Is Abortion Murder? The Bible Says No (Kinda)

I saw some protesters outside the local Planned Parenthood today. They were holding signs to vote for Colorado Amendment 67 and something about murder.

Amendment 68 would make anything past conception a person under Colorado law and make killing that “person” illegal, and punishable by the same consequences as killing any other person. It’s every conservative Christian’s wet dream come true.

I am a Christian, and I am going to vote “no” on Amendment 68.

Before you jump to the comments and judge me and start quoting the Bible, please understand why I am going to vote no. It’s really important. Comments written by persons who have obviously not read this post in its entirety will be deleted post-haste.

It starts with the Bible, which I must note is by no means clear on most issues, but especially this one.

In spite of perpetually running arguments to the contrary, the Bible really only talks about killing unborn children once. Because I like you, I’ve quoted that passage from the NRSV.

When people who are fighting injure a pregnant woman so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no further harm follows, the one responsible shall be fined what the woman’s husband demands, paying as much as the judges determine. If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe. -Exodus 21:22-24

Here’s the problem with the current evangelical and fundamentalist formulation: As at least one someone quite intelligent has pointed out, the person responsible for the death of an unborn child is not considered a murderer in sacred scripture.


I have a pet peeve: The conservative meme that says a few cells are considered life on mars, but not on earth. (Not the one above this text). This is an obvious false equivocation. Nobody is arguing that a fertilized egg isn’t life. The argument is over whether it’s a person.

Philosophers have this thing called the Bald Man paradox. Basically, a man with a full head of hair isn’t bald. If you take one hair away, he’s still not bald. Same with the next one. But eventually, if you take away enough, the man is considered bald, even if he has some hairs left. Which hair, taken away, makes the man bald?

The same applies to an unborn child. When it is born, it is considered a human being, a person. But when does it become a person? Are the single egg and single sperm a person? Do they become a person when they join together? Or when they implant? When they fit on the head of a pin, perhaps? Maybe when the cells divide and divide and start to grow a brain? When they look like a child? And why your particular, seemingly-arbitrary, milestone?

No matter how many times we quote Psalm 139 or any of those passages about God making us in our mothers’ womb, as we look back, that was where we started. But was that “us”? Perhaps it was the beginning of our body, but was it truly us?

The debate, then, is not over whether life begins at conception, but whether personhood begins at conception. I know my Catholic brothers and sisters will disagree, but I think a few clumps of DNA joined together hardly qualify as a person. When I scratch my arm, I scrape off more cells of “life” than the Plan B pill kills. Should we have laws against scratching?

In Job 3:16, Job is despairing so much of life that he wishes he hadn’t been born. Are there situations where not giving birth may be the better option?

So, for me (though perhaps not for you), a few cells at conception doth not a human being make. I’m still squeamish about saying “It’s perfectly fine to kill it off no matter what,” but I don’t want to say “There are no circumstances in which it is unacceptable.”

In 2013, the Washington Times reported on a study of late-term abortions. Some salient facts:

  • Only 1.5% of abortions in the US are late-term (performed after 20 weeks).
  • A common reason is lack of money for the less-expensive earlier-term abortions.

In the Hobby Lobby debacle, hyper-conservatives fight against birth control is ironically causing abortions. In the same way, their fight against abortions in any term are leading to what they hate most: late-term abortions.

In his exquisite piece “10 Things You Can’t Do and Still Call Yourself ‘Pro-Life,’” my friend Ben Corey begins with this item at #10:

You cannot support unrestricted, elective abortions, after the age of viability.

The rest of the items on his list are mostly liberal in nature, like a livable minimum wage, economic policy, immigration, universal healthcare, gun control, and war. Check it out at the link above, ’cause it’s really good, yo.

Basically, most people who are pro-life aren’t really pro-life; they’re just pro-birth. After you get born, it’s up to you to take care of yourself. Which is why conservative Christians are perfectly happy to ban abortion under most, if not all, circumstances, and let the desperate woman who gets an illegal back-alley coat hanger abortion be damned. It’s as if conservative Christians’ loud care for human life begins at conception and ends shortly after birth.*

* I should note that many conservative Christians are almost certainly very caring and loving and decent people, and many would take great care of any human being who came across their path in need. In policy, however, I think Ben’s blog post (which you should definitely read) is disturbingly dead-on.

