A Botched Abortion Shows the Lies of Pro-Choice Proponents

One of the classes I teach at the university is a course on Ethics, and I am using a book by Ralph Dolgoff, Donna Harrington and Frank M. Lowenberg entitled "Ethical Decisions for Social Work Practice" as the text. Overall, I think that it is a good Ethics textbook largely because it provides a balanced viewpoint on the need for values in social work. For example, the book makes the argument (without committing to it) that those engaged in social work cannot avoid making value judgments in ethical decisions because trying to do what is right necessarily involves making an value choice. Also, I book notes that some (including me) think it is ethically wrong for a social worker to cover-up her own values when counseling another person because it creates a false (and ultimately unproductive) relationship with the person being counseled.

Still, one of the exemplars in the book gave me pause – not because I thought it raised a deep ethical quandary, but because I wondered how any discerning person could conclude that the answer was anything but clear. The exemplar involved abortion and reads as follows:
Arlene Johnson, 18 years old and single, is nearly six months pregnant. Yesterday, she came to the Women’s Counseling Center to request help in getting an abortion. At the time of the abortion procedure, the fetus was considered viable and was placed in a neonatal intensive care unit as a high-risk premature baby. Arlene was extremely upset when she learned that the “abortion” had resulted in a live infant. She refused to look at the baby or take care of it. Instead, she threated to sue the doctor and the hospital if the infant survived despite her expressed wish for an abortion. Arlene asked Robin Osborn, the hospital social worker, to make sure that the baby not be given intensive care, but rather be left alone so that it would die quickly. In the follow-up material, the book comments on the exemplar: “Arlene Johnson does not want to have the baby, but now that a live infant has been born, her expectations of the obstetrician (and the request she made to the social worker) conflict sharply with the rights of infant and what society expects from the professionals. 
Now, what troubles me about the exemplar is two-fold: First, Arlene is apparently surprised to find out that the baby inside her was living. That's one of the puzzles about abortion - people somehow accept the lie that the "fetus" is not a living human being. It should be obvious to anyone that the "fetus" is a living human being despite the fact that it has been labeled with a term that dehumanizes it. I suspect that society has adopted the term "fetus" into the general language at the urging of those that favor abortion because it would be harder to justify abortion if we clearly identified the "thing" being aborted as "a baby" (as every mother who would want to keep the child would call it). But notice that she is surprised to find out that the baby has somehow survived the abortion. (And yes, it does happen in real life as the group for abortion survivors demonstrates.)  Yet, pro-choice advocates want to deny the existence of these survivors, and even try to deny that such events ever happen (as Planned Parenthood's Cecile Richards did in her testimony to Congress).

It makes one wonder exactly what do people who are seeking abortion imagine about the fetus inside them? Don't they know that the fetus is growing? Don't they know that it has a heartbeat as early as 22 days  and brainwaves as early as six weeks, two days? These are changes to the baby that can only occur if the baby is living and growing inside of them. If the baby stops growing, doctors use this lack of growth to tell the mother that the baby has died naturally in the womb.

Does the aborting mother believe that by having the abortion, it is like the growing child was never alive in the first place? Is it like a mulligan in golf?

Make no mistake about it, the pro-choice advocates misrepresent what is happening. They tell expectant mothers that the infant inside of them is not alive and not a human being, but they do so by presenting unpersuasive arguments such as arguing that a fetus is akin to a flake of dandruff -- after all, both are alive and both have human DNA such as this blogpost by some abortion advocate in Canada.  But if the baby is no different than a flake of dandruff, then why the abortion? (Responding to all of the myriad of misrepresentations in the link is another post for another day, but for right now, that quick comment will do.)

But once the baby is "born" (in the sense that it survived the abortion), there is no hiding behind clever (or attempts at clever) arguments. The living, breathing baby lying there makes a farce of any such fancies that the baby in the womb is anything but a baby. Certainly, it is a baby that desperately needs medical attention after being ripped prematurely from its mother's womb (in a horrifyingly turn that any good novelist would love) at the direction of the mother who is supposed to love and nurture him, but nonetheless clearly a baby. It is nothing less, and wasn't anything less just because it was inside the womb.

