Does a Fetus Have a Right to Life?

I believe in the sanctity of human life. I oppose elective abortion for personal or social convenience. We should not submit to, perform, encourage, pay for, or arrange such abortions. Possible exceptions to elective abortion include: 1) When pregnancy results from rape or incest, 2) When a competent medical authority determines the life or health of the mother is in serious jeopardy or 3) When a physician determines that the fetus has severe defects that will not allow the baby to survive beyond birth. Even these exceptions do not automatically justify abortion. Abortion is a most serious matter and should only be contemplated after the persons involved have considered other alternatives such as adoption. Although freedom of choice was denied a raped 15-year old girl causing an unwanted pregnancy, she can still exercise her freedom by allowing the child to be born and adopted, especially if she has strong feelings that abortion is the taking of a human life. I don’t believe the abortion argument should be about rights, but about potentiality.  In this paper I hope to present a persuasive moral argument that abortion is akin to murder and should be avoided, even if the child is unplanned or unwanted.

Abortion is a war on the defenseless and voiceless. It is a war on the unborn. It is ironic that civilized societies that generally place safeguards on human life have now passed laws that sanction and publically fund the practice of abortion. Since the legalization of abortion in 1973 (Roe vs. Wade), approximately 50 million abortions have been performed the United States.  Worldwide more than 40 million abortions are performed each year. More abortions are performed each year than soldiers killed in both WWI and WWII (30 million). Death from abortion far exceeds the toll of the deplorable loss of life from warfare. 93% of abortions occur for social reasons – the child is inconvenient or unwanted. Who speaks up for the rights of these unborn children – the right to life and all the potentialities it affords?

Let me be clear: I do not intend to argue against the legal right of the mother for abortion on demand. She has that legal right. She can do with her own body as she chooses. I intend to argue that the fetus has a right to life because it is a separate person that deserves to be born and to experience life. There are at least two people involved in the decision, even if we exclude the father. Terminating the life of a developing baby involves two individuals with separate bodies, brains and hearts. Perhaps it is presumptive to do so but in order to support that statement we need to consider when meaningful life begins. At conception, the mother and the father each donated 23 chromosomes containing the genetic coding that, when combined, establish all the characteristics of an unborn person. This genetic combining results in a new human being. Approximately 22 days after conception, a little heart begins to beat. At 26 days the circulation of blood begins. Just because the baby is not yet fully developed does not mean that it is any less of a person. The effort of man to legislate when a developing life is considered “meaningful” is presumptive and arbitrary. The fetus, no matter at what stage, is a person.

Peter Singer is Professor of Bioethics at Princeton and one of the most prolific writers on philosophy and ethics. He has stated, “The central argument against abortion may be put like this: It is wrong to kill an innocent human being. A human fetus is an innocent human being. Therefore it is wrong to kill a human fetus.” Peter Singer disagrees with this logic. He has argued that “human babies are not born self-aware, or capable of grasping that they exist over time. They are not persons.” He has also said that “In a strictly biological sense, opponents of abortion are right to say that abortion ends a human life.” But he does not consider a fetus or even a human infant to be a person. His views on abortion center on the right to life being intrinsically tied to a being’s capacity to hold preferences. I disagree with that assessment. Just because the fetus cannot yet express itself, does not make it any less of a person.

The real problem is defining what constitutes a person. Personhood cannot be defined based on functionality, presently realized. We must consider that abortion destroys one’s possible future. It is for this very reason that it is morally wrong to take our own lives. But is it a compelling argument? Not yet. It doesn’t answer the question of why human life is valuable and therefore why it is wrong to take another human life. A person or a potential person in the case of a fetus has great worth, even infinite worth if you consider what it can become. Even though a human fetus has not yet been born, it still possesses all the characteristics of a human being and thus is indeed a “person” or a member of the human family. Unrealized human potentiality gives that fetus a moral right to live. The fetus has intrinsic worth and value in its very nature as a human being in embryo. Abortion is indeed murder in that it denies the potential human person the growth opportunities this life affords. To truly understand the worth of a human being, you must consider that there is more to a person than merely a human body.

I am a substance dualist and readily concede my belief in a soul as a bias influencing my position on abortion. It is my belief that I exist now, have always existed and always will exist in some form or another with or without my physical, mortal body. In other words, I am composed of more than the neurons and molecules that make up my physical body. I have a mind and a spirit that are temporarily housed inside this mortal body. I have no idea how my mind and spirit interact with my body. My metaphysical position supports the idea of a plane of existence other than the natural world around us that we see and experience. Because I am self-aware and have a sense of personal identity over time, I have concluded consciousness will continue for me after the death of my mortal body. I cannot conceive of not “being.” I am more than a mental state produced by chemicals in my brain. I am an intelligent, eternal being housed in this mortal body for a time and season, learning and growing. In short, I have great worth and potential.

