“Civil Rights and the Unborn” by Katherine Whiteman

Note from LTI’s Megan Almon: Guest blogger Katherine Whiteman, 21, is a graduate of both a Summit Ministries Student Conference and Summit Semester who wrote this paper (modified slightly for the LTI blog) for a U.S. Government class. Katherine will kick off her junior year at Texas Tech University in the fall, where she plans to study biochemistry. Because she is already an avid student of Christian apologetics, she will no doubt continue championing the Christian worldview and the rights of the unborn. It is a pleasure to know this remarkable young woman!


Civil Rights are the protections guaranteed all citizens by the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States’ Constitution, but they precede their placement into law. The Declaration of Independence claimed that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights.” If this is true, then the idea of civil rights is no human construct; it reflects a reality set in place by the Creator God.

Unfortunately, humans are not known to be very obedient when it comes to God’s order, and civil rights are no exception. Humanity’s history reveals a habit of depriving entire groups of humans these liberties. In Civil-Rights-era-America, it was humans with darker skin; in abortion-rights-America, it is humans inside the womb.

At the birth of this nation the institution of slavery was already so entrenched that many of the Founding Fathers owned slaves.1 The mindset was established: African Americans are inferior; therefore, enslavement is justified. But humanity’s equality under God can only be suppressed for so long. Not only was slavery nearing its end as we enter the Abolitionist movement in the mid-1800s, but the discriminatory mindset that was considered “normal” was being dragged onto the table with noose around its neck. The upending of this mindset was violently rejected by the slave-centered South and a secession ensued. Lo and behold, with slavery as a major catalyst, the American Civil War.

President Abraham Lincoln handled this never-before-seen challenge with grace and wisdom. He issued the Emancipation Proclamation on New Year’s day of 1863, and, although it was more symbolic than it was practical, this was the official beginning of the more-than-a-century-long effort known as the Civil Rights Movement.2

The end of the Civil War saw a reunification of the nation and the placement of three new amendments: Amendment Thirteen outlawed slavery, Amendment Fourteen defined citizenship to include prior slaves, and Amendment Fifteen gave black men the right to vote.3 Unfortunately, however, the battle was still far from over. Jim Crow laws popped up all over the South segregating African Americans and condemning them to every hostile and subservient role that was not explicitly slavery.2 Not long after the Civil War came to a close the landmark case, Plessy v. Ferguson, established the infamous “separate but equal” qualifications for a racially divided society.2 It wasn’t until fifty years later that, in Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Charles Houston and the NAACP were able to prove the inherently unequal facilities generated by the requirement to be separate.2 The decision was unanimous, but again, the battle was far from over. Integration was now underway, but the ingrained idea of superiority was not going to lay down without a fight.

The following several decades would be a grueling integration of a different mindset: “All men are created equal.” The Supreme Court declared segregation of buses unconstitutional in 1956, and the steamrolling Civil Rights Movement began to gain national attention. If ignorance still plagued the majority of Americans concerning the plight of Black people, awareness skyrocketed by famous “sit-ins” that garnered the first widespread media coverage of the movement.4 African American organizations united to penetrate the Deep South at extreme costs. Alabama Governor George Wallace and his “segregation forever” followers were a formidable enemy, but they were up against a people riddled with persistence, patience, and a hunger for justice.2 The famous March on Washington in 1963 featured Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have A Dream” speech that inspired at least a quarter of a million people.2 Then they saw him assassinated. This, coupled with the discovery of the cruel murder of three civil rights workers in Mississippi (code-named “Mississippi Burning”), was all part of the mindset shift and demonstrated humanity’s fierce opposition to change.5

Concerning the Southern mindset, it was primarily the parents of the children (or the children being fueled by the parents) that opposed integration of schools.2 Not only did the Civil Rights Movement gain momentum as the twentieth century headed toward its final decades, but the superior mindset espoused by the majority of the older population was dying with them. The freedom and equality of every human person is not founded in the Fourteenth Amendment, but in a core part of who we are because of Who created us and Who saved us. Although it must have been a temptation among the young people of the fifties and sixties to follow in their parent’s self-righteous footsteps, it was a decision each young person had to make for him- or herself. Whether or not the young people of the Civil Rights era had grown up in segregation, they were formulating their ideas and worldviews during the time segregation was being heavily questioned, and it appears many of them sided with justice and with what they knew to be right. No human being is inferior to another. This harkens back to what Paul claims in Romans 2:15: that the law of God—including the idea of justice and universal equality—is written on the hearts of men.

