Further response to pro-choice rhetoric
In what is thus far the most commented article on this site, penned by our newest staff member Adam (see “How to respond to empty pro-choice rhetoric”), one of our regular visitors and a gentleman I enjoy talking with, Tavarish, recently posted five counter-arguments against the pro-life stance advocated by our staff writers. Not wishing for these issues to get archived deeper into the site as the article ages, I am addressing his five counter-arguments in a fresh article. And I am addressing each of them head-on, as he seems to suggest that no one has directly confronted them. For a full and proper context, please see the comments field to Adam’s article.
1.a. “Pro-choice is not pro-abortion or pro-death.”
I’m willing to concede that “pro-death” is rhetorical flourish intended to make a strong statement, but the term “pro-abortion” simply reflects accurately the state of affairs, because it is not ‘choice’ in itself that is advocated but a very specific choice: abortion. Through information, advocacy and access to abortion services, what they advocate is the woman’s right to access abortion, pressure governments to change laws and policies that restrict access to abortion, condemn political or social barriers to abortion, etc. The context of ‘choice’ which Tavarish presents is likewise abortion. When elective abortions were illegal, women did have choices. But the so-called ‘pro-choice’ sector was not at all satisfied, because they wanted a very specific choice: abortion. The paper trail history of their fight is not without a wealth of evidence for this.
Pro-abortion is simply what they are, and it makes very little sense why they should be so opposed to the term. Since they view abortion as simply a specific medical procedure and the unborn as just an astonishing collection of biological matter, they have no real reason to shy away from labelling themselves ‘pro-abortion’. Their side does not think abortion is morally wrong. Our side does. Why are they so willing to concede to our side the moral high ground, by protesting that the term ‘pro-abortion’ is injurious? Why do they in one breath characterize the unborn as a biological clump, while in the next breath claim that the decision to have an abortion is one that is difficult and distressing for a woman to make? (The existence of this dissonance makes very little sense when looked at from their own frame of reference. On the Christian view, their dissonance actually makes a lot of sense, in that their inconsistency proves that their God-given conscience is still functioning as it was designed to; on some level which they are loath to acknowledge, they actually know better.)
1.b. “It’s for the woman’s right to choose what she does with her body.”
And the pro-life view does not dispute that. However, we happen to go one step further by stating that in civilized society, grounded in moral sense and the rule of law, her right “to choose what she does with her body” is no longer unfettered when that choice directly affects another human being. No one disputes that her unborn child is inside her body. Let’s not construct straw-filled canards over that point. But there is something else that is beyond dispute: it’s in her body, but it isn’t her body.
When a woman makes choices about her own body that jeopardizes or harms her child, she is morally and sometimes criminally liable for that and the child can be removed from her care and placed somewhere safe. How much greater is her culpability when the health and safety of that child is entirely dependent on her, such that it cannot be removed and placed somewhere safe when her choices endanger the child? It is in her body, yes, but it isn’t her body. Her freedom to choose what to do with her body stops at her body, when those choices come up against another human body.
2. Since [the unborn] is dependent on the mother alone, its rights lie with the mother and her discretion until it is born.
The argument I had constructed reasoned as follows:
- The deliberate killing of innocent humans is morally wrong.
- Elective abortion is the deliberate killing of an innocent human.
- Therefore, elective abortion is morally wrong.
It is plainly evident that my argument against elective abortions is a moral one, which renders his rebuttal on a legal point remarkably irrelevant. He might raise the point about to whom protected rights are extended, but that has nothing to do with what is morally right or morally wrong. As demonstrated by the Dred Scott decision in 1857 by the U.S. Supreme Court (which ruled that blacks “had no rights” that anyone was bound to respect), what is moral and to whom rights extend are two different questions. If we decide that blacks have no rights, does that mean it is moral to kill them? Legal, certainly, and yet still immoral. Ergo, because we know that to whom rights extend can be an immoral decision, that angle is simply irrelevant for responding to a moral argument like above. It’s not about who has rights, but about what is moral.
3.a. “Abortion is a multi-faceted issue …”
The pro-life view recognizes that as well. One would have to be frightfully ignorant to think that is a contested point. No pro-life advocate pretends that abortion is an issue with only a single facet. Even elective abortion is multi-faceted. And morally wrong.
3.b. “… [insofar] as morality is relative and heavily dependent on the society administering it. What you think is wrong may not be so for [someone else].”
Tavarish is simply assuming the truth of his moral view in this response to my moral argument. If all it takes to defeat your opponent’s argument is to simply assume the truth of your own view, then I can defeat his argument by assuming the truth of my view. It either works both ways or it does not work at all. Insofar as the Special Pleading fallacy indicates that it works both ways, his tactic here was quite inept.