What does Arlene Johnson want to do? This is the second thing that troubles me about the exemplar: Arlene wants to leave the baby to die. Unfortunately, Arlene is not alone. Stories abound of aborted children having to be terminated after a "botched abortion." For some, this is not a problem since the baby was set to be terminated before it left the womb (when we could still pretend it was just a mass of fetal tissue). However, for most people, once it is clear that the baby survived the efforts to kill it and it is clearly a living, breathing baby, it should be entitled to all of the protections to which we all should be entitled just as the result of being human beings, including the right to life (a right actually specifically identified in the U.S. Constitution).

To me, this exemplar would not present an ethical quandary if people would just recognize the "fetus" for what it is - a living human being inside the womb who should be protected in every bit the same way as it should be protected outside the womb. But even accepting that I am not free to ignore the right for a woman to choose to terminate that living human being while it still resides in the womb (a right that we call the "right to an abortion" but which is ethically as wrong of a right as the world has ever witnessed), it is absurd to think that once the baby survives the abortion it can be denied medical care because the woman who carried it demands it. To the best of my knowledge, infanticide is still illegal in all fifty states, and if it isn't, it should be. Killing helpless, living children for the convenience of the mother should be morally repugnant to every person who cares about ethics.

Comments

Joe Hinman said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Joe Hinman said…
Blogger Joe Hinman said...

This takes me back. at Perkins we had a class where law students met iwth seminary students and we paired off in teams of two a seminarian with a law student and wrote papers and team defended their paper. There were several on discussions on abortion, The whole class would assail the team with the paper.

This really beautiful law student asked me to be her partner,I did all the work,we got a :"A"then she wouldn't speak to me after it was over. I said "she's a natural born lawyer." She was probably thinking "that sucker is a natural born theologian."


BK says:
"To me, this exemplar would not present an ethical quandary if people would just recognize the "fetus" for what it is - a living human being inside the womb who should be protected in every bit the same way as it should be protected outside the womb."

I have one observation and three questions.

Observation: It is a monstrous injustice to kill a viable fetus that could outside the mother's womb. It the fetus is viable outside the womb it should be called :"baby" and it;s out of the mother's jurisdiction to say it it's cared for or not. she forfeits that right when she chooses to have the abortion.

Questions: (1)what would be the difference in removing the featus if it seemed viable and caring for it if it is determined to be viable, vs. waiting until it came to term and having the baby adopted?

questions:

(2) is this apologetics?

(2) Is the process of becoming the same exactly as being? So is it that a thing is when it starts the process of becoming? If destroy a seed I've destroyed an orchard?

To clarify Im not asking about is it a living human when it has a heart beat,v i' just asking is there a valid distinctionj between being and becoming?
BK said…
Hello Joe,

In response to your questions: (1) Not sure what you are driving at. You seem to be asking if there is a difference between removing a baby from the womb to hold for adoption and waiting until it came to be born to be adopted. In both cases, the life of the infant is being protected, so if the mother is willing to have the baby cared for outside of the womb and the baby is cared for, then I am not sure there is a problem at all. The problem in the abortion area is the life.

(2)_Jude 3 calls on us to "contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints." The faith in my view, and the view of many others as evidenced by the fact that many Christian apologists defend the right to life on their websites, includes not just the existence of God and the identity of Jesus, but also teachings of the Scriptures. The fact that God creates life and only He has the right to take life is a principle of Christianity I find to be pretty sound and which I believe falls in the area of apologetics.

(Second 2) The process of being can be different than the process of becoming, but it isn't in this case. From the moment of conception, the "fetus" (or embryo or zygote at that point) is alive. From the moment of conception, the "fetus" is a separate human being from the mother because it clearly has human DNA and it is not the same DNA as the mother. So, from the moment of conception, it is not becoming a human, it is a human.

