The Philosophical Case Against Abortion

Philosophical Case Against Abortion
The philosophical case against abortion

Four Differences

There are four basic ways that the embryo or foetus (who is not protected under the law) is different from a newborn baby (who is protected under the law).


The first difference is size. Embryos are smaller than foetuses who are smaller (usually) than newborns. The question, then, is this. What does size have to do with rights of personhood? The answer: nothing.

Smaller people are no more or less human than those who are bigger. Embryos and foetuses are smaller than newborns just as newborns are smaller than infants and infants are smaller than toddlers and toddlers are smaller than adolescents and adolescents are smaller than teenagers and teenagers are smaller than adults. Size doesn't matter. It is lawful to kill a fly and not lawful to kill a person, not because the person is bigger, but because the person is human. Humanity is what matters. Trees are generally bigger than people, but it is lawful to cut the branches off trees, but unlawful to cut arms off people. Why? Because humanity, not size, is what determines rights of personhood. This might seem laughably obvious but there are a large number of people out there who actually justify abortion based simply on the tiny size of the embryo or foetus.

Think about this, it is often true that newborn babies, born prematurely, are smaller than other foetuses who are still inside the womb. Those foetuses still in the womb, may be legally aborted despite the fact that they are bigger than many premature newborns. To argue that abortion is justified because early embryos and foetuses are so small is a rationale with no logical basis. Size doesn't determine personhood after birth and it shouldn't determine personhood before birth.

Level of Development

It is quite true that embryos and foetuses are less developed than a newborn (unless, of course, that newborn was born prematurely). But this, too, is a distinction which has no moral significance. It is a difference of degree, not of kind. Physical and/or intellectual development has nothing to do with determining personhood outside the womb. It is equally insignificant for determining personhood inside the womb. Children are generally less developed than adults. Adults with developmental disabilities may be less developed than some children, and those with extraordinary mental capacity are no more human than those with lesser I.Qs. It is humanity, not brain capacity or arm strength that determines personhood.

A person, as defined by the dictionary, is nothing more or less than a living human. Anyone who tries to narrow this general definition of personhood does so in an attempt to eliminate a certain group of people who is either getting in their way or has something they want. Creating self-defined definitions of personhood that are uniquely crafted to eliminate certain individuals from protection under the law has long been the method of choice for implementing all manner of genocidal atrocities.

A person, simply put, is a human being. This fact should be enough. The intrinsic humanity of unborn children, by definition, makes them persons and should, therefore, guarantee their protection under the law. For more than forty years, however, this has not been the case. The situation we are left with is this. In the UK today, there is a huge and singular group of living human beings who have no protection under the law and are being killed en masse every day. Is that not astounding?! It is astounding, but not wholly unprecedented.


The unborn child is exactly where he or she should be to mature for 9 months. At around this time (thought to be determined by the child) the child travels a few inches down the birth canal in to the hands of the midwife.

What is it about this short journey that bestows value on to the child? One minute the child can be legally killed through abortion, the next minute the child’s death would result in a prison sentence. What changes?

You may have seen in the newspapers, stories of very premature babies being born and given hard-line neo natal care to sustain their lives. If someone were to walk in to the neo-natal care unit and dismember one of these children they would be put on trial for murder. Yet at this same stage of development a pregnant woman can lawfully kill her child just because she doesn’t want it and her choice is celebrated by pro-abortionists.

The fact is there is no moral difference between a child in the womb and a child outside the womb. The only difference is geographical.

Degree of Dependency

Is our humanity and therefore our worth dependent on how much we need others? Embryos and foetuses are certainly dependent on their mother for their nutrition. Without the mother’s body (until “viability”) the child will die. Through the umbilical cord the child is supplied with oxygen and nutrients.

But think about this: even when the child is born he is still dependent on his parents for his sustenance. The way in which he receives his nutrition may well change from being through the blood to being through either breast or bottle. In fact the child would have to be several years old until he could really be “viable.”

A kidney patient is dependent on her dialysis machine in order to survive. Does this mean she is not valuable? Someone living with diabetes must take insulin to avoid slipping in to a coma. Are we permitted by law then to kill those who are dependent on drugs to live? We are not because our value is not determined by how much we need others.

Embryos and foetuses are not dependent on their mother to be valuable.

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