– engaging mind & culture

2 Mistakes of Reasoning (How Not to Argue About Abortion)

Since posting the two previous posts regarding Obama and abortion I have received a couple responses from people in the pro-abortion camp. Their responses include a few things that ought to be addressed.  Before I proceed, however, I would like to clarify what the pro-abortion group should be called since many of them would prefer to be labeled “Pro-choice” as opposed to “Pro-abortion”. Labels can have a strong rhetorical influence and since I don’t want to use mere rhetoric to make a case, for clarity’s sake, I suggest we call the non-pro-lifers something like the Abortion-Choice-Coalition, or the ACC. This label would indicate the views of this group which are 1) abortion is not morally wrong, 2) the choice to abort is morally right 3) they are group unified in their disdain for pro-life advocates. The label Pro-choice, however, is too evasive for such a significant issue because it intentionally masks the horn of the problem- the killing of unborn human babies. If this new label will not suffice, then maybe we ough to simply maintain the pro/anti-abortion distinctions because that is what the debate is about.

Nomenclature aside, I thought that it would be helpful to write a post on how not to argue for abortion- in response to the emails I received. After reading through the responses I noticed that they each lacked a carefully reasoned argument. The responses were instead lengthy reactions full of rhetoric and emotive fallacies. 

In what follows I attempt to point out only two of the many mistakes the ACC make in their responses to pro-life arguments. For the pro-lifers reading this post, I encourage you to be aware that these mistakes are typical of the ACC and to be on the look out for them. Also, because a carefully reasoned scientific and philosophical defense of the pro-life position is available, I encourage you to resist fallacious argumentation in your defense of the truth- which rejects false ideas, contradictions, and relativism… problems which we are not immune from either. Ultimately, I encourage you to think clearly about reality as it is and communicate your claims with ethos, pathos, and logos!

So what are some mistakes of reasoning that the ACC typically fall into in their response to pro-life arguments?

Let’s take a look at two:

Mistake #1 Self-refuting confusion of objective claims v. subjective claims

Though not always explicit, the ACC usually suggests that the pro-life claims are subjective claims- merely opinions or private points of view. Of course we all have our opinions, but the important question is, “Is our opinon in accordance with reality and truth? This is an important question because some opinions are evil- and if evil opinions cause evil actions then those opinions are not worthy of adherence and should be refuted and rejected. You see, the pro-life advocate says that abortion is morally wrong(evil) because it takes the life of a defenseless child. We make a certain kind of claim- a moral claim about the objective rightness and wrongness of abortion. For the ACC to suggest that the pro-life position is merely a subjective opinion is nothing less than saying “well that’s just your view”- a statement which completely condescends the nature of the debate. 

Ethicist Scott Klusendorff writes:

Now it may be the case that pro-life advocates are mistaken about their claim. Perhaps their evidence that abortion unjustly takes the life of a defenseless child is weak and inconclusive. But instead of proving this with facts and arguments, abortion advocates often ignore the evidence altogether. “Well, that’s just your view.” This not only relativizes the pro-lifers claim, it is intellectually lazy. It attempts to dismiss evidence rather than refute it.

Any response that negates the objective nature of moral claims saying “well that’s your opinion” is in effect saying “Go away. You have your views and I have mine.” This is very condescending because it does not even entertain the possibility that the pro-lifers have good evidence for their claims.

The problem is that moral claims are different than subjective claims. They can be evaluated as true or false based on the evidence. They are claims to objectivity. Moral claims do not say, “I like this or that better”, they say, “this or that is right or wrong” Pro-life advocates claim that abortion is wrong because it takes the life of a defenseless child.  This is an objective claim that is either true or false. The ACC must therefore provide objective argument and evidence to support their views as true and refute ours as false.

Also, another typical response is something to the effect of… “you can’t force your morality on me.” This response is basically saying that morality is relative- that it is up to individuals to subjectively decide what is right or wrong for them. This is called moral relativism and it is the idea that there are no objective standards of right and wrong, only personal preferences. According to this view, it is required that we should be tolerant of other’s views as equal to our own because none is actually “true” independent of the individual.

There are many reason why relativism is false but primarily because it is self-refuting. Ethicist Scott Klusendorff after concluding a presentation on the pro-life position in a sociology class at USC was questioned by a student. Consider the following dialouge between Scott and that student which illustrates the self-refuting nature of relativism:

Student: You made some good points in your talk, but you shouldn’t force your morality on me or anyone else who wants an abortion. It’s our choice, isn’t it?
Scott: Are you saying I’m wrong?
Student: I’m not sure. What do you mean?
Scott: Well, you think I’m wrong, don’t you? If not, why are you correcting me? And if so, then you’re forcing your morality on me, aren’t you?
Student: No, I just want to know why you are telling people what they can and cannot do with their lives.
Scott: Are you saying I shouldn’t do that? That it’s wrong? If so, then why are you telling me what I can and cannot do? Why are you forcing your morality on me?
Student: (regrouping): I’m confused. Look, the simple fact is that pro-choicers are not forcing women to have abortions, but you want to force women to be mothers. If you don’t like abortion, don’t have one. But you shouldn’t force your beliefs on others. All I am saying is that pro-life people should be tolerant of other views.
Scott: Is that your view?
Student: Yes.
Scott: Why are you forcing it on me? That’s not very tolerant, is it?
Student: What do you mean? I think women should have a choice and you don’t. It’s your view that’s intolerant, wouldn’t you say?
Scott: Okay, so you think I’m wrong. What is it you want pro-lifers like me to do?
Student: You should let women decide for themselves and tolerate other views.
Scott: Tell me, what exactly do pro-choicers believe?
Student: We believe everyone should decide for themselves and tolerate other views.
Scott: So you are demanding that pro-lifers become pro-choicers.
Student: What?
Scott: With all due respect, here’s what I hear you saying. Unless I agree with you, you will not tolerate my view. Privately, you’ll let me think whatever I want, but you don’t want me to act as if my view is true. It seems you think tolerance is a virtue if and only if people agree with you.

