A pro-lifer has put up “20 questions” for pro-choicers. Here are my answers.
1. At what point do you think that a human being, with human rights, comes into existence? Is it at birth, or earlier?
The first point that a human being comes into existence, with some (but only some) rights is at birth. Remember, newborn infants don’t have a right to vote, don’t have freedom of religion (does a Jewish baby choose circumcision?), can’t speak, so can’t particularly exercise freedom of speech. Of the three basic rights, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, a baby doesn’t have the second two, but I’ll give the first one based on the benefit of the doubt.
2. Pro-choice people argue that the lack of consensus about when life begins implies that abortion should be legal until birth. By why only until birth? Why not after birth–that is, why do we not allow infanticide?
Why do we allow 18-year-olds — even illiterate, uneducated, intolerant ones — the right to vote? Because we have to draw the line someplace, and 18 corresponds to the end of government-sponsored education that’s supposed to prepare them to vote. Similarly, an infant has reached the point where it is no longer physically dependent on a single individual. Many people can give life-sustaining support to an infant, but only one person can do the same for a fetus. But, of course, this is an arbitrary line. Some fetuses can survive outside the womb after a premature six months of pregnancy. Similarly, some 16 year olds are probably better equipped to vote — more educated, with a better understanding of government and the candidates — than many 50-year-olds, but as a policy, we have to draw the line somewhere, and the end of formal education just makes sense. Some 3-month old babies that were the result of a 9-month gestation are less “viable” than some 6-month fetuses, but we have to draw the line somewhere, and birth just makes sense.
3. Suppose someone were to argue as follows: “There is a lack of consensus about when human life begins; therefore, abortion should be prohibited throughout pregnancy.” Why is this argument any more, or less, reasonable than the argument that: “There is a lack of consensus about when human life begins; therefore, abortion should be allowed throughout pregnancy?”
Well, first of all, it’s easy to determine the end of pregnancy: it’s the point of birth (or caesarian, yadda yadda). The moment of fertilization is much more difficult: there are no overt signs that it has occurred. Second, there’s much more consensus that infanticide is wrong than there is consensus that “killing” a fertilized egg is wrong. I’d argue that, properly educated about what a fertilized egg is and what infanticide is, fewer than 15 percent of Americans would believe the former has “rights,” while fewer than 1 percent would believe the latter is acceptable.
4. You hold that women should be free to choose what they think is right regarding abortion: if a woman’s conscience tells her that abortion is in her case permissible, then she should be free to choose to have an abortion. This position has plausibility, because it seems to show respect for the woman’s conscience. But I wonder whether this is just an appearance. What do you think about cases where the woman’s conscience tells her that abortion is not a good thing–because she thinks she is killing her baby–but she wants an abortion anyway. Why should these abortions be allowed?
Ummm… because she chose to have the abortion. What if someone thought shooting animals was wrong, but was starving to death and chose to shoot an animal to survive? Should we punish that person for acting against her conscience? Similarly, we shouldn’t punish the person who doesn’t shoot the animal and thus starves to death.
5. I’m paraphrasing here: the question is something like, “shouldn’t pro-lifers be allowed to engage in any sort of protest they like, since they believe abortion is murder”?
They should be allowed to protest in any form allowed by the constitution. So, for example, they shouldn’t be allowed to kill, harrass, or threaten abortion doctors or patients. If they go beyond what’s allowed by the law, they should be willing to accept the punishment, just like anyone else. Yeesh.
6. How should we regard a forced abortion of a pro-life woman’s fetus? This happens, of course, in China every day.
Well, obviously, we should regard this as a violation of her human rights. But it is the pro-life movement which has denied U.S. support of the U.N. organization working to end China’s one-child program by replacing it with more effective voluntary family planning.
7. Suppose a man and woman have intercourse, she becomes pregnant, and the man, who is pro-life, thinks of the fetus as a human being, but the woman gets an abortion. Why is the abortion not tantamount to murder in this case? Why is it only the female parent’s opinion which determines the status of the child?
1. It’s not a child.
2. Men and women are different.
3. It’s not murder in this case because abortion is not murder.
4. Next question.
8. Suppose a woman who wanted an abortion were first to observe her unborn child through ultrasound technology. In such images, the hands and feet of the child are typically discernible, and even within the first trimester, it is common to see the unborn child sucking his or her thumb. I ask the pro-choice person: why aren’t such images shown to woman, as part of informed consent preceding abortion?
I think the question you’re really asking is “why aren’t women forced to view photos of fetuses before abortions”? I suppose because it’s completely random and irrelevant. Should they be shown pictures of nice, full breasts before they undergo a mastectomy? After all, they’ll be losing those wonderful breasts! Shouldn’t they be required to learn what they’ll be losing? Why not show pictures of barbie dolls to women about to undergo abortions? Barbie looks sort of human, too, so doesn’t this also demonstrate what a woman might lose in an abortion?
9. If you think abortion should be allowed, can you consistently maintain that there any human rights at all?
Yes. See answer to Question 1, where I point out that even infants don’t have all human rights. We’re perfectly happy to deny rights in all sorts of instances. When one right conflicts with another, we have to determine which takes precedence. For example, right to life takes precedence over right to vote. So if a voting official (wrongly) tells me I can’t vote because I don’t have ID, I still can’t shoot him.
