The Instigator
Pro (for)
0 Points
The Contender
Con (against)
5 Points

Abortion is not justified and should be illegal. (except to save the life of the mother)

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 7/23/2014 Category: Politics
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,896 times Debate No: 59442
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (15)
Votes (1)




Resolved: Abortion is not justified and should be illegal. (except to save the life of the mother).

I will argue for the resolution

Information About The Topic

The landmark Roe v. Wade Supreme Court case legalized abortion in America. Since that case in 1973, it is estimated that over 54 million abortions have taken place.

Rules of Civility

Attacks against the character of the other debater will not be accepted. This debate is meant to be a friendly competition that allows both debaters to expand their knowledge.

Acceptance First

Leave arguments for Round 2



I accept this debate and look forward to reading your arguments.
Debate Round No. 1


First I would like to clarify the debate. The question of abortion rests on one specific issue. Are the unborn human? If the unborn are members of the human family, just like you and me, then killing him or her for the benefit of others is a serious moral wrong, and should be illegal in any society that claims to uphold human rights.

Argument 1

The Science of Embryology reveals that the unborn are human

The science of embryology determines that from the earliest states of development, the unborn are distinctive, living, and whole human beings. For example, Keith L. Moore and T. V. N. Persaud write, “a zygote is the beginning of a new human being. Human development begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm…unites with a female gamete or oocyte…to form a single cell call a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marks the beginning of each of us as a unique individual. “

A change of location from inside the womb to the outside does not make someone human. Ultimately, There is no essential difference between the embryo you once were and the adult you are today that justifies killing you when you were in the womb.

Argument 2

The Issue of Rape

As operation rescue reports, less then 1% of all abortions take place because of rape or incest. While rape is an issue that needs to be addressed, this statistic demonstrates that rape is not the core of the abortion debate.

The issue of rape goes back to the original question. Are the unborn human? If they are, it would still be immoral for a women to take the life of an innocent because of the crime of the father.

Obviously, the women did not consent to the child in the womb, but this doesn’t mean she bares no responsibility for the baby’s protection. The woman becomes the de facto guardian because she is the only one in power to ensure the baby’s safety. To illustrate this principle, imagine a woman is locked in a cabin with a baby during a snowstorm. Inside there is enough formula to feed the baby for weeks. However, the woman refuses to feed the baby, because it isn’t hers. America’s court system would determine that the women was responsible to feed the baby, not because she consented to the baby’s presence in the cabin, but because the women is the only protector of the baby’s life. It is the same for issues of rape. The women is the only one who can ensure the baby’s safety, so she has the responsibility to protect the life. Ultimately, it comes down to one question. What is worse, the suffering of 9 months of pregnancy? Or the suffering of a murdered child?


I am vigorously “pro choice” when it comes to many women’s issues. I support the right for a woman to choose her own doctor, to choose her own husband, and to choose her own job. But some choices are wrong, such as killing an innocent human being because they are a burden. We should not be allowed to choose that. Therefore abortion is unjustified.

I look forward to my opponent’s arguments.



Since the character limit on this debate is somewhat short, and since my opponent has the sole BOP in the round, I am going to get straight into rebuttals.

I. "The unborn are human."

I would like to note, right off the top, that what my opponent claims about embryology does not, actually, say what he thinks it does. All Pro's passage says is that fertilization is the beginning of human development. This is obviously true.

However, this does not mean, in any sense, that zygotes, embryos, or fetuses are full human beings subject to legal protection. Let's note some definitions:

A human being is "a man, woman, or child of the species Homo sapiens, distinguished from other animals by superior mental development, power of articulate speech, and upright stance." [1.]

A person is, "one (as a human being, a partnership, or a corporation) that is recognized by law as the subject of rights and duties" [2].

What we can note about both of these definition is that they hinge on cognitive ability. A human being can only have superior mental development and articulate speech through cognitive ability, and rights come from cognitive ability, as, without brain activity, there is nothing to protect.

Let's compare the example of a braindead patient. A braindead patient has living tissue, but lacks brain development. We allow this person to be unplugged, because they are no longer human beings, and there is nothing left to protect. A fetus is similar to a braindead person in these two regards.

A fetus does not gain viability or cognitive ability until around the 22nd week [3], which is, more or less, the same standard employed by Roe v. Wade.

Also interesting, with my opponent's criteria for personhood, over 50% of people are never born, because most fertilized eggs fail to implant [4]. I feel that this speaks to the absurdity of his claim.

