Students for Life

By Shane Libuna – 9 min read

The topic of Abortion, which is entrenched in intricate legal, moral, and ethical issues, often ignites debates that resonate deeply with many individuals. This article aims to dissect these layers, navigating through the philosophical, legal, and emotional terrains that shape our understanding of abortion. We shall take a look at important issues such as: what constitutes personhood; how the right to life and other human rights intersect, and what ethical dilemmas are raised by abortion?


In pro-life discourse the definition of personhood is pivotal. Drawing on philosophical reasoning, we argue that the unique genetic makeup established at conception marks the start of a new human life. In fact, being human transcends mere biological classification; it encompasses the essence of existence and the intrinsic value inherent in that existence. Humanity is not a characteristic that emerges at a certain developmental stage but is an intrinsic quality present from the very beginning of life.

This perspective posits that personhood is not defined by functional capabilities such as reasonings, self-awareness, or autonomy. Instead, it is viewed as an inherent attribute, deeply rooted in the very nature of being human. This view is often grounded in the belief that all human beings regardless of their developmental stage, possess an innate dignity and worth that commands respect and protection. The philosophical assertion here is that personhood and humanity are not conditional upon one’s abilities or or contributions but are fundamental qualities that are inseparable from our existence as human beings. 

Modern-day pro-life philosophers, such as Patrick Lee, Don Marquis, and Robert P. George argue that personhood shouldn’t be contingent on developmental milestones like viability or consciousness. They contend that the potential for life and human development inherent in a fertilised egg warrants full moral consideration. This perspective challenges the often-utilitarian approach of the pro-choice stance, which sometimes ties personhood to factors like sentience or self-awareness. Pro-life philosophy underscores that these criteria are arbitrary and do not diminish the value of life at any stage.

The pro-life argument emphasises that the essence of what it means to be human – the potential for growth, the capacity for relationships, the innate dignity – is present in the foetus just as it is in a child or an adult. The foetus, though in the earliest stages of human development, embodies the potentiality that defines human existence. It also highlights this fundamental human need to be protected and cared for by a family or wider community. Humans do not exist as solitary creatures but as individuals connected to a wider social group. Just as adults need the support of others, so too do children and by extension the unborn child. Thus the foetus is not merely a cluster of cells or a potential life but a life with potential.

The genetic distinctiveness of the embryo is highlighted as a key argument for its status as a person. This is contrasted with views that consider the foetus a ‘potential’ human life, arguing that the biological processes initiated at conception are inherently geared towards human life development. If personhood and life begin at conception, then abortion at any stage conflicts with the right to life of the unborn. This stance advocates for the protection of life from its earliest stages, viewing abortion not as a matter of choice but as a moral issue of protecting a vulnerable human being.

The pro-life argument views personhood as intrinsic from the moment of conception and it is this view that forms the foundation for the pro-life stance on abortion, emphasising the protection and sanctity of life from its very beginning.

Human Rights and the Right to Life

For Pro-life advocates, the right to life is paramount and extends unequivocally to the unborn. This section delves into the understanding that human rights, especially the right to life as outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, apply from conception. The pro-life argument holds that the unborn child, as a human being, should be afforded the same rights as any other person. This view is supported by biological evidence that life begins at conception, with the formation of a unique genetic identity.

The intrinsic right to life should not be conferred depending on factors such as development, viability, or birth. Legal rulings that permit abortion are violations of the unborn child’s right to life. One example of this is Roe v. Wade, which made abortion legal under the right to privacy nationwide in the United States. On the other hand, decisions like Gonzales v. Carhart (2007), which upheld the Partial-Birth Abortion Ban Act, show a trend in the law toward acknowledging the rights of the unborn. Similar to this, the 1989 ruling in Webster v. Reproductive Health Services permitted states to regulate abortion, demonstrating a growing awareness of the rights of the unborn.

What about the Mother’s Rights?

One of the core aspects of the abortion debate is the complicated and significant problem of balancing the unborn child’s right to life with the mother’s right to bodily autonomy. On one hand, the pro-life argument emphasises that the foetus is an individual with their own set of rights. On the other hand, the pro-choice perspective underscores the importance of a woman’s bodily autonomy, her right to make decisions about her own body, including the choice to continue or terminate a pregnancy. These rights are often pitted against each other and thus are seen as opposing one another- ‘The foetus’ right to life can only exist if the mother’s rights are extinguished’ and vice versa. What is often lost in this discussion is that there can be a balancing of rights between the mother and the unborn child. 

