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Should Abortion be Legal?

Question:  How do you argue against abortion being legal?

Answer:  Science and philosophy both support the pro-life arguments.  However, science cannot dictate morality, it can only inform morality.  The following is a philosophical argument that demonstrates why abortion should be illegal.  It was written by Clinton Wilcox in a blog called, “Philosophical Arguments Destroy ‘Pro-Choice’ Case on Abortion[1].”

A syllogism is simply an argument composed of premises that lead to a conclusion. A basic syllogism has two premises and one conclusion, but arguments can have more premises, and even more conclusions, than that. Here is a basic example of a syllogism:

P1: All men are mortal.
P2: Socrates is a man.
P3: Therefore, Socrates is mortal.

This is an example of deductive logic. Deductive logic argues from a general idea (that all men are mortal) to a specific case (that Socrates, being a man, is mortal). A premise is made up of a statement that can either be true or false. If all the premises are true, then the conclusion can’t be false.

If the conclusion follows necessarily from the premises, then the argument is valid. An invalid argument is one where the conclusion doesn’t follow from its premises. An argument is sound if it is valid, and all of its premises are true. If the argument is invalid, or if it can be demonstrated that one or all of the premises are false, then an argument is unsound. So an argument can be valid, but unsound. An argument can even be invalid, but have a true conclusion (you just arrived at it through bad reasoning). But an argument can’t be invalid and sound.

The argument I generally make for the pro-life position is as follows:

P1: It is prima facie immoral to kill a human being.
P2: Abortion kills a human being.
C: Therefore, abortion is immoral.

Premise one can be supported because human beings are inherently valuable based on the kind of thing they are, human beings. All human beings have the inherent capacity as rational, moral agents. It is just as immoral to kill an infant as it is to kill an adult.

The term prima facie is Latin for “at first sight.” I insert this phrase because most pro-life advocates agree that sometimes killing is justified, such as in self-defense. Some pro-life people believe that capital punishment and just war are also justified forms of killing. The idea here is that under most circumstances, it is wrong to kill a human without moral justification. Abortion is an unjustified form of killing.

Premise two is supported through science. We know that all human beings are living human organisms from fertilization.  So the conclusion necessarily follows. If it is immoral to kill human beings, and the unborn are human beings, then it is immoral to kill them.

So we see that it’s immoral, but should it be illegal? Well, I add a premise and a conclusion to show that abortion should also be illegal. My updated argument looks like this:

P1: It is prima facie immoral to kill a human being.
P2: Abortion kills a human being.
C1: Therefore, abortion is immoral.
P3: The unjustified killing of human beings is illegal (e.g. murder).
C2 (from P2 and P3): Therefore, abortion should be illegal.

Premise three is supported because we do make the unjustified killing of human beings, like murder, illegal. In all civilized societies, murder is always illegal (although we sometimes disagree over what constitutes murder).

So conclusion two necessarily follows that abortion should be illegal.

This is sound reasoning making the case why abortion should be illegal.  When I discuss abortion with people who call themselves pro-choice they almost always use two tactics.  First pro-abortionists move away from logic and science and try to make their case for keeping abortion legal emotionally.  Especially, when confronted with someone who understands the pro-life logic and can make a rational case.  They will ask you if you are against abortion in cases of rape, extreme poverty or Down’s syndrome in order to justify killing them.  In these instances and others similar to these, there is only one question that needs to be answered.  Is the baby human?  If the baby is human then according the logic above, it is wrong to kill an innocent unborn baby and should be illegal in all cases (an exception is life of the mother).

The second tactic is to focus on the needs of the woman and avoid mentioning the baby at all.  I’ve read pro-abortion article after article that speaks about a woman’s right to her body and avoid talking about the baby.  This is why visual images are so important in this debate.  The images move the debate from abstract arguments and woman’s rights to reality.  I offered a friend a 5 minute video that shows actual abortion baby limps and bodies, along with a video sequence inside the womb of a baby during a saline solution abortion.  I admit these images are disturbing and graphic but they strongly make the case a human baby is being killed, not just a thing to be discarded.  He has yet to accept my offer.

Armed with logic, truth and graphic images I believe it is possible to move society and lawmakers towards making abortion illegal and saving millions of lives.

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{ 2 comments… add one }
  • Tom Wright January 26, 2013, 4:58 pm

    Steve;
    The syllogisms are logically correct, but we must discuss definitions. Where is the law that says that fetuses are humans?
    Also what do you think the effect would be if abortions were suddenly illegal? Would this stop them?
    I think this argument, pro and con, is a waste of time. Abortions will continue, legal or not, and pro-lifers will continue their arguments…..to what end?
    Why not focus energy on the welfare of the unwanted kids in the foster care system and help save the life of an innocent child who is truly human?

  • Steve February 6, 2013, 6:03 am

    Tom,
    I answered your legal question in my latest post, “When Does Life Begin?” According to science human life begins at conception.

    You then asked, “Also what do you think the effect would be if abortions were suddenly illegal? Would this stop them? I think this argument, pro and con, is a waste of time. Abortions will continue, legal or not, and pro-lifers will continue their arguments…..to what end?”

    [My reply] Laws against rape do not stop all cases of rape, but no one that I know suggests legalizing the practice. The fact is that laws against rape, like laws against abortion, drastically reduce illegal (and immoral) behavior. Would anyone that you know suggest that legalizing rape would not increase its occurrence? Prior to Roe v. Wade (1973), at best there were 210,000 illegal abortions per year. (More conservative estimates suggest a mean of 89,000 per year.) Within 7 years of legalization, totals jumped to over 1.5 million annually. True, no law can stop ALL illegal behavior, but that’s not the point. The issue is not, how many people are breaking the law?, but, are the unborn human? If so, we should legally protect them the way we would any other group that is unjustly harmed. Perhaps what this objection has in mind is that there would be widespread resistance to outlawing abortion. That should not be a factor in deciding law. Imagine saying to a minority group suffering discrimination (say, for example, blacks), “We will protect you as long as it meets with popular approval and is not too difficult to do so.” This would be an outrage, and rightly so. Persons deserve protection under the law because justice demands it, not because (or only if) it is easy.

    Finally, you asked, “Why not focus energy on the welfare of the unwanted kids in the foster care system and help save the life of an innocent child who is truly human?”

    [my reply] As I have said previously there is only one issue; what is the unborn? According to science it is 100% human. The law of biogenesis states like begets like. Birds beget birds; lizards beget lizards; humans beget humans. The zygote has 26 chromosomes identifying the cells as human. It is unquestionable that the unborn is 100% human and deserving of equal constitutional rights of life that we enjoy.

    So are you telling me to ignore the unjust killing of innocent humans to work with foster care? According to your logic, should we kill toddlers who are unwanted? Toddlers are no more human than an unborn baby. As the posted article showed science and logic say the unborn is 100% human. Our first priority is to save lives. Shouldn’t that be yours?

    Your friend Steve

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