Misconception Monday: Lack of Viability Justifies Abortion

  • Ryan Phillips
  • 01/11/2021

Misconception: Abortion is okay when the baby is not viable.

The viability argument is one of the most frequently cited justifications for abortion. The argument is that, if the baby in the womb is not developed enough to be considered viable on his/her own and is, therefore, dependent on the mother for survival, then she should have the right to kill it.

This long-standing rationale is flawed on every level.

First of all, there is no reason that one’s temporary dependence on another should mean that the person providing the support has the right to kill. By this logic, the murder of a full-term newborn baby could just as easily be justified.

Just like the baby in the womb, a newborn is not viable on its own and, if abandoned, would be dead within a couple of days. A human baby is more helpless at birth than virtually any other species on earth. They cannot ambulate (walk or crawl), have no sense of danger, are almost entirely unaware of their surroundings, and require constant food and warmth. Each of these needs most often comes directly from the mother.

A newborn baby and a pre-born baby both require life-sustaining nourishment from the mother to survive—one from the mother’s milk, and the other through the umbilical cord. It is inconsistent to claim that killing the newborn would be murder but that, because it is attached to the mother, the umbilical cord carries a license to kill right alongside the miraculous life support it provides.

The argument could also be extended to a doctor performing a lifesaving procedure on a patient. If the patient is dependent on the doctor’s temporary care to sustain life during a critical surgery, the doctor, of course, should not have the right to kill the patient. Obviously, there are other differences between this scenario and a pregnancy, but the point is that temporary dependence on another to sustain life should not grant the provider the right to kill.

The second main issue with the viability argument is that viability is a constantly-moving target. As medical technology advances, the gestational age of viability keeps getting younger. In the 1970’s when Roe v. Wade was passed, this age was considered to be up to 28 weeks. The Roe v. Wade decision placed different limits on abortion for the first, second, and third trimesters of pregnancy, based somewhat arbitrarily on the limited medical technology of the time.

Even though the landmark decision Roe v. Wade still determines abortion rights today, the gestational age of viability it is now only 23-24 weeks. There are even records of children as young as 21 weeks surviving outside the womb, and this age will continue to drop as medical science advances.

An unborn child in the womb has infinite inherent value that is not dependent upon whether it receives temporary support from an umbilical cord, or how far medical technology has advanced.

Pro-Life Utah doesn’t just talk about saving children; we also provide free resources and assistance to women facing challenging pregnancies. If you are pregnant and need help, please take a look at what we have to offer you. If you are in a position to donate to support women in need, please consider making a donation.

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