The mentality of the student in this dialogue is typical of those aligned with the ACC. They often argue against pro-lifers as intolerant but in so doing promote a more patronizing form of intolerance themsleves.

This reminds me of a story I read. One day a man was driving along and was eventually tail-gated by another driver. The man had a pro-life sticker on his rear windshield. As the tailgater sped past the pro-life man the lady in the car gave him the middle finger and then cut in front of him. On that car’s rear bumper was a sticker that read “Celebrate Diversity.”  What the sticker meant however was, “I tolerate other people’s views if they agree with mine.”

Mistake #2 The Ad hominem fallacy (Attack the person rather than refute the argument)

One responder to my previous posts wrote:

“until you have the power to get pregnant and carry a child, even against your will, or until you tell me you are willing to adopt as many as it takes of the children you want to force  women to bring into the world against their will, then here is another subject that I will not sit back and read your words and not say “NO” I think you are off base… Put your money where you mouth is Rand. Get out there an adopt some unwanted kids. That will change the world a lot faster than sending emails out to people comparing Obama to Hitler because he wants to allow a woman her right to chose her path in life. Whatever her choice will be and whatever consequences there will be, will most certainly be dealt with in her Spiritual journey. A woman doesn’t need a man to dictate her judgement over this issue. And I don’t believe a man has any right to even attempt to dictate his judgment over this issue…I’d bet you big money that if we all woke up tomorrow and men were the ones that got pregnant, this issue would become very different. I’m sure you’ll get a big hooo haaa out of that statement. Good for me. “

This response contains a few ad hominem fallacies and it is this kind of rhetoric which is a typical example of an ACC attacking rather than cogently defending the abortion issue itself.

Regarding this fallacy Klusendorf writes:

Pro-lifers are often told that they are hypocritical to protest abortion unless they adopt babies they do not want aborted. For the moment, let’s assume there are not two milllion+ families willing to do this. How would the alleged reluctance of pro-lifer’s to adopt babies justify the act of abortion? While it is true that pro-life advocates should help those facing crisis pregnancies, it is not true that abortion is justified whenever that obligation is unmet.

Imagine a person arguing, unless you agree to marry my wife, you have no right to oppose me beating her. Or, Unless you are willing to adopt my two sons by noon today, I shall execute them. If you reject his ultimatum, is he morally justified performing acts of violence on innocent victims? Of Course not.

Sometimes people are attacked for their gender. Men are told, “You can’t get pregnant, so leave the abortion issue to women.” Besides its obvious sexism, the statement is seriously flawed for several reasons. First, many pro-life women use the same arguments offered by pro-life men, it behooves the abortion advocate to answer these arguments without fallaciously attacking a person’s gender. Second, to be consistent with their own reasoning, abortion advocates would have to concede that Roe v. Wade was a bad law- after all, it was decided by nine men. they must also call for the dismissal of all male lawyers working for Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, etc., on abortion related issues. Since abortion advocates are unwilling to do this, we can restate their argument as follows: “No man can speak on abortion-unless he agrees with us.” Once again, this is a classic case of intolerance. Third… post-menopausal women do not naturally get pregnant, must they be silent on the issue?

Again abortion advocates must offer facts and arguments in support of their position. Attacking people personally, even if those attacks are true, will not make their case or refute the pro-life case.

In closing I would like to remind the reader that unless the Abortion-Choice-Coalition can show that the unborn are not fully human then their case for abortion crumbles on all counts. To argue against pro-lifers by Ad hominem appeals or from the position of moral relativism are mistakes of reason. As I said in my previous posts- if the unborn is a human person then the typical justications for abortion are inadequate. Furthermore, if the unborn is a human person, then to abort it from the womb is murder- a moral evil being perpetrated thousands of times every day in America. Therefore, my comparison of Obama to Hitler is not out of court. Hitler advocated the destuction of certain human beings both inside and outside the womb who were not ontologically different than the human beings inside and partially outside the womb whom Obama supports the killing of.  I will likely spend some time in a future post articulating this comparison in more detail. However, for the time being, my point is this- that voting for a candidate (Obama) who supports abortion (a moral evil) is unacceptable for a morally informed human person.

In this post I have covered only two mistakes of many that are often made by the Abortion-Choice-Coalition. I hope this has been helpful in your search for Truth. Soli-Deo-Gloria



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3 responses to “2 Mistakes of Reasoning (How Not to Argue About Abortion)”

  1. Dear Rand,
    Thanks for focusing on the real issues of the abortion debate.

  2. Royal

    Your arguments were well played, but you must come up with a different acronym for the “pro-choice” advocates. The ACC is just not right, I am a sports fanatic and I will not be able to focus on the issue if you keep calling them the ACC. The ACC stands for the Atlantic Coast Conference a very good athletic conference in all college sports. Everytime I saw ACC I kept thinking of Duke, N. Carolina, N. Carolina St. etc. A new name please.

  3. Gary

    RIGHT ON!!!!!!!!!!
    Man, I love the points made and totally agree with arguements made. I am writng a paper for my english class on rhetoric abortion, and I’m pretty sure I wil be citing from this page.

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