Answering and Asking Hard Questions about Abortion

A month or so ago, conservative evangelical The Gospel Coalition featured a post called “10 Questions a Pro-Choice Candidate is Never Asked by the Media.”

Debate moderators and reporters love to ask pro-life candidates hard questions about abortion. Curiously, they don’t do the same for pro-choice candidates.

I read through the ten questions listed, and I actually didn’t find them that challenging. There’s nothing there I haven’t been over a million times, whether in my own mind or in discussions with others. I have been meaning to post my answers to those ten questions, and I may still do so at some point, though I don’t have time right at the moment (sorry!).

In the meantime, Claudia has answered these questions in a guest post on The Friendly Atheist, and Adam Lee has answered them on his blog Daylight Atheism. I’d encourage you to read both sets of answers. While I may differ in some way on some specific or a given point, I find both individuals’ answers to be well thought out and interesting.

But what I want to point out here is what Adam Lee has done in his next post. In sum, he has seized the moment to turn the tables. The post on The Gospel Coalition operates from the assumption that the media is unfairly asking pro-lifers “hard questions” about abortion but not in turn asking “hard questions” on the subject to pro-choicers. The post suggests that if you start asking a pro-choice person when he or she thinks personhood begins, what he or she thinks of abortion after viability, what he or she thinks of prosecuting the murder of a pregnant woman as two separate cases of murder, etc., their position – and others support for it – will fall apart. The post similarly suggests that reporters have been unfair in asking anti-abortion politicians about things like rape.

Adam Lee points to something I’ve thought for a long time. The reality is that reporters have not been asking anti-abortion politicians the hard questions. They have actually been asking them easy questions. Here is what Adam Lee says:

Although millions of religious people want abortion to be outlawed, they’re surprisingly vague on the details. What exactly would their ideal society look like? How would they write the law and how would violators be punished? These are plainly important and relevant questions that I’ve never seen anti-choicers address in a clear and comprehensive way.

To help them clarify their vision, here’s a set of questions that would allow us all to better evaluate whether the anti-abortion movement would have good or bad consequences for women, for men, and for society as a whole.

So much yes. Click through to read the whole list, but here are some of the questions Adam Lee suggests that I found most interesting:

1. Biological evidence suggests that a large number, if not a majority, of fertilized eggs are spontaneously aborted at a very early stage of pregnancy (by some estimates, as many as 50%). Do you consider this an ongoing humanitarian crisis that urgently needs medical research?

2. If you could write the law however you saw fit, how would you enforce a ban on abortion? For example, in El Salvador, when women come to hospitals seeking treatment for a miscarriage, they can be detained until a forensic vagina investigator can arrive and perform an exam to see if they had an illegal abortion. Would you have something like this? If not, what enforcement mechanism would you have?

5. What do you think the penalty should be for doctors who perform abortion?

6. What do you think the penalty should be for women who seek out an abortion?

8. Since IVF clinics also create and discard fertilized embryos, would you also be in favor of outlawing IVF?

10. If you would, address this purely hypothetical situation: There’s a five-alarm fire at a fertility clinic, and you’re the first firefighter to enter the building. On one side of the building, there’s a petri dish with half a dozen frozen embryos. On the other side, there’s a cowering five-year-old girl. You only have time to save one. Which would you choose and why?

The first question here is one I tackled in my post on how I lost faith in the pro-life movement. Numbers 2, 5, and 6 are questions I plan to tackle in upcoming posts about what making abortion illegal might look like. Number 8 was an especially good point to ask in the last election given that Mitt Romney endorsed the personhood amendment even though he had a grandchild conceived using IVF. One wonders if he ever worries about his frozen grandchildren presumably still stored in a frozen embryo facility. And finally, number 10. Yeah.

Let me just take a moment to say how I would have addressed these questions when I was pro-life – and how I did address the ones that came up.

For question number 1, well, as I said in my earlier post on the pro-life movement, I had no idea that so many fertilized zygotes failed to implant. Since I considered those zygotes to be people, I would have been horrified by this. I probably would have hedged by saying that they died naturally, and that it probably wasn’t possible to save them (hence no research to do so), and that it was a result of the sin and death unleashed on the world by the fall (Answers in Genesis taught that all sorts of things from mosquitoes to meat eating animals to tumors were all a result of the fall.) Of course, I don’t actually think this answer is adequate, since we do medical research with the goal of trying to cure all sorts of terrible conditions. Why treat zygotes that fail to implant so very differently?

