If abortion is murder why don't we treat it like it is?

I was recently browsing social media and I saw an interesting argument. It went like this " If you truly believe abortion is murder you would stop at nothing to stop it. Because it is murder. You would throw yourself in front of the door, there would be no discussion because it is murder." Or something close to that. I found this interesting because it also questions whether or not our actions are saying the life in the womb has as much dignity as one outside of it because although we call the intentional killing inside and outside the womb murder, we don’t treat both situations the same. Thoughts? I’m Pro-life but always like to hear both sides.


Its not legally murder in America…You will be fighting the law &
the law will win…

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If the law said killing a newborn outside the womb was ok. Would we be so quick to not do everything in our power to help the baby? Even though the law would win.

The issue is that we as a society are not monolithic in opinion, belief, customs, etc.
Therefore we rely on the government to regulate the interpersonal conflicts that from time to time develop between its members.
What we can and must do is spread the word, use science (what a novel concept) Catholics that actually would use science to further that cause.
And foster a change of the law so that life (human life) is respected and protected from birth to natural death.



I think it’s because human beings are communal/relational in their very essences. But, how communal/relational could a fetus be in utero? The mother carrying the child will naturally form some attachment. But still, even that only goes so far. And what of the rest of the family with respect to the fetus? What about the father? The siblings and grandparents? They’ll surely anticipate the birth with great excitement. But for them, they anticipate what might be for the coming child. For them, even though they know the fetus is really alive and has its own unique DNA, it’s still, in some sense, a potential being too. They think of what the coming child might potentially be as it grows and develops within the familial community.

Fundamentally, there is no (or very, very little) community/relationality between the fetus and those of us outside of the womb. Humans develop gradually and enter into community gradually and even relate to one another, gradually. Since all of this is a process that develops over time, it is quite natural that we would put ourselves between the State and our (say) 10 y.o. children if the State ever came to “dispose” of them. That’s 10 years of interdevelopment and attachment-formation. At that point, your child’s very self has become a part of you, and you’d be a part of your adolescent child’s identity too. But we cannot say that this communal/relational/co-identifying familial reality also obtains between ourselves and a fetus.

I think all of this is part of why the “abortion is murdering a child” line just doesn’t land as well as pro-life advocates would like it to. I am pro-life myself. But, I think you’re right that it’s important to try to account for distinctions and nuance within the abortion debate.


Thanks for the well thought out response! As I was reading your comment I realized abortion isn’t necessarily murder. Murder in my mind is malicious and done out of hate. (Whether or not that is the exact definition I don’t know). I see it more as a type of euthanasia I’m not ok with. Would that be an ok view of it or would it be against church teaching?


I think most pro-lifers would do everything in our power to stop an abortion, if we we’re witnessing an attempted abortion. Yet due to a manipulation of healthcare, abortion “doctors” are able to commit criminal acts behind a wall of privacy in which the original intent of such a veil was private care of patients.

People have done this.

Do you know what happened next?


Yes, but euthanasia is itself murder.

The definition of ‘murder’ is “the unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another”. Since so many countries have laws permitting abortion I think it appropriate to use different terminology. It also concerns me that, when we are supposed to hate the sin but still love the sinner, we use language that labels vulnerable women and medical professionals (often with the best, if completely erroneous, intentions) as murderers and killers. Whatever happened to the concept of diminished responsibility for example? Some women may indeed treat abortion as an extra form of contraception but many others will agonize over the decision, be frightened, desperate, be ill…and meanwhile we forget to love them as Our Lord loves them…and just call them ‘murderers’!
I think it’s time to reassess our language around abortion…focus on the sanctity of life that none but God should take away and stop criminalizing women with our words.

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A few problems.

First, the Downs paradox. You would need to get many, many people on board, while convincing them that many, many people will be on board… or else you will be fighting a losing war.

Second, when you lose the war, you will likely occasion worse evils than had you fought it through the courts. You might stop an abortion - but you will, in the USA at least, likely bring a firestorm of media attention that will ramp up sympathy for abortion as an institution, etc.

Third, the order of charity does not demand that we do everything we can to stop every evil. Why are you not going off to Somalia right now to stop the pirates from doing their evil deeds? It’s not your responsibility, and it’s probably not your competence either.

When assessing an action, such as we might take in response to abortion, we need to assess 3 things and confirm they are all “good”:

  1. our intention/motivation
  2. the act itself we contemplate
  3. the likely balance of consequences/outcomes we anticipate.

Abortion is broadly accepted and/or tolerated. Early in pregnancy (at least) the unborn is widely considered not to be a “person”. There is a relatively widespread acceptance that it is something women are allowed to choose. It is not illegal in many jurisdictions.

In that context, given those commonly held “facts”, it is not difficult to see that responding to an imminent abortion as you might respond to a an aggressor with a gun will almost certainly do more harm than good. Hence, such a course cannot (morally) be chosen.

The most likely outcome of an attempted intervention is the person would be arrested and the baby would still be murdered.

I could potentially keep a born child away from people who want them dead. I can’t do that for sn unborn child.

