Abortion: first thoughts on a BIG issue.
As we near the November 2020 election, abortion is considered by many (myself included) to be a central issue. Others completely dismiss abortion, arguing that voters ought not to be “single issue” voters. I have decided to re-publish some articles I wrote about the subject of abortion to lead up to why I think abortion is more than just a “single voter issue,” and why I think abortion is the central political issue of our time just as slavery was in the 19th century. I begin with a scholarly approach to the issue of what is human. Of course, I recognize there are emotional issues attached to abortion (unwanted pregnancy, incest, poverty etc) and I will consider those issues separately. For now – here is a slightly edited reprint of an article I wrote about the nature of what is human…
Abortion; Evolution and Creation
Normally a human infant grows inside its mother for about 40 weeks until birth. If this growth stops before the infant is naturally born it is called either a miscarriage or a voluntary abortion. A voluntary abortion is normally just called “an abortion.” Any number of different types of surgery or chemicals are used in the abortion procedure. All of these procedures come with significant medical and psychological risks.
The ideas from Evolution and Creationism can have a direct effect on how you might view abortion. These ideas form what is called a “world-view” which is a set of principles we use to make sense out of the world. Our world-view tells us the value we should place on human life. The Evolutionary view determines the value of human life based on what society thinks. The Creationist world-view bases its ideas on what the Creator thinks.
Obviously, these two ideas are worlds apart…
Evolution teaches that humans are a very highly evolved form of life. In the grand struggle for survival our value is no greater than any other life-form since we are all just animals. This idea can have a powerful effect on people and what they believe about abortion. If we really are just animals then one animal rights group leader is right in saying, “A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.” [i]
Now…In the struggle for survival every life-form needs to draw in energy from food and many life-forms depend on killing and eating other life-forms for survival. Scientists call this the “food chain.” The big question is: when is killing another life-form okay and when is it not okay. When is killing murder?
From an Evolutionary point of view death, in and of itself, is not a bad thing because organisms must eat to live, every organism eventually dies, and death weeds out the unfit. This is the natural order of things. In fact, it is only humans who have ideas about murder. Animal populations do not have police officers, courts, prisons, or protestors. In the animal kingdom there is no sense of justice. There is only survival. You are either fast enough or strong enough or you become somebody else’s lunch.
Of course, humans routinely kill billions of living creatures every single day. We give little thought to killing chickens, cows or even broccoli and corn – killing these life-forms to keep ourselves alive is not considered a bad thing. But if we’re all just life-forms struggling to survive, how can we decide the difference between killing a broccoli, a chicken, a cat or a boy?
Only human beings make judgments about the rightness or the wrongness of killing another life-form. For example, great white sharks routinely kill sea lions. The sea lions do not want to die and swim very hard to avoid being eaten by the sharks – but they do not lodge protests with the United Nations about the killing of their species by the immoral sharks.
Instead, they just try to swim faster.
But society today thinks very differently about killing human beings. If a great white shark kills a human being, we hunt down the shark. If a lion kills a human being, we hunt down the lion. And if a human kills another human, we hunt down the human being and accuse him or her of murder. In fact, humans go to great lengths to define murder. Most cultures will allow for “self-defense” and even war but just killing another human being to get something you want or because it enhances your own self-interests is called murder.
And we do have police officers, courts, and prisons.
But what about abortion? Under normal circumstances a pre-birth infant will be born – as a human being. A pre-birth infant is never born as some other life-form – it IS always a human being, just in a pre-birth growth stage. Left to itself, a pre-birth human will not spontaenouesly develop into a dandelion. The pre-birth infant is one thing and only one thing – a human being in a specific stage of development.
In fact, every living human being today exists in a constantly changing growth stage...We are born – but we do not stay newborns. We continue to develop...We become toddlers – but we don’t stay there...We become adolescents, then young, then middle aged, and then old.
Since we are really in a constant changing state from one growth stage to the next, what makes one growth stage any “less human” than any other?
The whole idea of abortion is based on the false idea that a developing infant inside the mother is not “fully human.”
But where did this idea come from?
The truth is MANY cultures in the past have decided that newborns were not fully human. Infanticide has been practiced for thousands of years. The Romans, for example, left unwanted newborns outside city walls. “Unwanted” pregnancies are nothing new.
But then Evolutionists such as Ernst Haeckel in 1866 and others described the growth stages of a human infant inside its mother in scientific and evolutionary terms. Haeckel, for example, taught that embryos as they develop revisit the stages of their past evolution. In his view an embryo supposedly has a “fish” stage, an amphibian stage, a reptile stage and so forth. This idea was called “embryologic recapitulation”.
The truth is Haeckel’s embryo drawings were shown to be a fraud almost immediately after he published them. The stages of growth he wrote about are now known to have nothing to do with Evolution.
Nevertheless, his ideas remain. The idea that human infants inside the mother are not fully human continues to be popular today. After all, it is much easier to think of a pre-birth infant in scientific terms. Words such as “embryo” and “fetus” can keep people at arm’s length from much more human words such as “infant” and “baby.” Scientific descriptions of the pre-birth growth stages as animal-like stages make the pre-birth infant seem only “potentially” human. After all, if a pre-birth infant is only a developing glob of cells in some non-human, animal-like stage of growth it is much easier to kill.
