Politico Whitewashing Abortion

I saw an article in the Washington Examiner entitled “Politico Whitewashes Horror of Aborting Triplites.” The article by Philip Wegmann points out that “Dostoevsky observed that ‘man could get used to anything,’” and “Orwell explained” much the same thing “how political jargon gives a ‘defense of the indefensible.’”

Wegmann goes on to say,

Rather than admit that the only way to turn triplets into twins is to kill a baby, Politico hid behind a euphemism. And rather than react in horror at the death of a child, they printed a splashy graphic to explain “the decline of triplets” as if the procedure was the equivalent of filling a dental cavity. In short, they casually whitewashed slaughter.

The article points out precisely how they do that. This is graphic, but I think it needs to be heard: the doctor uses ultrasound; that ultrasound is used in order “to maneuver the unborn baby into position,” then “a syringe of toxic potassium chloride is inserted in the mother’s belly…that long needle is stabbed into the child’s little heart until [the child’s heart] stops beating. Politico just calls it a ‘reduction,’” but the “real horror goes unnoticed when imprecise language transforms a callous abortion into an unremarkable ‘reduction’” and “the public can become accustomed to the most revolting of horrors if they are pre-packaged correctly. Dostoevsky and Orwell were right all along.”

I happened to write about this subject in The Complete Bible Answer Book Collector’s Edition, Revised and Updated. There I put forth an acronym. The acronym A-B-O-R-T-I-O-N, so that people are equipped to annihilate A-B-O-R-T-I-O-N arguments. While I will not go through the entire acronym on the show today, I do want to highlight the “O” in A-B-O-R-T-I-O-N.

The first “O” in A-B-O-R-T-I-O-N I dubbed the “opium” effect. This is in keeping with the article I just read to you wherein clever codewords are the opium of the pro-abortion lobby. Those code words are specifically designed to dull human sensibilities to something that is absolutely horrendous: the horror of abortion. We see this all around. For example, the moniker “Planned Parenthood.” That may well be the quintessential example. The positive ring of the words masks the horrific reality. To abort a preborn child is tantamount to terminating a life. As Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger famously pontificated, “The most merciful thing that the large family does to one of its infant members is to kill it.” Such killings again are positively repositioned as prochoice prerogatives. The preborn children terminated, well, they are indelicately rendered fetuses and prolife advocates are profanely recasts as social extremists. Again, this is the opium effect, the effect of clever code words. This has been used to great effect within this holocaust that is going on within our midst.

Abortion is the painful killing of an innocent human being, and we ought to get that squarely in our psyche. We ought to be able to communicate this because it is painful for the child, in that methods employed involve burning, smothering, dismembering, and crushing. It is killing in that, from the very beginning, that which is terminated fulfills the criteria necessary for establishing the existence of biological life. That includes metabolism, development, the ability to react to stimuli, cell reproduction, and the like. I say it is the painful killing of an innocent human being, innocent in that the preborn child deserves protection, not capital punishment. The painful killing of an innocent human being, in that the child was killed is the offspring of human parents, has a totally distinct genetic code.

Since abortion is nothing short of terminating the life of a person created in the image of God, it is important for us to get this information into our minds.

— Hank Hanegraaff

Blog adapted from the October 18, 2017, Bible Answer Man broadcast.


Abortion, Infanticide, and the Devolution of Western Civilization

When we say, “We do what we do because life and truth matter,” I use life in the sense of the experience of life and the knowledge of life. Experiencing Christ, not just knowing, but as it has been well said, knowing. There is a difference between cognitively apprehending something and having a real experience with the one who knit us together in our mother’s womb. But, obviously we are also very interested in the foundational principle of all anthropology, and that is human life. We live in a culture today in which life is considered from a different perspective (as the culture becomes more and more materialistic) than the perspective that was viewed in Western Civilization by the Judeo-Christian tradition.

I read something in a recent blog by Jerry Coyne, who is an evolutionary biologist at the University of Chicago. He is now not only defending abortion but he is indeed defending infanticide. This is all part of the slippery slope that we are now on as a culture. Coyne writes, “If you are allowed to abort a fetus that has a severe genetic defect…,then why aren’t you able to euthanize that same fetus just after it’s born? I see no substantive difference that would make the former act moral and the latter immoral.” I can say that on one level he is absolutely right. In other words, if you can abort a late-term child, why not take the next step and abort a child a few days after the child is born? The problem here is a failure to recognize that child has personhood from the moment of conception.

But, Coyne is not alone. I think of Francis Crick, who was codiscoverer of the double helix structure of DNA. I bring him up because he had a partner, James Watson. In one of the most chilling quotes I have ever heard, Crick’s codiscoverer of the structure of DNA said that, “because of the limitations of present detection methods, most birth defects are not discovered until birth; however, if a child was not declared alive until three days after birth, the doctor could allow the child to die, if the parents so chose, and save a lot of misery and suffering.” Think about the chilling effect of those words. After all, everything becomes subjective when we live in a materialistic culture. You see the child now, and the child does not suit your fancy, well, you make a choice, and you let that child die. Well, not just let that child die; you take active steps in order that the child, in fact, dies.

This is precisely what Peter Singer was talking about. He is the famous Princeton ethicist. He said that “newborn human babies have no sense of their own existence over time. So killing a newborn baby is never equivalent to killing a person….If a decision is taken, by the parents and doctors, that it is better that a baby should die, I believe it should be possible to carry out that decision, not only by withholding or withdrawing life support…but also by taking active steps to end the baby’s life swiftly and humanely.” All of this arbitrary, depending on what you think the quality of a person’s life actually is.