I’m grateful for the collective wisdom of my adopted denomination, the Presbyterian Church (USA) and what they’ve carefully and prayerfully written about the termination of problem pregnancies. I think it is well-written, and I have adopted it as my position as well, for what it’s worth.

When an individual woman faces the decision whether to terminate a pregnancy, the issue is intensely personal, and may manifest itself in ways that do not reflect public rhetoric, or do not fit neatly into medical, legal, or policy guidelines. Humans are empowered by the spirit prayerfully to make significant moral choices, including the choice to continue or end a pregnancy. Human choices should not be made in a moral vacuum, but must be based on Scripture, faith, and Christian ethics. For any choice, we are accountable to God; however, even when we err, God offers to forgive us.

Other useful comments:

Problem pregnancies are the result of, and influenced by, so many complicated and insolvable circumstances that we have neither the wisdom nor the authority to address or decide each situation.

We affirm the ability and responsibility of women, guided by the Scriptures and the Holy Spirit, in the context of their communities of faith, to make good moral choices in regard to problem pregnancies.

The Christian community must be concerned about and address the circumstances that bring a woman to consider abortion as the best available option. Poverty, unjust societal realities, sexism, racism, and inadequate supportive relationships may render a woman virtually powerless to choose freely.

I could not agree more. Read more here.

And that’s why I, a Christian, will vote “no” on Colorado Amendment 67.

It’s also why I wanted to hold up a few signs of my own beside the (mostly Catholic) protesters.

I’m sorry you’re in a position that forces you to make such a difficult decision, and that my Christian siblings are here making it more difficult.

Birth control is cheaper than an abortion. Get it here! Or from your doctor.

The Bible doesn’t say abortion is murder.

Jesus loves you no matter what you do.

Maybe someday I will.

EDIT: My wife notes that I should mention my preference for abortion is that of former first lady Hilary Clinton: “Safe, legal, and RARE.” More birth control. Better sex ed. I advocate normal birth control, not abortion as a form of birth control. In any situation, I would prefer the woman be on birth control to prevent abortions in the first place – something, as I mentioned earlier, groups such as Hobby Lobby oppose, and God knows why.


About David M. Schell






56 responses to “Is Abortion Murder? The Bible Says No (Kinda)”

  1. Battynurse Avatar

    Fabulous post! I really like the perspective you have and what your church has stated.

  2. Lou Avatar

    Let me ask you, do you think there is a logic to the laws of Christ? I ask you that because you appeal to your Christianity when stating your political opinion.

    Do you think the answer you give is amiable with the wisdom of God, which the Bible teaches we should seek at all lengths?

    Do you think comparing the cells you scrape off your arm are comparable to what happens in an abortive procedure? If cells are just cells, try being as glib about scraping as many off your retina or your brain stem.

    Go ahead…I’ll wait.

    By your logic, punching myself in the head is not so different from punching your baby in the face.

    If you have a political opinion, state it as such. But if you are going to drag Christianity into your politics, then why would you refer to Mosaic law to support your opinion? If you are implying Mosaic law is binding to Christians, then you might want to resolve a few hundred other things before you start blathering about the technical nuance of ancient Hebraic adjudication.

    I can respect your political opinion as such, you are free to decide as you see fit in America. But I am having a hard time respecting your appeal to Christianity and the Bible to somehow condone and support what you’re saying. I find it disingenuous.

    1. David M Schell Avatar

      First, thank you kindly for reading the post in its entirety before commenting. Respect.

      Second: Is there a logic to the laws of Christ? I should hope so! If we are made in God’s image, and made with logic, then God has logic. The cross may seem foolishness to the world, but it should at least make sense to Christians!

      You ask: “Do you think the answer you give is amiable with the wisdom of God”? Yes.

      Cells: No, it’s not precisely comparable. However, again, I don’t think those few cells ejected in an early-term abortion are a person, which is critically important for Christians to consider an abortion murder.

      “if you are going to drag Christianity into your politics, then why would you refer to Mosaic law to support your opinion”? Because it’s the only place in the entire Bible that discusses anything remotely close.

      I can respect your political opinion as such, you are free to decide as you see fit in America. But I am having a hard time respecting your appeal to Christianity and the Bible to somehow condone and support what you’re saying. I find it disingenuous.

      Thank you for your respectful opinion. I only appeal to scripture because, again, that is the only part of scripture that says anything about it. It is a political opinion (though mostly the very nuanced views of my denomination) that I ultimately hold to. I find it difficult to appeal to scripture further than I do in my challenge, but I hold to my opinions as a Christian. I am a Christian, and I hold to those views; therefore, I do it as a Christian, because I could not, for example, hold to them as an atheist.