It has been a long, painful, and arduous process to change that superiority thinking in this country, which is disheartening because of what we claim: One nation under God. We do not claim, however, to be any more than a nation filled with average, sinful human beings, and the more-than-a-century-long Civil Rights Movement proves to both be a scar on our past and a testimony to our search for justice and Truth.

Is the Civil Rights Movement over? Or is it still being fought in the tense, terror-ridden, media-mania present-day? It will continue to be a constant battle in the minds of people over their own prejudices. We all have them. We all must overcome them knowing that each of us stands on level ground before the Holy God. Not only do each of us bear His image (Genesis 1:26-27), but we stand before Him equally as sinners. “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” says Romans 3:23. It is not the magnitude of the sin that determines our eternal position, it is the very presence of sin that separates us from Almighty God. Thankfully, “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). He did not die discriminatorily; He died for everyone. We were all created in His image, and He died for all His image-bearers. There are no other factors to consider. Skin color, ethnicity, religion, stature, and physical ability are all inconsequential in the light of God’s definition of worth and value because it is based not on human merit, but doubly on His creating and saving work. It is rooted in this truth that we can continue to stand for the equal treatment of all human beings.

The Civil Rights Movement is alive and well on another front. Just as it was ingrained in the mindset of nineteenth and twentieth-century Southerners that African Americans were inferior and not persons deserving of dignity, it has become a mindset in the present-day American people that another group of human beings is less-than-human and does not deserve the “unalienable” rights that should be rightfully theirs. The discrimination of this group is not outright, but decorated with fluffy and elaborate rhetoric that skews what is really happening; much like the rationalizations offered by Southern leaders that wanted to protect their “way of life.” Discrimination of this group is justified by a claim of alleged protection of another group—much like the justification of racism in the South was to protect alleged “Southern dignity”.2 The indecency and cruelty being shown this group is also being covered up and sugar-coated—much like Mississippi Senator James Eastland’s description of what happened to the three civil rights workers that were brutally murdered in his state.5 Just as it was media coverage of peaceful sit-in protesters pummeled with high-pressure water hoses and children attacked by dogs that awakened the American people to gross inequality, it will take undiluted media coverage of gruesome dismemberment and murder cloaked as “reproductive freedom” that jolts America’s complacent citizens to recognize the injustices routinely carried out against her unborn children through abortions.6

Abortion is a highly-politicized word, and my purpose here is not to address the ins and outs of the politics surrounding it but instead incite awareness to the ignored minority group it affects: the unborn.

The unborn were first threatened when their creation was no longer a guaranteed result of the act of sexual intercourse. This separation of sex and procreation was triumphed by Margaret Sanger and her invention and promotion of “Birth Control”.7 This was one of the key events that contributed to the unfolding of the Sexual Revolution in America. One of the major icons of this revolution was the late Hugh Hefner. In a video interview with TIME Magazine, Hefner takes pride in the way his magazine, Playboy– a brainchild of the ideals of the Sexual Revolution– shifted the American perspective on sex and abortions. “When I first published Playboy Magazine,” says Hefner, “… having a baby out of wedlock was a scandal… abortion was illegal… Playboy played a major part in changing all those laws.”8 Not only did Playboy play a major role in changing America’s perspective on all things sexual, Hefner also took a financial role in making changes. “In 1965 I introduced the Playboy Foundation that became the activist arm. We literally supplied money to change the laws of the land.” He goes on to give an example of how his foundation got a woman out of prison on charges for manslaughter because she had had an abortion.9 Before Playboy, sex outside of marriage was frowned upon (along with homosexuality, abortions, etc.), but after the so-called liberating doctrine of the Sexual Revolution permeated the American people (in no small part due to Playboy Magazine) sex became a more free and frequently practiced act. This left one last problem: a common and natural result of sexual intercourse is pregnancy.

