Evaluating the Pro-Choice Arguments (Part I)

Cross posted at Virtus et Vita.

It has been over a year since I put up my post, “If you end abortion, then…” dealing with common objections to ending abortion, mostly focused on the consequences of such an action.

In that year’s time, I have come across more objections to and arguments against the pro-life movement. On this post, I want to take the time to look at these arguments. Some are more complicated than others and will require a deeper response. Though lengthy, I believe reading the entire thing can help both the open-minded choice advocate and the pro-life advocate.

I am separating this into two different posts as well. The first one will deal with what I call “popular objections,” that is, objections that are commonly heard in the media. These are easy to swat down as there isn’t much substance. The second part will deal with the more scientific objections and deeper philosophical objections (e.g. what about when a fertilized egg splits and later comes back together?, are humans truly ever innocent?, a human has a right to kill whatever is dependent upon that human, etc). The first part will be more useful as these are the common objections. The second part, however, will be more enlightening for the rare occasion you run into a good argument for pro-choice.

1)   The only reason someone would support pro-life is that that person is against a woman having a right over her own body.

A common argument is that those who are against abortion are only against abortion because of their belief that women hold little to no rights over their own bodies. It is true that there are some pro-life advocates who also hold the belief that women are lesser than men (such as extreme Islamists or extreme fundamentalist Christians), but ultimately such views are unrelated to abortion. One can believe a women holds the full rights to her own body, but still believe that abortion is wrong.

Some pro-life advocates are against contraceptive use, but this goes both ways. Just as they are against it for women, they are likewise against it for men as well. Thus, those who are against contraceptive use seemingly have a different view over the liberties a human can take with his or her body. Regardless, the standard applied to women under such a view is likewise applied to men.

Finally, if pro-life advocates were against what women did with their bodies, why aren’t they out protesting women who get piercings, women who paint their toenails, women who get tattoos, and so on? It would seem that the one issue the pro-life crowd concerns itself when it comes to a woman’s body is what she does with her womb when there is a child inside of her.

This indicates that the issue isn’t about the right a woman holds over her body. It is more about if what is inside of her is human. The issue of  “women’s rights” is truly secondary to the issue of intrinsic value in humanity. Is what is in the womb human? If so, is that human life intrinsically valuable? Those two issues must be looked thoroughly. In fact, the only way we can move on to the issue of women’s rights, specifically a woman’s right over her own body, is if we can prove that either of the previous two questions can be answered in the negative. Then and only then does the abortion debate become an issue of women’s rights.

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Compare and Contrast

For whatever reason, humans aren’t known for consistency. We might be upset at one action, but if someone else commits the same action at a different time, we may not be upset. 

Enter in the media. When George Tiller was murdered, it was all over the media. It also didn’t take long for commentators to assign the blame. It was the fault of “right wing extremists” who call abortion murder. Some went so far as to say that anyone who has ever called abortion murder is guilty of this. When Tiller was murdered, pro-life advocates as a whole were in trouble. 

But where is the outage over Army Pvt. William Long? Where is the outrage over Muslim clerics who actually do preach and advocate Jihad? Where are the vigils, the Facebook groups, the comments saying all Muslims are guilty of this crime, etc? 

The reason the media is staying away from this is because if they treated it the same way they treated the Tiller murder, they would have riots, death threats, and a whole host of problems on their hands. The media has learned that if you say anything negatively about Islam, then there will be consequences. The pro-life movement, however, has condemned the murder of Tiller, but because those who are pro-life will not issues death threats or riot over insults, the media feels they can say what they want. 

It’s a matter of inconsistency. Just as not all Muslims are responsible for Pvt. Long’s death, not all advocates of pro-life are responsible for Tiller’s death. Yet, the media has an agenda and so only one group is demonized. This is why it’s almost not worth reading the news anymore…

My Thoughts on George Tiller’s Death

What happened to George Tiller is tragic and is murder. It is only in the most extreme of cases that a citizen is ever allowed to take the law into their own hands; this was not one of those cases. In America there are still legal means to stop abortion. Abortion is not forced on women. Abortion is not mandatory. Abortion is legal. Abortion is a tragedy, it is state-sanctioned murder, but this doesn’t give individual citizens or groups the right to exact justice on abortionists.

Now, make no mistake, Tiller was a murderer, and to quote from the movie A Few Good Men, “His death, while tragic, saves lives.” When you take an innocent human life (innocent in a legal sense), then it is murder. Tiller was innocent in a legal sense (certainly not in a moral sense) and subsequently the killing of Tiller qualifies as murder. Thus, the murderer was murdered.

What concerns me as well is that people are showing “moral outrage” over the murdering of Tiller. Again, it is tragic, but he’s not a hero. He’s not a hero for women’s rights as abortion does nothing for women’s right. He’s not a hero for some cause because abortion is simply unjust. He didn’t save “thousands of women from having to go to back alley abortions – and even if he did, this doesn’t make what he did the right thing. Tiller was a coward. Tiller was evil. His death, in many ways, was warranted and just. His death was just, the means to achieve that justice, however, were unjust. That is to say, justice was served in his death, but the way that justice was served was completely unjust, immoral, evil, and wrong.

With that said, I don’t understand the outrage. What is the difference between vigilante justice (which is an unjust means of achieving an end) and state-sanctioned murder (which is unjust in its end)? Four abortionists have been killed in the United States since Roe v. Wade, just four. Fifty-one million babies have been killed in the United States alone. Let’s put that in perspective: it is about the same number of total casualties in WWII. That means about 36% of all conceptions since 1973 have been aborted. Think about that for a second.

If, due to some tragedy today, 36% of the United States population were reduced, that would be a total loss of about one hundred nine million people, or about a third of the United States. One third of pregnancies since 1973 have been terminated in the United States alone.

So pardon me if I have a hard time expressing more outrage over the murder of Tiller than I do over the murder of a single human being in the womb. Life is life, regardless of the stage of development, which means murder is murder. Just as Tiller shouldn’t have been murdered, his victims in the womb should have been equally spared. 

Yes, the murder of Tiller was wrong. His family will miss him. His death reminds us that we live in a fallen world. It would have been far more preferable for someone to simply sit down with him and convince him via a rational discussion that he was wrong, rather than murder him. Changing one’s mind without the threat, show, or use of violence is the best way to approach any issue. At the same time, where’s the outrage over the millions of humans killed because of abortion?