The Republicans in Congress are seemingly trying to remove federal funds from Planned Parenthood, which is reigniting arguing and anger over the abortion issue. Once again, we’re hearing the nonsense 3% statistic being thrown around to go along with a host of other common arguments to defend abortion and Planned Parenthood. Much of these arguments miss the central point of this debate, being red herrings that distract from the key issue: Do we have good reason to believe that the baby is or is not a human life? Does the mother have the “right” to end that life for any reason of her choosing? Even if we aren’t sure, is the chance that the baby is human great enough to make elective abortion morally wrong? It is frankly frustrating how many people, unfortunately including many confused Christians, use the following arguments when they are all simply irrelevant.
“What if the life of the mother is in danger? Aha! You’re being inconsistent if you say abortion is justified in that case!”
We’ll start with this one because it is so prevalent, yet it is so confused. Let us grant that the baby is a human life that has the value and rights of a person. You know what becomes a very hard decision? When you weigh one human life against another. Of course that’s a difficult decision. If some pro-life people struggle here, they are not being inconsistent with their belief about unborn babies; they are merely wrestling with a difficult dilemma that anyone would face if they had to decide between two or more human lives.
For example, there are common dilemmas portrayed in ethics such as this scenario: Let’s say a group of people were spelunking in a deep cave near the water, but when they were trying to exit the cave, a very fat person in the group got stuck in the opening and trapped them all inside. The high tide is coming in, and they are all in danger of drowning. However, they also have dynamite with them, so they are given a choice: They can blow up their fat friend and escape, or they can sit there and drown. Philosophers often debate scenarios like this, and some believe that the group is justified in blowing up the guy to save themselves while others believe that such taking of innocent human life is not justified even in situations like that, so that the group must try to find another way to escape even if the chances are tiny. Here’s the thing: Nobody is debating whether or not the big dude is a human, and nobody thinks that he has done something morally wrong to deserve getting killed. The question is if the situation constitutes an extreme enough reason to justify taking that life.
Likewise, when pro-life people disagree with one another here, it is not showing inconsistency; such a question would be expected to be hard if the baby is human and as equally valuable as the mother. Some pro-lifers will say that in this case, the mother has the moral permission to “defend” herself, even if the danger to her is not intended. Others, however, think that even that reason is not good enough to take a human life that has committed no crimes. Nevertheless, the shared assumption is that the baby is human. However, when pro-choice people bring this up, they’re not interested in such questions about what reasons constitute good justification for the taking of human life; they’re trying to deny the humanity of the baby altogether (except for those crazy few who agree that the baby is human but nonetheless think that the mother has every right to kill another human for her own convenience). It is really nonsensical for pro-choice people to think that this is some knockdown argument for them.
Furthermore, only a tiny, tiny fraction of abortions occur for this reason. If abortion advocates would be okay with legislation that banned abortions other than in situations where the life of the mother was medically concluded to be in danger, then I think 99.9% of pro-life people would gladly take that deal. Somehow, I think pro-choice advocates would not be happy with that, which makes this whole argument disingenuous.
“I find it funny that many pro-life people also support the death penalty. So much for caring about life!”
I’ve seen this argument a lot, and it is astonishingly silly. The debate about the death penalty is if the heinousness of some crimes justify the state taking a human life as punishment. Nobody is arguing that the criminal is not a human. There is absolutely no contradiction in believing that an unborn baby, who has not and cannot commit any crimes, should not be killed electively and also believing that some crimes are so bad that it justifies executing some criminals (also, not every pro-life person is going to be for capital punishment either). This really should not be hard to see.
“If pro-life advocates really cared about the baby, they would adopt more and they would care about how the baby grows up.”
First of all, Christians, at least, are much more likely to adopt children than others in America. Secondly, this actually isn’t even relevant to the discussion. Perhaps Christians and other pro-life advocates should adopt more. Maybe they aren’t doing enough to also take care of single mothers and poor children. None of this contradicts the belief that an unborn baby is a human life that should not be extinguished for convenience. Are pro-choice people trying to argue here that it is better to not exist than to be an orphan or poor? I’m hoping the answer is no there, but given some of their rhetoric, sometimes it’s hard to tell.
“Abortion should be legal because otherwise Christians are just imposing their religion on others, which is not only unbiblical but it is also against the separation of church and state.”
I see this one from other Christians quite a bit, and it is faulty for several reasons. One, it is not only Christians who are pro-life advocates. Two, the unjustified taking of human life is very much a governmental concern or else we wouldn’t have laws concerning murder and manslaughter. If the unborn baby, at any point during the pregnancy, should be considered human life, then one would think that it would behoove the state to at least consider protecting that life. Three, believing that certain moral values should be built into law is not “imposing” religion but merely believing that there are some important moral truths that any healthy country should have as law, though this does not mean that the law should try to regulate every aspect of morality. The whole premise here not only assumes that pro-life people have only religious reasons but also that religious reasons are completely illegitimate in public discussion, which is ridiculous and a misunderstanding of the idea of of the separation of church and state.
