A message to pro-abortion people

1.

This is not addressed to the leaders or ideologues of the pro-abortion movement. They, I suspect, are too far gone to be reasoned with, though I would be very happy to be proved wrong about that. Nor is it addressed to the increasing number of ethicists who argue that the killing of newborn infants ought to be legalized, since what I said about the pro-abortion movement’s leaders and ideologues goes double for them. (Including the part about me being happy to be proved wrong about them.) No, this is addressed primarily to those ordinary people who on balance consider themselves “pro-choice,” and who have repeated or accepted the common slogans and arguments of the pro-abortion movement without giving them too much thought. If you are one of those people—or, for that matter, if you know such people—keep reading.

2.

Let’s begin by summarizing the argument that is usually given for why abortion should be illegal:

  1. Killing an innocent human being is gravely wrong. (Assumption.)
  2. Abortion constitutes the killing of an innocent human being. (Assumption.)
  3. Therefore, abortion is gravely wrong. (From 1) and 2).)
  4. Furthermore, that which is gravely wrong should be illegal. (Assumption.)
  5. Therefore, abortion should be illegal. (From 3) and 4).)

Let’s call this the standard argument against abortion, or the SA for short, though it’s really two arguments melded into one. Now if the premises (points 1), 2), and 4)) are true, the conclusions (points 3) and 5)) must be true. (If only 1) and 2) are true, 3) follows, but 5) does not.) Therefore, virtually all debates about abortion center around whether the premises are, in fact, true. Since few would dispute 1) or 4), it’s almost always 2) (“Abortion constitutes the killing of an innocent human being”) that is debated. (This logical bean-counting may seem pedantic, but it will prove useful in a little while.)

Now, my complaint, the reason that I’m reaching out to you, is that the most common slogans and arguments of the pro-abortion movement generally fail to address or, it often seems, even to understand the SA. And when they do address it, they often do it in very odd and misguided ways.

To amend this problem, I will give you a piece of advice. Whenever you come up with or intend to repeat a pro-abortion argument and/or pithy t-shirt slogan, ask yourself the following questions: “Does this argument and/or pithy t-shirt slogan address the SA? Does it take in its full implications? Does it at least try to refute one or more of its premises? Which one(s)?” If the answer to these questions is “no,” you should probably reconsider your argument, because the fact that some people find the SA convincing is the very reason why you’re having to make an argument or shout a slogan at all.

Here’s another question to keep in mind: “Could this argument/pithy t-shirt slogan just as well be used to argue that it should be legal to kill newborns?” Let’s call this the infanticide test. For a surprising number of common pro-abortion arguments, the answer appears to be “yes.” This does not mean that I think you support the killing of newborn children. (As you’ll remember, I already showed the door to the people who do—among which, by the way, are such leading ethicists as Peter Singer of Princeton University and Michael Tooley of the University of Colorado at Boulder.) On the contrary, I assume that you emphatically oppose it, and that you are thoughtful enough to realize that something must be seriously wrong with an argument that could lead to such a horrible conclusion.

Anyway, to demonstrate why I think much of current pro-abortion rhetoric is misguided and how the two questions above can be applied, I will give you a grab bag of common pro-abortion slogans and arguments, and try to show how and why they fail.

(One more note before we move on: As you may already have noticed, I have mostly steered clear of the euphemisms “pro-choice” and “pro-life.” I will continue to do so. The more correct and honest terms are “pro-abortion” and “anti-abortion,” and I will use those instead.)

3.

“Get your hands off my ovaries!”

(Any number of other hilariously reductionist terms for female reproductive organs, for example “female reproductive organs,” can be and have been substituted for the word “ovaries.”)

This t-shirt slogan (and here we are definitely in the land of t-shirt slogans) frames the abortion debate as a women’s rights issue. The problem is, that’s not what it is. Here’s a thought experiment: If, by some miracle, men could suddenly get pregnant, would all we anti-abortionists go over to your side? No. The point of the SA is that it is not primarily the mother’s rights that are at issue, but the rights of the human being she is carrying inside her. This is simply because in every case except those where the mother’s life is at risk (of which more later), the stakes are just higher for the unborn child. The mother may stand to lose some of her autonomy or well-being, but the child stands to lose its life. For the same reason, slogans containing phrases like “a woman’s right to choose” or “my body, my choice” are no good, especially since these would also appear to fail the infanticide test.

You can accuse us all you want of being secret misogynists who just use the SA as a convenient cover. But there are three problems with this accusation. The first is that there is no proof of it, because it’s not true; the second is that it fails to account for the large number of women we have on our side; and the third is that the SA, if it really is a cover for misogyny, is hardly the most direct or convenient cover. Why wouldn’t we just found the “We Hate Women” party or something instead?

“If you’re anti-abortion, fine, but don’t force your private morality on me.”

On the SA, abortion is as wrong as premeditated filicide, because on the SA, that’s what it is. On the SA, saying something like, “If you don’t like abortion, fine—don’t have any abortions” makes exactly as much sense as saying, “If you don’t like child murder, fine—don’t murder your children.” It’s fine as far as it goes, but it’s no argument for not making abortion illegal. Feel free to disagree with the SA, but don’t grant the SA and then claim that its conclusion is a matter of “private morality.” This makes no sense, and it fails the infanticide test again. In fact, not only could the “private morality” line be used to argue for legalization of premeditated filicide—it could be used to argue for the legalization of anything. “If you don’t like setting fire to orphanages, fine, but don’t force your private morality on me.” And so forth.

This argument disputes premise 4) of the SA (“That which is gravely wrong should be illegal”), but does it in a very odd and implausible way. It seems to be predicated on the notion that the state and the law should be morally neutral. This is an oft-stated idea nowadays, but no-one actually believes it, and no-one would actually want to live in a society that applied it across the board. After all, we have laws against murder, rape, theft, and fraud precisely because murder, rape, theft, and fraud are wrong.