Just last week in the New York Times, Gary Comstock said, “It seems the medical community has few options to offer parents of newborns likely to die.” The implication is you have to expand those options.

Going back to Coyne, the reason we can expand those options is because human beings after all are no different than bananas or dogs. Says, Coyne, “The reason we don’t allow euthanasia of newborns is because humans are seen as special, and I think this comes from religion — in particular, the view that humans, unlike animals, are endowed with a soul.” He is a materialist. He certainly does not hold to substance dualism. Everything for him is just a function of brain chemistry and genetics. Once you start teaching this philosophy, you become an instrument for the devolution of civilization, which is already essentially fragile.

Coyne is not just a guy on a street corner with a megaphone or a loud voice. He is a respectable professor in what is thought to be a respectable university, and he is telling people, the students that are impressionable, that there is no such thing as morals, there is no such thing as right or wrong, and there is no distinction between an animal and a human being.

These are serious times. Times in which we as Christians need to be ready to give an answer. This is not optional. The reason the culture is devolving is because we as Christians are not doing what we as Christians are called to do. You can repeat it over and over again, and hopefully it can become stuck in your memory trace — salt and light. We are called to be salt. We are called to be light. If we are not salt and light, culture devolves, and civilizations are lost. Right now, without any hyperbole, I can tell you that Western Civilization hangs in the balance, and that by a very thin thread. Ethics and morality are now a function of the size and strength of the latest lobby group. This is in direct opposition to being firmly rooted in scientific and spiritual standards. Thus, with no enduring reference points, societal norms have been reduced to mere matters of choice.

— Hank Hanegraaff

For you created my inmost being;

you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

your works are wonderful,

I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you

when I was made in the secret place.

When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

your eyes saw my unformed body.

All the days ordained for me

were written in your book

before one of them came to be

(Psalm 139:13–16 NIV).

Blog is adapted from the July 20, 2017, Bible Answer Man broadcast.


Love, Not Eradication: What Down Syndrome Babies Deserve

CRI-Blog-Hanegraaff, Hank-Down SyndromeJust before I came into the studio, I was reading an article. It is a National Right to Life article by Lauren Bell. It is entitled “Babies with Down Syndrome Deserve Love, Not Eradication.”

Lauren writes that “In recent remarks to the Citizens Assembly in Ireland, Dr. Peter McParland” pointed out that “in Iceland…every single baby—100 percent of all those diagnosed with Down syndrome—are aborted.” One hundred percent. As such, “Iceland has become the first nation to boast of eradicating Down syndrome from its country.” Moreover, “Denmark follows closely behind Iceland and predicts to be a ‘Down-syndrome free’ nation in the next 10 years.” In addition to all of that, “90 percent of babies diagnosed with Down syndrome in the womb are aborted in Great Britain and the United States.”

That of course raises a very serious question. What makes a Down Syndrome baby less valuable than a proposed designer baby? The answer is this: one is not less than the other. Both are created in the image and likeness of God (Gen. 1:27), and that should make all the difference in the world. The imago Dei insures that a Down Syndrome child must be afforded the very same dignity that we give to a distinguished scientist; of course, the imago Darwinii leads in quite another direction.

I wrote about this in Has God Spoken? The point being amplified by none other than the late Stephen Jay Gould, one of the most prominent Darwinian theologians on the planet. He observed that the highly regarded evolutionary notion of recapitulation — this of course is the idea that ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny —served as a basis for Dr. Down labeling Down Syndrome as “Mongoloid idiocy.” Why? Because he thought it represented a throwback to the Mongolian stage in human evolution. As Gould said, the term “Mongoloid” was first applied to mentally defective people because it was then commonly believed that the Mongoloid race was, well, not yet evolved to the status of the Caucasian race. Thankfully, Stephen Jay Gould decried recapitulation’s responsibility for the racism of the post-Darwinian era. In his words, “Recapitulation provided a convenient focus for the pervasive racism of white scientists; they looked to the activities of their own children for comparison with normal, adult behavior in lower races.”

Anyway, I was reading the article, and as I was reading the article, I was just stunned to think that this is the condition we find ourselves in today, a condition in which people no longer regard the image of God in humanity as sacred. I actually took the time to watch the video (mentioned in the article). I think it was 29 minutes. It was memorable time. It was chilling to hear Dr. Peter McParland speak in clinical fashion about having Down Syndrome–free babies. As we all know statistically, the vast majority of people with Down Syndrome are happy, satisfied, and affectionate members of our society. To discriminate against them is simply chilling and unthinkable, and yet we see once again how ideas have consequences.

—Hank Hanegraaff

God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them (Gen. 1:27 NIV).

This blog is adapted from the March 7, 2017, Bible Answer Man broadcast.


The Planned Parenthood Prenatal Ruse


I want to mention something about Planned Parenthood. It seems that Planned Parenthood is putting extra emphasis on its non-abortion services. The reason they are doing that is to justify the $500,000,000 that Planned Parenthood receives each year from you and I. In other words, from tax-payer funding. Prenatal care, however, seems to be virtually non-existent according to Live Action in a video entitled “The Prenatal Care Deception.”

