Responding to common pro-choice arguments
Applying Logic & Scripture
This is part 2 in a collaborative series on the sanctity of life and abortion.
How should we respond to objections?
In the following, we will seek to deal fairly and faithfully with a few of the most common arguments that come from those who are called "pro-choice." My purpose here is to equip the Christian to be able to engage with those who are confused, deceived, or hard-hearted in their position which stands blatantly against the God of all creation.
The goal of our instruction is love (1 Tim. 1:5), with an aim to not just win the argument but to win the soul to Christ. Any abortion discussion can–and has–led many Christians into "fruitless discussions" (1 Tim. 1:7) and heated arguments that might possibly do more harm than good.
So in answering each objection, we will do well to be reminded that we are ambassadors for Christ and that all that we do must be with the aim of faithfully representing our Lord. Whether speaking strongly or gently, let us be found faithfully loving those we speak with and desiring their salvation (Rom. 9:3; 10:1).
This being said, we will address three of the main objections to the pro-life position, which states that the baby in the womb is valuable in God’s sight and worthy of protection from harm. We will respond to these objections both logically and biblically.
My body, my choice
As will be evident in our responses, you will notice that many of the chanted slogans, in all reality, belong to the Christian worldview–when framed properly. A grain of truth can be sown in such a way as to produce a harvest of lies. Satan, who is the father of lies (John 8:44), often takes truth, twists it, and/or distorts it. Something good, right, and true is frequently used for an end that is wicked, evil, and corrupt. This particular objection is a prime example of this.
"My body, my choice" (the slogan of the pro-choice movement) is used as an axiomatic truth to irrefutably end the argument before it begins. It's seen as a "mic drop" statement that is poignant, powerful, and short enough that it can be yelled out of a car window while going 35 mph. And the reason it is so poignant is because it is true. It is our contention, however, that this slogan belongs to the Christian who defends life. We must affirm the truth of this slogan, frame it properly, and apply it accurately. We ought to reclaim all that Satan has stolen and redeem it in Jesus' name.
The logical argument
Whose body are we talking about?
First, a simple response to someone who says "My body, my choice" in opposition to your pro-life stance would be to say, "Yes, that's exactly why I'm pro-life." This slogan has much truth to it, so we should not oppose it altogether, throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Instead, we must drain out the filthy water and keep the precious baby! So how do we do this?
In short, we declare that in an abortion, it is the baby's body and the baby's choice that is being treated unjustly. We believe the baby in the womb should not be poisoned, killed, and/or dismembered by doctors or nurses because… well… my body, my choice. Satan, who always has desired the killing of children (Ex. 1:16, Jer. 32:35, Matt. 2:16), has taken something that is true, co-opted it, and reframed it to the destruction of a powerless group of people. “My body, my choice” has become a slogan of oppression rather than one of justice.
For example, when a child in school bullies and steals another child's lunch money, they have used their body to harm someone else. "My body, my choice" is an applicable argument to appeal to in order to settle this dispute between students; yet, we must apply it properly. If we apply it to the bully, then we are wrongly applying something that is true in order to benefit the aggressor. However, if we rightly apply this truth, we can come to the aid of someone whose body was being harmed by someone else's body. The victim, not the oppressor, is the one who needs, "my body, my choice."
In regards to pregnancy, simply put, the body inside your body is not your body. The child, not the mother, is the one who is being dragged to the slaughter in an abortion.
''My body, my choice" is the underpinning argument against rape, chattel slavery, child abuse, spousal abuse, and all forms of oppression. We stand against the use of someone using their body to harm someone else's body. And, as will be dealt with in a subsequent objection, the human child in the womb is most certainly its own distinct body.
The Biblical argument
Turning now to the Biblical argument, Christians have a strong grounding in affirming what some might call "bodily autonomy." We must frame this properly though, and look to God's Word to see what the Sovereign Creator has said about justice and human rights.
Our bodies are God’s and it is wrong to violate them
We must note, first, that ultimately it is true that our bodies are not our own but instead belong to the Creator. All souls belong to God (Ez. 18:4). He is the Potter and we are His objects (Rom. 9:19). So the final word is that we are not our own and must seek to adhere to what our Creator says we must do with the bodies He has given us.
With this established, we find in Scripture that all humans are made in God's image (Gen. 1:26; 9:6; Jas. 3:9), and thereby have God-given dignity to not be unjustly violated by another. God cares greatly about justice and repeatedly opposes the oppression of any subgroup of the human population (Jas. 1:27, Zech. 7:9, Is. 1:17; Mal. 3:5, etc.). On account of this, we are grounded in the knowledge that every single person should not be harmed against their will and ought to be treated with fairness and dignity. We must do unto others as we would have them do to us (Matt. 7:12), love our fellow humans sacrificially (Luke 10:29-37), and uphold justice for those who are oppressed (Ps. 82:3, Prov. 24:11).
Our bodies are not just for us
Along with all of this, we have the example of Jesus, who perfectly demonstrated His love by not seeking to use His body for His own singular benefit. Instead, Jesus did not consider equality with God something to cling to but left the glory of Heaven for our benefit (Phil. 2:4). He is our example (1 Pet. 2:21) and what better example for a parent to follow in placing our children's needs above our own?
