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Two Compelling Abortion Related Arguments

I’ve never posted on the topic of abortion before. When I was a Christian fundamentalist, I was naturally “pro life” (or better described as anti-abortion). Before I completely left the faith, my views on abortion began to change as I gained more knowledge of medical science.

Recently, the Friendly Atheist brought attention to Patrick S. Tomlinson’s twitter post. If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth a quick read. He makes a compelling point.

Whenever abortion comes up, I have a question I’ve been asking for ten years now of the “Life begins at Conception” crowd. In ten years, no one has EVER answered it honestly. It’s a simple scenario with two outcomes. No one ever wants to pick one, because the correct answer destroys their argument. And there IS a correct answer, which is why the pro-life crowd hates the question.

Here it is. You’re in a fertility clinic. Why isn’t important. The fire alarm goes off. You run for the exit. As you run down this hallway, you hear a child screaming from behind a door. You throw open the door and find a five-year-old child crying for help.They’re in one corner of the room. In the other corner, you spot a frozen container labeled “1000 Viable Human Embryos.” The smoke is rising. You start to choke. You know you can grab one or the other, but not both before you succumb to smoke inhalation and die, saving no one. Do you A) save the child, or B) save the thousand embryos? There is no “C.” “C” means you all die. In a decade of arguing with anti-abortion people about the definition of human life, I have never gotten a single straight A or B answer to this question. And I never will.

Patrick’s post is a thought experiment. You have to pick one choice or the other without changing the scenario. When I was a hard core Christian fundamentalist, I would likely have refused to answer the question. But now that I’ve left the Christian fairy tale behind, it’s an easy answer. I’d save the five year old because embryos aren’t babies.

Someone else made another compelling argument in response to Patrick’s twitter post that I wanted to share. He said:

I like pointing out that if life begins at conception, then, according to Christianity, all those aborted souls would go to heaven. If all abortion is illegal and those ‘souls’ are allowed to be born, probability will dictate that not all of them will become Christian, and those that are not will go to hell. So, by outlawing abortion, you are condemning people to hell, who would otherwise go to heaven.

He’s got a helluva a point too, don’t you agree?



  1. Dennis

    The Bible says we are born into original sin which seems to imply that consequences do not begin to apply until birth occurs. That seems to indirectly apply that life begins at birth. The “age of accountability” argument is not scriptural as far as I know. Therefore, a baby is fair game for eternal damnation the moment after it is born. That seems patently unfair and cruel. John the Baptist was said to “jump in the womb of Elizabeth” when Mary arrived after fleeing Nazareth. This implies that John the Baptist was somehow functioning as a cognizant human, even before birth. Of course, this story is not credible. Even with my medical background, I cannot claim to know when a fetus can be identified as a human being. It seems like a process is involved that begins at conception and ends at birth. To abort a developing life is a difficult decision. I married a woman who had experienced two abortions in early adulthood. It was somewhat surprising to me that she suffered from guilt many years later. However, it was not a spiritual thing, per se. She was agnostic. Lastly, I am not aware that the Bible speaks directly to the issue of abortion. No one ever talked about the “sin” of abortion before it became legal. It may belong to the sanctity of life debate? Will there be millions upon millions of aborted souls in heaven? It’s doubtful. It’s even doubtful there is a heaven at all. Certainly, no pearly gates or streets paved with gold.

    • limey

      ” It seems like a process is involved that begins at conception and ends at birth.”

      Why end at birth? Development does not cease at birth. In fact the brain is still developing during adolescence. Children are not capable of making fully informed decisions.

      • Dennis

        For certain humans continue to develop until the physiological prime is reached. Then we begin the decline associated with aging. The context of my comment regards the question of when life actually begins. Is it at conception? Is it when a fetus can live on its own? Is it at birth? Or might it be all of the above as described by a “process?” Perhaps we should even consider if life begins when a soul inhabits a developing human body? Of course, that question is open to debate, as well. How does the “soul” argument apply to frozen embryos who’s developmental process has been interrupted? Has it ever been demonstrated unequivocally that we have souls? I, for one, do not have enough information to draw a conclusion that I am comfortable with.

        • ratamacue0

          Even if the embryo is “a person”, it doesn’t matter, unless you’ve already robbed women of the right to make decisions about their own bodies (in which embryos reside).

