October 20, 2011
Abortion in the news
By Hendrik van der Breggen
The Carillon, October 20, 2011
Abortion in the news
Recently, the abortion issue hit the news in Canada when some conservative MPs challenged the government's funding of International Planned Parenthood Federation, an agency that's well-known for its promotion of abortion.
As I observed the public discussion of this news (e.g., by looking at the online comments on CBC News), I was dismayed at the problematic nature of many of the so-called "pro-choice" arguments.
Here are three of those arguments, plus my assessments.
Pro-choice argument 1: Abortion is about a woman's body only, so nobody else should have a say in the matter.
Assessment: The premise is not true. Abortion is not just about a woman’s body. When a woman is pregnant, there are two bodies that are of concern—the mother’s body and the child’s body.
Moreover, society in general—and the father in particular—should have a say in the matter. Why? Because the unborn child is a human being and thus a member of the human family.
Pro-choice argument 2: Rape justifies abortion.
Assessment: Some perspective is in order here. Rape accounts for less than one percent of abortions in Canada, so in Canada rape doesn’t justify all abortions. To think that it does is to commit the fallacy of hasty generalization.
Also, the rape-justifies-abortion argument assumes the unborn child has no moral right to life, so in the context of the abortion debate, the argument commits the fallacy of question begging (it assumes as proven/ established that which is at issue).
Also, the awkward but important question arises: Why punish the child for the crime of its father? That is, why turn the unborn child into an innocent victim, too?
Surely, it would be better to do the following: (a) help the innocent child (by, say, adoption); (b) help the suffering mother (by, say, psychological, medical, and financial assistance); (c) punish the rapist (by locking him up as well as seizing his assets to pay restitution to mother and child); and (d) provide policing to prevent rape in the first place (especially in those countries where rape is prevalent).
Rape is terrible. Nevertheless, abortion does not undo a rape. In fact, abortion is an instance of further violence. In addition, there is growing evidence of abortion's negative health consequences for the mother, so abortion as a "solution" to rape may make matters worse for the rape victim.
Pro-choice argument 3: If you don’t believe in abortion, don’t have one.
Assessment: This argument simply ignores the arguments of those who think that the unborn are human beings and deserve protection.
To those who think that the unborn are human beings and deserve protection, this argument has the same force as saying, “If you don’t believe in slavery, don’t own one.” Or, "If you don't believe in murder, don't kill anyone." This “pro-choice” argument assumes that beliefs about human rights and the application of such beliefs in life are limited to one’s personal sphere only. But such an assumption is a mistake.
In closing, we should note that most abortions in Canada (over 90%) occur because of social problems. But, surely, social problems require social solutions—not killing.
When a woman faces a crisis pregnancy, she definitely needs help finding a solution to the problem—so fathers, friends, family, church, and society should assist mightily. But "solving" the problem of an unwanted child by allowing the choice to kill that child is morally problematic. It’s like solving the problem of homelessness by allowing the choice to kill the homeless.
It's an unjust solution. It’s wrong.
P.S. For a startling yet hope-inspiring look at the abortion issue, I encourage readers to visit heartchanger.com and view the 33 minute movie 180.
Note: My other columns on abortion can be found here:
Morgentaler’s abortion of logic (September 4, 2008)
Aborting an abortion argument (September 18, 2008)
Acorns and oak trees…and abortion (October 2, 2008)
On abortion, again (October 16, 2008)
Abortion in the news, Part 2 (November 9, 2011)
(Hendrik van der Breggen, Ph.D., teaches philosophy at Providence University College. The views in this column do not always reflect the views of Providence.)