      1. Lou Avatar

        Thank you for replying.

        You indicated that you believe we are made in the image of God, which belies and even undermines the logic of your argument. There is a great deal implicated in that belief, most of which we cannot hope to comprehend…however the Bible does offer some insight, which does not require us drudging up obscure quirks of Mosaic Law.

        If you believe we are made in the image of God, then you are assenting to the belief that there is more to us than our natural bodies. If God is a spirit, as scripture states, then there must be something spiritual about this image we are made in.

        1 Corinthians 15:45-48 affirms this, teaching that the first man, Adam became a living soul, while the “last Adam” (Christ) became a life-giving spirit.

        As a Christian, or someone that concedes to the logic of the laws of Christ, I would think you would be aware or at least sensitive to the importance of what is spiritual. You know, sowing to the spirit, and the 100’s of other verses teaching Christians to appeal to the “unseen” and the spirit, the salvation of our souls, etc.

        Now that may be something of a mystery, even to Christians, but is it anymore of a mystery than being created in the image of God?

        And if you claim to understand the logic of the laws of Christ, then why do you entirely dismiss the possibility of the spiritual ramifications? If Adam was a living soul, and you and I were created as living souls, who among us can say with certainty what that implies about an abortion?

        If Christ became a life-giving spirit, and Christianity is essentially about spiritual life, how can you appeal to your Christianity without addressing the soul of an unborn child. Will you be so glib about that possibility as well?

        Do you not fear God? The Bible says the whole duty of man is to fear God and keep His commandments. How can you be so brazen about what you deem is appropriate treatment of life, yet still feel your answer is amiable with the wisdom of God?

        Now you can certainly assert your opinion about when life matters or doesn’t, that is your prerogative, however, you cannot use the Bible without equivocation to support what you have stated.

        Jeremiah 1:5 says “Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you…”

        If not yet formed in the womb, then who did God know? Clearly it wasn’t a few cells God was referring to. God knows the part of us formed in His image, which is our souls. And who are you or I to say when a soul may or may not be “murdered” as you put it.

        I understand people supporting abortion as a political decision. Really, I do. I don’t expect people to be perfect, I am far from it, however, it is disingenuous to use the Bible, or to appeal to the wisdom of God, and the logic of the laws of Christ to support such a position.

        I hope you will reconsider your words.

        1. David M Schell Avatar

          I don’t intend to be glib about it. My intent is to present arguments that challenge the status quo of the conservative Christian insistence that abortion is, in all cases, murder, and should be made illegal. I hope that I provided significant equivocation.

          As to “before I formed you in the womb, I knew you,” I would argue, as I did with George, that “The nuance I’m trying to create is that every person begins as a zygote, but I don’t think every zygote is a person.” Augustine himself argued that the zygote is not given a soul until some point after conception.

          1. Lou Avatar

            Do you think God is concerned in the least with any of our silly political stances?

            Do you think Augustine or anyone else ACTUALLY knows anything about how and when God forms souls?

            Isaiah 65:16 makes reference to the “God of Truth”. John 16:13 refers to Christ as the “Spirit of Truth”. Do you think it is wise to attribute to God what is entirely speculation on your part?

            From a legal standpoint, early-term abortion is not murder, that is fact. But when you reference God, the Bible, and Christianity as support for your argument, you must speculate that God does not recognize abortion as evil, that zygotes are formed before souls (even though that bristles with scripture, considering that zygotes are “formed”), and that you are not held accountable for causing others to stumble with your words.

            That takes hubris, because what if you have guessed incorrectly? Who else might take your words to heart to form their opinion?

            Maybe the gravitas of the subject is lost on you, but I hope you will think about the ramifications of what you are contending, and upon what basis you are forming your opinion.

          2. David M Schell Avatar

            I hate to keep backpedaling, but I never attributed my thoughts to God, nor did i speculate that God did not recognize abortion as wrong (though I think “evil” is pushing it a bit far). Are you speculating that God would recognize abortion as evil?

            I don’t understand why it takes hubris to say that I don’t think God would consider something as sin, while the de facto Christian position that it is does not require any hubris. What if you have guessed incorrectly and are accusing others of sin by claiming that it is evil?

