Frequently Asked Questions

by Dr. Norman L. Geisler

Abortion is the number-one killer in the United States. Five thousand die each year from cigarettes, and twenty-five thousand from drunk drivers, but in just the first ten years of legalizing abortion, the country lost fourteen million lives. All the wars in the entire history of our country have killed a total of just under 1.5 million. Yet in a single year we kill that many babies by abortion.

1. "No one knows when human life begins."

Answer: If no one knows when life begins, it might begin at conception. If it does begin at that point, then abortion is murder. Can we justify killing what might be a human being? Should we shoot at a moving object in the woods if we are not sure whether or not it is human? Then neither should we kill babies if we are not sure they are not human.

Actually, we do know when human life begins. It begins at conception. A sperm, with just its 23 chromosomes, is not a human being; nor is an ovum, with its 23 chromosomes. But when they unite into one entity with 46 chromosomes, the result is a human being. This is a medical fact. Genetically, the fertilized ovum is a human being, with its own lifelong, characteristic code and identity. From this point on, it is simply a matter of its growth, not of its kind.

By the seventh day of its life, it is planted in the uterus, its home for the next nine months. By day 17, the blood cells and the heart are formed. By day 24, there is a heartbeat. By day 30, it has grown 10,000 times its original size and has millions of cells. By six weeks, its nervous system is controlling its own body. It now looks distinctly human. By day 45, it has its own brain waves, which it will keep for life. By seven weeks, it has all the internal organs of an adult (though it weighs only one-thirtieth of an ounce and is less than one inch long.) By eight weeks, all external organs are formed. By nine to ten weeks, it can drink and breathe amniotic fluid. From here on, it is just a matter of growth. Before it is born, it can suck its thumb, cry (if it had air), and recognize its mother's voice and heartbeat. In short, it is a tiny, growing human being.

2. "The mother has the right to control her own body."

Answer: First of all, a baby is not part of its mother's body. It is an individual human being, with its own separate body. To be sure, the mother is "feeding" the inborn baby, but does a mother have the right to stop feeding her baby after it is born? This would be murder by starvation, and to cut off the source of life for a preborn baby is also a morally culpable act.

Second, even if the unborn baby were part of its mother's body, it would not be true that she has a right to do just anything she wants to her own body. For example, she does not have a moral right to mutilate her own body by cutting off a hand or a foot. Nor does she have a right to kill her own body (commit suicide).

Seldom do abortionists properly complete the sentence that they so glibly proclaim. "A woman has the right over her own body. . . " A right to do what? A right to murder? This is nonsense. There is no moral right to do a moral wrong. But if the unborn baby is a human being, then the so-called right of the mother turns out to be a "right" to do a wrong: to murder. Of course, it is absurd to say that a mother (or anyone) has a right to commit murder.

3. "The unborn baby is not really human until it is born."

Answer: First of all, if it is not human before it is born, then what is it? It is not a mineral or a vegetable. It is not an animal such as a dog or a monkey. In fact, it is not an animal at all; it is a human being. Cows give birth to cows; horses give birth to horses. No medical person has any difficulty identifying an unborn dog as a dog, or an unborn pig as a pig. Why should there be any question about an unborn human?

Does this statement mean they are human only when they change their location and move outside the womb? Since when does where one lives determine one's humanity? The difference between babies that are born and those that are unborn is not their essential nature; it is simply a matter of size and location. Accidental or circumstantial characteristics such as size or place cannot determine whether or not a being is human.

4. "Unborn babies are not conscious beings."

Answer: This objection assumes that one must have consciousness in order to be human. But if consciousness determines humanness, then sleeping adults are not human. And if consciousness is the test for humanness, then whenever someone lapses into a coma, they instantly lose their humanity. The logical conclusion from this is that it would never be murder to kill an unconscious person. And so all a killer need to do to escape murder charges would be just to knock out their victim before shooting them!

Furthermore, babies in the womb are conscious. By four to six weeks after conception, they have their own brain waves, which they will keep for life. The absence of a brain wave is considered a sign of death; why, then, is the presence of a brainwave not considered a sign of life? And as early as three months after conception, babies react to stimuli. They can consciously sense pressure and pain.

Finally, it is not consciousness as such that distinguishes a human being from an animal, but rather self-consciousness. For higher animals are conscious too. However, self-consciousness does not occur until a child is about 18 months old. So by abortionist's logic, the killing of anyone under the age on 18 months could be considered justifiable "abortion." (While this view is not yet widely accepted, some noted scientists are already pushing for babies not to be given legal status as human beings until they are several days old. By then, they argue, all the tests for wholeness will have been completed, and it can be determined whether or not this particular baby should be allowed to live.)

5. "Every child has a right to a meaningful life."

Answer: First of all, what are the criteria for a meaningful life, and who decides whether or not a life is meaningful? This kind of reasoning has already gone so far that some courts have convicted parents for giving birth to children that they knew ahead of time, from prenatal tests, would be deformed!

