Answering pro-abortion questions

Richard Dawkins comments on Tim Tebow pro-life commercial.

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On the Arkansas Times Blog, a person with the username “November” posted:

You dont have the “choice” to kill and innocent child in the womb. No one gave the child a trial before killing it. The child is innocent, and the U S Constitution says you cant deprive someone of their life without due process. I always love it when someone has learned they are having a little one coming into their life….they dont say, “we are having a fetus!”…they say “we are having a BABY.!” because it is a child loooooong before it is born and you can see it. Thank God for Representative Griffin!!!!

A response came from username “Verla Sweere”:

I’m old enough to remember what it was like before Roe/v/Wade. And we’re heading down that road again. How sad, that women are willing to be treated like chattel. And why are anti-abortion people also against contraception, aid to women and children, public schools, etc.? Do they not see the connection? While they see abortion as the road to hell, they believe Gingrich has been redeemed. ?????

Later a response from username “Outlier”:

Me too, Verla. I asked Sam in the Romney thread where he would draw the abortion line—no response from him yet. Sam would allow abortion for a 12 year old rape victim with severe health problems. I posed some hypothetical situations for him and now I repeat them for November (I see his punctuation key is stuck again!!!!!). As some one once said, “If men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament.”

“Sam, I would like to know where you draw the abortion line. It seems like you want it both ways, as long as you get to decide where the line should be
drawn. Is abortion okay if a woman is carrying an anencephalic (no brain except for a primitive brain stem) fetus which can only live a few hours or a day or two at most if carried to term? What if a woman is carrying conjoined twins with two heads and one torso and no hope of surgical separation? What about a woman who practiced birth control faithfully and had a failure? Keep in mind that most b.c. methods do not prevent conception; they merely prevent a fertilized egg from implanting in the uterine wall. How about a young widow with two kids already who can’t afford to take the time off from work, even if she is willing to put the baby up for adoption? How about a woman with mental illness or severe depression who is simply incapable of carrying a pregnancy to term?”

My response was as follows:

The issue is not the intelligence but the issue of personhood. Here is a great quote from J.P. Moreland:

“When do I become a full person? What is it about me that makes me only a potential person? The bad news is that for anything you say–for example, having rationality–it becomes real difficult not to say that real smart people are not more persons than uneducated people, because whatever criterion you use, if it’s quantifiable, it’s pretty tough to justify everyone having equal rights based on that. Maybe you could posit some threshold, or something. Joseph Fletcher says the minimum threshold rationality is 85 on an IQ test, I think it is. That’s enough to allow Down Syndrome to fall just below the line, I think, of personhood for him…


“What I’m trying to surface is, that if you’re of the view that there is such a thing as potential personhood–I’m not saying that everyone on the pro-choice side agrees with that; indeed they don’t–but if you think there is such a thing as potential personhood, so that personhood is the thing that, number one is what gives me value, and number two something I can have more or less of, then you do have to draw lines because that becomes a sliding scale that becomes terribly problematic. What you’ve got to do now is try to show why your view does not entail the idea that very self-aware, good, language-using people with a good self-concept aren’t more persons than plumbers that are out of touch with themselves and can’t speak very well.


“If this is your view–if you hold the potential person view–it becomes very difficult to justify abortion and not infanticide because the reasons that a person will give for justifying abortion will also apply to the two-week old child as well, and there are some philosophers that are in fact drawing that conclusion.”

dividerJ. P. Moreland, Ph.D. is Professor of Philosophy at Biola Unviersity.

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