Dr. James A, PhD, Paralegal
Tom Buck, Karen Swallow Prior (“KSP”), and many of their defenders believe it is “unchristian” to call a woman who gets an abortion a murderer. Common sense, and Scripture disagree. The position of KSP and Buck minimizes sin for what it really is and gives a sinner a false notion of her complete depravity. Buck claims that he believes abortion is murder. But where there’s a murder, there’s a murderer. Who is the murderer in the case of abortion? The doctor only? If what the doctor does is admittedly murder, then how can the co-conspirator not share the same degree of responsibility? If the co-conspirator is not a murderer, then neither is the doctor, and therefore abortion wouldn’t be murder at all. Furthermore, would any pro-life advocate say that a woman seeking an abortion is not in sin? If so, WHAT IS HER SIN?
All throughout the Bible, a conspirator of murder was just as guilty of murder as the murderer himself. When David had Uriah killed, he was guilty of murder (2 Sam 12:7-10). Stephen called Jewish conspirators murderers in Acts 7:52 even though it was technically Roman soldiers who nailed Christ to the cross, and pierced His side. This shows that conspiracy to commit murder is viewed the same as murder.
In Exodus 21:22, a simple quarrel between men that caused harm to a pregnant woman were punished. Deliberate plotting of the killing of the child would fall under the preceding verses on murder.
Here’s a simple ethical dilemma for Buck and KSP to ponder. Let’s say a woman, 2 months into the pregnancy is having complications, has to deliver early, but wants to terminate the pregnancy. The doctor says it would jeopardize her life, so he’ll wait until the baby is born. After delivery, the woman gives consent for the doctor to snap the babies neck. Is it murder? Under current law, yes. Both parties would be charged with murder. However, had that procedure been performed in the womb one month later, it would have been legal. It seems then that time and location determines this murder, which is absurd if you are a Bible believing Christian (not to mention it is absurd under natural law). What sense does it make that killing the baby outside of the womb makes the doctor a murderer, and the woman a co-conspirator to murder, yet if the same exact procedure was done in the womb at the same time, or even a month later, it would not be considered murder? From a biblical perspective, both would be murder.
If another person kills a pregnant woman and the baby dies, or he attacks her and kills the baby, he is charged with that baby’s murder. How can we say that if someone else kills the baby, he is a murderer, but if the woman causes the death, she isn’t?*
Buck, Prior, and their ilk are relying on the fallacies known as argumentum ad misericordiam and argumentum ad passiones. It’s erroneous emotive logic that pity should be shown on a woman because murder is such a strong term it might damage her “psyche”. However, God should be allowed to speak for Himself (and He already has on the matter), and as offensive as sinful terms might be, we are not doing the sinner any favors by minimizing her involvement in terms of what it really is. This might be good Rogerian strategy, but it is not Biblical. Calling the woman out for the very sin she has committed might even save both of their lives and lead to repentance. 1 John 1:8-10. To say that a woman who causes her child to be murdered is not a murderer herself makes God a liar.
*In tweets dated April 2, 2016, Tom Buck, in defending his views, stated that,
That’s the problem w/ throwing word “murderer” around w/o considering every issue. There can be degrees of guilt.”
Nope. But, as I said, our nation never has and never will prosecute the woman. State of mind would be hard to prove”
This is a gross misunderstanding of the mens rea, actus reus, and modus operandi standards for establishing the crime of murder. First of all, yes, there are degrees of guilt such as 1st degree MURDER, second degree MURDER, and in some states, third degree MURDER, but all three are still MURDER. Tom admits there are degrees of guilt, but guilt for what? However, Tom is shifting the argument from a Biblical argument his detractors are pointing out, to a legal one (even though the context was about the ‘what ifs’ of prosecutions under law, Tom frequently relies on legal arguments to rebut Biblical arguments). With this kind of bifurcation, no Christian could say that abortion is murder so long as the secular law says otherwise.
The only time other acts of killing are considered by degrees less than murder are if the intention is lessened, such as in cases of reckless homicide or manslaughter. This is not a very good standard for argument because many clear-cut cases of murder can be pleaded and reduced to a lesser charge. Sometimes the prosecutor may feel their case has a weak-spot, or they may offer leniency if it’s a first offense, or perhaps a lesser charge is offered in exchange for the accused’s testimony against someone else the prosecutor wants more. This doesn’t negate the initial crime, it simply means that other political, legal, and social factors played into the decision of charging them differently which has no bearing on the actual offense itself.
Secondly, “state of mind” would only affect the case if the defense is arguing insanity or duress which is hardly the case in abortions. The only elements necessary to prove murder in most states is whether or not the defendant knowingly and intentionally (and often with “malice aforethought”) took the life of another person. I don’t know a single abortion that wasn’t planned ahead of time, and the very term “abortion” itself means the intentional ending of the life of the unborn. The defense of insanity often relies on two factors: whether the defendant has the ability to assist in his or her defense, and the ability to appreciate the wrongfulness of the crime. Given the amount of paperwork that a mother must agree to and sign to consent to the abortion, such would establish a prima facie against her for murder. The state of mind would be implied (rather explicit actually) in the consent to end a child’s life, and in the premeditation of making the appointment to do so. The reasons for doing so are as irrelevant as a husband justifying the killing of his wife because she cheated on him. Mitigating circumstances may affect the sentence imposed, but are irrelevant to guilt or innocence where intentionality and scienter are clear.
It is also not true that women were never prosecuted for abortions (e.g., Indiana vs Patel, Georgia vs Jones). First of all, women are not prosecuted nearly as much as men are, for any crime, let alone abortion. Secondly, 38 states have feticide laws, and it was prosecuted quite liberally in the 1800s. It wasn’t until Susan B. Anthony in the late 1800s, and later Marie Stopes and Margaret Sanger in the early 1900s pushed for anti-abortion laws that there was any pressure to rescind punishments against women for aborting their fetuses.