The short answer is, in our society, abortion is enshrined as a human right, and people in general are not mentally trained to think of the preborn conceived entity as a fully human being. That is why people speak of “expecting a baby”, “when the baby comes into the world”, “we’re going to be parents”, and so on. Any attempts to stop individual abortions would plunge us headlong into civil war, and would make the United States into another Bosnia or Afghanistan. Catholics and other pro-life Christians (but especially Catholics) would be stigmatized in the way radical Muslims are now. (Very few Muslims are “radicals”, the vast majority are ordinary people just trying to get by, like everybody else.) And if you’ve noticed, Americans like their lives to be easy, pleasant, peaceful, and for everybody to get along with each other.

I may raise the hackles of the “life begins at conception” folks — and I am convinced that human life from its earliest stages, from the first cell when it begins to divide, must be treated as a person with an immortal soul whose termination would be murder, because we simply don’t know when that life is ensouled — but to see the preborn conceived entity as a human being, at a very early stage, takes a certain degree of faith. Zygotes and blastocysts don’t “seem” human, and nobody except Catholics and various pro-life evangelical Christians views them that way — that is why embryonic stem cell therapy is seen as a great medical advance, instead of a Mengele-like experiment. I have to think that, when an unwanted pregnancy becomes known (missed period and pregnancy test), there is an atavistic urge to “do something right now, waste no time, hurry up and do it before it starts becoming something like a baby”.

I have likened it to a hypothetical society where newborn children could be freely murdered up to a certain point after birth — who wouldn’t recoil from that? — but I recently discovered that this has been extremely common throughout history. The human race doesn’t have the best track record where the matter of protecting preborn and newly born children is concerned. The world has historically been a pretty tough place to be born into!

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I certainly think being careful with our language is something pro lifers should be doing.

A woman pregnant with her first child is a mother, and if we know the childs sex we can refer to her son or daughter.

Very good observation, I hadn’t thought of it that way.

In our social order, the unborn child is, fortunately or unfortunately as the case may be, totally at the mercy of its mother. The only way around that, would be to force all women to submit to monthly pregnancy tests, and when found pregnant, to be committed to some kind of “prenatal protective facility” to ensure that the baby comes to no harm. I don’t think there’s a “pro-lifer” on the face of God’s green earth who would advocate anything that extreme. I know I certainly don’t.

This needs to be preached from the pulpits.

I am very particular about how I speak, and what words I use, because how we speak determines how we think, and vice versa.

I’ve had this discussion several times with my Democratic voting liberal churchgoing acquaintances.

There are 3 points they ALWAYS bring up:

  1. The Supreme Court says that a woman can have an abortion if she so chooses, so it’s legal.

  2. If you support the death penalty, the you have to support the right to abortion because both are killling…

  3. I can separate my religion and my politics.

All three arguments are simple to dissect.

  1. Slavery used to be legal in the United States but that didn’t make it morally correct and it was eventually overturned.

  2. The Bible actually says Thou Shall not Murder. Any cursory read of the OT shows that there was plenty of killing that went on, both by Israel and upon Israel.

  3. One’s religion is supposed to be the fiber of our lives and what defines us. To say that your “politics” can be separated from who you are is a joke.

I’ve lost several Democratic friends when I ask them how in the WWWOS can you vote for someone who who kill your child or grandchild or any child?

The failure lies within our Church. Has anyone ever heard a homily where a priest has told the congregation that you can’t be a supporter of a political party, a Democrat, and be a faithful Catholic?
You can find a few homilies sating such on YouTube, which is encouraging, but as a faith, our leadership is adrift.


Their bishops think otherwise.

Church teaching is abortion is murder. Period.


I am Pro-Life, but have chosen to leave the formal movement. I have always objected to graphic abortion photos of very advanced stage fetuses because they are disingenuous. The vast majority of abortions take place in the first trimester, some in the second, and very rarely in the third. Late term abortions only occur when the fetus has a severe abnormality or continuing the pregnancy is deemed dangerous to the mother’s health and life.

The root cause of abortion is the lack of self-awareness and ownership of their sexuality encouraged in women from childhood. Girls are socialized to view their self-worth through a relationship to males. No matter what a girl/woman achieves, it’s always measured against her relationship to the males in her life. Does she have a boyfriend? Is she married? Does she have children? Is she dating? As a result, there’s tremendous pressure to capture the attention of males. It causes women to fall prey to relationships in which they aren’t valued.

Many women have sex prematurely. They never ask the hard questions of intention and commitment. It’s taken for granted by men that her body belongs to him and he’s entitled to sex with her, especially after an expensive date or long term relationship. It’s hard for girls and young women without self-awareness to say no to sex. If women were empowered to ask about intention and commitment before sex it’s my opinion that the abortion rate would drastically drop.

I want to close by saying that boys must be socialized to view girls as equal in value and worth. Boys must not be taught that their self-worth is based on conquering girls and later possessing women. A woman’s sexuality is precious. Men must respect a woman’s body with the love he bestows on his own. Boys must be socialized to ask tough questions of intention and commitment before sexual intercourse. A man’s self-worth must not be measured by the number of his partners, but by how he treats his partner and her life giving potential. I say all of these things from a lifelong disinterested observation as a Aromantic Asexual. My unwillingness to play my assigned female role in the lives of men has provided a unique perspective. Many years in the Pro-Life Movement, hearing abortion survivors, and personally knowing friends that had abortions confirms my opinion. Peace!

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