June 25, 2022

About consent and pregnancy

About consent and pregnancy

By Hendrik van der Breggen

 

Here is a popular pro-choice argument on the abortion issue:

An impregnated female has the right to consent to having sex without consenting to becoming pregnant.

 

Reply: 

This argument doesn’t seem to make sense. This argument requires 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 and knows 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 this pro-choice argument. 

The point is this: If you consent to action X and X has known consequences (or a known high risk of consequences) then basically you are consenting to accepting responsibility for those (risked) consequences. As in gambling at Las Vegas, when you decide to gamble you risk your money and are responsible for your possible losses, so too in initiating a causal chain of events you risk the outcome of the causal consequences—and are responsible for them even if you hoped they wouldn’t occur. Again: Claiming one isn’t consenting to the consequences is odd—and this oddness counts against the above argument. 

One may not want to get pregnant and one may take precautions against getting pregnant, but because no precaution is foolproof—and we know this—by engaging in sexual intercourse one takes the risk of pregnancy for which one is responsible.

If the outcome is a person with the right to life, then killing that person via abortion is not morally permissible. 


For further thought: 

Jen Westmoreland and Josh Brahm, Is Consent to Sex Consent to Pregnancy?, Equal Rights Institute, June 14, 2022 (54 minute video). 

Hendrik van der Breggen, Untangling Popular Pro-Choice Arguments: Critical Thinking About Abortion (Amazon/KDP, 2020).


Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is a retired philosophy professor, formerly at Providence University College, Manitoba, Canada.


June 24, 2022

Untangling popular pro-choice arguments

Untangling popular pro-choice arguments

By Hendrik van der Breggen

 

Clearly, in view of the June 24, 2022, overturning of the U.S. abortion law Roe v. Wade (which sends legislative decisions about abortion to state governments), the abortion debate is far from settled.

In open and free societies, we should discuss abortion carefully in a truth-seeking manner, while showing respect to those with whom we disagree. And we should do this whether we are pro-life or pro-choice or somewhere in between (as in, say, permitting abortion in some but not all cases).

A few weeks ago I noticed a pro-choice post being copied, pasted, and circulated on social media. I would like to examine that post.

The popular pro-choice post attempts to defend abortion as an absolute right for all women, regardless of their circumstances. That is, it attempts to defend an extreme pro-choice position: abortion should be allowed in all circumstances, period, with no exceptions.

To make its extreme pro-choice case, the post sets out various scenarios that, or so the argument goes, justifies all abortions—regardless of the situations. Thus, according to the post, abortion is a woman’s right, period. Hashtag: mybodymychoice.

I would like to assess the post’s arguments via careful, critical thinking. I know that many people who shared the post are good and decent people (some are even my friends and relatives), so I hope my work here shows respect to those with whom I disagree.  And I hope that my appeal to public reason (as opposed to mere opinion, or feeling, or faith-based texts) will allow us to find common ground that shows at least some restrictions on abortion are appropriate. (Much of my work below comes from my book Untangling Popular Pro-Choice Arguments.)

First, I will set out the post in its entirety. Second, I will critique it line by line (in red font). Third, I will suggest a way forward.

 

The extreme pro-choice post in its entirety

Here is the full text of the post in question: 

 

I'm not pro-murdering babies.

I'm pro-Becky who found out at her 20 week anatomy scan that the infant she had been so excited to bring into this world had developed without life sustaining organs.

I'm pro-Susan who was sexually assaulted on her way home from work, only to come to the horrific realization that her assailant planted his seed in her when she got a positive pregnancy test result a month later.

I'm pro-Theresa who hemorrhaged due to a placental abruption, causing her parents, spouse, and children to have to make the impossible decision on whether to save her or her unborn child.

I'm pro-little Cathy who had her innocence ripped away from her by someone she should have been able to trust and her 11 year old body isn't mature enough to bear the consequence of that betrayal.

I'm pro-Melissa who's working two jobs just to make ends meet and has to choose between bringing another child into poverty or feeding the children she already has because her spouse walked out on her.

I'm pro-Brittany who realizes that she is in no way financially, emotionally, or physically able to raise a child.

I'm pro-Emily who went through IVF, ending up with SIX viable implanted eggs requiring selective reduction in order to ensure the safety of her and a SAFE amount of fetuses.

I'm pro-Christina who doesn't want to be a mother, but birth control methods sometimes fail.

I'm pro-Jessica who is FINALLY getting the strength to get away from her physically abusive spouse only to find out that she is carrying the monster's child.

I'm pro-Vanessa who went into her confirmation appointment after YEARS of trying to conceive only to hear silence where there should be a heartbeat.

I'm pro-Lindsay who lost her virginity in her sophomore year with a broken condom and now has to choose whether to be a teenage mom or just a teenager.

I'm pro-Courtney who just found out she's already 13 weeks along, but the egg never made it out of her fallopian tube so either she terminates the pregnancy or risks dying from internal bleeding.

