The abortion debate is typically a foggy slog through a swamp of euphemisms, insults, distractions, and just a lot of obscuring rhetoric. As a pro-lifer I typically hear one of these five rebuttals every time abortion comes up:
5 Rebuttals I hear in almost every Discussion About Abortion
- “No womb, no say” – I’m a man, so apparently, I’m not allowed to try to protect innocent children-in-utero or try to halt, what I believe, is the deadliest crime against humanity in world history.
- “Masturbation is murder” – Apparently haploid sperm cells are biologically equivalent to new human lives, i.e., diploid embryos. Never mind that no self-respecting biologist agrees with them on this.
- “No one knows when human life begins” – Apparently we’re not supposed to consult the scientific consensus on this, from the last 50 years or so, where embryologists, fetologists, and biologists have settled on the conception definition for the origin of human life.
- “What about rape and threats to the mother’s life?” – While these are legitimate “tough cases,” they would cover maybe 2-4% of abortions, yet apparently, they’re supposed to justify the other 96-98% of abortions too. BTW, most all pro-life bills allow exceptions for these cases, and these cases were grounds for legal abortion before Roe v. Wade anyway so they don’t really justify the current RvW-era policy.
- “My body, my right.” – Autonomy/bodily-sovereignty is the flagship of the pro-choice movement, yet it’s never been clearly or sufficiently demonstrated that autonomy entails a license to kill one’s own children-in-utero. Barring an overwhelming proof justifying this manner of fiat death-sentence, we cannot ethically support it. We shouldn’t pass death sentences when there’s reasonable doubt and there is a ton of reasonable doubt about whether abortion is ethically justified.
I’m not claiming to have “solved” all these pro-choice rebuttals, but they aren’t anything new either. And when they’re compared to the plain and apparent wrongness of deliberately killing innocent non-threatening humans we need a LOT better defense for abortion than is currently available. I’m sorry, the violinist argument, blood donation, and the burning lab experiment don’t cut it. As it stands, people who are humanitarian, socially-conscious, and fair-minded shouldn’t accept a liberal abortion-choice policy.
In many ways, these rebuttals (and others like them) create a thick fog hiding a deeper divide between the pro-choice and pro-life camps. Rarely do abortion debates dispell that cloud of rhetoric enough to finally see how our camps disagree at a more fundamental level. We are deeply divided over sexuality and womanhood.
Pro-choice Supports a Libertine Sexual Ethic, Pro-Life Doesn’t.
On on side of the divide are pro-lifers. Pro-lifers are typically social conservatives, prizing an ethic of responsible sexuality – modesty, chastity, and the sanctity of marriage. We know that people break these norms all the time, but we can show grace and lend a helping hand while a teen mom tries to regain her footing. And we still uphold these traditional family values because we see them as good for their own sake and they give us strong well-proven goals to aim for in guarding our hearts, strengthening families, stabilizing communities, and building the nation. Plus, we can hold to an ethic of sexual responsibility as we walk people through the healing process after a marital affair, a porn addiction, an unplanned pregnancy, or just experiencing a bad breakup. No sexual ethic, in this life, is going to be perfect. But we don’t need to detonate the bridge of responsible sexual ethics entirely, just because people swerve sometimes.
Pro-choicers, however, are typically social liberals. They tend to support libertine sexual ethics because they emphasize individual liberty via “bodily autonomy.” Abortion-choice is a natural outworking wherever bodily autonomy is prized higher than family.
The emphasis in libertine sexual ethics is on “choice” not “duty.” Instead of “sexual responsibility” the focus is on “sexual liberty.” Never mind that all liberty balances both choice and duty. So when sexual liberty is interpreted to mean choices and opportunities without any balancing responsibility, that’s not liberty anymore. That’s anarchy. In this way, abortion choice policy isn’t really about strengthening families, holding marriages together, or reassuring stronger safer homes for raising children. It’s about exercising individualistic liberty (i.e., self-interest, pleasure, and bodily autonomy).