Here is what Planned Parenthood people themselves say. “Planned Parenthood offers abortions not prenatal care.” This was a receptionist at Planned Parenthood in Tempe, Arizona. Another Planned Parenthood person in Albany, New York agreed, saying, “No, Planned Parenthood does prenatal care hon.” Another in Merrillville, Indiana said, “No, we don’t do prenatal services. I mean it’s called Planned Parenthood, and I know it’s kind of deceiving.”

Well, the abortion business does almost 1/3 of all abortions in the U.S. 870 per day, some 320,000 a year. Perhaps there are millions more that are not accounted for.

“Planned Parenthood says it’s a champion of women’s health care; yet, prenatal care, which is an essential service for expectant mothers, is virtually non-existent,” says Lila Rose, who is president and founder of Live Action. “Our investigators who wanted to keep their babies were turned away,” she says, “by 92 out of 97 Planned Parenthood centers. It’s clear that despite its claims, abortion is the priority and the only option for pregnant women that visit Planned Parenthood.” There is a big ruse going on according to this organization, which is doing some pretty good primary research. Live Action is exposing the underbelly of Planned Parenthood.

You know there are so many arguments I hear today. For example, I hear from the pro-abortion lobby this inequality argument. Simply put, the inequality argument posits that a woman forced to carry her baby to full term could not compete successfully with a male counterpart in the workplace; therefore, she should be provided the latitude to abort. Think about carrying this to its logical conclusion. The inequality argument would apply to abandonment as well. Imagine the absurdity of arguing that in order for a woman to compete on an equal basis with a man she should be afforded the opportunity not only to abort a preborn child but to abandon a preschooler.

The arguments are pretty lame and Planned Parenthood is trying to keep its money. It is fighting hard for the $500,000,000 we give them and I hope they lose that fight.

—Hank Hanegraaff


Christianity in an Age of Pro-Life Criminalization and Bible Warning Labels

cri-blog-hanegraaff-hank-pro-life-crime_1A recent LifeSite article by Pete Baklinski entitled “French government votes to ban pro-life websites” indicates “the socialist government of France passed a bill after one day’s debate that criminalizes websites that might dissuade women from abortion.” If convicted website owners could face two-years imprisonment. Jean-Frederic Poisson, member of the Christian Democratic Party, “blasted the bill on Twitter for what he saw as the government’s double standard in banning sites that propose ‘alternatives’ to abortion but [ironically] not ‘jihadist websites.’”

Hugo Martin in an article for the Los Angeles Times indicated that “More hotels are checking out of the Bible business.” He states that “hotels also have been under pressure lately from atheist groups.” The Freedom from Religion Foundation, which is a non-profit group that promotes separation of church and state, “wrote to 15 major hotel companies last year, asking them to keep Bibles out of hotel rooms.” That foundation also “created a sticker that reads: ‘Warning: Literal belief in this book may endanger your health and life,’” and “the group has encouraged its supporters to affix the stickers on any hotel room Bible they find.”

I think in a climate like this—the climate in which we have anti-abortion being legislated against, in other words if you are pro-life, the legislation is against you in countries in the West like France, and then you have groups that are opposing the Bible on the ground that the Bible might be dangerous to your health—this is an age in which we must always be ready give an answer, a reason for the hope that lies within us with gentleness and respect (1 Pet. 3:15).

We have to be able to demonstrate that the Bible is divine as opposed to merely human in origin, and that through the Bible we find the way in which we can live life and life to the full.

We also should be able to demonstrate that abortion is the painful killing of an innocent human being. It is painful because the child that is killed has been burned, smothered, dismembered or crushed. It is killing in that from the beginning that which is terminated fulfills the criteria necessary for the establishing the existence of biological life including metabolism, development, the ability to react to stimuli, cell reproduction, and the child is innocent in the sense that a pre-born infant deserves protection not capital punishment. The pre-born is a, of course, a human being in that the child who was killed is the offspring of human parents and has a totally distinct genetic code. Abortion again is nothing short of terminating the life of a person that is created in the image of God. We as Christians must be able to make that point with gentleness and respect.

—Hank Hanegraaff

For further related study, please access the following equip.org resources:

What is Abortion? (Hank Hanegraaff)

Should Abortion Be Permitted in the Case of Rape or Incest? (Hank Hanegraaff)

How Do We Know the Bible is Divine Rather than Human in Origin? (Hank Hanegraaff)

The Folly of Denying God (Hank Hanegraaff)

Is Christianity Bad for Your Health (A.A. Howsepian)

Village Atheists with Vengeance (C. Wayne Mayhall)

Enlightenment Humanism: Our Savior from Violence? (Angus J.L. Menuge)

Antitheist Faith and History (Jeffrey Burton Russell)

This Blog adapted from the December 5, 2016 Bible Answer Man broadcast.