As for numbers 2, 5, and 6, to be honest, I never put much thought into what making abortion illegal would really look like in terms of enforcement or punishment. I definitely would have balked at the idea of investigating miscarriages, but that really seems the only way to catch every incidence of abortion, whether self-induced or performed with the aid of a doctor or other individual. I also would have balked at the idea of imposing the death penalty even as I acknowledged that they really technically should be charged for murder. These are areas where logic told me one thing and every natural inclination told me something else. Adam Lee’s point, that those who oppose abortion need to clarify exactly what it is they want, is extremely important.

On question number 8, I’ll simply say this. I did believe that all those frozen embryos in all those medical facilities were actual people with full rights, including the right to eventually be born. I was an avid supporter of the “snowflake” program, wherein women “adopt” frozen embryos, have them implanted in their wombs, carry them to term, and give birth to them. Parents of these “snowflake” children have used them as political tools, bringing them to Washington, D.C., and the halls of Congress to show them off as proof that abortion really is murder and that an embryo really is a person. So yes, I did impose in vitro fertilization.

Finally, question 10. I’ll admit it – I was asked this question in my anti-abortion days, and it did trip me up. This is another question where logic told me one thing and every emotional response in me said something else. Logically, I knew I should choose the embryos. Practically, though, I wasn’t sure I would be able to leave the five-year-old. I have heard opponents of abortion answer the question by talking about minimizing pain, and that that five-year-old would die in agony while the embryos would be snuffed out without feeling a thing or even being able to have regrets or snuffed out dreams. But as soon as you start playing that game, you can’t really reject it when you’re talking about the feelings and dreams of a grown woman as opposed to, say, a first trimester fetus which, like those embryos, has zero chance of having feelings or consciousness.

Anyway, I think Adam Lee is spot on about needing to ask these sorts of questions. We need to be asking them more often. I also think Lee’s bonus question is of similar importance:

Bonus question for evangelical Christians: Until the late 1970s, many prominent evangelicals were pro-choice. Clearly, opinions on this matter have changed very dramatically in a relatively short amount of time. What do you think accounts for this?

I’ve seen evangelicals respond to this by saying that Christians were once okay with slavery too, and then they changed their views to become more in tune with morality and what God’s Word really says, and that all they’ve done here is the same thing. In other words, being okay with abortion in the past does not mean that being against it today is automatically wrong or hypocritical. This is absolutely true. However, I somehow thought that Christians had always and without exception – true Christians, at least – been against all abortion without exception. I thought that the idea that God installs the soul at fertilization was a natural and ancient Christian teaching. Understanding that this is simply not the case – even in the Catholic Church – is important context for any discussion of abortion that involves religious arguments or motivations.


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About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • machintelligence

    Your click through link to Adam Lee’s list doesn’t work.

  • valleycat1

    RE the bonus question – in the early 1970′s Frank Shaeffer (the elder) & a few other evangelical leaders – as I recall somewhat fuzzily, at the request of Republican leaders – started the push toward making the pro-life stance a huge movement. His son’s books detail this nicely.

  • CLDG

    The question of what would the criminal justice regime really look like if abortion were made illegal is a crucial one. I recall the answer from the Wilke’s Q&A book (that I used as a source for a few papers and speeches growing up) that doctors would be prosecuted but not women, since they too were victims.
    What I don’t know, and would love to hear from someone who does, is what was the criminal justice practice like before RvW? It was legal on a state basis, right? So what actually happened with illegal abortions? Were back-alley butchers ever caught and prosecuted? Were women prosecuted regularly? And as I’m typing this, I realize I should do my own research :) So I’m off to google for a bit, but leaving the questions for anyone who wants to add something.

    (Just got a “you are posting too quickly” message from wordpress…?? Some kind of bug? This is the only comment I’ve posted in a while. I’ll try again)

    • Sgaile-beairt

      in the us it was more ‘dont ask/ dont tell”….women just died quietly or survived quietly, unless the abortionist was notorious, it wasnt looked for, or prosecuted, from what ive read….

      in romania on the other hand, they took it seriously, a lot more seriously….read about ceaucescus prolife regime if u want nightmares….testing women monthly & reporting it to the govt, investigating miscarriages, etc…!

    • Rosa

      it changed over time, and was different in different places – in general, for most of the 19th and 20th century pre-Roe, abortionists in cities were fairly well-known and well-tolerated, with occasional crackdowns when anti-vice politicians were looking to score easy points. Up until the mid-19th century treatments for “bringing on the menses” were fairly well advertised and not generally prosecuted either (which ones were considered abortions and which weren’t is up for debate, and probably varied widely – as did which ones worked at all.) For the mid 20th century, legal abortions were available under the “hospital board” system in most states, and the same private doctors who performed them legally were sometimes willing to perform them illegally, at very little risk to themselves, but high cash cost. Nondoctors were less expensive and less tolerated and, especially if their patients died or became ill, were highly at risk of prosecution.

