You have likely heard this line of reasoning from earnest pro-lifers before. Snopes.com even has an example listed as “glurge”. (Definition of glurge here.) The logic goes something like this: You should be pro-life because you never know if you’ve aborted the next Einstein, the next Beethoven, the next Martin Luther King, Jr., the next Pasteur or Salk, etc. What if you aborted the curer of cancer or AIDS? The motivation is understandable and the underlying reasoning is sound: abortion, which does immediate harm to unborn children and many of their mothers, does unseen future harm to families, communities, and the world.

But I hate this argument against abortion, and here’s why: It assigns value based on (presumed) accomplishments. It is a utilitarian argument — assigning intrinsic value based on one’s “utility” — and it is utilitarian arguments that are best suited for pro-choice arguments, not pro-life. And those seeking abortions are already employing utilitarianism in their thinking. e.g. “This child will have a poor life, so it is best to prevent him from experiencing it.” “This child will interfere with my plans for the future, so it is best to terminate my pregnancy until I am really ready.”

The reasoning also fails to consider that we are actually right now perilously close to abortion based on predictive value. In America, it is dangerous to be an unborn African American. In China, it is dangerous to be an unborn girl. As fertility treatments become more advanced, parents have potential some day of “custom designing” their babies, right down to hair and eye color. What would be done, then, with “error” babies? They are thrown away like garbage. And of course abortions of unborn children with Downs syndrome and other seemingly disagreeable conditions to their prospective parents are commonplace already. What happens in the day when technology can show us that a child will be mentally advanced? What happens to the mentally just average fetuses then? Some are asking gay rights advocates if they would remain pro-choice if in the future that elusive “gay gene” they keep searching for could be found? What if moms wanted to abort their babies for fear they’d be gay?

No, the utilitarian view of human life has no place in the Christian worldview, and we should give it no place in our efforts against abortion, as powerful or convicting as we think those argument are.

The biblical grounds for the pro-life argument have nothing to do with a person’s “usefulness” to a family or society. The Bible calls us to the pro-life position based on the reality that all persons are made in the image of God, that God has created us equal, and that therefore all life is precious, whether a person cures cancer or gets cancer, wins an Olympic medal or a Special Olympics medal, can compose like Mozart or sings like Roseanne Barr. Suppose we could save the future Einsteins and Beethovens from the abortionist. It would still be as tragic and sinful to have otherwise commenced with the offing of future stay-at-home moms, truck mechanics, and janitors. You know, all the “ordinary people” of which there are many more than the so-called extraordinary people. More boldly put: abortion is wrong, whether you happen to be aborting the next Mother Theresa or the next Adolf Hitler.

Pro-lifers, let’s not play that game. Leave utilitarian arguments to the self-appointed engineers of utopia. Let’s be Christians living in the kingdom of God instead.

“If I have rejected the cause of my manservant or my maidservant,
when they brought a complaint against me,
what then shall I do when God rises up?
When he makes inquiry, what shall I answer him?
Did not he who made me in the womb make him?
And did not one fashion us in the womb?”

— Job 31:13-15

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11 thoughts on “Away With Utilitarian Arguments Against Abortion”

  1. Mark says:

    Yep! The problem is that this line of reasoning is simply an expression of how people see some as having a higher human value based on their status and/or achievements.

  2. Brian says:

    Unfortunately, our so-called “pro-life” politicians have already sold themselves out with the “no abortion except in the case of rape, incest, or health of the mother” position. Aborting any unborn child is murder regardless of how the pregnancy came to be. To make any such exceptions for political expedience is to yield to the utilitarian argument so well articulated above.

    Anti-Bible pro-abortionists already think they own the “logic” argument–allowing exceptions only bolsters their position.

    1. arizona jack says:

      Look,I do not know anyone,reguardless of their politics,who actually LIKES abortion. But most of the anti abortion arguments are based on religious beliefs,that are not shared my a majority of people. It IS forcing your religious beliefs down the throats of others. Second,denying the right to an abortion to pregnant rape or incest victims,is no matter how you look at it,punishing the victim.Third. This is the 21st century. We have all kinds of safe,effective,cheap means of birth control,for men and women. There is no reason for any couple to produce a baby,they don’t want,have not planned,or cannot afford. Contraception is our number one anti abortion weapon. No unwanted or unplanned pregnancies,no need for abortion! I fail to see how that common sense eludes some folks.Finally this. How many of you “pro lifers,support capitol punishment? If you do,then you are pro birth,not pro life. If all life is sacred,then ALL life is sacred,and we as human beings do not get to decide who is worthy of life,and who is not. THAT IS GODS JOB,and he needs no help from mere mortals.

  3. Flyaway says:

    Excellent post! Up to 1/2 of the “Christians” in some congregations are in denial as to when life begins. Now there is human DNA to prove that life begins at conception. Don’t the Japanese count the 9 months of pregnancy as the 1st year of life or something like that?

  4. Travis Clark says:

    This was really well done. Thank you for posting this.

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Jared C. Wilson


Jared C. Wilson is the pastor of Middletown Springs Community Church in Middletown Springs, Vermont. You can follow him on Twitter.

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