II. Rape

Analogies are bad. Here's one of mine:

A burglar comes into your house. You are completely justified to remove him from the premises, by yourself of with the assistance of law enforcement. You are not responsible for the burglar's well-being because you did not consent for him to come into your property in the first place.

Thus, a woman who is raped is justified in aborting, because she did not consent to the fetus.

Note that my opponent's analogy is faulty. The child in the cabin is not abrogating the woman's rights in any sense, and, therefore, the woman has an obligation to ensure its survival, whereas a fetus is, in fact, violating a woman's autonomy, in the case of rape.

Also note that Pro's analogy rests upon the assumption that fetuses are human beings, which has not been substantiated. Pro relies solely on emotional appeal.


Debate Round No. 2


While I have the BOP to show abortion is not justified, Con has the BOP to demonstrate that the unborn aren’t human until 22 weeks. If Con is unable to provide adequate evidence, then one should error on the side of caution and stand against abortion. After all, it would be disastrous to be unsure about the humanity of the unborn, but still legalize abortion.

I. The Unborn are Human.

My opponent’s assertion that cognitive ability determines life is fallacious

Cognition is defined as “Conscious mental activities; the activities of thinking, understanding, learning, and remembering [1].” With that in mind, consider the following.

1.Cognitive Abilities develop through adulthood

Cognitive abilities are increasing throughout your entire life. At four days old, a baby can recognize the mothers face. At one to two years, the baby can remember some facts and words [2]. It is a continual process. My third source shows the development of the cognitive abilities of a newborn[3].

With Con’s logic, a 5 year-old has a greater right to life then a newborn, because the 5 year-old has greater cognitive ability.

2.Cognitive Dysfunction

Some people are born with cognitive dysfunction, a condition that results in a “loss of intellectual functions such as thinking, remembering, and reasoning of sufficient severity to interfere with daily functioning [4].”

Is Con really saying that people with an impaired ability to think give up their right to life?

3.Brain Activity Doesn't determine life

It is well documented that patients have resumed consciousness after being declared brain dead. Examples are in sources [5].

ii. Rape

First of all, note that my opponent didn’t specifically refute the principle of de facto guardianship, just the analogy.

Furthermore, my analogy still stands. If the women were able to escape the cabin, she would still be obligated to stay and protect the baby. Clearly, this violates her right to liberty, but she still has a responsibility to protect the child.

Also, my opponents analogy has several flaws.

First, a burglar comes into your house for the express purpose of harming your rights, unlike a child, who is innocent

Second, abortion refers to the killing of a baby, therefore con's analogy needs to make a statement about the right to kill the burglar, not remove him safely. If a burglar is not threatening you, then it isn’t permissible to end his life [6]. Similarily, if the unborn child is not threatening the mother’s life, then there is no justification for aborting the child.










Simple refutation will be in order here.

First, on BOP: I do not have a BOP like you claim. The status quo is the side I am defending. You are making a positive claim which differs from the status quo and, therefore, you have the SOLE BOP.

I. Fetuses are not human beings.

Pro's entire refutation is, effectively, that cognitive abilities change throughout life. This is irrelevant.

The standard I have presented, and which explains rights and legal personhood, is that cognitive ability in kind, not degree, defines personhood. So while someone with a disability, a baby, and an adult may have different cognitive capacities, they still have cognitive ability of some type, which is the hallmark of personhood. They still have a prefrontal cortex, a cerebral cortex, and other brain structures necessary for any cognition to occur. A fetus, before around 22 weeks [see earlier sources] has none of this.

Note, also, that my opponent fundamentally misunderstands a right to life. A right to life, by definition, is absolute. It means that you have an absolute right to your life, and that nobody can kill you (with the exception of self-defense) [1]. There cannot be any qualifiably different rights to life. You either have it, or you do not, just as you either have the right to vote or you do not.

Con's only other argument is that some people who have been declared brain dead have become alive again. This has been the case with cardiac death as well [2]. This is not an argument for changing the standard, unless Pro wishes for nobody ever to be declared dead.

Note here that Pro has not really responded to the nuance of my argument, that people only have rights because they have something to protect. A bacteria does not have rights, and the reason is because there is no cognition to protect. We protect life because we have deemed cognition (in kind, not degree) as meriting protection, and, indeed, human beings are defined by it. Pro must do better to refute this.

II. Rape

I do not need to refute de facto guardianship, because de facto guardianship does not come into play when rights are being abrogated.

Also, I would like to push back on the idea that the woman would HAVE to stay if she had the ability to escape. This would mean that parents would never be allowed to escape a fire if their children were at risk.