While it is true that Haeckel and his embryo drawings were shown to be a fraud the idea of the pre-birth growth stages as animal-like is still popular. For example, in 1997 one of the foremost Evolutionists in recent history, the esteemed Dr. Carl Sagan, described the pre-birth stages of growth in very animal-like ways.
Now – Sagan wasn’t saying that Haeckel was right. He wasn’t saying that a pre-birth infant is anything other than human during its growth either. He was simply describing the stages in very Evolutionary terms. And his status as a scientist, even long after his death, gives his ideas great credibility in the popular mindset to this day.
Carl Sagan and his wife Ann Druyan wrote an important article on abortion called ““Abortion: Is it Possible to be both “Pro-life” and “Pro-Choice”?” or “The Question of Abortion: A Search for Answers.” This article was published in a book called “Billions and Billions: Thoughts on life and death at the brink of the millennium” published in 1997. Since this article is co-written by one of the leading Evolutionists of modern times, it really gives a picture of what Evolution has to say about abortion and the value of human life.
Sagan and Druyan describe each stage of the developing human in very non-human terms. He describes the first stage as looking like “a segmented worm.” He describes the fetus at the end of the 4th week as having “something like the gill arches of a fish or an amphibian…and there is a pronounced tail. It looks rather like a newt or a tadpole.”
By the way, the truth is these “gill arches” have NOTHING to do with breathing. They are not gills. They are not connected to respiration in any way. They are simply folds in the body that eventually become parts and glands of the face, neck and jaw. [ii]
Sagan and Druyan go on to describe the infant by the end of the 6th week with “eyes still on the side of the head, as in most animals, and the reptilian face has connected slits where the mouth and nose eventually will be.”
At the end of the 8th week, in Sagan and Druyan’s view, “The face resembles that of a primate but is still not quite human.” [iii]
Sagan and Druyan complete their argument by saying that a human embryo should be protected only after it achieves what is “uniquely human” that is, the ability to have human thoughts. [iv]
Obviously, Sagan and Druyan believe that each stage of the pre-birth growth process is simply an animal-like cell mass. The pre-birth infant has nothing about it that is “uniquely human” until it has “uniquely human” brain wave patterns. [v]. Obviously, if our society, our courts and pregnant women believe the pre-birth infant is little more than a “segmented worm” or a “newt or a tadpole” it is much easier to justify killing it.
Many Creationists, on the other hand, believe basing the value of human life only on the value we decide to give it can be a very dangerous idea. We can clearly see how dangerous by looking at recent history.
Human societies in the last 100 years have decided that entire races are not “fully human.” The Nazi state in Germany legally defined certain groups, including the Jewish people, the mentally retarded and others as “sub-human.” There can be no doubt that Hitler and the Nazi’s used evolutionary ideas to justify the murder of millions. [vi]
But this dangerous idea isn’t confined to some dark chapter of Nazi history. It is creeping back into western thinking at an alarming rate.
For example, today in the Netherlands, voluntary Euthanasia (Doctor assisted suicide) is already legal for anyone 12 years and older. The Netherlands is also the home of the “Groningen protocol.” The protocol allows for doctors, in a committee and with parental consent, to end the life of a seriously ill newborn baby. [vii] The Groningen protocol has already been followed at least twenty times (as of 2012).
Not everyone who believes abortion should be legal are Nazi’s nor do they all think the Groningen protocol is a good idea.
Perhaps many pro-choice folks simply haven’t thought these ideas through…Maybe they simply hold onto the belief that the choices of an adult have greater weight than the right to life of a pre-birth infant…Maybe they are genuinely concerned about unwanted pregnancies and think abortion is a solution to a difficult problem.
Or maybe they think that pre-birth infants are not fully human. After all, scientists seem to think so! But whatever the reasons, many Creationists have powerful reasons to be pro-life…
Please remember – not everyone who disbelieves in Evolution is a Creationist. Scientists who believe in “Intelligent Design” may or may not even believe in God. They simply realize from science that random chance could never have built life. From their point of view, only an intelligent engineer could have put life together. Intelligent Design scientists may have a personal opinion on abortion, but their science doesn’t mean they must to be pro-life.
Many Creationists, however, do feel that science drives them to be pro-life. To be fair, not even every Creationist is pro-life. Even some Biblical Creationists might not be pro-life, at least in the strict sense. But MOST Biblical Creationists are pro-life for at least two important reasons:
1) The Bible says humans are created in the image of God and 2) scientific evidence supports the fact that humans are fully human from the moment that an egg is fertilized because of DNA.
At the moment of conception, two ½ strands of DNA (one from the mother, the other from the father) unite to create a unique DNA. This DNA is human – it is not plant DNA that somehow becomes human after 30 – 40 weeks of growth. It is not DNA that might somehow become something else either.