10. Another paraphrase: “Since the pro-slavery argument can be rephrased to sound like the pro-choice argument, isn’t the pro-choice argument wrong?”
That has got to be the lamest argument of the bunch. Are you saying slaveowners would have been pro-choice? What if slaveowners were pro-life? Would your argument be wrong? After all, the Old Testament is awfully pro-slavery, and tends to come down against abortion.
11. Does anyone wish that his mother had chosen abortion for him? And, if not, then how can he consistently wish that any mother choose abortion for anyone else?
Well, the answer to the first question is yes (c.f. suicide), but I’ll answer the second question anyway, for the benefit of those who answered no to the first one. The second question is clearly a trick: a woman doesn’t choose abortion for a human being, but an assemblage of cells with no consciousness or conscience. The “you” that you are now wasn’t in existence when your mother had the choice to have an abortion. After I was born, my mother started using birth control. Is it a tragedy that I never had a little brother or sister? Absolutely not — my older sister and I were poor enough as children. What if my mother had chosen abortion before I was born? Then I wouldn’t be around to regret it. It’s not to me to say whether her life was better, though, because that was her choice. My mother could have made any number of decisions that would have resulted in my never existing, so the question is really irrelevant.
12. I don’t see a question here, but the implied question appears to be “aren’t pro-choice women against equal rights, since they don’t believe that the next generation has as many rights as their own?”
If that’s the case, then we all are, for no one grants children the same rights as adults. See question 1. Silliest non-question yet.
13. Developing the analogy with slavery even more, we can ask: Why isn’t legal abortion outright discrimination? Suppose a mother and her newborn baby are stranded on a desert island. The baby is completely dependent upon her. How does it follow that the mother has a right to kill the baby?
The answer to the first part is, because a fetus is not a living human being. The second part is really an entirely different question. I don’t exactly see how it’s related to the abortion question — when people are in dire circumstances such as on a desert island, the usual rules tend to be abandoned fairly quickly. But technically, I’d argue that the woman doesn’t have the right to kill the baby.
14. Pro-choice people admit that abortion might be tantamount to killing another–because they admit that we don’t know that life doesn’t begin before abortions take place. So then, until you reach greater clarity, shouldn’t you agree that it is morally wrong, should also be legally wrong?
Which pro-choice people admit that? I certainly don’t. If we’re talking about late term arbortions, some of these arguments might come into play, but in the first trimester, never. This is the fallacy that pro-lifers engage in all the time: they act as if every abortion is a late-term abortion. Then they place so many restrictions on abortions that many more late-term abortions occur. If late term abortions are so bad, why not make sure women have the opportunity to get them sooner?
15. Another paraphrase: Abortion is like killing puppies, and who wants to kill puppies?
If the choice was really to kill a newborn puppy or force a woman to go through 9 months of pregnancy, then excruciating hours of labor and childbirth, I’d kill the puppy. The humane society kills millions of full-grown dogs every year. I also eat meat, as do most pro-lifers. If I was a vegetarian who believed killing animals was wrong, I’d still be pro-choice, because the rights of an adult woman supersede the “rights” of a fetus.
16. Why is an abortion traumatic, but an appendectomy is not? If the fetus really is just a clump of tissue, why should there be any fuss about abortion? Indeed, if an abortion were in reality just like an appendectomy, how would it be possible for pro-life people to get others agitated about it? The very fact that there is a dispute at all about abortion seems to show that the pro-life view is correct and that abortions should not be performed.
This question now qualifies as the most ridiculous of the bunch. I could just as well turn it around and say “The very fact that there is a dispute at all about the pro-life position seems to show that the pro-choice view is correct and that abortions should be allowed.” And, in fact, an appendectomy is traumatic.
17. Why is it that doctors are allowed to do abortions? Just as we do not allow doctors to administer injections for capital punishment, shouldn’t we also bar doctors from doing abortions?
Should we also bar doctors from removing parasites? After all, a parasite is a living thing, too. This clearly is only a problem for someone who believes a fetus is a human life.
18. Suppose a genetic marker for homosexuality is found, and a test is devised for this, and couples begin to abort fetuses with this marker. Should this practice be made illegal? If so, then why not sex-selection abortions also? And why not abortions for handicaps? But if some abortions are wrong and should be illegal, this implies that abortion is not in every case to be allowed simply because it was decided upon by the mother. But then aren’t there also other reasons for abortion that are clearly unacceptable?
So this is the “abortion leads to designer babies” argument: If designer babies are wrong, then so is abortion. But, if someone devised a “gay test” for fetuses, and society found this objectionable, we wouldn’t need to ban abortions, just the test. It’s not necessary to intertwine the “designer babies” argument with the abortion argument. In fact, the best way to achieve designer babies would be through in vitro fertilization. Why don’t we see a massive movement against in vitro fertilization, if that’s what the pro-life movement is really opposed to?
19. Another paraphrase: What if Roe v. Wade had been ruled the other way? Then pro-choicers would lose their constitutionality argument.
Pro choicers support Roe v. Wade not because they blindly submit to the will of the Supreme Court, but because they know it’s the best way to preserve choice. But they can also argue that the court made the right decision. Nothing wrong with that.
There is no 20. I have no idea why this document claims to be “20 questions.”
For another set of answers to these questions, see here.