Better never born than newborn

Nothing makes me sadder than knowing there are children who are not loved and cared for well by their parents. My heart hurts even now as I think about them flinching at verbal abuse, or recoiling at physical abuse, or just lying in bed at night feeling lonely and hurt and wishing Mommy and Daddy loved them. Children need love about as much as they need food, and so many children go to bed hungry.

Their plight is so sad that perhaps they would be better off dead. Perhaps Child Protective Services should have the authority upon identifying an unloved child to not only remove him from the home but from the land of the living as well. It would be for his own and everyone else’s good. How can a child’s life be worth living or have any value at all if he is unwanted?

Of course the suggestion that unwanted and unloved children should be killed is an abhorrent one. But if it would be wrong to take the life of a child in order to end her suffering and loneliness, how can it be right to take it before she experiences such misfortune? And that without really knowing what her future holds?

The claim that abortion is justified if the child is unwanted and might therefore be neglected or abused is another “argument from pity,” according to Francis J. Beckwith in Chapter 4 of his book Politically Correct Death: Answering Arguments for Abortion Rights (1). But it’s an argument that fails like all the others because, as he points out, “if the unborn are fully human, like the abused born children that we readily admit are fully human, then to execute the unborn is the worst sort of child abuse imaginable.” Only if it can be shown that a child before birth is not a human being with inherent value and has no rights at all would any of the arguments from pity be valid.

But examining this argument for its soundness reveals other defects. Primarily, the argument implies that there would be fewer instances of child abuse if unwanted children are aborted, but the opposite is true. Beckwith again quotes former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop:

[I]n 1972 [before Roe v. Wade] there were 60,000 child-abuse incidents which were brought to official attention in the United States. Just four years later, in 1976, the number that received official attention passed the half-million mark.

And from another source:

Since Roe v. Wade, child abuse has increased proportionately with the skyrocketing rate of legal abortions. The same pattern of increased child battery following legalization of abortion has also been observed in many other countries, including Canada, Britain, and Japan.

And this is just what we should expect. If a child’s value is determined by the benefits or enjoyment he is expected to provide to his parents, then he has no inherent worth which would deter mistreatment when he fails to satisfy his parents’ wants and needs. This pitiful argument, instead of demonstrating compassion for unwanted children, treats them as commodities useful for enhancing the lives of adults. This devalues all children, and that which is considered as worth less is more easily seen as worthless, and therefore more easily ignored, abused, or discarded.

The logic is inescapable and surely drives the decisions of unhappy new mothers to toss their newborns in dumpsters or out windows: If a child is disposable before birth if she’s not wanted, why not after?

More pitiful arguments answered next time.

1. Francis J. Beckwith, Politically Correct Death: Answering Arguments for Abortion Rights (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1993)