Answering A Few Common Pro-Choice Arguments

abortion-1For people such as myself, abortion represents the depravity of the human heart. It represents the devaluation of human beings. Bioethicists and philosophers will publish rigorous material concluding that human beings really do not have any intrinsic moral worth, that it would be acceptable to slaughter infants. It is quite common in the animal kingdom for mothers to kill their infants, and sometimes killing an infant can be a sacred duty, a moral good, because it increases one’s ability to propagate their DNA. A woman may have maternal and caring instincts for one child, but for another, she will be instinctually driven to slaughter it, and we should just accept this because it is part of nature. As a Christian, I believe that human beings are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-7) and therefore possess intrinsic moral value. Killing human beings is wrong. So in this article, I will be answering a few popular pro-choice arguments.

abortion-2Before beginning, I should point out the fundamental difference between the way that a pro-lifer will argue this case as opposed to how a pro-choicer will. Since I am pro-life, I am concerned with the intrinsic moral worth of the unborn. Everything that compromises that seems to be secondary because it [1] actually kills human beings and [2] radically degrades the value of human beings, such that it is based on our special circumstances rather than being an inherent feature of who we are. A pro-choicer will often argue that the circumstances that a pregnant woman find herself in will override the need to preserve the life of the unborn. What arguments do they employ to reach that conclusion, and what circumstances do women find themselves in that a pro-choicer believes would warrant an abortion?

abortion-3If we don’t share your religion, why would you impose it on us?
Introducing the case for life, I pointed out that I believe that human beings are made in the image of God. Consequently, I also maintain that we have intrinsic moral worth and that it would be wrong to kill another person. Since the pro-life community is typically composed of Christians, pro-choicers tend to have the impression that this is a debate over religion. We have this religious value and we are insisting that they adopt it. There is some sense in which I understand that objection, because part of the reason that we are motivated to be pro-life is our belief in God’s inerrant word.

abortion-4However, the pro-life argument is not necessarily a religious argument. It may have theological connotations, but one could be pro-life without necessarily being religious. One of the so-called New Atheists, the late Christopher Hitchens, confessed in his debate with Dr. Frank Turek that he was pro-life. So it is true that the Bible informs us that human beings have intrinsic moral worth. But one could arrive at that conclusion apart from the Bible. One could believe that it is wrong to kill another person even if they have never read the Bible. You do not really need to appeal to the Bible to make the case for life. You only need to appeal to the reality of our value as human beings. Therefore this is not a case of imposing religion upon secularists. A secularist could be pro-life, as demonstrated by the Secular Pro-Life blog.

If we don’t share your morals, why would you impose them on us?
This question seems to be a bit ironic. Suppose I do not share the ethical obligation that “I ought not impose my morals onto others.” Are you going to impose that ethical obligation onto me? The only way that this could be a consistent ethical belief is if it were never voiced or argued for. You could personally believe that it is wrong to impose your ethics onto others. But you could never make that argument. So the only way that this argument would be a good one is if I had never heard about it. If you start telling me that it is wrong to impose my morals onto you, then you are imposing your morals onto me. Therefore, the argument is self-defeating because it cannot bear its’ own weight.

Further, while this line may sound compelling at first blush, there are always situations in which we think that it is correct to impose our morals onto other people. We believe in the moral prohibition, “You ought not rape,” and we will impose that ethic onto other people. We share the ethic prohibiting kidnapping, sexual slavery, and much more, and we all recognize that it would be appropriate to impose those morals onto individuals who disagreed. Ethics are more than a matter of opinion or feelings. They are something that can be investigated. We can reason about ethics and come to rational conclusions. Sometimes ethics can be complicated or even unclear, but that does not mean that we cannot reason about it. It is more than an opinion.

If it is in my body, I make the choices.
This is probably one of the most common arguments for the pro-choice position. If the fetus is inside somebody’s body, then it is thought that they can decide whether the fetus lives or dies. They can decide to kill it if they think that is appropriate. First, I want to point out that this position can be reduced to absurdity. There are many times in which the “My body, my choice” principle would not be upheld. If the mother realized that the fetus was a female, but wanted a male, most of us recognize that it would be immoral (and unlawful) for her to get an abortion. If she realized that the fetus was going to be of a particular ethnic group that she found unsavory, it would be both immoral and unlawful for her to have an abortion. Further, many of us recognize that it would be wrong for her to get an abortion the day before she was due. Both of these counter-examples seem to undermine the “My body, my choice” principle.

Second, this principle assumes a model of human value that undermines the principle itself. What do I mean? If the fetus is human, then it does not matter if it is in her body. Human beings have intrinsic moral value (inherent to the individual that stands independently of circumstances or perception). This means that no matter where it is geographically located, it would be wrong to take its’ life. The only recourse would be to deny that human beings truly have intrinsic value. They must have extrinsic value, which is value that is based on circumstances and perception. But the “My body, my choice” principle assumes that human beings have rights extending from their value. But if they have only extrinsic value, which is not inherent, then the foundation for their rights are wholly undermined. Perhaps someone could disagree that they have or are worthy of rights. In short, while the “My body, my choice” principle requires a model of intrinsic human value, it logically entails extrinsic moral value. It is literally self-defeating.