With regards to my analogy, rights are abrogated either way. Somebody could accidentally wander onto your property, and you could still remove them.

Ending the life of the fetus is only a side-effect, just as removing the burglar could, plausibly, end his life. Pro is confounding purposes and side effects here. I find it difficult to submit that one would have a legal duty to feed a burglar if they would starve otherwise.

Either way, this whole argument is only secondary.


Debate Round No. 3


I have the BOP in the round. However logic dictates that if we are unsure about the humanity of a baby, we error on the side of caution. Thus, my opponent needs to show that the unborn aren’t human until the third trimester (based on Roe v. Wade.)

Cognitive ability is having the ability to achieve an action, an action, that according to my uncontested definition of cognition, is the process of acquiring knowledge. However a patient in a severe coma has zero cognitive ability. He may have a prefrontal cortex, but is in a state where he doesn’t have the ability to acquire knowledge or understanding. Does he have no right to life?

The true standard for life should be determined as cognitive potential, which is the potential for someone to acquire knowledge or reasoning.

Someone in a coma may not have the ability in that moment, but they have the potential to regain it. In the same way, at the earliest states of pregnancy “The embryo contains the natural capacity to develop all the human activities: perceiving, reasoning, willing and relating to others. Death means the end of natural growth, the cessation of these abilities.

Second, Con said that because cognitive ability should determine the life of the unborn because it is how doctors determine when someone is dead. However, this is faulty. Doctors don’t use cognitive ability to determine death. They use brain activity.

However, brain activity develops in a fetus at 43 days(1), well before the third trimester standard employed by Roe v. Wade.

So judges, if you agree that cognitive potential should be the standard, or if you agree that brain activity should be, both determine the unborn are human at early stages of pregnancy, well before Roe v. Wade.

ii. Rape

De facto guardianship can come into play when rights are abrogated. Refer to my analogy. if the women can escape the cabin she is still obligated to stay and protect the baby.

Con disagreed with this, asking what if there is a fire. However, that’s not the analogy. Con is right in declaring that self-preservation overrules de facto guardianship during a life-threatening scenario. However, if there isn’t a life-threating situation, then the right to liberty is abrogated and de facto guardianship still applies. Con has not sufficiently refuted this argument

Con declared that ending the life of the fetus is only a side effect. This is the equivalent of saying that ending the life of a burglar is only the side effect of shooting him.

In abortion, the intention is to kill the baby in order to remove the burden on the mother. Pretending that it’s an unintended side effect minimizes the worth of human life.

I find it difficult to submit that one should have a legal option to shoot a non-threatening burglar, if he would have lived otherwise.

Here is the key point. In rape, a women’s right to her body is violated, but in abortion, a child’s right to life is destroyed. Which is more important?





Hello floor, and thank you Pro for an interesting debate. However, this is an easy Con ballot.

I would first, however, like to note that Pro has literally never presented an argument as to why personhood should begin at conception. Pro has only presented mitigatory arguments against my case, and, as such, could not have possibly met the BOP of this round. Again, Pro DOES have the sole BOP, since Pro's case is one against the status quo in a very significant way.


"A patient in a severe coma has zero cognitive ability."

This is literally the only argument Pro has against my standard, and it is a terrible one on two fronts.

Firstly, a patient in a coma DOES have cognitive ability. Patients in comas, unlike the braindead, DO have some residual cognitive ability [1], meaning that my standard holds.. Their brains are still functioning at a high level, they are just temporarily unable to achieve consciousness, similar to sleep. Pro's standard fails here.

Secondly, even if we, somehow, accept that the comatose do not have cognitive ability, Pro's standard of cognitive potential fails. A fetus does not have a prefrontal cortex that could be healed to regain cognitive ability. They only have potential if they change in a very significant way, rather than healing or reverting. This potential is, then, different in kind. This means that, while they have cognitive potential, it is categorically different than those who are already persons. This standard, even though Pro has not shown a reason to believe it, fails.

"Doctors don't use cognitive ability to determine death. They use brain activity. However, brain activity develops in a fetus at 43 days."

Firstly, Pro's claim that doctors use brain activity (IN THE PREFRONTAL CORTEX) actually reflects my standard, because braindead people, unlike the comatose, have no activity in these regions.

Secondly, Pro cites a source called to attempt to give scientific proof that fetuses have brain activity. This is heavily biased. This is the case especially considered the only evidence the site gives for its claim is from a paper entitled "Abortion and the Sanctity of Human Life."

