Friday, June 24, 2011

Joe on Abortion


Thanks for your well thought-out response. The fact that it was long is actually good—it indicates that you put a lot of thought into your arguments. This reply will probably also be pretty long, so thanks in advance for your patience.

First of all, contrary to popular opinion, the morality or immorality of abortion is not a religious question. Rather, it is a question of science, specifically of embryology and human development. This is the basis of my argument.

My argument centers upon one question—what are the unborn? The answer to this question is absolutely fundamental. If the unborn are not human beings, then I concede that abortion is not wrong and that I’m wasting my time being in the pro-life movement. However, if the unborn are human beings, then they deserve the same protection we give to born humans, the most important of which is the right to live.

OK…so to start let’s consider a born human, say a newborn infant girl. Is it OK to kill her? Of course not! But what about if she was born to a really poor mother who couldn’t afford to raise her? What about if the mother didn’t even want her? What about if she had some kind of disability or handicap? Is it still wrong to kill her? Of course! Why so? Because we recognize that she is a member of the human species, and is thus entitled to protection regardless of how inconvenient she may seem.

So now to the core of my argument. Let me know if you follow and/or if you find any flaws in it. I would like to argue that there are only four differences between a newborn and a fetus in the womb. I believe that none of these differences justify being able to kill the latter but not the former. The newborn and the fetus differ in:

Size--I believe this is irrelevant. Since when do big people have more rights than smaller people? Men tend to be bigger than women. Does this mean that we should give women less rights? Of course not!

Level of Development--If this were relevant, the amount of rights we have would be a bell curve. People tend to reach their peak physical maturity in their late twenties and their peak intellectual maturity in their late thirties. Does this mean that such people should have more rights than, say, a two-year-old or an eighty-two-year-old. Of course not! A two-year-old isn't less valuable than a thirty-year old, even though the two-year old isn't even fully developed (for example, doesn't have a functioning reproductive system).

Environment--Do we become more/less of a person by changing locations? If you walk from outside into a building, do you stop becoming you? Of course not! Then how can a mere eight inches down the birth canal change a non-person that we can kill into a member of the human family that we cannot?

Degree of Dependency--Yes, the fetus depends on the mother to survive. But is this any different from the newborn that also depends on its mother (and others) to survive? Or what about those who have pacemakers or are on oxygen machines? Do they lose their rights just because they depend on other people/things? Of course not!

So I would argue that the four differences are all irrelevant. None of them justify being able to kill an unborn human being regardless of how painful the situation, difficult the circumstances, or hopeless the future looks for the child. Why? For the same reason we would never kill a newborn who was born into the same conditions. Once again, it all comes down to this question--what are the unborn?

If the unborn are human beings, then they are entitled to the same right to life enjoyed by born human beings. If this is the case, then Planned Parenthood is a mass murderer and should definitely not be supported by taxpayers, regardless of how many other services they may provide. Imagine how absurd it would sound if I said “Don’t worry, only three percent of Company X’s services are assassinations. But don’t worry, 97% of their other stuff is good, and may even reduce the need for assassinations.” That’s where the pro-lifers are coming from.

But if, on the other hand, the unborn are not human beings then, as I said, pro-lifers are wasting their time and even pro-choicers who want to make abortion "safe, legal, and rare" have it wrong. If abortion doesn't take an innocent human life, then why should it be rare? Have as many as you want! Why should we try to reduce instances of something that doesn’t even hurt anyone? Of course, I think all scientific and philosophical evidence points to the former case.

Now, as you’ve probably noticed by now, my argument considers irrelevant any distinction between early-term and late-term abortions. I believe this is for a good reason. It has to do with the difference between construction and development. Human embryology reveals (quite obviously) that fetuses aren’t constructed piece-by-piece by some external force (such as in an assembly line). Rather, they develop from within. From the moment of conception, the fertilized egg has everything it needs to fully develop itself. This is not opinion, but biological fact. Even after birth, all development comes from within. Therefore, it is impossible to say that a viable fetus is more human than a newly conceived embryo. In the same way, it is impossible to say that the former is more deserving of protection than the latter.

Now, I think this is pretty sound reasoning for the immorality of abortion. But, to play devil’s advocate for a second, let’s pretend that we aren’t absolutely convinced that the unborn are humans. In fact, let’s even say that we have some fairly serious doubts. So I ask: When it comes to matters of life and death, shouldn’t we error on the side of caution? Pretend you’re driving your car at night and you see a rumpled-up blanket with a bulge in it in the middle of the road. If you have even the slightest doubt that the bulge isn’t a homeless person, do you still run it over? Or if you’re hunting with a partner and you see a bush rustle, do you just fire at the movement without being absolutely sure what it is? (Well, not unless you’re Dick Cheney!) Especially with abortion, the burden of proof lies with the side in support of legal abortion. Unless they can prove absolutely and positively that they aren’t killing a human person, abortion should not be legal. But it’s kind of hard to prove something that isn’t true. In fact, even in the past ten years, I’ve seen the arguments from the pro-choice side shift from “It’s not a human life” to “It’s a human life, but…”

To briefly address your argument about abortions happening no matter what the law says: Would you agree that bank robbing is always going to happen, regardless of the fact that it’s illegal? Does this mean that we should make bank robbing legal, so that bank robbers can avoid the potentially dangerous situation of having to elude the police and make a speedy escape?

This is getting pretty long, so I’ll just address one more thing and then call it quits before I get carpel-tunnel. Often the question comes up, especially with regard to abortion, about people imposing their personal morality on other people. You may be familiar with pro-choice signs, bumper stickers, etc. that say something to the effect of “Don’t like abortion? Don’t have one.” Notice what this (quite cleaver, in my opinion) technique does. It takes a question of morality and turns it into a preference.

So I would argue that as a pro-lifer, I am not imposing my morality any more than someone who is against slavery is imposing their morality that slavery dehumanizes a person and treats him/her like mere property to be bought or sold. Imagine what a stir it would cause if I put up a sign that said “Don’t like slavery? Don’t own slaves.” I would be labeled a racist and rightly so!

Whew! Well, there’s my argument. I’m very interested in knowing what you think. I’d especially like to know if you find any holes or weak arguments. Again, I appreciate your willingness to dialogue. These respectful, calm discussions sure beat the heated yelling matches that so often characterize the abortion debate, eh?

Take care,

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