The Moral Mischief of Abortion

Abortion choice advocates often engage in logical gymnastics to avoid the inconsistency of their view. Despite their efforts, the misstep in their thinking is obvious. This wouldn’t be as grave a concern if the impact was limited to their own lives. One could argue we should adopt a “live and let live” policy. But abortion-choice has tragic consequences: It results in the death of 3,000 unborn children each day in the U.S. alone.

An example of this inconsistency is evident when asking abortion-choice advocates about the use of thalidomide in the 1950s. Doctors used to prescribe this drug to pregnant women suffering from morning sickness. Then they discovered its tragic side effects: Many children were born without limbs. Their arms or legs were missing or were severely atrophied. Thousands of children, many who are disabled adults today, were exposed to this harmful chemical while in their mother’s womb.

Abortion-choice advocates would rightly condemn the continued use of thalidomide in pregnant women. Why? The drug causes irreparable harm to unborn children.

But here’s the irony. Pro-choice activists are opposed to harming an unborn child with thalidomide, but in favor of killing that same child through abortion. If the former is wrong, the latter is egregious. We wouldn’t prevent a mother from violently shaking her son, but permit her to shoot him instead. That’s inconsistent.

Some say I’m being unfair. They claim that consistency demands that a person behave the same way only in similar situations. The child is wanted when a woman takes thalidomide, but is unwanted when she seeks an abortion. Therefore, since the situations aren’t the same, the unborn doesn’t need to be treated in the same way.

But this makes my point, not theirs. On the pro-choice view, equals are treated unequally. Both the wanted and unwanted child are valuable human beings. Whether or not their mother wants them can’t affect their status. They should both be treated consistently, in a manner that upholds their intrinsic dignity.

Frankly, I’m mystified why abortion-choice advocates even care that unborn children are affected by thalidomide. They’ve told me unborn children aren’t persons, don’t feel pain, and don’t have fears and dreams. Why are they so concerned with these fetuses?

I don’t think they have a choice. People can see kids born without limbs. The images are disturbing. If abortion-choice advocates don’t condemn what is a visible and obvious injustice, they’ll come across as callous and cruel.

But whereas the effects of thalidomide are graphic, the horror of abortion is hidden. No one sees unborn children who are dismembered. It’s a crime committed out of sight. That’s why they permit abortion. It also explains why many pro-lifers are apathetic about this issue.

Imagine, however, if abortion was defined as something else. Instead of taking unborn life, it involved killing children at Little League. Coaches would round up a few kids, drag them off into left field, and beat them with a bat. People would be outraged. Christians would stop being merely pro-life in their attitude and would do something to end the killing. Even non-Christians would join the cause. Abortion would be outlawed in a heartbeat.

But abortion isn’t visible. You can’t see its effects the way people saw children harmed by thalidomide. Yet the truth is that killing human beings through abortion is like killing them at Little League. The victims are just younger.

Once thalidomide was seen harming children, its demise was certain and swift. Until abortion is seen for its grim reality, it will remain legal. And abortion-choice advocates will continue to hold an inconsistent view.

Alan Shlemon

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