One Of These Things Is Not Like The Others

In the previous article titled: You Are What You Eat, a woman who consumed rat poison which is believed to have led to the death of her 3 day-old child was discussed; and the implications surrounding the pro-abortion argument that “it’s a woman’s body…”.  One commenter raised this concern:  “car crash victim[s] with no brain function what so ever is a human also and doctors “pulling the plug” from them are murderers, but even in the US, you do not see pro-life demonstrators out side hospitals for their sake.”  This type of objection is similar to pro-life advocates lack of objection to capital punishment.  It is seen as an inconsistency that pro-life advocates are only concerned with fetuses and not with the terminally incapacitated or those facing the death penalty.  But is this a true inconsistency?  Are capital punishment and “pulling the plug” (or, with holding life support) truly analogous to abortion?

Briefly, I understand the pro-life position to be this:

  1. It is morally wrong to take the life of a human being without proper justification.
  2. Abortion takes the life of a human being without proper justification.
  3. Therefore, abortion is morally wrong.

Obviously, there are pro-life and pro-abortion advocates who are opposed to capital punishment and with holding life support.  The focus is on whether the anti-abortion position can be neutral to, or supportive of capital punishment and or with holding life support without being inconsistent.

First, is the anti-abortion position inconsistent with capital punishment?  In cases of abortion and capital punishment a human life is actively and intentionally taken.  In instances of capital punishment, the life is taken as a penalty for a crime only after due process.  A trial is held, evidence is considered, and a judgement is made.  The life is taken as a direct consequence of the convict’s actions and is an act of justice.  Capital punishment is a justifiable taking of life.

In the case of abortion, the child has committed no crime.  She is in her natural environment, maturing as nature dictates.  It is only at the desire and convenience of the mother that the life of the child is taken.  The Guttmacher Institute records reasons women give for having abortions.  The reasons given and percent of women offering the reason for elective abortion in 2004 tell us women overwhelmingly have abortions for personal convenience.

  • Having a baby would dramatically change my life: 74
  • Would interfere with education: 38
  • Would interfere with job/employment/career: 38
  • Have other children or dependents: 32
  • Can’t afford a baby now: 73
  • Unmarried: 42
  • Student or planning to study: 34
  • Can’t afford a baby and child care: 28
  • Can’t afford the basic needs of life: 23
  • Unemployed: 22
  • Can’t leave job to take care of a baby: 21
  • Would have to find a new place to live: 19
  • Not enough support from husband or partner: 14
  • Husband or partner is unemployed: 12
  • Currently or temporarily on welfare or public assistance: 8
  • Don’t want to be a single mother or having relationship problems: 48
  • Not sure about relationship: 19
  • Partner and I can’t or don’t want to get married: 12
  • Not in a relationship right now: 11
  • Relationship or marriage may break up soon: 11
  • Husband or partner is abusive to me or my children: 2
  • Have completed my childbearing: 38
  • Not ready for a(nother) child: 32
  • Don’t want people to know I had sex or got pregnant: 25
  • Don’t feel mature enough to raise a(nother) child: 22
  • Husband or partner wants me to have an abortion: 14
  • Possible problems affecting the health of the fetus: 13
  • Physical problem with my health: 12
  • Parents want me to have an abortion: 6
  • Was a victim of rape: 1
  • Became pregnant as a result of incest: <0.5

What about cases where life support is with held from a person who would die without it?  The patient cannot be said to be paying the penalty for a crime, removing life support is not an act of justice.  So how is “pulling the plug” different from abortion?  By with holding life support, nature is being allowed to take its course.  The patient is dying from natural causes as a result of their medical condition.  By allowing nature to take its course, you are not actively participating in the death of the patient.

On the other hand abortion is actively taking a life through a procedure which is designed specifically to take a life.  Were we to allow nature to take its course in the case of pregnancy, the baby will mature and be born.  Where with holding life support allows a patient to die–who would die if left to themselves by removing intervention; abortion caused the baby to die–who would otherwise live if left to themselves by imposing an intervention.

Neither capital punishment or removing life support is truly analogous to abortion and does not create inconsistencies with the pro-life position.  Someone holding the pro-life position with respect to abortion need not worry they are being inconsistent with their worldview if they are supporters of capital punishment or with holding life support.  Certainly someone with a pro-life worldview could oppose the other positions, many do.  But being pro-life does not require opposition to the death penalty or “pulling the plug” in order to be consistent.


