Abortion Isn’t Murder. Stop Saying That It Is.

I wrote about this on my Facebook page (if you haven’t liked my Facebook page, it’s linked so that you can. I’d really appreciate the support.) the other day, but I want to reiterate it. Abortion is not murder. And if you say that it is you are potentially lying to someone (if you know the definition of murder). If you don’t know the definition of murder, you just happen to be wrong.

Murder isn’t JUST the act of killing someone. It’s killing which is unlawful. The death sentence, provided it was a punishment decided upon by a judge (who legally obtained that position, of course) isn’t murder. It is killing, but it was legal, and thus lawful. Abortion is also legal. In the United States anyways. In many Latin American nations (such as Honduras) abortion IS technically murder. But if you live in a place where abortion is legal… it’s not murder.

People will call women who have abortions, and the doctors who perform them “murderers” but that’s not accurate. At least in the U.S.A. abortion-performing doctors and women who get abortions are not murderers. This is a lame attempt to emotionally turn people against women who have had an abortion, and the doctors who decide to perform abortions. If this is the best argument that individual pro-lifers have, they shouldn’t be engaging in this debate. That’s harsh, but it’s the reality. The consequences of this ongoing debate are far too important to enable anyone with an opinion to just state whatever they wish and for those opinions to be made into law. The consequences are far too real for people who are directly affected by this debate, to allow for people who aren’t willing to do research. And the research can actually lead people in either direction, the pro-choice (we could be considered the pro-abortion camp, but many of us aren’t pro-abortion) camp, or the pro-life camp (we could call them pro-birth, but we won’t make assumptions about their political views once we know that they happen to be pro-life).

In the United States in order for abortion to become “murder” it’d take someone ignoring the Supreme Court. That likely won’t happen, even as hard as right-wing Christians and many (but not all) Republicans want it too. This doesn’t change the fact that some people are… determined to call people who aren’t murders, murderers.

The videos which inspired me to get annoyed enough to state this, and then find it worth restating, are the ones like this one. If you want to comment, I’ll give you a spoiler: he disabled the comments. On all of his videos. All of them. And I know that I shouldn’t watch them, because he’s undoubtedly monetized them. Tony is just… he’s a piece of work. And he wants to make people think that a murderer is ANYONE who has ever killed someone. That’s. Not. True.

Dictionaries matter. Don’t ignore them just because it is convenient to do so. Or just because you believe the Bible says it is. Don’t be like Tony.

If you want to contribute to a discussion about the future of Fallacy Friday’s, check out my latest post on Patheos!


  1. dianne says

    Sorry, but no one believes that abortion is murder. No one believes that embryos are babies. I have had extensive online conversations with “pro-life” activists around the following issue: A large percentage, possibly as many as 80%, of conceptions miscarry very early (before a missed period) or fail to implant. If those are all babies then there is a HUGE pandemic going on that is being completely ignored! Where is the advocacy for that? They try to claim that miscarriage is “natural” and therefore not an issue, at least not one to worry about while abortion still exists, but that’s ridiculous. It’s the equivalent of a gay rights activist in the early 1980s saying, “Well, yeah, AIDS is killing a lot of gay people, but as long as there is gay bashing, we should ignore it. Viruses are natural, after all.”

    No, the only explanation that makes emotional and logical sense is that the average “pro-life” person doesn’t believe that embryos are babies or that the death of an embryo is the equivalent of the death of an infant. Their real desire is to punish women.

    • Pete says

      That is a falsehood. Lots of people know that abortion is murder, including myself. The notion of just wanting to “punish” miscellaneous women is, quite frankly, stupid.

  2. Dr Sarah says

    Also, it’s really noteworthy how many pro-lifers are OK with a rape exception. Which indicates that on some level (and I think it’s usually something they haven’t consciously thought out), they don’t believe abortion is actually murder – unless, of course, they’d be OK with killing anyone who was conceived through rape. (It also indicates that, for most pro-lifers, it’s less about ‘we don’t want innocent babies to die!’ and more about ‘we don’t want women to get to *choose* to have sex without having to put up with pregnancy as well!’

  3. says

    “Murder isn’t JUST the act of killing someone. It’s killing which is unlawful.”

    Does it follow from your line of reasoning that we should avoid referring to acts of legalized genocide as mass murder?

