Pro-choice Arguments and Simple Refutations

A few quick notes:

I present here some of the stronger pro-choice arguments. The weak ones arent worthy, and it is not helpful to argue against weak arguments anyway. However, I cannot, without writing a book, present every nuance of every argument, and don’t pretend to do so here. Also, I do not intend here to present complete refutations of the arguments. Here, I present some decent attempts of the pro-choice crowd to support their position and skeleton answers (or questions, etc) to these attempts. Therefore, if you feel I don’t present the argument completely or refute it completely, you may be correct. I’ll be glad to address these and others in more depth in another forum or in another post here. In fact, likely I will write more on each of those presented below. Certainly, at some point, an entire blog on each argument will be necessary.


Pregnancy is explicitly a condition associated with women, and so policies about abortion affect women uniquely.


(uniquely? Perhaps. But even so, how does uniqueness transfer to authority to decide? And is it really a condition “explicitly” associated with women? Hardly, for when Christy became pregnant with Andrew, I became a father at exactly the same moment as she. In fact, my father became a grandfather at that moment, and my daughter Ava became a sister. It hardly seems that my wife’s state of pregnancy was “explicitly” associated with her)


In short, the value that women ascribe to individual fetuses varies dramatically from case to case, and may well change over the course of any particular pregnancy.


(ok. And why does the value ascribed to a fetus by a particular woman have an objective say in the reality of the value of that fetus? No reason is given for this leap from subjective value to objective value)


According to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), neglecting to provide health services that only women need is a form of discrimination against women.


a number of philosophers have argued that banning abortion selects women for forms of service that are not required of others. . .


(of course this seems to forget that it is females who are far and away the ones selected “for a form of service,” that is, being aborted, that is much less required of others, i.e., males)


Siegel argues that restrictions on abortion offend U.S. constitutional guarantees of equal protection because they inflict status-based injuries on women, such as compromising their opportunities for education and employment. . . . Given existing systems of social arrangements, gender equality is impossible without abortion rights.


(well, all kinds of “equalities” can be said to be associated with “rights to kill another.” After all, If I have 5 children and my neighbor has none, we both make the same salary, but he can afford a mid-life crisis car and I cannot, it seems that there is a missing “equality of opportunities” based on my having to feed my kids and he having no kids to feed. No one would say I have the right to cut off support to my children to have an “equal opportunity)


Because unwanted children often suffer neglect and feel unloved, it would be better to spare them that pain by ending their lives through abortion. In the words of Margaret Sanger, “The first right of every child is to be wanted, to be desired, to be planned with an intensity of love that gives it its title to being.”


(the first right of a child is to be wanted? Fine, then “want them.” Killing them is NOT the only option, as this argument tries to assume)


The only life in an embryo is the woman’s life within it. Until it can live a separate life,  it is not a separate life.


(the only life of those on welfare is the life of the state and of the taxpayers on which it feeds. Until they can live separate lives, off of the umbilical cord of the U.S. Taxpayer, they are not real separate lives; separate persons. Can we really justify such an absurd claim?)


…to prevent the threat of overpopulation. In a utilitarian spirit, abortion is defended by saying that we need to consider the greatest happiness of the greatest number of people,


(ignoring the absurdity of the overpopulation argument, why don’t those who are so opposed to overpopulation volunteer themselves? I have never heard of an “overpopulation theorist” committing suicide; they always are fine to volunteer others.)


The Not-a-Person Argument


…what is morally significant for the wrongness of killing is the question of personhood, whether or not the being that is killed is a person. It claims that the fetus is not a real person, but only a biological organism (like bacteria),  …merely a potential person.


Continuing with Susan Sherwin, the reason a fetus has no absolute value is that it is not a person. Fetuses are not persons because they have not yet developed sufficiently to be capable of social relationships with others, and their entire existence is defined in terms of their relationship to the woman in whom they exist.


(that being the case,  liberals, especially those on welfare, are “defined” in terms of their dependency on government, which, of course, therefore gets to decide if they get to continue to exist, a la Margaret Sanger)


…has no desire to continue existing. It cannot communicate intentionally by talking or any other means. Therefore it does not have the right to life proper to the being of a person.


(how dare we offer suicide prevention, since the suicidal likewise has “no desire to live” and in fact affirms the opposite desire. Again, if overpopulation is a concern, let the volunteers go first, right?)


Michael Tooley states “The fact that an entity will, if not destroyed, come to have properties that would give it a right to life does not in itself make it seriously wrong to destroy it.”