Pushing forward even further, Scripture clearly presents children in the womb as separate and distinct from the mother herself (Luke 1:41-44; Ps. 139:13; Matt. 1:18-20). So for a parent to actively choose death for a separate and distinct image-bearer of God, their own offspring and blessing from the Maker of Life, is a treacherous thing indeed. Of course, each person who has sinned must be pointed to Jesus, who brings forgiveness and separates us from our sins as far as the east is from the west!
It's just a clump of cells
What often comes next in the discussion is the dehumanization of the one being violated. To justify the choice of a mother to abort their child, the pro-choice representative will often shift toward an attack against the humanity and personhood of the life in the womb.
To use our previous example, the schoolboy who bullied and stole lunch money from the other boy might actually be innocent if the one he punched and took from was not another child at all but an apple tree. The boy might say, "It's not a human that I stole from. It is an apple tree. So, I've done nothing wrong!" And he would most certainly be correct if the one he took from was not a human. We would not be able to (nor would we want to) accuse him of theft and bullying if he was not harming another human.
This is often the assertion: The life in the womb is not a victim at all because it is just… 1) a clump of cells, or 2) a zygote/embryo/fetus. Here is how we might respond to this objection.
The logical argument
Everyone is a “clump of cells”
First, we might respond by saying that it is correct that life in the womb is "just a clump of cells." The problem is that most everything fits that description. The question then becomes, what kind of clump of cells is it? Is it a clump of cells that forms an ostrich or a rosebush? Is it a dog clump of cells or is it a human clump of cells? You might respond by noting that the one who is using the argument is themselves just a clump of cells. Going further, you might say that if someone came up and tried to cut off your arms and legs, this would still be wrong (and you would object) even though arms and legs are just "clumps of cells."
We are greatly pained when human clumps of cells are treated poorly. No one would get far by asserting that George Floyd's death was permissible because he was just a clump of cells. When immigrants are forsaken and treated poorly, we would never try to justify it by arguing that they are just a collection of cells clumped together.
Basic biology affirms that a separate and distinct human has come to life at the moment of conception. At conception, a unique set of DNA is created that never existed before and never will exist after. At conception, the baby’s gender, eye color, hair color, skin color, and all other physical characteristics are determined. At 5 weeks, the brain, spinal cord, and central nervous system begin to develop. At 6 weeks, the heart starts to beat. At 7 weeks, eyes begin to develop. At 8 weeks, fingers are noticeable. This is a miraculous clump of cells and is every bit of a human as you or I.
Calling an unborn baby a “fetus" does not change its value
Many uninformed people will say, "It's just a fetus!" When they do, we must remember to be gentle. As Christians, we agree that the life in the womb is a fetus. This is not debated. The issue at hand is, what is a fetus? The answer is that a fetus is just a stage of development in the process of a human. Fetus, infant, toddler, teenager, adult: these are all stages of development. So to claim that the life in the womb can be killed because it is "just a fetus" would be tantamount to asserting that a born human outside the womb can be killed because "it's just a teenager."
We all agree that a person located outside the womb is a human (and it is good to state this in the discussion) but when we use stage-of-development terminology to describe a person, it is never meant to take from their humanity. This is true for persons in the womb and those outside the womb. When describing a human life in the womb, stage-of-development terminology is used to justify the taking of that life in order to belittle its humanity. This is gravely inconsistent. Yes, of course it is a fetus. But, it is also a human being. Both must be upheld.
The Biblical argument
We are more than just a clump of cells
The next question we must ask is whether God says we are just a clump of cells. Strictly speaking, from a biological level, we could state that we are simply a human clump of cells. The Christian, however, believes we are much, much more! The atheist and the Christian might agree that humans are more valuable than animals or trees or rocks. But the atheist has no grounding for an objective assigning of value. They might personally (or subjectively) think that humans are better than an apple tree but ultimately they must admit that this is just because they favor their own kind over and above other kinds.
However, the Christian has an objective footing by which we can confidently know that we are much more than just a clump of cells. God, the maker of all things, is the one who gets to assign value to His creation. A cursory reading of Genesis 1-2 demonstrates that humans have been made by God to be, in many ways, the crown of His creation. Unique from the rest of creation, humans were made in God's image (Gen. 1:26). Humans were given dominion over the animals (Gen. 1:28). Adam gave names to all the animals (Gen. 2:20), which demonstrated his superiority over them. King David, writing in Psalm 8:4-8, affirms the humbling idea that humans are God's crown over and above all creation. Jesus also affirms this truth of the immense worth and value of humans. Jesus said we are more valuable than sparrows (Matt. 10:31), better than sheep (Matt. 12:12), and better than plants and birds (Matt. 6:26). Paul affirms we are better than oxen (1 Cor. 9:9).
Furthermore, and of utmost importance in this discussion, we must look to our Lord Jesus Christ and His example. Our Lord came as a human (Heb. 2:12-14, Phil. 2:5), died for humans (1 Tim. 1:15), and reconciled humans to God (Rom. 5:1-10). His love and affection is on the greatest display for humans (John 3:16). So with our Lord Jesus, we must affirm the humbling, yet wondrous truth that all humans are valuable and ought to be considered as such.