He is certainly free to reject any of the premises of my argument, but he should not be so foolish as to think that rejecting a premise establishes its falsehood. An argument is said to be valid when the conclusion follows logically from the premises, such that the truth of the premises guarantees the truth of the conclusion, and an argument is said to be sound when it is valid and the premises are true. My argument is self-evidently valid, so the question is whether or not it is sound. In order to claim that it is unsound, Tavarish would shoulder the burden of proving that at least one of its premises is false, which is not done by simply presupposing it to be. The burden of proof takes more work than that.
So instead of shouldering the burden of proving that my argument is unsound, he can simply reject the truth of the premises until I have proven them true. But the reader must understand something: a premise is not ‘false until proven true’, nor ‘true until proven false’ (both constitute the argumentum ad ignorantiam fallacy). That is, his rejection of the premises leaves the argument undefeated—which is tantamount to him telling us, “I do not challenge your argument.” Reject it? Yes. Challenge it? No.
3.c. “Telling people what they must do according to your ideology is pandering and imposing a belief system.”
What Tavarish doesn’t appear to recognize is that his comment here turns around and roundly bites the pro-choice side, too, for they engage in precisely the same advocacy and lobbying activities that the pro-life side does. They advocate the pro-choice agenda in reproductive health clinics, public school curriculum where they can, the highest courts in the land, and lobbying for legislation domestically and internationally. As a matter of fact, they are actually far more guilty of the above charge than the pro-life side is, which is constantly playing catch-up.
If it is wrong to tell people what they must do according to some ideology because it is imposing a set of beliefs, then it’s wrong for all who do it—the pro-choice side included.
4. “I don’t agree with the methods and actions of abortion. I find it needless. But I won’t condemn someone else for their decision to have it done …”
This is biographical detail that is quite irrelevant, aside from Tavarish telling us a bit about himself. I have no idea why this is even a point for us to address. When it comes to the moral question about abortion, why should anyone care what Tavarish happens to think or not do, etc.? It is entirely irrelevant.
5.a. “People will have abortions. You can’t stop it.”
People will commit rape. You can’t stop it. And so therefore… what? I mean, just where exactly is this line of reasoning supposed to go? If we cannot stop people from doing X, then we should legislate their freedom to do X? Or might this perhaps be a case where the Special Pleading fallacy gets invoked?
5.b. “Banning it will only make women resort to questionable means for these procedures.”
First of all, I am not aware of anyone who is calling for a ban on all abortions entirely. The dominant call is for banning all elective abortions; if we banned all abortions but those for reasons of rape, incest, the health of the mother or the health of the unborn, that would ban an incredible 93% of all abortions.
Second, if a woman is so committed to the deliberate killing of an innocent human for no medically justified reason (given that rape, incest, her health or that of the unborn would be accepted medical justifications in our scenario), then I have zero sympathy for her pursuing “questionable means” of doing so.
Third, if this is a veiled attempt by Tavarish to suggest that making abortions illegal would throw us back to a time when “back alley abortions” posed a dangerous health risk to women who require an abortion, it is an extraordinary failure: (i) if a woman required an abortion for some reason due to rape, incest, her own health or that of her unborn, that would be a legal abortion in our scenario, performed by qualified medical doctors; (ii) the dangerous health risk to women formerly experienced was not due to abortions being illegal but rather the tools and techniques that were available at that time (e.g., the medical use of penicillin in the forties, the vacuum aspiration method introduced in the sixties, etc.). One has to go back to the pre-penicillin era in order to find the significant rates of death due to abortions. From the 1950s until Roe v. Wade, there were exponentially fewer maternal deaths due to illegal and legal abortions. The dots are not difficult to connect.
5.c. “Making an appeal to emotion doesn’t work …”
Actually, it works very well. But it is not rational, nor is it what our argument does.
5.d. “The best method to reduce abortions is an outline of the options available to women who don’t wish to keep the pregnancy.”
And we can see how effective that has been at reducing abortions.
Consider a far more effective method: ban all abortions except for those related to rape, incest, the health of the mother or that of her unborn; according to the Guttmacher Institute, those comprise only 7% of all abortions.
“The old law permitted abortion to save one life when two would otherwise die,” noted Dr. Herbet Ratner, “but the new law permits abortion to take one life when two would otherwise live.”
If you have a succinct response, please feel free to use Comments field for this article. If you wish to respond more fully, publish it at your blog and send me an email notification if you wish for a response to it.