Pro-life Replies to Pro-choice Arguments

By: Hendrik van der Breggen

Below are some popular arguments for abortion choice followed by some pro-life replies. These pro-choice arguments are real (from a critic of one of my recent articles published here and here) and so are the replies (which I presented as responses).

I hope the interaction between this critic and me will encourage careful reasoning in Canada’s public discourse on abortion.

1. Pro-choice argument: Bodily autonomy alone is enough of a reason to keep abortion legal.

Pro-life reply: But there are two bodies.

2. Pro-choice argument: The fetus is a potential human being.

Pro-life reply: No, it’s not a potential human being. It’s a human being with potential. The fetus is a human being with the potential to become its subsequent developmental stages.

3. Pro-choice argument: A fetus is no more human than a cluster of skin cells is human.

Pro-life reply: Nope. A cluster of skin cells is a cluster of skin cells, not a human being. The cell at conception constitutes something different. It’s the first stage of a new individual human being (which later has skin cells). A fetus is a subsequent stage of the development of this human being. Other subsequent stages are baby, toddler, adolescent, teenager, adult. Biology—don’t they teach biology at school anymore?

4. Pro-choice argument: The fetus is a parasitic organism.

Pro-life reply: Nope. A parasite is an organism of a different species which invades the host. The fetus, on the other hand, is a new human being invited (created) by the host via having sex or IVF (in vitro fertilization).

5. Pro-choice argument: “I’m not saying the fetus is a true parasite, only that the nature of the relationship is parasitic…. Don’t be petty.”

Pro-life reply: But your parasite metaphor/analogy is problematic at the get-go. Why? Because the fetus and its relation to mother is by nature/biology NOT parasitic. (To point this out isn’t being “petty,” it’s being logical and evidence-based.)

6. Pro-choice argument: Consent to sex is not consent to pregnancy. Condoms break and pills fail, so the fetus’s creation is not always invited.

Pro-life reply: Not true. Consent to sex (whether condoms or other forms of contraception are used or not) involves consent to risking the outcome, which is to risk—and thereby invite—pregnancy. Saying no to or “disinviting” the deliberately risked outcome (we KNOW contraception isn’t 100% foolproof) is like gambling at Las Vegas and demanding one’s money back after losing it. Taking a risk entails taking responsibility for that risk.

7. Pro-choice argument: “a fetus that is not viable outside its mother’s womb is not human.”

Pro-life reply: This is simply false. Viability is a measure of whether an unborn child or fetus can survive outside the womb. In effect, viability is a measure of our medical/ technological sophistication to help the pre-natal child live if born prematurely. Viability is NOT a determinant of whether the fetus is human. Being human depends on whether a creature is an individual entity belonging to the biological species of human, which is what the fetus is, whether viable or not.

8. Pro-choice argument: A fetus “is a part of the mother.”

Pro-life reply: This is a popular and easy mistake to make, but it’s still a mistake. A fetus is CONNECTED to the mother, but not a proper part of the mother (like a piano is connected via straps to a mover’s truck but isn’t a part of the truck). To think the fetus is part of the mother leads logically to absurd/ contradictory results—e.g., a woman has eight arms and three penises if pregnant with male triplets—so is problematic. (For more on this topic, see here.)

Conclusion: Please think, for the sake of children.


For additional reading and study

Here are two short but deeply insightful books:

o Francis J. Beckwith, Abortion and the Sanctity of Human Life. (Beckwith has a helpful discussion of the notion of “person.” Christians might be particularly interested in chapter 7, “Christian Faith and Abortion.”)

o Gregory Koukl, Precious Unborn Human Persons. (Koukl has a helpful discussion on body and soul.)

Advanced readings:

o Sidney Callahan, “Abortion and the sexual agenda: A case for prolife feminism.”
o Robert P. George and Christopher Tollefsen, Embryo: A Defence of Human Life.
o Patrick Lee, Abortion and Unborn Human Life.

Past articles concerning abortion by the author:

o Apologia columns

For help with a crisis pregnancy, check online for a local Crisis Pregnancy Center.


Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is associate professor of philosophy at Providence University College, Otterburne, Manitoba, Canada. Hendrik’s teaching and research interests include philosophy of religion, philosophy of science, critical thinking/ logic, and ethics. Over the past nine years, Hendrik has written (and continues to write) the newspaper column “Apologia” in which he attempts to make philosophy accessible to the general reader. Past and current installments of “Apologia” are available at Hendrik’s blog. Links to Hendrik’s other articles can be found at his faculty profile page. The views expressed here or in his column/blog do not always reflect the views of Providence.

