I Don’t Like Abortion, but Should it be Illegal?

What Would You Say?

You’re in a conversation and someone says, “I don’t like abortion but I don’t think we should make it illegal. We shouldn’t use the federal government to impose our beliefs on others.”

What would you say?
 Many people say they don’t “like” abortion, but they don’t think it should be illegal. It’s important to realize that when they say they don’t “like” abortion, they are not making a moral claim, they’re making a preference claim. A preference claim is just about what you like better, as if you were talking about flavors of ice cream or your favorite sport. Moral claims, however, have to do with what is right or wrong. For example, the claim against abortion is that it is wrong. It’s a moral claim that abortion is wrong because abortion intentionally kills an innocent human being. 

So the next time someone says they are personally against abortion, but thinks that it should remain legal, remember these three things:

Number 1: Legal decisions should be based on morality, not preferences. Imagine if someone said, “Well, I don’t like slavery but I don’t think it should be illegal.” Or, “If you don’t like spousal abuse, then don’t beat your wife! But there shouldn’t be a law against it.” Anyone who would say those things would be failing to grasp why slavery and spousal abuse are wrong. They are not wrong because people eventually grew to dislike them. They are wrong because those pressed into slavery and spouses are intrinsically valuable human beings who have a natural right not to be treated as property. Whether anyone personally likes slavery or spousal abuse is completely beside the point and should never be the basis of law. In fact, we would rightly think that anyone who does like slavery or spousal abuse as being morally wrong. We wouldn’t think, “Well, I guess abuse and slavery is right for you, but not for me.” Which brings us to the second thing to remember.

Number 2: Laws are designed to limit those things that are wrong. If abortion doesn’t intentionally kill an innocent human being, then no one should care about reducing the number of abortions. However, if abortion does intentionally kill an innocent human being, that is all the reason necessary to vote against it. Suppose a political candidate justified racial discrimination by saying that although he is personally opposed to discrimination and hopes to see it reduced, it would be wrong to impose his views on anyone else who disagrees. Any politician who said that would be run out of office! And rightfully so! In fact, any society that merely reduced racial discrimination, without taking steps to prevent Whites from treating Blacks unjustly would still be a deeply immoral society. In the same way, if abortion is a moral wrong that victimizes members of society, the law should reflect that. Which brings us to number 3:

The government cannot be neutral about abortion. The federal government is already deeply involved in abortion. In fact, one particular branch of the government, the federal courts, has completely co-opted the issue and has left citizens and elected officials powerless to make decisions on the issue. While the American people talk about abortion all the time, it’s really the federal judges who have the real say on the matter. So even if it is true that the federal government should stay out of abortion, shouldn’t that include the federal courts who've left us with no say on the issue? But even more importantly, the law will only either recognize the unborn as valuable human beings and thus protect them, or it will not recognize the unborn as valuable human beings and thus will permit killing them. Currently, the federal courts have taken a public policy position that the unborn do not deserve the same protections as toddlers or teenagers or any other human beings. That is not a neutral position. They’ve made a moral judgment and have imposed it on the entire nation. 

So, the next time a friend says that he personally opposes abortion, but wants it to remain legal, remember these three steps:

1. Legal decisions should be based on morality, not preferences.
2. Laws are designed to limit those things that are wrong. 3. The government is not, and cannot be, neutral about abortion. For What Would You Say, I’m Megan Almon.

Klusendorf, Scott. The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2009.

Thank you to Scott Klusendorf and Megan Almon for their contributions to this video.