There IS a Right Answer When It Comes to Abortion

There IS a Right Answer When It Comes to Abortion

by Beau Langford

January, 2018

The bumper stickers are out there: “Don’t like abortion? Don’t have one.” When dialoging with others who don’t hold to the pro-life position it’s likely you will have to defend an underlying premise that many people deny as follows:

Is there objective moral truth?

You will recall that the first major premise in the syllogism I outlined in my previous article is that it is wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being without justification. This is a moral claim. As such, pro-lifers need to be able to defend the idea someone can have a morally correct answer, given many objections deny objective morality. Lurking behind objections denying objective morality is a view called relativism.

Merriam-Webster defines relativism as “a theory that knowledge is relative to the limited nature of the mind and the conditions of knowing.” Additionally, it is defined as “a view that ethical truths depend on the individuals and groups holding them.” In other words, relativism denies morality is objective. Proponents argue morality is fluid depending on the individual, culture or situations involved. They then accuse pro-lifers of “forcing their morality” on others or being “intolerant” of other people’s moral views. The “Don’t like abortion? Don’t have one” mindset illustrates this well.

So, how can pro-lifers navigate conversations with people who don’t believe there is a correct viewpoint when it comes to abortion? Most of the time this can be accomplished by appealing to our common intuitions and by pointing out that most of these objections are themselves making moral claims. Let’s take two of the most common objections pro-lifers hear.

1.) “You shouldn’t force your morality on others.”

This objection is extremely popular and will almost certainly be encountered at some point by anyone who advocates for the pro-life position. However, this statement is self-refuting because the person saying this is making a moral claim! They are saying it is wrong to force your beliefs on others, yet they are forcing that view on pro-lifers by saying the pro-lifer is wrong.

To demonstrate this, the pro-lifer can simply ask the person who raises this objection, “Are you saying it is morally wrong to force moral beliefs on others? If so, why are you trying to force that view of morality on me?” This will demonstrate everyone, at some point, lives or acts like there are at least some objective moral truths. Hopefully, this will also help the person making this objection be more open to hearing the reasons why pro-lifers believe they have the correct moral view of the issue of abortion.

2.) “Don’t like abortion? Then don’t have one.”

This objection to the pro-life position has rhetorical force, but fails upon further scrutiny. The objection makes the mistake of confusing a preference claim with a moral claim.

A preference claim is a choice someone makes based on their own subjective likes or dislikes, and has nothing to do with morality. For instance, someone could say, “I prefer hamburgers to spaghetti.” We understand that person is not indicating that because they prefer a certain kind of food they think others should be forced to hold the same preference. However, if the same person said, “Racism is wrong,” this statement is making a moral claim about racism. So when a pro-lifer says they are against abortion, they are not saying they personally prefer not to have an abortion, like preferring one food to another; they are making an objective moral statement that abortion is morally wrong for all people, just as racism is.

To demonstrate this, the pro-lifer can simply ask the person making this objection if it would make sense with other moral issues, such as slavery. For instance, they aren’t likely to make the statement, “Don’t like slavery? Then don’t own one.” Drawing attention to this disparity will help bring to light the real matter. The issue of abortion is not one of preference, but objective right and wrong.

By helping other people realize one cannot charge pro-lifers with forcing their morality on others without forcing their own morality on pro-lifers, and by helping make a distinction between preference claims and moral claims, it will be easier for pro-lifers to get past the fog of relativism and present the reasons for our views. Pro-lifers can be confident in the moral grounds for the pro-life position and sensitively engage objections that attempt to dissuade there can be a right answer in this debate.


Defending Life: A Moral And Legal Case Against Abortion Choice – Francis J. Beckwith, 2007

Beau Langford

Beau Langford

An apologetics geek and passionate advocate for the pro-life movement, Beau Langford lives in Michigan with his wife, their son, and their mischievous dog, Angel.

More posts by Beau.


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