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6 Comments

  1. All that may be correct in theory, but in practice a woman may need to terminate a pregnancy…
    Making abortion illegal doesn’t make the need for it go away, it just makes it more dangerous for the mother.
    Pregnancy takes a toll on a woman’s body… I guess you can’t expect a male professor to know that.
    Also, what do you propose we do with the unwanted babies produced by forcing women to bear the child to term? Put them in the foster system to be mistreated and end up homeless or in jail?

    • Hendrik van der Breggen

      Thanks for your comment, Sarah Howell. You set out several different points, so I will reply to each of them individually.

      Re: “All that may be correct in theory, but in practice a woman may need to terminate a pregnancy…”

      I’m glad you agree that my pro-life replies to the pro-choice arguments are correct—it’s important to realize that the pro-choice arguments are problematic.

      About your claim about practice, I have three responses. First, it’s important to realize that the phrase “terminate a pregnancy” is a euphemism (i.e., words that cloak an unpleasant or ugly reality; birth is also a termination of pregnancy, but doesn’t dismember/ destroy the child as abortion does). Second, if a woman truly needs an abortion—i.e., the continued pregnancy in fact threatens the physical health or life of the mother—I’m pretty sure most pro-life advocates would see that as a legitimate reason for abortion. Third, perspective concerning practice is needed: the vast majority (95%) of abortions are not for the hard cases such as rape, incest, or threat to physical health/ life of mother.

      Re: “Making abortion illegal doesn’t make the need for it go away, it just makes it more dangerous for the mother.”

      Here I think we can be creative in our law making. Perhaps a law against abortion should (a) criminalize late-term/ gendercide/ disability abortionists only, not women pressured into abortion, plus (b) help the women so pressured (just as Canada’s anti-prostitution law criminalizes pimps and johns, not the women pressured into prostitution, plus helps the women get out of prostitution). Most abortions are due to social problems, whereas abortions for the horrific circumstances of rape, incest, or when a mother’s life is threatened account for a small percentage only. Surely, social problems require social solutions—not the killing of children.

      For additional thought on the topic of the alleged dangers of making abortion illegal, see my column “About outlawing abortions.” Link: http://apologiabyhendrikvanderbreggen.blogspot.ca/2016/11/about-outlawing-abortions.html

      Re: “Pregnancy takes a toll on a woman’s body… I guess you can’t expect a male professor to know that.”

      I think here you are very close to making an ad hominem fallacy (the mistake of attacking the person instead of his/ her arguments). Yes, I am a male and I am a professor. But that is not relevant to any of my arguments. Also, it’s simply false that I can’t/ don’t know how pregnancy affects a woman’s body.

      (By the way, my wife and I have two sons and she is more physically fit now than ever before. She runs half marathons and she trains at the gym almost daily.)

      Re: “Also, what do you propose we do with the unwanted babies produced by forcing women to bear the child to term? Put them in the foster system to be mistreated and end up homeless or in jail?”

      For starters, I think it’s important to realize that killing children isn’t an appropriate “solution” to unwanted children, just as killing homeless people isn’t an appropriate solution to homelessness. Again, social problems require social solutions, not the killing of children.

      Also, I think ethicist Charles Camosy makes some good proposals for the handling of the so-called “unwanted babies” in his book Beyond the Abortion Wars: A Way Forward for a New Generation (2015). Perhaps the following quote from my review of Camosy’s book will be helpful:

      “In chapter five Camosy argues that ‘we should consider both prenatal children and their mothers as vulnerable populations,’ but, and significantly, current abortion ‘choice’ favors neither. As mentioned, over 1.2 million pre-natal children are killed annually in the U.S. while only 2% are due to the hard cases. But evidence also shows that large numbers of post-abortive mothers face guilt and increased health problems. Moreover, pregnant women face immense social pressures to ‘choose’ abortion without real options to handle the inconvenience/ burden associated with child-rearing. These pressures arise not only from the boyfriend/ husband, parents, family, and friends, but also from larger social structures. Significantly, Camosy argues, workplaces are geared to treating all employees as men. Here all of us should take note: ‘Our social structures force women to choose between (1) honoring their roles as the procreators and sustainers of the earliest stages of human life and (2) having social and economic equality with men.’ To protect prenatal children and their mothers, Camosy rightly argues, we should protect them from this dilemma.”

      “In the last chapter and conclusion, Camosy proposes as a way forward his Mother and Prenatal Child Protection Act. This act protects the vast majority of pre-natal children, allowing abortion in the small percentage of hard cases, plus outlines support for women to enable them to keep and raise their babies. Readers from all political stripes, and whether ‘pro-choice’ or ‘pro-life,’ should consider Camosy’s proposal. If the proposal doesn’t end the abortion wars, it may at least reduce the number of casualties.”

      (For the rest of my review of Camosy’s book and an Amazon link to the book, see here: http://apologiabyhendrikvanderbreggen.blogspot.ca/2016/08/beyond-abortion-wars-book-review.html )

      Thanks again for your comment, Sarah Howell. I hope my replies are helpful.

