January 30, 2018

Aborting Trudeau's (other) abortion argument

Canada's Prime Minister posing thoughtful.
(Vogue Magazine, January 2016.)
By Hendrik van der Breggen
The Carillon, February 8, 2018
(This is my original. An edited, less clear version appeared in the newspaper.)

Aborting Trudeau’s (other) abortion argument

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has been criticized rightly about his recent false claims that Canadian women have a constitutional right to abortion (fact check: Canada’s Charter does not set out such a right). Yet, Trudeau goes on to justify abortion because, according to Trudeau, women have “the right to control their own bodies.”

This justification should be criticized, too.

Why? Because it's absurd.

Trudeau’s justification of abortion works only if the following argument works (I call it the body-part-control argument):
  • Premise 1: Every woman has the right to control her own body.
  • Premise 2: The fetus is a part of the pregnant woman’s body.
  • Conclusion: Women have the right to abortion.

The argument sounds good, but is it sound?

Nope, it is NOT sound. Consider the following reasoning.

First, assume (for the sake of argument) that the second premise is true. That is, assume that the fetus is a part of the pregnant woman’s body.

Second, consider the logical relation of transitivity. If A is a part of B, and B is a part of C, then A is a part of C. If a brick is part of a wall, and the wall is part of a house, then the brick is part of that house.

Third, keep in mind two facts: (1) a woman has two feet; and (2) a fetus has two feet.

Now, consider the following: if a fetus’ two feet are a part of the fetus, and if the fetus is a part of a pregnant woman, then the fetus’ two feet are a part of that woman. Hence, the woman has four feet.

Now, also consider the fact that the male fetus has a penis. If the penis is a part of the fetus, and if the fetus is a part of the pregnant woman, then the woman has a penis. (Note: We’re not talking intersex here, we’re talking about a pregnant woman.)

Think, too, about the possibility of male triplets.

Since absurdities follow logically from the assumed truth of the second premise, we can conclude that the second premise is false. (This is a reductio ad absurdum argument.)

Significantly, premise 2 fails to recognize the distinction between the concepts of part and connection. An object A can be connected to object B, yet object A need not be a part of B. The piano in a mover’s truck is connected (via straps, etc.) to the truck, yet the piano is not a part of that truck. Similarly, the fetus is connected to a woman’s body, yet the fetus is not a part of the woman’s body.

Sure, every woman has the right to control her own body. But there two bodies involved in an abortion.

Dear Prime Minister Trudeau: Please notice that it’s one thing to control one’s own body—it’s  quite another to kill the body of another!


Postscript: An objection and a reply

Objection: In 2014 there was a case in China of a baby conjoined at the torso to a headless parasitic twin, so the baby had extra legs, arms, etc. This case counts against the alleged absurdity of a woman having more than two feet or two hands (e.g., eight of each) and so on (e.g., three penises). So the above critique of the body-part-control argument fails.

Reply: Nope, it’s the objection that fails. Why? Because the limbs etc. of the headless parasitic twin are ATTACHED to the baby, but are NOT PART of the baby—they are properly a part of the headless parasitic twin that's conjoined/ connected to the baby. To think otherwise is to continue confusing / not distinguishing the notions of ‘part of X’ and ‘connection to X.’ (Happily, the limbs etc. of the headless parasitic twin were successfully detached surgically from the baby.)

Recommended book (from which the above reductio ad absurdum argument is gotten):

Peter Kreeft, The Unaborted Socrates

Past APOLOGIA columns concerning abortion:
Canada Summer Jobs kerfuffle, January 18, 2018 
About my abortion columns, October 26, 2017
Abortion, February 2, 2017
About outlawing abortions, November 24, 2016
We need an abortion law, October 12, 2016
Beyond the abortion wars, August 8, 2016
We need an abortion law, September 3, 2015
On abortion, again, October 16, 2008
Aborting an abortion argument, September 18, 2008

For support for crisis pregnancy:

Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is associate professor of philosophy at Providence University College, Otterburne, Manitoba. The views expressed in APOLOGIA do not always reflect the views of Providence.


Brian said...

Welcome to Gilead.

I recently watched the TV series "The Handmaid's Tale" which a retelling of a dystopian novel published more than 20 years ago. The story explores the themes of female subjugation, misogyny, totalitarianism and religious fundamentalism.

When I conducted some research after viewing, which is something I often do with great pieces of art, is that the author had not taken many liberties in her story telling. All of the horrible actions taken against women actually have occurred in our recent history.

I can see how this happens. It's columns and articles like this one above that start that rolling. This drivel that you have produced is ill informed and you have no basis to understand the decisions that others need to make. Make or female, christian or otherwise you have no true understanding regardless of your degree or your status in the community. As a 21st century parent, I am teaching my daughter her value in this world, and that value is not determined by the wants and opinions of others.

I know that Gilead will never exist. But we have to fight for that freedom.

Praise be.


Jordan Wiebe said...


It seems you have set forth very little in terms of responding to the argument Dr. Van der Breggen has articulated. In order to show an argument to be false you need to respond to one or more of the premises and also show why it is incorrect. You appear to have done nothing but assert that his article is “ill-informed” and “drivel.” What reasoning do you have for such claims? Before saying too much more I would like to give you more time to back up your claims. I wish to understand the views of those around me and be respectful to everyone.

I will however make the point that a baby’s sex is determined at conception. So, what about the value of those future women that are being aborted?

I myself have two daughters and wish to teach them that their value is not based on the wants and opinions of others. Instead, it is based on their being made in the image of God. I hope to teach them to respect all life, wether inside or outside the womb and regardless of sex, race, religion, etc. All people have equal value (but not all ideas do!)

Looking forward to hearing your response and having a respectful conversation. All the best,


Brian said...


The point of my rebuttal is not about rebutting the author's arguments. His arguments are math (A=B B=C so A=C). Torture the statistics until they tell you what you want to hear. I'm not going to argue when the exact moment a fetus becomes a person. It's a pointless argument. But it's used as propaganda to promote a theological belief. A theological belief that the author wishes to push onto all Canadians through politics and national policy.

Mixing theological beliefs with politics is the slope in which belief becomes fundamentalism. We have enough of that in this world already.


Jordan Wiebe said...

I don't believe it is a rebuttal if you don't address any of the author's points. It just irrelevant pontificating on your point using someone else's platform.

I'm not quite sure to what you are referring when you mention statistics. I think knowing when human life begins is very much the point that needs to be addressed.

I'm also not sure what theological belief is being promoted. Clearly, it's not functioning as very good propaganda if that is his intention. Perhaps you can clarify what you mean by that?

A pro-life viewpoint is not a uniquely Christian idea (if that is what you are implying). There are various religions and worldviews that incorporate pro-life philosophy. There are atheists who are pro-life, and there are women who are pro-life as well. I would also add that everyone has theological beliefs. Even a belief that there is no God is theological. And so, everyone brings their theological beliefs to the table, for better or for worse. Again, perhaps you can clarify your statements for me re: fundamentalism? Cheers,


Hendrik van der Breggen said...

Thanks for the comments. I think Jordan has responded well to Brian, so I won't add anything here other than to recommend some further readings. About The Handmaid's Tale, see my column (and comments) Steinbach's Life Hike 2019. About the abortion issue more generally, see my article Untangling popular "pro-choice" claims and arguments concerning abortion".