      Black women had entirely different midwife and medical care systems in most of the country, because they were excluded from white-only hospitals and medical practices. And especially in the 19th century and early 20th century rural white women had their own systems, that varied by region, religion, and language – midwives had different training and expertise in different immigrant and religious communities.

      BTW, there was a women’s group in California in the ’70s who peer-taught “menstrual extraction”, which is an early-term mechanical abortion procedure, who were threatened with prosecution under laws against non-doctors performing medical procedures instead of existing abortion laws. There were also several abortion-referral networks, some of them largely run by clergy, in different parts of the country in the time people were agitating to get abortion legalized – I don’t know if any of them were ever prosecuted (one family friend did his Conscientious Objector work during Vietnam in one of those groups, and was referred there by his pastor – this is in the midwest).

  • Dianna

    The scary thing about the questions for punishment/enforcement come up when the pro-lifer actually answers you. I know a girl who is basically every bit the liberal caricature of a pro-life person (basically, she proves that liberal descriptions of pro-lifers aren’t actually that off base). When she was asked this question, she responded with thought out years of jail time for first, second, and third offense (because everyone knows sluts never get just the one abortion). There is absolutely no persuading her that taking a mother away from her children to put her in jail with a felony conviction on her record might actually be worse than letting her have an abortion and that her rules for enforcement would actually increase that dreaded “falling apart of the American family” that she fears so much.

    That’s why I don’t ask that question – because the answer is often absolutely terrifying.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      That answer is indeed terrifying but, I have to say, I rarely hear anybody say it. What I hear far more often is that it’s the doctor that should be punished, not the woman. Of course, this does not make any sense but I think that most “pro-lifers” know exactly how ugly and cruel it sounds to say that women who have abortions should be prosecuted. So they dodge the issue by instead treating women as if they are some how incapable of being responsible for their own choices by the simple fact of being women. Kind of like the insanity plea except it’s “the female plea.” lol. Actually, sometimes I wonder if that’s how all the tinfoil hat myths about the “abortion industry” forcing women to have abortions arose–from people unwilling to take the idea that abortion is murder to its logical conclusion by saying that the murderer should be prosecuted and, instead, convincing themselves that the “murderer” doesn’t know any better because she’s just a weak ladybrain who’s been manipulated and brainwashed by the Evil Abortionists.

  • s l mccoy

    Adam Lee’s Question #10 is one of the most serious challenges to anti-abortion legal and moral thought. Anti-choicers hate this question and therefore try to make fun of it in avoiding the answer. In fact, blogging about this issue on debate sites, I have asked this question many times and have never gotten a straight answer to it from an anti-choicer. Keep asking it, again and again.

    • Randy

      You really think it is a serious challenge? That is lame. It is always easier to not have ethics. To say kill anyone anytime. It does not matter. Why should the fireman save anyone? The consistent pro-choice position is that choice is absolute. Nobody has any obligation to preserve any human life. So to say there is a moral quandary is already to deny the pro-choice position. To say the existence of hard moral choices somehow counts as an argument against the pro-life position is pretty strange to.

      When you have to choose between death and death you are always going to lose. You can go be raw numbers. You can go by age. You can go by health. There are always cases where your answer seems wrong.

      Your quandary seems like it can be adjusted for any people group. Would you save 5 90 year old people or one 5 year old? OK, so now it is OK to kill 90 year old people. What about disabled people? Fill in the blank. You will have half the population dead before you know it.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        Wow, Randy thank you for so perfectly illustrating s l mccoy’s point–by avoiding the question and making fun of it. I’m sure he couldn’t have found a more perfect stereotype if he looked for one. You even threw in an awesome straw man for extra credit! (The idea that being pro-choice means that you think it’s okay to kill anyone or let anyone die, despite the fact that most pro-choicers vocally advocate for an improved social support system for parents and children and affordable, available medical care and many also oppose war in most or all cases and oppose the death penalty as well–all in the name of preserving and respecting life and improving its quality for people.)

        So can you answer the question Randy? 5 frozen embryos or a little girl? Come on. I dare you.

      • phantomreader42

        Randy, I notice that in your obsessive need to misrepresent the pro-choice position, babble nonsense, and lie through your teeth, you forgot to ANSWER THE QUESTION!

      • smrnda

        The Firefighter is employed and paid money to save people. I am paid money to develop software. There isn’t any moral imperative that says that I must develop software, but we’re talking about the duties of the job. If my job is to develop software and I spend all my days making widgets, I’m not doing my job.