This is also a problem with the related idea that anti-abortion sentiments don’t belong in politics because they are “religious.” The trouble is, our current hang-up on infanticide (and, for that matter, slavery and gladiatorial combat) is by this token also “religious,” in that it came to the fore only when Christianity replaced Paganism. In fact, considering the leading role religion has played in most societies throughout most of history, virtually any moral standpoint with a historical pedigree (“Thou shalt not kill,” “Do unto others,” “Love thy neighbor,” and so on) can plausibly be called “religious” by this token. Even if, for the sake of argument, we grant that religion should play no role in politics, the test of whether a political point of view is “religious” is not whether it is espoused by some religion, nor whether its supporters are disproportionately religious, nor whether it is sometimes justified by appeals to religious dogma, but whether it can be justified apart from appeals to religion. Considering the existence of groups like the Atheist and Agnostic Pro-Life League—and considering that the SA makes no appeals to holy men or holy books—the SA passes this test with flying colors.

If you’re anti-abortion, fine, but don’t be so extreme about it!”

Let me repeat: On the SA, abortion is as wrong as premeditated filicide, because on the SA, that’s what it is. This means that if the SA succeeds, most Western nations have, in the last decades, engaged in a holocaust that dwarfs all the other atrocities of history. And you wonder why we get so worked up about it?

To say that this line of thinking represents “extremism” is to sidestep the issue at hand. The question is not whether the conclusion of the SA and its corollaries are “extreme,” but whether they are true.

You conservatives are such hypocrites! You talk about ‘the sanctity of life,’ but you’re also pro-war and pro-death penalty.”

Let’s not address the question of whether all or most anti-abortionists really are politically conservative or support war and capital punishment. (Although I’ve yet to meet anyone outside a Nuremberg rally who is for “war” in the abstract.) Let’s grant that claim. And let’s also grant what follows from it, namely that all or most pro-abortionists are politically liberal, anti-war, and anti-death penalty. (This last point will become important later.)

With that in mind, there are three points that must be made about this line. The first is that its premises are highly questionable. The second is that, even if we grant its premises, it doesn’t prove what it’s usually meant to prove. The third is that it, too, fails the infanticide test—in fact, if it can be taken as an argument for the pro-abortion view, it can be taken as an argument for the legalization of literally any kind of killing.

First point. The reduction of the anti-abortion cause, both by its supporters and its opponents, to slogans about the “sanctity of life” is regrettable—not because we shouldn’t be concerned about the sanctity of life, but because that phrase is often misunderstood. The line in question seems to assume that if you support the “sanctity of life,” you must completely and categorically oppose all kinds of killing. But that is not true. Very few people on either side of this issue are categorically opposed to killing. They will think that killing is always tragic, and they will be opposed to it in virtually all cases. But they will not oppose it categorically. For example, most people believe that war, albeit always tragic, is sometimes necessary, that there are cases where it is legitimate to use deadly force in self-defense, and so on.

Second point. Even if everything this line claims is perfectly true, it doesn’t prove that we anti-abortionists are wrong, but that we are hypocrites. And hypocrisy proves nothing. For example, if the president of some children’s charity turned out to be a child molester, no-one would take this as proof that child molestation is OK. Also (and this is where that latter point kicks in), the exact same argument could be applied to the pro-abortion crowd, only in reverse. “You hypocrites! You say you’re against war and capital punishment because they violate the sanctity of life, but you also support the mass murder of unborn children!” If you reply to this argument by saying, “But that’s the point. What you call ‘the mass murder of unborn children’ doesn’t violate the sanctity of life, because a fetus isn’t a human being,” you’re at least addressing the SA by disputing its second premise. But unless you give some reason for why a fetus isn’t a human being, you’re also arguing in a circle, since the question of whether a fetus is a human being is exactly what’s at issue.

Third point. If, despite what I said about the second point, we are to regard this line as an attempt at an argument for the pro-abortion side (and I stress the word “attempt”), it either fails the infanticide test (in fact, it fails the anything-cide test), or it fails to be an argument for the pro-abortion side. For if we conclude that “the sanctity of life” is a false ideal because some of its supporters are hypocrites, we must conclude not only that it is a false ideal in the case of abortion, but in all cases, including the killing of innocent children who have already been born, and of innocent adults. If we do not conclude that the “sanctity of life” is a false ideal, the question of whether an unborn child falls within the perimeter of “life”—the central question of the debate—remains unaddressed and unresolved.

“What about mothers who can’t or won’t give their children a good upbringing?”

What about mothers who can’t or won’t give their already born children a good upbringing? On the SA, the two are no different. This line fails the infanticide test. Also, have you people never heard of adoption?

“But what about rape? What about incest? What about children with serious genetic defects?”

What about already born children of rape and incest? What about already born children—or adults, for that matter—with serious genetic defects? On the SA, the two are no different.

“But what about cases where the life of the mother is at stake?”

What about cases where killing one innocent and already born person would save the life of another? On the SA, the two are no different.

“Abortions should be safe, legal, and rare.”

Abortion either does or doesn’t constitute killing. If it does, this slogan makes as much sense as—in fact, is practically synonymous with—“Child murders should be safe, legal, and rare.” If it doesn’t, this slogan makes as much sense as—in fact, is practically synonymous with—“Appendectomies should be safe, legal, and rare.” We can all agree that appendectomies should be safe and legal—but unless we had an inkling that they were morally problematic, albeit one partially suppressed for psychological or political reasons, why on earth would we specify that they should be “rare”?

4.

I don’t know whether this profusion of bad logic is due to unreflected thought or malice, but I suspect it’s usually the former, at least among you in the rank and file. Most people—including many pro-abortionists—accept all the premises of the SA, but do not understand that they are thereby logically obligated to accept its conclusions: That abortion is gravely wrong, and that it should be illegal.

Cold logic tells us that an unborn child either is or is not a human being. If it isn’t, abortion is as morally unproblematic as pulling teeth. But if it is, the consequences of its legalization have been almost too terrible to contemplate, and anything but fervent opposition to it constitutes a crime in itself. This is the dilemma we face. I urge you to give it serious thought.

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73 thoughts on “A message to pro-abortion people

  1. It seems to me that most anti-abortionists have poor logic as well because they support abortifacient contraceptives and self defense abortions. The best argument I’ve encountered against self defense abortions is to point to the ethical consideration we give to conjoined twins in the U.S. The threat of a lesser capable conjoined twin does not constitute reason to kill one of the twins, even if there is a grave threat. But I’m sure the abortionists will get to that soon enough, just like they got to banning death certificates for stillborns.

