Abortion and the Voice of Deep Conscience – Part Two

Read part one of this series here.


Possibility 3:

“It is wrong to deliberately take innocent human life. But the fetus isn’t innocent. It has invaded me, violated me, made me pregnant.”

The sole purpose of the uterus is to home and house the baby, who has no place else to go. Yet the baby is here regarded as akin to a trespasser or rapist. Although it is hard to imagine an actual pregnant woman taking this view, some abortion proponents consider it quite promising, perhaps because judges will sometimes believe things that ordinary women cannot.

Thus, attorney Eileen McDonagh writes that the fetus is “objectively at fault for causing pregnancy.” It is “not innocent,” she says, “but instead aggressively intrudes on a woman’s body so massively that deadly force is justified to stop it.” Although “some might suggest that the solution to coercive pregnancy is simply for the woman to wait until the fetus is born,” she complains that “[t]his type of reasoning is akin to suggesting that a woman being raped should wait until the rape is over rather than stopping the rapist.” Yet even McDonagh admits, in an unintentional testimony to the enduring power of the deep structures of conscience, “[f]ew people are going to be comfortable with the idea.”

Source: Eileen L. McDonagh, Breaking the Abortion Deadlock: From Choice to Consent (Oxford University Press, 1996).

Possibility 4:

“It is wrong to deliberately take innocent human life. But it’s not human–it can’t feel, it can’t think, it can’t communicate–and how could it be human if it’s so small?”

Among pro-abortion philosophers, this rationalization is by far the most popular. The reasoning is that human personhood, who-ness, depends on criteria like sensitivity, intelligence, and self-awareness, and the fetus is just a what. Of course born people too can be more or less sensitive, more or less intelligent, more or less self-aware. Therefore, by this reasoning, born people too must be unequally endowed with personhood–some more, some less.

The only question is whom we shall have as our masters. At the top may be those with the most exquisite feelings, the most complex thoughts, the keenest sense of self–it is not difficult to guess who these philosophers have in mind. At any rate, such arguments merely touch the surface of moral awareness. It is a matter of everyday observation that pregnant women do think of their fetuses as human persons, and the thought comes back to haunt those who have had abortions. They view themselves as having violated not only the prohibition of murder but also the duty to care for their babies.


Have you or has someone you know experienced an abortion? Talk to my friends at Garden of Hope to take your first step toward healing!

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