Abortion is murder in that it is destroying the mortal body created to house an eternal spirit. Abortion takes away the right of that eternal being to have a mortal experience with all the attendant growth and learning that takes place in this world. I am pro-choice but not in the sense that the phrase is normally used. I believe in freedom to choose my course in life but I do not believe I am free to choose the consequences of my choices. The analogy of an astronaut may help. Anytime during the selection or preparation process, the potential astronaut is free to withdraw from the program. But once the spacecraft has lifted off, the astronaut is bound to the consequences of the previous choice to make the journey. In like manner, once conception has occurred, the choice of the woman has already been made. She cannot “unchoose.” Yes, she is free to choose what she will do with her body, but once a new life has begun within her, she must consider the impact future choices will have on that new human being. Elective abortion simply becomes a form of birth control, a way to avoid undesired consequences of choice. It is morally wrong because it takes the life of another human being without their consent.

A common rebuttal to the argument against abortion is the woman’s right to what she can do with her own body. She has a right to choose and has a right to consent to what is done to her body. As I noted previously, I do not contest these rights. I am pro-choice in this regard. But I wonder if we are giving enough attention to the rights of the father. What if he is opposed to having his child aborted? I have purposely avoided including harsh descriptions of the abortion process such as “sucked down a sink,” or “skull crushed and severed.” Has the father nothing to say if he does not wish to have the child he helped create killed in such a brutal manner? The fetal pain debate is unsettled, since it is impossible to determine what the fetus feels during the abortion process. Why do we hold fathers responsible to provide for their children and not hold mother’s to the same standard? Abortion is a way of avoiding responsibility for choice.

Another rebuttal to the argument against abortion is that we are trying to force a woman to carry an unwanted pregnancy to full term. I noted exceptions to my position of a general opposition to abortion in the opening paragraph. If the mother was raped or the pregnancy resulted from incest, statistically shown to be less than 1% of unwanted pregnancies, then abortion may be justified. However, in the case of pregnancy arising from consensual sex, the woman has tacitly consented to the fetus using her body so she is not being forced against her will. The right to life of the fetus and the right of the woman over her own body are ongoing debates. I do not believe in forcing a woman to do anything against her own will. The decision is a difficult one that ultimately, only the woman can make. She must live with the consequences of her own decision. She may regret having participated in an abortion in her later years.

In this paper, I hope I have made it clear that I believe human life begins at conception. I cannot say at what point the intelligence, soul or eternal spirit enters the human fetus. That is an important consideration in my personal religious beliefs but not relevant to this argument. You do not have to believe in the existence of a soul to understand that life begins at conception. I think anyone who has studied the issue concedes this fact. A new human life is a miracle, worth preserving. Why destroy a life that could bring joy to others? There are better ways of dealing with an unwanted pregnancy. Preserve the life of the child and give it to someone else through adoption. It is a wonderful alternative to abortion. I hope I have argued persuasively that life is precious, especially unrealized potential life. Life comes from life. It is no accident. It is a gift that is not our right to take as we choose. Choose life, not death.

For more information:

Official Statement on Abortion from LDS Newsroom

Abortion, An Assult on the Defenseless by Elder Russell M. Nelson

Weightier Matters by Elder Dallin H. Oaks

Is Abortion Right for Me? – a resource from LDS family services

Conversing with the Lord Through the Veil

I imagine by now there are many thousands of people who have read Denver Snuffer’s books. He wrote his first in 2006 and published his eighth towards the end of 2011. I have listed them below with the links to Amazon where they may be purchased. I have read four of them since being introduced to this author a few months ago and am slowly working on the others.

Denver is still an enigma to me. On the one hand, I am enthralled by what he has written. I have spent every spare moment reading his books and have read two of them twice – his first and his latest. He writes well or at least well enough for a verbose and repetitive lawyer. I personally think he could be more concise, but I doubt he was striving to produce finely polished work.

The books seem to be written more as an effort to get a message out with each additional book written to support the first one. That is, on the other hand, until you get to his latest book. I shared my initial reaction to that book in a previous essay. As I wrote in my comments there, if his witness is true, then he is possibly the most dangerous man in Mormonism right now.

I would like to focus this entry on his first book, The Second Comforter. When I was a young man either in seminary or while preparing for my mission, I studied the doctrine of having our calling and election made sure. We can and should be pursuing a course in our lives where we ask for and receive an audience with the Savior in order to seal on earth our eternal exaltation.

What the scriptures teach

John 14:16-18 – And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; Even the Spirit of truth (this is the first comforter) … I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you (The Savior is the Second Comforter).

1 Peter 1:10 – Wherefore … brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall

1 Peter 1:19 –And this voice which came from heaven we heard, when we were with him in the holy mount. We have also a more sure word of prophecy

D&C 131:5 – The more sure word of prophecy means a man’s knowing that he is sealed up unto eternal life, by revelation and the spirit of prophecy, through the power of the Holy Priesthood.