You can argue and say that I'm pro-choice all you want, but the truth is:

I'm pro-life.

Their lives.

Women's lives.

You don't get to pick and choose which scenarios should be accepted.

Women's rights are meant to protect ALL women, regardless of their situation!

#roevwade #prochoice #abortion #women #womensrights #mybody #mychoice #mybodymychoice

*Copy and pasted, please do the same*

 

My critique (in red font)

I will again set out the above post (in black font) and now critique it line by line (in red font). We will see that the post has the following problems: 

  • it confuses pre-term delivery with abortion and thereby sets out a couple red herrings (appeals to what is not relevant)
  • it makes several hasty generalizations from hard cases to justify the general situation (which means the relevant cases are not sufficient to justify its extreme conclusion)
  • it makes an internally contradictory claim (and thus promotes nonsense)
  • it ignores the reality and rights of unborn human bodies (which means the post’s arguments never really address the moral concern that might limit choice)

In sum, the problems render the extreme pro-choice position a failure—a dismal failure.

 

I'm not pro-murdering babies.

That’s good. Amen to that! And, surely, that’s an important common ground for all persons engaged in discussions about abortion.  The premeditated killing of a baby is murder. It’s wrong—murder—because it’s the premeditated killing of a living human being who has done nothing to forfeit his or her right to life. Important note: Unborn babies are babies, too.

 

I'm pro-Becky who found out at her 20 week anatomy scan that the infant she had been so excited to bring into this world had developed without life sustaining organs.

Keep in mind that abortion is the targeted destruction of a living pre-natal human being, i.e., the infant—baby—that’s in the womb. Keep in mind, too, that if Becky’s baby has no life sustaining organs, then Becky’s baby would be dead. An early delivery (of a dead baby) would be required. This situation is sad, definitely. Nevertheless, such a delivery is not an abortion, not the premeditated killing of that baby. In other words, the appeal to Becky’s situation is not an argument for abortion choice. Rather, it’s an argument for the pre-term delivery of an already dead baby.

 

I'm pro-Susan who was sexually assaulted on her way home from work, only to come to the horrific realization that her assailant planted his seed in her when she got a positive pregnancy test result a month later.

Keep in mind that focussing on hard cases such as rape to justify the general abortion practice is to commit the fallacy of reasoning called hasty generalization. In North America, abortions due to rape account only for a tiny percentage of all abortions.

Also, keep in mind, as Secular Pro-Life points out, “Most Americans, including most people who call themselves pro-life, believe abortion laws should include exceptions if the woman was raped.”

Yes, rape is wrong and terrible, definitely. But perspective is needed.

Again, of the total abortion practice, abortions for rape account for a small percentage only. According to ethicist Charles C. Camosy, “about 1 percent of all abortions take place in situations where the mother was raped.”1 Thus, to justify the general abortion situation because of these few terrible cases is, as mentioned, to commit the fallacy of hasty generalization.

Also, abortion does not undo the trauma of rape. The mother has been victimized—she needs care. Moreover, abortion can be traumatic, too. And abortion may be related to subsequent health problems. Abortion risks include breast cancer, premature birth (of subsequent children), and psychological problems.2 By seeing abortion as a solution to rape, we might victimize a woman (a second time).

Furthermore, to kill by abortion the human being conceived by the crime of rape is like killing an innocent bystander at the scene of a crime, a crime perpetrated by the bystander’s father. The father deserves (severe) punishment, not the child.

Moreover, the child's voice should be heard. Significantly, there are people who have been conceived by rape and are now speaking out on behalf of those who cannot. Enter anti-abortion activist and attorney Rebecca Kiessling and company—people conceived via rape. Kiessling asks: “Have you ever considered how really insulting it is to say to someone, 'I think your mother should have been able to abort you.'? It’s like saying, 'If I had my way, you’d be dead right now.'” The child's voice should be considered—so we should listen to those persons who were conceived via rape.3

Rape justifies abortion? Perhaps. But perhaps not. Yes, rape is wrong, definitely, for sure, 100%. Yet there are also very good reasons for thinking rape shouldn't justify abortion. What is certain is that rape—Susan’s case—doesn’t justify the general practice of abortion, not by a long shot. What is also certain is that the rapist deserves punishment and we shouldn’t victimize a woman twice by inflicting another trauma (or traumas) onto her. What is certain, too, is that we should speak for those who can’t, which includes the child conceived by rape. In thinking about whether rape justifies abortion, let's be sure we don't attempt to right a wrong by adding more wrongs.4

Again, Susan’s case, though horrible, doesn’t justify the general practice of abortion.

NOTES

             1. Charles C. Camosy, Beyond the Abortion Wars: A Way Forward for a New Generation (Grand Rapids, Michigan/ Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2015), 20.

