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.

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  • 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.

Why is it Always Men Advancing the Pro-Life Position?

Christian apologetics and atheism meet hereIt’s Blog for Choice Day!

On this, the 39th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision making abortion legal in the U.S., Pro-Choice America (NARAL) asks, What will you do to help elect pro-choice candidates in 2012?

I will make it easier to be a pro-choice politician by spreading the word about the sensible arguments in favor of the pro-choice position.  My approach has been to post this series of articles on this topic.

Today let’s ask why it’s always men advancing the pro-life position.  It does seem unfair that the gender that isn’t personally inconvenienced by pregnancy is the one pushing the restrictions.  (Okay—it’s not always men who are the vocal pro-life advocates, but it often seems that way.)

I remember a podcast by a popular Christian apologist during which a woman caller asked this question.  The apologist (a man) seemed annoyed.  He said that murder was murder.  (I argue that abortion isn’t murder.)

More to the point, he said that his moral opinion was relevant regardless of his gender.  I’ll agree with that, as far as it goes.  But I think that the woman had an important point that is rarely acknowledged, since only a woman can have an abortion.

Let me try to create a symmetric male-only example.  This apologist is of the age where he might have been in the draft pool during the Vietnam War.  So let’s suppose it’s 1970, and this guy comes back from a tour fighting in Vietnam.  Readjusting to life in America is tough, and he has nightmares and other symptoms of what we now call PTSD.  His wife is sympathetic and, after some prodding, he shares the problem with her.

“Oh, you should go see Dr. Jones about that,” she says.  “I’m part of a community of veterans’ wives, and I’ve heard all about that.  He does wonders with returning soldiers, and he’ll fix you up in no time.”

Our hero hesitates, not comfortable discussing his demons with a stranger.  “I don’t think so.”

“No, really.  I’ve heard a lot about this, and that treatment should work for you.”

Tension increases as they go back and forth.  Finally, he says, “Honey, I really appreciate your sympathy.  I know you want to help.  But you must understand that you will never, ever understand what I’ve been through.  Put in 18 months in Vietnam and then we’ll have something to talk about.  Until then, you really don’t get it.”

Similarly, our 60-something male apologist will never, ever completely understand what it’s like to be 15 and pregnant, faced with disapproving parents and ridicule from classmates and pro-lifers shouting “murder!” at the suggestion of an abortion, wondering how she’s ever going to get her life back on track.

If the male apologist wants to comment on the topic, that’s fine, but a big dose of humility (and sympathy) would make his position easier to take.

Next time: 16 Arguments Against Abortion, with Rebuttals (Part 2)

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