Firstly, the foetus is considered a distinct individual with their own genetic identity, separate from the mother, thus possessing their own rights. Secondly, pregnancy is viewed as a natural biological process, which carries inherent responsibilities, including safeguarding the life that has been created. The temporary nature of pregnancy can be contrasted with the permanent consequence of ending a life, underscoring the importance of the foetus’s right to life. We must also acknowledge that potential procreation comes with inherent responsibilities. This procreation may be unwanted or unwelcome but it does not alter the unborn child’s intrinsic value and personhood. 

A compelling aspect of this discussion involves the relationship between the mother and the foetus during pregnancy. Scientifically, it’s been observed that the foetus can provide antibodies to the mother in times of illness, illustrating a biological interdependence. This symbiotic relationship highlights that the connection between mother and child is not always one of dependency but also mutual benefit. It adds a layer of complexity to the argument, suggesting that the relationship between the mother and child is dynamic and interrelated, rather than solely one of the foetus being a passive recipient of the mother’s bodily resources.

To reconcile these rights, it is essential to acknowledge and respect the significance of both parties’ interests. One approach could be to emphasise the need for comprehensive support systems for pregnant women, ensuring that they have the necessary resources, healthcare, and social support. Additionally, fostering a societal environment that values both the life of the unborn and the autonomy of the mother, while addressing the challenges faced by pregnant women, can contribute to finding a middle ground. This reconciliation requires a multifaceted approach, involving ethical considerations, medical insights, and social support mechanisms. It involves recognizing the rights of the unborn while also understanding and supporting the complex circumstances and needs of pregnant women. The goal is to create a balance where the rights and well-being of both the mother and the unborn are respected and upheld.

While acknowledging the complexity of  various situations, like pregnancies resulting from rape, the pro-life stance maintains that this intrinsic personhood of the unborn should not be compromised. We argue for solutions that protect both the mother and the child, advocating for better support systems, healthcare, and adoption as alternatives to abortion.

Navigating the Moral Landscape

The ethical dilemmas central to the pro-life position, especially regarding abortion in instances of rape or when the mother’s life is at risk, are complex and deeply sensitive. The pro-life stance, rooted in compassion for all individuals involved, prioritises the inherent dignity and value of each individual person. This perspective advocates for providing comprehensive support and resources to women facing these harrowing situations, emphasising the absolute need for a multi-faceted approach. Pro-life advocates recognise the immense emotional and practical challenges these scenarios present and are firm in their position that no woman should be left isolated and alone in such a challenging time. It is through a continued effort to support women that we may create an environment which acknowledges the value of their life as well as their unborn child.

This extends to advocating for families grappling with difficult prenatal diagnoses, underlining the potential for life and joy even amidst adversity. The pro-life view argues that each life, no matter how it began or what challenges it may face, should be given a chance to flourish. This approach is not just about the individual cases but also reflects a broader societal stance on life and dignity. By opposing the normalisation of abortion, we uphold a societal view which calls on each person to respect and care for the most vulnerable. Indeed, the acceptance of abortion as a norm can truly erode the collective respect for life at all stages – from conception to natural death- and weaken the societal fabric that upholds the dignity of every individual.

Affirming Life in Our Discourse and Actions

We have traversed the complex terrain of the abortion debate through a pro-life lens, underscoring the sanctity of life from conception. We’ve also touched on some of the philosophical, legal, and ethical dimensions that affirm the rights of the unborn. Despite the multifaceted nature of this issue, our pro-life stance remains steadfast in advocating for the protection and dignity of all human life.

As we conclude, we reiterate the importance of ongoing dialogue, compassion, and comprehensive support systems that uphold life at every stage, emphasising our collective responsibility to nurture and protect the most vulnerable among us.

We invite you to join the pro-life movement in its mission to protect and honour life. Share this blog to raise awareness and foster meaningful conversations. Engage with local pro-life organisations, participate in community discussions, and support initiatives that provide alternatives to abortion, such as adoption and maternal support services. Let’s work together to create a culture that values life and provides compassionate solutions for those facing difficult pregnancies. Your voice and actions can make a difference in upholding the dignity of every human life!