This, of course, goes into the question of whether or not the baby is human, which is where the discussion should be in the first place. Pro-life people here are not just citing “religious” reasons either; they also utilize science and philosophy. Those are arguments worth having, and it should very much concern any healthy country if people are getting killed for no good reason. This is not the same thing, for example, as Christians believing that premarital sex is a sin and hypothetically trying to make others through law live like that.
It is frankly surprising how many Christians buy this argument and say things like, “I believe abortion is wrong and that the baby is human, but I think it should be legal for everyone.” Analogously, I doubt anyone would want to say, “I believe child pornography is wrong, but who am I to say that others should not be able to view and participate in it?” Obviously, most people consider that issue enough of a threat to society to warrant a law against it. Likewise, if the unborn baby is a human life that is defenseless, it very well might justify not only Christian avoidance of abortion but also a law. Furthermore, if one believes that the Bible teaches that the baby is human, I would think that it should lead that person to believe that there are other good arguments confirming or at least supporting that truth because God does not put things in Scripture that are nonsense.
“If abortion is largely made illegal, many women will get abortions anyway but seek very unsafe doctors and methods that will injure or even kill them. Do you not care about those women?”
As harsh as this sounds, this logically is not relevant either. Of course it is sad if and when women resort to very unsafe methods of abortion. However, you could make that argument against any law. Law against stealing? People will steal anyway and take more extraordinary measures to not get caught. Law against murder? People will do it anyway and may seek out the black market for things like weapons. Law against undocumented immigration? People will use unsafe methods to try to come here. Law against child pornography? People will go to the deep web and abuse children in secret and even build whole underground businesses based on it. So on and so forth.
The fact that we know people will break a law and even use unsafe and awful methods to do so does not automatically mean that the law is unjustified. Every society must choose whether or not a law is worth the cost of regulation, enforcement, and possible disobedience. For example, America concluded that prohibition just wasn’t worth it many years ago; however, most sane countries, quite rationally, think it is very worth it to enforce laws against the unjustified taking of human life. Again, if the baby is human, then the fact that some women (and men) will seek terrible ways to abort the baby does not mean that it is not worth it to have laws trying to protect that baby.
“The pro-life movement is all about men trying to tell women what to do with their bodies.”
Not only are there many, many women who are staunchly pro-life, which undercuts this completely silly accusation at the outset, this statement presumes that the baby is not a distinct individual and is simply a part of the woman’s body. Who the heck granted that?
As Ben Shapiro told one feminist, he doesn’t care about a random woman’s thorax, appendix, or other part of her body. He cares about the life of the baby that a pregnant woman is carrying. Does that baby make physical demands of the mother? Yes… because that’s what babies do, and that’s what motherhood is. That hardly constitutes a good reason to kill a human. Now, if pro-choice people are right that the unborn baby is not a human, then of course a woman can then generally do as she pleases with her body. You know what that contention needs? Arguments, not presumption, and not silly accusations of the patriarchy trying to keep women down.
“Showing pictures of aborted fetuses is dishonest; it’d be like us showing pictures of rape victims, some of who get pregnant and want abortions.”
I heard this while I was at the University of Texas when a pro-life group created controversy by showing pictures of aborted babies. I was tempted to fall over laughing at this argument except that the subject was too serious.
No one is arguing that rape is okay; if someone were, then maybe it might be a good strategy to show that person pictures of rape victims to show him how terrible it is and to wake him up. Then again, perhaps such appeals to emotion are not the best way to argue for any position, but regardless, there is absolutely no analogy between showing pictures of aborted babies and showing pictures of rape victims because the horrible nature of rape is not in dispute. It is shocking how bad people’s reasoning can be.
There are other bad arguments that could be discussed, but that is enough for now. Here’s what I’m not saying: I’m not saying that there are no arguments worth considering for some variety of the pro-choice position. I’m also not saying that pro-life advocates should not settle for compromise in the law as this issue continues to be debated. I’m not even saying that the government is even fully capable of protecting the life of the unborn child even if it is agreed that the baby is human. I’m merely pointing out that all of these popular arguments and statements miss the point and utterly fail to make any convincing or reasonable case for the pro-choice position. In fairness, I know that there are several bad pro-life arguments too, but at the least, both sides need to focus on making good arguments about the central issue rather than resorting to silly red herrings that are more about emotions than logic.