Guest post by Tristan Vick
I’ve always been somewhat of a pedant when it comes to terminology. Personally, I just think it’s better to know what you’re talking about when you’re pontificating on some cultural or social subject rather than, say, not knowing anything but thinking you’re the bee’s knees simply for having an opinion. I may not be a narcissist, but I certainly am a stickler for using correct terminology.
Often in the pro-life vs. pro-choice abortion debate, the pro-life side will make the hyperbolic claim that “abortion is murder!”
They also like to imply if you support abortion that you are in support of murder. They don’t seem to realize that the pro-choice side isn’t pro-baby killing. We don’t want unnecessary abortions either. But when it comes to the abortion debate, we pro-choicers have understood the fine nuances of the pro-life proposition which they clearly have failed to properly consider.
That’s what I want to examine today. All the nuances that the pro-life side has utterly, and completely, failed to properly consider let alone adequately address. So without further ado, let’s get this show on the road.
PART 1: The LEGAL TROUBLE with the Pro-life Stance
Of course, the short answer is, no, abortion is not murder. In most cases it’s a legal medical procedure. A necessary one even.
In my experience, what the pro-life side is attempting to say, rather poorly, is that they think abortion should be classified as murder.
But this is where things get tricky. Because murder is specifically a legal term with very specific meanings under very well-defined contexts. In fact, the law distinguishes between 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree murder, understanding there is a scale to consider. Where premeditated murder, manslaughter, and involuntary / accidental manslaughter differentiate is no trivial matter. The law recognizes, rightly so, that there are different forms of taking a human life, and not all of them are equal in terms of culpability or even in punishment.
This is common sense to us, since we all know that a drunk driver accidentally running over some school children crossing the street is different from honestly not seeing a child jump into the street chasing a ball before it’s too late which is even more different still from raging out and mowing down a bunch of children crossing the street in your car.
These are different forms of killing. With different factors that apply. And the law must consider each and every one of the variables at play in order to be unbiased, just, and true. A law that doesn’t do this, well, wouldn’t be a very good law, I think you’ll find.
And that’s why I find is problematic when pro-life people claim “abortion is murder.”
What kind of murder would you like it to be? Just murder isn’t a thing. Not in the eyes of the law. So pro-life supporters have to be more specific.
Although they seem to suggest they want abortion to be classified as a form of murder, I’ve never seen any logical, moral, or philosophical arguments given to make that case. It seems most of the time it is used as a shock-tactic. A bit of hyperbole. It fits with the right wing narrative that demonizes all abortion as evil and equates it with the most heinous crime imaginable, taking another human beings life against their will.
But then, here we have a new problem. If you want to provide legal protections to an unborn fetus, in the same way you provide legal protection to an autonomous adult, you’d have to show their free will has been violated, and then, as you can imagine, this implies you must first prove an unborn fetus has a free will to be violated in the first place. Not an easy task, I can assure you.
You see, as with those who claim abortion is murder, they seem to be confusing legal rights of an autonomous individual with the rights of an unborn fetus, not yet a fully actualized individual, and are making the incorrect assumption that the fetus’s rights deserve broader legal protection, even at the sake of the mother’s rights being restricted.
However, this is problematic for several reasons.
First, in law there is no legal precedent for this strange usurping of an adult’s rights by an unborn fetuses rights since children’s rights are, and always have been, limited by the law until they become legal adults.
At most, a fetus could be granted the same rights as a child, but not being an individual where free will is recognizable, not even being born for that matter, seems to set strict parameters on what kind of rights that unborn fetus could have in a state of law. After all, in order to make a claim that their rights have been violated, they need to face their accuser in a court of law, and this can’t happen. Which is why in pro-life happy states the trick is always to grant the State the right to make the claim on behalf of the unborn fetus.
But this raises ethical concerns on the treatment of women, and by extension their unborn offspring.
For example, in El Salvador, women are frequently jailed for having miscarriages. Because, in their case, powers outside themselves control them through laws and regulations, deciding on behalf of the fetus, what the mother – viewed a property of the state – should be dictated.
Saying that others should make legal claims on behalf of the unborn fetus opens a whole can of worms that have proved to dangerously restrict, even endanger, the well-being of women. In a free and civilized democracy like America, arguing for such restrictions is Draconian.