Apologetics, Journal Topics

Suffer the Violinst: Why the Pro-Abortion from Bodily Autonomy Fails

Poupard, Richard-Suffer the Violist2

Article: JAA025 | by Richard J. Poupard

This article first appeared in the Christian Research Journal, volume 30, number 4 (2007). For further information or to subscribe to the Christian Research Journal go to: http://www.equip.org


The argument from bodily autonomy claims that one human being does not have the right to use the body of another human being for its survival. Abortion advocates have advanced this argument in order to justify elective abortion even if one grants that the fetus is a rights‐bearing individual. This allows pro‐ abortion choice proponents, then, to concede the major premise of the pro‐life position and still justify elective abortion. This argument was illustrated by Judith Jarvis Thomson’s famous violinist analogy, and has recently been defended by legal scholar Eileen McDonagh and philosopher David Boonin. The bodily autonomy argument and their defenses of it fail for at least four reasons. First, the argument fails to account for situations in which a mother harms but does not kill her child; given its logic, it would affirm a mother’s decision to intentionally take a medication that will cause birth defects in her child, for example. Second, the argument assumes that prenatal parental responsibilities are largely voluntary. Third, the analogies used to support the argument fail to take into account the difference between diseased and healthy physiological states. Fourth, the argument results in absurdities if taken to its logical conclusion. Taken as a whole, then, the bodily autonomy argument does not give us justification to jettison our deepest moral intuitions that mothers should not intentionally kill their offspring, whom proponents of this argument concede are rights‐bearing individuals. Intentionally killing human fetuses in the act of elective abortion thus remains a great moral wrong.

A few years ago, I was preparing to perform third molar surgery under intravenous (I.V.) sedation, which is a common procedure in my clinical practice, on an adolescent girl. As I began the I.V. line and started to administer the sedative medication, the patient mentioned something that distressed me greatly. She stated, “I guess I should tell you that I just found out I’m pregnant.”

There was an important reason for my concern. I had already administered midazolam, which is known to cause birth defects in a prenatal child when taken in the first trimester. I quickly gave the patient an agent that reverses the sedative effect of the midazolam but does not remove the drug from her system. As she became more aware, I prepared to tell her the difficult truth that she received a drug that could cause harm to her unborn child. I expected this to be one of the more difficult discussions I have ever had with a patient, informing her that I may have caused harm to the child she was carrying.

I informed her, and she was quite upset, but for a different reason than I suspected. She was upset that I had not gone ahead and completed the procedure. In fact, she stated that she did not care that I had given her a medication that could have harmed her child. At first, I was quite alarmed by her attitude, but what she then told me helped explain her situation better. She told me that she was scheduled to have an abortion the following week. She returned a few months later (no longer pregnant) and I completed her surgery.

One moment, I was very concerned for the child that I inadvertently may have harmed; in the next moment, that concern was simply irrelevant. The child, in all likelihood, was going to be killed intentionally by another physician the following week. What struck me was that we were talking about the same human being. The only change that occurred from one moment to another was the knowledge that this child was unwanted by her mother.

This situation presented a challenging ethical dilemma. Virtually all medical professionals who treat pregnant women acknowledge that there are two human beings of concern in these situations. For example, when they prescribe a medication, they realize that the drug affects both mother and child. Every drug handbook lists a medication’s FDA pregnancy category, which gives information about the potential harm to a mother’s fetus. A physician frequently needs to balance the best treatment for the mother with the safety of her child in mind. This intuitively is the most ethical course of action. There is an argument, however, that has been presented, and recently defended, in support of abortion rights that disputes this view. I term this the argument from bodily autonomy.


Most arguments concerning the abortion issue hinge on the moral status or standing of the fetus with regard to the rights he or she possesses and the obligations others directly owe him or her. These arguments typically fall along the following two lines. Pro‐life advocates argue that all human beings, including those in the fetal stage of development, have intrinsic value that confers to them the right not to be unjustifiably killed. Pro‐abortion choice advocates claim that the human fetus lacks some accidental quality (usually termed “personhood”) that affords it any rights or significant moral status.

The bodily autonomy argument, contrary to moral status arguments, does not focus on the “personhood” of the fetus. At least for the sake of argument, it concedes that the fetus is a human person with some degree of moral status. The bodily autonomy proponent argues that no human being, regardless of moral status, has the right to use the body of another human being against his or her will. The human fetus, then, does not have the right to use the body of his or her mother for sustenance or survival against her will. The mother who wishes to support her child by sustaining the pregnancy is performing a virtuous act, but one that she is not obliged to perform.

Bodily autonomy proponents thus view a pregnant mother who allows her child the use of her body as a “Good Samaritan,” particularly because performing such an act places a burden on her own body. A mother who seeks an abortion is doing so merely to retain autonomy over what occurs in her own body, and in this view is therefore justified. To accomplish this, the child, unfortunately, must be forcibly removed, thus resulting in his or her death.

This argument is well illustrated by philosopher Judith Jarvis Thomson in her famous violinist analogy. Thomson asks us to imagine a scenario in which a woman is involuntarily attached or connected to a “famous violinist” for nine months in order to save him from a fatal disease.1 No one would argue that the violinist is not a valuable human being with a right to life, but it seems intuitive to most that the woman is not under a moral obligation to use her body to support him for those nine months. Proponents of the bodily autonomy argument believe that just as that woman is under no moral obligation to use her body to support the violinist, she is under no obligation to use her body to support a child she does not want.

If the violinist analogy holds, the pro‐abortion choice advocate can concede what pro‐life advocates have been trying to prove, and abortion still would be morally permissible. Pro‐life apologist Greg Koukl declared when he first heard this argument, “It shook me up so much I almost had to pull over.”2 Thomson’s analogy, as it originally was offered, was criticized roundly. Other scholars, however, recently have refined and defended Thomson’s idea that a mother’s right to bodily autonomy allows her to kill her offspring in order to remove the unwanted person and keep him or her from using her body against her will.