        Randy, if your only retort to anything is the tired ‘outside of belief in god there is no reason to do anything moral or immoral, good or bad, pleasant or unpleasant or meaningful or meaningless’ then we’ve all heard that before, and repeating it adds nothing to the discussion.

        One thing Randy, if unbelievers have no basis for ethics, then why aren’t they all running around killing people? Why is there more crime in the US which is more Christian than Western Europe? Your take on the absence of meaning outside of religion just demonstrates you have no interest in actually looking into secular ethics and any non-religious case that can be made for or against anything.

      • ScottInOH

        Randy, if I ignore your obfuscating and straw-manning, I see that you seem to expect “pro-life” firefighters to choose the 5 fertilized eggs and the 5-year-old girl at equal rates (because there’s no good way to choose between death and death, so it’s a coin flip).

        My belief is that the 5-year-old girl would be chosen almost every single time. That’s why I (and others) think this is such an interesting and difficult question for “pro-lifers”–if they take it seriously, they show that they think zygotes and actual children are not equivalent.

      • J-Rex

        The point about the petri dish vs. the little girl is that the little girl will be chosen just about every time, even by the anti-abortion crowd who would believe that the petri dish has five people in it.
        Of course questions about “Who would you save?” are uncomfortable, but in other scenarios you’d expect to see a mix of answers, reflecting the fact that it’s a hard choice to make and that people don’t agree. When you see every single person agreeing that they’d save the girl, it shows that we can all recognize that the girl has much more capacity to suffer than five embryos, whether they have souls or not.
        That then translates to real-life situations in which a woman or girl is pregnant with an unwanted child and will suffer terrible emotional, physical, or financial harm if she goes through with the pregnancy, whereas an embryo will suffer little to none of that if it is removed.

  • Randy

    Adam Lee’s answer to question 4 makes him pro-life. He says abortion in the 3rd trimester should be restricted. That means he says Roe v Wade is wrong. I’d love to have a liberal politician say that. He proves the questions would demolish the commonly held political positions of the left.

    • Libby Anne

      You need to read up on Roe, because you are wrong in what you say about it in your comment. Roe did not actually hold that abortion must always and in any trimester be 100% legal and available. Nothing Adam Lee said there conflicts at all with Roe. Second, you are wrong in saying that Adam Lee’s answer there would split the pro-choice movement. Since third trimester abortions are in practice for all intents and purposes only obtained for fetal abnormality or life of the mother, differences on the morality of third trimester abortions are immaterial. Even I have said I would gladly accept those restrictions on third trimester abortions in exchange with better access to first trimester abortions.

  • Nurse Bee

    My ideal would be a society where abortion is not needed (not necessarily illegal), as I would hope would be anyone’s ideal.

    I think the embroyo question may depend on when people believe life begins. I would not consider embroyos in a petri dish people (yet). Even the definition of pregnancy is an embroyo that has implanted in the uterus (one reason I’m not opposed to birth control–even those such as Plan B–particularly in the event of rape). But ask someone else and their answer will be different.

    • Libby Anne

      The ideal you suggest is in obtainable for the simple reason that pregnancy will sometimes threaten a woman’s life. Also, in a similar fashion, my ideal world would be one where open heart surgery is not needed. However, that does not mean I want to ban open heart surgery or stop those who need it from obtaining it.

  • Petticoat Philosopher

    Oh for heaven’s sake…

    1.) Not that I can think of. There are hypothetical cases of very late term abortions of which I might (emphasize “might”) personally disapprove or feel uncomfortable with but a)those cases would be extremely rare to nonexistent and b) there would be no way to legislate against them without harming women for whom those particular cases are necessary. There are also cases in which I might disapprove of somebody carrying a pregnancy to term but I’m not pushing for laws against those either.

    2.) Yes, I support the right of a woman to terminate a pregnancy for any reason, including the sex of the fetus. If we want to stop sex-selective abortion in places like India, we should turn out attention to social, cultural, and economic norms that devalue girls and women and put poor families who cannot “afford” daughters in terrible situations.

    3.)Nope. What about that question is hard?

    4.) Life does begin at conception. I do not know when personhood can be said to begin, although I think it can safely said that that point certainly has not been reached at the point in pregnancy when the vast majority of abortions are performed. Human rights begin at birth, when the baby is autonomous. Until then, the woman’s rights take precedent.

    5.) An individual woman or family deciding that they are unable or unwilling to raise a disabled child is not at all the same thing as an entire society or state deciding that a certain class of people is unfit to live. At all.

    6.) Yep. Some of the people that a person employs are not going to share their same moral outlook and may want to use part of what they are paid (that’s what health insurance is) to do stuff that that employer doesn’t like. Cry me a river.

