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What is Pro-life? Can one be both pro-life and pro-choice?

Photo Copyrighted.
Feet of a tiny human baby (aborted). (From the motion picture, "The Origin of Life," © Films for Christ.)

General definition

Photo copyrighted. Courtesy of Films for Christ.

The unborn entity is fully human from the moment of conception. Abortion (narrowly defined) results in the intentional death of the unborn entity. Therefore, abortion entails the intentional killing of a human being. This killing is in most cases unjustified, since the unborn human being has a full right to life.

If, however, there is a high probability that a woman's pregnancy will result in her death (as in the case of a tubal pregnancy, for example), then abortion is justified. For it is a greater good that one human should live (the mother) rather than two die (the mother and her child). Or, to put it another way, in such cases the intent is not to kill the unborn (though that is an unfortunate effect) but to save the life of the mother.

With the exception of such cases, abortion is an act in which an innocent human being is intentionally killed; therefore, abortion should be made illegal, as are all other such acts of killing.

Pro-life and pro-choice?

Some people claim to be both pro-life and pro-choice. This is a ploy taken by politicians, such as Nevada Senator Richard Bryan and New York Governor Mario Cuomo. They usually say,

"I'm personally against abortion, but I don't object to a woman who wants to have one if she believes it is the right thing to do."

The problem with this statement is that it doesn't tell us the reason why the politician claims to be personally against abortion. Since most people who are against abortion are so because they believe that the unborn are fully human and have all the rights that go along with such a status, we would expect that if the politician were personally against abortion it would be for the same reason. But this would make the politician's personal opposition and public permission of abortion somewhat perplexing, since the assumed reason why he would be personally against abortion is the same reason why he should be against publicly permitting it, namely, that an entity which is fully human has a right to life.

After all, what would we think of the depth of an individual's convictions if he claimed that he was personally against the genocide of a particular ethnic group (e.g., the Jews), but he added that if others thought this race was not human, they were certainly welcome to participate in the genocide if they so chose? What I'm getting at is simply that the nature of some “personal” opinions warrants public actions, even if these opinions turn out to be wrong, while other opinions (e.g., one's personal preference for German chocolate cake) do not.

Thus, it makes little moral sense to claim that one is both pro-life and pro-choice.

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Author: Francis J. Beckwith. Adapted from a series in Christian Research Journal, Spring 1991. Provided with permission by Summit Ministries and the author.

Copyright © 1995, 1998, Christian Research Institute, 1991, 1998, All Rights Reserved - except as noted on attached “Usage and Copyright” page that grants ChristianAnswers.Net users generous rights for putting this page to work in their homes, personal witnessing, churches and schools.

Go to Summit Ministries

For further reading on abortion issues

  • Francis J. Beckwith, Politically Correct Death: Answering the Arguments for Abortion Rights (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1993).
  • Francis J. Beckwith, Abortion and the Sanctity of Human Life (Joplin, Missouri: College Press, 2000).
  • Stephen Schwarz, The Moral Question of Abortion (Loyola University Press, 1990).
  • Randy Alcorn, Prolife Answers to Prochoice Arguments (Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Press, 2000).

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