Do You Need God to Know That Abortion is Wrong? That’s a question that I asked recently here and over at Strange Notions. I was prompted by two things: on the one hand, a series of articles defending the idea that we can be moral without God; and on the other, articles like this one, suggesting that opposition to abortion can only be “because God.” Those two positions don’t work together. As I explained in the post,
The pro-life argument is simple: (1) human beings are alive from the moment of fertilization, and (2) it is morally wrong (and ought to be illegal) to intentionally kill innocent human beings. The first point is a scientific one. The second is a moral and legal one, one that science can’t answer. You don’t find human rights under a microscope, and there’s no experiment capable of proving that murder is wrong.
Since the scientific point is clear-cut and settled (it’s inescapable that unique human beings are created at the moment of fertilization), everything turns on point (2). But the intentional killing of innocent human beings is what the philosopher Elizabeth Anscombe calls the “hard core” of the definition of murder. So to frame the question slightly differently, to say that abortion is okay, you have to say that (a) murder is at least sometimes okay, and that (b) abortion falls within this class of exceptions.
This has sparked a lively debate, as well as a rebuttal from Steven Dillon, in which he suggested that the unborn were biologically human, but not metaphysically human (and therefore, that abortion was at least sometimes okay). Here’s my response to his argument, showing that the pro-life side doesn’t depend upon metaphysics, and that fetuses are metaphysically human, anyways.
If you’ve heard that “fetuses are just potential humans” argument, you might want to check it out.