    7.) If you don’t want minorities to be having a disproportionate number of abortions, then perhaps you should be concerned about the economic circumstances that lead many of those minority women to make their choices. A novel idea. Also, a blood relationship to MLK is not some magical mantel of moral righteousness, but nice try.

    8.) I DON’T describe abortion as a tragic choice, unless a woman is forced by circumstances to abort a pregnancy that she wanted. The widespread description of abortion as “tragic” by pro-choicers is a misguided attempt to kiss your ass.

    9.) Nope. See answer to question 1.

    10.) Nope.

    If these “pro-lifers” would only give up their willful ignorance and actually make an effort to READ AND UNDERSTAND the positions of pro-choicers, they would find that these “hard questions” are frequently part of the pro-choice conversation. But that would require leaving their bubble and that ain’t gonna happen.


    • Anat

      Just for the record I agree with all your responses. Maybe some tweaking on very minor details.

      The ideal legal situation should be that abortion would be treated as any medical issue – as long as the patient needs it and the procedure is performed to good medical care standards (proper sterility and pain management) the law should stay out of it. Situations like Savita’s make it even hard to compromise on third trimester abortions, because I don’t believe maternal health clauses will be used as needed in all places. If I could trust maternal health was taken seriously enough I might have been willing for some minor limits on third trimester abortions as a pragmatic exchange for unlimited access to first and early second trimester abortions at all locations. But I don’t trust the system to work.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        I completely agree and I don’t support restrictions on late-term abortions. Like I said, although there could hypothetically be a late-term abortion that I feel uncomfortable with (like the “I’m 8 months pregnant and I’m having an abortion because I feel like it” which is BS but it is theoretically POSSIBLE, which is why I’m not discounting it), I don’t think that it would be possible to write any restrictions in to the law that would not end up hurting some women. And I don’t think it’s possible for a maternal health clause to ever be used properly because, at what point is the woman’s health situation dire enough for that clause to kick in? Who gets to decide that? How is it right for the government or the medical establishment to decide what is an acceptable degree of risk for carrying the pregnancy to term and not the woman herself? It should always be the woman’s call.

        Maybe I didn’t express myself well, but I don’t see where we differ.

    • Hamilton Jacobi

      Actually life does not begin at conception. The egg and sperm were both alive before conception. What begins at conception is the existence of a new line of cells with their combined DNA.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        You are of course right. A better way to say what I meant would have been “Life is present at conception.” The main point I was trying to make was the distinction between life and personhood and that it is the latter that is significant, so I don’t particularly care if there is life at conception, anymore than I care that there is life before it.

  • Rob F

    To me, people who claim that women who have abortions should only be given a trivial punishment (a fine, health counseling [I'm not making that example up], the metaphorical “slap on the wrist”, etc.) are more misogynistic than those who do think that women who have abortions should be punished with the same punishment as for murder. Here’s why:

    If (say) a squirrel runs in front of someone, tripping them, making them fall, and they die of their injuries (or if someone trips on a rock instead, with the same thing happening), what do we do to the squirrel/rock? One thing we certainly don’t do is arrest them, put them on trial, and then throw them in jail/execute them. Why? Those things have no consciousness/mind, and therefore there is no point in punishing them. Similarly, in some jurisdictions, there is a defence of infancy, where if a child commits a crime they might get a lesser/different punishment (always less severe) than if an adult did it. Basically, because they are not considered adults fully responsible for their actions.

    Opponents of abortion who refuse to punish women with the same punishment anyone else would get for murder (death penalty, life imprisonment) are therefore treating women like mindless objects or like perpetual children. Those people’s refusal to punish abortion the same way they would punish a murder for hire are therefore more or less denying women’s personhood, and that is of course misogynistic. And if that is the case, why then should women have any rights at all? By contrast, opponents of abortion who actually do think women who have abortions should be punished the same as if they actually murdered someone, while still misogynistic, they are at least treating women like adults responsible for their actions.

    • phantomreader42

      It’s not at all surprising anymore to see that fetus-fetishists don’t actually think women are people.

      The official GOP position seems to be that fetuses are people, and corporations are people, but women, born children, and anyone not a straight white christian republican male are not.

      • minnie

        When pro-lifers, christians, catholics, and republicans are against WIC we can see they do not give a tiny damn about babies they just want to heap physical and emotional pain on women, RAPED women, and RAPED little girls which they do a fabulous job at.

