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Snappy Answers to Five Common but Stupid Pro-Abortion Arguments
1. “Don’t like abortion? Don’t have one!”
“Don’t like slavery? Don’t keep slaves!”
“Don’t like child molestation? Don’t molest children!”
This bumper sticker argument utterly fails to acknowledge the full implications of the pro-life position, which is that abortion kills human beings. And so it treats opposition to abortion in the way that one might treat opposition to, say, objectionable TV programming or the selling of alcohol at the local grocery: “Don’t like Miley Cyrus twerking? Don’t watch it!”; “Don’t like alcohol? Don’t buy or drink it!”
2. “If abortion is not permitted more children will be unwanted and born into poverty.”
“If we are not permitted to strangle babies that managed to be born to poor people or reluctant parents then they will grow up miserable, poor and feeling unwanted.”
Another failure to recognize the full import of the pro-life position. If unborn children are persons in the morally relevant sense, and thus are the bearers of rights, then apart from rare extenuating circumstances, there is no relevant difference between abortion and infanticide. Both are instances of killing people. And if the pro-life view were true, in both cases what is proposed would be the killing of a person in order to avoid unwanted consequences.
3. “Pro-life people are disingenuous because they refuse to state what penalties they wish to see our sisters and daughters suffer for having abortions. Capital punishment? Life imprisonment? They know how terribly unpopular this would be, and so avoid addressing the issue.”
“People who believe that animals have a right to life are disingenuous because they refuse to state what penalties Aunt Bee should face for preparing her famous fried chicken.”
The point: The question of whether babies and chickens are the sorts of things that we may reasonably suppose to have a right to life is logically independent of the question of what penalties should be imposed on those who violate those putative rights. And there is an inference gap between “Abortion kills human beings with a right to life” and “Women who have abortions should be penalized with___________ (however that blank is filled in)”. This is actually an ad populum argument–a fallacy.
4. “Most pro-life people are conservatives who plump for minimal government interference in our private lives. But this is hypocritical, as abortion laws and regulations are precisely an instance of such government interference.”
“People who plump for less government interference should also be in favor of repealing all laws designed to protect people from violent crimes.”
The point: The pro-life position is perfectly consistent. One might subscribe to Mill’s “harm principle” (e.g., laws that curtail individual liberty should be enacted if and only of they are necessary to protect individuals and institutions from harm), and then note that this same principle has implications for harm done to the unborn through abortion. Once again, the pro-choice argument simply fails to acknowledge the central pro-life position: abortion kills human beings.
5. “Men cannot become pregnant. Therefore, men are not entitled to an opinion on the issue of abortion. It is solely a woman’s issue.”
“So if I read an article arguing either for or against the permissibility of abortion, and the author’s name is “Pat” (so that I am unsure of the gender), I cannot assess the cogency of the argument until I learn the gender of the author?”
The point: This argument is as disingenuous as it is silly. It is silly because the gender of an author or interlocutor is utterly irrelevant as they consider the question of whether a fetus is the sort of thing that is properly thought to have rights, or even the question of whether the woman’s rights to privacy somehow trump the fetal right to life. It is disingenuous because what the speaker really means is that pro-life men are not entitled to their opinion. Of course, pro-choice males may be heeded, and pro-life females may not.