  1. I suggest you go spend some time – with an open mind – and no bible – and sit in an abortion clinic and HEAR the women – with no judgement in your heart.
    My opinion that it is a woman’s body so let women decide is not sexist -men cannot have children – there is nothing sexist in this – it is a biological fact. Yes you are very much in the debate, but how about you place yourself in a woman’s shoes and really think and feel through the process of carrying and then caring for an unwanted child -the physical impact, the emotional implications, the financial implications, societal implications – because Women do not take this decision lightly. Abortion is legal because people with sense and dare I say it humanity see the reasons and need for it.

    • Of these reasons you list above for why abortion should be legal, should they also apply to women who have infants and todlers? Should a mother whose financial situation changes be allowed to kill her 1 year old? What about if they no longer care for the child, should they be permitted to kill the child if it is no longer wanted? If women are not justified in killing their infants and todlers for the reasons you and other women give for abortions, why can they not kill them? What is the difference if those are valid reasons?

      BTW: This article is not a defense for the pro-life position, nor is it a refuation of pro-abortion arguemnts, it simply points out there is no inconsistency with the pro-life view and also being in support of the death penalty or removing life support. Nor did I cite biblical or religious objections in support of my view.

      When you say “with an open mind” you are suggesting that I have not looked at the issue with an open mind. Or perhaps you mean people who oppose abortion are not open minded, and those who are pro-abortion are open minded. Is this what you are saying?

  2. John Barron jr wrote: “But being pro-life does not require opposition to the death penalty or “pulling the plug” in order to be consistent.” I think they should be consistent to be rational. The prematurely born would die without life support, but after the definition in this article killing is defined according to wether or not “nature is left to take its course”. By that logic taking life support from pre-born would not be killing the infant. The legal system of most western countries after the consent of medical professionals defines an act of abortion or removing life support as murder only if the person in question has brainfunctions. Doctors have defined a limit in the development of human fetus for that. This makes the fetus under half way through pregnancy fully comparable to the car crash victim with no brain functions.

    Criminals are judged sometimes to death in the US even if all the other western countries have long since abandoned the capital punishment (without an increase in crime, I might add). However, frequently cases where an innocent human was executed arise. In other words abortion has proper legal and medical justification, but the death sentence is often given to a person without “proper justification”.

    Even though killing a human being is seen as inherently wrong, killing an enemy during war is seen as “properly justified”. But is the killing of an enemy civillian “properly justified”? Artillery and bomber crews are sometimes committed solely on this purpose. Is pro-life movement against that? If not, they are not consistent in their conviction.

    The Guttmacher institute survey tells a grimacing story of the US society. Since the percentages of reasons in the list are cumulative, it does not tell of women having an abortion out of mere convinience, but because of multiple difficult reasons. It is freightening that 73 % reports as the reason economic trouble. If they are at the same time trying to study and have trouble in their relationship, who can actually blame them? Someone rich and comfortable, I gues. Full 23 % reports as a reason, that they can not afford basic needs. That is every fourth woman to have an abortion. Can you imagine, what it means not to be able to afford BASIC NEEDS? There is even a full percent of rapes and a half of a percent of incest cases in this list. Now, do I have to remind here, that this means 1 rape in every hundred abortions and an incest case in every 200 cases of abortion. That means thousands of rapes and incest cases in a year!

    • There is no reason to remove life support from the baby, it isnt dying. The “life support” which currently sustains the baby is the natural circumstance, not an artificial one. But even then abortion does not simply remove life support, it rips to shreads body of the fetus.

      Just because something is legal, does not make it moral. Adultery is legal, it is not moral. taking all the money out of a joint bank account and running off is legal, but not moral. The two cannot be equated.

      Of the reasons given I did not see any reason given which would also justify taking the life of a 2 year old. An argument could be made for the life of the mother, but in the survey it was labeled “mothers health” which could be anything from headaches, to discomfort. If you cant use the reason for taking the life of a 2 year old, you are assuming the fetus is not human, which is not only unfounded, but scientifically and biologically inaccurate.

      • Maybe it is my bad english, but I really can not follow you on the first paragraph. What are you referring to? As for the legality and morality of things. Just because some things are not moral they should not be made illegal (like gambling, bombers or televangelists). As you should know there is a big difference both scientifically and biologically between a fetus and a todler.

        • We shouldn’t legalize a moral evil just because the people engaging in the moral evil are negatively effected.

          You’re right they are biologically different but only different in maturity, not different in nature. If we were to judge value by maturity, tens are more valuable than todlers, adults more than teens and so on. But we don’t determine value based on maturity.

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