In order for something to be completely free, in the mainstream liberal mindset, it must be rid of all possible consequences. Pregnancy is no small consequence, but is wrought with responsibility and investment of time, money, and effort. If sex indeed ought to be casual, free, and frequent, then the major consequence of sexual intimacy should be similarly dealt with, right? This is the stage onto which the landmark Supreme Court case Roe v. Wade makes its arrival. Although the case decided in a 7-2 ruling that abortion was granted under the Due Process Clause (inferred right to privacy) of the Fourteenth Amendment, there were some stipulations.10 “The pregnant woman cannot be isolated in her privacy,” the case states, “… [if the] health of the mother or that of potential human life, becomes significantly involved. The woman’s privacy is no longer sole and any right of privacy she possesses must be measured accordingly”11 (emphasis added). It even goes on to say that if the personhood of the unborn child can be established, the case for across-the-board legal abortions “collapses”.11

So in the fight for women’s privacy, the humanity of the unborn is being questioned. Is that all there is to it? The unborn child is under the discretion of the mother’s privacy needs as long as it can be maintained that it is not human? According to the quote above, if it can be sustained that the fetus is indeed human, the case is closed. You cannot deprive a human being the right to life regardless of potential privacy infringement (Fourteenth Amendment).

Concerning its definition of life pertaining to the unborn the case states: “We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man’s knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer.”11 It is about time to bring thirty-four years worth of “development of man’s knowledge” to the table to shed some light on this issue and expunge the idea of a lack of consensus. (Although it should also be noted, as Hadley Arkes says, “The absence of consensus does not mean the absence of truth.”)

First, however, the central issue must be emphasized: the status of the unborn as a minority group is entirely contingent upon whether or not the unborn are human. If the humanity of the unborn cannot be scientifically sustained, then they cannot be a minority group. If it can be scientifically verified that life begins at conception, then the developing fetus is alive, and if it is alive then it is human, and if it is human, then it is “endowed by [its] Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” (Declaration of Independence, emphasis added).

The science of embryology has shown that the unborn are distinct, living, and whole human beings. Distinct in that the unborn are not part of the mother but rather dependent on the mother for development. Living as opposed to non-living because dead things do not grow. Whole as in all the requirements to live a healthy adult life are there; they are just immature.12 This idea is espoused by leading embryology textbooks: In The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, Keith L. Moore and T.V.N. Persaud write: “A zygote is the beginning of a new human being. Human development begins at fertilization… This highly specialized, totipotent cell marks the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.”13 Embryologists Ronan O’Rahilly and Fabiola Müller write, “Although life is a continuous process, fertilization is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is thereby formed”14 (emphasis added).

If this is the dogma being taught medical practitioners and students of embryology by the leading embryology textbooks, then a case can most certainly be made: the unborn are human. And if the unborn are human, then they have met the only qualification required to be granted civil rights in the United States of America. Unfortunately, these basic rights have been denied them; all the way down to the very fundamental right to life, and this makes the unborn the most discriminated and marginalized minority group in this nation.

To complement these statements made by embryologists, one needs only to compare the differences between an unborn baby and you, my intelligent reader. There are only four significant ones: size, level of development, the environment in which each of you exist primarily, and the degree of dependency each of you exhibit. A closer examination of each of these four significant differences between unborn babies and people that populate the planet will reveal the justification (if there is any) for allowing the former to die and not the latter. One’s size certainly cannot be held as a justifiable reason for permitting or inflicting death, for there is no uniform or ‘correct’ size for a human being. It is a slippery slope to kill the unborn because of their level of development, for development does not stop once the baby leaves the womb. If one particular stage of development can be argued as the demarcation line allowing the death of the developing human, the same reasoning can be used for any subsequent stage of development– including post-birth. The third difference between you and one in the womb is just that: he is in the womb and you are not. But since when has location had any bearing on one’s right to life? And lastly, the unborn are significantly more dependent than the average person. But so what? Members of my local nursing home are significantly more dependent than I am. Does that give me the right to murder any of them? The answer to all of these questions is an emphatic “No!”. And there are no other significant differences between the human that is inside the womb and the human who wrote this article.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 2015 (the most recent report of the CDC’s Abortion Surveillance System) saw 638,169 legal abortions performed. If one looks through the lens of the humanity of the unborn, this number represents allowed disenfranchisement of 638,169 people’s right to life; otherwise known as murder. The CDC goes on to compare 188 abortions for every 1,000 live births.15 That means for approximately every ten babies that were born, two were aborted. The unborn are the only minority group with legislation that allows the deprivation of their right to life.

