In his book Abolishing Abortion: How You Can Play a Part in Ending the Greatest Evil of Our Day, Father Frank Pavone writes about conversations he has had with abortionists. Pavone is the head of Priests for Life, and his travels and speaking engagements have brought him face-to-face with different abortion doctors. He’s come to identify some of the strategies abortionists use to justify their work. One strategy he has observed is the tendency to deny that the preborn baby has a soul. Pavone recalls:
Among the most memorable conversations I have had are with practicing abortionists. A number of them have admitted to me that they know they are killing a child, but they justify it by saying, “I don’t know when the child receives a soul.” I was stunned upon first hearing this and replied, “If you don’t know when the child receives a soul, then you don’t know whether the newborn has a soul. Does that and give you the right to kill the newborn?
Since the pro-life movement is usually the one accused of always using religious arguments, it seems surprising that some abortionists use such a religious, even metaphysical argument when faced with a pro-lifer’s questions. The existence of the soul is something that cannot be proven, at least not by scientific means. When a soul arrives cannot be observed. Therefore, it is a horrible way to determine who lives and who dies. As Pavone says, if you don’t know when the soul arrives, and no one can really prove when it does, you can use the “there is no soul” argument to deny the right to life to anyone at any time. You could say the soul goes away when a person turns 10, you could say that elderly people do not have souls, or that disabled people do not. You could say the soul enters the body at puberty. You could say some minorities do not have souls. In Nazi Germany, some people debated whether Jewish men and women had souls. Their beliefs, driven by the worst kind of anti-Semitism, was no justification for the dehumanization and systematic persecution of a whole ethnic group. Atheists don’t believe anyone has a soul; does that give them the right to kill any person they choose? “The preborn baby doesn’t have a soul, therefore I can kill her” is a spectacularly bad argument.
A far better measure of whether it is right or wrong to kill a preborn child is whether that child is a living human being. Science teaches life begins at conception. Here you can find 41 quotes from scientific textbooks and renowned scientists verifying this. Even those who have received no more than an elementary school education are aware that the baby in the womb is human. With two human parents and human DNA, that is incontestable. The baby is not a part of the mother; by the time nearly all abortions are performed, he has his own circulatory system, developing brain, and beating heart. By 7 weeks of age, he has arms and legs. To believe that a baby is not human and not alive requires a denial of science. Unlike the existence of the soul, these things can be proven and observed. They are a far better yardstick to use to determine rights.
The abortionists who use the “preborn baby doesn’t have a soul” argument have created a way to justify performing abortions, putting up a wall between themselves and the truth that is very difficult for pro-lifers to penetrate, because no one can scientifically prove them wrong. Theirs is a system of justification that cannot be easily shaken.
Are educated doctors, individuals who are intelligent enough to graduate medical school, really convinced by the “baby has no soul” argument? Or is it a convenient rationalization, something abortionists tell themselves so they can sleep at night? There is no way to know. But the argument “the preborn baby has no soul, so it’s ok to kill her” is one that should be rejected by anyone with a basic grasp of biology and logic.
Source: Rev. Frank Pavone Abolishing Abortion: How You Can Play a Part in Ending the Greatest Evil of Our Day (Nashville, Tennessee: Nelson Books, 2015) 19 – 20