Unwanted Children: Answering the Arguments for Abortion Rights

Article ID: DA020-2 | By: Francis J. Beckwith

It is argued by many people in the pro-choice movement that legal abortion helps eliminate unwanted children. They believe that unwanted children are indirectly responsible for a great number of family problems, such as child abuse. Hence, if a family can have the “correct” amount of children at the “proper” times, then these family problems will be greatly reduced, if not eliminated.9 Once again, we find several serious problems with the pro-choice argument. First, the argument begs the question, because only by assuming that the unborn are not fully human does this argument work. For if the unborn are fully human, like the abused young children which we readily admit are fully human, then to execute the unborn is the worst sort of child abuse imaginable. Second, it is very difficult to demonstrate that the moral and metaphysical value of a human being is dependent on whether someone wants or cares for that human being. For example, no one disputes that the homeless have value even though they are for the most part unwanted. Now, suppose the pro-choice advocate responds to this by saying, “But you are treating the unborn as if they were as human as the homeless.” This is exactly my point. The question is not whether the unborn are wanted; the question is whether the unborn are fully human. Third, an unwanted child almost never turns out to be a resented baby. This seems to be borne out statistically: (1) there is no solid evidence that a child’s being unwanted during pregnancy produces child abuse; (2) according to one study, 90% of battered children were wanted pregnancies;10 and (3) some writers have argued that there is a higher frequency of abuse among adopted children — who were undoubtedly wanted by their adoptee parents — than among those who are unadopted.11 In his voluminous and scholarly study on the moral, political, and constitutional aspects of the abortion issue, Professor Krason summarizes his findings concerning the argument from unwantedness by pointing out that “the factors causing child abuse cited most frequently by the researches are not ‘unwantedness,’ but parents’ lack of social support from family, friends and community, hostility to them by society, based on a disapproved sexual and social pattern of existence, and — most commonly — their having been abused and neglected themselves when they were children.”12Fourth, the unwantedness of children in general tells us a great deal about our psychological and moral make-up as a people, but very little about the value of the child involved. For it is only a self-centered, hedonistic people who do not consider it their self-evident obligation to care for the most vulnerable and defenseless members of the human race. A lack of caring is a flaw in the one who ought to care, not in the person who ought to be cared for. Hence, whether or not abortion is morally justified depends on whether the unborn are fully human, not on their wantedness.