DNA left at a crime scene is not in the same category as the DNA of a pre-birth infant either. The DNA of a fertilized egg is actively directing cell growth toward an adult human being. DNA at a crime scene is not.
The DNA of a pre-birth infant shows clear and direct paths toward the human form.
It specifically tells the embryo how to build itself.
Specific information is released at very specific times that are clearly planned and purposeful.
Directed information like this ALWAYS comes from an intelligent source too.
So…for MOST Biblical Creationists, the development of the human infant is an automated process engineered by God. It is information specific. Every instruction leads to only one end – a human being. No part of the information process in the growth stages will suddenly cause the embryo to grow into a tuna.
And it is God who clearly revealed in the Bible that humans are engineered and built in His image. As the Creator, He engineered how human life would begin and develop. Since God started this process, it is God who builds and forms human beings.
This means that only God has any right to interfere with the pre-birth growth process.
For the Biblical Creationist it is God who determines what is murder and what is not. For example, it is God who allows for self-defense, capital punishment for murderers and casualties of warfare. But other than these situations, God has determined that killing an innocent human life is wrong.
Isaiah 44:2 (NKJV)
Thus says the Lord who made you, And formed you from the womb…
Psalm 139: 13 (NKJV)
For You formed my inward parts; You covered me in my mother’s womb. 14 I will praise You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Marvelous are Your works, And that my soul knows very well.
So…from the Biblical Creationist point of view the value of human life is decided by the Creator and for this reason it should be protected.
In the end we must decide if our own opinions – or the Creator’s – have more value.
[i] Ingrid Newkirk “A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy” 2012, accessed 2012 peta.org “
[ii] Morris, John Ph. D. “Does the human embryo go through animal stages?” http://www.icr.org/article/does-human-embryo-go-through-animal-stages/ accessed 2012. “True enough, at an early stage of development the human fetus does have certain folds or creases which resemble these found in a fish embryo. As they develop, however, the resemblance stops. In the fish, the folds develop into gills; but in the human, they develop into the glands and structures in the ear and neck areas. If humans were related to fish, one would expect the gills to evolve into the lungs, trachea, and mouth.”
[iii] Sagan, Carl and Druyan, Ann. “The Question of Abortion: A Search for Answers” Accessed 2012 @ http://2think.org/abortion.shtml. “The trouble with these particular developmental milestones is not just that they’re arbitrary. More troubling is the fact that none of them involves uniquely human characteristics–apart from the superficial matter of facial appearance. All animals respond to stimuli and move of their own volition. Large numbers are able to breathe. But that doesn’t stop us from slaughtering them by the billions. Reflexes and motion are not what make us human.”
[iv] Sagan, Carl and Druyan, Ann. “The Question of Abortion: A Search for Answers” Accessed 2012 @ http://2think.org/abortion.shtml “If a fetus can be shown to think and feel but not be able to breathe, would it be all right to kill it? Do we value breathing more than thinking and feeling? Viability arguments cannot, it seems to us, coherently determine when abortions are permissible. Some other criterion is needed. Again, we offer for consideration the earliest onset of human thinking as that criterion.”
[v] Sagan, Carl and Druyan, Ann. “The Question of Abortion: A Search for Answers” Accessed 2012 @ http://2think.org/abortion.shtml “But brain waves with regular patterns typical of adult human brains do not appear in the fetus until about the 30th week of pregnancy–near the beginning of the third trimester. Fetuses younger than this–however alive and active they may be–lack the necessary brain architecture. They cannot yet think… Since, on average, fetal thinking occurs even later than fetal lung development, we find Roe v. Wade to be a good and prudent decision addressing a complex and difficult issue. With prohibitions on abortion in the last trimester–except in cases of grave medical necessity–it strikes a fair balance between the conflicting claims of freedom and life.
[vi] Morris et al. The Modern Creation Trilogy, vol 3. Master Books 1996, P. 90. “Eventually, in the eyes of Nazi evolutionary scientists, those “unfit to live” came to include not only people who were mentally ill or physically handicapped, but also Jews, Negroes, gypsies, and any others who did not have “pure” Teutonic genealogies. All of this was considered to be in the ultimate interest of the evolutionary advance of – as Darwin had put it – “the preservation of favored races in the struggle for life.” Hitler continually emphasized this concept of evolutionistic struggle in his own writings. In fact, the very title of his definitive book, Mein Kampf, meant “My Struggle.” Hitler and his Nazis were the true evolutionists, in the fullest sense.”
[vii] Jim Holt, The New York Times, July 10, 2005. Euthanasia for babies? Accessed 2012. http://www.nytimes.com/2005/07/10/magazine/10WWLN.html?pagewanted=all. “Two physicians practicing in the Netherlands, the very heart of civilized Europe, this spring published in The New England Journal of Medicine a set of guidelines for what they called infant ”euthanasia.” The authors named their guidelines the Groningen protocol, after the city where they work. One of the physicians, Dr. Eduard Verhagen, has admitted to presiding over the killing of four babies in the last three years, by means of a lethal intravenous drip of morphine and midazolam (a sleeping agent).”