And in defense of infanticide, he states “In the first place, the behavior of newborn humans provides no ground for attributing higher mental capacities to them. In particular, it provides no reason at all for believing that newborn humans possess a capacity for thought, or for self-consciousness, or for rational deliberation. All the behavioural evidence indicates that such capacities emerge only later in the individual’s development.”


…the fact that a being has a capacity to do person-like things in the future does not grant it the moral standing to be treated as a person now.



there are also theories that make being a person relative to social acceptance… Personhood is a concept that is incapable of empirical proof. It is not a biological judgment. It is a value judgment our society makes about a being. When we say a being is a person, we are saying it is a being like us, deserving of the rights, privileges, and respect to which we are entitled as members of the human community.


It is when she treats the biological reality within her as a Thou, that it becomes a Thou rather than an It. And it is when she treats it as a Thou, that society also has an obligation to treat it as a Thou.


(funny if this is about “women’s equality” that women get to decide when a person is a person, but men do not. For instance, the father of the unborn is not even argued by most pro-choice advocates to be equally able to decide if the unborn is a child. In fact, when, for example, Scott Peterson murders his pregnant wife, he is [rightfully] charged with two counts, not one, of homicide)




The medical student cannot legally practice medicine; being a potential doctor is not enough. Just as the medical student lacks the right to practice medicine, the fetus as a potential person lacks the moral right to life of an actual person.

(once again a complete failure to see a difference in something someone DOES and something someone IS. Perhaps our culture asks to often what someone IS expecting a description of their day job, but when did we decide that a persons occupation was what a person IS?)


No-Duty-to-Sustain Argument


I have a right to reproductive freedom, to decide whether or not, or when, to become a mother. I may even grant that the fetus is or might be a person, a small child. But if there is a child in my body and I do not want him there I have the right to remove him.


(A similar argument to the “famous violinist” argument offered below is that of a thief hoping through your window, and one’s obligation to let him stay. It is often portrayed as an example of what happens in rape. However, it is clearly false. Instead, lets assume a thief, or whomever, breaks into your house and drops off a baby. Thief equal bad person; granted. Does anyone think that the homeowner whose house was broken into is entitled to kill the baby? Or even set the baby out on the front porch since it is not theirs? Perhaps some do think this is ok, and agree that there should be no “Good Samaritan law.” But it is still proven to be erroneous to equate the baby in the womb with the thief that broke into a house. It is obviously rather the thief who has left the house and a different person altogether that remains. The logic is simply faulty. Therefore, stating, even in cases of rape, that “if there is a child in my body and I do not want him there I have the right to remove him” is far from being an obvious truth)


Abortion is thus seen as essentially the exercise of the right of the pregnant woman to withdraw her support for the child, a support that the child is not entitled to.


You wake up one morning and find that another person, a famous violinist, is “plugged into” you so that he can stay alive. You are attached to him, thereby sustaining his life. You did not agree to this; it was forced on you. But if you unplug yourself from him, he will die. It would not be proper to argue, Thomson says, in the following way: “All persons have a right to life, this violinist is a person, therefore he has a right to life, and so you may not detach yourself from him.” On the contrary, you have no duty to sustain him, and therefore you may detach yourself from him. You have the right to do this, even though you foresee that the violinist will die as a result. This follows from the fact that the violinist has no right to be sustained by you. A pregnant woman is in essentially the same situation;


(wrong. The violinist could be removed, perhaps, but the baby is never simply removed. It is killed. There is a huge difference between cutting off sustainment from the violinist and shooting the violinist in the head)



Method Arguments


In short, the evidence indicates that fetuses do not feel pain until after the start of the third trimester—and even that evidence remains uncertain because it’s impossible to know for sure that fetuses consciously experience pain in the same way that a person does.


(First, an obvious fallacy is made here. It assumes what it tries to prove: this argument takes for granted that person and fetus are different, which is not established within the argument. The argument states that one cannot know if fetuses experience differs from persons, implying without proving it that fetuses aren’t persons. Its as if I said that evidence is not clear on whether blacks experience pain in the same way that humans do


We can add to this that no one knows if ANYONE else experiences things the same. Am I tougher than my neighbor, or do I simply feel less pain when exposed to the same trauma? Who knows? When I see green object, and you also call it green, do we actually see the same color? Who knows? But this cannot be used to decide that, since there exists doubt, we may see others as less worthy of life.)

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