Only One Question

Author Greg Koukl Published on 02/28/2013

The logic of the pro-life position can be expressed in a simple syllogism:

  • It’s wrong to take the life of an innocent human being without proper justification.
  • Abortion takes the life of an innocent human being without proper justification.
  • Therefore, abortion is wrong.

The key, of course, is the second premise.

There’s only one question to answer in the abortion debate: What is the unborn?

Imagine that your child walks up when your back is turned and asks, “Daddy, can I kill this?” What is the first thing you must find out before you can answer him? You can never answer the question “Can I kill this?” unless you’ve answered a prior question: What is it? This is the key question.

Abortion involves killing and discarding something that’s alive. Whether it’s right or not to take the life of any living thing depends entirely upon what it is. The answer one gives is pivotal, the deciding element that trumps all other considerations.

Let me put the issue plainly. If the unborn is not a human being, no justification for abortion is necessary. However, if the unborn is a human being, no justification for abortion is adequate.

This distinction simplifies what, to many, seems to be an intractable moral problem. Talk-show hosts, educators, politicians, even religious thinkers reflect and nod solemnly, “Oh, yes, abortion. It’s a very complex issue. There are no easy answers.”

Answering the foundational question “What is it?” removes the complexity. The answer to this most fundamental question—What is the nature of the unborn?—is the key to answering virtually every other objection about abortion. Most issues raised in the abortion debate are irrelevant rabbit-trails that drag us off the track of the only pertinent consideration.

When one clears away the irrelevant thoughts on both sides—the name calling, the misrepresentations, the circular reasoning, the medical misinformation, the emotional language—the issue becomes very clear and, I think, reasonably easy to answer. The hard part is applying what we discover.

Should you do something to stop abortion?

Answering the question “What is the unborn?” makes the answer to our final question crystal clear. If the unborn is not a helpless, innocent human being, don’t trouble yourself. If it is, then children are being killed for frivolous reasons, and you must do something.