            2. See the documentary Hush: A Liberating Conversation about Abortion and Women's Health, directed by Punam Kumar Gill (Mighty Motion Pictures, 2016). For trailer, see here. See too Angela Lanfranchi, Ian Gentles, and Elizabeth Ring-Cassidy's book Complications: Abortion's Impact on Women (Toronto: DeVeber Institute for Bioethics and Social Research, 2013).

            3. See the video Conceived in Rape in which Rebecca Kiessling and other people conceived via rape speak out. See too Kiessling’s website.  

            4. See Hendrik van der Breggen, “Two-wrongs-make-a-right fallacy,” Political Animal Magazine, July 17, 2020.

 

I'm pro-Theresa who hemorrhaged due to a placental abruption, causing her parents, spouse, and children to have to make the impossible decision on whether to save her or her unborn child.

In the case in which the life of the mother is threatened, abortion could be justified in terms of self-defence.

But keep in mind that the life-of-mother-versus-life-of-child situation is rare in North America. In fact, it seems to be so rare that it's non-existent.

Kendra Kolb, MD, a neonatologist, stated this in 2019: “there is no medical reason why the life of the child must be directly and intentionally ended with an abortion procedure.”1

Also in 2019, Omar L. Hamada, MD, Fellow of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, stated this: “there is absolutely no medically justifiable reason for abortion ('the intentional and elective targeted killing of an infant at any stage of pregnancy for matters of maternal choice or convenience') to save the life of the mother. Period. End of story.”2

In addition, the Dublin Declaration on Maternal Healthcare (signed by over 1,000 medical professionals) stated this in 2012: “As experienced practitioners and researchers in obstetrics and gynaecology, we affirm that direct abortion—the purposeful destruction of the unborn child—is not medically necessary to save the life of a woman.”3

Moreover, Dr. C. Everett Koop in 1980 (when he was Surgeon General of the United States) stated the following: “In my thirty-six years in pediatric surgery I have never known of one instance where the child had to be aborted to save the mother’s life.”4

Furthermore, Dr. R. J. Hefferman of Tufts University stated this in 1951: “Anyone who performs a therapeutic abortion (for physical disease) is either ignorant of modern methods of treating the complications of pregnancy, or is unwilling to take time to use them.”5

But, one might object at this juncture: Aren't there situations in which a mother's life is truly in jeopardy? Answer: Yes, but abortion isn't needed here. Dr. Kolb explains thoroughly, so I'll quote her extensively: 

It is often said that abortion is sometimes medically necessary to protect the life or the health of the mother. This is simply not true. As a neonatologist, I am regularly consulted to advise mothers with high-risk pregnancies and I routinely care for their babies. I have also personally gone through two very difficult pregnancies, each requiring hospitalization. So I have great empathy and respect for all women who are pregnant, especially those with difficult or high-risk pregnancies. What women deserve to know, however is that even in the most high risk pregnancies, there is no medical reason why the life of the child must be directly and intentionally ended with an abortion procedure. 

In situations where the mother's life is truly in jeopardy, her pregnancy must end and the baby must be delivered. These situations occur in cases of mothers who develop dangerously high blood pressure, have decompensated heart disease, life-threatening diabetes, cancer, or a number of other very serious medical conditions. Some babies do need to be delivered before they are able to survive outside of the womb, which occurs around 22 to 24 weeks of life. These situations are considered a preterm delivery and not an abortion…. 

In addition to early delivery as a means of protecting the mother there are also times when it may be necessary to give a pregnant mother medical treatments which may tragically result in the loss of the baby. However, it is important to understand that these treatments are not abortions. For example, if a pregnant mother has cancer and chooses to undergo chemotherapy, that treatment may result in miscarriage. However, the treatment given is very different than abortion, as the purpose of the chemotherapy is not to kill the child. 

Some will also confuse the necessary treatment for an ectopic pregnancy with an abortion. An ectopic pregnancy occurs when a preborn child [embryo] implants in the mother's fallopian tubes or somewhere outside of the uterus. When a preborn child implants outside of the uterus, it is a hostile environment for the baby in which it cannot survive. And, sadly, removing the baby from the fallopian tube or abdominal cavity is necessary, as an ectopic pregnancy will inevitably end in a miscarriage and may threaten the mother's life. These situations are devastating. However, they are not considered abortions. 

Abortion unnecessarily ends lives of children and may also result in serious medical and psychological risks to women. Physicians have an ethical duty to deliver expert care for both patients: the mother and the child. A mother's life is always of paramount importance, but abortion is never medically necessary to protect her life or health.6

Thus, the life-of-mother-versus-life-of-child situation seems very much not to justify abortion. It might justify some abortions theoretically/ hypothetically in terms of self-defence, but in fact it isn't needed. As a justification of the general situation—as is the case of Theresa—it’s a red herring, i.e., not relevant and distracting.7,8

NOTES

             1. Kendra Kolb, “The Pro-Life Reply to: 'Abortion Can Be Medically Necessary,'” Live Action, YouTube video, July 30, 2019.