  2. Since abortion is simply a mother killing her child in utero then the “right” to abortion is simply the “right” of a mother to kill her child in utero.

    So those who believe in a “right” to abortion should be asked a simple question.

    “Do you believe YOUR mother had a “right” to kill YOU in utero?

    When the radical liberal says, “yes,” then we know he is clearly insane and a bona fide self-annihilator.

    If the radical liberal says, “no,” then we understand that his belief is just posturing and has no substance. He doesn’t really believe in abortion.

    Or, he could just be murderously evil.

  3. Very clearly and convincingly stated. I in fact agree
    “Killing an innocent human being is gravely wrong.”
    On this assumption, which I agree with, what about the killing of innocent civilians in wartime? For example, children–e.g. in the cities of England, Japan, France, and Germany during WWII? Soldiers in wartime would not qualify as “innocent.” But three year old children in Tokyo or Dresden or London did. Are you prepared to also condemn the practice of bombing civilians in wartime? Even if the atomic bomb “shortend the war” and PERHAPS saved lives in the long run, is it morally justifiable to kill an innocent person for the reason that there is at most some reason to believe that this killing may save ten lives later? I think inconsistency here would count as hypocrisy. But, as you rigthly point out, even if someone–inconsistently I would say–balked at this strict extension of the principle, that would not mean that its application to the issue of abortion is mistaken.

    • I will answer this one from my point of view: Yes, I believe that “killing an innocent is evil” as an objective truth which is not changed by being in the state of war. Wars should be fought only between combatents. Therefore bombing Tokyo, Dresden and London were all acts of extreme evil. Furthermore the atomic bomb did not shorten the war, the japanese were already prepared to surrender. But the allies didn’t just want a normal surrender, they wanted to humilhate their enemies into complete subjulgation.

      Further, I don’t see the allies as a good side in the war. I think they were fighting for the first wave Liberalism, and to impose it world-wide. Nowadays the greatest threat to the existence of Europe is exactly Liberalism, more precisely it’s second wave, which obviously is just an evolution of the first one. So I conclude that in the long run the allies were proven wrong, they were also evil and the war had no good side. Of course, some individual countries were fighting for an objective good, such as Poland, which just wanted to defend themselves, but this doesn’t make their grouping good too. Summing up I’d say that the only possible good outcome for the war would have been it never starting.

      • Point of fact: the Japanese were not “already prepared to surrender.” Actually, they were preparing for an all-out fight on their home islands, ready to have old men and boys go into to combat armed with sharpened bamboo shafts as spears. The Hiroshima bomb was justified; the Nagasaki bomb was not (but might have been closer to a month, rather than less than a week, after Hiroshima, had Japanese forces still been fighting).

        What I think many people fail to realize is that to win a war, two objectives must be met. One is that the enemy’s ability to fight must be destroyed; the other is that the enemy’s will to fight must also be destroyed. In mid-1945, the Japanese ability to fight was nearly destroyed; the leadership realized they could not, under any circumstances, win. However, they still wanted to fight; it took atomic bombs to finally make them change their minds about that. (Much the same argument applies to the Confederacy and Sherman’s March.)

        So Truman had to choose how many more American lives to sacrifice. The bomb meant fewer, and invading the Japanese home islands would have meant more. However, the cost of that choice was Japanese civilian lives. It’s not a calculation that anyone wants to be in a position to have to make, but until recently, few leaders have been willing to sacrifice their fellow citizens for the sake of their enemies (but we see it now, especially in Western involvement in the Islamic world—but that is even further off topic).

        Your point that the Allies were not necessarily the “good” side requires further explication. Given that the Axis started the war, and given the evil of the Axis powers, it was right and just to have fought, and defeated, them. However, while you are right that our modern world has been grossly malformed by liberalism, it is not at all clear that liberalism, which predated WWII and had already made inroads in Western countries and thought, would not have spread absent WWII.

    • He means “Intentionally killing” rather than “Killing” in the original argument. This gets rid of the tension. Intentionally killing civilians in wartime is, indeed, gravely immoral. Dresden, Hamburg, Tokyo, Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and the Blitz, were all war crimes for which the guilty parties should have gone to jail.

      And there is nothing strict about these applications. They are not close calls; they are easy cases. The people who argue the other sides of those cases generally display pathologies very similar to the ones displayed by pro-abortionists.

      • “And there is nothing strict about these applications. They are not close calls; they are easy cases. The people who argue the other sides of those cases generally display pathologies very similar to the ones displayed by pro-abortionists.”

        Yep. As Ed Feser pointed out a while ago, with respect to the Hiroshima/Nagasaki bombings: http://www.whatswrongwiththeworld.net/2010/08/happy_consequentialism_day.html.

        The money line: “[T]he bombings give a pretty good idea of what a world consistently run on consequentialist principles might look like.”

  4. Antiabortionists don’t really believe their own arguments. If “life begins at conception”, then we’d have an infant mortality rate of over 50%, since roughly half of fertilized zygotes fail to implant in the uterus and are ejected with the menses. If these were people, we’d have priests sifting through discarded tampons with a microscope looking for blastulas to say prayers over. In fact, this doesn’t happen, and nobody would consider doing it. Thus, nobody actually considers that zygotes and 16-cell blastulas are people.

    Personhood — that is, being an individual being with individual rights is not identical to having 46 human chromosomes. Blastulas are not the kind of things that can have souls. I never understood why religious people are so wedded to this kind of simpleminded reductionism.

    • Wonderful onecertain. So you do agree with Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin that women’s bodies have ways of shutting the whole thing down right? But I thought that was pseudo-science or something! Help me out there. I’m confused.

      (Please note my sarcasm. I fully concede that “women’s bodies” shut down on occasion. Miscarriages are a fact of life. Sometimes they happen. That’s life. If a person cannot distinguish between a miscarriage and an intentional killing then I’m more concerned about your sense of morality than mine.)

  5. Blastulas are not the kind of things that can have souls. I never understood why religious people are so wedded to this kind of simpleminded reductionism.

    Saying that a blastula has a soul is the *opposite* of reductionism. Saying it *doesn’t* have a soul is reductionist.