Legal scholar Eileen McDonagh defends Thomson’s view based on the legal concept of consent.3 According to her view, a mother who does not consent to pregnancy has no obligation to continue to provide support for her offspring while it is using her body. The human person developing inside her is an unwanted threat to her, and it is permissible to defend herself against this threat by using deadly force.

McDonagh uses a variety of polarizing terms to explain the relationship between mother and fetal offspring. The fetus “intrude[s] massively on the body of another,”4 “imposes wrongful pregnancy,”5 and makes a woman “a captive samaritan by taking her body and liberty against her will to serve its own needs” (emphasis in original).6 She describes a normal pregnancy in an interesting way when she states what “the fetus does to a woman when it coerces her to be pregnant: namely, the fetus seriously injures her, even in a medically normal pregnancy, by forcing pregnancy on her against her will” (emphases added).7 Following in her footsteps, Philosopher Margaret Olivia Little describes a nonconsensual pregnancy as “the evil of unwanted occupation.”8

McDonagh argues that if a fetus is a rights‐bearing individual, it strengthens her argument that abortion should be legal. She states, “The pro‐life premise that the fetus is a person strengthens rather than diminishes a women’s right to an abortion and also to abortion funding” (emphasis in original).9 In other words, if the unborn is a human person with intrinsic rights, as pro‐lifers argue, then the state not only must allow abortions, but must also use public funds to pay for them.

Philosopher David Boonin has also made a significant contribution to this argument. Prominent pro‐life philosopher Francis Beckwith called Boonin’s book A Defense of Abortion “arguably the most important monograph on abortion to be published in the last twenty years.”10 Boonin defends the bodily autonomy argument (which he terms the Good Samaritan argument) by arguing that although the mother is responsible for the creation of her offspring, she is not responsible for the neediness of her offspring. In other words, he believes that since a mother bears no responsibility for the fact that she created a human person who is dependent on her for his or her life, she has no moral obligation to continue her support. He states, “The violinist’s right to life does not include or entail the right to be provided with the use or the continued use of whatever is needed in order for him to go on living.”11

Do mothers have the right to intentionally kill their offspring even though they are human beings with moral status and the right to life? I believe that the violinist analogy and the bodily rights argument that it illustrates fail for a number of reasons, which I will discuss in the following sections. I also believe that we can demonstrate that a mother’s right to control her own body does not override her obligation to sustain her unborn child’s body.


The bodily rights argument is compelling if and only if we grant that a woman’s right to control her own body is so sacrosanct that carrying another human being inside of her has no bearing on that right. In other words, for this view to prevail, we must concede that because of the autonomy she has over her body, a pregnant mother has the absolute right to do whatever she wants with it in order to retain that autonomy, regardless of what it does to the child she is carrying. This includes killing the child in the case of elective abortion.

It is easy to demonstrate that the position described in the last paragraph is clearly false. Isotretinoin (Accutane) is a drug that is used to treat acne but that causes severe fetal injury and birth defects.12 The FDA restrictions for isotretinoin are so tight that before the medication can be dispensed, a woman of childbearing age must pledge to use two forms of contraception13 if she is sexually active. Prior to filling the prescription, she also must verify the types of contraception she is on via the Internet or telephone14 and take two pregnancy tests (one administered by her doctor and one by a certified laboratory), both with negative results. She must use the most accurate tests available (never home pregnancy tests) to confirm that she is not pregnant.15 We accept these as reasonable restrictions on a woman’s right to bodily autonomy in order to optimize the safety of her child. How, then, would we react to a pregnant patient who wishes to continue isotretinoin (Accutane) therapy for her acne despite her awareness that it causes severe fetal injury and birth defects?

Similarly, what about a pregnant mother who insists on taking thalidomide to treat her symptoms during the first trimester of pregnancy, despite her awareness of the harm it would do to her child? Thalidomide is a drug that was given to treat nausea and insomnia in pregnant women in the late 1950s and early ‘60s. It was never officially available in the United States, but it was taken by thousands of women in Canada and in countries in Europe and South America.16 Soon after thalidomide was available, physicians began to notice an increase in severe birth defects, ranging from malformations of the ears to absence of the arms to phocomelia (hands [or sometimes feet] attached to abbreviated arms [or legs]).17 Researchers have yet to discover a medication that they deem safe to treat nausea and insomnia for pregnant women that is as effective as thalidomide.18

It is likely that no one reacted negatively to the women who took this medication 45 years ago, since they had no idea that their children would be harmed. How would we react today, however, to a pregnant mother who acquired thalidomide even after her physician refused to prescribe it, and took it anyway, which resulted in her child being born without arms? Would we applaud her actions based on her right to bodily autonomy? According to the bodily autonomy argument, the fetus, after all, is an uninvited guest who has no right to use her body, let alone a right to a healthy or pathogen‐free environment.

If the right of bodily autonomy is absolute, as it needs to be to defend the ultimate act of intentionally killing a human person, how could we fault the mother in this case? Which is worse: causing harm to a child or intentionally killing that same child? If a mother can kill a child because it is intruding on her bodily autonomy, then it is unreasonable to disallow her to harm the same child using the same reasoning.

The symptoms that thalidomide was meant to treat are a direct result of pregnancy. In fact, nausea and insomnia are symptoms that proponents of the bodily rights argument use to justify a woman’s decision to procure an abortion. Boonin lists “nausea” and “difficulty sleeping” in a list labeled “Physical Costs” in his response to the “different burdens” objection.19 McDonagh lists nausea among the symptoms that she describes as a “serious injury” to the mother.20 If it is permissible, however, for a mother to kill her unborn child in order to stop experiencing these symptoms, it ought to be permissible for her to take a medication such as thalidomide that would cause sub‐lethal harm to her child in order to treat her symptoms, since, although the fetus would be harmed, he or she would not be harmed as much as in elective abortion.

