One of the biggest fallacies of the Northern Ireland abortion debate is the argument that since the Offences Against the Person Act 1861 is old, it must therefore be wrong. You’ve heard it many times: “NI abortion laws are archaic. They’re from the middle ages or something!” This, of course, is a type of GCSE-level reasoning known as ‘chronological snobbery’ or a ‘current year fallacy’. A law should live or die on its own merit, not on how old it is.
Which brings us on to the British Medical Association (BMA).
Tomorrow, the BMA will vote on whether or not to completely decriminalise abortion. While a vote in favour will not change the law, it will send a clear and terrifying message that the current medical zeitgeist does not believe in the equality of every human life – much to the delight of the chronological snobs. It’s 2017, you see, and protecting all human life is so, like, 1861.
But if the law were to change in light of this, say in some sort of hellish dystopian future where the Green Party have come to power, then the abortion limit will be increased to 28 weeks and practices like sex-selective abortion, as advocated by the appropriately-named Dr Wendy Savage, would be perfectly legal. #TrustWomen indeed. The ones that are allowed to be born, that is.
However, for anyone who is concerned with right reasoning, no such vote is necessary. The issue of abortion, while emotionally complex and culturally divisive, is actually a straightforward one. The only question that needs asked is the following:
What is the unborn?
The answer to this question trumps all other considerations because if the unborn is not a human being, then no justification for abortion is necessary. Abortion would be no more immoral than having a tooth or a tumour removed. However, if the unborn is a human being, then no justification for abortion is good enough.
In other words, an unborn human’s right to life is more important than its unwanted-ness, the right to choose (whatever that means), financial hardship, its gender, its skin colour, its disability, or any of the other reasons you’ll regularly hear given for abortion. If the unborn is human, then the BMA voting on whether or not to criminalise abortion would be like Starbucks voting on whether or not to slay their least productive coffee farmers.
So how do we know if the unborn is human or not? This is how: science.
It’s amusing how the religious are charged with being anti-science, yet when it comes to abortion (and other cultural issues like how many genders there are), there’s no shortage of secularists and/or atheists willing to beclown themselves by claiming that a fetus is not human (or that there are six million genders) – despite established science saying otherwise.
As far back as 1970, when ultrasound technology was in its infancy, and three years before Roe vs. Wade introduced wholesale abortion to the US, the editorial in California Medicine put it plainly:
“Since the old ethic has not yet been fully displaced it has been necessary to separate the idea of abortion from the idea of killing, which continues to be socially abhorrent. The result has been a curious avoidance of the scientific fact, which everyone really knows, that human life begins at conception and is continuous whether intra-or extra-uterine until death. The very considerable semantic gymnastics which are required to rationalise abortion as anything but taking a human life would be ludicrous if they were not often put forth under socially impeccable auspices.”
The humanity of the unborn is also affirmed by leading embryology textbooks,¹ that establish, in no uncertain terms, that from the earliest stages of development, the unborn are distinct, living, and whole human beings – like this one. Of course, for the abortion-choicer, the denial of science and use of subterfuge is wholly necessary because otherwise, they couldn’t call themselves ‘pro-choice’.
Interestingly, there are some abortion-choice supporters intellectually honest enough to embrace the science. Ronald Dworkin, a prominent American philosopher and abortion advocate, in his book Life’s Dominion, simply said: “Abortion deliberately kills a developing embryo and is a choice for death”.
Faye Wattleton, a former President of Planned Parenthood (!), writing in Ms. Magazine, put it this way:
“I think we have deluded ourselves into believing that people don’t know that abortion is killing. So any pretense that abortion is not killing is a signal of our ambivalence, a signal that we cannot say yes, it kills a fetus.”
So – here’s a former President of Planned Parenthood, an organisation that is to abortion what Ikea is to furniture, saying that its entire support base (pretty much) is deluded. I’ve yet to hear or see any abortion rights campaigner concede that abortion is killing, have you? Yet here is an abortion industry leader saying just that. Perhaps the rank-and-file abortion activists would be better off spending their time reading up on embryology instead of prancing about in vagina hats.
So we know the unborn are human, not because Scripture tells us (it does, by the way – Ps. 139:13 & Luke 1:41) or because we’re all misogynist pigs (ad hominem!), but because science has weighed in and told us so. That means — it follows necessarily — that if it is wrong to take an innocent human life, and abortion takes an innocent human life, then abortion is wrong. This is true even if a fertilised human looks like a clump of cells, or if you can’t afford it, or if its father is a criminal. It is true even if the BMA vote in favour of decriminalising it.
So when someone accuses a pro-lifer of supporting an ‘archaic law,’ a moment’s reflection should reveal how absurd this is. “You oppose a law that tries to protect all human life, and yet you support a law that seeks to destroy human life, even for the flimsiest of reasons?” OK, then. Which law is the medieval one again?