    A soul is the form of a living being. To say that a blastula has no soul is to say either that it is dead, or that it is formless. But metaphysically, the latter notion – so common among materialists – is radically incoherent. All actual things have forms – have properties and characteristics. Even a dead blastula has a form, albeit not a soul. A dead blastula doesn’t have a soul anymore, true. But it will never be murdered, either; it will miscarry.

    Priests and Christian laymen do say prayers for blastulae, all the time. Any generalized prayer for the dead covers blastulae, as it covers also unknown soldiers, those who died in the Japanese tsunami and were never recovered, etc. God knows where all those souls are; if we pray for them, then whether or not we ever knew them, the prayers will get through the switchboard of omniscience to their proper destination. You don’t need to have a dead body actually on hand in order to pray for its soul. That’s a reductionist notion.

  6. Great post but there is another way to argue with liberals on this topic. The “gateway” form (as opposed to the more coherent and complex form you have used in this post). The other way to go is the Todd Akin route:

    Have a common-sense idea and then mix it with a bit of exaggeration (perhaps even insanity), calmly state your case (don’t lose your cool) and voila! Outrage and lashing at first. The idea will sink in the long-run though.

    Highlight consistently in “gateway” form what an abomination abortion is for morality, religion and the legal system. The legal system has become a de-facto Casino where women can do no wrong. There’s a lot of false rape allegations, family court proceedings gone wrong, lack of accountability for women and whatsoever going around.

    This method of argumentation is cold but sometimes it works. Liberal men think a lot how the hedonist blogger Roissy has pointed out. They think that women are pretty little angels who can do no wrong, that they’re innocent and that a twisted form of chilvary should be given to them (e.g. White Knight Syndrome). Or that women are equal yet superior (e.g. Mangina Syndrome).

    Here’s my comment on this -> http://www.halfsigma.com/2012/10/the-republican-abortion-problem.html?cid=6a00d8341bf6ae53ef017ee42105bd970d#comment-6a00d8341bf6ae53ef017ee42105bd970d

    Psychological manipulation/dissection (or spiritual/emotional insight if you may) works. Already I’m seeing a few of liberals that don’t believe in the “rape is rape!” fallacy anymore. Todd “Legitimate Rape” Akin was a genius.

    • Hi nice to meet you.

      I don’t get you. If the “legitimate rape” comment was pure nonsense (which I thought it was nonsense, and couldn’t figure out what the big deal was) then how can some liberal men be starting to make some sense of it and question the rape is rape fallacy?

      You were unable to explain your superior argument to me.

      I have sometimes thought about the validity of a new third party: The Government Shutdown Party (GSP). Would a party get traction if their platform was simply to shut down the federal government? And would it be fun in the interim to write and pass laws that completely mock every liberal idea- like mandating free bibles for everyone, reparations, and declaring free ice cream a human right? I think you and I would fit right in. Let’s do it!

  7. In my existence, pointing to the rhetoric of the civil rights movement tends to produce either incoherence or the silliest argument ever when they are attacking the “religious” aspect.

  8. Svein,

    I fully agree with the SA against abortion, but I believe that there is a weaker set of assumptions that would make it stronger with the reasonable pro-choice people: basically, we need to relax assumption 2. If instead of

    “2. abortion constitutes the killing of an innocent human being,”

    we change it to the weaker version

    “2a. Abortion may constitute the killing of an innocent human being”

    the argument remains as strong, without having to go to the “imposition of your religious beliefs on me” liberal bumper sticker response.

    The reason is fairly simple. Regardless of what a “woman and her doctor” feel or think, abortion will kill the fetus. Killing it will (a) be equivalent to swatting a fly, or (b) be the killing of an innocent human being. As we don’t know with certainty whether (a) or (b) are true, we can assign a positive probability to the homicide scenario. Once that happens, the argument is won, as there are laws against reckless endangerment or depraved indifference to human life.

    For example, onecertain can provide a rationalization argument against (2), but unless he is 100% certain, how can he provide an argument against (2a)?

  9. There are non-stupid (which isn’t to say correct) arguments on the pro-abortion side, though.

    First, you can deny the humanity/personhood of the unborn. Arguments like this affirm that the unborn lack something which you have to have to be a person, reasoning ability most commonly. Typically, these arguments get you to a place where the unborn, small children, the mentally disabled, and the senile elderly may be licitly killed. Right now, it is not that common for people to affirm these consequences, but more and more people are affirming them all the time.

    Second, you can deny the universal illicitness of killing innocent people. Utilitarian arguments in favor of abortion are like this. Abortions which raise total utility are licit. Abortions which lower it are not. Peter Singer is the standard reference here.

    Third, you can deny that abortion must be killing. Here you acknowledge that the unborn is a person with rights. Then you go on to note that, to the extent that mom does not want him, he is trespassing in mom’s body. She has the right to have the trespasser removed (though, of course, in the least violent feasible way). Pre-viability abortions end up with a dead baby, of course, but the intent is not to kill. And, this argument does not apply to any currently existing abortion procedure, but to a hypothetical one in which the procedure itself did not kill the baby. The goofy argument about the violinist is the best known of this genre, though this genre is also the standard recourse for Objectivist/Libertarian types also.

    Of these, the first is winning the day, in my view. What’s really going on, of course, is not that people are being intellectually convinced by the force of the type 1 arguments. What’s really going on is that sluts, their partners, and their friends/parents/etc find it easy to imagine abortion being hugely convenient for them. This leads to a desire for an argument that abortion is not wrong—both so that society will let them have it and so that they can salve their consciences. The first argument does this very nicely. It also leads other places, places our evil elite wants to go for other reasons.

  10. I agree with almost all of this, except your comments on the “safe, legal, and rare” slogan. There’s no reason why abortion has to be either (a) as bad as murder or (b) as morally unproblematic as pulling teeth. Given that a fetus has some but not all of the characteristics of a postnatal human being, what’s wrong with the opinion that killing it is bad but not nearly as bad as murder? Why can’t it be comparable to, say, killing a horse — legal, justifiable in many situations, but still a bad thing to be avoided where possible?

