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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4 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.

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