          Consent to sex does not equal consent to pregnancy. Even more so when the sex was not consensual.

          Belief in “souls” is religious in nature. To my knowledge, there is no scientific or objective basis for them, and there are at least some good reasons to think there is no such thing in reality. (For instance, see Julien Mussolino’s work, “The Soul Fallacy”.)

          With no apparent basis in fact, a secular government cannot justifiably base any law on the premise of a “soul”.

  2. Bruce Gerencser

    Here’s what I wrote in February 2015:

    According to anti-abortionists life begins at conception. At the very moment the sperm and egg unite, a new life is created. Anti-abortionists are intractable when it comes to their position. Life begins at conception…end of debate.

    Let me tell you a story……

    This story takes place at the We Make Life Possible Fertility Clinic.

    Sue gave birth to a beautiful baby girl through in vitro fertilization. Her baby girl is one month old . Sue stopped by the Fertility Clinic to show off her newborn to the Clinic staff.

    While Sue was at the clinic, a huge explosion rocked the place and the clinic was engulfed in flames. Later speculation on World Net Daily, suggested a supporter of Barack Obama was behind the attack.

    John, named after John the Baptist, a pro-life activist, happened to be passing by the clinic when the explosion took place. John went running into the clinic hoping to perhaps save someone from the fire.

    John had been to the We Make Possible Life Fertility Clinic before. His wife Patience had problems conceiving, and not wanting to wait on God to open her womb, John and Patience went to Clinic. While the treatment was successful, Patience miscarried a few months into the pregnancy.

    John knew the Clinic stored hundreds of fertilized eggs (embryos) in a freezer. As he rushed into the Clinic, John saw Sue huddled in a corner with her newborn daughter trying to get away from the fire. John thought, “Surely I should save these two.”

    John thought for a moment, asking himself What Would Jesus Do? Suddenly, he realized the fire was going to destroy all the frozen embryos. John told Sue and her baby Sorry, maybe Jesus will come rescue you, and he rushed to the freezer where the frozen embryos were stored. Through John’s heroic effort, hundreds of frozen embryos were saved. Sadly, Sue and her newborn daughter were burnt to death.

    Who among us would fault John? After all, he acted according to the greater good. Who wouldn’t save two hundred lives at the expense of two lives?

    The above story follows the logic of the life-begins-at-conception viewpoint to its illogical conclusion. There is no difference between two hundred embryos and Sue and her baby. Life is life. It makes perfect sense for John to save the frozen embryos and not Sue and her little one. Surely John would be praised for saving the two hundred embryos, right? If the clinic is unable to reopen, perhaps the frozen embryos can be put up for adoption. After all EVERY embryo is a life.

  3. ratamacue0

    I agree that the first argument / thought experiment is compelling.

    I’m not sure of the second. By that logic, shouldn’t they also advocate for or commit murder of children below their supposed “age of accountability” (before which they go to heaven without accepting Jesus)?

    • Logan

      Thanks for the comment. Yeah, I was thinking though that the second argument’s illogical conclusion was really the point of the argument. When we take the Christian’s argument about hell and the supposed “age of accountability” to its logical conclusion, it all becomes entirely illogical.

  4. Dennis

    I lost an new born son in 1979. He expired for reasons that could have been medically dealt with had the problems been anticipated by our doctor. Since our son’s life was lost due to negligence, we consulted with a malpractice attorney. He told us that, since we had not experienced a “significant loss of affection” there would be little to gain from an expensive lawsuit. That is to say, since we only had him for ten days, we did not experience a long term emotional bond, and as such, did not suffer great loss. (We were devastated at our loss as he was our first). The point is, I would save the mother and child as they would be a tragic loss to those who love them. Not so much for faceless embryos.

  5. limey

    I like the challenge in the child / embryos scenario. It reads like a variation of The Trolley Problem. I think I’ll use it when I next get the chance and see what response I get.

  6. Dennis

    In the case of the embryos generated by invitro fertilization using donated eggs and sperm, (Logan’s hypothetical), there is no mother (or father), per se, so parental rights are inconsequential. If there are no parents or souls, I think we are coming close to deciding that the only acceptable thing to do is save the mother and daughter. That’s what I would do.

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