Thinking like a pro-lifer, take two

I’m having quite a debate with “Deep Thought” in the comments about some of the finer points of abortion. I don’t want to pick on Deep Thought in particular, but I have noticed a few things. Pro-lifers like to think in analogies: Abortion is like pushing someone off a roof when they’re hanging on with one hand. Just letting them fall may be negligent, but it’s not like abortion.

Frankly, I’m having a hard time figuring out what either of these analogies has to do with abortion. The only way it works for me is if you start with the idea that abortion is murder. Then, yes, a different type of murder is also like abortion. But if you actually consider what an abortion is, then the analogy falls completely apart. Is the woman the roof? Or is she the one hanging from the cliff? Or is she the pusher? Maybe the father is the roof. I guess the fetus must be the guy hanging from the roof, since it’s the thing that “dies.” But what if you don’t believe the fetus is alive? The analogy is of no use in determining whether abortion is actually murder.

Second, pro-lifers don’t like statistics. You can tell them that there’s a one in a million chance that someone on the Pill will somehow produce an egg that gets fertilized but doesn’t implant (actually the chance is probably lower — there’s no evidence the Pill, even the “day after pill,” prevents implantation), and they’ll go on a crusade from here to Kathmandu to protect that one “potential life,” no matter how many other lives they ruin in the process. That one in a million fertilized egg is worth more to them than the millions of women who die in childbirth around the world.

Third, they will deny until hell freezes over that their opposition to sex education has anything to do with their opposition to abortion. They’re two completely separate issues that almost all pro-lifers happen to be in agreement on. It’s just a complete coincidence that people who don’t like abortion also don’t like sex. Education. I mean it’s a coincidence they don’t like sex education.

Fourth, it’s all a slippery slope to them. Except when it’s not. For example, if you’re willing to abort a four-week fetus, you might be willing to murder a toddler with autism. Yessir, a slippery slope. But it’s invalid to suggest that since many pro-lifers and all pro-life organizations are either opposed to contraception or unwilling to support contraception, that the ultimate goal of the pro-life movement is to ban not only abortion, but also contraception. Nosirree, no slippery slope there.

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14 Responses to Thinking like a pro-lifer, take two

  1. dave says:

    And another thing: even if we grant that the man-falling-off-the-roof analogy is exactly like abortion, what’s the point? If there were 1.5 million men hanging from roofs each year, and the only possible remedies were to push them off or watch them fall, what good would banning pushing off be? Shouldn’t we be working to improve roof safety?

  2. dave says:

    To continue my discussion with myself:

    Or is the point supposed to be that pregnancy is like going out on a dangerous roof to rescue a man who’s hanging by one hand? We should make laws requiring anyone who sees another person in danger to rescue them, regardless of whether they’re strong enough or mentally capable of handling the task. The right of the person in danger trumps the survival rights of others around them. I guess this is the sort of thing that goes on in the mind of a pro-lifer.

  3. Doug Hoffman says:

    Dave, have you ever seen that 2000 article about anti-abortion women who
    decide the only moral abortion is THEIR abortion? Bunch of testimonial reports
    (I know, I know), but the article was IMO a powerful indictment of the
    hypocrisy of this crowd.

  4. dave says:

    That’s why we need laws, Doug, to protect pro-lifers from themselves!

    I think I’ve read something similar to that article, but it’s not ringing any bells. Do you have a source?

  5. coturnix says:

    Ooops, Deep Thought probably came here via a link from my blog – he makes me busy in my comment sections….sigh. New blogger hungry for recognition. I linked to several other posts (along with yours) on this topic over the past couple of days.

    BTW, I do not see this blog or Cognitive Daily listed on You should aggregate both of them there, as it is the premiere collection of NC blogs. Also, submit posts to Tar Heel Tavern every week (or at least sometimes) as you are eligible.

  6. dave says:

    Done, and done, Coturnix. Though I’m really bad at remembering to submit to carnivals — I’m lucky if I manage a Tangled Bank submission every two weeks.

