Abortion is Not Murder

Better Essays
Abortion is Not Murder

Is abortion murder? Murder is defined as "illegal killing with malice aforethought." Abortion fails this definition for two reasons. First, abortion is not illegal, and second, there is no evidence to suggest that expecting mothers feel malice towards their own flesh and blood.

Not all killing is murder, of course. Murder is actually a small subset of all killing, which includes accidental homicide, killing in self-defense, suicide, euthanasia, etc. When pro-life activists call abortion "murder," they are suggesting that abortion fits the definition of murder, namely, "illegal killing with malice aforethought." However, abortion fails this definition for two reasons. First, abortion is not illegal, and second, mothers hardly feel malice towards their own unborn children.

Some might object the first point is overly legalistic. Just because killing is legal doesn't make it right. Exterminating Jews in Nazi Germany was certainly legal, but few doubt that it was murder.

But why do we still consider the Holocaust murder? The answer is that we hold the Nazis to a higher law. When the Nazis were tried in Nuremberg for their war crimes, they were not accused of "crimes against Germans" or even "crimes against Jews." Instead, they were charged with "crimes against humanity." The reason is because there was no legal basis to charge them otherwise. The massacre of Jews was legal under German law. So in order to punish the German leaders for clearly wrong behavior, the Allies had to evoke a higher law, a law of humanity. (1) The Holocaust was condemned as illegal, and therefore murder, because it violated this law.

Many pro-life advocates claim that the same reasoning applies to abortion. Alt...

... middle of paper ...

...heir legal basis is still a matter of controversy. Germany never signed an agreement of international law prohibiting genocide -- indeed, genocide was declared a violation of international law only at the Nuremberg trials themselves. In other words, the Allies retroactively applied international law to the Nazi war crimes. Ultimately, the legal basis for the Nazis' prosecution rested on the law of world opinion, or even, many claimed, the law of God. This raises many thorny questions, such as: whose opinion? And whose God? When the criminals are as obviously evil as the Nazis, then world opinion tends to be united, and there is no controversy. But what about a subject like abortion, in which the majority of public opinion is pro-choice, and on which most religions have different teachings? In this case, evoking a "higher law" becomes problematic, to say the least.
Get Access