Focus on the Family fights daily for one of the most marginalized and oppressed groups in the history of mankind – the preborn baby. In 2018, the U.S. alone accounted for 862,320 abortions, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), with numbers supplemented by the Guttmacher Institute. In the same year, over 77,000 babies were aborted in the state of New York, while only 225,162 were born, meaning that babies conceived in New York have about a one-in-four chance of being aborted.
One of the foundational values of Focus on the Family is the Sanctity of Human Life. We believe that Christians are “called to defend, protect, and value all human life.” This includes “preborn children, elderly individuals, those with special needs and others marginalized by society.” Focus accomplishes this task through many different initiatives, such as programs like Option Ultrasound, and life-affirming, medically accurate resources like pro-life booklets through our Benevolent Resources Program.
We view preborn babies as humans made in the image of God and therefore having the same right to life as the rest of us. These babies are fearfully and wonderfully made by their Father in Heaven.
Unfortunately, the modern majority opinion is that abortion is morally acceptable. By denying the reality of life inside the womb, pro-abortion advocates have been successful in reframing the issue of abortion into something less macabre. They do this by redefining personhood, villainizing pro-life voters and denying preborn babies human rights. In this article, we are going to talk through those three approaches.
The Problem of Personhood
The only way that pro-abortion voters can justify aborting a preborn baby is by denying the baby his or her status as an individual life.
A baby is often portrayed by some pro-abortion activists as an inconvenience that would prevent a woman from achieving all that she could in life and her career. For example, actress Joan Collins had an abortion at 26 because “(a baby) would have ruined my life.” Women also worry about school, finances, relationships, job or how to raise another child. The lie that it would be “easier” to abort than raise a child is tempting.
So, to make abortion an “easy” choice, pro-abortion advocates must deny that a preborn baby is a person. But if personhood implies certain inalienable rights, how do they decide who gets to be a person?
This is a very important question to ask, as it has grave ramifications on the ones who are denied the right to life. Personhood infers certain rights – the idea that your mere existence warrants that you should be treated a certain way – and thus, those who do not have personhood do not get to enjoy these rights. The greatest atrocities in the world occurred because a group’s personhood status – and with it their rights – were denied by another group.
For the secular individual, the common route is to create an arbitrary standard that determines personhood, such as consciousness, self-awareness, heartbeat, the ability to be self-sufficient, the ability to reason or empathize, etc. This path is likely where most pro-abortion advocates will find themselves, but it has its own problems. Many of these stipulations fail to provide an assurance that the one who has personhood will always maintain personhood, and they typically fail to cover the fringe cases. For example, most one-year-old babies wouldn’t be considered people because they typically cannot yet recognize themselves in a mirror and thus fail the self-awareness test.
However, Christians know that God defines personhood. The Bible tells us that personhood comes from being made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26), and, as such, any human is granted personhood from conception. Christians know that it is God who has personally crafted us into existence.
For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. – Psalm 139:13-15
Unlike the secular person, Christians do not make an arbitrary standard by which someone is or is not affirmed as a person. Instead, they must agree with the conclusion that God has decreed: all humans are made in the image of God, and all who are made in the image of God have personhood and are deserving of life.
Without a Creator, there is no basis for personhood in the first place. If there is no God, we have no reason to call ourselves better than any of the other animals. If we appeared by happenstance, we have no reason to think our existence is special. The secular person cannot sustain an argument towards personhood that has true authority in the way that a religious person can.
The Villainization of the Pro-Life Voter
Because a secular argument for personhood can never be sustained, a common tactic for pro-abortion activists is to instead make pro-life voters out to be villains – twirling our mustaches at the mere thought of getting to oppress people and do evil. Instead of wanting to rationally and logically argue, the conversation is often reduced down to claims that pro-life supporters are mostly men who just want to oppress women and force them to have babies.
We often hear that the pro-life movement is “fundamentally about misogyny.” Those wicked pro-life voters, especially men, are apparently pro-life simply because they enjoy making women suffer. This, of course, causes us to wonder about the 41% of women who consider themselves pro-life.
But we know that this isn’t an honest claim any more than it is for a pro-life advocate to say that pro-abortion voters hate babies.
The pro-life argument is simple: All humans have personhood from the moment of conception, and thus have the right to life. Abortion violates another person’s right to life. Therefore, it is immoral and evil to support abortion. Any distortion of the pro-life argument away from this understanding is willfully ignorant.
The Redefinition of Rights
The redefinition of what constitutes a human right is the final thing that pro-abortion advocates have done to try to gain a sense of moral superiority. Long gone are arguments on when it might be ethical to get an abortion or Bill Clinton-era promises that abortions are “safe, legal and rare.” Now, pro-abortion advocates don’t care about the ethical implications of abortions—they want them on demand. After all, isn’t abortion a “fundamental human right?”
That is how they have framed the issue. Pro-abortion advocates claim that abortion is both a human right and specifically a woman’s right so that they can look justified in passing whatever law they would like and villainizing their opponents. To them, “they’re fighting for human rights,” so they must be the good guys.
Obviously, this has implications for anyone who disagrees with their platform. Their opponents are not just opposing abortion, but they’re unforgivingly against human rights themselves. Instead of making any factual argument, they take an emotional one, demonizing the opposition by claiming that they stand “on the wrong side of history” and against women. It is no surprise that they call themselves “progressives,” as most people think positively about progress, and it implies that those against them want to regress society.
But regardless of all this talk about rights, we would be remiss if we didn’t address the bigger issue regarding rights: without a Creator, how can anyone claim any rights at all? If we are all simply cosmic accidents placed on Earth by the secular god named Chance, how can anyone rightfully claim that their very existence as a human being has any sort of inalienable value?
Both pro-life and pro-abortion advocates will appeal to human rights which are inherent and inalienable. But without God, what is the source of this inherent dignity and worth from which all human beings are bestowed? This is not to argue that the nonreligious person cannot agree with rights and align themselves with moral truth, but to claim that our very existence imbues rights upon us is something that can only be consolidated with belief in a higher power. Otherwise, arguing that you deserve anything because you are alive is simply a futile shout into an unforgiving void that your presence dictates value – and that sounds rather self-righteous.
The Christian knows their value and human rights come from being made in the image of God. They have been given dominion by God over all the animals and plants of the world. They have an absolute moral law given to them by God through His Word, and it tells them of what God loves and hates.
In summary, whenever we speak about human rights, what we are saying is that we have worth simply by the nature of our existence. The implication is such that specifically being a human, and especially a woman when it comes to the abortion issue, (as opposed to any other living creature) warrants value. The only way that we can consolidate human beings as exclusively deserving of these unalienable rights, over all other living beings, is by admitting that we were created in such a way that uniquely elevates us above all of the other creatures. Unfortunately for the secular person, this is the roadblock they face.
But for the Christian, we have the answer: Humans, and humans alone, were uniquely created in the image of God, and that is something that cannot be stripped away.
The abortion argument tries to make abortion a human rights issue, but they cannot have rights without God. All humans are made in His image – from conception (Genesis 1:26, Psalm 139:13-15) to natural death. Therefore, whoever aborts a preborn baby denies him or her their status as a being made in the image of God (Genesis 9:6). In summary, it is not access to abortion that is a human right – because rights are intrinsically tied to God. It is instead the human right of the preborn to life because he or she is woven by God and made in His image.