In abortion-choice ideology, the ability to choose an abortion is seen as a victory, primarily, because it means women are claiming another right/privilege/power over their own body. It’s about individual empowerment. Even if different levels of society were better because of abortion (which is doubtful), that’s not the driving force behind abortion policy. Individual self-interest is the fulcrum on which abortion policy rises and falls. All those pro-choice eggs are in the bodily sovereignty basket. Libertine sexual ethics is virtually inseparable from abortion-choice ideology, and it’s practically unavoidable for abortion-choice policy.
But sexual ethics isn’t the only tectonic divide between the two camps. There might be an even deeper fissure separating abortion-choicers from anti-abortionists.
Pro-Life Treats Women as Equal, Pro-choice doesn’t.
Let’s start with a basic difference between men and women. Women’s unique ability for gestating young distinguishes them from men. Prochoicers, from what I can tell, think that’s a detriment, an inequality, so women need a surgical option (abortion) to be able to have parity with men.
Prolifers see pregnancy not as a detriment but a dignity, a unique ability for women that needs to be protected, and treated very carefully, so it doesn’t turn into a detriment. All our freedoms entail responsibilities. And that special and uniquely feminine ability to carry and birth children is a kind of freedom and with it comes responsibility.
But abortion choice policy focuses instead on the separability between the parent and the child. Just as men can walk away from a pregnancy, abandoning pregnant mothers with few legal constraints to rein them back in, so can women walk away from a pregnancy through abortion. But when the father abandons his pregnant mate, that’s a failing, an evil, a hole in our social and legal system. We shouldn’t try to “equalize” wrongs for both men and women, multiplying evils till they’re balanced between both sexes. We should try to eliminate the wrongs. If we have to multiply anything it should be goods, privileges, and benefits instead.
We shouldn’t treat child-abandonment like it’s some manly privilege that women should be able to do too if they are going to have equality with men. Neglecting one’s young should be eradicated not replicated. But with abortion-choice policy, it’s as if the option for child-abandonment were a social good that should be doled out equally between men and women. It’s not. Child neglect and abandonment is no better than abortion. And pro-life ideology isn’t just anti-abortion, it’s pro-life for mothers, children, and fathers alike. Children don’t just need their mothers, they need their fathers too.
We can Do better than Abortion
Clearly, I don’t think abortion serves the family very well. Abortion is to family as divorce is to marriage. Families and marriages can recover, but that break means aching hearts, broken trust, and weaker homes almost every time.
I know I’ve been shifting lanes pretty freely between “pro-family” and “pro-life.” Just to be clear, “pro-life” isn’t identical to pro-family but they are typically found together since pro-lifers recognize how important family is in providing a safe and secure place for raising those un-aborted children. Pro-choicers aren’t necessarily anti-family either. Their abortion-choice policy, however, tends to be about planned NON-parenthood, and abortion doesn’t offer any great incentive to settle down, get married, plan for a newborn, take on a second job or ask for raise, or to embrace the full responsibility of protecting and caring for the lives you create.
As for sexual ethics, sex is too powerful and too consequential to be unleashed in libertine sexual ethics. Sex is a great good, but so is fire. We do better to exercise responsibility, like a fire in a fireplace, instead of setting fields ablaze in a wildfire with libertine sexual practice.
Women are also equal to men. They don’t need a particular surgery or medical procedure to have equality. They are different from men, but still innately equal to men in dignity and worth. Pregnancy isn’t a disease. Children aren’t punishment. And womenhood is a great good in itself, with no need to adapt, adjust, or conform to stereotypically “masculine” approaches to love, sex, and relationships (i.e., casual sex, aloofness, aggression, child-abandonment, spreading seed, etc.).
Because women are naturally equal to men, and abortion-access isn’t necessary to achieve that equality, that means abortion is a fabricated privilege and not a natural (or constitutional) right. It doesn’t give women any more equality than they already had. Plus, abortion undercuts the dignity of motherhood. It does untold harm to family and parenthood. And in America, it has already claimed the lives of 10xs more human beings than the Holocaust. Abortion is easily the deadliest act of violence against humanity of all time.
We can do better than abortion, especially when abortion choice policy foists a chronic lie on women that they need access to an unnatural surgery so they can fabricate equality with men.