            2. Omar L. Hamada, “Letter from a pro-life OBGYN: ‘There is absolutely no medically justifiable reason for abortion,’ ” Live Action, September 24, 2019.

            3. Committee for Excellence in Maternal Healthcare, “Dublin Declaration on Maternal Healthcare,” 2012. Website is found here.

            4. C. Everett Koop, “Deception-on-demand,” Moody Monthly, May 1980, 27.

            5. R. J. Hefferman, Congress of American College of Surgeons, 1951; cited by Dr. and Mrs. Willke in Abortion: Questions and Answers (Cincinnati, Ohio: Hays Publishing Company, Inc., 1985), 120.

            6. Kendra Kolb, “The Pro-Life Reply to: 'Abortion Can Be Medically Necessary,'” Live Action, YouTube video, July 30, 2019.

            7. Reminder: the tough cases—abortions for rape and threats to the life of the mother—account for a very small percentage of the total abortions. As mentioned in an earlier section, ethicist Charles Camosy, in his book Beyond the Abortion Wars, says the tough cases amount to 2 percent of the total cases. I’ve heard others report that it might be 5 percent. Whether 2 or 5 percent, it’s a small percentage. To generalize from the small number of tough cases to justify abortion for the general situation is to incur the fallacy of hasty generalization, which is a violation of the sufficiency criterion of the (relevant) grounds of a good argument. The fact that abortion isn't needed at all to protect the life of the mother means that insofar as one attempts to justify the general abortion practice on this basis one incurs a red herring fallacy, which is a violation of the relevancy criterion of the grounds of a good argument.

            8. In a discussion in the comment section of one of my articles at Political Animal Magazine (“Pro-life Replies to Pro-choice Arguments,” April 27, 2018) the following claim was set out as a justification of abortion: “Pregnancy takes a toll on a woman’s body.” I replied as follows: “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. 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.”

 

I'm pro-little Cathy who had her innocence ripped away from her by someone she should have been able to trust and her 11 year old body isn't mature enough to bear the consequence of that betrayal.

Again, if pregnancy threatens the life of the mother (Cathy), then abortion can be justified in terms of self-defence. But, as with the previous cases (Susan’s rape, Theresa’s placental abruption and hemorrhaging), the appeal to this case doesn’t justify the general situation. If the reader does not understand, please re-read my discussions of Susan’s and Theresa’s cases.

 

I'm pro-Melissa who's working two jobs just to make ends meet and has to choose between bringing another child into poverty or feeding the children she already has because her spouse walked out on her.

That’s a tough situation, definitely. But instead of killing an innocent baby (remember: you’re not pro-murdering babies!) a better alternative would be to require the spouse to provide financial help. And instead of killing an innocent baby (remember, again: you’re not pro-murdering babies!) a better alternative, in addition to requiring the spouse to be responsible, would be for the community to step up to help with food, shelter, finances, and friendship. We should encourage a culture of life, not a culture of killing. Let’s help Melissa and her child to live and flourish!

 

I'm pro-Brittany who realizes that she is in no way financially, emotionally, or physically able to raise a child.

Again, as in the case with Melissa, instead of killing an innocent baby (remember: you’re not pro-murdering babies) a better alternative would be to provide help financially, emotionally, and physically. Surely, social problems require social solutions, not killing innocent children. Let’s help Brittany and child to live and flourish!

 

I'm pro-Emily who went through IVF, ending up with SIX viable implanted eggs requiring selective reduction in order to ensure the safety of her and a SAFE amount of fetuses.

I think it’s important to keep in mind that by “selective reduction” we’re talking euphemistically about killing unwanted pre-natal human beings—unwanted babies. If you are not pro-murdering babies (a fetus is a baby, by the way), then you should reconsider the ethics of IVF.

For more about the pros and cons concerning IVF, see my article “In Vitro Fertilization unwise.”

 

I'm pro-Christina who doesn't want to be a mother, but birth control methods sometimes fail.

As in gambling at Las Vegas, when you decide to gamble you risk your money and are responsible for your possible losses, so too in initiating a causal chain of events by engaging in sex when birth control methods might fail you risk the outcome of the causal consequences—and are responsible for them even if you hoped they wouldn’t occur.

One may not want to get pregnant and one may take precautions against getting pregnant, but because no precaution is foolproof—and we know this—by engaging in sexual intercourse one takes the risk of pregnancy for which one is responsible. If the outcome of engaging in sexual intercourse is a baby (which is the case), then, especially if one believes it’s wrong to murder babies, then killing that baby via abortion is wrong.