You ask, If I destroy a seed, I've destroyed an orchard? No, but you have destroyed that particular plant even while it was in the stage that we call a seed because it was a plant right from the moment is came into being. (Not sure what the terminology is for a seed being produced by a plant.) In this area, the seed is fully the plant in a different stage of development. If we adopt a different standard, than we have to consider the arguments of people like Anthony Singer that a baby isn't really a baby and can be killed by the mother up to the age of two because until two it doesn't have the cognitive ability needed to be considered a human being, and I cannot fathom that.
Joe Hinman said…
In response to your questions: (1) Not sure what you are driving at. You seem to be asking if there is a difference between removing a baby from the womb to hold for adoption and waiting until it came to be born to be adopted. In both cases, the life of the infant is being protected, so if the mother is willing to have the baby cared for outside of the womb and the baby is cared for, then I am not sure there is a problem at all. The problem in the abortion area is the life.

I agree with protecting the life of a viable festus but why bar abortion of a fetus that is not yet viable.?

(2)_Jude 3 calls on us to "contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints." The faith in my view, and the view of many others as evidenced by the fact that many Christian apologists defend the right to life on their websites, includes not just the existence of God and the identity of Jesus, but also teachings of the Scriptures. The fact that God creates life and only He has the right to take life is a principle of Christianity I find to be pretty sound and which I believe falls in the area of apologetics.

I don't know of any scripture that says "thou shalt not abort,: one where the child in the womb was killed by fighting men and they were only charged money for it, it doesn't say it waws nurder, I would have to dig for that verse now it's OT

(Second 2) The process of being can be different than the process of becoming, but it isn't in this case. From the moment of conception, the "fetus" (or embryo or zygote at that point) is alive.

can we assume "alive" is the same as"person hood? sperms are alive apart from the egg.

From the moment of conception, the "fetus" is a separate human being from the mother because it clearly has human DNA and it is not the same DNA as the mother. So, from the moment of conception, it is not becoming a human, it is a human.

why make conception the moment? why not consciousness?

You ask, If I destroy a seed, I've destroyed an orchard? No, but you have destroyed that particular plant even while it was in the stage that we call a seed because it was a plant right from the moment is came into being.

how can you prove that? doesn't say it in the bible, it doesn't say it in medical science,you sure it doesn't just seem that say because sex is involved? you know it's not fertilized when sex happens, it;'s only fertilized a week or so latter when it hooks up to the cell wall,

(Not sure what the terminology is for a seed being produced by a plant.)

me neither but I think it might be germination


In this area, the seed is fully the plant in a different stage of development. If we adopt a different standard, than we have to consider the arguments of people like Anthony Singer that a baby isn't really a baby and can be killed by the mother up to the age of two because until two it doesn't have the cognitive ability needed to be considered a human being, and I cannot fathom that.


what fact can you turn to to prove that?

It seems that if one could prevent the seed from hooking up to the cell wall it could not fertilization the egg that can't be construed as killing, it's just preventing, so that end tehy whole controversy you agree?

Joe Hinman said…
Just so no one get's the wrong idea if any woman ever asked me for advice (not going to happen but if...) "should I get an abortion?" I would say no, I am against aborting a pregnancy. But I am also against making the decision for the woman except in the last trimester and I am agaisnt basing one's vote on that one issue alone in a presidential election.
BK said…
First, viability is a term that is used to describe whether a yet-to-be-born baby can survive on its own outside of the mother. It is not dead inside the womb or otherwise non-living. It is a living human being while in the womb regardless of its ability to survive outside of the womb. That's the reason to oppose the abortion of a child who has not yet reached the point of "viability."

There is no verse that says, "Thou Shalt Not Abort" but there is also no verse saying "Thou shalt believe God is a Trinity." Yet, the idea is taught clearly. The verse you reference in the OT (Exodus 21:22) does not necessarily say that the child was killed. See this link from Greg Koukl. The idea that life is sacred and in God's hands is taught from the beginning of the Bible (God created man in his image) and extends throughout the Bible.

"Can we assume that 'alive' is the same as 'personhood'? I am not certain why you are even trying to make such a distinction. I am saying that the "fetus" is a living human being from the moment of conception, and that is really not disputable. Personhood doesn't enter into it. Also, the sperm IS like the dandruff flake - it has only part of Dad's DNA. No one suggests that the sperm is the same as the infant in the womb. (Which answers your last question as well - I know the Roman Catholics disagree with even contraception, but that is not on the basis that the sperm is a human being, but on the basis that God alone has the power to decide whether that sperm should unite with an egg to create a human being. I disagree with that, so I don't have a problem with prevention -- although the RCC does.)

