How prepared are you to answer pro-choice objections against the pro-life case?

I recently finished reading The Case for Life by Scott Klusendorf (Crossway, 2009), which presents a compelling case for the personhood of human beings from the moment of fertilization. It also made me realize just how underequipped I was to respond to so many common pro-choice objections. What I’ve done here is gather the objections presented in the book (plus a couple others that I sometimes hear), which I think all pro-life advocates should be ready to answer. How well do you do responding to these?

  • Objections related to the mother’s situation
    • “What if the mother is single or has no family support?”
    • “What if the mother is too poor or too young to care for a child?”
    • “What if having a child will prevent the mother from realizing her goals and dreams?”
    • “What if it’s a case of rape or incest?”
    • “What if it’s an abusive family?”
  • Objections based on the status of the fetus
    • “It’s just a clump of cells.”
    • “Personhood means being capable of self-awareness, of feelings, of interacting with their environment, etc. Since a fetus isn’t capable of these things, why should it have the rights of a person?”
    • “A fetus isn’t entitled to human rights until there’s a heartbeat, or brain activity, or viability, etc.”
    • “An embryo can split into twins up to fourteen days after conception. So what reason is there to treat an early embryo as a human individual?”
    • “What if the fetus is detected to have serious defects? Wouldn’t it be better to terminate the pregnancy than make it endure a life of suffering?”
    • “Since the fetus is part of the woman’s body, shouldn’t it be the woman’s choice?”
    • “Miscarriages happen naturally all the time—in fact, as many as two thirds of all fertilized embryos miscarry. So why would abortion be such a big deal?”
    • “Suppose a research lab caught on fire and was burning down, and you have to choose between saving a vial of frozen embryos and saving a toddler. Which one would you pick? If you choose the toddler, doesn’t that prove that the toddler’s life has more value?”
    • “If you can justify pulling the plug on a brain-dead adult, can’t you also justify taking the life of a fetus that doesn’t yet even have a brain?”
    • “Since there is so much disagreement on the status of a fetus, shouldn’t we leave it up to individuals to decide that question for themselves?”
  • Objections based on public policy
    • “You can’t legislate based on religious beliefs, and opposition to abortion is a religious belief.”
    • “It will be impossible to overturn Roe v. Wade. Shouldn’t we focus our political efforts elsewhere?”
    • “Laws don’t change people’s hearts, so shouldn’t we focus on persuading people rather than imposing our views on them by legal force?”
    • “Isn’t it inconsistent to pursue policies that only protect the life of a child before it’s born, while ignoring policies that ensure the welfare of the child after it’s born?”
    • “Shouldn’t we focus instead on policies that lift women out of poverty and make birth control more accessible, in order to reduce the demand for abortion?”
    • “Isn’t it inconsistent to support anti-abortion policies and also support the death penalty?”
    • “Embryonic research could save countless lives and help treat countless diseases.”
    • “I personally oppose abortion, but I don’t think it should be illegal.”
    • “Laws can’t stop all abortions.”
    • “If abortion is outlawed, women will just get them anyway, and back-alley abortions will endanger their lives.”
    • “What if I have to choose between voting for a pro-life candidate whose other policy positions are mostly unjust, and voting for a pro-choice candidate whose other policy positions are mostly just? Isn’t it wrong to be a ‘one-issue voter’?”
  • Objections based on Scripture
    • “The Bible nowhere condemns abortion. So why should Christians condemn it?”
    • “Exodus 21:22-25 imposes a different penalty for causing a woman to miscarry (pay a fine) than for harming an adult (life for life, eye for eye). Doesn’t that prove that a fetus has less value?”
  • Objections based on bodily autonomy
    • “The fetus is the equivalent of a parasite, so a woman has a right to do what she wants with her own body.”
    • The “violinist” objection by Judith Jarvis Thomson: “You wake up in the morning and find yourself back to back in bed with a famous unconscious violinist. He has been found to have a fatal kidney ailment, and the Society of Music Lovers has canvassed all available medical records and found that you alone have the right blood type to help. They have therefore kidnapped you, and last night the violinist’s circulatory system was plugged into yours, so that your kidneys can be used to extract poisons from his blood as well as your own. The director of the hospital now tells you, ‘Look, we’re sorry the Society of Music Lovers did this to you—we would never have permitted it if we had known. But still, they did it, and the violinist now is plugged into you. To unplug you would be to kill him. But never mind, it’s only for nine months. By then, he will have recovered from his ailment, and can safely be unplugged from you.’ Is it morally incumbent on you to accede to this situation? No doubt it would be nice of you if you did, a great kindness. But do you have to accede to it? What if it were not nine months, but nine years? Or still longer? What if the director of the hospital says, ‘Tough luck, I agree, but you’ve now got to stay in bed, with the violinist plugged into you, for the rest of your life. Because, remember this. All persons have a right to life, and violinists are persons. Granted you have a right to decide what happens in and to your body, but a person’s right to life outweighs your right to decide what happens in and to your body So you cannot ever be unplugged from him.’ I imagine that you would regard this as outrageous.”

About Kyle Dillon

A teaching elder in the Presbyterian Church in America (PCA), assistant pastor of theological instruction at Riveroaks Reformed Presbyterian Church, and theology/languages teacher at Westminster Academy in Memphis, Tennessee.

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