Perhaps some additional clarity is needed. Reproduction, i.e., the creation of a child (pre-natal human being/person) conceived via sex—i.e., becoming a mother—occurs BEFORE abortion takes place. Reproductive freedom is exercised BEFORE abortion takes place. The late Michael Bauman, Professor of Theology and Culture at Hillsdale College, observes: “When pro-choicers have unforced sex, they are choosing. That is freedom of choice. When they decide to kill the child conceived during that sexual encounter, that is freedom from choice. They chose; now they want to be free from the consequences of that choice, even if someone has to die.” In other words, justifying abortion via “reproductive freedom” is a ruse.

The appeal to Christina’s case as a justification of abortion is intellectually muddled.

 

I'm pro-Jessica who is FINALLY getting the strength to get away from her physically abusive spouse only to find out that she is carrying the monster's child.

Yes, let’s help Jessica get away, for sure. But let’s not kill an innocent child—let’s not murder a baby—because of the father’s sin. We should help Jessica and her baby to be safe and to flourish. Having a physically abusive spouse isn’t a good reason to kill children.

 

I'm pro-Vanessa who went into her confirmation appointment after YEARS of trying to conceive only to hear silence where there should be a heartbeat.

See the case of Becky, in which I wrote the following: Keep in mind that abortion is the targeted destruction of a living pre-natal human being, i.e., the infant—baby—that’s in the womb. Keep in mind, too, that if Becky’s baby has no life sustaining organs, then Becky’s baby would be dead. An early delivery (of a dead baby) would be required. This situation is sad, definitely. Nevertheless, such a delivery is not an abortion, not the premeditated killing of that baby. In other words, the appeal to Becky’s situation is not an argument for abortion choice.

 

I'm pro-Lindsay who lost her virginity in her sophomore year with a broken condom and now has to choose whether to be a teenage mom or just a teenager.

See my response to Christina and the claim that birth control methods sometimes fail.

 

I'm pro-Courtney who just found out she's already 13 weeks along, but the egg never made it out of her fallopian tube so either she terminates the pregnancy or risks dying from internal bleeding.

See my lengthy response to case of Theresa who hemorrhaged due to a placental abruption.

Also, the following from Live Action (Facebook post, May 5, 2022) may be helpful: 

If anyone tells you outlawing abortion and protecting babies will impact treatment for “ectopic pregnancies,” they are lying or misinformed.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Abortion is the direct and intentional killing of a child in the womb. Treatment for an ectopic pregnancy is not an abortion.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

In an ectopic pregnancy, a baby has implanted in the wrong place. Unfortunately, the baby cannot grow to term and growth causes extreme danger to the mother. Both can die. There is currently no way to move the child.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

In this grave situation, treatment involves removing the part of the Fallopian tube that contains the baby, which results in the tragic loss of the child.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

But this is not an abortion, as the intent is to save both patients if it were possible. There is respect and love for both lives.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Whereas abortion involves intentionally ripping the limbs off of babies or giving them a lethal injection to the heart or head.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

There is a significant moral and legal difference between killing a child and losing a child 💔

 

You can argue and say that I'm pro-choice all you want, but the truth is:

I'm pro-life.

Their lives.

Women's lives.

But you are not pro-life on the abortion issue if you completely neglect the lives of the babies who get murdered. You claim you’re “not pro-murdering babies.” But the scenarios you’ve set out contradict that claim.

 

You don't get to pick and choose which scenarios should be accepted.

But you are! See all the scenarios you’ve picked and chosen and which you accept. And from this limited sample of scenarios you use them to justify all abortions for all scenarios. Your logic is internally flawed (you contradict yourself) and your overall reasoning (from the few hard cases to the general practice of abortion) is flawed, too.

 

Women's rights are meant to protect ALL women, regardless of their situation!

Right. But human rights include ALL human beings, including the baby in the womb.

 

#roevwade #prochoice #abortion #women #womensrights #mybody #mychoice #mybodymychoice

Re: My body, my choice. See Dwight Schrute below. 

In other words, there are two bodies involved in abortion: the body of the woman and the body of the unborn baby. The popular (and extreme) pro-choice post ignores the reality and rights of unborn human bodies.

 

A way forward

I am not under the illusion that all pro-choice extremists will be persuaded by reasons like those I’ve set out above and thus become pro-life. But I believe that some pro-choice people will be persuaded not to be pro-choice extremists. So—and importantly—we should notice that there’s room to be creative here. Because of the polarized political views on abortion presently in North America, perhaps a modest approach would be appropriate. Perhaps a politically practical law against abortion in our deeply divided democratic society could at the very least (1) criminalize late-term abortionists only, not women pressured into abortion, plus (2) help women so pressured (just as Canadian anti-prostitution law criminalizes pimps and johns, not the women pressured into prostitution, plus helps the women get out of prostitution).1 Or perhaps we could take the view of Canadian lawyer Leslyn Lewis, PhD (who at time of writing is a candidate for the leadership of the Conservative Party of Canada). Her fourfold platform on abortion could easily be supported by people of all political stripes: (1) ban the misogynistic practice of sex-selective abortion (since many girls are aborted just because they are girls),2 (2) protect women from coerced abortion (who wouldn’t want that?), (3) support pregnant women via government support for pregnancy care centers (which help both mother and child),3 plus (4) direct foreign aid away from abortion providers and instead to those groups who promote overall health care (which is supportable by all, surely).4