I don't use consciousness as the deciding point because a human being does not lose his status as a human being just because he loses consciousness. If so, you could be put to death just because you go into a coma on the sole basis that you are not a human being anymore.

What are the facts to prove what? That a baby that is born and breathing, drinking, eating, pooping, etc. isn't a human being until the age of two? Is that what you're asking?

Joe Hinman said…
K said...
First, viability is a term that is used to describe whether a yet-to-be-born baby can survive on its own outside of the mother. It is not dead inside the womb or otherwise non-living. It is a living human being while in the womb regardless of its ability to survive outside of the womb. That's the reason to oppose the abortion of a child who has not yet reached the point of "viability."

It is not as though either you are a human being or you are inanimate. Not all all things that can be called human life are people: fingernails, sperm,hair are alive and are human. Zygote is in the process of becoming it is not yet what it will be. There are a lot of problems that come from assuming the end process always present.

Joe Hinman said…
There is no verse that says, "Thou Shalt Not Abort" but there is also no verse saying "Thou shalt believe God is a Trinity."

Trinity is spelled out in a couple of church councils in a creedal statement or two, abortion is not.


Yet, the idea is taught clearly. The verse you reference in the OT (Exodus 21:22) does not necessarily say that the child was killed. See this link from Greg Koukl. The idea that life is sacred and in God's hands is taught from the beginning of the Bible (God created man in his image) and extends throughout the Bible.

that does not prove that a fetus has the same status as a person before it gains consciousness. the passage ios clear the baby died,

"Can we assume that 'alive' is the same as 'personhood'? I am not certain why you are even trying to make such a distinction. I am saying that the "fetus" is a living human being from the moment of conception, and that is really not disputable.

you are just dogmatically labeling it as a person with no basis for doing so,. you are assign that growing - person then your finger nails are people. Obviously the real difference is conscious awareness,


Personhood doesn't enter into it.

that is absurd of course it does,its the difference in telling someone what to do with their own body vs telling them not to kill another,that makes no sense at all. why should we confer status on a zygote we do upon a grown human? if you can't distinguish between person and living cells you have no reason to think terminating the life of the fetus is anything like a par with killing.

Joe Hinman said…
Also, the sperm IS like the dandruff flake - it has only part of Dad's DNA. No one suggests that the sperm is the same as the infant in the womb.

you are arbitrarily labeling it with emotional terms like infant to raise emotions, But without demonstrating that it's after the consciousness and after it can live apart from the mother the is no reason to tell woman she has no jurisdiction over her own body.

(Which answers your last question as well - I know the Roman Catholics disagree with even contraception, but that is not on the basis that the sperm is a human being, but on the basis that God alone has the power to decide whether that sperm should unite with an egg to create a human being. I disagree with that, so I don't have a problem with prevention -- although the RCC does.)

if the mass o cell tissue we call fetus can't live apart fro the noteworthy and is not conscious why should we assume it is not part of the mothers body? As long as it is part of the mother;s body I dont'see why she doesn't have the right of deisciosn.

I don't use consciousness as the deciding point because a human being does not lose his status as a human being just because he loses consciousness. If so, you could be put to death just because you go into a coma on the sole basis that you are not a human being anymore.

yes he does, when one is brain dead we assume he's dead. If someone loses consciousness but still has brain wave that's different than not having it yet.

What are the facts to prove what? That a baby that is born and breathing, drinking, eating, pooping, etc. isn't a human being until the age of two? Is that what you're asking?

I argued two criteria, viability and consciousness.both obtainable by fetus, ususally in third trimester,

you never answered ny question if you had a device that prevented cell hook up that would end the controversy why don't they push that? because republicans want abortion it's a great organizing tool

Joe Hinman said…
good dialogue Bill.I was going to stop anyway. I appreciate view.
BK said…
Joe, I apologize for the delay in responding, but as you know I don’t have a lot of time for blogging (or I would blog more often). I always welcome conversation, even if we ultimately disagree. While you let me know you were done with the conversation, there were a couple of things that you said that I really feel need responses. Thus, I am making going to respond to a few of the things you said very briefly. If you want to respond to this, be aware that I probably won’t respond (unless I think you are mischaracterizing my argument – and even then I may not respond due to lack of time).

