Killing Abortionists Is Moral

15 min read

What follows is an argument built upon a number of premises, some of them more contentious than others. Should you reject any of the main premises, you will necessarily reject the conclusions1. If, however, you find that you agree with all of the (main) premises, you must necessarily accept the conclusions. If you find that you reject any of the premises, then this argument may not be for you, and that is not unintentional. This argument is meant for those who 1) believe in the Natural Law and 2) believe that human life begins at some point prior to birth2. If you, incorrectly, believe that either of the foregoing points is untrue (or you’re the sort of person who likes to double down on mistakes and believe them both untrue), I still welcome you to continue reading if only for curiosity’s sake.

Premises

This argument, as stated supra, relies on a number of premises. Specifically, it relies upon five main moral premises, six sub moral premises, and one factual premise. You do not need to accept all of the premises of this argument to agree with the conclusions, but if you do agree with the five main moral premises and the one factual premise, then you must necessarily agree with the conclusions, for they flow from the premises.

Moral Premises3

  1. Right to Life
    • Humans enjoy a fundamental and inalienable right to life.
  2. Right to Self-Defense
    • Humans enjoy a fundamental and inalienable right to self-defense.
      • The right to self-defense may be extinguished.
        • Where one has committed, is committing, or will commit a moral wrong, he may not claim the right to self-defense if others attempt to punish, to stop, or to preclude his wrongful act.
  3. Right to the Defense of Others
    • The right to self-defense may be transferred to or assumed by a third party and thereby transformed into the right to the defense of others.
      • The right to the defense of others is neither stronger nor weaker than the right to self-defense.
  4. Murder
    • Murder, under the Moral Law, is the wrongful killing of one human being by another.
      • A killing is wrongful where it is unjustified under the Moral Law.
        • Only moral warrants may render a killing justified.
        • A killing may be morally justified only where the moral warrants for the action or actions resulting in death outweigh the general moral prohibition against killing.
  5. Duty to Render Aid
    • There is a general moral duty to render aid, where possible, to those incapable, whether due incapacity, inability, or other disability, whether transitory or permanent, of exercising their right to self-defense.

Factual Premise

  1. Human Life
    • There is a definable and discoverable point at which human life begins.

Argument

Murder Is Immoral

This may seem, at least to many, like the sort of thing that goes without saying. However, there are some who would actually disagree with the premise that murder is morally wrongful. Typically, these individuals are nihilists, and there is quite literally no point in having a moral discussion or argument with them. There is no point in discussing the color of the sunset with someone who adamantly insists that both colors and the sun do not exist.

For the rest of humanity, this is merely the starting point of the argument and a moral precept of fundamental importance. Any system that does not accept this basic moral premise is fated to chaos, disorder, and evil. At this point, no moral human being can have abandoned the logic of this argument.

At Some Point, a Fetus Becomes a Human Being

Again, this is simply a statement of fact. Whereas the last section stated a moral fact, the beginning of this section states a simple fact. Necessarily, fetuses develop into human beings, else there would be no human beings. We all started as fetuses; we are all now human beings4. Of course, the simple fact that fetuses develop into humans isn’t the controversial or debatable part of the heading, “point” is.

When does a fetus become a human being? This is, necessarily and obviously, an exercise in line drawing (as are so many moral and political issues). At the extremes, we have those (mostly on the political Left) who would draw the line at birth and those (mostly on the political Right) who would draw the line at conception. While these views are not totally arbitrary5, they are both mistaken and misguided.

For both of the extremes, the issue of when human life begins is ideological instead of practical, it is a tenet of faith. For the Left, the fetus must become a human being as late as possible so that the sacrament of abortion will not be infringed; for the Right, the fetus must become a human being as early as possible so that abortion can be restricted as much as possible (or outright banned). As is the case in so many of the affairs of men, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.

Instead of asking when a fetus becomes a human being, we must step back and ask a more fundamental question: What defines a human being? Historically, this question has been a difficult one to answer. With the advances of modern medicine, we can now say with some certainty that brain activity is the truest and most reliable indicator of a living human being6. So, our definition of human is as follows:

Brain activity commensurate with being human is the only viable, rational metric for determining if a life is “human”.

Of course, we now have a new term that we must define (i.e., “brain activity commensurate with being a human”). Let’s go with this:

“Brain activity commensurate with being human” means such brain activity as is necessary to maintain consciousness that enables at least a minimum of awareness of self7.

This is, admittedly, a bare minimum definition of what it means to be a human being, but we must have a definition that can encompass edge cases (e.g., those in comas and the very young). An underinclusive definition would result in excluding certain human beings from the definition of “human being” while an overinclusive definition would result in including certain non-human beings in the definition of “human being”; neither an underinclusive nor an overinclusive definition would serve our purposes (or anyone else’s, really8). So, armed with our objective, rational definition, let’s return to fetuses.

