Equivocating on Abortion: A Response to All Women’s Health Centers

In March of last year, All Women’s Health Centers posted an article entitled “Defining Abortion”.  Obviously, defining something, especially something so controversial, is an important matter.  After all, how can we converse on a subject if our definitions are significantly different?  We would merely be speaking past one another.  So, naturally, the title of the article is a catchy one.  There are serious problems with the way abortion is defined or utilized throughout the article, however.  As you’ll see, the article is less about defining abortion and more about confusing abortion through the logical fallacy known as equivocation.

Abortion and Equivocation

The first paragraph reads, “Before you decide what is life and what is not, you must study embryology. Life does not occur with an explosion and a magic wand. It is continuously present in the form of an egg and a sperm. These entities are alive and anything you do to prevent their survival is abortion.”  The article goes on to say, “Anything you do to disrupt this process is abortive by definition.”  There are two important points I want to make here.  First, this seems to suggest that one must be a professional, or at least have done specialized study, to be able to discern between life and non-life.  This presents a kind of elitist mentality – “Trust me; I’m the professional; I know what I’m talking about.”  While studying embryology is certainly helpful in the study of life, one does not need to be an expert in this area in order to know what abortion is and whether or not it’s moral.  Second, there is an equivocation of life and abortion.  While the egg/sperm may be alive, at least in some sense, that does not mean the egg/sperm have personhood.  For instance, I am made up of cells, and I am alive, but my cells live and die all the time.  I am not an egg/sperm, nor are you, even though an egg/sperm marked the beginning of our development, providing us with DNA from our parents.  When we speak of abortion, we are of course speaking of the abortion of a human being, which we recognize as having value and dignity because of their humanity.  They are not an egg; they are not a sperm; they are not a clump of cells; they are not a germ; they are not an it.  To speak of an egg/sperm dying as being abortive is to introduce ambiguity into the discussion, thereby confusing the real issue at hand.

The introduction of confusion from the get-go is indeed tactical.  They apparently want you to think as follows: “Well, if I don’t feel morally responsible for the death of an egg or sperm – I have no emotional qualms about it – then why should I feel any different about the death of my unborn child a fetus a clump of cells?”  Implicitly, this turns human beings into mere organisms, which has all kinds of troubling, ethical ramifications.

Elsewhere, the article asserts that you are killing the entities essential for a human being to develop by preventing the sperm from reaching the egg:

If you spill the sperm on the ground, wear a condom, use a spermacide, use a diaphram, do a tubal ligation, or frankly just abstain from sexual intercourse because you are lazy or frightful or even think it is wrong without a marriage contract in your hands, you are creating a barrier so that the sperm can’t reach the egg. Sperm is required for the egg to survive as the egg is required for the sperm to survive. Therefore you are killing the very entities that are essential for the human being to develop. That is abortive by definition.

What is this paragraph meant to do?  It’s meant to strip away any hesitations one might have when confronted with an abortion.  The argument is essentially, to abort a fetus (i.e. human being) is the same as aborting a sperm or egg, so don’t worry.  The argument is made by focusing on the bare meaning of the word abort or abortion, rather than the object of the abortive act.  They’re trying to say that abortion is the same thing, no matter what is being aborted – sperm, egg, or person in the womb.  This is to obscure the actual issue at hand – what is being killed?  Few put up a fuss about killing a bug because we know there is something qualitatively different between a bug and you and me.  The issue is not over killing per se, but what’s being killed.  Interestingly, the article actually defines abortion as killing.  Again, “Therefore you are killing the very entities that are essential for the human being to develop.  That is abortive by definition.”  There it is folks!  Of course, to kill a human being in an unjust manner is known as murder.  All Women’s Health Centers may not realize it, but they just confessed to murdering children in the womb.  That, after all, is part of their business.

Marriage Be Like What?

The article also has a very interesting (and by interesting, I mean strange) idea of the meaning behind marriage.  It reads, “The marriage contract was truly and [sic] attempt to determine when and if one could have children.”  It continues, “Basically, it said, prior to signing a contract of obligation creating an intact family unit, make sure that you do everything possible to prevent the egg and sperm from surviving.”  This is nothing more than a rhetorical ploy – presenting an opposing view in the worst possible light, and in a way that is inconsistent with the actual view being opposed.  Apparently, we’ve all been duped into thinking that marriage actually had natural, sentimental, religious, and spiritual significance.  In reality, it was all about those sperm and eggs, and making sure they never met until then [insert evil laugh here].  What rational person thinks in these terms?  I have to wonder if the person who wrote this is married.  Probably not.  If they are, they’re likely betraying their own philosophy of marriage.  Then again, rhetoric, not logic and truth, rules our day.  In short, marriage derives its significance, not from abstinence (which is to think backwards), but from God who instituted it.  It’s a matter of faithfulness to God and the one to whom we marry (Gen. 1:26-28; 2:18-25). By this is meant the recognition that sex is not to be separated out from the total union that takes place in the sphere of marriage, well articulated by C. S. Lewis:

The Christian idea of marriage is based on Christ’s words that a man and wife are to be regarded as a single organism — for that is what the words ‘one flesh’ would be in modern English. And the Christians believe that when He said this He was not expressing a sentiment but stating a fact — just as one is stating a fact when one says that a lock and its key are one mechanism, or that a violin and a bow are one musical instrument. The inventor of the human machine was telling us that its two halves, the male and the female, were made to be combined together in pairs, not simply on the sexual level, but totally combined. The monstrosity of sexual intercourse outside marriage is that those who indulge in it are trying to isolate one kind of union (the sexual) from all the other kinds of union which were intended to go along with it and make up the total union. The Christian attitude does not mean that there is anything wrong about sexual pleasure, any more than about the pleasure of eating. It means that you must not isolate that pleasure and try to get it by itself, any more than you ought to try to get the pleasures of taste without swallowing and digesting, by chewing things and spitting them out again.

C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (NY: HarperOne, 1980), 104.

Interestingly, the author goes on to say something that makes the case for marriage, without realizing it.  “The truth is that random pregnancies do not serve an advanced civilization well.”  Wait, I thought you just balked at the idea of preventing random pregnancies by being abstinent until marriage – you know, that “Save the sperm and eggs” spiel.  Now you’re saying random pregnancies are bad?  The article continues,

Time and place of birth must have some degree of predictability. If not, there is chaos. Can you imagine, with all the trouble and rebellion that we have in the United States today, what would have happened in the last 45 years if the nation was burdened by 60-70 million unwanted children, most  of which would be dysfunctional, un-educated, hostile and resentful. I don’t even want to think about it.

This paragraph is a perfect example of rhetoric meant to stir emotions and stifle thought.  First, is not marriage a predictable environment within which pregnancy takes place?  Even if sexual partners are not married, there’s always a degree of predictability that a pregnancy might result from their sexual activity.  You know, the whole birds and bees talk.  Second, “chaos” seems a little over-the-top.  Perhaps these feelings of chaos are a result of misplaced priorities in our lives.  Perhaps we, as a society, have become so self-absorbed with “my life,” “my plans,” “my future,” “my body,” that we tend to view a pregnancy as … well, chaotic.  Third, the way to fix problems in society is not by creating additional ones.  We don’t fix “the trouble and rebellion” in our society, whatever that refers to, by murdering innocent children in the womb.  Fourth, the pro-abortionists have very low thoughts of you (who are contemplating an abortion) and your children.  These children are viewed as a burden and stamped with the label, “unwanted”.  What a horrible way of thinking about a child.  No wonder our society is crumbling.  What they’re saying is, if you have your baby there’s a good chance he/she is going to grow up to be “dysfunctional, un-educated, hostile and resentful.”  What does this say about you, the parent (which is what you are if you’re pregnant)?  This is what these people think of you – dysfunctional, un-educated, hostile, and resentful.  After all, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.  Is this the kind of people you want to take advice from?  “Here, let me kill your baby, because it’s just going to be dysfunctional and un-educated anyways, like you.”  Meanwhile, there’s people standing on the side of the road pleading for the lives of these precious human beings – the precious human being in your womb!

Clearing the Smokescreen Around Conception

The article only gets worse by introducing confusion about conception.  I’ll quote the article at length here:

When the sperm physically nears the egg, each carrying their haploid number of chromosomes, is this conception? Or does the sperm have to abut against the egg for this to occur even though it still maintains it’s integrity as does the egg. Or does it have to penetrate the Zona pellucida and enter the cytoplasm of the egg? Or does it have to migrate toward the nucleus of the egg or does it have to penetrate the nuclear wall? Or does conception occur as the DNA of the sperm begins to line up next to the DNA of the egg? Or is it when half of the DNA is lined up?

How about three quarters or all but one of the nucleatides [sic] that make up the DNA that makes up your genes and your chromosomes? Or is it only when every single one of them is lined up to create a diploid number of chromosomes which is necessary for futher [sic] embryological development?

Or is it when the egg-sperm combination makes two cells or four or the morula etc. etc. etc.? The point is that there is no POOF!!!!, one second it is nothing and the next second it is a human being. Development of a viable human being is a gradual and continuous process and anyplace that you disrupt the process is abortive by definition.

