still not required even today to meet minimal standards of health. And this, in many ways, is a national scandal. Furthermore, legalizing abortion has not saved lives. It has actually resulted in the loss of almost 63 million children since 1973, and that number continues to grow.
Number thirteen. We should not project our morality on others. Now we basically dealt with that argument back at number eight but let me just point out the Supreme Court did this very thing in 1973. Furthermore, we must project our morality into the abortion situation. If those who are able to project morality to protect the innocent do not do so, then who will?
And so, what we want to understand and what we want to say is: Projecting our moral rights on others is not wrong but destroying the moral rights of others is always wrong, and abortion takes away the moral right of an innocent person to live. Furthermore, this is where we can make parallels with slavery that are very relevant, and I think very powerful.
I am grateful that we did indeed project our morality when it came to the issue of slavery. It did lead to a very bloody, brutal war between 1861 and 65. But had we not projected our morality on others, then slavery in America would have continued minimally for many more years.
Number fourteen. Abortion is a good solution to an unwanted pregnancy. Again, raise the question: Might adoption not be a better solution? And might it not be that if we would begin to champion adoption in our culture, that we would see something good happen, not only for the babies, but also for their mothers as well?
Now again, this is where we must be full of both grace and truth and demonstrate great love and compassion. We have to acknowledge, giving one’s child to a stranger is a very tough and a very difficult thing to do. But we should help the mother and the father understand, it is an easier decision, and it is a better decision than taking the life of your baby. Indeed, we know now from just tons and tons of experience in this area of pro-life advocacy. Most women with unwanted pregnancies mainly need encouragement, they need love, and they need help. And so counseling clinics providing homes for mothers who have a unexpected pregnancy are a much better solution. As one of my friends said, “We should be helping mothers and fathers, not killing babies.”
And then number fifteen. No unwanted baby should ever be born. Well, again, there’s a massive assumption that is made here, and that assumption is this, that an unwanted conception will automatically lead to an unwanted baby. But here are the facts. Many mothers change their mind when they see their baby by means of ultrasound, and then with counseling.
After the initial trauma of the unplanned pregnancy, their heart begins to turn and rather than being disappointed, they now look forward with joy to the gift that God has given them. Furthermore, when you look at what happens to mothers when that baby is born, and the joy and the delight and the love that begins to simply overflow.
What we need to understand is the adoption culture is a much better avenue than the abortion culture when it comes to those reviewed as unwanted conceptions and unwanted babies.
Just some concluding thoughts to keep in mind as you engage people in a winsome way when it comes to this particular issue.
First of all, the full genetic code is present in a baby’s life from the moment of conception.
Number two, the nervous system begins by age 20.
Number three, the child’s brain is fully proportioned by day 30.
Number four, the child will exhibit spontaneous movement by day 45.
Number five, his or her lips react to touch by week seven.
Number six, the eyelids and palms of hands react to touch by eight and a half weeks.
Number seven, by the ninth or tenth week, the baby can turn somersaults, frown, and swallow.
And by the 11th week, the baby normally responds to touch and light and heat and noise. And in fact, we have seen that the baby, by the 11th week, will recoil if pricked by a needle and will even learn and try to avoid the needle if a beep is sounded before subsequent needle pricks take place.
And so, based on these and so many other scientific facts, I think we just have to see that we really are forced to agree that if what is growing inside the mother’s womb is undeniably human, it’s not a pig, a horse, a monkey, or so on. It’s undeniably alive. It is undeniably distinct from the mother. It is undeniably unique, and it is undeniably innocent. It has not broken the law in some way to warrant the death penalty.
And for those of us that believe the Bible, the issue really is very simple. Psalm 139 tells us that God is involved in knitting us together very carefully in the womb of our mother, and He knows all of our days from beginning to end.
Jeremiah chapter 1 in verse 5 tells us that God knows us even before we’re conceived in the womb of our mother. And of course, Genesis reminds us in chapters 1 and 2 that God is ultimately the author of life and everyone bears His image from the moment that they are conceived. But there are those out there that don’t accept the Bible as their authority.
Nevertheless, with grace and compassion, we can provide for them common sense answers that at least will cause questions to be raised in their mind and hopefully and prayerfully eventually see them move from the side of death to the side of life. And indeed, the abortion culture by God’s grace and for His glory will someday hopefully soon disappear from the scene of our culture.
Hope this has been helpful to you. God bless. Thank you for sharing this time with me.