16 Arguments Against Abortion, Addendum

Novel explores Christianity atheism apologetics themesThanks to the Prime Directive blog, I belatedly came across a long list of “Questions for Pro-Choice People” by Prof. Michael Pakaluk.  I’ve already responded to most of them with the spectrum argument, but here are three extra questions taken from this list that explore new ground and are worth highlighting.

17. Imagine a woman seeing an ultrasound of her unborn baby.  Sometimes the hands and feet are visible, and the baby is sometimes sucking its thumb.  Why aren’t such images shown to women considering abortions as part of informed consent?

Works for me.  But let’s add conditions to make this practical.

  • This should be an option rather than part of a mandatory gauntlet forced on women considering abortion.
  • This should not be the first time the woman has seen this information.  That is, education should teach about the stages of fetal development as part of comprehensive sex education that would minimize the chances of her having this unwanted pregnancy in the first place.
  • The woman’s choices should be made available as soon as possible.  Putting obstacles in her way—by closing down nearby clinics, encouraging pharmacists to refuse to offer morning-after pills, and so on—increases the age of the fetus she must consider aborting.  If an abortion is to happen, let’s make it early so that the woman doesn’t see a fetus sucking its thumb.

18. “Does anyone wish that his mother had chosen abortion for him? And, if not, then how can he consistently wish that any mother choose abortion for anyone else?”

This is a more eloquent version of my question 4, in an earlier post.

In the first place, if I’d been aborted, I wouldn’t be here to care.  In the second, this thinking isn’t far removed from the Quiverfull movement (my thoughts on that here), which encourages no restraint on birth and childishly “lets God decide” how many children to have.

Where do you draw the line?  If we are morally obliged to bring to term a 2-week-old fetus, are we also morally obliged to bring to term the thought, “Gee, I wonder if we should have another baby …”?

Seeing life as a spectrum is the only way to make sense of this.  Yes, that leaves unanswered the question of where to draw the line for abortion, but let’s first agree that a spectrum exists.

19. Let’s suppose that we’re doubtful that the unborn child is a human being with human rights (there is no doubt, but let’s imagine there is).  Given this uncertainty, shouldn’t we err on the side of the child?

I agree that there’s no doubt, but I’m sure my confidence is the opposite of yours.

A fetus is not a person.  Play games with the name all you want (“The fetus is a Homo sapiens, ‘human being’ is simply a synonym, and if a fetus is a human being, it must have human rights!”), but there’s no ambiguity here.  Despite your word games, a newborn baby is still not the same thing as a single cell.  There is a spectrum.

Photo credit

Related posts:

Related links:

  • The text of the opinion in Roe v. Wade is available here.  Though written in 1973, it gives a thorough analysis of both sides of the issue.  Anyone who objects to this decision should probably know what this decision actually says.
  • William Saletan, “The Pro-life Case for Planned Parenthood,” Slate, 12/11/08.

Welcome the World’s 7 Billionth Citizen

An old-fashioned car odometer rolls over to zeroHere’s a scary thought for Halloween: today marks the rollover to a world population of 7,000,000,000 people.  Some say: No problem; God will provide.

Not me.  This freaks me out.

I recently came across the television show 19 Kids and Counting (yeah, I know—where have I been?).  It’s the story of Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar and their 19 children.  No, they don’t adopt needy children, they make them the old-fashioned way.

Their web site is full of Christian talk, links to Creationist sites, and ads for Christian products.  Here they talk about birth control.

We prayed and studied the Bible and found a host of references that told us God considered children a gift, a blessing, and a reward. Yet we had considered having another child an inconvenience [by the wife taking birth control pills] during that busy time in our lives, and we had taken steps to prevent it from happening.

We weren’t sure if Michelle could have any more children after the miscarriage, but we were sure we were going to stop using the pill. In fact we agreed we would stop using any form of birth control and let God decide how many children we would have.

This is the thinking of the Quiverfull movement, whose name comes from Psalm 127: “Like arrows in the hand of a warrior, so are the children of one’s youth.  How blessed is the man whose quiver is full of them.”  From Quiverfull.com:

We exalt Jesus Christ as Lord, and acknowledge His headship in all areas of our lives, including fertility.  We exist to serve those believers who trust the Lord for family size….

What kind of childish logic is this?  Maybe during the Bronze Age, people could say, “We’ll let God decide how many children we’ll have,” but today, we know very well where children come from and how to avoid them.

If you drink poison, you’re not letting God decide whether you live or not; you’re deciding.  If you wave a gun in a bank, you’re not letting God decide whether you get arrested or not; you’re deciding.  And if you have frequent unprotected sex, you’re not letting God decide how many children you have; you’re deciding to have as many as biologically possible.

Quiverfull aficionados reject all forms of birth control.  But if vaccines and antibiotics aren’t messing with God’s plan, why would contraception—not killing an embryo but simply preventing it from happening—be a problem?

Back to the Duggar family, someone might respond that they’re paying their way.  They’re not asking for handouts, so what’s the problem?

The problem is that the planet has a finite carrying capacity.  There’s only so much oil, fresh water regenerates only so fast, and so on.  To make it worse, Americans live a rich life compared to most other people.  For example, the resources that support these 19 kids, assuming they consume at the rate of average Americans, could support 600 average Kenyans.

“God will provide” might satisfy a child, but adults should know better.

In a discouraging article that concludes that religious believers will simply outbreed their competitors, author Tom Rees says:

In Israel and Palestine, both orthodox Jews and religious Muslims have astonishingly high birth rates, at least in part as a consequence of waging war “by other means.”  Throughout the Islamic world, those who have the most extreme beliefs are also the most likely to endorse the desirability of large families.

That other guy thinks he’ll win by having more children?  We’ll have even more than that—we’ll fight fire with fire!

We find similar thinking in the U.S.  Again, from Quiverfull.com:

Quiverfull mothers think of their children as no mere movement but as an army they’re building for God.

But is that the way to play the game—we just descend to the other guy’s level?

Is there no role for reason here?  You don’t fight fire with fire, you fight it with water!

Related links:

  • No Longer Quivering is a site that provides education and support to those getting out of the Quiverfull movement.
  • Bryan Walsh, “The World at 7 Billion: Why the Real Victim of Overpopulation Will Be the Environment,” Time, 10/26/11.
  • Elizabeth Kolbert, “Billions and Billions,” The New Yorker, 10/24/11.
  • Tom Rees, “Shall the fundamentalists inherit the earth?” Epiphenom blog, 5/4/10.
  • “Overpopulation,” Wikipedia.