One may respond that a mother who agrees to allow a pregnancy to continue has an obligation to make the environment of the fetus as safe as possible. This is consistent with Boonin’s brief discussion of a parent as guardian.21 Boonin argues that since a mother has elected to allow the use of her body by the child, she has an obligation as its guardian to not harm her child.

Let us examine this argument by assuming that the woman in Thomson’s analogy agrees to let the violinist use her body (a great kindness, according to Thomson). Two months into the treatment, the woman suffers horrific nausea that can be treated with a certain medication. Unfortunately, this medication carries the risk of harming the violinist, however, by making his hands unusable. Would it be ethical for the woman to take the medication? Does it make a moral difference that she volunteered to be the violinist’s life support system?

It seems there would be three options for the woman. She can suffer through the nausea, she can take the medication and possibly harm the violinist, or she can choose to detach or unplug the violinist, resulting in his death. According to bodily autonomy proponents, she has an absolute right to bodily autonomy; therefore she has no obligation to suffer through the vomiting. Of the remaining two options, then, who (other than bodily autonomy proponents) would state that it would be better for her to kill the violinist than to take a course of action that could cause possible harm to the violinist? Death, in fact, is the ultimate harm. If the violinist could voice his opinion to the woman, he would surely choose the option that would preserve his life.


The bodily autonomy proponent assumes that prenatal parental responsibilities are largely voluntary. Proponents argue that because the mother is the only one who can provide a safe environment for the child, it is morally permissible for her to deny the use of her body even if such denial results in her child’s death. Let me offer a thought experiment to challenge this argument. Suppose that a woman who faces an unplanned pregnancy decides to gift her child for adoption to another couple. In other words, she agrees to allow the child use of her body during the period of gestation but explicitly states that she is unwilling to care for the child after the birth event.

This mother takes a vacation in a cabin in the mountains when a freak snowstorm strikes and closes down all the roads in and out of the area for at least two weeks. The cabin has adequate food and water stores for the mother, but there is no baby formula, and there are no baby bottles or supplements available for a newborn child. As the storm strikes, the mother goes into labor and delivers a healthy baby girl.

The only way the newborn can survive is to feed on the milk that her mother’s breasts naturally provide. There is no formula to feed her, and no means to give the child hydration except for breastfeeding. Does the mother have any moral obligation to use her body (against her stated desire) to feed this child?22 Per Boonin, although the mother is responsible for the existence of the child, she is not responsible for the child’s neediness or the circumstance that has placed that child in need,23 despite the fact that the mother can easily fulfill that need in a natural, healthy way. According to Boonin, therefore, the mother appears to have no obligation to share her body with her own child, even if the baby girl dies from dehydration.

Suppose the mother also brought a young kitten with her to the cabin. The kitten would be in the same position as the baby girl. What if, instead of allowing her own child to drink her milk, the mother elects instead to give it to her young kitten? After all, she wants the kitten, and she has already stated that she did not wish to care for the child after the birth. She reminds herself of the slogan “My Body, My Choice” as she watches her child die.24

If the authorities find her child dead from dehydration two weeks later, how would we judge her actions? What if we found the child dead, but the kitten alive, even well? Would we consider her actions powerful assertions of her right to autonomy, or see them as morally unconscionable acts of selfishness? It would be very difficult for the mother to justify allowing her own child to die based on her desire to keep her body to herself. Further, granting that the mother does have an obligation to feed her child in this scenario would indicate a weakness of her bodily autonomy rights in other situations. The right to bodily autonomy is not strong enough to override the moral obligation we have to our children.


Thomson’s analogy, in all of its forms, presents someone in a seriously diseased state. Her violinist develops a kidney ailment that threatens his life if not for the aid of another. This is the reason why he needed to be “hooked up” to the unsuspecting patient. Virtually all of Boonin’s analogies that directly address the bodily autonomy argument involve a serious pathology of some sort. Are these situations truly analogous to most pregnancies?

The difference between how we view physiologically healthy states and physiologically diseased ones is profound. For example, a mother who intravenously injects medications that cause profound effects such as nausea and vomiting into her healthy child is committing an unspeakably immoral act. The same mother performing the same action on her child who is suffering from leukemia is showing courageous virtue. The difference between these two cases is the presence of a diseased state, and that difference is essential.

The vast majority of pregnancies involve physiologically healthy situations. The woman’s body is functioning as designed. In fact, one may say that every unwanted pregnancy in some way occurs because a woman’s reproductive system worked too well. That is because physiological health functions independent of one’s desires. A person’s situation may not coincide with his or her wishes, but it still can be one of health. For example, someone who injects himself with narcotics for its euphoric effects may desire that the drug stay in his system as long as possible, yet his liver and kidneys remove the drug from his body. No one would claim that the person’s liver and kidneys are unhealthy for functioning independently of his desires.

John Wilcox has challenged the violinist analogy on the basis that pregnancies are natural.25 Not only are pregnancies natural, they usually are healthy. We may not have an absolute obligation to use our bodies to support another human being who is in a pathological situation, but this does not compel us to deny a mother’s obligation to her offspring in an otherwise healthy situation. Pregnancies are usually completely healthy for both mother and child, so analogies that confuse pregnancy with disease states are not appropriate.