            Is it fair to assume all sorts of things to be sinful? Would we ever be able to do anything if we suspected all sorts of things to be sinful and refused to do them. We must each decide for ourselves what we think is right or wrong, guided by our understanding of God’s will and our own consciences. Are there absolutes? Of course. Is this one? Unfortunately, I don’t think it is.

  3. Francis Perry Avatar
    Francis Perry

    As was well-stated by Lou, too many of your arguments are cute, but ill-founded. They make provocative reading, but fall short in either medical or philosophic logic. There are many “law” verses in scripture, such as stonings or chopping off of hands that we have moved beyond. If the one you selected, as interpreted, indicates that while there is danger in harming a pregnant woman, but little in harming the child in the womb, that may have had some value at the time. Your article seems to indicate your thrill in grasping this selection and running with it, throwing some arguable bits and pieces in along the way that fall short of convincing. Disappointing, David. More homework and some deeper thought on the issue of when new life is really identified would be in order. “At birth” is a convenient time, but certainly an incorrect one.

    1. David M Schell Avatar

      Oh, I would certainly not argue that “at birth” is the time at which it becomes a human being. I would think it is a human before that, though, with my bald man paradox, I would argue it’s rather difficult to know when exactly.

      1. Francis Perry Avatar
        Francis Perry

        If difficult to know, then erring on the side extreme caution would seem the thing to do… just a quick look (Google) mentions babies hearing the mother’s voice at week 16, and tests indicating recognition of songs at a later date…

        1. David M Schell Avatar

          My denomination (and I, as well) would argue in favor of erring on the side of agency – that is, allowing women to make this complex and challenging decision for themselves based on their understanding of their faith, rather than having others impose a decision on them one way or the other. I am not in favor of using abortions as a de facto birth control or anything like that; I simply think women are moral agents too who sometimes have to make difficult decisions.

          1. BobTrent Avatar

            You can say that you are not in favor of using abortion(s?) as de facto birth control, but elective abortion IS used as birth “control” (prevention). That’s the idea. Abortion is used to get rid of inconvenient children.

    2. Talis Avatar

      Francis you say:”There are many “law” verses in scripture, such as stonings or chopping off of hands that we have moved beyond.”
      I find that very interesting. Is not the bible the word of your omnipotent almighty?
      How can you “move beyond” her word?

      1. Francis Perry Avatar
        Francis Perry

        Would you NOT move beyond instructions to cut off hands, have your rebellious son stoned, etc.? Not sure if you are coming at things as a Fundamentalist chiding me, or more likely (if I assume the “her” was intentional) as a non-believer poking fun. Yes, I can move beyond the literal reading… I’m not a Fundamentalist, and have to use my God-given reason to interpret particularly the OT. There are things to be learned there, things about God and the promise of the Christ, things to be learned about me… but, there is also mythology, writings strongly from the Jewish (warrior) viewpoint, and portions “borrowed” from other cultures and experiences.

        1. Talis Avatar

          No I am coming at this as an atheist calling out the faithful for their bs.
          The buybull is the word of Cod according to the faithful. That is a fact.
          So if you are picking and choosing what rules of your cod you want to follow then you have already lost the argument.

          1. Francis Perry Avatar
            Francis Perry

            You’re judging that by one particular group of people who hold to the literal concept… your “That is a fact” holds little water. Many do not look at completely literal interpretations. And have not lost any argument. Your “clever” attempts at plays on words indicates a lot to me. Take care.

          2. Talis Avatar

            Either you believe the word of COD is the word of COD or you do not. The faithful are not so faithful if they have decided that some of the words are not to be followed.

          3. David M Schell Avatar

            The faithful have differences of opinion about such things.

          4. Talis Avatar

            Yes but they are absolutely convinced that the orders from the skyfairy that they approve of are the unassailable word of the Kwisatz Haderach and must be obeyed by non-believers first and foremost.
            The other orders from Cod that they do not want to follow?
            They do not worry about them. 🙂
            So much for an omnipotent skyfairy.

          5. David M Schell Avatar

            Intentional naming errors aside, this is not a description of me, nor is it most of the people who follow my blog, and I would guess that most of us count ourselves among the faithful.

            Also, please kindly review my comment policy and adjust future comments accordingly. Take special note of items 1, 2, 5, and 7.

          6. Talis Avatar

            If my post is too much for you then that is on you Dave. It is far from offensive. Offensive is the religious imposing their faith on the rest of us.

