The Puzzling Claim That Abortion Is Safer Than Childbirth

Author Alan Shlemon Published on 12/21/2021

I’m mystified by this common defense of abortion.

Abortion-choice advocate: “I’m concerned that Roe v. Wade will be overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court and abortion will become illegal.”

Pro-life advocate: “I actually think that would be a good thing because abortion kills an innocent human being.”

Abortion-choice advocate: “No, it doesn’t. Prove it.”

Pro-life advocate: “The science of embryology shows the unborn is a human being. [The pro-lifer proceeds to give a brief scientific defense of his claim that the unborn is a living human being who is distinct from his mother.] Therefore, since it’s normally illegal to kill innocent human beings, abortion should also be illegal.”

Abortion-choice advocate: “Yeah, but abortion is 13 times safer than childbirth, so we should keep abortion legal.”

Perhaps this last comment is puzzling to you, as well. After all, every successful abortion kills a tiny human being and often in a violent way. How is that safe? How is that safer than childbirth? It’s not.

The pro-life claim is that abortion kills an innocent human being. Now, that claim might be false, but if it’s true, then abortion can’t be safer than childbirth. Either way, it doesn’t make sense for an abortion-choice advocate to simply declare abortion is safer than childbirth. They would have to first show that abortion doesn’t kill an innocent human being before they could claim abortion is safer than childbirth.

This mistake in thinking is known as circular reasoning (or begging the question). This occurs when a person presumes their conclusion is already true, but they haven’t proven it. In this hypothetical conversation, the abortion-choice advocate is presuming the unborn is not a human being. If that presumption is true, then abortion merely removes tissue and does not kill a human being. Of course, abortion—defined that way—would be safer. After all, the only person involved in abortion is the mother. But whether the unborn is mere tissue or a bona fide human being is precisely the question that needs to be answered. That’s why the key question to first resolve in any abortion discussion is, “What is the unborn?”