It should be kept in mind that this same logic leads to the murdering of larger deformed human beings who live elsewhere (that is, outside the womb.) The logic of abortionists leads inevitably to infanticide and euthanasia. Even some pro-abortionists (Joseph Felcher, for example) admit that the two issues are logically tied together. In fact, there would be greater logical justification for taking the life of someone already known to be deformed than one which prenatal tests have simply indicated might be.

6. "It is better to have an aborted child than to have an abused one."

Answer: In the first place, this assumes that non-abortion of unwanted babies leads to abuse. Statistics show just the opposite. Child abuse cases have actually increased as the number of abortions has gone up. Apparently, the disregard for human life reflected in the acceptance of abortion is extended from the prebirth to the postbirth attitude toward offspring.

Second, the objection assumes wrongly that abortion is not in and of itself a real abuse. Actually, abortion is one of the worst abuses that can possible be inflicted on a human being. The abortion process itself is horribly abusive. One common process tears the tissue of the tiny, defenseless unborn into pieces, by violent suction; these pieces are then thrown into the garbage can. The D&C method of abortion uses a sharp instrument to chop the little baby into pieces; it is then scrapped from the womb and trashed. The saline method replaces the amniotic fluid surrounding the baby with salt water; the brine into which the baby is immersed then eats it skin off, and when the baby inhales this salt water, it burns up from the inside out. This process can scarcely be called "responsible parenthood," as pro-abortionists describe it.

Besides the abusive and cruel manner in which the baby suffers death, there is the further (and final) abuse of murder itself. Not only is the baby abused in the way it dies, it is abused in losing the privilege of life itself. In view of this, it is twisted reasoning which claims that abortion avoids abuse. Abortion is abuseone of the worst abuses of all.

Finally, if we can murder the unborn to prevent potential abuse, then why not murder the born who are undergoing actual abuse? Or, to put it the other way, if we protect the born who are undergoing child abuse, then should not we all the more protect the unborn, who are even more defenseless? Abortion is child abuse of the worst kind.

7. "We must stop overpopulation, or we will all starve."

Answer: Abortionists propound a false dilemma: We must choose between abortion and overpopulation. There are other alternatives. First, birth control can limit overpopulation without murder. The real choice is whether to control population by killing the innocent or without killing them. Here, as elsewhere, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Furthermore, starvation is not the automatic result of increased population. Starvation is not a simple problem which would automatically disappear if only there were fewer people. Hunger and poverty have not been eliminated in the US, despite all our affluence and agricultural productivity. Nor is the difficulty any shortage of farmable land. Studies have shown that the farmable land of the world can sustain a world population many times the present one. The real problems are social and political, not numerical.

Finally, who would recommend that we kill all our welfare recipients, just because they cannot earn the food that they need? Why then, should we take the lives of people that we think might turn out to be poor? Those who are poor would be more likely candidates for our hit list. It is interesting to note that those who suggest abortion as a means of combating overpopulation, seldom offer their own lives as a means cutting down the population. They are glad, however, to offer a sacrifice of innocent and defenseless human beings so that they themselves will not starve! How noble of them.

8. "We cannot legislate morality."

Answer: First of all, if this is so, then we should get rid of all the legislated morality we now have on the books. We could start by rescinding our prohibitions against murder, cruelty, theft, child abuse, incest and rape. All of these are cases of morals being legislated. We could also eliminate antislavery laws, along with all civil rights laws, for these also legislate moral behavior. It would be clearly wrong to do so, and few abortionists would suggest that we do away with any of these laws. If this is the case, then why should we not have laws to protect the moral rights of the unborn humans.

Further, the present abortion-on-demand law itself is an instance of morality being legislated. For it says, in effect, that it is morally right to take the life of an unborn human being. It is, in fact, impossible (and undesirable) to avoid legislating morality. The aim of all good legislation should be put into law what is just and right. And by no stretch of the imagination can it be deemed right to take away an innocent human being's right to life. For the right to life is the door to all other rights. Without life there is no right to anything else.

Finally, changing a law can help to change public opinion regarding a moral evil. In the United States, for example, the outlawing of slavery helped to change the general attitude regarding the morality of slavery. Today, even most descendants of slave owners believe slavery is wrong.

9. "No mentally retarded child should be brought into the world."

Answer: It is worth noting that no organization of parents with mentally retarded children has endorsed abortion on demand. All families I have known with Downs Syndrome children regard them with real joy because of their capacity for unfeigned love.

Retarded children are human, and killing them is killing humans. Just because the unborn are smaller (and defenseless) does not justify killing them. Again, the logic by which abortionists justify therapeutic abortions would also justify infanticide.

Let's take, for example, two babies born in Austria a number of years ago. One was a healthy boy for which the mother was glad. The other was a girl. She had Downs Syndrome, and her mother was grieved. Nevertheless, this mother loved the little girl and taught her to care for herself. One day the mother had a stroke, which left her helpless. Her retarded daughter took over her care for the rest of her life. The boy that day also grew up. The whole world later heard of him. His name was Adolf Hitler. Now, which of these babies would the abortionist have done away with?