Starting at the end, you said, “if you had a device that prevented cell hook up that would end the controversy why don't they push that? because republicans want abortion it's a great organizing tool.” No, the reason they don’t push that is twofold: first, there is a large Roman Catholic contingent that holds that contraceptives are wrong. Second, tools like contraceptives (condoms, for example) or contraceptive medications (e.g., the pill) are hardly failsafe but people think that they are, so pushing contraceptives paradoxically can lead to the need for more abortions when the contraceptives fail. For the most part, conservative Protestants (like myself) have no problem with contraceptives, and despite Democratic efforts to turn it into some major issue in the 2012 election, limiting or eliminating contraceptives is not a goal that most Republicans are seeking. Conservative Republicans (like myself) always push for fewer abortions, and Democrats always push back on any effort to restrict or reduce abortions.

Second, you gave two criteria (consciousness and viability) which might be seen as alternatives for when abortion may be allowable. I have already answered that I don’t agree with either of those. On consciousness, please recall that I am presently working in a business that supports people with disabilities. One of the individuals we support (I will call him Tony) shows absolutely no sign of consciousness. He is in a coma-like state every moment of every single day. He is not brain dead – and we both agree that a person who is brain dead is not alive. But Tony is not dead – he is alive albeit unconscious. I know from first-hand knowledge that consciousness is not the indication of being a human being – Tony is most definitely a human being.

On viability, I repeat: viability merely means the ability to live independently outside of the womb. That does not mean that the child is not alive in the womb – he is alive from the moment of conception. How do I know? Because he is growing and taking in nutrition and excreting waste from the moment of conception. Obstetricians know when a baby in the womb has died because it stops growing. It is clearly alive, and that is why I keep saying that. And it is scientifically clear that the baby is not part of the mother’s body because the baby has a separate DNA. He is not like hair, fingernails, or dandruff all of which share the mother’s DNA because they are byproducts of the mother. The baby is not just a part of the mother.

You also chastise me for calling the child in the womb a child or a baby. You say, “you are arbitrarily labeling it with emotional terms like infant to raise emotions. But without demonstrating that it's after the consciousness and after it can live apart from the mother the is no reason to tell woman she has no jurisdiction over her own body.” Well, I have answered the part about it not being part of the mother, immediately above, but I would argue that you are arbitrarily labeling it with the non-emotional terminology of “fetus” or “embryo” or “zygote” to downplay the child’s clear humanity.
BK said…
Continuing: I find the argument about hair, fingernails, and sperm to be odd. Why? Because you don’t think that hair, fingernails and sperm are human beings, and I don’t think that hair, fingernails or sperm are human beings. So what’s the point? To say that they are alive? So are fungi, and I don’t think fungi are human beings. Is it more relevant because the hair has human DNA? Not at all because NO ONE thinks that hair is a separate human being primarily because it has the same DNA as the mother. Hair, fingernails, dandruff are all effectively byproducts of the mother, but the baby in the womb is different from all of those because of its unique DNA which points out that it is not just a part of the mother from the moment of conception forward. Comparing a baby in the womb to hair, fingernails, etc. is an odd argument that proves nothing.

The most interesting thing that you say is this: “It is not as though either you are a human being or you are inanimate.” Well, that’s what you say, but that’s not where your argument leads in practicality. You are saying that between the moment of conception and some other point (either consciousness or viability), the baby is “in the process of becoming” a human being, but is not yet “being” a human being. Therefore, following the line of reasoning, you believe it to be acceptable for the mother to choose to abort the baby while it is still “in the process of becoming.” But why? Because, at heart, you are saying that the baby is not a human being until it reaches consciousness or viability. Until that point, it is not a human being, but “in the process of becoming” a human being. Is there really a difference between being inanimate and being “in the process of becoming” in your view? All you have done is move the goal posts from the point of conception to a later time by developing this category of “in the process of becoming” human. In both cases, you agree that once the baby is a human being it is morally wrong to terminate that baby’s life (with exceptions not necessary to this discussion). Until that point, “in the process of becoming” human is the same as not “being” a human being. What am I missing?

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