          7. David M Schell Avatar

            It’s not about faith. It’s about the kind of conversation I choose to run on my page. Troll elsewhere. Goodbye.

    3. David M Schell Avatar

      This argument was written for biblical literalists, with black and white thinking. You clearly don’t have such thinking, and appear willing to engage in more thoughtful conversation. I don’t think “at birth” is correct either.

  4. Scamper4 Avatar

    Nobody thinks abortion is a good thing. Since women became women there have been abortions. There are many reasons. Those of us who are pro-choice think it’s nobody’s business except the woman and her doctor. It’s a medical procedure. The reasons women have abortions are varied, but those reasons are none of your, or my, business. There’s not room enough here to discuss late-term abortions, but consider this, should a woman be made to bear a child that will kill her or one that would be born with just a brain stem or have no arms or legs?

  5. carter Avatar

    “When I scratch my arm, I scrape off more cells of “life” than the Plan B pill kills.”

    Just a quibble, but Plan B is emergency contraception; it doesn’t kill anything. It works by preventing any ova from being released.

    1. David M Schell Avatar

      Thank you for that correction. I probably should’ve said RU-486, for example.

    2. BobTrent Avatar

      It depends on when in the woman’s ovulation cycle “PlanB” is administered. If she has already ovulated, it may alter the mucus in the cervix, uterus or tube so as to prevent sperms from moving into the uterine tube to join with the ovum. If fertilization has already taken place, the mucus and endometrial cells may be changed to prevent implantation and further development.
      “Person” without a modifier means “human being.” Once the successful sperm has mated with the ovum, they are no longer separate cells of the man and the woman, but a distinct organism. Who denies that such an organism is human? The question is, “Is this human organism a being?”
      There was a dispute over whether slaves are human BEINGS. “Persons.” According to Roman law, only free people had human BEING, “personhood,” status. By law a slave was chattel (personal property) and could be used or disposed of at the pleasure of her master.
      The same attitude was displayed by the Hitlerites toward Jews, Slavs, Gypsies and other “untermenschen”; sub-humans, inferior “races.”
      Are unborn humans BEINGS? If not, what is there about birth that magically transforms a human into a human being? Inhaling air? Preemies have survived when delivered as early as 21 weeks. How is it that a 43 week unborn “fetus” is not a “person” because she has not taken her first breath when a 21 week newborn is a “person” because she has inhaled?

      1. David M Schell Avatar

        The difference between adult human beings whose skin is the wrong color or are supposedly “owned” by other human beings, and a clump of cells, should be obvious.

        To be clear, I do not advocate late-term abortions. At this point, they are (to me) morally disturbing at best, and other earlier forms of birth control could prevent their usage.

  6. jesuswithoutbaggage Avatar

    You make some good observations, David. One thing I have noticed is that the same evangelicals who claim to be passionately ‘pro-life’ are also passionately ‘pro-death penalty’ and ‘pro-military action’. This is in addition to your valid comment about the lack of enthusiasm many of them have for the quality of life and opportunity of those who are born.

  7. George Staelens Avatar

    Dear David, I agree – partially or totally – with all the articles of your blog, that you have written before (and, believe me, I read them all). But this time, you are throwing out the baby with the bath water.

    Whether the person begins at the conception is not a matter of faith, but a fact.

    I don’t have the time to explain you all the whys. There’s a blog, that you should really read.

    An unfertilized egg, or another cell of your body will never become anything else; they don’t have the potential to become. An embryo, when in good condition, will always become an old person, with intermediary stages in between.

    1. David M Schell Avatar


      Thank you kindly for your thoughtful response. I appreciate you taking the time to write it. When you say “An embryo, when in good condition, will always become an old person, with intermediary stages in between,” I agree, with a few small reservations, but I’m not sure I would say the zygote is itself a person. The nuance I’m trying to create is that every person begins as a zygote, but I don’t think every zygote is a person. Does that make sense?

      1. George Staelens Avatar

        Thank you, David, for your reply too. I suppose I understand what you mean. The fact is that you look it backwards. The zygote, by its ability of becoming a grown-up adult, is a full member of its species. Is a newborn a person? We say yes, while other said no in the past.

        (And, to go further, personally I think that the members of many species have personhood; therefore we should go vegan; but I degress.)

  8. The Ubiquitous Avatar
    The Ubiquitous

    Regarding your exegesis of Exodus 21:22-24:

    Now that you have one point of data, from where do you draw your second? It isn’t going to be history, or Christian theology, or philosophy.

