Could ‘exceptions’ to protecting all preborn children destroy every pro-life law?

scientific american, roe v. wade, preborn baby, fetus, biology

If a recent Indiana appeals court decision is any indication, there’s a major weakness plaguing the pro-life movement and attempting to demolish the life-saving work accomplished since the overturning of Roe v. Wade. It’s been lying under the foundation of the pro-life argument like a fault line for decades, and it could reduce the pro-life standpoint to ashes. As is made evident in the highly unusual Indiana ruling discussed below, pro-life “exceptions” are the Achilles heel that could destroy pro-life laws.

What the court said

The Indiana appeals court ruled earlier this month that Indiana’s pro-life law protecting most children from abortion violates the religious rights of a group of five women, along with Hoosier Jews for Choice, under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The court ruled that because the state allows exceptions for rape, incest, and fetal anomaly in the pro-life law, its argued “compelling interest” in protecting preborn lives is not compelling at all. In other words, it says if the state isn’t interested in protecting all preborn human beings from abortion, then it cannot argue that it has a compelling interest in protecting any preborn human beings. Notably, however, it appears the court’s ruling also refers to existing, living human beings in the womb as “potential for life” and “potential life.”

The ruling says:

The State has not shown that its claimed compelling interest in protecting the potential for life is satisfied by denying Plaintiffs’ religious-based exception that prioritizes a mother’s health over potential life, given that other exceptions are allowed based on the same prioritization—that is, the exceptions applicable when the pregnancy poses a “serious health risk” or termination would “save the pregnant woman’s life.” [. . .]

This weakness in the State’s argument is even more apparent when the Abortion Law’s other exceptions are considered. […]

The Abortion Law also allows abortions when the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest or when the fetus has been diagnosed with a lethal fetal anomaly so long as other statutory conditions are met. […] The State does not explain why a victim of rape or incest is entitled to an abortion, but women whose sincere religious beliefs direct an abortion are not. The State also does not explain how allowing an abortion of a “fetus diagnosed with a lethal fetal anomaly”—as is conditionally permitted by the Abortion Law—advances the State’s alleged compelling interest in protecting potential life.

Because Indiana legislators allowed some “exceptions” to the pro-life law, the court ruled the state must also allow religious exceptions as a justifiable reason for killing a preborn child.

But there is no justifiable reason.

Pro-life exceptions are immoral

A 2023 Gallup poll revealed that 44% of Americans identify as “pro-life” in the abortion debate. But just 13% said abortion should be illegal in “all” circumstances. Fifty-one percent said abortion should be legal under “certain” circumstances, and breaking it down even further, 36% said abortion should be legal “only in a few” circumstances.

It is a serious flaw in the pro-life movement that 44% of Americans consider themselves to be pro-life yet only 13% think abortion should be outlawed, calling into question what, exactly, they believe abortion to be and what they believe a preborn human is.

Either a preborn child is a human being or he isn’t. And either abortion is morally wrong or it isn’t. There is no middle ground.

It can’t be immoral to abort a baby for being “unplanned” but moral to abort a baby for being “unhealthy.” It is considered unacceptable for a doctor to provide medical care to only healthy (born) children while offering to kill a (born) child when she becomes ill. Yet that’s exactly what’s being done to children in the womb. They aren’t “potential” life. They’re alive and growing.

Exceptions that allow abortions only for certain children (rape, incest, fetal anomaly) create the implication that pro-life laws are not about protecting children, but about punishing women. If a woman is pregnant from rape, the pregnancy is not her “fault,” and if her baby has a serious health diagnosis, it is likely not her “fault” either. This makes it appear as though pro-life legislators are only interested in protecting the babies of women who are experiencing unplanned pregnancies by their own “fault.”

Leaving the legality of abortion up to state legislators has the same effect — the protection of only some preborn children.

“A lot of people think [abortion is] murder,” said pro-abortion advocate Bill Maher last week. “That’s why I don’t understand the 15-week thing, or Trump’s plan is, ‘Let’s leave it to the states.’ You mean, so killing babies is OK in some states? I can respect the absolutist position. I really can.” (emphasis added)

It’s a horrific misjudgment of the pro-life movement that any preborn child could be deemed an exception to laws meant to protect preborn children. They are always human beings worthy of protection — not just when it’s convenient.

The Indiana court ruling has shown that pro-lifers must stop cowering to the pro-abortion side. The only moral and justifiable pro-life position is the position of pro-life, no exceptions.

The DOJ put a pro-life grandmother in jail for protesting the killing of preborn children. Please take 30-seconds to TELL CONGRESS: STOP THE DOJ FROM TARGETING PRO-LIFE AMERICANS.

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