12-Part Series on Morality (Part 8: Abortion)

Murder is the intentional killing of innocent human being by another human.  Direct abortion is the intentional killing of an innocent human being in the womb by another human being.  Murder, whether in the womb or out of the womb, is always sinful because it is an affront to human dignity and to God. 

We should note that every human being begins at conception.  This is the moment sperm enters the ovum, the ovum and sperm cease to exist as such, and unique new human DNA is created.  From this point, like all human beings, this new human needs time and nutrition to grow.  Although many abortion advocates agree with the above definition of abortion and that human life begins and conception, they attempt to justify abortion as something needed or as a woman’s right.

One popular argument for abortion is, “We need legal abortion to deal with things like poverty and overpopulation, especially since pro-lifers only care about life before it’s born.”

First, pro-lifers care about life from its first stage to natural death, which is why we also protest suicide, murder and euthanasia.  Second, abortion does not solve the problem of poverty.  Abortion kills those who could have offered wonderful talents to the world and who could have contributed greatly to reducing poverty. 

Furthermore, the logic presented in the above argument could be used to defend murdering poor people.  For instance, if all poor people were murdered, there would be no poverty.  Third, define overpopulation.  Please provide the maximum number of people the earth could sustain.  This, of course, cannot be done. 

As advances in agriculture and medicine progress, the earth is able to sustain a greater number of people.  If the world were truly overpopulated, “Would the abortion-choice advocate force…women to have abortions?  If yes, then appealing to overpopulation is not a pro-choice argument, for it entails compulsory abortions.  If the answer is no, then abortion for population control is not relevant to establishing the pro-choice position…”[1]

Most arguments on abortion beg the question, “Is the unborn fully human?”  “[O]rganisms, including human beings, are ontologically (essentially; of their essence) prior to their parts, which means that the organism as a whole maintains absolute identity through time while it grows, develops and…changes…”[2]  In other words, you are you from the moment of conception. 

To further illustrate, I was conceived at the moment my father’s sperm entered my mother’s ovum.  Saying a blob of tissue was conceived and, at some point, that blob of tissue became me would be ridiculous.  Rather, the first stage of every human life is conception.  This is the moment a new, unique individual with unique DNA is created.  Whether a person is in the zygote, embryo, fetus, infant or adult stages, he/she is still a person. 

In other words, if a person gains or loses parts, he/she is still an individual person who is intrinsically valuable.  Further, murder is the intentional killing of an innocent person, which is a gravely sinful act.  Thus, if an innocent person is murdered at any moment from conception to natural death, this act is gravely sinful, which is why pro-lifers care about all human life. 

For more on the Church’s teachings about abortion, read Catechism paragraphs 2270-2275.

[1] Francis J. Beckwith, Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case against Abortion (New York: Cambridge University Press: 2007), 97.

[2] Beckwith, Defending Life, 50.