10. "Why should a rape victim be forced to bear a child she did not will to have?"

Answer: Rape is one of the worst indignities a person can suffer. One must have great compassion for rape victims. However, several things must be kept in mind. First, there is no way to become "unraped." Becoming "unpregnant" (via abortion) cannot make one "unraped." Second, justice cannot be obtained for the rape victim by punishing the unborn baby resulting from the rape.

Further, two wrongs do not make a right. It will not help the mother to burden her with the guilt of a murder on top of the indignity of rape.

It is noteworthy that conception seldom occurs from rape, so the percentage of babies born of rape is actually quite small. But the few babies who are conceived by rape also have a right to live.

Who has not been blessed by the music of that wonderful gospel singer, Ethel Waters? Yet her mother was, at the age of thirteen, a rape victim. Should we have aborted Ethel? Why should we punish the innocent product of a rape? Let's punish the guilty producer of rapethe rapist!

11. "People are going to have abortions anyway, so we might as well legalize them."

Answer: Should we also legalize rape and child abuse, since people are going to do them anyway? Should we add incest and cruelty to the legal list because people persist in doing them? Legalizing an evil does not make it morally right.

Some argue that anti-abortion laws are as wrong as anti-drinking laws. However, legalized abortion does not fit into the same category as legalized drinking. First of all, legalized drinking, does not necessarily involve a crime against another innocent person. Secondly, legalized drinking does not in itself take the life of another human being, but abortion does. So what argues against prohibition does not argue for abortion.

Further, legalizing an activity does not necessarily curb its abuse. Sometimes it promotes it. Such has been the case with abortion in the United States. On the other hand, changing the law can help change the general attitude toward an activity, as the laws abolishing slavery have shown. Laws cannot in themselves force people to be good, but enforcing good laws can help restrain people from doing evil.

12. "We should not project our morality on others."

Answer: If this is so, then why are the abortionists projecting their morality on the unborn? They are saying, in effect, "It is my moral belief that you should not live." Actually, this is not a projection of morality, but a projection of immorality. What is needed in the case of abortion is that we do project morality into the situation, because certainly it is better to project morality than to project immorality. If those who are able to protect the innocent in this way do not do so, then who will?

Contrary to what the abortionist says, what our society needs most is a projection of morality. People need, for example, to project moral concern on others whenever they get behind the wheel. This would save many lives. In fact, if those who drink would not drive, this would be a greatly appreciated projection of morality for the 25,000 people who will otherwise fall victim to drunk drivers this year.

What is wrong is not projecting our moral beliefs on others, but destroying the moral rights of others, which is precisely what happens with abortion. Someone is taking away the moral right of the innocent to live.

13. "Abortion is the solution to unwanted pregnancies."

Answer: Adoption is a better solution. It is no doubt difficult to give up one's child to a stranger, but it is easier than killing it. On the date an aborted child was due to be born, the mother often suffers depression. This depression sometimes recurs for years thereafter on that day. Sometimes the feelings are so strong, the mother becomes suicidal. The fact is, the baby can be scraped from a mother's womb a whole lot easier than it can be removed from her heart.

Some time ago, CBS ran a program on black-market babies which revealed that some people were willing to pay up to $40,000 for a healthy baby. This is an indication of the great demand there is for babies to adopt. The solution to unwanted babies is not abortion, it is adoption. Most women with unwanted pregnancies only need counseling. Counseling clinics are the solution, not abortion clinics. We should be helping mothers, not killing babies.

14. "No unwanted baby should ever be born."

Answer: First, there is the assumption here that an unwanted conception will automatically result in an unwanted baby. Many an unpleasantly surprised mother changes her mind once the initial shock of her unplanned pregnancy wears off, and she has a chance to reflect more calmly on the situation. And even more of these reluctant mothers feel different once their babies are born.

Further, even if the mother does not want to keep the baby, there are many families out there who cannot have children, and who do want them. As a matter of fact, there are at present more people who want children than there are children to want.

Finally, just because we do not want someone else around does not mean we have a right to kill them. We should never place our wishes ahead of others' rights, especially their right to life itself.

One can easily see how this logic of killing unwanted unborn children could be extended to unwanted, deformed babies, undesired retarded children, and severely ill adults. Hence, infanticide and euthanasia would follow logically from this reasoning. In fact, the argument for infanticide of a deformed baby is more compelling, for there is actual proof that they are deformed, not simply a possibility (or probability). Some top scientists are already arguing in favor of infanticide for the deformed. Newsweek (9/6/82) magazine noted that "biologists say infanticide is as normal as the sex drive and that most animals, including man, practice it."

Let me close by relating the story of a young girl who learn that she is pregnant. She is engaged, but her fiance is not the father of the baby. Her family is poor, so another mouth to feed is just going to add to the family hardship. Her family has a good name in the community, and she does not want to drag it into the mud. An abortion would be a quick solution to her problem. But she doesn't have an abortion. She has the baby. It's a boy. She names him Jesus.