    I think that’s most people’s natural, gut reaction to abortion. Nobody really feels that people who have abortions are just as bad as child-murderers. (Could you be friends with someone who had once had an abortion? Could you be friends with someone who had once murdered a six-year-old in cold blood?) Nor does anyone really feel that killing a fetus is of no more moral consequence than pulling a tooth. Granted, for political or religious reasons, people do often try to maintain one of those positions or the other, but I think they almost inevitably do so with a certain measure of bad faith.

    • I think that’s most people’s natural, gut reaction to abortion. Nobody really feels that people who have abortions are just as bad as child-murderers.

      No. Most people’s natural, gut reaction to this is to want to do violence to the person who committed the crime. Most people’s natural gut reaction to someone who kills babies is to want to kill them.

      The wedge driven between our reaction to other cases of baby-killing and to abortion is partly artificial and partly accidental but no wise per se. As a matter of course, we don’t see and interact with fetuses. As a matter of course, we don’t see their corpses after they have been torn limb from limb or burned to death or had their brains vacuumed out. As a matter of course, we don’t see, even in horror movies, these acts. For these reasons, it is easy to tell ourselves that abortion just removes “a clump of cells” or to just not think about what is happening. That is the difference, whole and entire.

      • The first word “this” in the above comment is a link. The blog’s theme generally looks nice, but the links are not so visible.

      • Of course the photo you link to shows a late-term abortion/infanticide. When the fetus is aborted early in the pregnancy, it really is more like the “clump of cells” pro-abortion people describe it as. The overwhelming majority of abortions are performed in the first trimester (see here) ; third-trimester abortions are extremely rare — probably even rarer than infanticide proper.

        Also, the urge to do violence to a person is not a reliable gauge of how serious his crime is. I mean, I feel the urge to do violence when I see a vandal, a pickpocket, or even someone chucking litter out of a car window — but obviously such petty crimes are not anywhere near as serious as murder.

      • When the fetus is aborted early in the pregnancy, it really is more like the “clump of cells” pro-abortion people describe it as.

        No. Fetuses are recognizably human by the time they are aborted, generally. In suction abortions (the most common first trimester method), one of the medical team has the job of opening the suction machine, retreieving the dismembered corpse, and re-assembling it post-mortem to verify that they “got it all.”

  11. WmJas – That strikes me as an accurate account of the reality of the situation with respect to people’s natural and spontanous evaluations; and I agree that this is very rarely acknowledged, but rather people tend to pretend one or another extreme view is natural and spontanenous.

    Your description fits with the fact (I think it is a fact) that prohibition on abortion was a Christian novelty in the Roman world.

    In other words, the prohibition on abortion is a Christian revelation; so it is not correct to suggest the prohibition is part of the universal human condition, or natural law.

    The comment on bad fath is well made: advocacy of either extreme view generally does not ring true, is not consistent with actual behaviour.

    • In other words, the prohibition on abortion is a Christian revelation; so it is not correct to suggest the prohibition is part of the universal human condition, or natural law.

      Same with murder, generally, of course. And robbery. And rape. And human sacrifice. Genocide, too. Not much left of the natural law once you start down this road.

      • It ought to be possible to agree that there is some kind of hierarchy of sin. For instance murder and rape are very bad, but (in general) murder is worse than rape – as reflected in judicial sentencing. Likewise deliberately killing a baby six weeks after its birth is worse than deliberately killing a six week old fetus. And this difference is reflected in most individuals’ spontaneous reactions. I think that is the point that WmJas is making. Surely, to deny or elide this distinction is simply to be unrealistic and unconvincing.

    • I’m really surprised to hear this kind of argument (from “people’s natural and spontaneous evaluations”) here. Not that I disagree with it, but it supports the opposite of your position.

      I would agree, that most people don’t evaluate a 2-week fetus the same way they do 8-month fetus, or a newborn child, or an adult. But isn’t your position that they are all the same, and any newly conceived blastula has the same humanity and rights as a full-grown person?

      If the “murder” of these is to be judged differently, that opens the door to the position that maybe some of them aren’t murder at all.

      • Or not. Murder in the second degree, while punished less severely than murder in the first, is still just as illegal. Murder is absolutely intolerable, and always criminal, even when there are extenuating circumstances. If abortion is murder, then acts of murder by abortion could be parsed in just the same sort of way, without in the least compromising the basic, absolute intolerability of murdering the unborn.

        The essential thing is to make absolutely intolerable the murder of anything that could conceivably be construed as a human being (even if the punishment considered just and proper in the circumstances was no more than a slap on the wrist). The minute you open up any chink in that membrane, there is, as Svein points out, a huge danger that whatever arguments you used to support the murder of human of type x could be used to support the murder of humans of type y. E.g., if we say that the murder of foeti is just fine up until the end of the first trimester, then implicitly we are faced with the problem of justifying a proscription of such murders one day after the end of the first trimester – then, two days, then a week, then a month, then 10 months …

        You see the problem. After conception, there is no bright line that can really do the job of terminating such inquiries so as to satisfy all comers.

        And this is not some wildly improbable suggestion on my part. The slippery slope is a real danger. Serious philosophers have seriously argued that infanticide is OK up to 24 months of age. There is an exact analogy to gay “marriage.” Once allow it, and all sorts of “marriages” are going to start happening, and there will be no principled way to argue that they ought not to be allowed.

      • And yet, abortion is not first and foremost “murder,” but self-annihilation, i.e., self-murder. This self-murder IS EVEN MORE EGREGIOUS than murder in the eyes of God. It is positively anti-Creation.

      • Birth is another bright line, and corresponds much better to how humans actually live and think.

        > The essential thing is to make absolutely intolerable the murder of anything that could conceivably be construed as a human being (even if the punishment considered just and proper in the circumstances was no more than a slap on the wrist)

        That makes no sense. If the punishment is just a slap on the wrist, then the behavior is hardly “absolutely intolerable”.

        I am somewhat surprised to hear you folks running away from the consequences of your beliefs, which to me would seem to entail that aborting even a 16-cell blastula is morally equivalent to the murder of an adult and should carry the same punishment. Even though I disagree with you about almost everything, I thought you at least had the virtue of intellectual consistency.

