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Friday, January 24, 2014

An Examination of "20 Arguments Against Abortion," Part IV

This will be the last part in a series responding to blogger Bob Seidensticker's response to pro-life arguments. You can find part one here, part two here, and part three here. And you can find the article of Seidensticker's that I'm responding to here.

Argument #16: Where do you draw the line?

Again, this isn't so much an argument as it is a reasonable question that Seidensticker should answer if he believes the line should not be drawn at fertilization. It seems pretty obvious that if you know that fertilization is not the beginning of a new human person, then you must know exactly when that line starts. If you don't know when that line starts, then at most you would have to remain agnostic about whether or not the line starts at fertilization.

He, again, tries to sidestep the argument by appealing to his fallacious Spectrum Argument. By now you've had ample time to click on the link pointing to my refutation of that argument, so I won't go into detail about why this response fails. He claims that we should leave this up to the expert, but the experts have already determined that human life begins at fertilization. But if the question is about human personhood, then there is division about when human life begins. Seidensticker may be afraid to throw his hat into the ring, but I'm not. The best evidence suggests that personhood is established at fertilization, as well.

But what if we really don't know when personhood is established? Then logic would dictate that we shouldn't be aborting the unborn. See these two articles for more on why.

Argument #17: Why aren't we showing women ultrasound pictures so they can be completely informed?

It seems Seidensticker is being quite broad when he talks about "pro-life arguments," as this is not an argument for the pro-life position, though it is a legitimate question. Aristotle once wrote that a choice made in ignorance is not a freely made choice. If you are to be truly pro-choice, then you must be willing to give women all relevant information, including what the unborn child really is, showing the ultrasound, talking about the actual risks inherent in the procedure, etc. The problem is that organizations like Planned Parenthood oppose this kind of common-sense legislation because abortions make them money, and women change their mind after seeing the ultrasound. There are also many accounts of abortionists and Planned Parenthood workers becoming staunchly pro-life after witnessing an abortion on an ultrasound. Two famous examples of these are co-founder and past president of NARAL Bernard Nathanson, and former Planned Parenthood president Abby Johnson.

Now, Seidensticker does mention that this should not be mandatory, only optional, but that's just irrelevant. First, I agree with that statement. But second, ultrasound bills only making showing the ultrasound mandatory for the abortionist, not for the woman. It requires the abortionist to show the woman considering abortion the ultrasound, but it will not force the woman to see the ultrasound against her will. This is just one way in which organizations like Planned Parenthood cry wolf against any sort of common sense pro-life legislation.

Seidensticker seems to think that it would be better (or at least psychologically easier) for the woman to abort before she sees a fetus sucking its thumb, but this is irrelevant, not to mention question-begging. A fetus doesn't become human just because they're closer in appearance to us. A human zygote looks exactly like all human beings do -- at that stage in their development.

Argument #18: The fetus is innocent.

Now Seidensticker resorts to repeating arguments (see argument number twelve in part three). Seidensticker seems to have a thing with spectrums. There is no spectrum of guilt or innocence. You are either guilty of a crime or not. You may be less culpable for a crime, but you are either guilty for it or you are not. Seidensticker asserts that human fetuses do not have the capacity for guilt or innocence, but he's wrong about that. Guilt or innocent are only ascribed to beings with a rational nature. This is why squirrels and other animals can't be held accountable for their actions. Only persons are culpable for acts because that's just what a person is -- a rational entity who can recognize right from wrong and act accordingly. Human fetuses and embryos have this capacity, albeit inherently and not presently-exercisable. But newborns also cannot be held guilty for their actions, nor can infants, so if you're going to disqualify human embryos from personhood because they can't yet understand right from wrong, you would likewise have to disqualify newborns and infants.

Seidensticker next resorts to using a rather barbaric argument from someone who left a comment on his blog. I'll quote it here: "One commenter observed that it's a moral decision either way. If you choose life, you condemn that baby to his life. That is, you force life upon it, and every life has suffering. This may not be an easy choice, but who's in a better position than the mother to be to decide?"

This is just completely ridiculous, and I hope no one takes this kind of argument seriously. It is dangerously close to an argument laid out by pro-death advocate (his term, not mine), David Benatar, who argues that we actually have a moral obligation not to reproduce. In other words, giving life to someone is seriously wrong because of all the harms inherent in life. I would imagine that this commenter would not go as far as Benatar, which means that his argument is invalid. If he's not willing to follow the argument to its logical conclusion (as Benatar has), then it's just rhetorical nonsense. And if life was such a condemnation, then surely we would find the majority of people committing suicide. But psychologically healthy people in their normal state of mind do not, in fact, commit suicide because life is worth living. No one has the right to decide that someone else would rather not live, not even the pregnant mother. The immorality of suicide notwithstanding, if we were going to argue that suicide was not immoral, the only the person whom suicide directly affects should make that decision, no one else.

Argument #19: Shouldn't we err on the side of caution?

See the two articles I linked to under argument number 16 for exactly why we should err on the side of caution when it comes to abortion.

I'm going to sound like a broken record, but it's only because Seidensticker keeps returning to his fallacious Spectrum Argument rather than giving these arguments a full treatment. There is no spectrum of personhood. You are either a person or you are not. Seidensticker may sidestep the issue by calling them "word games," but I would imagine that pro-life and pro-choice philosophers would disagree.

No one argues that pregnancies are easy, or that all children will have an easy life. Seidensticker brings up several examples of why a woman might want an abortion: education, career, life, family, finances, and happiness. So let's fast forward a couple of years. Would you advocate a mother's right to kill her toddler to help her education? to help her career? because life is getting in the way? because of family issues? because the child is too costly? because the child has stopped making her happy? No? Then neither can we justify killing an unborn child for these same reasons.

Seidensticker is close to the deep end when he compares the pro-life position like arguing for Sharia Law. No one is forcing pregnancy on women; no one is advocating scientists to kidnap pregnant women and implant a human embryo in their wombs. But once a child has been conceived, the pro-life entails that the woman must remain pregnant because in order to become not pregnant again, she must kill an innocent human child, one who was placed there by her.

So Seidensticker's argument that we're forcing our view of the unborn child's being a human being on the rest of society is simply misguided. First, it's a testable scientific fact that the unborn are human beings from fertilization. Second, before 1973 in America the unborn child was considered a full human person protectable by the Fourteenth Amendment. It was, in fact, Justice Blackmun and the rest of the Supreme Court justices who voted in favor of Roe v. Wade who were pushing their own beliefs that disagreed with science on the rest of the nation, and we have over 50 million unborn American children dead because of it.

Argument #20: We may have aborted the cure for cancer.

I'll leave Seidensticker's obviously misguided understanding about Christianity alone (and the obviously incorrect assumption that only Christians are pro-life). This is just a bad argument (fallacious in itself) anyway, so I'm not interested in defending it. I'll let Seidensticker have this one.

So after examining these 20 "arguments," Seidensticker's responses were severely lacking. Most of the arguments succeed, some of these weren't actually arguments, and two or three are bad anyway so I didn't feel the need to defend them. As I have illustrated time and again, there are very compelling reasons to protect the unborn from abortion, and the arguments in support of abortion don't hold up. I think we've seen that many pro-life arguments withstand the scrutiny of pro-choice advocates.

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