“The Birth of a Nation,” the controversial 1915 film, is a classic example of the usage of “blackface”.16 Blackface refers to the application of “burnt cork” as makeup onto a white man’s face and his subsequent stereotypical portrayal of African Americans. This source of comedy was popular in minstrel shows and vaudevilles in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Commercials and cartoons also characterized black people as lazy and unintelligent featuring over-sized lips and bulgy eyes.17 These depictions represent the propaganda of the Civil Rights era. The belief in African American inferiority was constantly being bolstered by uneducated caricatures of them in the entertainment and media. A similar comparison can be made with the unborn, although they tend to suffer from a lack of coverage. For example, according to the Alliance for Fair Coverage of Life issues, the March for Life of 2016 (which endured a nasty snowstorm) saw less than one minute of coverage on a select few major news networks; whereas on those networks over nine minutes were devoted to covering the recent birth of a panda cub at the National Zoo.18 Although pandas are cute, they do not deserve the airtime that is being denied the unborn in their greatest need. There is valuable information being shared at the March for Life to which the general public is not being exposed. Another example of a lack of coverage are statistics like this one: “65% of American women [who have had at least one abortion]… experienced multiple symptoms of increased arousal, re-experiencing and avoidance associated with post traumatic stress disorder” according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.19 This data may be up to some interpretation, but this raw statistic will not be seen on the major news media because of the negative connotation that it gives abortions.

If I have written truthfully thus far, then the United States of America has lawfully allowed the mass murder of a group of people solely based on their current size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency; none of which justify or meet the qualifications for taking life. This is the ultimate minority group; the ultimate genocide. And since they have no voice, they depend on people like you and me to speak up for them.

I’ve noticed that everyone who is for abortion has already been born.” -Ronald Reagan

1 Iaccarino, Anthony. “The Founding Fathers and Slavery.” Encyclopædia Britannica, Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc., 28 July 2016, www.britannica.com/topic/The-Founding-Fathers-and-Slavery-1269536.
2 America in the 20th Century: The Civil Rights Movement. Prod. Bent Hannigan. Media Rich Communications, 2010. Alexander Street Database. Web.
3 “U.S. Constitutional Amendments.” Findlaw, Thomson Reuters, 2018, constitution.findlaw.com/amendments.html.
4 Editors, History.com. “Greensboro Sit-In.” History.com, A&E Television Networks, 4 Feb. 2010, www.history.com/topics/black-history/the-greensboro-sit-in.
5 Parker, Alan, director. Mississippi Burning. Orion Pictures, 1988.
6 Downs, Matthew L. “Massive Resistance.” Encyclopedia of Alabama, Alabama Humanities Foundation, 28 July 2014, www.encyclopediaofalabama.org/article/h-3618.
7 Sanger, Margaret. “The Eugenic Value of Birth Control Propaganda.” The Public Papers of Margaret Sanger: Web Edition. NYU, n.d. Web.
8 TIME Magazine Interviews: Hugh Hefner. YouTube. TIME Magazine, 16 Jan. 2009. Web.
9 Hugh Hefner Interview – The 7pm Project – Playboy, Activist and Rebel. YouTube. RoveOnlineClips, 26 Apr. 2011. Web.
10 “Roe v. Wade.” Wikipedia. Wikimedia Foundation, 13 Oct. 2017. Web.
11 Supreme Court. Roe v. Wade. 22 Jan. 1973. Justia.
12 Klusendorf, Scott. “A Case for Life.” Summit Student Conferences. Summit Ministries, Manitou Springs. 25 July 2017. Lecture.
13 Moore, Keith L. The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology. N.p.: W.B. Saunders, 1998. 2-18. Print.
14 O’Rahilly, Ronan, and Fabiola Müller. “Human Embryology and Teratology.” Human Embryology and Teratology, 2nd ed., Wiley-Liss, 1996, pp. 8, 29.
15 “CDCs Abortion Surveillance System FAQs.” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 06 Jan. 2017. Web.
16 The Birth of a Nation (1915 Film by D.W Griffith). Dir. D.W. Griffith. YouTube. A Cinema History, 10 July 2014. Web.
17 Padgett, Ken. “Blackface!” Blackface! Ken Padgett, n.d. Web.
18 “Alliance for Fair Coverage of Life Issues.” Alliance for Fair Coverage of Life Issues. Media Research Center, 2016. Web.
19 Rue, V. M., P. K. Coleman, J. J. Rue, and D. C. Reardon. “Induced Abortion and Traumatic Stress: A Preliminary Comparison of American and Russian Women.” Medical Science Monitor: International Medical Journal of Experimental and Clinical Research. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Oct. 2004. Web.