  7. dave says:

    Doug: Nevermind, I found the link, via Coturnix’s post.

    These anecdotes are amazing, but I’d be interested in seeing a scientific study of “pro-lifers'” abortion rates. Not that this would be at all convincing to the pro-life movement.

  8. Doug Hoffman says:

    Yup, that’s the one. You beat me to it. I found it the other day through Tennessee Guerilla Woman.

    I, too, would love to see a scientific study of this. Anecdotes are all well and good, but hard data would be sweet.

  9. coturnix says:

    You will be reminded every week by e-mail if you put yourself on the Tar Heel Tavern mailing list – the instructions are at

  10. Deep Thought says:

    Sorry that you *totally* missed the point of the analogy – I was reacting to your specific statement about the implanting of fertilized embryos; yes, they may fail to implant on their own, but acting to ensure that failure is different because of *intent*. Sorry if I was unclear.

    We speak in analogies because we are often accusemd of simply making assrtions. I personally dislike the entire ‘life begins at coneptions’ ‘nuh-un’ ‘uh’huh’ routine, so I use narrative to explain the rationale. More polite, better teaching method, etc.

    ‘Don’t like statistics’? Please, dave, visit my blog and look around. My number one email for 2 years was “dear God, no more statistics, please!’. And as for the slim chance that a life is ended by a blocking of implantation – yeah, we know the odds and we still don’t like them. Heck, alar was less likely to cause fatalities than 1 in a million, and it s a ‘poisonous chemical’, right? A fatality rate of .0001% is pretty steep for, say, viagra. I’ll discuss this more, below.

    Opposition to abortion and to sex education are connected, but not directly. Evangelical Christians oppose what they see as the teaching of depravity, Catholics and some others think this is the job of the family, etc. It is part and parcel of the evangelical/traditional mindset, so its in the same bundle, as it were.

    uh… slippery slope? Opposition to contraception has been an element of the Catholic opposition to abortion since day one, and it has never been a secret. Heck, opposition to contraception goes back centuries and became “heated” in America in 1930, over 4 decades before Roe.

    dave, I don’t know who on the pro-life side you are talking to, but they don’t seem very representative. At least to someone on the “inside”, as it were.

  11. dave says:

    Okay, Deep Thought, I’m going to try to understand your analogy one more time. It now appears that you were referring specifically to the use of the “day after pill” (and possibly regular birth control pills) to prevent pregnancy. Here’s what I think you mean:

    1. the “accident” that caused the man to fall is intercourse

    2. The fact that he’s hanging from the roof is the egg that’s now fertilized but not yet implanted

    3. So, if the woman takes the morning after pill, and the pill prevents implantation, then it’s like she pushes the man off the roof

    4. And if she doesn’t, and the embryo still fails to implant, that’s like the man falling off on his own?

    Is that what you mean?

    Because that’s not at all an accurate representation of what happens when someone uses the “morning after pill.” There’s no evidence that the “morning after pill” prevents implantation.

    So either you just don’t understand how emergency contraception works, or I’m still misunderstanding your analogy. If the latter is the case, then I’d submit it’s a rather poor analogy.

  12. Pingback: Word Munger » Thinking like a pro-lifer, take three

  13. Deep Thought says:

    No, you understand the analogy quite well. And I have posted my comments on MAPs elsewhere. And waaaaaaay back, we were discussing the moral implication of preventing implantation, not the MAPs. They may be different, and there *are* recognized ways to prevent implantation.

  14. Deep Thought says:

    The manufacturers of morning after pills claim(ed) that part of their process of preventing pregnancy is by preventing implantation. Advocates like NARAL claimed that part of the effectiveness of MAPs is that they prevent implantation. The AMA stated that they work at least partially by preventing implantation. A report comes out in the last few weeks that indicates that Plan B doesn’t seem to prevent implantation… and you accuse me of ‘not understanding how emergency contraception works’?


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