When does a fetus achieve the level of brain activity we set as our definition of “human being”? The science, while not completely settled, is fairly consistent. In general, human fetuses achieve the level of brain development and brain activity that would fit the definition of “human being” sometime in the first or second trimester9.

Once a Fetus Becomes a Human Being, Killing It10 Is Murder

Killing a human being is murder11. A fetus becomes a human being at some point in its development. Ergo, killing a fetus after it has reached the point in its development at which it becomes a human being is murder. The logic of this is only slightly more complicated than 2+2=412. While some may wish to debate the definition of “human being” (and objective challenges based in reality are, of course, always welcome), the simple logic of this section is virtually tautological; it is not open to challenge13.

Self-Defense, Defense of Others, and Killing

It is one of our basic six premises that human beings enjoy a right to self-defense. Such right to self-defense flows from the right to life. Having a right to life would be utterly meaningless if you did not have a parallel right to defend that life when it is threatened. Necessarily, the right to self-defense includes force up to and including lethal force if necessary to repel an attacker14.

The right to the defense of others is a derivate right from the right of those same others to self-defense. In essence, if B has a right to self-defense, A has a right to pursue such right to self-defense on B’s behalf. The right to the defense of others primarily, but not exclusively, arises when such others are incapable, for whatever reason, of exercising their right to self-defense. The right to the defense of others is neither weaker nor stronger than the right of such others to defend themselves.

Necessarily, the right to self-defense attaches only when its exercise would be rightful15. A murderer who is resisting law enforcement efforts to arrest him is not exercising his right to self-defense. A law enforcement officer who shoots a murderer who is violently resisting arrest and, in so resisting, is putting the life of the officer or his fellows in danger is exercising his right to self defense or his derivative right to the defense of others.

There Is a Moral Duty to Render Aid

There is, in many places, no positive law duty to render aid. We are, however, not here concerned with the positive law. You may be fully within your rights under the positive law to walk by a drowning man and leave him to his fate; you may even be within your rights to stop and watch him drown. Whether or not your actions in either case would be moral (no) is a question separate from whether or not your actions would be legal (often, yes).

Under the Moral Law, there is a positive duty to render aid. This duty is actually broader than our narrow premise concerning self-defense (and, derivatively, the defense of others). Our premise:

There is a general moral duty to render aid, where possible, to those incapable, whether due incapacity, inability, or other disability, whether transitory or permanent, of exercising their right to self-defense.

Our premise is limited as our purposes are limited. We are not dealing with the general duty to render aid, we are merely dealing with the duty to aid one whose ability to exercise his right to self-defense has been compromised. This duty is not absolute, and it does take into account circumstances (e.g., you are not required to jump into the ocean to save a drowning man if you, in fact, do not know how to swim). There is a reason the premise includes “where possible” in its phrasing.

There are few members of our society who are more vulnerable than a fetus16. A fetus depends entirely upon others for its feeding, sheltering, and protection. A fetus is entirely at the mercy of those around it. The moral duty to render aid is most compelling when it serves to protect those who are most vulnerable. The fetus who has passed the developmental milestone where it becomes a human being is most assuredly a prime example of those vulnerable members of society who are protected by the moral duty to render aid.

Punishing (Would-Be) Murderers Is Moral

The point of this section is a nuanced one. It would not, for instance, be moral to travel back in time and kill Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili17 as a baby in his crib. Yes, we know from history that little baby Ioseb would grow up to do unspeakably terrible things and slaughter millions both by arms and by policy, but as a baby he bore no guilt. Punishment, in order to be morally rightful, must be meted out in the presence of mens rea18. A man who innocently trips and accidentally strikes another in his descent to the pavement bears no criminal liability for his fall19. Actus reus20 alone is insufficient to warrant punishment.

So, how then can we morally punish a man who has not yet acted? Again, we look to mens rea. Intent is the more important of the intent plus action combination that yields criminal liability. Further, words can be sufficient to constitute an actus reus. If a man appears with a knife and proclaims that he is going to start stabbing anyone he can catch, would any sane person for even half a second believe it morally wrongful to shoot that man? No, of course not. By proclaiming his intended actus reus and demonstrating his mens rea by words (i.e., stating that he’s going to begin stabbing people) and his capability by actions (i.e., brandishing a knife), this hypothetical homicidal maniac has rendered fully morally justified the actions of anyone who stops him from pursuing his goals.

What does this have to do with abortion? It’s simple, really. An abortion doctor who proclaims his intent (mens rea) to continue performing abortions (actus reus) after the point where our definition delineates human being from fetus opens himself, morally, to punishment for his actions.