A smokescreen (or smoke screen) is a rhetorical tactic whereby you introduce a lot of unnecessary information so as to disorient the listener/reader regarding the issue at hand.  Clearly, what they want you to think is, “Oh wow, how can we possibly know when conception takes place?  They (the experts) don’t even know.”  This view, however, is not the view of the medical community.  This is the view of the abortion industry which masquerades as a medical industry.  Look at these quotes from WebMD on pregnancy and conception and ask yourself if there’s really all this confusion about when conception takes place.  “At the instant of fertilization, your baby’s genes and sex are set. If the sperm has a Y chromosome, your baby will be a boy. If it has an X chromosome, the baby will be a girl.”[1]  Here, it seems that conception is understood as more-or-less the time the sperm fertilizes the egg.  Again: “Within about a week of conception, a hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) can be found in the mother’s blood. It is made by cells that will become the placenta.”[2]  In other words, conception has already taken place when this hormone is detectable.  For the sake of argument, let’s say that we don’t know the exact point in time that conception takes place.  This does not mean, however, that there is no point in time in which we can confidently say that conception has indeed taken place.  After all, conception has obviously already taken place when about 22 days into your pregnancy the baby’s heart is pumping blood.  So even if one wants to push conception out past the fertilization of the egg, this cannot be pushed out indefinitely.  You have to admit very early on into the pregnancy that conception has taken place. After all, to be pregnant is to have conceived.

Actually Defining Abortion

So, what is abortion?  Abortion is the noun form of the verb abort.  To abort is to prematurely terminate, stop, or call off something that’s in process.  For example, an attacking army may abort their mission if they are being overwhelmed by the enemy.  The attack was in process, but then was stopped or called off.  According to WebMD, “Abortion is an early termination of a pregnancy.”[3]  Perhaps not surprisingly, though, WebMD includes miscarriages in their definition of abortion (same article).  This, however, is not what abortion has historically meant, nor what it means by definition.  That would be like saying the attacking army aborted their mission because they failed in their mission by being utterly defeated by the enemy (no survivors); no retreat called for.  That, by definition, is not an aborted mission.  It is simply a failed mission.  An aborted mission is indeed a failed mission, but the two are not equivalent.  What is more, WebMD’s definition is not quite accurate, as abortions can take place up to the point of giving birth, which technically marks the end of a pregnancy.  MedlinePlus, therefore, provides a more accurate definition, which defines abortion as “a procedure to end a pregnancy”[4] (early or otherwise).

But either definition requires the following question be asked: What is a pregnancy?  We all know the answer, even though many want to skirt around the issue.  For instance, MedlinePlus, in a post on pregnancy, begins by saying, “You’re going to have a baby!”.[5]  Exactly!  Another WebMD article makes it clear that they understand pregnancy as being equivalent to conceiving, which means you are having … a baby![6]  So then, a procedure to end a pregnancy is none other than a procedure to end the life of a baby in the womb.

Forgiveness of Sins and Helpful Links

If you’ve already had an abortion, know that there is forgiveness of sins in and through Jesus Christ who died in the place of sinners and rose in victory from the grave.  God saves all kinds of people who have committed all kinds of sins.  To read more about the gospel, go here.

Following are links to abortion ministries where you can receive help if you’re considering an abortion, have had an abortion, or want to minister outside of an abortion center.

Foundations of Life

End Abortion Now

Cities4Life (Tampa Bay)

Cities4Life (Charlotte)

Cities4Life (Nashville)

Cities4Life (Southern California)

Cities4Life (New Jersey)

Cities4Life (Lexington, Kentucky)

[1] WebMD Medical Reference, “Pregnancy and Conception”, https://www.webmd.com/baby/understanding-conception. Last accessed on August 15, 2020.

[2] Ibid., “Conception: From Egg to Embryo Slideshow,” slide 8. https://www.webmd.com/baby/ss/slideshow-conception.  Last accessed on August 15, 2020.

[3] Ibid., “Abortion Directory”, https://www.webmd.com/women/abortion-directory.  Last accessed on August 15, 2020.

[4] MedlinePlus, “Abortion,” https://medlineplus.gov/abortion.html.  Last accessed on August 15, 2020.

[5] Ibid., “Pregnancy,” https://medlineplus.gov/pregnancy.html.  Last accessed on August 15, 2020.

[6] WebMD, “Your Pregnancy Week by Week: Weeks 1-4,” https://www.webmd.com/baby/guide/your-pregnancy-week-by-week-weeks-1-4#1.  Last accessed on August 18, 2020.

About Drew Mery

Drew is a husband, father, Reformed Christian, blogger, and business intelligence developer, living just outside of Tampa, FL. He has a BS in Religion from Liberty University and is currently working on a MA in Humanities from American Public University (based on the Great Books program). He is a board member of Pietas Classical Christian School in Brevard County and a Charlotte Mason education advocate. Upon completing his degree, he desires to teach, write, and develop curriculum.

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