Answering the Top Five Pro-Choice Objections (Which Completely Miss the Point)

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by Greg Jackson

You remember last time? We looked at the basic argument against abortion. Well, in this post we’re going to look at some common challenges to that argument. Admittedly these common objections more or less completely miss the point, but they are so common it is worth going over them.

1)      You’re not a woman, you cannot get pregnant

2)      You’re a religious nut

3)      If you don’t like abortions, don’t have one

4)      Don’t impose your morality upon me

5)      What about overpopulation?

Perhaps you’ve encountered these sorts of ‘arguments’ before. If you haven’t, you haven’t been speaking to enough people about how super awesome it is to be pro-life. When you do however, you can expect to hear some version of one of the above, either hurled at you as an intended debate stopper, or said to you in all sincerity by a well-meaning but confused friend.

1) ‘You’re a man, you cannot get pregnant’ or ‘Abortion is a woman’s issue’ or ‘No uterus, no opinion’

Now, many pro-lifers will attempt to answer this ‘argument’, by talking about the role of men in abortion (especially if you are a man). After all, you might be tempted to say:

“Well men do have a role in abortion. Every child has a father after all. And abortionists are men. And of course, both in the UK and the US it was men who were the primary pushers of the current abortion legislation (in the UK it was Lord David Steele who introduced the Abortion 1967 Act, and in the US all of the Supreme Court Justices who made abortion legal in Roe v Wade, were men)”

This is completely true, and much more could and should be said about these points.

However, in a discussion or argument, in arguing in this way, the pro-lifer is conceding far too much. The pro-lifer is conceding that the principle ‘No uterus, no opinion’ has some validity, when in fact it has absolutely no bearing whatsoever on the argument itself.

The basic argument against abortion is true (or false) entirely independently of the gender or sex of the person who utters it. Why?

Argument does not have gender (or sex), people do.

Whether it is  I  (a man) that utters the argument against abortion, or whether it is a woman that utters the argument against abortion, does not in any way alter the truth value of the argument. If John says “Killing innocent human beings is wrong. Abortion kills an innocent human being. Therefore, abortion is wrong”, and Jane goes on to say exactly the same thing, the premises of the argument do not become more true because they’re said by a woman. The truth is true (if indeed it is true) independently of the person who says it.

In which case, next time this comes up, say something like the following: “It’s not clear to me why my gender (or sex) matters. After all, everything I’ve said would be equally true (or false) if said by a woman. Where does my being a man come into it?”

The ‘You’re not a man, you can’t get pregnant’ type arguments are known as ‘ad hominem’ (to the man) arguments. They are a rhetorical device which attacks the person making the argument rather than the argument itself.

The point is clear. This ‘argument’ is no argument at all. At best it is a serious but sincere confusion. At worst, a pernicious attempt to shut down the debate.

Either way, the central question (what is the unborn) remains unanswered.

2) ‘You’re a religious nut’ or ‘You only believe abortion is wrong because of your religion’

Again, you might be tempted to reply, (if you are religious) “Yes, my religion does teach that abortion is wrong, but there are many secular people who believe abortion is wrong…”

This is true, but once more gives too much credit to their ‘argument’. As with the previous pro-choice argument

‘Arguments do not have religion or faith, people do.’

The argument against abortion is equally true or false independently of the faith (or lack thereof) of the person who utters it.

3) And 4) ‘If you don’t like abortion, don’t have one’ or ‘Don’t impose your morality on me’

As with the previous two ’arguments’, this one misses the point of the debate too, but it does so in a different way. In a previous post, I mentioned how most arguments in favour of abortion assume the unborn is not a human being without recourse to evidence or argument. This seems to be what is going on here.

For this pro-choice argument to work, one must assume that abortion is morally equivalent to, for example, getting a tattoo. In which case, I would accept the argument ‘If you don’t like tattoos, don’t get one’. But I do not think people would accept the argument ‘If you don’t like toddler killing, don’t kill toddlers’. The question remains: is abortion more like getting a tattoo or more like killing a toddler?

The conversation should go something like this:

Pro-choice: If you don’t like abortion don’t have one/don’t impose your morality upon me.

Pro-life: Could I say, ‘if you don’t like toddler killing, don’t kill toddlers’? Or ‘don’t impose your anti-toddler killing morality upon me’?

PC: No, because they’re different things

PL: How’re they different?

PC: Toddlers are humans, a foetus (embryo, zygote etc) is not

PL: Ahh… well that’s where we disagree. The unborn are just as human as toddlers.

By doing this, you’re trying to bring the pro-choicer back around to the central question: ‘what is the unborn?’ Unless you’re discussing this, you’re not discussing the right thing.

5) Abortion is needed to help with overpopulation:

This post is getting far too long… so try this:

Pro-choice: Abortion is needed to help solve the crisis of overpopulation

Pro-life: Could I also say ‘Toddler killing is needed to help solve the crisis of overpopulation’?

PC: No, because they’re different things

PL: How’re they different?

PC: Toddlers are humans, a foetus (embryo, zygote etc) is not

PL: Ahh… well that’s where we disagree. The unborn are just as human as toddlers…

And we’re back to the right question. If you want to make progress in this debate, you need to be discussing what the unborn is…

Practice with a friend. If you’re not sure whether an argument in favour of abortion is a good one or not, subject it to the ‘toddler test’. Most fail. Next time, we’ll look at differences between you as you are now and you when you were in your mother’s womb. Perhaps some of these might justify abortion…

APS
APS
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