There's little more we can say about abortion these days, for or against. The trenches have been dug and reinforced. Still, there's some undergrowth that we can profitably clear out to better understand what abortion is about.

The first thing we need to do is set aside unfounded prejudices, no easy thing for any of us. A recent Prairie Public Radio review of “Unplanned,” the anti-abortion story of a woman who worked for and eventually left Planned Parenthood, was so chock-a-block with liberal bias as to damage any credence the listener could give it. The reviewer found the ultrasound scene of a fetus struggling to avoid the suction tube unbelievable, saying that scientists assert no fetus at that stage can feel pain. But pain wasn't the scene's focus: survival was. Even a simpler organism than the fetus, such as an amoeba, will try to avoid what psychologists call “aversive stimuli.” It's credible that a fetus would do likewise.

The movie abortionist remarks, as the fetus is about to sucked up the tube and into a container, “Beam me up, Scotty.” The reviewer objects again, but apparently has forgotten that not only is gallows humor a possibility in a job like this, but also forgets abortionist Kermit Gosnell. Recall that Gosnell kept parts of the unborn in bags, jars, refrigerators, etc., apparently as mementos, and routinely killed those babies born alive by snipping their spinal cords and calling it “ensuring fatal demise.” A Gosnell employee cut the neck of a baby born alive into a toilet while the mother waited for Gosnell, mentioning that it was moving in a swimming motion. Gosnell himself remarked on one large baby he aborted that it was “big enough to walk me home.” So yes, the movie doctor's quip was also credible. The review continues in the same vein.


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There's shaky reasoning behind abortions. The fetus is not part of the woman's body but is a genetically distinct entity, so the claim “it's my body” doesn't apply. Alien, parasite, invader, whatever one cares to call it, it's not just a mass of the mother's cells. It's also no more dependent on the woman than it is on her, or another person, after it's born, so dependence alone is no justification for ending its life—unless like Peter Singer one believes in infanticide up to the point when the baby is self-aware.

However (and this will dissatisfy many people) there's an argument for abortion if the pregnancy wasn't consensual (“consensual” as I use it means the intercourse was voluntary) or in the rare cases of the mother's health being threatened. Despite being called the worst analogy of all time, the hypothetical of the woman kidnapped and held prisoner to give her rare blood to keep a famous violinist alive has merit. She might consent to do so after the fact from a humanitarian motive, but it's surely wrong to force saving the life of another person on anyone. In rape cases abortion should probably not be automatic, but it might be an option that's more moral than enslaving one person to save another.