    1. David M Schell Avatar

      I actually went to the Bald Man Paradox, from philosophy, next.

      1. The Ubiquitous Avatar
        The Ubiquitous

        I see, in the original post.

        I’m not sure how the Bald Man Paradox applies. There is a single entity throughout, and it is alive throughout.

        I would suggest a second point of data which obviously would apply would begin with tracing the early Christians’ arguments regarding abortion.

        1. David M Schell Avatar

          The bald man paradox, in the case of this post, starts with the assumption that a fertilized egg is not a person, but a freshly-born child is, raising the question of when the fertilized egg becomes a person, and failing to provide an answer.

          1. The Ubiquitous Avatar
            The Ubiquitous

            Why do you start with that assumption? Thing is, if you posit that the unborn is not a person to begin with but somehow becomes one, you have to provide some reason why that is the case. (Pro-lifers admit that there is no non-arbitrary reason so they say it begins with conception.)

            If your evidence is scripture, then the history of Christian argument about abortion will provide absolutely no support. Only bad scientific knowledge — that the human life is first a plant, and then an animal, and then a human — borrowed from Aristotle allowed for a distinction between early and late abortions, though both were serious sins. Once that fell apart — once Aristotle was disproven — the fact premise changed to reflect true biology, and the conclusion likewise.

          2. David M Schell Avatar

            I start with that assumption because it seems obvious to me that a clump of cells is not a person, and a newborn child is one. I could go into philosophical arguments with traits that define a person and then note the absence of every last one of those traits, but I’d rather not unless you think it’s important.

            I’m not sure what you mean about true biology supporting this argument. Would you like to expand on that?

            I do have that one verse, and somebody else brought up another passage that (unfortunately) escapes me at the moment.

          3. The Ubiquitous Avatar
            The Ubiquitous

            You’re a clump of cells.

            I’m not sure what is unclear about my second paragraph.

          4. David M Schell Avatar

            Gosh. You’re gonna make me work for that philosophical argument now. I’ll get on google.. *sigh* 🙂

          5. The Ubiquitous Avatar
            The Ubiquitous

            Yes, I believe I am going to make you work for it. 😉

          6. David M Schell Avatar

            Okay, here we go.

            Intending full disclosure, I intend to create an argument for personhood that will define personhood in ways that everybody agrees on, but also in ways that will disqualify the few cells combined at conception but not coma patients, and will disqualify animals and not people. I will use “persons” and “people” interchangeably.

            1. Barring the discovery of other intelligent and self-aware life forms, a person is a member of the species homo sapiens.

            Of course, even here we encounter difficulty! As theists, we believe in the existence of God, and believe God to be a person as well. We may also agree on the existence of other non-human persons, such as angels and demons. So we must begin again.

            1a.A thing is a person if and only if it is an intelligent life form.
            Computers are not people because they are not alive.

            But then of course this filter will include animals and block humans who are mentally challenged.

            Let’s block animals first, shall we?

            2. Animals are not people.

            But this seems arbitrary. Animals are not people because they are animals? We’ll try again.

            2b. A thing is a person if and only if it is self-aware.

            Combined with 1a, this still eliminates animals and computers. But it also eliminates coma patients and mentally challenged people.

            Perhaps persons are beings with souls? But how shall we check for souls?

            The trick, of course, is to include coma patients as people while eliminating two cells.

            I could say something like two cells cannot be a person, but that, again, seems rather arbitrary. Meanwhile, it is theoretically possible. but I think it highly unlikely, that clump of cells has a soul, though it is

          7. The Ubiquitous Avatar
            The Ubiquitous

            Self-aware? When you are asleep, are you less of a person?

            Also, infants are not knowably self-aware until they pass the “mirror test”, and that is several months after birth.

            Perhaps a definition of personhood which include the divine persons and the angelic persons is in order.

          8. David M Schell Avatar

            Precisely the problems I was dealing with, which, as you can see, I have already addressed in the revised comment.

            If you have a definition I’d love to hear it. Meanwhile, I’ll be doing more research.

          9. The Ubiquitous Avatar
            The Ubiquitous

            I see, sorry. I was working from the Disqus digest in my e-mail.

            Classically, with Boethius, “a person is an individual substance of a rational nature.”

