No, Abortion Is Not Murder.

Let’s talk about abortion.

To be clear, this post is not tackling the questions of morality or legality. “Pro-life” and “pro-choice” arguments are not represented. This is strictly reviewing the claim that abortion = murder. In a broader sense my hope is to change the manner in which this topic is currently being discussed.

I believe before any substantive changes can be made in this country, everyone must first be willing to have an open, honest dialogue. Sadly, many individuals are persuaded by (and repeat) arguments that appeal to emotion, rather than fact. While these arguments do give each side a feeling of moral superiority, the result is just a crowd of people shouting absurd accusations at one another.

It’s easy to shut down dialogue if the person holding the opposing viewpoint “supports murdering babies” or “wants to oppress women”. However, to frame either position in this manner abandons all attempts at having an intellectually honest conversation. Considering how passionate many tend to get on this topic, my hope is that the below can be considered with the wise words of Charlie Monger in mind “I never allow myself to have an opinion on anything that I don’t know the other side’s argument better than they do.

“Abortion is Murder”

This is a talking point often used by “pro-life” individuals that completely fails under scrutiny. If true, this statement would actually show it’s the “pro-life” position that is complacent with murder. I don’t say that to be inflammatory or controversial, it’s the only logical conclusion to be reached given the facts. Especially considering most “pro-life” individuals don’t actually believe abortion is murder themselves! They might want to believe abortion is murder, they might even think they believe abortion is murder, but it’s highly unlikely they actually believe it. Before this sounds too pretentious, consider the following.

Almost everyone I know who is “pro-life” believes in making exceptions in the case of rape and incest. While that can be dismissed as anecdotal, the raw numbers show the same pattern. According to the latest Gallup poll 79% of the country believes in making exceptions under “all” or “certain” circumstances . The same shows only 19% believe abortion should be illegal in all cases. Mathematically speaking, a majority of those considering themselves “pro-life” believe there should be exceptions.

This begs the question, if abortion is the same thing as murder, why should women be allowed to murder their children just because they were raped? If one were to argue that abortion is murder while maintaining that women should have the right to an abortion in the case of rape, they would also need to concede that if a woman was raped and decides to bring the child to term, she would also have the right to kill the child after birth if she changed her mind.

It’s clear how foolish that argument is. Anyone who makes the claim that abortion is the same thing as murder simply can not logically support the exception of rape and incest. They have to make a distinction between a fetus and a child (post birth) in order to hold this view.

But what about the 19% who don’t believe in exceptions? The question they need to answer is “what should the punishment be for women seeking abortions and doctors who perform abortions?” If the answer is not at least conspiracy to commit murder for the mom and first degree murder for the doctor, they don’t believe that abortion is murder. To reinforce this, what should the punishment be if a mom plans to kill her three month old child? And what should the punishment be for the person who actually kills the child? Again many in the “pro-life” movement (even the one’s who don’t believe in exceptions) do not hold these two scenarios with the same weight. They make a distinction at least in their own minds, between a fetus and a post-birth child.

Now suppose someone stays consistent in believing that abortion is murder, there should be no exceptions for rape/incest/life of the mother, and that the punishment for performing an abortion should be first degree murder. A strong case could be made showing that person does not value human life. Voting for “pro-life” politicians and making a few Facebook posts discouraging abortion does not make one a defender of babies. At best, that’s a lackadaisical response to legalized mass murder! Unless they have devoted their entire life to changing things, it could be argued that individual was apathetic toward the death of babies.

The number of abortions is well over 58 million in the U.S. alone and rapidly approaching 1.5 billion worldwide since 1980. If  laws were on the books allowing legal murders (lets say women were allowed to kill their children during the first three months after being born for any reason) any moral person would devote their entire life to stopping it. They would not spend nights and weekends going to the movies, shopping, reading tabloids, etc. Every waking moment would be spent doing everything possible to affect change.

The fact that most “pro-life” individuals do so little to stop what they claim are murders would prove they are terrible, heartless human beings who are complacent with murder. Perhaps the reason for their lack of action is that they don’t really and truly equate abortion with murder. In which case they need to stop making this claim immediately.

An interesting moral conversation could also be had with regard to those who carry out abortion clinic bombings and shootings. If the state empowers and enables the slaughter of innocent babies how wrong is it to go to extreme measures to at least slow them down? If they are among the 60% of Americans who are in favor of the death penalty,the conversation becomes even more interesting. But I digress.

Why Abortion?

Taking a step back and looking at why women choose to have an abortion could help find ways to reduce the numbers, which is something advocates on both sides say they want. Research from the Guttmacher Institute shows reasons cited for getting an abortion include concerns around financial ability to care for the child (73%), education/career, and relationship issues. Regardless of any personal feelings or judgements with respect to those reasons, it would be fair to say the common denominator among the top reasons cited is unwanted pregnancies.

It should be noted that the number of women who choose to get an abortion due to financial concerns rose from 73% to 81% for those below the federal poverty line. Although abortion rates for American women declined by 8% between 2000 and 2008, among poor American women it increased by 17.5% . Data from a comprehensive study of unwanted pregnancies also shows that despite roughly 65 – 70% of unmarried women across all income levels being sexually active, those below the poverty line who are not trying to conceive are three times more likely to get pregnant than those in higher income brackets and almost twice as likely to lack any use of contraception. While the total number of abortions come from those with higher incomes, many speculate the low hanging fruit to reduce the number of abortions would be to ensure all women have proper access and to safe and effective birth control, especially since 46% of women seeking an abortion had not used contraceptives the month they conceived.

In conclusion (and to preempt the coming straw man attacks) I must reiterate that I am not saying abortion is “right” or “wrong”. That is a deeper conversation that I am not qualified to engage in. It’s also completely irrelevant to this conversation. Furthermore, I am not saying abortion should or should not be legal. The questions of morality and legality are a completely separate. The only point being made is that abortion is different from murder. Once we allow for honest framing of opposing arguments, we can begin having productive and meaningful conversations.


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