          Such a law/laws could save the lives of many children and help desperate women, plus provide political space—political common ground—to encourage thoughtful, democratic discussion about creating even better, more life-affirming laws and ways to help desperate women facing crisis pregnancies. Perhaps it could even be a significant step to making unthinkable the idea that to solve problems surrounding a pregnancy we should kill children.5,6,7

NOTES

             1. According to the results of a DART & Maru/Blue poll conducted for the National Post (reported by the National Post in January 2020) in answer to the question of whether abortion should be legal or illegal in the last three months of pregnancy only 30% of Canadians polled favoured legal late-term abortions whereas a majority of 70% favoured making late-term abortions illegal. (Sharon Kirkey, “As abortion debate becomes increasingly polarized, poll shows the views of many Canadians are more complicated,” National Post, January 31, 2020.) Concerning the U.S. situation, ethicist Charles Camosy reports a 2013 Gallup poll that found 80% of Americans think abortion should be illegal in the final three months of pregnancy (and 64% think abortion should be illegal in the second three months). (Charles C. Camosy, Beyond the Abortion Wars: A Way Forward for a New Generation [Grand Rapids, Michigan/ Cambridge, U.K., 2015], 28.)

2. About sex-selective abortion, the following observations from Margaret Somerville (Professor of Bioethics at University of Notre Dame Australia and founding director of the Centre for Medicine, Ethics, and Law at McGill University) are important: “That unfettered access to abortion should be the litmus test of whether a society respects women and their rights is a long-standing claim of pro-choice advocates and at the heart of their rationale for supporting unrestricted access to abortion. They focus on women’s rights to autonomy and self-determination and argue that such access is required to protect these rights and women’s dignity. But sex-selection abortion promotes the exact opposite values—it expresses a lack of respect for women in cultures in which sons are highly valued over daughters. It also differs from other abortions in that the woman wants a baby—just not a girl. In one study reported from India in which 8,000 consecutive abortions were followed, three were of unborn boys and 7,997 of unborn girls.” (Margaret Somerville, “The preposterous politics of female feticide,” The Globe and Mail, September 29, 2012.)

3. Even if abortion were legal with few restrictions, a law to ensure support is offered to pregnant women via pregnancy care centers (that do not so abortions but instead actually provide help to both mother and child) should be acceptable to even the staunchest of pro-choice advocates. Pro-life philosopher Margaret Somerville puts the matter this way: “a woman with a crisis pregnancy should know that, if she decides against abortion, she will be offered fully adequate psychological and social support. Such an offer is required, if for no other reason, to obtain a valid—non-coerced—informed consent to abortion, should that be the woman’s decision.” (Margaret Somerville, Bird on an Ethics Wire: Battles about Values in the Culture Wars [Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2015], 201.) Somerville’s observation helps us realize that Leslyn Lewis’s third point (that we should support pregnancy care centers that help both mother and child) is closely related to her second point (that we should protect women from coerced abortion), because the coercion that a pregnant woman faces may simply be that she lacks realistic options—so she has no choice. Former pro-choice advocate Frederica Mathewes-Green explains the hopelessness that arises from a lack of realistic options which many pregnant women who seek abortion face: “She wants an abortion as an animal, caught in a trap, wants to gnaw off its own leg.” (Frederica Mathewes-Green, “When Abortion Suddenly Stopped Making Sense,” National Review, January 22, 2016.)

4. Leslyn Lewis’s political platform concerning abortion can be found here. Though Lewis didn’t win the Conservative leadership race in 2020 (she is running again in 2022), her pro-life platform received much support and showed that many Canadians are not comfortable with Canada’s complete lack of legal restrictions on abortion. As mentioned above (in note 1), many Canadians (regardless of political stripe) are in favour of at least some restrictions—and so are many Americans.

5. For further thought on what an abortion law might look like, see Camosy’s book Beyond the Abortion Wars. In the final chapter Camosy proposes what he calls the Mother and Prenatal Child Protection Act. This act would protect the vast majority of pre-natal children, allowing abortion in the small percentage of hard cases, plus provide 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 at least think about Camosy’s proposal.