      • Sometimes – rarely – it is just and proper to punish murder with a mere token of punishment. E.g., a woman driven nearly mad by her husband’s tortures, terrified that he will kill her, instead kills him as another beating begins. She is indeed guilty of murder. But it would be unjust to punish her murder of her husband as severely as we ought to punish his murder of her.

        But notice what does not happen in such cases: the State does not say that the husband was not murdered, or that his death was justified and proper or permissible. It treats the death as a murder and a crime, that could if the judge thought proper under the circumstances be punished by death. The legal form of the act, and of the social response thereto, is preserved.

        And the preservation of that legal form is crucial if murder is not to become effectually legalized and normalized, a routine way of settling disputes. So with abortion. Treat it as a crime; then, as with any other sort of crime, provide some flexibility to prosecutor, judge and jury in determining how the state shall respond to the fact of a criminal act.

        ===============

        After a bit of research, prompted by a nudge from Lydia McGrew, I have learned that I was wrong in saying, “She is indeed guilty of murder.” If the wife convinces the court that the homicide was a justifiable act of self-defense, she is not guilty of murder. Nevertheless until the court is thus convinced, it treats the homicide as a murder, and considers whether the wife acted with malice aforethought, etc.

        Nevertheless, all things considered, homicide in self-defense was a poor choice of analogy here. Fortunately, the substance of my argument is not vitiated by that rhetorical error. A better analogy would be to a wife who did indeed kill her abusive husband with malice aforethought – say, by shooting him when he was asleep. Such a widow would have a much tougher time convincing the court that the homicide was justifiable self defense.

      • Onecertain is quite correct here. The difference between aborting a 2 week old and a third trimester unborn baby is not the same as the difference between second and first degree murder. All abortionists have mens rea, the age that makes them uncomfortable is of no consequence.

      • I didn’t say that the difference between first and second degree murder is *the same* as the difference between the abortion of a three week old foetus and a partial birth abortion. These are different kinds of differences. But they are differences, and might each in their different ways affect the severity of the sentence of punishment.

        I am arguing only that abortion ought to be considered a punishable crime, per se. It ought not to be legalized, because then inevitably it will be normalized. It has been legalized, and now so normal is it that many people consider it a right.

        And we see what happens when abortion of the unborn is normalized. First you get partial birth abortion, and then, as is only logical, you get full birth abortion like they had in Sparta, and then eventually you get Peter Singer’s abortion up to 24 months of age, or as with Terri Schiavo, abortion up to any number of years of age you like, so long as the life you abort is sufficiently inconvenient. So much for Onecertain’s suggestion of birth as a bright line threshold. We punched through it a long time ago.

      • Notice the strategy of the self-annihilator. HIS RIGHT to self-annihilate is what’s really at stake when he feigns “belief” in abortion.

        When the anti-abortionist seeks to be strict in his principled stand and contends that abortion at day one is the exact same kind of murder (a killing that intends to extinguish an unique existence) as abortion at the last day before birth, he is assailed as an “extremist.” And when he foolishly gives leeway to the desire of the self-annihilator and differentiates between said murders (treats the killing early in the creation as NOT INTENDED to extinguish a unique existence), he erroneously creates a small justification for abortion and is maliciously accused of failing to have a sincere belief in the matter or just being a hypocrite. Either which way AND because the “right” to self-annihilate is not negotiable in the eyes of the abortionists, he “loses” to the radical liberationist.

        There is a way to transcend this trap.

        It is simple and effective.

        Onecertain…

        Do you believe YOUR mother had a “fundamental right” to KILL YOU in utero?

        And would your mother concur?

        This is a simple yes/no question and it will substantiate or demolish your “belief” in abortion.

      • @thordaddy — well, of course she had a right to get an abortion, just as she had the right to use birth control, marry someone other than my father, or do countless other things that would have caused me not to exist.

        Not sure why you think this is such an incisive question. Nobody’s existence is guaranteed.

      • onecertain,

        We know that your mother “had a right to get an abortion.”

        BUT…

        Did YOUR mother have a “fundamental right” to kill YOU in utero?

        We can infer from your obfuscating answer above that “yes” she did have such a “fundamental right.”

        Ergo, you’re a self-annihilator.

        Self-annihilators, by definition, disqualify themselves from all discussions concerning LIFE.

        This means that when you appear to argue over the rightness or wrongness of “abortion,” YOU CANNOT ACTUALLY ARGUE about the wrongness of abortion. In fact, you cannot even conceive of any potential wrongness to abortion.

        There is, in your mind, simply nothing wrong with a mother killing her child in utero, EVER. Period. EVEN IF it was YOU!

        Yet, you see nothing radically twisted in this “belief” of yours.

      • @thordaddy, sorry, but you aren’t making any sense whatsoever. My mother is not me, and having a right is not the same as exercising that right, so that’s at least two ways in which I am not a “self-annihilator”, as if that was a relevant concept.

        I am perfectly happy with the idea that my mother (or any mother) should have the right to manage her own reproductive capacity. If that results in some people not being born who otherwise would have, that’s the way things go. If my mother had moved to New York instead of Chicago, I wouldn’t have been born either, but I don’t propose to make that against the law.

      • Oncertain,

        I am making perfect sense, but you must make a good faith effort to come to my realm and not stay comfortably snuggled in your radically liberated realm. That realm, the one you seamlessly flow through, DOES NOT REQUIRE you to assert the “rightness” of abortion. A true abortionist MUST ASSERT the “rightness” of abortion or he is a poseur, i.e., a radical autonomist.

        In my realm the easiest and most explicit manner in which the radical liberationist can assert the “rightness” of abortion is to SIMPLY DECLARE:

        I, onecertain, do declare that MY MOTHER had a “fundamental right” to KILL ME in utero.

        Ergo, in my realm, you are a self-annihilator.

        In YOUR realm, the question and the declaration SIMPLY DON’T EXIST.

        You are radically liberated in your realm.

      • No thanks, your realm seems to be on the verge of a mental breakdown.

        If you subtract the hysteria, you seem to be trying to win the argument by insisting on terminology that effectively that begs the question under consideration. Here’s a handy hint: if you want to win an argument that way, you have to be more subtle about it, and gradually coax your opponent onto your home turf — not shriekingly insist that he transport himself there.

