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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Is Pregnancy Like Getting Into a Car Accident?

I would like to respond to a claim that I hear somewhat frequently. A fellow blogger wrote an article posing this analogy, that a woman finding herself pregnant is like someone getting into a car accident. I'll quote the relevant portion from her article: "The fact that pregnancy MAY happen doesn't mean you should willingly suffer it. Just like you may be injured if you drive recklessly, but that doesn't mean you should punish yourself by not getting medical treatment."

This seems to make sense at first, but when you really start to engage with it you'll find that it's actually a false analogy.

When someone drives a car, they are taking on certain risks, such as the possibility of getting into an accident. Now, if you do get into an accident, you should not necessarily be forced to live with pain, injuries, etc., that may result from it. You also may not be at fault for it as the other driver may be. Or in some cases no one may be at fault for it.

So while you don't necessarily have to live with the consequences, the person at fault does have to make it right by paying for the other person's medical bills, paying to repair their car, etc. (or having their insurance do it, if they're insured). They can't just walk away and say, "Sorry, I consented to drive my car but I did not consent to get into an accident. You're on your own."

Frank Beckwith, in his book Defending Life, uses the analogy of a father playing baseball with his sons. If one of his sons hits a fly ball and it sails into your neighbor's window and breaks it, you are responsible. You can't knock on your neighbor's door and say, "I'm terribly sorry your window was broken. However, I only consented to play baseball with my sons, I did not consent to breaking your window. So tough luck." You have to take responsibility for fixing the window.

Similarly when a man and woman engage in sex, even if they are using contraception, they are engaging in an activity that has a chance of producing a living human being in a naturally needy condition. As a result, if the woman finds herself pregnant, the man and the woman both bear a responsibility to care for that child because they are the ones responsible for his/her existence. Having an abortion would be like refusing to fix your neighbor's window or refusing to pay the other driver's medical bills due to your responsibility in injuring him/her.

To illustrate this further, in his book The Case for Life, Scott Klusendorf uses an example of a "baby-making machine." Suppose you come up to a wall with a button on it and a sign that says: BABY-MAKING MACHINE on it. There is a chute on the bottom, and once you press the button you will receive a pleasurable experience but there is a 1/100 chance of a baby coming out the chute in the bottom. You press the button and receive your experience, but the odds are not in your favor and a baby comes out the chute in the bottom. You now bear responsibility for this child. You can't just leave him to die, or strangle him to avoid taking responsibility. You must either take him home and raise him, or take him to an adoption agency, police department, or wherever to make sure the child is taken care of.

So ultimately, if a man and woman engage in the act of sex which is intrinsically ordered toward procreation, they bear the responsibility of the child if one is conceived.


  1. For some, being pregnant is like a blessing to them. It is like God has made them fortunate enough to give birth to a new life. However, the experience of pregnancy is more of like being in a car accident.

    Arnold Brame
    Health And Safety Consultant Peterborough

    1. The experience of pregnancy is not like getting into a car accident at all, at least in any morally relevant sense, as I explained in the article. The act of driving is not intrinsically ordered toward slamming into other cars. The act of sex *is* intrinsically ordered toward procreation, even if someone tries to avoid it.