Conclusion

Positive Law versus Natural Law

Under the positive law, abortion, at least in many countries, is legal. This matters not at all to the Natural Law. Under the Natural Law, abortions that take place after the point where a fetus ceases to be a mere fetus and becomes a human being are necessarily murder. This flows undeniably and indisputably from our premises. If the premises are correct, then abortion is murder.

There Is a Moral Duty to Kill Abortionists21

The conclusion is almost superfluous, but a slight qualification is necessary. From the premises and the argument, it is obvious that abortion past a certain point in fetal development is murder. This, necessarily, is the limitation on the title of this article (i.e., “Killing Abortionists Is Moral”). An abortionist who performs only abortions that take place before the fetus develops into a human being cannot be killed in accordance with the Moral Law. Abortionists are human and enjoy the right to life just like every other human being, killing an abortionist without warrant would be unjustified (and therefore murder). On the other hand, abortionists who perform abortions that take place after the fetus develops into a human being must be killed in accordance with the Moral Law.

Abortionists who perform abortions after the point at which fetal development marks the transition from fetus to human being are murderers22. The Natural Law is clear on this. As a human being, the baby enjoys the same rights, privileges, and protections as the rest of the population. It is the duty of all moral persons to render aid to such a vulnerable member of society as it is eminently clear that a baby cannot defend itself. Such rendered aid falls squarely within the bounds of the right to the defense of others, a right that includes the use of lethal force where necessary.

Further, and finally, the proper punishment for murder is death.


  1. Assuming you do not arrive at the same destination via an alternate route. 
  2. There exists no sane, objective human being who disagrees with this premise for anything other than expedient, political, amoral reasons. 
  3. Yes, the “Murder” “premise” is really more of a definition, but it is included in the premises for the sake of concision (and because the sub-premises under the definition truly are premises). 
  4. It seems a fair assumption that, if you are reading this article, you are, in fact, a human being. 
  5. After all, there is a clear distinction between, on the one hand, being unborn and being born and, on the other hand, not existing at all and existing (at least as unique DNA). 
  6. After all, pretty much all of the rest of your organs can stop functioning, but you’ll continue right along existing so long as your brain remains operational. 
  7. n.b., this definition includes those in a coma who may be revived, but excludes those in a persistent vegetative state. 
  8. Except the purposes of the purely political or the ideologically driven, of course. 
  9. n.b., this means that a fetus becomes a human being well before the third trimester and as early as the first
  10. I am not “dehumanizing” the fetus by referring to it as “it”; I am merely using English:

    it 1 |it|
    pronoun [third person singular]

    1. used to refer to a thing previously mentioned or easily identified: a room with two beds in it | this approach is refreshing because it breaks down barriers.
      • referring to an animal or child of unspecified sex: she was holding the baby, cradling it and smiling into its face.
      • referring to a fact or situation previously mentioned, known, or happening: stop it, you're hurting me.
    2. used to identify a person: it's me | it's a boy!

    — New Oxford American English Dictionary

  11. More fully (and to head off any unnecessary comments and emails): Killing a human being without sufficient warrant is murder under the Moral Law. I am well aware of the fact that murder under the positive law is the unlawful killing of one human being by another with malice aforethought. We aren’t dealing with the positive law here, so that definition doesn’t apply. 
  12. Except for large values of 2, naturally. 
  13. Boiled down to its simplest form, this section essentially states that “murder = murder”. If you disagree with one of the three fundamental laws of logic (i.e., the Law of Identity), I invite you to attempt to fly as it would appear your reality is not bounded by rules. 
  14. A right to self-defense would be relatively worthless if it ended as soon as lethal force became necessary to exercise it. 
  15. Mistake is another, and complicated, matter. 
  16. Perhaps some particularly vulnerable members of the elderly community would be comparable to a fetus in this regard. 
  17. Better known as Stalin. 
  18.  

    mens rea |menz ˈrēə|
    noun Law
    the intention or knowledge of wrongdoing that constitutes part of a crime, as opposed to the action or conduct of the accused.

    — New Oxford American English Dictionary

  19. This example intentionally includes innocently to avoid the issue of negligence. 
  20.  

    actus reus |ˌaktəs ˈrēəs, ˈrāəs|
    noun Law
    action or conduct that is a constituent element of a crime, as opposed to the mental state of the accused.

    — New Oxford American English Dictionary

  21. n.b., I am here (as in most other cases in this article) using “abortionist” to mean one who performs abortion procedures after the point at which such a procedure would be considered, by the logic of the article, murder. I am not using “abortionist” to mean all persons who perform abortion procedures. 
  22. And those who, specifically, perform third-trimester abortions are often unrepentant murderers who gloat over their crimes and revel in their defiance of the Moral Law. 
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