        “House Republicans have been facing a backlash after voting for a plan authored by House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) that would dismantle Medicare while cutting taxes for the rich. But that plan also included deep cuts in discretionary spending, the destructiveness of which is becoming more apparent as the budget process moves forward.
        For instance, the Republican budget would implement a 15 percent cut in the agency tasked with policing oil markets, even with energy speculation at an all-time high. That same portion of the budget — which is being

        marked up by the House Appropriations agricultural subcommittee — would also cut $832 million from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), a program that provides low-income women and children with food, counseling, and health care.”

    • Rosa


  • ronalon42

    My stickler with the “when is it wrong to have an abortion” question (as in, how far along is too far) is that in all reality if the fetus is truly viable an induced live birth is essentially the same procedure as an abortion (in invasiveness and recovery I mean). When a late term abortion occurs, it happens because there is a problem with the fetus (not viable anyway) or with the health of the pregnant person (mental or physical) and if the fetus is late term enough to be born and live, then you can have your ended pregnancy and baby too. I refuse to entertain the notion that we need to legislate reproductive health on the phantom woman-who-waits-till-8-months-to-abort.

    I actually don’t like the number 10 hypothetical very much because it is a similarly non-real scenario. I get the ethical problem it raises when the person you are asking someone who has very black and white thinking on the issue, but it rubs me wrong anyway.

    The baby is a person with rights when they are born. That’s already the way our laws our set up. That is default position as far as I am concerned. And it even has a nice crisp dividing line. Emotionally yes, expecting parents will think of their unborn as a baby and they will love and be attached to them and be devastated if the fetus dies. But it doesn’t have the same legal rights as the pregnant person, and this is as it should be.

    • ronalon42

      To clarify my first point, I am talking late late term abortions – 30+ weeks. And of course the pregnant person’s life is priority so if a live birth is impossible with an otherwise viable fetus because of constraints, so it goes. I hear it is a belief held by most Jews that personhood/ rights begins at the first breath out of the womb and it sounds pretty good to me.

      And to clarify my second, I meant number 10 from the questions for pro-lifers list.

  • Gwynnyd

    # 4 is a total red herring. Life does not begin at conception. Life began about 3 billion years ago. That ova and sperm have just as much “life” as any other cell in your body that cannot survive on its own – tumors, intestine lining that is scraped away by bowel movements, blood that leaks out when you cut yourself, you know, all sorts of “living” cells. It still does not have *independent* life until it grows a lot, organizes a lot, separates from the organic support system, and takes its first breath.

    Will no one think of the wasted lives of sperm reject by the ova! If all life is precious – and sperm cells are alive! – don’t they ALL have the god-given right to merge with an ova and become a person, too! How can we neglect them so cavalierly when they all die in favor of the ONE lucky sperm who got through? /sarcasm

    • Slow Learner

      And given that the Pythons sang that song (Every Sperm Is Sacred) 30 years ago, we can see how many small circles the whole issue is turning in!

  • Lana

    There is a good case throughout the Bible to be made that a person has a soul at the moment he first breathed. That starts in Genesis 2:27 when man breathed and became a living soul.

    Genesis 1:30: “And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds in the sky and all the creatures that move along the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—I give every green plant for food.”

    Lack of breathe is considered as death in the OT: Genesis 25:8, Genesis 35:18, Genesis 49:33, . (Just for note, I know medically a person is not dead until they are no longer conscious, so I am not claiming this to be medically sound advice, Lol)

    This is Ezekiel

    “Then he said to me, “Prophesy to these bones and say to them, ‘Dry bones, hear the word of the Lord! This is what the Sovereign Lord says to these bones: I will make breath enter you, and you will come to life. I will attach tendons to you and make flesh come upon you and cover you with skin; I will put breath in you, and you will come to life. Then you will know that I am the Lord.”

    It is a no brainier to me that as a Christian, we don’t know when a fetes becomes a person. I find it unlikely that its before conception. No matter what, I believe the current life triumphs the potential lives. #10 is a no brainier. Also, the little girl would feel pain. The little potential people in the freezer don’t feel pain. If a Christian really believes they are people, then they would go to heaven without pain. So I find #10 is a silly question.

    • Lana

      oh and I don’t believe in the breathe theory myself. Just stating that there is no biblical evidence that it begins at fertilization or conception either. So I think there is room for Christians to disagree on this.

  • Lana

    well actually one could make an argument for fertilization because of the blood but its still only a theory.

  • Gwynnyd

    @ Lana – Blood? What are you talking about? What blood? There’s no blood at fertilization. There’s not even “rudimentary blood” in the embryo until 6 – 7 weeks of development.

    • Lana

      okay, as I said, its all bogos anyway.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        I don’t think she was trying to shut you down, Lana. I think she just wanted to know what you meant. For that matter, so would I.

  • minnie

    I cannot go hook up to my fathers body against his will, use and abuse his body against his will, cause him extreme genital pain against his will, that is only abuse reserved for women, RAPED women, and RAPED little girls.