Given that bodily autonomy argument proponents concede at least for the sake of argument that the fetus is a rights‐bearing, fully human individual, it is easy to demonstrate some odd consequences if we take the argument to its logical conclusion. For example, although we frequently speak of a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy, all pregnancies “terminate” naturally at some point in time. In some sense, imposing our will via voluntary abortion changes the natural end to pregnancy. In other words, abortion dictates that the pregnancy will end when the woman desires it to.

Suppose, however, that the ending of pregnancy is a completely voluntary process and that births occur only via a voluntary action of the woman. If the woman does not agree to have the birth, the child continues to develop all of its normal capacities (awareness, etc.) but stays small in stature. The only way for the child to be delivered, detached, or “unplugged” from the woman’s body is through the woman’s body (thus violating her bodily autonomy) in a painful process similar to childbirth.

What if the mother does not give consent in this scenario? The child essentially, then, would continue to be bound by his or her mother for as long as the mother desires, even to his or her natural death.

If the mother’s right to bodily autonomy is absolute to the point that she can intentionally kill the developing child inside her, what moral principle would be available to compel this mother to consent to the birth of her child? It seems that if bodily autonomy proponents can use bodily autonomy to justify killing a child, even a child who is a full human being with a right to life, they would also use it to deny a child his or her liberty in this situation. If bodily autonomy proponents carry their view to its logical conclusion, then the child would always be a slave bound to his or her mother.


It is basic moral intuition, as well as a bedrock foundation of society, that parents have certain moral obligations to their children, especially when those children are vulnerable. Stories of parental abuse and neglect, as well as reports of intentional killing of children at the hands of a parent, bring out some of the deepest moral disgust imaginable.

The proponents of the bodily rights argument for abortion have a gargantuan task in overcoming these deep moral intuitions. This is the reason they use such odd and distorted analogies. They compare innocent human beings who are at their most vulnerable to rapists who impose their will and force pregnancy on unsuspecting women. They compare the relationship of mothers and children together in one of the most natural and healthy human states with that of those who are in some of the most horrific pathological disease states.

I respect the work of these thinkers; I can’t help but conclude, however, that the extent that they need to stretch reality to justify their support of abortion rights indicates a clear weakness in their position. In the end, their arguments, though thoughtful, fail to overturn the truth that it is wrong to intentionally kill innocent human offspring.

Richard Poupard is a board-certified oral and maxillofacial sugeon in private practice in Midland, Michigan. He is a speaker for Life Training Institute (LTI) and a frequent contributor to the LTI blog.


  1. Judith Jarvis Thomson, “A Defense of Abortion.” Reprinted in The Abortion Controversy: A Reader, eds. Louis Pojman and Francis Beckwith (Boston: Jones and Bartlett, 1994), 113‐27.
  2. Greg Koukl, “Unstringing the Violinist,” Stand to Reason, http://www.str.org/site/ News2?page=NewsArticle&id=5689.
  3. Eileen McDonagh, Breaking the Abortion Deadlock: From Choice to Consent (Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1996).
  4. , 9.
  5. , 10.
  6. , 11.
  7. , 89.
  8. Margaret Olivia Little, “Abortion, Intimacy, and the Duty to Gestate,” Ethical Theory and Moral Practice 2 (1999): 295–312.
  9. McDonagh, 13.
  10. Francis Beckwith, “Defending Abortion Philosophically: A Review of David Boonin’s A Defense of Abortion,” Journal of Medicine and Philosophy 31:2 (2006), 200.
  11. David Boonin, A Defense of Abortion (Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 137.
  12. S. Food and Drug Administration, “Accutane (isotretinoin) Questions and Answers,” Department of Health and Human Services, FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, http://www.fda.gov/cder/drug/infopage/accutane/accutane_QA20050812.htm.
  13. , under “What must a patient do to get isotretinoin under iPLEDGE?” http://www.fda.gov/cder/drug/infopage/accutane/accutane_QA20050812.htm#patient.
  14. , under “How should female patients who can become pregnant who do not have access to the internet or a telephone access the iPLEDGE program monthly?” http://www.fda.gov/cder/drug/infopage/accutane/accutane_QA20050812.htm#pregnant. See also “The iPledge Patient Information Introductory Brochure,” The iPledge Program, https://www.ipledgeprogram.com/Documents/10617_Intro%20Brochure_Mv5.pdf.
  15. S. Food and Drug Administration, “Accutane (isotretinoin) Questions and Answers,” Department of Health and Human Services, FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, under “Can pregnancy testing be done using a home pregnancy test?” http://www.fda.gov/cder/drug/infopage/accutane/accutane_QA20050812.htm#testing. (Although beyond the scope of this article, this fact challenges the idea that a woman’s reproductive health decisions are only between her physician and herself.)
  16. Linda Bren, “Francis Oldham Kelsey: FDA Medical Reviewer Leaves Her Mark on History,” FDA Consumer Magazine (March– April 2001), available at http://www.fda.gov/ FDAC/features/2001/201_kelsey.html.
  17. Widukind Lenz, “The History of Thalidomide,” Extract from a Lecture Given at the 1992 UNITH (Union Nationale pour l’Insertion du Travailleur Handicapé) Congress, Thalidomide Victims Association of Canada, available at http://www.thalidomide.ca/ en/information/history_of_thalidomide.html.
  18. Thalidomide presently, however, is given to women who are not pregnant and is used to treat conditions such as multiple myeloma and erythema nodosum leprosum.
  19. Boonin, 239.
  20. McDonagh, 84–91.
  21. Boonin, 232–33.
  22. This is a modification of an example originally offered by Scott Klusendorf in “The Great Abortion Debate: Scott Klusendorf Vs. Amber Dolman and Rob Silver,” audiotape available at Stand to Reason (www.str.org).
  23. Boonin, 168–88.
  24. I am indebted to Steve Wagner for many of the ideas presented in this paragraph gleaned in a personal communication with him.
  25. John Wilcox, “Nature as Demonic in Thomson’s Defense of Abortion,” The New Scholasticism 63 (Autumn 1989), 463‐84.
Apologetics, Journal Topics