            6. At this juncture some might object that abortion legislation is misguided: we should instead deal with the underlying causes that drive women to abortion. For example, a pregnant woman may be facing psychological problems, so that should be our focus. In reply, we should keep in mind that abortion kills an unborn child—a human being. That's hugely significant. Also, we should consider Scott Klusendorf's critique of the focus-on-the-underlying-causes argument: “[T]his is like saying that the 'underlying cause' of spousal abuse is psychological; so instead of making it illegal for husbands to beat their wives, the solution is to provide counseling for men.” Klusendorf adds: “There are 'underlying causes' for rape, murder, theft, and so on, but that in no way makes it 'misguided' to have laws banning such actions.” (Scott Klusendorf, The Case for Life: Equipping Christians to Engage the Culture [Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Books, 2009], 169; Klusendorf attributes this insight to his colleague Steve Weimar.) I think Klusendorf is correct. Yet I would also take into account (as I am sure Klusendorf would agree) Charles Camosy’s point that “we should consider both prenatal children and their mothers as vulnerable populations,” while keeping in mind that, significantly, current abortion “choice” favours neither (Camosy, Beyond the Abortion Wars, 112, 124). In fact, many pregnant women face immense social pressures to “choose” abortion without real options to handle the challenges 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” (Camosy, Beyond the Abortion Wars, 126). To protect prenatal children and their mothers, Camosy rightly argues, we should protect them from this dilemma. Anti-abortion laws could prevent killing unborn children plus help mothers who are pressured to see the killing of an unborn child as a “solution” to social problems. (Keep in mind that the vast majority of abortions are not due to the hard cases such as rape and threat to life of the mother; see relevant sections of this book.)

            7. At this juncture some might also object that illegal abortion increases maternal mortality. In reply, Justina Van Manen astutely observes the following:

The claim that maternal mortality rates increase as a result of illegal abortion is completely false. Until recently, Ireland has had heavy restrictions on abortion and has some of the lowest maternal mortality rates in the world. South Africa’s maternal mortality rate has increased over the past decade, despite legalizing abortion in 1997. Finally, Chile, which criminalized abortion in 1989, has had a steadily decreasing maternal mortality rate since then. Rather than abortion being a contributing factor to women’s health, Chile’s example reveals that increasing levels of education are instrumental in reducing maternal deaths. Similarly, Poland has severe abortion restrictions and has, as of 2015, along with Finland and Greece, the lowest maternal mortality rate in the world (3 deaths per 100,000 births).

(Justina Van Manen, Stuck: A Complete Guide to Answering Tough Questions about Abortion [Toronto: Life Cycle Books, 2019], 158.)

  

Recommended readings

Justina Van Manen, Stuck: A Complete Guide to Answering Tough Questions about Abortion (Life Cycle Books, 2019).

Hendrik van der Breggen, Untangling Popular Pro-Choice Arguments: Critical Thinking about Abortion (Amazon KDP, 2020).

Also, see my blog APOLOGIA where I have 42 articles related to the abortion issue.


Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is a retired philosophy professor, formerly at Providence University College, Manitoba, Canada.

March 22, 2022

War in Ukraine, Freedom Convoy in Canada, and a silly meme

 


War in Ukraine, Freedom Convoy in Canada, and a silly meme

By Hendrik van der Breggen


Is Canada's Freedom Convoy silly in comparison to Ukraine's exodus?

I saw a silly meme shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine and shortly after Canada’s Prime Minister invoked the Emergencies Act to shut down Canada’s Freedom Convoy. Sadly, the silliness of the meme (shared widely on social media) seemed lost on many.

The meme had a photo of hundreds of cars lined up bumper-to-bumper leaving Kyiv. The meme also had the following text: “Traffic westbound out of Kyev [sic] yesterday. That’s what a freedom convoy looks like, in the face of tyranny and oppression. Note a distinct lack of bouncy castles.”

The apparent point of the meme was to draw an analogy between Ukraine’s and Canada’s motor vehicle caravans, put emphasis on the horror of the situation in Ukraine, and thereby dismiss the importance of Canada’s Freedom Convoy.

I think that the analogy is faulty and that the importance of Canada’s Freedom Convoy remains.

Why is the analogy faulty?

Both convoys are for the sake of freedom, for sure. But the motorcade in Ukraine would be better described as a Fleeing Convoy, not a Freedom Convoy.

The analogy breaks down because the people in the Ukrainian vehicles are running away from the tyranny and oppression of the invading Russian army, whereas the people in the Canadian vehicles are standing up against the possibility of Canada’s government becoming tyrannical and oppressive.

A better (albeit hypothetical) analogy to Canada’s Freedom Convoy would be this: the citizens of Russia taking their vehicles to the street to protest Russian President Putin before he became a tyrant.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918-2008) provides us with a warning that we should take seriously.

Solzhenitsyn wrote The Gulag Archipelago. This book (three large volumes) is about the far flung system of Soviet forced labour camps in which millions of people perished. Solzhenitsyn describes how Soviet society succumbed to the horrors of a government bent on imprisoning and murdering its own citizens. Solzhenitsyn’s work no doubt helped bring about the fall of the Soviet Union.

These words (from chapter two of Solzhenitsyn’s first volume) should give us pause: “if people had been heroic in exercising their civil responsibilities, there would never have been any reason to write either this chapter or this whole book.”