Yet since 2005, there have been more than 380 cases in the U.S. alone – the so-called land of the free – where pregnant women have been jailed, arrested, and / or tried for crimes against their unborn fetuses.
Being charged for criminal conduct and jailed for a natural miscarriage is like having your house knocked down in an earthquake and being arrested and imprisoned for the destruction of private property. It’s beyond the pale, goes against all reason and common sense, yet there are policies in place which carry out these absurd and inconceivable policies gleefully and without question.
Where a fetus’s rights are has not been clearly defined, such policies always devolve into a legal mess, and the only people who suffer for it are the mothers – the women – whose rights the law conveniently forgets about the moment anti-abortion legislation enters the equation.
Even if you are pro-life, this should force you to give some serious pause and consideration.
And from a theory of law standpoint, this is a very slippery slope. A very slippery slope indeed.
Even though we can all probably agree that a lot more work needs to be done in this area, the clear fact of the matter is, you cannot expect a fetus’s legal rights to outstrip the mother’s when those rights, in point of fact, have not been clearly or concisely defined.
In fact, we probably shouldn’t expect an unborn fetus’s rights to even be comparable to a child’s, but, perhaps, that is a debate is better left up to the legal experts.
My point in all this is essentially this: this legal problem of defining the unborn fetus’s legal standing within society has NEVER been fully or adequately addressed by the pro-life side.
The best they have come up with is to make the woman into property, give the state control over her body and reproductive choices, and punish the mother – because all she is, is chattel after all – when she fails to abide by the reproductive guidelines forced upon her and which do not consider her best interests as a mother or human being.
It’s draconian in the worst sense of the word, I think you’ll find. Yet this is essentially what pro-life proponents call for when they claim “abortion is murder.”So, to make a long question short. Is abortion murder? Not in the legal sense. No. Thank goodness.
But this is only the first trouble area. There’s more to it. So please bear with me as I detail exactly why the pro-life position isn’t a valid position and why it’s so maladroit as a social and political stance with regard to abortion.
PART 2: The MORAL TROUBLE with Pro-Life Stance
The greater problem with the pro-life argument lies not on the legal side of things, but the moral and philosophical side of things.
You may have often heard it said that “abortion is evil.”
Whereas “abortion is murder” is a very specific legal claim, saying that “abortion is evil” is a very specific moral claim.
The way the pro-life side deals with this is to say that life begins at conception, with the added caveat that life is sacred — well, human life, to be specific.
Then there is the other problem of defining life.
Science says one thing. Pro-lifers say another.
Science says biological life has stages.
Science says it takes 2 weeks for fertilization.
This is where pro-lifers say conception begins – but the problem is, the fertilized egg hasn’t even attached to the uterus yet. It is also where most spontaneous abortions occur. 20 out of 100 women in America alone will have a spontaneous abortion / miscarriage before the age of 40.
That’s nearly a quarter of the female populate having to suffer a miscarriage through no fault of their own. This raises the peculiar question of whether or not defining life in this way would hold Mother Nature legally accountable for abortions where anti-abortion laws take effect. It also raises theological problems for right-wing believers who claim to use God as their moral guide, when believing in an all-loving, all-powerful, Supreme Being – since an all-knowing, all-loving, all-powerful God would share culpability in NOT preventing the fertilized eggs abortion when they could have. It would be like a doctor refusing to save a patient when they had all the power to do so. It’s inconceivable, and it suggests that God is either malevolent, i.e. completely evil, or else entirely impotent.
As to be expected though, the pro-life side chooses to ignore these unfavorable consequences and go straight for the throat of people’s moral consciences by claiming killing a hapless child is evil! Well, it’s not even a potential child yet, since the not-even-baby will likely self-abort anyway. And this scientific fact show that defining life as beginning at conception isn’t only problematic, but entirely nonsensical.
Why nonsensical? Because…
Science says it takes 3 weeks for implantation.
Still, not yet a human embryo even. So we have only a potential for human life. A potential is not a certainty. It is a possibility. Which is why defining it as a life is problematic. It’s like me saying that I might possibly go to the gym today, and you saying I’ve already went to the gym today. That doesn’t actually make any sense. And so it doesn’t make any sense to say this fertilized egg which has the potential to become a human fetus is already a human fetus.
The pro-life claim that life begins at conception is simply nonsensical for the above reasons.