What Joseph Smith taught

“After a person has faith in Christ, repents of his sins, and is baptized for the remission of his sins and receives the Holy Ghost (by the laying on of hands), which is the first Comforter, then let him continue to humble himself before God, hungering and thirsting after righteousness, and living by every word of God, and the Lord will soon say unto him, Son, thou shalt be exalted.

“When the Lord has thoroughly proved him, and finds that the man is determined to serve Him at all hazards, then the man will find his calling and his election made sure, then it will be his privilege to receive the other Comforter, which the Lord hath promised the Saints, as is recorded in the testimony of St. John, in the 14th chapter, from the 12th to the 27th verses….

“Now what is this other Comforter? It is no more nor less than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself; …when any man obtains this last Comforter, he will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend him, or appear unto him from time to time, and even He will manifest the Father unto him, and they will take up their abode with him, and the visions of the heavens will be opened unto him…

“…the Lord will teach him face to face, and he may have a perfect knowledge of the mysteries of the Kingdom of God; and this is the state and place the ancient Saints arrived at when they had such glorious visions-Isaiah, Ezekiel, John upon the Isle of Patmos, St. Paul in the three heavens, and all the Saints who held communion with the general assembly and Church of the First Born” [TPJS, pp. 150-51].

What the church teaches today

You can find plenty of references on the church website about making your calling and election sure but not as much about receiving the Second Comforter. I’m not so sure that this doctrine is as well understood. That’s why Denver’s book intrigues me so. How often are we taught in the church today that we should seek to be taught the mysteries of the Kingdom of God by the Lord himself, face to face? Are we being encouraged by our leaders to receive the Second Comforter?

Perhaps, like me you have the impression that we are subtly being discouraged from this idea. Is it dangerous to seek to commune with the spirit world other than through the general ministration of the Holy Ghost? Perhaps there is the fear that we may be deceived by angels of darkness who are appearing as angels as light? How many times do we talk about being taught by the angels? If we’re not ready to receive the Lord yet, can’t we and shouldn’t we seek to have angels teach us?

I like what my friend Bryce Haymond wrote in the comments on my first Denver Snuffer essay: “I have once heard it said, ‘Those that don’t know speak….. while those that know don’t.’ I would be extremely cautious of following too closely to a member that claims to be ministered to personally by the Savior. Such an experience, if and when it occurs, is certainly a very sacred and personal thing, and not to be shared lightly.” I have also heard this all my life in the church.

But I’m an old man now. I feel I have served in all the leadership positions to which I will be called in my life. I’m not concerned about what my bishop or Stake President might think if they read my essays. In other words, I’m not trying to be overly careful to share only the milk of the gospel on these pages. This blog is my personal journal of spiritual progression. I’m much more interested at this point in my life in preparing to meet the Savior, perhaps while still in mortality.

The witness of Denver Snuffer

On page 405 of The Second Comforter, Denver writes, “Christ lives and comforts his followers today, just as he promised and did anciently. He is the Second Comforter. I know He lives, for I have seen Him. He has ministered unto me.” And on page 410, “In words well worn in testimony meetings of every ward in the Church, I proclaim: I, too, know Christ lives! I have seen Him.”

On page 392, he offers, “You will generally not be able to tell anyone, except for close family members, about these things; although if commanded to do so, you must.” And in a footnote on page 396, “If the author had not been asked to write this work, the author’s own experience would have remained a private matter, as it was for years before writing this book.”

In Chapter 12 of Come, Let Us Adore Him (page 216), we writes, “I knew a man in Christ about four years ago, who, being overshadowed by the Spirit on the 26th of February, 2005, had the Lord appear to him again. And the Lord spoke to him face to face, in plain humility, as one man speaketh to another, calling him by name.” He is obviously referring to himself in this passage.

And on page 220 of the same book, “After long inquiring into the things which he had seen, the Lord, who is patient and merciful and willing to instruct those who call upon Him, again appeared to the man on the 20th of December, 2007.” He then shares what the Lord taught him about the atonement. Again, “the man” in this quote is obviously Denver Snuffer, the author.

On page 268 we read, “Although I have disclosed some of what I have been shown I cannot tell all. I am merely a lay member of the Church …, with no authority or position of significance. If I have a witness of the Lord’s resurrection, certainly you can have the same.” And again on page 292, “He lives. For I saw Him. He has ministered to me. I know he lived, died and rose …”

Books by Denver Snuffer:

The Second Comforter (2006) – Read this first. I have read this twice

Nephi’s Isaiah (2006) – I have read excerpts

Eighteen Verses (2007) – I am reading this now

Ten Parables (2008) – I have read excerpts

Beloved Enos (2009) – I have read this

Come, Let Us Adore Him (2009) – I have read this

Removing the Condemnation (2010) – I read a lot of this online

Passing the Heavenly Gift (2011) – I have read this twice