          10. David M Schell Avatar

            That’s a nice tidy definition that won’t permit either of us a clear win 😉

            The Christian Left Blog has an argument that you become a person upon your first breath based on Genesis 2:7. Clearly I’m a n00b to the debating-when-life-starts-from-the-bible game.

          11. The Ubiquitous Avatar
            The Ubiquitous

            Yet that doesn’t seem to jibe with moral intuition, either. Would you say that killing a fetus is exactly the same thing as killing a zygote? You seem to suspect a progression of worth, and that is untenable under either that view or the historical Christian view.

            More coherent would be understanding the unborn as a particular entity with its own nature, its own substance, a human nature which is consistent from one moment to the next. After all, the unborn needs environment and nutrition, like anyone else. If it were possible to set up an artificial womb which provided precisely those two things, we have no reason to suspect that the unborn would do anything but thrive.

            It certainly is a special kind of human. Still, the specialness of the unborn fits nicely under a model of human development which shows stages of development rather than one which says a non-human becomes a human at some arbitrary moment, i.e., when the unborn takes a breath.

            In any case, can we agree on this: It is better to have a preferential option for life. (It is certainly unchristian to say, “When do we get to kill?”)

          12. BobTrent Avatar

            I’ll help you out: an 8-cell clump can divide or be divided into two 4-cell clumps. If they both survive, they will result in two individual human beings and upon taking their first breaths, be awarded the degree of “Person.”

          13. BobTrent Avatar

            How many cells in one mass constitute a nonlump? Just wondering.
            [I realize that I’m responding to a comment made 8 months ago.]

          14. David M Schell Avatar

            An excellent question, and one that the bald man paradox / heap paradox brings delightfully to life: How many grains of rice make a heap? One? Two? Four? Five thousand, clearly, but where is the line?

            Which is my point exactly.

  9. James D. Panetti Avatar
    James D. Panetti

    First of all, I find it bizarre that some people on here see your post as glib or eager to prove the point. That’s a large assumption, and you know what they say about “those who assume”. 😉

    Here’s a factor I don’t think anyone’s ever brought up (to my extremely limited knowledge): There’s a bigger question behind this that goes unnoticed. Everyone agrees that ending life is wrong, but what about *preventing* life? Isn’t that at the root of what abortion and even the contraception argument are about? To make the waters murkier, there’s a time element to this: Is it wrong to prevent a future person?

    1. David M Schell Avatar

      “you know what they say about “those who assume”. ;)”

      You’re assuming that.

      You’re welcome.

      And The Ubiquitous is Catholic, so he would say yes, it is wrong to prevent a future person, as would my friend Keifer. I disagree.

    2. BobTrent Avatar

      If “person” is arbitrarily defined to exclude human beings who are alive and have not been born (yet), yes. If done with premeditation, it’s called murder.
      Preventing human beings from coming into existence is wrong but is not a proper subject of the government’s laws.

  10. Keith Cardwell Avatar
    Keith Cardwell

    Just a cultural observation. While I know this is not a universal statement even universally in American culture, I find it interesting(?) that there are very few funerals for miscarriages. Even among pro-life people. If that embryo, of whatever age, is a person, why do we not treat it/him/her the way we treat the death of any family member. A funeral, visitation, open time of mourning, etc. I’ve always been puzzled by this. Or does this happen with great regularity and I’ve just not been part of it?

    1. BobTrent Avatar

      Normally, a mother who has just killed her child does not attend the funeral, for she is in jail. Where she belongs while awaiting trial.

  11. Steve Avatar

    I am a late reader and commenter of this article but certainly commend the writer for his insightful perspective. In the totality of the abortion debate this article is useful input although not necessarily conclusive and definitive. Personally I could not contemplate abortion in my family but I think that ultimately it should be the choice of the particular family (or mother, if single with no father support) to make the choice. It must be their own decision and based on that they are responsible to God. Exodus 21 treats miscarriage by misadventure as a formality with a penalty dependent on the father’s attribution of blame. Abortion today is driven by a myriad of factors and by no means the least of which is the socio/economic conditions surrounding the family or single mother. Pro-life, if that is your stance, should mean just that and not just pro-birth since this should engage the pro-life advocate in the whole life of a child – the economic, medical, foster care and education of those they wish to save. I am more than convinced that the political avenue to resolve this issue is fraught with flaws and ultimate disappointments and that really the only solution is God working in the minds and hearts of individuals and families, and to further that the church needs to complain less and do more.

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