Like what you read?

Official Comments Policy:

This is my blog and I reserve the right to delete any comments that don't abide by these rules and/or don't contribute to the overall intellectual atmosphere of the blog. I don't mind comments from people who disagree with me, as I am very much open to reconsidering or revising anything that I write.

1. No swearing or otherwise profane language.
2. No insults or otherwise abusive language, toward me or any other commenter.
3. No spamming or trolling.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

How Pro-Choice People Tend to Corrupt the Abortion Debate

The abortion debate certainly has a tendency to become emotional. There are many logical arguments used to argue for and against abortion, but these can be largely ignored in favor of appeals to emotion (such as trying to argue that pro-life people are trying to take away an important “choice” for women to make). Now, I’m certainly willing to talk to my own side and illustrate ways in which pro-life people make bad arguments in the hopes that they’ll make better ones (I credit my friend and pro-life mentor Josh Brahm for helping me see the value in treating both sides fairly, as well as my friend and pro-life philosopher, Steve Wagner, through my work with Justice for All).

In this article, I’d like to focus specifically on the pro-choice side, and illustrate three big (but subtle) ways in which they tend to corrupt the abortion debate. I call them subtle because I’m not even sure they’re aware that they’re actually doing some of these things.

Making a distinction between preborn life and postborn life.

This is one I see quite often. They’ll say something like “abortion should be legal because the rights of living, breathing women trump those of ‘potential life.’” But how do they define life? The problem here is that the unborn are just as alive as we are. They respond to stimuli, they grow through cellular reproduction, and they metabolize food for energy. The only things they need to thrive and survive are the same things we do: adequate nutrition, environment, and an absence of fatal threats. So the unborn are not “potential life.” They are actual life.

But perhaps they mean in a more philosophical sense, that the unborn aren’t morally relevant life? In that case, they would have no rights at all (so trying to compare rights that trump another’s rights is meaningless if you truly perceive that the unborn are not morally relevant human beings). Second, as I have just shown, the unborn are biologically alive, just as we are. Plus, they do breathe oxygen. As Scott Klusendorf mentions in his book The Case for Life, the method, not the fact, of breathing is what changes at birth. It’s like switching from AC to DC power once the child is born and begins breathing through his lungs. So saying that women differ from the unborn because they are “living and breathing” is simply biologically incorrect. Trying to make a distinction between preborn life and postborn life is simply a distinction without a difference.


I’ve written about this before. Both terms used for each side (pro-life and pro-choice) and bad terms to use and unfairly demonize people on the other side of the issue. However, I would argue that the term “choice” corrupts the debate in a way that the term “life” doesn’t.

The problem is that simply saying you support choice doesn’t tell us anything. Everyone supports choice. In order to realize whether or not we should support a choice in a given area we have to look at what that choice is. Simply saying that we have the choice does not automatically make the choice a moral one. So calling yourself pro-choice really begs the question because what the whole debate is about is whether or not the “choice” to abort is right or wrong. Besides that, women will always have the choice to abort, even if it becomes illegal. People have a choice right now to rape, murder, or steal, even though those choices are illegal.

Forcing women to “be” pregnant.

This is one I see all the time. Pro-choice people tend to argue that by making abortion illegal, we’re forcing women to be pregnant. That’s not exactly true. No one is forcing a woman to become pregnant. In the vast majority of pregnancies, the woman chose to engage in intercourse. No one made her pregnant, it was her choice to engage in an act intrinsically ordered toward procreation that resulted in her being pregnant.

However, what we are advocating would force her to remain pregnant once she is pregnant already. The reason for this is that there is an innocent human life at stake, one that is helpless and deserves our protection.

So pro-choice people try to turn pro-life people in monsters by claiming that we’re trying to force pregnancy on women, which is just an unfair characterization of what the pro-life position entails.

These are just a few ways in which pro-choice people tend to corrupt the debate. If we’re looking for open and honest dialogue, it would help if pro-choice people would keep these things in mind. And surely, there are things pro-life people do to corrupt the debate, as well. So don’t take my focusing on pro-choice people in this article as trying to single them out, or act like our side doesn’t make mistakes. I’m just trying to help to break through much of the confusion around this issue and help to keep clarity in our conversations.

The preceding article also appeared on the Secular Pro-Life blog.


  1. YOU SAID:
    However, what we are advocating would force her to remain pregnant once she is pregnant already. The reason for this is that there is an innocent human life at stake, one that is helpless and deserves our protection.

    BY forcing a woman to stay pregnant you possibly endanger her life, pregnancy can be life threatening, and can cause permanent damage or conditions even after birth, no woman should be forced to stay pregnant. Her life comes first, she is already born and is autonomous the unborn is not. I just don't understand why pro-life position does not understand that you cannot have both mother and unborn have the same exact rights, it is absurd and illogical to assign both the same rights.

    1. The problem is that you don't have a very good understanding of rights. No one has the right to anything at the expense of another human being's rights. If a woman has sex and conceives a child, she tacitly waives her right to bodily autonomy because she willingly engages in an act that creates a naturally needy child and places that child in a state of dependency upon her.

      Some pregnancies do become life-threatening, and then a woman may have the moral right to have an abortion. But she does not have the moral right to have an abortion in the off chance it may become life-threatening, just like a parent doesn't have the right to kill their toddler because letting the toddler grow up to be an adult may become life-threatening (children do occasionally grow up to kill their parents).

      In fact, all the way back in 1967, six years before Roe v. Wade, Dr. Alan Guttmacher wrote the following:

      “Today it is possible for almost any patient to be brought through pregnancy alive, unless she suffers from a fatal illness such as cancer or leukemia, and, if so, abortion would be unlikely to prolong, much less save, life.”
      --Alan F. Guttmacher, “Abortion–Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow,” The Case for Legalized Abortion Now (Berkeley, Calif.: Diablo Press, 1967).

  2. i'am a Christian woman and have prayed and thought out my position for a long time, and I just cannot give an embroyo the same rights as the woman, it is absurd, embroyo is not viable outside the body and is completely dependent on the mother. Also I hardly ever hear you speak about what happens to children that are born that are unwanted, and what kind of life they will have in the foster care system or who knows where. Their is very little support for unwanted children and or single mothers out there.

    1. You may have prayed about it, but you did not hear from God on the matter. This is the same God who say "you shall not murder" (Ex. 20:13), and that child sacrifice never even entered into his mind (Jer. 19:5). This is also the same God, in the person of Jesus Christ, who said "suffer not the little children to come to me, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these" (Matt. 19:14). Your views just do not square with the Christian God's view. They square more with the views of pagan gods like Baal and Molech.

      The reality is that wantedness or unwantedness does not determine our worth as human beings. So while many unwanted children *do* grow up in foster care, the reality is that there are more couples waiting to adopt than there are children to adopt because we are killing them through abortion. So in that sense there's no such thing as a wanted child. All children are wanted by someone. The solution is to foster a culture in which more parents want to keep their children, not a culture that kills children for the crime of being unwanted by their parents.