By: Hendrik van der Breggen
Below are some popular arguments for abortion choice followed by some pro-life replies. These pro-choice arguments are real (from a critic of one of my recent articles published here and here) and so are the replies (which I presented as responses).
I hope the interaction between this critic and me will encourage careful reasoning in Canada’s public discourse on abortion.
1. Pro-choice argument: Bodily autonomy alone is enough of a reason to keep abortion legal.
Pro-life reply: But there are two bodies.
2. Pro-choice argument: The fetus is a potential human being.
Pro-life reply: No, it’s not a potential human being. It’s a human being with potential. The fetus is a human being with the potential to become its subsequent developmental stages.
3. Pro-choice argument: A fetus is no more human than a cluster of skin cells is human.
Pro-life reply: Nope. A cluster of skin cells is a cluster of skin cells, not a human being. The cell at conception constitutes something different. It’s the first stage of a new individual human being (which later has skin cells). A fetus is a subsequent stage of the development of this human being. Other subsequent stages are baby, toddler, adolescent, teenager, adult. Biology—don’t they teach biology at school anymore?
4. Pro-choice argument: The fetus is a parasitic organism.
Pro-life reply: Nope. A parasite is an organism of a different species which invades the host. The fetus, on the other hand, is a new human being invited (created) by the host via having sex or IVF (in vitro fertilization).
5. Pro-choice argument: “I’m not saying the fetus is a true parasite, only that the nature of the relationship is parasitic…. Don’t be petty.”
Pro-life reply: But your parasite metaphor/analogy is problematic at the get-go. Why? Because the fetus and its relation to mother is by nature/biology NOT parasitic. (To point this out isn’t being “petty,” it’s being logical and evidence-based.)
6. Pro-choice argument: Consent to sex is not consent to pregnancy. Condoms break and pills fail, so the fetus’s creation is not always invited.
Pro-life reply: Not true. Consent to sex (whether condoms or other forms of contraception are used or not) involves consent to risking the outcome, which is to risk—and thereby invite—pregnancy. Saying no to or “disinviting” the deliberately risked outcome (we KNOW contraception isn’t 100% foolproof) is like gambling at Las Vegas and demanding one’s money back after losing it. Taking a risk entails taking responsibility for that risk.
7. Pro-choice argument: “a fetus that is not viable outside its mother’s womb is not human.”
Pro-life reply: This is simply false. Viability is a measure of whether an unborn child or fetus can survive outside the womb. In effect, viability is a measure of our medical/ technological sophistication to help the pre-natal child live if born prematurely. Viability is NOT a determinant of whether the fetus is human. Being human depends on whether a creature is an individual entity belonging to the biological species of human, which is what the fetus is, whether viable or not.
8. Pro-choice argument: A fetus “is a part of the mother.”
Pro-life reply: This is a popular and easy mistake to make, but it’s still a mistake. A fetus is CONNECTED to the mother, but not a proper part of the mother (like a piano is connected via straps to a mover’s truck but isn’t a part of the truck). To think the fetus is part of the mother leads logically to absurd/ contradictory results—e.g., a woman has eight arms and three penises if pregnant with male triplets—so is problematic. (For more on this topic, see here.)
Conclusion: Please think, for the sake of children.
For additional reading and study
Here are two short but deeply insightful books:
o Francis J. Beckwith, Abortion and the Sanctity of Human Life. (Beckwith has a helpful discussion of the notion of “person.” Christians might be particularly interested in chapter 7, “Christian Faith and Abortion.”)
o Gregory Koukl, Precious Unborn Human Persons. (Koukl has a helpful discussion on body and soul.)
o Sidney Callahan, “Abortion and the sexual agenda: A case for prolife feminism.”
o Robert P. George and Christopher Tollefsen, Embryo: A Defence of Human Life.
o Patrick Lee, Abortion and Unborn Human Life.
Past articles concerning abortion by the author:
o Apologia columns
For help with a crisis pregnancy, check online for a local Crisis Pregnancy Center.
Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is associate professor of philosophy at Providence University College, Otterburne, Manitoba, Canada. Hendrik’s teaching and research interests include philosophy of religion, philosophy of science, critical thinking/ logic, and ethics. Over the past nine years, Hendrik has written (and continues to write) the newspaper column “Apologia” in which he attempts to make philosophy accessible to the general reader. Past and current installments of “Apologia” are available at Hendrik’s blog. Links to Hendrik’s other articles can be found at his faculty profile page. The views expressed here or in his column/blog do not always reflect the views of Providence.