The Only Question That Matters in the Abortion Debate

Greg explains why we must first determine what the unborn are before we can decide whether or not it's okay to kill them.


I was listening to a debate a number of years ago, and the two debaters were Scott Klusendorf, who was, for eight years, on staff here with Stand to Reason as director of our bioethics and Anna Runkle who at that time was with Planned Parenthood. And I listened to Anna Runkle make her case in very calm even tones regarding abortion. And what she said is, abortion is a decision between a woman, and her doctor, and her God. Making abortion illegal will force women into dangerous back-alley abortions, she claimed. Women should have a right to choose. Who are we to judge? After all, women have a hard time making these decisions. They labor over them, they're difficult, when they come to a conclusion we shouldn't be looking down our noses at them for the decisions that they make.

And as I listened to her comments, I thought to myself, you know, you're correct in a sense. That is, we shouldn't be interfering between a woman, her doctor, and her God. We shouldn't force women into dangerous back-alley abortions if that's what would eventuate if abortion were made illegal. We shouldn't take away people's right to choose, including women, and we shouldn't be judging people for difficult decisions that they labor over. You're completely right, Anna Runkle, I agree wholeheartedly if... if... if what?

Well, the answer to that question depends on the answer to another question, and I want to lead into that question with an illustration. And when I'm having conversation with someone on the issue abortion, this is the place I start. So if you follow this illustration, it's a place that you might be able to start as well. It's a powerful way of simplifying this issue with people who mistakenly think it's complex. I don't think the abortion question is complex.

I think it can be simplified, and here's how: I want you to imagine that You're at home, and you're working at your workstation. Maybe you're doing dishes, maybe you're working on a computer, you're in the shop or something, and your young child comes up behind you, and you hear them ask a question. And the question they ask is: "Mommy, Daddy, can I kill this?" Remember, your back is to them. What is the question you must have answered first before you could answer the question your child has just asked you? What is it? What is it? If it's a spider, smash it, don't tell your mom. If it's your sister's kitten, well, hold on. If it's your sister, wait a minute, we got to have a talk.

Now, this is a very simple illustration, and it illustrates a common-sense notion, and the common-sense notion is this: Before you can know whether or not it's right to kill any living thing, you first have to know what it is you're killing. Now, abortion takes the life of something. People say, well nobody knows when life begins. Of course we do. Is it growing? It's alive. It's as simple as that. If it's growing, it's alive. That's why we want to get the abortion and as soon as possible because it's growing, and it's getting bigger. So the abortion is going to kill something. That's the point of the abortion. And whether it's right or wrong to kill that thing that's in there growing inside of mom depends on the answer to only one question: What is it?

And Anna Runkle, you're right, if the unborn is not a human being in the same way that you and I are human beings then get the abortion. Those are all good reasons not to interfere with peoples' liberties that you gave, Anna Runkle, in your debate. If the unborn is not a human being like you and I are. So let me put it this way: If the unborn is not a human being, then no justification for abortion is necessary. I said all of those reasons were good ones. You'd only have to give those reasons if abortion does not take the life of an innocent human being. Why give any reasons at all? Have the abortion. However, if the unborn is a human being, then no justification for abortion is adequate. Because we do not kill innocent human beings for the reasons that people give to have abortions – because we have a right to privacy, or a right to choice, or because they're too expensive, or because we don't want them, or even because they remind us of a terribly traumatic experience in our life.

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Greg Koukl