    • says

      What do you mean by “legalized genocide”? The legality of genocide has nothing to do with its definition. Nor does “murder”. Genocide is the deliberate killing (not murder) of a large group of people, especially from a particular ethnic group or nation. Genocide is genocide independent of whether or not a legal entity recognizes, enables, and or empowers it.

    • says

      Also, in direct response to your question, if the genocide was enabled by the legal system, then by definition it wouldn’t be “mass murder”. That doesn’t make it less heinous. It would still be the deliberate killing of others, not calling it “murder” doesn’t change what it is.

      Would calling genocide something other than “mass murder” affect how it is perceived by people? I don’t think so. Genocide is still genocide, independent of its legality. So yes. Genocide which is enabled by the legal system/structure in a nation where it is happening is not “mass murder” according to those who strictly follow definitions. It is still the act of deliberately targeting a specific population of humans for extermination.

      • says

        …if the genocide was enabled by the legal system, then by definition it wouldn’t be “mass murder”.

        I respectfully disagree. The word “murder” may be killing which is morally unjustified, regardless of legal status.

        • says

          I stick with dictionary definitions. I do that in everything. Your understanding of murder is the “common” one as far as I can tell, but that doesn’t match the dictionary definition. It simply doesn’t. In terms of sticking with the dictionary terms of things, legalized genocide isn’t mass murder, and that does nothing to change how heinous it is. Framing genocide in this sort of way is unnecessary. When someone tells me about genocides throughout history I don’t worry about the legality of it. I don’t worry about whether or not it was legalized, at least not in my initial reaction. I don’t think of genocide as “mass murder” but as “catastrophic amounts of intentionally killing other humans”. And honestly “mass murder” makes it sound too small in my mind. I dislike referring to genocides as “mass murder” because I don’t think that it is done justice when it is referred too by such language.

  4. deep6 says

    I disagree with the statement that research can lead people in both a pro-choice and pro-life (really, anti-choice) direction. To what research are we referring, exactly? Statistics or personal experiences around maternal mortality, infant mortality, world poverty, sexism, resource scarcity, abuse and violence? If so, that research does not lead anyone into a reasoned anti-choice position. Anti-choice voters (in the U.S. at least) also typically vote Republican. Ending, reducing access to, or reversing family-focused programs such as unemployment benefits, food stamps, the birth control mandate in Obamacare, all kinds of STI testing and reproductive care provided by Planned Parenthood and other women’s health clinics, the Violence Against Women Act, the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, minimum wage legislation, the Family and Medical Leave Act, and other woman-friendly, pro-family health care legislation is a fundamental plank in their policy agenda. These, among other programs, provide critical financial, health care and safety support to women, which reduce their likeliness and need to abort. Were they really “pro-life,” people who have done “research” would support programs for women’s economic and sexual health.

    But we all know they don’t argue in good faith. Being anti-choice has nothing to do with reasoned arguments. It’s purely about patriarchy, often stemming from religious indoctrination.

    • says

      I never said that the research was well done research. For instance there’s this debunked idea that there exists some mythic link between breast and cervical cancer and having an abortion. The anti-choice (I said pro-life because I was trying to be nice about it) position is largely an emotional one, but people will do research and find “studies” which support their position.

      I’ve never met a pro-life person who didn’t have “research” on them about why they believe their position is the best one “scientifically” and “morally”.

  5. Bruce says

    Let me add that if all killing were murder, then the commandment “thou shalt not kill” would make all religious people oppose the death penalty in all cases. Some people do, but death penalty supporters are actually usually more often religious than is the general population. They are quick to say that killing is fine in that case. More “pro-life” people approve of that sort of killing than do “pro-choice” people.
    So the anti-choice people such as evangelicals have already made it clear that to be pro-life is to be pro-death when desired. Some Catholics don’t play that game. But most Catholics on the U.S. Supreme Court DO play that game.
    For most pro-lifers, their favorite bible verse is “vengeance is fine”.
    But I note this with all due respect to them, if any.

  6. Pete says

    This looks like NPR’s echo box. How about having various views that actually represent the public. Do you censor comments on here too?

  7. Pro-Life Christian says

    So what? Abortion is still the unjust KILLING of a human organism. It’s horrifying, disturbing, and will be criminalized within the next 4-8 years. Your dehumanizing worldview will lose.

      • Pro-Life Christian says

        I know. As long as his nomination isn’t too far-right and gets blocked (that might happen). Just put a Catholic in there and abortion rights will ultimately become a state issue. That’s when the fun will really begin.

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