A common argument made on the pro-abortion side is that many non-aborted kids would face a hard life filled with pain and suffering, and thus the merciful thing to do is to prevent them from existing at all.
To be clear when I refer to someone as “pro-abortion” I mean specifically someone who believes abortion should not only be legal but also that it is morally acceptable.
What’s interesting is that if, as a Christian, you get into a debate with a particular kind of secularist, and dig deep enough, you often find that the secular person is deeply disturbed by the existence of even the mere concept of suffering. They will use this as part of their rationale for disbelief in God. “If God creates a world where imperfection and suffering will occur then he cannot be perfect”. This particular kind of secularist will then take a variation of the position that it would have been more righteous of God to not create anything at all than to create a world in which he knows suffering and pain will occur.
The parallel between the pro-abortionist and the secularist here is clear: suffering is worse than non-existence. This is an underlying issue that creates a gap in the abortion debate that cannot be solved without addressing the issue. From a secular perspective, it’s not hard to see why suffering is viewed as the ultimate evil. From the secular point of view, there is no afterlife, this life is all we have.
Furthermore, there is no objective purpose or meaning for our lives. We must determine our own purpose and find our own meaning. The meaning that most secular people, and practically speaking even many religious people, settle on is self-happiness. It’s indisputable that in the short term, suffering is an obstacle to happiness, whether the suffering is a mere annoyance such as a delayed flight or a truly traumatizing circumstance like being a victim of rape. If you are suffering, it is difficult to be happy, and more than you are suffering, the more difficult it is. Thus we can see the argument that develops from these premises:
Premise 1: The meaning of life is individual happiness.
Premise 2: Suffering is incompatible with human happiness.
Conclusion: A life involving lots of suffering has no meaning.
The issue is that both premises are wrong. The test of a meaningful life is not merely a scale with one side consisting of happy moments and the other consisting of painful moments. The meaning of life is to serve God and live according to his will. The closest secular equivalent would be to ascertain what it means to be a good person and become one.
This type of person who accepts the “A life of suffering has no meaning” argument like pro-abortionists tend to do, fails to grasp the importance of enduring pain and suffering to achieve higher ends. They may understand that as a function of reality there maybe some suffering that occurs on the path to happiness, but to them this scenario is unjust.
While they are correct that suffering is in the short term an obstacle to happiness, they don’t seem to grasp that suffering can produce character development that is unlikely to occur by other means. As the apostle Paul tells us in Romans 5:3-4, “but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope”. When approached with the right mindset, suffering and pain draw us closer to God and makes us better, stronger people.
These painful experiences often give wisdom that can be passed on to others to aid them through similar circumstances. To put this in perspective, how often in life do you see someone who has clearly faced no pain, struggle, or adversity, that you would actually consider a good person? I imagine most people would say basically never. Whereas the finest examples of humanity, tend to be those who have seen and/or endured terrible suffering and overcome it. Yet the pro-abortionist seems to view such developments as not the worth the risk.
Until pro-abortionists realize the folly of this view, they are likely to remain convinced that abortion is morally acceptable.