Ethical Certainties: Why Pro-Life Supporters Cannot Morally Abandon Their Cause (Revisited)

By Darren Smith, Weekend Contributor


The issue of abortion is at the very least highly contentious. Decades of heated arguments are not likely to end this discussion soon even in light of various statutory and common law mandates laying out a legal framework for which it is permitted or denied. The matter is a perennial source of political maneuvering, and litmus tests that can in some areas make or break the careers of politicians. This article will not discuss the ethical or legal aspects of abortion but rather the perspective and moral position of those who support pro-life, and why they cannot abandon their cause. It is an exercise in empathy that is applicable to other subjects in ethical studies.

A common tenet of the pro-life movement is that life begins at conception or at some embryonic or cellular evolvement during pregnancy. By extension, supporters consider this to be a person and that the destruction thereof is tantamount to killing in the same light as perhaps a pro-choice advocate would react to the infanticide of a newborn baby.

In somewhat of a contrast to this, the pro-choice movement generally assigns greater value to the freedom of the mother to choose her reproductive planning without interference from government or anti-abortion advocates. Certainly the Supreme Court declared that the government cannot establish a compelling state interest in a non-viable fetus. The pro-choice movement differs in that the early stage of fetal development, the life form is considered a “person”. As time draws closer to the point of birth this movement, and in many respects the courts, ascribe personhood to the fetus. As such the two sides do in-fact become better aligned in their respective beliefs.

As an aside, Pro-choice advocates do not generally consider conception to be the beginning of life, while most pro-life supporters do. Scientifically, or at least philosophically, neither are completely correct. In actuality life never ended and was therefore created. Prior to conception both sperm and egg are living as evidenced by motility and the ability to effect changes of events–as is the case with all forms of known life. They have cellular activity. The question can however be more correctly attributed as to when “human life” begins.

As stated previously, all reasonable persons, even if aligned in the abortion controversy, will agree that the killing of an infant is morally repugnant. But since Pro-Life supporters consider the unborn to be natural persons even at what others might consider just clusters of cells, without thought or attribution to persons, by their believes and values they cannot consent to the destruction of a fetus any more than a pro-life advocate can give deference to the killing of a child or baby.

For these reasons Pro-Life supporters cannot morally or ethically abandon their cause. Because in doing so they abandon striving for the protection of children or unborn persons. For unaligned, third parties, or even in some respects the pro-choice movement, each cannot ethically (or practically) expect the pro-lifers to suddenly switch to allowing the killing of those they consider to be humans/persons because it is asking another adult to accept murder.

It is for this basic tenet, that the pro-choice supporter then generates their higher level arguments to their cause, examples of such include: advocacy; protests; politics; organization; and religious morality; among others. This is of the same moral standard of supporting life and equality for the born, which should be a moral standard of all humanity.

Numerous politicians exist who claim to be pro-life who make exceptions to a ban on abortions based upon the conditions of rape or incest. From the point of view of a fully invested pro-life advocate this is unethical and immoral. Why? In the pro-choice analogue it is akin to saying that babies born as the result of rape or incest are un-persons who might be legally subjected to life sanctions, namely death, due to their status of which they are blameless. The pro-life movement in the true sense considers life, as a whole, to be sacred regardless of class or any other type of label or disadvantage. That is a moral position for which they also cannot ethically abandon, again any more than a pro-life person would for the newborn.

There is much fear and affront fielded by advocates of pro-choice applicable to the pro-life movement. But for these individuals and those granting less importance to the matter it truly becomes paramount to provide a level of empathy as to what the pro-life frame of mind believes and holds dear. It does not mean that pro-choice supporters must change their position, but it is unfair to label their opponents as immoral or threatening, for the pro-life position cannot abandon their cause ethically.

Because of pro-life’s position, they MUST continue their advocacy just as others MUST continue to advocate child welfare and life. If they begin deference or making conditions for supporting the personhood of the unborn, they are lowering the moral bar and creating a class of person who is not subject to protection. Those of us who support the notion of pro-choice have to recognize these moral convictions of pro-life supporters if we are to understand where they are coming from, and to be more successful in living with each other as rational and moral beings.

Like it or not, the pro-life movement has its moral and ethical mandate. It is also equally not ethical to demand they change their beliefs to comport to pro-choice’s either. This is something pro-life cannot do.

By Darren Smith

The views expressed in this posting are the author’s alone and not those of the blog, the host, or other weekend bloggers. As an open forum, weekend bloggers post independently without pre-approval or review. Content and any displays or art are solely their decision and responsibility.