      Cheers.

    • Hendrik van der Breggen

      Correction to my above comment: I’m glad you agree that my pro-life replies to the pro-choice arguments MAY BE correct…

  2. Hendrik van der Breggen

    My wife mentioned to me that while running this morning she thought about the claim that pregnancy takes a toll on a woman’s body. Her thought: abortion takes a much greater toll on the baby’s body.

  3. Taso Canido

    “1. Pro-choice argument: Bodily autonomy alone is enough of a reason to keep abortion legal.

    Pro-life reply: But there are two bodies.”

    Response: And no body should not have the right to force another body to supplement its own survival. To wit, if I lost my kidneys, I would not have the right to force you to donate one to me and vice-versa.

    Yes, there is a risk to achieving pregnancy when taking part in heterosexual sex (sometimes, even when using contraception); but regardless of the result of said actions in this regard, an impregnated female has every right to consent to having sex without consenting to becoming pregnant. As for the “gambling at Vegas” analogy, I would argue that losing one’s money in a business transaction is not the same as losing one’s right to decline someone else using their body parasitically (which is a natural process despite the negative effect it has on the host, by the way).

    Terminating a pregnancy is not killing a child anymore than declining to be an organ donor makes you responsible for someone dying of organ failure. Having said that, once a female has consented to a state of impregnation, I, for one, can agree that for that state, they have accepted parental responsibility at the very least until they are in a position to hand a viable child over to government care.

    • Hendrik van der Breggen

      Thanks for the comment, Taso Canido. My replies below are a bit late (because I only recently noticed your comment), but, late or not late, I would like to address what you’ve written. My hope is that my doing so will untie some intellectual knots and thereby encourage careful reasoning on the issue of abortion.

      (a). Re: “And no body should not have the right to force another body to supplement its own survival. To wit, if I lost my kidneys, I would not have the right to force you to donate one to me and vice-versa.”

      Each of these two sentences is problematic.

      The first sentence, as it’s written, is logically inconsistent with the second sentence. (Read your sentences again. Slowly.) To avoid inconsistency with your second sentence, I think you should write your first sentence as follows: “And no body should have the right to force another body to supplement its own survival.” Your words, as you’ve written them—“no body should not have the right…”—involve a double negative, which is in effect to say, “somebody should have the right…” (Logic review: Double negation: ~ ~ P = P. Example: “We don’t need no education” = “We do need an education.”) As you’ve written it, you end up contradicting yourself (as expressed in the second sentence) at the get go.

      About your second sentence: Yes, I agree, this is true: if you lost your kidneys, then you wouldn’t have the right to force me to donate one to you and vice-versa. But this truth is not analogous in any relevant way to the situation in pregnancy. It’s a faulty analogy, in other words. The situation in pregnancy is more like this: my life depends on a kidney you’ve just given me (a kidney you apparently can live without), but now you want to take it back—and doing so will kill me. See the difference?

      (b). You admit that there are real risks to getting pregnant when having heterosexual sex (even when using contraception), but then say, “an impregnated female has every right to consent to having sex without consenting to becoming pregnant.”

      Hmmm. This seems to require believing that it’s meaningful to give consent to the beginning of a causal chain of events and do so without consenting to the causal effects (the risks of which one admits are real and yet goes on to risk). It’s like saying I have a right to consent to lighting a match in a room full of gasoline without consenting to the room catching on fire. Or I have a right to consent to smoking without consenting to getting cancer. That’s odd, surely. And this oddness counts against your view.

      (c). You dismiss my “gambling at Vegas” analogy because you think the unborn child is using her mother’s body “parasitically.”

      Here your claim that the unborn is using the mother’s body “parasitically” is faulty, for two reasons. First, the claim hinges on your faulty analogy between pregnancy and kidney donation. For substantiation, see my above response in (a). Second, the claim misunderstands the notion of parasite. For substantiation, please re-read points 4 and 5 of my original article. Again, a fetus is not a parasite, nor is it parasitical. To say otherwise is to abuse language and promote falsehood.

      (d). Re: “Terminating a pregnancy is not killing a child anymore than declining to be an organ donor makes you responsible for someone dying of organ failure.”

      The phrase “terminating a pregnancy” is a euphemism. Terminating a pregnancy by abortion is to kill a child by tearing his/her limbs off its torso, crushing the spine and skull, and sucking the body parts out via a suction machine. So abortion is NOT like declining to be an organ donor. It’s more like using an axe to chop up a person dying of organ failure.

      For more on euphemisms, see my article “Euphemisms: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.” http://apologiabyhendrikvanderbreggen.blogspot.com/2013/03/apologia-by-hendrik-van-der-breggen.html

      More can be said, but I’ve got other matters to which I should attend. I hope what I’ve written is helpful.

      Best regards.

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