Legalized abortion reduces crime and provides a safe outlet for women who need an abortion.
Women will get an abortion even if the law prohibits it. So unless we want to find newborn babies thrown in the trash or see women getting an abortion with a hanger or hard drugs, then we need to allow for abortion as a necessary legal measure. Advocates of this argument will suggest that they do not really like abortion. They are against abortion, but pro-choice. (In my article Can Someone Be Pro-Choice Without Being Pro-Abortion? I replied to this distinction). Some might even call it a necessary evil. There are a few reasons that I do not think that this line of reasoning is compelling.

Legalizing a crime is not a solution to reducing crime. Imagine that a prison was having a drug problem. Some inmates were smuggling drugs into the prison and distributing them. One of the security officers burst into the Warden’s office one morning, offering a brilliant solution, telling him that he knows how to solve all of the drug problems. “We legalize it,” he says. “They won’t be able to spike the drugs anymore. We can give it to them safely. And the crime will go down.” For those of you who actually find the officer’s reasoning compelling, I hastily remind you that we could apply this tactic to any crime. Whether theft, murder, rape – we could drastically reduce the crime by legalizing all of it and finding ways for murderers and rapists to safely carry out their deed.

Somebody might be thinking that this would be a non-solution in the case of murder or rape. You cannot safely murder or rape. It would be inconsiderate the victims. If you are thinking that, then I welcome you to the pro-life cause. That is precisely why we do not think it is compelling to say that one could reduce crime by providing safe and legal abortions. Legalizing murder does not reduce crime.

The Bible never even mentions abortion.
Since most pro-lifers who adamantly oppose abortion and argue for their case are Christians, pro-choicers will often feel compelled to point out that the Bible is silent about the issue of abortion. They will suggest that it actually leaves the issue open, so that even a confessing Christian could decide to be pro-choice. This objection would seem to cut to the core of the pro-life case, because pro-lifers are primarily motivated by their faith in Christ and his word. Well, I would first hark back to my point that the pro-life case is based on the intrinsic moral worth of human beings. As Christians, our foundation for believing that is God’s word. So the fact that the Bible does not explicitly mention abortion is not relevant.

However, the Bible actually does mention abortion. The sixth commandment says, “You shall not murder.” (Exodus 20:13). Now, I know that you might be thinking that this is just too broad. When objectors argue that the Bible never mentions abortion, they mean that it never explicitly mentions abortion. But so what? If we believe in the sanctity of life, then we believe that abortion is murder, which is forbidden by Exodus 20:13.

Exodus 21:22-25 vindicates that pro-choice position.
In Exodus 21:22-25, the punishment for killing an unborn baby is death. Life for life. If the baby is born prematurely, then you will merely have to pay a fine. But if you kill the baby, then you will have to pay with your life. However, some have argued that this Law actually supports abortion. Some older translations render verse 22 as, “And if men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she has a miscarriage… they will be fined.” The translated word is not “prematurely” but “miscarriage.” In this rendering, it would appear to be a vindication of the pro-choice position.

In fact, blogs such as Reverb Press have seized upon this alternate translation to mount this argument without even mentioning the tension. They do not mention that the NIV, NASB, NET, ISV, HCSB, ESV, NLT, and many more popular and scholarly translations all render this “prematurely.” They use a translation that is convenient to make their case. I find it highly implausible that they did not know about about the mainstream rendering. So, why is it that it is the mainstream rendering?

The Hebrew word translated into “miscarry” or “prematurely” does not carry the meaning of a miscarriage as we understand it today. In most Hebrew lexicons, the translated word literally means “to go forth, to come out, to be born.” If you consult the concordance, you will find that this is exactly how it is rendered in the other verses in which it appears, the first being in Genesis 1:12, which says that the earth “brought forth” vegetation. In fact, in no cases will you find that it used to say that a woman miscarried.

But, one might argue, by the same token, it is never used to say “premature.” So why do the mainstream renderings hold this position? The duty of a translator is to accurately represent the propositional content by transmitting the literal words that were communicated. Some translations will say that the baby was “brought forth” and that would be a literal, rough rendering of this word. However, if you want to plainly communicate the propositional content of the word, you would say that the baby was born prematurely. Therefore, this would not be a vindication of the pro-choice position. It is a vindication of the pro-life position. If you would like to read further about this topic, see Stand To Reason’s Article, What Exodus 21:22 Says About Abortion.

Pro-Life ethics are inconsistent with political and social conservatism.
People will say that the pro-life case taken on its’ own may be compelling. But it is part of a larger narrative. It is given within the framework of social conservatism, which comes with elements that seem to compromise the pro-life position. These are stances such as the death penalty for capital offenders, stand your ground laws, gun rights, and more. If you are pro-life about one issue, why would you not be pro-life about all of these other issues? The first response worth noting immediately is that this argument is guilty of the tu quoque fallacy, which is to attempt to vindicate your position by pointing to an inconsistency in your opponent. If a smoker told you about the dangers of cigarettes, and you replied, “You have that problem, too!” you would be guilty of the tu quoque fallacy.