A slippery slope: When we call certain groups “less than human”
Departing from this has led to grievous staines upon our history. When groups of people are seen as inferior or sub-human, we can justify the mistreatment of that group. One example is chattel slavery, in which blacks from the west coast of Africa were seen as less than human. Rather than aligning themselves with Scripture which affirms the full worth and value of all humans, they dehumanized blacks, and the results are egregious. In the exact same way, human children in the womb are dubbed subhuman in order that their unjust treatment can be permitted. God help us!
They aren't even sentient
The next step is often to argue that the life in the womb isn't sentient (referring to the ability to feel or perceive). Sentience, as is argued, is a critical component in determining the morality of how we treat something and, since the fetus doesn't have sentience, its destruction is not a moral infraction.
What is “sentience”? Sentience is related to having the ability to "sense" things. All definitions relate the word to living things that have the ability to correspond with their surroundings. So, for example, they might argue that it is far worse to kick a dog than it is to kick a tree, or even a cricket. The dog can feel pain very acutely and can experience rejection. These are attributes that the dog has that a beetle or a flower does not possess. Therefore, this is said to be the basis by which we can determine the morality of what we can and can't harm. Stepping on an ant is permissible while stepping on a dog is not.
It is argued that a fetus in the womb has no sentience (no ability to feel or interact with its surroundings). It has no mental capacity to understand anything. Therefore, they argue, it is not a moral iniquity if its life is taken.
The logical argument
Keeping to the issue, and avoiding all of the rabbit holes this faulty argument can take us down, we must ask if this objection holds us to closer scrutiny. We must ask why "sentience" is the determining factor that precludes one individual from being killed but permits another to be killed. Who gets to make this arbitrary distinction? We'll cover this more later but it is worth noting here.
“Sentience” is inadequate to determine a human’s value
We must unequivocally state that "sentience" is a miserable way to discern between whom we can kill and whom we cannot. The reasoning for this is simple: If sentience is a standard, then the following people lack the necessary "sentience" to be defended from harm… 1) those in a coma, 2) a sleeping quadriplegic man, 3) a severely mentally-disabled boy, or even 4) a newborn baby.
Imagine, for a moment, living in a society that allows the killing of those who lack "sentience." A man in a coma (who the doctors say will come out of the coma in a couple months) would be fair game. A newborn baby with no real sense of her surroundings would be at risk until she was about 6 months old. A quadriplegic man who had taken a short nap in the sunshine might need security to protect him while he is unable to sense the world around him. A young boy who has a severe mental handicap could be dismembered at a moment's notice by anyone seeking to rid the world of another dependent person.
A far better (yet still inadequate) standard that remains logical is to declare that nature (not sentience) is what makes humans valuable. Your "being," not your "state of being" is what gives your life value and makes you worthy of being protected from harm. Sentience has absolutely no bearing on your right to be protected from murder. Humans are valuable regardless of what state of being they are in. Cognizant or not, humans should not be unjustly killed.
The Biblical argument
God determines and defines human value
As mentioned in the response to objection #2, the reason humans have value is found in God, who has sovereignty over His creation. God defines value, we do not. God is the final arbiter, and when humans attempt to supplant God's standards by coming up with their own arbitrary distinctions about which humans deserve to live, we find ourselves in a dangerous place.
God's answer to why we have value as humans is not because we have sentience, but instead, His answer is because He placed value on us, being made in His image. Therefore, we have glorious worth, dignity, and value. This divine value placed on all humans is a glorious, immovable standard that not only draws us close to the heart of God but also keeps us from the wicked ways of thinking.
For example, arbitrary human distinctions could easily cause some to say that those with Down Syndrome are not in a state of being that makes their lives worth protecting. Or perhaps Jews, homosexuals, immigrants, or the trans community would be next on the list. Standing in the truth of God, rooted in the Word of God, not only draws us closer to our Father, but it also prevents us from plummeting into the horror that comes with making up our own faulty and arbitrary standards. Let us always be found standing with Christ and the Word of God!
Should Biblical arguments ever enter the conversation?
You might wonder if arguments from Scripture should be used when speaking to unbelievers. Very much so! Here are 3 reasons why.
First, when speaking the Word of God, it opens up doors for gospel conversations to begin. When a person says, ''We'll, that's just what your religion says," you can now have a wide open path to turn the conversation toward Jesus, His glory, His death for sinners, His resurrection, and the value of all people who are made in His image!
Second, lovingly quoting Scripture is never a waste. God's Word never returns void (Is. 55:11) and will always accomplish something. So, telling a person truth from Scripture will surely be used by the Spirit in some way as they hear about the glories of our Lord and His wonderful wisdom. Trust in God to use his Word.
Lastly, using Scripture to defend life is a way to encourage other Christians. Philosophical and scientific battles are truly something beneficial to engage in; however, believers in Jesus (often unprepared to respond) need to hear God's voice on this matter. This holds a weight that no other type of argumentation can yield for the follower of Christ (John 10:4).