Abortion Is Not Murder Essay

1219 words - 5 pages

Abortion is Not Murder

Is abortion murder?  Murder is defined as "illegal killing with malice aforethought." Abortion fails this definition for two reasons. First, abortion is not illegal, and second, there is no evidence to suggest that expecting mothers feel malice towards their own flesh and blood.

Not all killing is murder, of course. Murder is actually a small subset of all killing, which includes accidental homicide, killing in self-defense, suicide, euthanasia, etc. When pro-life activists call abortion "murder," they are suggesting that abortion fits the definition of murder, namely, "illegal killing with malice aforethought." However, abortion fails this definition for two reasons. First, abortion is not illegal, and second, mothers hardly feel malice towards their own unborn children.

Some might object the first point is overly legalistic. Just because killing is legal doesn't make it right. Exterminating Jews in Nazi Germany was certainly legal, but few doubt that it was murder.

But why do we still consider the Holocaust murder? The answer is that we hold the Nazis to a higher law. When the Nazis were tried in Nuremberg for their war crimes, they were not accused of "crimes against Germans" or even "crimes against Jews." Instead, they were charged with "crimes against humanity." The reason is because there was no legal basis to charge them otherwise. The massacre of Jews was legal under German law. So in order to punish the German leaders for clearly wrong behavior, the Allies had to evoke a higher law, a law of humanity. (1) The Holocaust was condemned as illegal, and therefore murder, because it violated this law.

Many pro-life advocates claim that the same reasoning applies to abortion. Although abortion is legal under current U.S. law, it is not legal when it is held up to a higher law, namely, the law of God.

Let's assume, for argument's sake, that the Bible is indeed the law of God. Unfortunately, this doesn't help the pro-life movement, because there is no Biblical law against abortion. (Abortion is as old as childbirth.) The Hebrew word for "kill" in the commandment "Thou shalt not kill" is rasach, which is more accurately interpreted as "murder," or illegal killing judged harmful by the community. It is itself a relative, legalistic term!

Many forms of killing were considered legal in ancient Israel, and levitical law listed many of the exceptions. Generally, levitical law permitted killing in times of war, the commission of justice and in self-defense. Sometimes, God even gave Israel permission to kill infant children. In I Samuel 15:3, God ordered Saul to massacre the Amalekites: "Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants..."

Unfortunately, the levitical law we find in the Bible today is incomplete, and comes to us in large gaps. That is because the ancient Jews passed down their laws orally, and only wrote down the more complicated laws to jog their memory....

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