    Quotes from christians, pro-lifers, and republicans about RAPE, as someone who was sexually abused as a little girl, these people make me cry and show what rape lovers they are. But they do promote and peddle a book that is pro-little girl RAPE so it should not shock me.

    One of christian biblegods good ol boys, Lot offers, NO begs, that a gang of rapist men take his two virgin daughters and gang-rapes them.

    Genesis 19:8
    “Look now, I have two daughters who are virgins; let me, I beg of you, bring them out to you, and you can do as you please with them. But only do nothing to these men, for they have came under the protection of my roof.”

    Jesus picked Peter, this is what Peter thinks of (pro gang RAPE of virgin girls) Lot.

    2 Peter 2:7
    “And He rescued righteous Lot, greatly worn out distressed by the wanton ways of the ungodly and lawless.”

    Men who try to arrange gang Rape are righteous.

    31: 17 “Now therefore, KILL every male among the little ones, and Kill every woman who is not a virgin.

    31:18 “But all the young girls who have not known man by lying with him keep alive for yourselves.”

    Christian bible god telling soldiers to rape twelve and thirteen year old virgin girls.

  • Marta L.

    Thanks for the list of questions from the GC, Libby Anne. I plan on answering them on my own blog once I’ve gotten through the holiday weekend. I hadn’t thought of them all before, but even the new ones weren’t all that hard to answer.

    As for the last point (that it was important for evangelicals to admit Christian history hadn’t always thought life began at conception), I really agree with you – this is very necessary. But it’s worth noting that many evangelical-leaning Christians as well as Christians from other corners hammer away on this point from time to time. The most recent example I remember offhand came from Patheos’ own Slacktivist. I’ve also heard a lot about this from Catholics I know through my grad school program (I’m doing a PhD in philosophy at Fordham). This is obviously a question that needs more attention, and I’m not saying there isn’t more work to be done, but it’s interesting to note that many Christians already agree with you here in a big way.

  • Judy L.

    Answer to #10 is easy: The embryos are in a petri dish, not in a storage container, and thus are probably thawed and have perished, or will do on their own soon enough. Even if the embryos were still viable, they will not develop into babies without intervention (implantation and incubation). The 5 year-old-girl is 1) a developed human organism in her own right and 2) presumably in possession of ovaries that will produce hundreds of ova in her lifetime and a uterus to gestate any fertilized ova — from the perspective of both the reality and potentialities for ‘life’, the little girl comes out way ahead of the dead or dying embryos.

    Here’s my answers to the 10 Questions for Pro-Choicers (because I just couldn’t resist):
    1. You say you support a woman’s right to make her own reproductive choices in regards to abortion and contraception. Are there any restrictions you would approve of?
    No. I don’t think there should be any restrictions to abortion services.
    2. In 2010, The Economist featured a cover story on “the war on girls” and the growth of “gendercide” in the world – abortion based solely on the sex of the baby. Does this phenomenon pose a problem for you or do you believe in the absolute right of a woman to terminate a pregnancy because the unborn fetus is female?
    This is a problem about misogyny and patriarchy, not abortion. (Also, all fetuses are unborn.)
    3. In many states, a teenager can have an abortion without her parents’ consent or knowledge but cannot get an aspirin from the school nurse without parental authorization. Do you support any restrictions or parental notification regarding abortion access for minors?
    I don’t support restrictions or parental notification.
    4. If you do not believe that human life begins at conception, when do you believe it begins? At what stage of development should an unborn child have human rights?
    ‘Human life’ is continuous – an ova and a sperm combine to create a totipotent stem cell. ‘When life begins’ is not central to the issue of abortion rights. An unborn child has no rights: it exists within and of its mother’s body; any injury against it is an injury against its mother, and it, like every other part of her body, is subject to her will and determination.
    5. Currently, when genetic testing reveals an unborn child has Down Syndrome, most women choose to abort. How do you answer the charge that this phenomenon resembles the “eugenics” movement a century ago – the slow, but deliberate “weeding out” of those our society would deem “unfit” to live?
    It doesn’t resemble the eugenics movement at all, and any comparison is either disingenuous or shows an appalling lack of knowledge of the subject. Women don’t abort fetuses with profound disabilities because they deem them ‘unfit to live’, and insinuating that they do is deeply insulting.
    6. Do you believe an employer should be forced to violate his or her religious conscience by providing access to abortifacient drugs and contraception to employees?
    Yes. Employers don’t have to right to decide what prescription drugs their employees take. The employer provides health and medical benefits to their employees by paying all or a portion of the premiums on insurance plans, and while the employer has the right to choose the type and level of coverage by selecting the plan, if the government requires that all insurance plans cover contraceptive drugs or abortifacients, then the employer does not have the right to deny their employees those benefits.
    7. Alveda King, niece of Martin Luther King, Jr. has said that “abortion is the white supremacist’s best friend,” pointing to the fact that Black and Latinos represent 25% of our population but account for 59% of all abortions. How do you respond to the charge that the majority of abortion clinics are found in inner-city areas with large numbers of minorities?
    Inner-city areas with large numbers of minorities tend to be impoverished. Lack of access to effective and affordable birth control and poverty are responsible for higher rates of unplanned pregnancy and women’s decisions to not have (more) children.
    8. You describe abortion as a “tragic choice.” If abortion is not morally objectionable, then why is it tragic? Does this mean there is something about abortion that is different than other standard surgical procedures?
    I’ve never described it as a ‘tragic choice’. Nor do I support the notion that abortion should be ‘rare’. Abortion services, like all other necessary health care, should be widely available, safe, as pain-free as possible, and covered by insurance.
    9. Do you believe abortion should be legal once the unborn fetus is viable – able to survive outside the womb?
    Yes. So long as a fetus is inside a woman’s body, its existence is subject to her discretion.
    10. If a pregnant woman and her unborn child are murdered, do you believe the criminal should face two counts of murder and serve a harsher sentence?
    No, but the murder of a pregnant woman should garner special sentence enhancements.

