Abortion and the obligation of parents

As a regular Catholic Answers Live listener, I greatly appreciate the clarity, power, and sensitivity Trent Horn has brought to the discussion. Although I haven’t read his latest book on the topic, I hope to soon.
What motivates me most concerning the pro-life cause, is the knowledge that though they may comprise a small number, on a regular basis our well developed unborn young are savagely murdered in what can only be a terror-ful death.
This is not to say that abortion at any stage is justified - I think it is just the opposite - ignoring the basic truths of the pro-life argument for all our unborn young empowers and enables the most horrific murders of the older unborn.
The basic truths are mostly unassailable - the biology is clear and the personhood argument merely begs the question (Who can we abort? -non-persons. Who are non-persons?-those we can abort.) and the overpopulation argument is untrue and grotesque.
Remaining is the obligation issue. Do parents, in particular mothers, have an obligation to carry the unborn to term? It strikes me that the pro-life side typically avoids this question. To Mr. Horn’s credit he does address it and does so very well but even he doesn’t seem to appreciate and acknowledge that this is planned parenthood et al’s only feasible argument.
And even from the pro-choice side, it strikes me that they don’t relish discussions on the obligation issue, rather preferring a strategy of mostly contrived ambiguity on the abortion topic as a whole.

I think the pro-life argument is that parents have the same obligations to their unborn children as they do to their born children. Yet I don’t see the broader pro-life movement advocating this point and we seldom use the word ‘obligation’ or engage this aspect of the issue. Are we afraid it is too confrontational, too burdensome? Can we expect to advance the truth if we avoid it? And what are all the reasons supporting the contention that this moral obligation is strong enough to justify making abortion illegal?

Interesting question. I would say the parents have an obligation not to kill the baby rather than have an obligation of the mother’s to carry the baby to term.


As someone formerly on the pro-choice side I can say I never heard anyone mention an obligation to carry a fetus to term.

The belief is that a woman should decide what happens within her own body and to her own life. If she is faced with an unwanted pregnancy she isn’t obligated to do anything but make a decision. Terminate or carry. The pro-choice people don’t talk about an obligation to continue a pregnancy until birth because they don’t believe there is one.

Pro-life people can say there is an obligation until the cows come home, but the Pro-choice people will never believe it. As far as they are concerned, the fetus is nothing more than a bundle of developing cells and is not a baby at all.


To them it isn’t a baby …unless of course they happen to want that “bundle of cells”…

Thank you for your replies. I was hoping to center the discussion on “the obligation for parents to care for their children and for pregnancy in particular, that mothers have an obligation to carry their children to term”.

There may be pro-choice people who just don’t understand or refuse to understand the biology principles involved (from conception, we are more than just “a bundle of cells”). I am suggesting for the sake of this discussion that we consider their arguments having zero merit.

But do we have a good answer for whether or not there is a sufficiently strong obligation? Do we shy away from using that word? Does it suggest servitude? We can say that it is nothing more than NOT killing their own child, but is that just a sneaky “soft sell”? It seems to me there is no avoiding the fact that we are claiming there is an obligation.

What are the grounds for saying so? How do we persuade people the importance and rational of insisting this obligation is non-negotiable and cannot be rationalized away?

The rationale for protecting all human life is the same whether the person is unborn or 99 years old. We all have the right to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
The catch is, who do we define as human? Two hundred years ago, black people weren’t considered fully human – a black person was considered 3/5 of a citizen for purposes of how many Congressmen a state could have.
Same today – if the unborn are not considered human, just “potentially human”, we can kill them with impunity.
The Personhood movement, in my opinion, is the best chance we have to make people see abortion as the evil it is, just as we now see slavery, Check out the link here.

Thanks for your reply Viki63, unfortunately I don’t seem to be communicating clearly. I was hoping to try a new angle on the old stalemate - our side can win the biology argument, it can win the personhood argument - but how can we be persuasive on the obligation aspect of the issue. I don’t think we can pretend that it doesn’t exist or is a minor consideration. If the pro-choice side is honest and rational, it is their MAJOR consideration. Can we meet their argument on their terms?

That is what I was hoping would be discussed in this thread.


But are they? Some are, to be sure, But most pro-choice women just haven’t considering the matter from any but a “women’s right” viewpoint. I was pro-choice once, I thought it was the responsible thing to be if I got pregnant. It never occured to me that there would be a child involved.
I don’t think the “obligation” argument is what pro-choice people need to hear. They need a change of heart, they need to see the child as a human being deserving of protection.

If the fetus is only a mass of cells, how is it an obligation to carry it to term? If a woman doesn’t think she can take care of a baby and can’t stand the thought of making an adoption plan, what’s to prevent her from an abortion? It’s legal, after all.
There is precious little societal support for pregnant women. That’s one thing that needs to change. The other thing is that we need to see the unborn as persons.
No one would suggest that an African-American is not a person, but that attitude took years to change.

thank you Viki63, I appreciate that you are considering the pro-choice woman in general. I agree that it is important to present to them the full humanity of the unborn and thus their implicit right to life.

But I am suggesting that in the courts and the legislatures and for women who have heard well but have not been persuaded, this “obligation” aspect cannot be side-stepped. I am suggesting that to the extent that it has, it is partly responsible for our failings. (As an example, Trent Horn yesterday noted that when ballot propositions which restrict abortion rights even modestly have been voted on - they have mostly failed. Mr. Horn was questioning what we as pro-lifers call “success”.)

Is the “obligation” assertion really so bold that we are afraid to make it? Don’t we believe that parents have the obligation to feed, and cloth, and educate their born children? That is an 18+ year responsibility. With adoption as an option, the obligation during pregnancy is relatively short in time though deep in personally physical commitment.

Is it the elephant in our pro-life living room?

Looks like I’ll have to answer my own questions. I have been thinking about this obligation question for most of the day and it has been in the back of my mind for many years even decades. In what seems to me now as the obvious, it suddenly struck me that just the opposite of my frame of mind (see above posts) is the real truth: it is preposterous to think that parents do not have an obligation to the welfare and health of their children. I don’t want to take lightly the enormous burden and its disproportionate assignment to the mother during the pregnancy but nature offers no alternatives.

When the state offers abortion as the alternative the result is a holocaust. The unborn are killed in huge numbers and the mothers are victimized as well.

If I understand Roe vs Wade, somehow this is rationalized by a right to privacy. Yet it is the state that is licensing physicians and testing drugs that makes these abortion options available at all. It seems very clear that to obtain an abortion, a woman must step out of her private rights and either be “treated” by a state licensed and/or trained provider or ingest drugs that are tested and approved by the state. I can’t see how a right to abortion exists within the jurisdiction of the state given that the state shall not kill innocent human beings.

So the erstwhile weakness of the pro-life movement is really its strength. As parents our obligation to our children is essential to our humanity and is no different for the unborn children than it is for born children.

Of course parents have an obligation to their children. But the problem is that Pro-Choice people don’t see a fetus as a child. Therefore, no obligation to it.

Your right to privacy argument is flawed. If it were as you say, everyone being seen for any reason by a legally licensed doctor would be giving up their right to privacy. That’s not how it works. Like it or not, state licensed doctors treat patients with an expectation of privacy no matter why they are being treated or what kind of treatment they are providing. And the state does not see the fetus as an unborn child in need of legal protection unless it has reached a certain point in gestation. It seen the fetus as developing cells just like the pro-choice people do.

Soooo true!

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