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French Friday: What Abortion Abolitionists Get Wrong

With the Dobbs decision earlier this year, the Supreme Court sent the issue of abortion back to the states, and divisions are opening up within the pro-life movement about what comes next. A very vocal faction calling themselves "abortion abolitionists" are arguing for a complete ban on abortion in all cases, including where the life of the mother is at risk, and the criminal prosecution of women who have them. David French and Skye Jethani examine the abolitionists' arguments, explore why they are gaining popularity among Christians, and why they will actually fail to create the culture of life we want. Plus, French and Jethani engage in unrestrained nerdery as they discuss season one of "The Rings of Power."

00:00 - Intro

00:24 - Abortion abolitionists

56:02 - Nerd corner

Resources mentioned:

“Defending Life: A Moral and Legal Case Against Abortion Choice” by Francis J. Beckwith -

“How Americans Understand Abortion: A Comprehensive Interview Study of Abortion Attitudes in the U.S.” by Tricia C. Bruce -

Holy Post website:

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Listened to the episode again and was struck by how Mr. French wrote off the save the embryo versus infant scenario as an argument made from emotion. It is the argument that embryos aren’t people (but are rather the potential to become people) and that we intrinsically know this when asked whether we would save an infant or 10 embryos. One in four pregnancies result in miscarriage and 80% of miscarriages occur in the first trimester most commonly because something went wrong when the fetus was forming that made the fetus non-viable. It is disingenuous to suggest that a fetus in the first trimester or an embryo is the same thing as an infant. A fetus in the first trimester…


Near the end where Skye talks about the hypothetical situation of saving embryos versus an infant from a fire was interesting. There is a good picture in most people’s minds about what cells in a test tube look like but not what a 6-8 week miscarriage looks like. I recently drove past a billboard with a picture of a beautiful 6 month old baby with the caption, “Heartbeat starts at 6 weeks.” Would that billboard have been as convincing if it showed a test tube or a mass of tissue (which is what a 6 week miscarriage looks like - kind of a heavy period) instead of that beautiful baby?

The sentiment of not wanting there to be any abortions…


Tyler Rasmussen
Tyler Rasmussen
Nov 02, 2022

Question I wish had been asked:

What is the theological basis for a radically different view on abortion compared to the majority of Jewish communities, who base their own views on abortion on Scripture and the Jewish writings reflecting on Scripture?

Here's my problem with most pro-life positions. Here's the pro-life priorities as I hear them:

1) Protect the life of the developing embryo/fetus.

2) Protect the life of the parent (if #1 is met first).

3) Value all human life (unfortunately, #1 is so much of a focus this is generally an afterthought).

Here's my priorities, that as Christian align a whole lot better with my Jewish siblings:

1) Value all human life.

2) Protect the life of the…

Jen Manlief
Jen Manlief
Nov 03, 2022
Replying to

They also speculated about how the government can never know what being pregnant is like, but somehow God knows. You know who else knows? Pregnant people- it's baffling to me that we're willing to trust government, which is largely run by old men who know nothing about pregnancy, and not actual women who are pregnant when discussing the complications and issues around pregnancies.


I'm a pro-choice atheist. I would take the "principled" perspective of the "pro-life" movement more seriously if they:

  1. Actively protested in favor of eliminating the death penalty and visibly stood up to and campaign against politicians who support it.

  2. Supported teaching comprehensive sex education in schools to reduce the number of teen and young-adult pregnancies and the need for abortion..

  3. Worked hard to reform the prison system to reduce the number of men of color who get incarcerated, thus leading to greater financial and family stability and thus reducing the need for abortions by women trying to care for their families while the fathers are in prison or are out and can't find employment.

  4. Actively fought to expand programs to…

Replying to

Actually (peace-church background) the disjoint between "pro-life", and pro-death penalty / pro-nuclear weapons / pro-strong military was one of the first things that started me thinking, to get from wherever I was to wherever I am.

I'm not going to be an atheist any time soon (too much plausible affirmability about the story of the early church, I'm afraid) but for the rest of your points, you're not wrong -- also, I'm from north of 49ºN, so some of the political calculus is a tad different in other ways.

And I would add point 6. Oppose all restrictions, caveats, exemptions on health insurance and/or recognize the public good that a single-payer comprehensive health insurance system would do for all your…


Jen Manlief
Jen Manlief
Oct 31, 2022

also, you have got to realize how tone deaf it is to have two men with wealth and social power making declarations about abortion that will only ever be theoretical positions to them. Why in the world wouldn't you bring some women in to this discussion?

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