What The Walking Dead Can Teach Pro-Lifers

The Walking DeadThe season finale of The Walking Dead raised an important question for Christians: Are humans nothing more than their physical brains? Are all of my thoughts predetermined by synapse firings in the brain? If so, several things follow. First, personal identity through time and change is impossible. When my physical body changes, my identity changes—meaning I can’t be held responsible from past crimes. Second, rational freedom is a myth. After all, if our thoughts are predetermined, we are not free to think any differently than we do. Indeed, one set of synapse firings is no more rational than the next. Third, rationality itself vanishes. If our minds are the result of blind and irrational forces of nature, why trust them to give us the truth about the world? In a strictly physical universe, survival rather than truth is primary. Fourth, human equality suffers. If human value is reduced to brain function, those with more of it are more human and valuable than those with less. Christian theism offers a more plausible explanation for human nature that can account for personal identity, rational freedom, and human equality. Humans are not mere physical machines, but a dynamic union of body and soul.

Scott Klusendorf is president of Life Training Institute and holds an M.A. in Christian apologetics from Biola University. His feature article, “What The Walking Dead Can Teach Pro-Lifers” on which this post is based appears in the Volume 34, No. 4 issue of the Christian Research Journal (a 6-issue subscription is $39.50). To read the full article, please subscribe or renew your subscription or give a gift subscription.

Scott Klusendorf will be joining Hank Hanegraaff on the Bible Answer Man broadcast on Aug. 16, 2011. Tune in at 6PM ET at our website, www.equip.org!

Apologetics, In the News

Modern Medical Technologies, Abortion, and the Gendercide of Baby Girls

The Wall Street Journal bookshelf recently posted a review entitled “The War Against Girls,” wherein Jonathan V. Last offers chilling facts about the unequal ratio of aborted female babies over males worldwide, which is the general thesis of Unnatural Selection: Choosing Boys Over Girls, and the Consequences of a World Full of Men (New York: Public Affairs, 2011) by Mara Hvistendahl. Whereas natural ratios in birth are 105 boys to 100 girls, with 104 to 106 being in the normal range, Hvistendahl observes certain countries fall out of the natural window. China, for example, has a ratio of 112 boys to 100 girls with some towns over the 150 mark; Azerbaijan is at 115, Georgia at 118, and Armenia at 120. Last notes, “Since the late 1970s, 163 million female babies have been aborted by parents seeking sons.”

Hvistendahl explains that the increased availability of new medical technologies (e.g. amniocentesis, MRI scanners, ultrasounds, etc.) has made it much easier for a person to know the sex of their child, and decide to abort on the basis of a preferred sex. Surprisingly, the decision to abort baby girls is made by women, either mothers or sometimes mothers-in-law. Socio-cultural-economic reasons also play into the decision—it is cheaper to pay for a sex test than a dowry. The unequal and unnatural ratio of more males to females, according to Hvistendahl, potentially leads to other social ills, such as increased crime, inflated dowry price, and even greater demands in the mail-order bride industry. Nevertheless, Hvistendahl remains pro-abortion, and fears unless the unnatural selection of female abortions is addressed the “worst nightmare” of feminism could come about—a ban on abortions on the basis of gendercide.

Why should Hvistendah see the ban on abortions the “worst nightmare”? If the ratios of aborted fetuses were more identical to what occurs naturally would that justify killing girls and boys inside the womb? Is not the pro-choice rhetoric resounding so vividly in the United States that abortion liberates women with full body autonomy the real farce? Is this really not a misunderstanding true human dignity? In this instance, medical technology and abortion become the means for people with a skewed sense of their own human dignity—namely the idea that it is more valuable to have a boy than a girl in this world—to essentially carryout the unnatural gendercide of baby girls. The real question is where can people rediscover their own human dignity? Is not the biblical teaching on the imago Dei (the image of God in humanity spoken of in Genesis 1:27) the foundation to the sanctity of human life, the equality of the sexes, and key to our understanding of human dignity?

— Warren Nozaki, Research

For further study, please access the following:

Annihilating Abortion Arguments

Suffer the Violinist: Why the Pro-Abortion Argument from Bodily Autonomy Fails

The Shifting Focus in the Abortion Debate: Does the Humanity of the Unborn Matter Anymore?

Answering the Arguments for Abortion Rights (Part 1)

Answering the Arguments for Abortion Rights (Part 2)

Answering the Arguments for Abortion Rights (Part 3)

Answering the Arguments for Abortion Rights (Part 4)

Also recommended is the following bookstore package:

Making Abortion Unthinkable: The Art of Pro-life Persuasion Audio CD Package