I think Solzhenitsyn's point has to do with the importance of citizens exercising their civil responsibilities BEFORE dark forces get control, as a pre-emptive strike against the rise of tyrannical and oppressive government bent on imprisoning and murdering its own citizens.

I would add: And before requiring its own citizens to war on other countries—such as Ukraine.

Yes, fleeing westward from Kyiv is important (and understandable), and peoples with freedom should provide aid (humanitarian aid as well as ammunition).

Important, too, and perhaps even more important—so we can provide aid in the first place—is that free peoples of the world should stand up against their governments when those governments show inklings towards squelching freedom.

Canada’s Liberal government was very apparently infringing on the constitutional rights of Canadians during the COVID pandemic (see the Peterson-Peckford discussion below for evidence). Hence Canada’s Freedom Convoy—and its importance.

 

Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is a retired philosopher who lives in Steinbach, Manitoba, Canada.

 

For additional thought

 

  • Russell Brand, Russell Brand on Canadian Trucker Convoy (14 minute video)
  • Russell Brand, Trudeau - Is This Your Liberal Hero? (16 minute video)
  • Jordan Peterson & Brian Peckford, Canadian Constitutional Crisis (1 hour 22 minutes video) This is an important interview concerning Canada's Charter of Rights and Freedoms and how it has been infringed upon by Canada’s Liberal government during the COVID pandemic. It is especially important because Brian Peckford is a living author of the Charter who can communicate the intentions of the document's writers.
  • Jordan Peterson & Rex Murphy, The Catastrophe of Canada (1 hour video)
  • Senator Don Plett, Prime Minister Trudeau’s Emergency Act (1.5 hour video) This speech by Canadian Senator Don Plett, Conservative Leader of the Opposition (Senate), was given shortly before Canada's Liberal Prime Minister Justin Trudeau revoked the Emergencies Act. Plett’s speech is a thorough criticism of the PM’s earlier invocation of the Emergencies Act. The senator's speech is historically sensitive, legally insightful, and just plain wise. I suspect future historians will make reference to the importance of Plett’s speech for maintaining Canadian democracy. I commend the speech to today’s Canadian citizens, whether they are Liberal, Conservative, NDP, Green, or whatever.
  • Hendrik van der Breggen, Does Canada’s federal government want to destroy Canadians? (article)

February 11, 2022

Snippets from MLK’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”: Thoughts for Canada’s trucker protest

 

                                           Martin Luther King Jr. in Birmingham City Jail


Snippets from MLK’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail”: Thoughts for Canada’s trucker protest

By Hendrik van der Breggen

February 11, 2022

 

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-1968) wrote his now-famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail” in 1963. It was a response to critics of his peaceful protests in the U.S. against racism and racial segregation. If there is a document that should be consulted about civil disobedience, MLK’s letter would be it.

Today I was re-reading MLK’s letter, hoping to get some insights into Canada’s trucker protest. Below are some snippets that stood out to me. Whether the reader supports the trucker protest or not, I think MLK’s letter can help us.

Note: I am not saying the COVID-19 mandates are analogous to the horrors of the racism that MLK faced; they aren’t. Rather, I am saying the truckers who are protesting against the injustices of COVID restrictions (I believe there are and have been real injustices) and the critics of such protests—both sides can learn from MLK’s letter. In my view: (a) truckers should heed MLK’s call to remain peaceful and act justly even in the face of vilification (as they have been, as far as I can tell) and even if the state flexes its muscles and resorts to police force (as seems imminent); and (b) persons with political power should heed MLK’s call to listen and negotiate (are you listening, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau?).

Snippets from Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail” (written to fellow clergymen who had publicly expressed criticism of his work):

You deplore the demonstrations that are presently taking place in Birmingham. But I am sorry that your statement did not express a similar concern for the conditions that brought the demonstrations into being.

You may well ask, "Why direct action, why sit-ins, marches, and so forth? Isn't negotiation a better path?" You are exactly right in your call for negotiation. Indeed, this is the purpose of direct action. Nonviolent direct action seeks to create such a crisis and establish such creative tension that a community that has consistently refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue. It seeks so to dramatize the issue that it can no longer be ignored. … So, the purpose of direct action is to create a situation so crisis-packed that it will inevitably open the door to negotiation.

We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have never yet engaged in a direct-action movement that was "well timed" according to the timetable of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of segregation.

[T]here are two types of laws: there are just laws, and there are unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "An unjust law is no law at all." … Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority.

I hope you are able to see the distinction I am trying to point out. In no sense do I advocate evading or defying the law, as would the rabid segregationist. That would lead to anarchy. One who breaks an unjust law must do so openly, lovingly, and with a willingness to accept the penalty. I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for law.

Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.

I have consistently preached that nonviolence demands that the means we use must be as pure as the ends we seek.

 

Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is a retired philosopher who lives in Steinbach, Manitoba, Canada.

 

Hendrik’s articles relating to COVID