Moreover, if we actually read the paper cited, we see that what is actually being observed is cellular division in the brain, rather than neural functioning. These are categorically different.

If we, instead, refer to an unbiased .edu source, we see this is not the case [2]. Brains begin actively functioning at 22 weeks.

"If the women can escape...she is still obligated to...protect the baby."

This is assertion.

"The intention is to kill the baby."

No, the intention is to remove the fetus from the body, restoring autonomy. It just happens to kill the fetus.

Pro's only other arguments are emotional strawmen, which cannot stand.

I have clearly won. Thank you.


Debate Round No. 4
15 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 10 records.
Posted by GKChesterton 7 years ago
@TruthHurts. Obviously within this debate is was my BOP to prove the fetus human, but in regular conversation it is the opposite. I don't have to prove a fetus is human. instead, you have to prove the fetus is nothing more then tissue. YOUR the one with the BOP because you are the one arguing for a women's right to terminate her pregnancy, and possibly kill an innocent child. Reasonable people take the side of caution and say "if I don't know weather the fetus is a human or not, I am not going to risk a human life."
Posted by StopBabyKilling 7 years ago
Sounds a little crazy. A mother would be free to do all that you say, of course. Babies in the womb were always subject to such a,possibility, if the mother chose. Before abortion was legal, few went out of their way to harm their babies or themselves for spite. What's the point?

The lives of babies in or out of the womb have always depended on the strength of the mother-child bond. What else is new.

Of course, when abortion becomes illegal, there will likely be some sort of sanctions against,mothers who break the law. Such laws will be difficult to enforce, except on the baby-killers who,perform the butchery.
Posted by StopBabyKilling 7 years ago
Perhaps the proof that a baby is human is so simple you missed it. The DNA of a baby in the womb is of the human specie. The baby in the womb is alive. Hence, a baby in the womb ia a living human.
Posted by Domr 7 years ago
StopBabyKilling- The mother is carrying the child, her interests HAVE to come first.

If I were a woman, was raped and consequently became pregnant, and the law FORCED me to keep the child I never wanted.

I would smoke, drink, do karate where stomach kicks are specialized. This would be my right to treat my body as I see fit, within the law. If the baby then does not make it, so be it. I never wanted it to begin with, so my life, my needs, my cravings don't need to be put on hold.

The interest of the mother and the baby are equal. The mother has no responsibility to that child other than to NOT ABORT it. Everything else, within the law (smoking, drink, etc) is fully allowed for the mother to do.

Because if the mothers interest does not supersede the babies interests, then the babies interests do not come before the mother either.
Posted by TruthHurts 7 years ago
StopBabyKilling - Repeating something over and over does not make it true. You have said, repeatedly, that a fetus just IS a human being, but have not substantiated this in any meaningful way. I know this is just the comments section, but I would expect at least a somewhat higher-caliber argument than begging the question.
Posted by StopBabyKilling 7 years ago
There is no reason that the life of the baby in the womb should be worth less than the mother's. Even in the case in which the mother's life becomes more risky, doctors should try to save both until the point at which it is clear that neither will live if the pregnancy continues. If the baby will live and the mother is certain to die ( statistically insignificant ), the mother should be given the choice of whether to sacrifice herself for her baby by continuing the pregnancy.

No interests of the mother over ride the interests of the baby to avoid being dissected alive.
Posted by Domr 7 years ago
RFD: This debate went mostly from abortion, to abortion during rape. Which is fine as it was still a good debate.
While rape is only 1% of abortions, this does not mean we throw that ruling out the window.

However, Pro's argument was based on "life-threatening", pregnancy is life threatening. Not always, but it puts a huge burden on the mother. The mother's best interest needs to be put first before an unborn child.
Posted by StopBabyKilling 7 years ago
The attempt to define an acceptable metric for judging a baby in the womb ripe for killing, whether based on cognitive ability or any other physical attribute, is fundamentally flawed, because it assumes that one's current physical characteristics, not one's inherent humanness should be the basis for killing. In general, this assumption, if carried to the extreme, leads to killing for arbitrary differences, such as skin color, sex, race, DNA, or deformity.

Also, it ignores the value the baby's life to her, her family, friends, descendants, and society throughout her life.
Posted by StopBabyKilling 7 years ago
Posted by StopBabyKilling 7 years ago
The baby in the womb conceived in rape is just as human as any other baby, and it is not her fault that her father is a rapist.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by Domr 7 years ago
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Total points awarded:05 
Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments

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