November 09, 2016
Untangling abortion arguments
By Hendrik van der Breggen
The Carillon, November 9, 2016
Untangling abortion arguments
Popular arguments favouring the choice for abortion often consist of knots of illogic that should be untangled. Consider the following.
1. Anti-abortionists are anti-choice.
Reply: In one sense, yes. Choice for abortion gets limited. In another sense, no. Each abortion wipes out a whole life-time of choices, so anti-abortionists increase the total of choices.
2. The fetus is merely a potential human being.
Reply: No, the fetus is a human being with potential, not a potential human being. The fetus is a developmental stage of human being. A potential human being is the sperm and egg before union.
3. Abortion is just another means of contraception.
Reply: No. A contraceptive prevents the union of sperm and egg. Abortion destroys the human being created by the union of sperm with egg.
4. Abortion is simply the termination of pregnancy.
Reply: “Termination of pregnancy” is a euphemism (nice words to cover up something not nice). Abortion destroys the pre-natal human being, often by ripping off limbs and crushing skulls.
5. Every child should be a wanted child.
Reply: Yes, but these words neglect the truth that instead of enhancing the wantedness of unwanted children, abortion kills them. Everyone should have a home and be loved, but this doesn't mean we should kill the homeless and unloved.
6. A brick is not a house, so getting rid of a brick or even a few bricks is okay.
Reply: Yes, but if you had a brick that grows into a house (complete with furnace, air conditioning, blue curtains, a super-computer, plus plumbing that leaks for a couple years only), you probably wouldn't destroy it.
7. Not allowing abortion is to impose your morality onto others.
Reply: But killing another human being is the ultimate imposition of morality onto that other human being. Not allowing abortion is a less severe imposition of morality.
8. Rape, incest, and protection of life or health of mother justify the current abortion practice.
Reply: No. Arguments that abortions are necessary for these special situations are legitimate (if at all) only for those situations. These special situations account for less than 5% of the total. To justify the total practice on 5% is a hasty generalization (a fallacy of reasoning).
9. Rape justifies abortion.
Reply: Rape is wrong, definitely. But perspective is needed.
Again, of the total abortion practice, abortions for rape account for a small percentage only.
Also, the mother has been victimized. She needs care. Abortion does not undo the trauma of rape. Also, abortion can be traumatic, too. And abortion may be related to subsequent health problems (see film Hush).
Moreover, to kill by abortion the innocent 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 punishment, not the child.
Rape justifies abortion? Perhaps. But we shouldn’t victimize a woman twice. Also, we should speak for those who can’t. (See video Conceived in rape by Rebecca Kiessling et al.)
10. The life-of-mother-versus-life-of-child situation justifies abortion.
Reply: Yes, possibly, as self-defence. But the situation is rare in North America. Justifying the general situation on basis of small percentage is (again) a hasty generalization.
11. Every woman has the right to control her body, so every woman has the right to abortion.
Reply: Abortion involves two bodies. The right to control your own body is one thing; the right to kill another’s body is quite another.
12. You are a man, therefore your arguments about abortion don’t count.
Reply: Yes, I am a man. But this is an ad hominem fallacy, the mistake in reasoning which occurs when the arguer is attacked instead of his/her arguments, when doing so is not relevant.
Think, for the sake of children.
(Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, teaches philosophy at Providence University College. He is author of the book An Enquiry Concerning Human Abortion.)
Note to critics: Please read my other articles on abortion before offering your criticism. Thanks.