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“Viability” and the Legality of Abortion




Jesus Christ commanded His disciples in Matthew 18:10 to show compassion to the children of the faith: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven.” [1] Many Christians have heeded this advice by advocating for the lives of the smallest of children, the unborn, by supporting pro-life public policy measures.


The recent Supreme Court ruling in June Medical Center v. Russo, a case involving state restrictions on abortion providers, highlighted the galling reality that Roe v. Wade remains the standing case law of the United States. Prior to 1973, abortions were illegal in most states, under most circumstances. [2] With the decision in Roe v. Wade, the Court forever changed the legal status of abortion, making it accessible in every state of the Union.


The fundamental philosophical problem with abortion is one of evaluating whether life inside the womb is deserving of protection. This value judgment was brought up in the original Roe decision and touches on the question of abortion regulation that was brought up in the case of June Medical Center. The words of the Roe decision dance around the reality of the child’s right to life: “For the stage subsequent to viability [the point at which the baby could live outside their mother], the State in promoting its interest in the potentiality of human life may, if it chooses, regulate, and even proscribe [emphasis added], abortion...” [3]


The “stage subsequent to viability” is a false standard that it is high time for the Court, and society, to reexamine. Although our forefathers may be forgiven for their ignorance regarding the growth of a baby in the womb, human tradition demands that we ought to reconsider our views as new information becomes available and scientific advancements enable us to achieve greater heights of progress.


This can be seen in the evolution of pro-life laws in the United States. Many of the laws that were in place banning abortion before the ruling in Roe had not been passed until the 1850s when scientific study enabled us to recognize the humanity of the unborn. This belief was clearly demonstrated when documents from the May 1859 meeting of the American Medical Association in Louisville noted that “the frightful extent of this crime [of abortion] is found in the grave defects of our laws, both common and statute, as regards the independent and actual existence of the child before birth, as a living being...” [4] If 19th-century doctors were humane enough to see the human dignity of the unborn, then modern doctors have no excuse for refusing to recognize unborn children as having a basic human right to life.


Further advancements in our understanding of what happens in the womb before birth offer a further reason for why Courts must reconsider using the false standard of “viability” to put a child’s right to life on trial.


For example, most doctors today recommend against resuscitating a baby born before 22 weeks gestation, however, in 2014, one mother pled for her daughter’s life and was able to successfully convince doctors to save her daughter at 21 weeks gestation. That child grew to be a healthy toddler, challenging the ethics of medical professionals. [5]


In the 1960s, directly prior to the Roe ruling in 1973, the survival rate for premature babies born weighing less than 3.3 pounds was 28 percent. [6] For context, 3.3 pounds is the approximate average weight of a baby that is 31 weeks in the womb. [7] In 2010, that number had improved to a 78 percent chance of survival.


In light of these findings, it is high time that we rejected the use of “viability” as a standard in the context of abortion. This standard is ever-changing and is nothing more than a clever workaround to avoid the basic truth that babies in the womb are fully human.


In Proverbs 24:11-12, the Lord’s followers are commanded to “rescue those who are being taken away to death…If you say, ‘Behold, we did not know this,’ does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?”


We have a responsibility to save babies from being taken away to death by abortion; mankind can no longer say it is ignorant of the so-called “viability” of these children. This barbarism needs to stop and the uncensored humanity of the unborn needs to be recognized. Courts ought to revisit the decision of Roe and stop the extermination of children who eventually will have the capacity to live outside their mother’s womb.


Foundations of Truth hereby waives all claim of copyright (economic and moral) in this work and immediately places it in the public domain; it may be used, published, edited, and distributed in any manner whatsoever without any attribution or notice to Foundations of Truth.


[1] “Matthew 18:10,”Bible Study Tools (n.d.), https://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/gills-exposition-of-the-bible/matthew-18-10.html

[2] Rachel Benson Gold, “Lessons from Before Roe: Will Past be Prologue?” Guttmacher Institute (March 1, 2003), https://www.guttmacher.org/gpr/2003/03/lessons-roe-will-past-be-prologue

[3] “Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973),” Justia (n.d.), https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/410/113/

[4] Frederick N. Dyer, “The Documents that Produced the Laws Overturned by Roe v. Wade,” History of Medicine Online (n.d.), http://www.priory.com/homol/abortionhist.htm

[5] Kaashif A. Ahmad, Charlotte S. Frey, Mario A. Fierro, Alexander B. Kenton and Frank X. Placencia, “Two-Year Neurodevelopmental Outcome of an Infant Born at 21 Weeks’ 4 Days’ Gestation,” American Academy of Pediatrics (November 2017), https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2017/10/31/peds.2017-0103

[6] Jeffrey Kluger, “Saving Preemies,” TIME (May 22, 2014), https://time.com/magazine/us/108686/june-2nd-2014-vol-183-no-21-u-s/

[7] “Fetal development: The 3rd trimester,” Mayo Clinic (n.d.), https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/fetal-development/art-20045997

Foundations of Truth hereby waive all claim of copyright (economic and moral) in this work and immediately places it in the public domain; it may be used, published, edited, and distributed in any manner whatsoever without any attribution or notice to Foundations of Truth.