  • Lee

    As far as number 10 of Adam Lee’s list, I can think of arguments to support saving the child but still believing in life beginning at conception. Namely, a five-year-old can feel pain. Six embryos cannot, regardless of whether they deserve the same rights as people or not. Feel free to tell me where I’ve failed in my logic.

    • Paula G V aka Yukimi

      In that you don’t consider the life of the embryo equivalent to the one of a born human since you’d probably would try to save more lives than less if you did. For example, if there were 3 sedated or asleep babies in a transport mechanism who wouldn’t feel pain and a fussy 5 years old and because the 5 years old was fuzzy, you could only choose one or another, you’d probably have a bigger moral dilemma even if those 3 babies wouldn’t feel pain either because they’d die of lack of oxygen without suffering and there would be people who would save the 3 babies before the 5 year old while I’m sure practically none would try to save a frozen container with a hundred fertilised eggs knwing what it was over a 5 year old girl. That’s the thing.

  • smrnda

    I just thought I would add that I, for one, do not support parental notification for abortion. In fact, I’ve always been uncomfortable with the level of control parents have over their children in terms of medical issues and think that our laws need to start recognizing kids as people with rights of their own rather than something owned by their parents. We have this problem already in one area, where parents (for religious reasons) withhold medical care from their children.

    On abortion, there’s a good chance that many minors looking for an abortion, if their parents were notified, would be punished and possibly abused by their parents for being sexually active. I would expect someone to pull out the ‘parent has a right to know’ in case the pregnancy is say, due to rape, but I see no reason to assume parents will respond in a sane and sensible way, or that they wont’ end up punishing a girl for being raped by someone else. If the girl doesn’t want to tell her parents, it’s probably for a good reason. and I also think young people should have a right to access appropriate medical and mental health professionals without having to tell their parents. My take is that parents should have to earn their children’s trust, and if they don’t feel like telling you, it might be for a good reason.

  • Tracey

    I wouldn’t make rape cases a reason to notify parents of minors’ request for abortion either. There are cases where the perpetrator IS the parent. It may not be safe for the kid still living in that situation to have the parents told outright.

    • smrnda

      A lot of laws about parental notification seem be based on the naive and unfounded assumption that parents actually have the welfare of their child in mind, or aren’t the perpetrators themselves. Simply put, we need to view kids as people with rights of their own, not property of their parents. For people who take this as an assault on the family, if you earn the trust of your children, then they’ll keep you informed, or else, don’t expect it.

  • Bonnie

    Since a woman does not get pregnant all by herself, the father of any fetus aborted should be held equally liable and punished as any doctor or woman would be. DNA testing these days can identify the father rather easily these days. This is the only fair and responsible way to frame the law.

  • Caitlin

    I also answered these questions on my blog (it’s the entry “in Which I am Not a Prochoice Politician”):

  • annamalai

    I have one doubt want to clear it regarding abortion.. i was pregnant approximately 11 weeks or 8 weeks.. v have no plan for child now.. so on 30th Dec had abortion tablet mifestone and had my periods in 4 hours.. my doubt is whether it will be fully cleaned or i want to check again?

    • Nea

      That’s a question for an OB/GYN, not strangers on the Internet.