Does the desire to prevent suffering justify abortion?

preemie, abortion, North Carolina

As part of Students for Life’s #Why video campaign, in which prominent political commentators give their thoughts on the pro-life movement, the Daily Wire’s Michael Knowles responded to a common argument for abortion. Within the three-minute clip, Knowles elaborated on why the intrinsic value of a human being is not reduced if a potential for suffering exists. 


“One of the main arguments that you see for abortion is that a kid is going to be born and have a tough life,” Knowles said. “A kid will be unwanted, a kid will end up without two parents, a kid will end up in the foster care system. And by the way, in many cases, that could be true. A child born into those circumstances could have a very difficult life, but how is that any reason to kill somebody?” (0:23 – 0:53)

Knowles is right about how many pro-choice advocates make the case that abortion is necessary because it can end possible future suffering. But this desire to shield people from suffering has led to an unhealthy desire to control it, and this argument urges people to redefine “suffering” on their own terms. 

“Suffering is not evil,” Knowles contended. “Actually, suffering is morally neutral…. What is good or evil is how you react to suffering. You can react in a way that is ennobling, dignified, and good. Or you can react in a way that is selfish, wicked, evil, and wrong.” (1:25 – 2:01) 

We could eliminate the issue of poverty in this country by executing individuals based on their level of income. Similarly, we could enact the same policy towards children who are not being raised in a two-parent household. But reflexively, we know such a thing would be morally repugnant. Societal values dictate we have a duty to be compassionate to the poor or those in need. And abortion, no matter how you look at it, is not a compassionate act. It is brutal destruction.


An individual’s position in life should not deprive him of the right to equal dignity and basic decency, and the same standard is applicable to preborn humans. 

Knowles responded to another pro-choice objection to the pro-life position – justification for abortion when the child has been diagnosed with a disability. The idea is that it’s cruel to let a child with a physical or mental handicap live, as they’ll struggle and be a burden on their parents.

“Who among us is physically and mentally perfect?” Knowles asked. “Whatever that even means. None of us, of course. Everybody has some deficiencies, everybody suffers.” (1:10 – 1:24) 

Does having Down syndrome or spina bifida make a person less important or worthy of life than a person who does not have one of these conditions? The value of a human being is not inconsistent, as it doesn’t change due to a disability diagnosisIf it did, then why does our culture then ensure that individuals with disabilities receive proper accommodations? Or, as pro-life apologist Randy Alcorn points out, why would we cheer on events like the Special Olympics if we believe it’s an act of mercy for a mother to kill a child with a disability? We cannot claim that persons with disabilities deserve equal treatment in society while simultaneously arguing that the same disability, diagnosed before birth, should warrant a death sentence. 

READ: AWFUL: Head of ACLU disability rights project supports aborting the disabled

Knowles addressed the issue of the pro-abortion movement’s advocacy for a “perfect, idealized world,” asking where a line can be drawn when it comes to ending someone’s life. (2:23 – 2:43) 

People are either worthy of dignity and protection due to a shared human nature, or by acquiring certain arbitrary attributes. The former awards value merely by existing; the latter promises value at a later date, as if the person were property. Knowles is correct when he argues this is an “anti-human ideology,” as it’s rather difficult to construct a solid foundation for equality if there are specific requirements to meet in order to “qualify” as a human being. (2:55 – 3:03)  

Knowles also shared a touching story about a young man who had grown up in foster care and been abused, but was grateful for his life (2:02 – 2:22) When pro-choice people claim suffering justifies abortion, their idea is predicated upon the notion that life is of contingent value. But this young man’s pain did not lessen the intrinsic good that comes from living. 

As Knowles says, our society has developed a fear of suffering that makes abortion seem compassionate. This pro-choice philosophy presents an overly nihilistic view of the world. If the possibility of pain is enough to prevent someone from being born, why should anyone live at all?

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