One could technically be pro-life without committing themselves to social conservatism. It could certainly impact how you vote. But compromises have to be made all of the time. But being pro-life is about more than how you vote and the stances that you hold in the privacy of your mind. It is about your action. If you are pro-life, you will support pro-life pregnancy centers such as CareNet by donating to them or volunteering for them. Standing for life is a worthy cause even if it goes against the grain of liberal principles and common opinions.

Second, one could mount a worthy argument that the conservative stances mentioned above are very different situations. Issues such as the death penalty and stand your ground laws are relevant to people who have committed a crime. Even if you would not say that they are worthy of death, you still should recognize that this is a different situation. In fact, that is precisely what you will do when somebody points out the same inconsistency in liberal ethics. If you are pro-life with regard to the death penalty, then why not with regard to abortion? You will say that these are different situations, to which I would respond, “Exactly.”

A man cannot sympathize with the struggles of a woman.
Women who are pregnant and in a difficult situation are often overcome with fear of the future, how they will care for their baby, whether it will lead a good life, et cetera, and all of this will contribute to the decision regarding an abortion. But when they are told by a man that abortion is wrong, they are often indignant. This is because men cannot be in that situation. They cannot get pregnant and so it is thought that they cannot sympathize with their struggles. There are a few problems with this argument.

First, even if it were true that a man cannot feel the emotions of a particular situation, that does not affect the logic of the abortionist philosophy. This argument seems to be saying, “If you felt these emotions, you would compromise your logical position and favor your emotions.” That may be the case, because people often let their emotions misguide them into a bad decision. But that is not an argument. It is certainly not a reason that you should not listen to somebody else. Imagine that you were so overcome with emotions that you could not see that your significant other was being unfaithful to you. You would rely on your friends, who can think more objectively and were not overcome with emotions to guide you. Their opinion would not be invalid just because they are not in your situation.

Second, I do not think it is true that men cannot sympathize with the struggles of a woman just because they have never been in that situation. Anybody can be afraid of what might happen in the future. Anybody can be overwhelmed. Think for example of a woman who dies during childbirth and the man is left alone. He is afraid of the future and the uncertainty. A pregnant woman’s emotions should not be downplayed or neglected. But men can sympathize with them because we have all had similar emotions. It is comparable to sympathizing with a starving child. I have never starved, but I can sympathize and have my heart broken over it. A man can sympathize with a woman and relay a competent ethic, taking her feelings and her situation into consideration.

Will this baby have to live in poverty?
This is one of the primary concerns that struggling, pregnant women have when they consider an abortion. They will not be able to care for their child. He or she will invariably have a bad life. Further, the pregnant woman might already have another child and she is afraid that she will not be able to care for it. Another baby would compromise the well-being of your family. It would have a bad life. It would live in poverty. The woman would fall into poverty, have little time for anything, and would be unable to care for it. Does this situation warrant an abortion? There are a few reasons that I do not think it does.

First, this argument could also be applied to infanticide or even toddlercide. You might realize that your toddler is going to have a bad life. You cannot finish college because you cannot afford it. You can only work minimum wage for forty hours a week. Your son or daughter will never be able to see their parents and will have to be alone most of the time, never to inherit your values because you are not there to instill them. They are going to be hungry, live in a small house with an absent parent. You might argue that it would be better if they were not alive. So, why not just kill them? This is the same argument that is used for abortion. The only recourse would be to use this argument in tandem with others, such as, “My body, my choice,” which is also inconsistent.

Second, there are other options that you would not force you to plummet into poverty. Many women choose to give their babies up for adoption. There are parents lining up to adopt newborn babies. The process is often very long because there are so few babies. In fact, when you go to Planned Parenthood, you might even find a couple who is standing outside offering to adopt your child. Now, you might reply that they would still have a bad life, could end up in foster care or something like that. But saying that a child might have a bad life is not an excuse to kill it. Suppose you decided to carry your baby full term and gave birth. But the day after you gave birth, something horrible happened and you needed to give the baby up for adoption. The idea that your infant might have a bad life is not a justification for infanticide. Comparably, it is also not a justification for abortion.

Answering A Few Common Pro-Choice Arguments
There are many other arguments that I left out of this article that I could have investigated. What about rape or incest? What about the personhood of the unborn? Is the fetus human? What about all of the illustrations and philosophical arguments? I did not dive into those here, but I have elsewhere. I composed this article primarily because pro-choicers and pro-lifers often talk past one another. We emphasize the sanctity of life and they emphasize the sanctity of choice, and we downplay the significance of the arguments that the other side is mounting. In this article, I have strived to represent those arguments as accurately as I can. If you would like to see any other arguments addressed, leave a comment. You can also check out the podcast the pro-life podcast known as The Fetal Position.