      • Onecertain,

        Obviously, you are too “intelligent” to make such a pathologically public declaration. That’s why your stance is a simple pose and not a real conviction. If it were a real conviction then the declaration would roll off your tongue.

        An TRUE abortionist is one who believes in his mother’s “fundamental right” to have killed him in utero.

        If you disagree then please define “abortionist” so I can then coax you to my realm.

      • How can you not get this?! oncertain- WHEN DID YOU BEGIN TO EXIST? At 3 months? At birth? At your second birthdate? At conception?

        THEN: Did your mother have a right to terminate your existence?

        NOT before you existed… after you existed. DID she have the right to end your existence after you already began to exist?

        Not the option. Not the opportunity. Not the possibility. The legal, socially sanctioned, human right. To terminate your existence.

        Surely she would not terminate your existence before she found out you existed. She would first become aware of your existence, and then she would destroy it.

        You apparently said yes already. Case closed. You are a self-annihilator. You are pitiful on your own, despicable when you come onto a blog to preach, dangerous when you come into power.

  12. Mr. Charlton says…

    In other words, the prohibition on abortion is a Christian revelation…

    This is refreshing to read. It seems that the radical liberationist is simply ignorant of the revelation that the Christian man wholly rejects the self-annihilation of the individual radical liberal. The Christian HATES the self-annihilating ways of the self-annihilator. This HATE is the self-annihilator’s only real motivation to live.

    Sometimes though, I wonder if the Christians and conservatives and traditionalists really have any intent on making this revelation known and to “win” over the masses with it? The amplifying technology is at many of our finger tips. Why do we fail to use “radical liberation” against the radical liberationist? When abortion occurs and when the right of abortion is embraced, we have evidence of self-annihilation and exposure of the self-annihilators. The Christian revelation that prohibited abortion was a revelation prohibiting the most basic form of self-annihilation. The self-annihilators should get no say at the table of civilization.

    When the mother kills her child in utero, she is literally killing a part of her SELF. A self-annihilator.

    And when a child or young adult submits, surrenders and embraces the notion that HIS MOTHER had a “fundamental right” to kill him in utero, we can attest to the pathological mindset of that child as a de facto self-annihilating ethos.

    Mustn’t we simply reveal what abortion IS?

    Abortion is a mother killing her child in utero.

    To “believe” in abortion is to believe that YOUR mother had a “fundamental right” to kill YOU in utero.

    So from the standpoint of the “creator,” we have a destroyer of part of the self and from the standpoint of the “created,” we have the total acceptance of one’s own hypothetical killing AT THE HANDS OF HIS MOTHER.

    And to take this pathology further, the child and young adult must “believe” that his hypothetical abortion would have been a “good thing” as it would have evidenced his mother exercising her “fundamental right.”

    Truly twisted stuff.

    • The Christian Revelation, properly speaking, is the complete revelation of the Natural Law. The whole point of the doctrine of Original Sin is that man as he is found in history, both qua individual and qua cult, has radically fallen from his true, original and intended Nature, and from the Law thereof. It is normal for human cultures to be Unnatural. Thus it is hardly surprising that we should encounter societies that do not abhor things they ought under the Natural Law properly to abhor, such as abortion, murder, rape, gladiatorial combat, torture, and so forth. Human societies are ipso facto depraved, each perhaps beset by different characteristic sins.

      For example, it seems to have been the case that Greco-Roman cultures did not abhor abortion the way that Semitic cultures did. But there are other ways in which the Greco-Roman cult is more virtuous than the Semitic. The Greeks and Romans seem to have realized earlier than the Semites, for example, that human sacrifice is wicked. It’s odd; the Greeks and Romans looked on the Phoenician, Carthaginian and Canaanite cult of Moloch with abhorrence verging on insane rage, and yet until they converted to the Semitic religions of Judaism and Christianity, they aborted themselves almost to the point of demographic collapse. It was Christianity and Judaism that rescued Rome from demographic oblivion.

      To the Hindus, thuggee and suttee seemed simply routine, and straightforwardly unobjectionable. To the Aztecs – well, they could hardly have thought their heroic orgies of human sacrifice were evil, could they? If they had thought so, they’d have done differently.

      To reiterate, then: it is normal that Fallen human societies should be somehow or other deeply, wickedly unnatural; should characteristically and habitually disobey some basic tenet of the Natural Law, that is transparently obvious to other societies not subject to the same sorts of defects. The argument amongst societies about what is truly Good under the Natural Law ordained by the Most High is in a sense the basic matter of the contest of History.

      Vice – violation of the Natural Law, by which all Nature operates – weakens; for it constitutes a disagreement with the cosmos, and the cosmos is always going to win such battles eventually. Indeed, “vice” and “weak” are the same word. I refer back to the gedanken policy test I proposed earlier this year. As between two societies otherwise completely equal, which will prevail: the society that abhors abortion, or the one that does not? The question answers itself. The crushing obviousness of this result sufficiently demonstrates the valence of the Natural Law respecting abortion. Hatred of abortion is built into the structure of reality, at the mathematical, game theoretical level. It is *logically* sinful; it is sinful, not in this or that circumstance, but a priori. As Thordaddy says, those who advocate it are therefore *seriously* messed up in their moral reasoning.

      • Chesterton in The Everlasting Man proposes that the Aztecs did think that their human sacrifices were horrible and evil, and that they performed them for precisely that reason. He writes: “Sooner or later a man deliberately sets himself to do the most disgusting thing he can think of. It is felt that the extreme of evil will extort a sort of attention or answer from the evil powers under the surface of the world. … Men do not do it because they do not think it horrible; but, on the contrary, because they do think it horrible.”

      • According to Chesterton’s interpretation, the Aztecs performed acts they fully recognized to be horribly evil in order to obtain favors from the gods. I.e., they thought their sacrifice to be good *on the whole,* mutatis mutandis. They did not, that is, consider their holocaust absolutely evil. Nor likewise indeed did the Nazis. And the same could be said for the Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Canaanites – and Israelites – who offered their children as victims to Moloch.

