By Hendrik van der Breggen
October 26, 2020
Abortion is essential health care service—and other falsehoods
Critical thinking about abortion
Abortion is essential health care service?
According to 2020 presidential candidate and former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden, “abortion is an essential health care service.”
No, it's not. No abortions are medically necessary. But don’t take my word on this.
Dr. Kendra Kolb, 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.”
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.”
Also, 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.” (C. Everett Koop, “Deception-on-demand,” Moody Monthly, May 1980, p. 27.)
Also, consider that 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.” (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.)
Abortion is not health care.
[For additional thought, see Nathan Apodaca, “Abortion: Essential Health Care for Whom?”]
Abortion care prevents the heartbreak of infant mortality?
According to Terry O'Neill, former president of the pro-choice group NOW (National Organization for Women), “abortion care, no less than contraception, is an essential measure to prevent the heartbreak of infant mortality.” In other words, O’Neill favours abortion so we can avoid feeling sad in the tragic situations in which infants die natural deaths shortly after they’re born.
My response: Huh? Really? Notice the underlying principle implied by O'Neill's view: If someone is going to die of natural causes early in their life, I should be free to kill him/her sooner to prevent my heartbreak.
Surely this is self-centeredness taken to the extreme—and is a moral wrong.
Also, if we accept O’Neill’s view, why stop with the heartbreak of infant mortality? Perhaps we could also prevent our heartbreak over the natural deaths of old people or the terminally ill by killing them earlier. And perhaps we could prevent our heartbreak over the natural deaths of the starving and homeless by killing them, too. O’Neill’s view turns “care” into killing—and is morally atrocious. An atrocious moral falsehood.
Women have the right to control their own bodies, so abortion is a woman's right. Really?
This is a popular argument—even Canada's Prime Minister makes it (implicitly) when he justifies abortion by saying women have “the right to control their own bodies.”
Popular or not, it’s a fallacious argument.
This justification of abortion works only if the following argument works:
- Premise 1: The fetus is a part of the pregnant woman’s body.
- Premise 2: Every woman has the right to control her own body.
- Conclusion: Women have the right to abortion.
The argument sounds good, but is it sound? No, it is NOT sound. The first premise is the culprit—it’s false. Consider the following reasoning.
First, assume (for the sake of argument) that the first 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’s two feet are a part of the fetus, and if the fetus is a part of a pregnant woman, then the fetus’s 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 woman.)
Think, too, about the possibility of male triplets.
Since absurdities follow logically from the assumed truth of the first premise, we can conclude that the first premise is false. (This is a reductio ad absurdum argument.)
Significantly, premise 1 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.
It’s one thing to control one’s own body—it’s quite another to kill the body of another!
We should think critically about abortion, for goodness’ sake.
Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is a retired philosophy professor who lives in Steinbach, Manitoba, Canada. The above article (except for the reference to Nathan Apodaca’s fine article) consists of excerpts from Hendrik’s recently published book Untangling Popular Pro-Choice Arguments: Critical Thinking about Abortion (now available at Amazon).