Acorns and Oak trees: Rebutting the Flawed Logic of Abortion Advocates

By Bonnie Finnerty, Education Director, Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation

Good writing should illumine truth. That was my goal in writing a recent op-ed on abortion. Its publication elicited a response from a retired professor that unfortunately clouds the issue with flawed logic and a denial of known scientific facts. For the sake of clarity and in pursuit of truth, let’s look at his claims.

Writing that a zygote is a form of life that “has the POTENTIAL to become one (or more) humans,” the professor asserts that a zygote is “certainly not a person, any more than an acorn is an oak tree.” He later likens a zygote to a gnat.

This common argument confuses potentiality and actuality. So let’s clarify. An acorn is actually the same species as an oak tree, but simply in an earlier stage of the life cycle. This is true of a zygote who, created of human parents and bearing human DNA, actually belongs to the human species.

So what is the difference between an acorn and oak tree, or a zygote and adult? Age. An acorn is not an oak tree in the same way a toddler is not a teenager. But an acorn is a potential oak tree in the same way that a zygote is a potential adult.

One cannot say that a zygote is not human. Nor can we say that an adult is more human than a fetus because of age.

In fact, the word “fetus” comes from the Latin for offspring. Can two human beings create offspring that is anything other than human?

But there’s more erroneous reasoning. The professor asserts that preborn children, even if human, are not persons, stating, “As the embryo/fetus develops, it comes ever closer to becoming a person.”

Using the pronoun “it” is a typical tactic to dehumanize the preborn baby boy or girl, although gender has already been determined. But how do we define personhood?

Miriam Webster defines person as “human, individual” and defines individual as “existing as a distinct entity.” Is the zygote a distinct entity?

At conception, a combination of DNA occurs that is unique and unrepeatable, forming a person that has never existed before and never will again. Genetically differentiated from the mother, the zygote exists as a distinct entity, not just part of the mother like a leg or kidney. The mother does not have two hearts, two brains, or four arms. A distinct individual human person exists within her. That’s not a religious claim, that’s scientific fact.

And this science makes arguments for bodily autonomy fall flat, for when the humanity of the preborn is recognized, we acknowledge just what we are destroying in abortion, a smaller, younger, more vulnerable us. We were once they.

While the professor makes several other fallacious claims, he curiously admits, “No one is FOR abortion.”

I wonder why, if all we are killing is a “gnat.”

Perhaps, deep down, even the professor doesn’t believe his own flawed logic. Nor should anyone else.