        Bottom line is, if you think evil is only relative, as Chesterton suggests the Aztecs did – that the evil of acts depends always upon their circumstances or consequences – then that is tantamount to thinking that no act is inherently, absolutely evil. But this is just to say that there is just no such thing at all, really, as evil. Moral relativism is just a fancy term for utter sociopathic amorality, whether writ grand or petty. And to say that there is no absolute evil is to throw wide the doors of your heart and welcome evil to enter in. Moral relativism and consequentialism produce Nazis and Aztecs, who are capable of concluding that a holocaust is their unpleasant duty.

    • I’ve come across people who say they are anti-abortion, but can’t imagine an acceptable way to implement an anti-abortion law. The one in particular that I am thinking of is no squishy “I don’t want to impose my values on someone else” type. He was concerned about things like putting mothers who abort a child in prison.

      When I thought about it, I realized I would regard such a woman almost exactly as I would regard one who attempted suicide, as you say, a self-annihilator. Here is a person who has, at best, a terribly skewed set of priorities. And such people need to be restrained from acting on their inclinations, and ministered to, to correct their moral reasoning. The “doctors” can be ministered to in prison, though.

      • Gabe Ruth,

        We need not concern ourselves with punishing ACTUAL self-annihilators. They are, in fact, their own worst punishers. We need only concern ourselves with exposing those self-annihilators who “preach” their self-annihilating ways to the masses and also those self-annihilators in our own realm AND DEAR TO US that are simply the victims of an absolutely wayward and radically liberated environment.

        We are virtually powerless to “punish” those that “preach” self-annihilation. We only have our aversion, abhorrence, distaste and hate for their ways. And we also have the technology and means to voice this ethos to the masses.

      • Earl,

        I agree that those that “preach” self-annihilation are criminal. But I also believe that we are, at this point, virtually powerless to actually punish them. This fact alone would not suggest that a criminal prohibition against facilitators of self-annihilation should be off the table though.

        Whether we should worry about criminalizing ACTUAL self-annihilators, I think we already do that in the most explicit instances, i.e., suicide, but criminalizing those with self-annihilating lifestyles seems a more vexing question.

  13. In the debate between the anti-abortionist and the abortionist, the former MUST positively argue for the wrongness of abortion while the latter MUST NOT ever appear to argue for the rightness of abortion. This obviously gives the abortionist a distinct advantage WITHIN a completely liberated environment.

    So we must bring the abortionist into a new and completely unknown playing field. It’s a playing field that he has purposely avoided as a matter of intellectual survival.

    We must make the abortionist OPENLY ARGUE for the rightness of abortion.

    This is most easily achieved by one simple question or a series of simple questions:

    Did YOUR mother have a “fundamental right” to kill YOU in utero?

    Did YOUR mother have a “fundamental right” to kill YOUR brother/sister in utero?

    Does YOUR sister have a “fundamental right” to kill YOUR niece/nephew in utero?

    Does YOUR daughter have a “fundamental right” to kill YOUR grandchild in utero?

    A “yes” answer to any of these questions is a clear cut admission by the abortionist of the “rightness” of abortion…

    And his very pathological mindset.

    • Jihadists aren’t really “pro-life” in any liberated “Christian” sense. Jihadists are at best anti-abortionists as they undoubtedly support legal and extra-judicious death penalty. Most intellectually consistent Christians are anti-abortion and for legal and judicious death penalty. Meaning, we are not “pro-life.” The Jihadist’s anti-abortionist stance though is rooted in the necessity to replenish self-annihilating Jihadists. Jihadists, are at their core, radical liberationists of a different variant (a different type of self-annihilator). On the contrary, the Christian’s opposition to abortion is rooted in his opposition to self-annihilation and his embrace of legal and judicious death penalty serves the same principle.

      • Earl,

        Jihad at its essence is murder the infidel in an act of “liberation,” i.e., self-annihilation.

        Jihadists are, by definition, radical liberationists seeking “liberation” from “white Supremacy” by any means necessary.

        The justification for jihad in to be found in the worship of an radically autonomous god named Allah.

        Those who worship Allah are Muslims. Jihad is the logical endpoint of their worship.

        Feel free to dispute and I would like to read how they are separate entities.

      • In short, ALL jihadists are Muslim and ALL Muslim MUST BE jihadists.

        Agree or disagree that this is both fact and the command of Allah?

  14. Earl,

    I think the bigger point is that there is no alliance amongst Christian and Muslim anti-abortionists and the reason for this is that each side is motivated by a totally different principle.

      • I’m no expert, but I think Muslim scholars take different positions on abortion.

        Hasan insists that his opposition to abortion is purely philosophical and doesn’t depend on his Islamic faith.

    • What’s so bad about giving utnenwad children up for adoption? vs. abortion especially? You will never understand because you’re a man is the short answer. Why would giving a baby away be so hard if you’re willing to kill it? In the UK the time limit to abort an foetus is 24 weeks. Although a baby can survive being born they are more likely to have health issues.You can’t compare abortion with getting rid of a dog if you can’t look after it and yes I do own dogs.The point is a woman shouldn’t be forced to go through pregnancy if she really doesn’t want to parent and that would be incredibly cruel to do so. Would you expect a rape victim to endure a pregnancy if she didn’t really want to? I wanted to raise my son which is why I didn’t abort but my point is I DO know how hard surrendering is and the pain never goes away. I have just learnt how to deal with it. Reunion made the pain worse as I saw with my own eyes the damage adoption did to my son so adoption ruined two lives not one. Adoption is a living hell and I would rather have aborted than to go through this but then I should have been supported in my choice.When you truly understand the pain of surrendering you have a right to criticise, you wont though because you can’t go through pregnancy, bond with the baby then surrender.

      • Viie, I’m truly sorry for all the suffering you have endured. However, I don’t believe it’s correct to think that had you aborted, there would have been no suffering. Many women report feelings of guilt and remorse for abortion, especially if they give birth later.

        Abortion has been falsely painted as a man vs. woman issue. This is no more than an attempt to silence men who oppose abortion. However, it is not a man vs. woman issue; it is a moral issue. A human fetus is a human being, and all the talk of “undifferentiated mass of cells” is sophistry, designed to dehumanize the person in the womb. If a fetus is a person, then abortion is murder. Both men and women have the right to take a stance on moral issues, to be opposed to murder.

        Again, I am truly sorry for all you have suffered, and I hope and pray that you can find solace.

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