But if that wasn’t enough to convince you…
Science says it takes at least 4 weeks for the embryo to officially form.
Now the potential is maximized, since an embryo can turn into a fetus. But the problem is, to come back to this issue, miscarriages. The majority of miscarriages occur within the first 20 weeks of embryonic development. So, even though we have an embryo, unlike Katniss from the Hunger Games, the chances are not in its favor. There is still the 20 in 100 chance that it will spontaneous self-destruct.
If new cars driven off the dealers lot self-destruct 20 out of 100 times, would you feel safe driving a new car off the lot? Probably not. You’d want better security than that. Which is why there are strict manufacturing and safety guidelines for the automotive industry. Yet Mother Nature is much more sloppy, a lot less predictable, and so trying to stronghold mother nature and force it to fit a definition is the wrong way to go about it. What we must do is be mindful that things are never so clear cut and dry. Not where Mother Mature is concerned. Which means are definitions of life have to, at the very least, take this fact into account? The pro-life definition of life does not.
Some pro-life sites, like Abort 73.com, although cataloging many useful abortion statistics, make suspicious claims like “Growth in the womb is a rapid process, all systems are in place by week 8.”
Although this notion that “all systems are in place by week 8” is not entirely accurate. In fact, it’s a half-truth slanted to make the pro-life position seem more scientific than it really is, and by extension more reasonable than it is too.
Thankfully, the science it quite clear on the matter.
By week 8 the human nervous system is only beginning to develop. The neural pathways haven’t even been developed yet, so there’s still no “feeling any pain” since the fetus isn’t well-developed enough to even process pain. This is about the time breathing tubes develop from the throat to the lungs, and the fetus is roughly the size of a kidney bean.
According to Guttmacher Institute, the primary source for all abortion research and policy analysis, it is reported that two-thirds of abortions occur at approximately eight weeks of pregnancy or earlier. This is long before the baby is an actual fully functioning organism. In fact, the tiny kidney bean doesn’t even feel any pain!
Which begs the question, why would anyone give a not yet developed, non-functioning, kidney bean the same legal rights as a well-developed, fully-functioning, form of the fully formed organism?
Please, don’t mistake my question as being callous. Calling a fetus at 8 weeks a kidney bean is probably more accurate than calling it a human baby. We know human babies breath and feel pain. Human kidney beans do not, or in this case, embryo’s only 8 weeks into its fetal development.
And it’s not like we’ve stripped a kidney bean of its individual rights. First of all, it’s not yet an individual anything. It cannot feel. It cannot think. It is a collection of cells still undergoing development. It’s a potential human being, but not yet anything. This is a distinction many pro-lifers seem to deliberately choose to ignore. By ignoring this point of contention, they can state that abortion is evil because it is taking a human life. But that’s simply not the case. The science doesn’t support their view, because the pro-life view ignores the science.
No less important is the fact that we are not talking about a handicapped individual here. We aren’t stripping somethings rights away which already had rights. We are talking about a stage of development. A stage of development where if the fetus doesn’t go beyond this particular stage it doesn’t becoming anything at all.
Re-read that last sentence again and let that sink in.
And that, basically, is what pro-life supporters want to give full legal rights to. A potential something, but not yet anything, maybe lifeform. Perhaps worse than this is the fact that they want to allow this not yet anything, maybe lifeform to supersede the rights of its host mother. And mothers, as we all know, do have rights.
This kind of reasoning is so muddled, so convoluted, that the best we can do is to say, sorry, but your position is unreasonable and trespasses on the absurd.
But many pro-lifers have bought into the abortions is murder / abortion is evil propaganda hook, line, and sinker. They believe, for whatever reason, that those alarmist anti-abortion videos of doctors ripping out baby fetuses from bloody vaginas with metal tongs, then chopping them up on a silver platter and throwing them into dumpsters is, somehow, an accurate reflection of real life abortion.
It’s pure propaganda. A fiction meant to scare people into thinking abortion is a vile practice that only immoral barbarians would carry out rather than what it really is – a live saving medical procedure carried out by medical professionals in hospitals.
Besides this, in most cases, and abortion requires merely taking a pill before the end of the first trimester. No drama required.
As it turns out, those third trimester abortions you see in videos taken in Mexico, or some such place, are the rarest of the rare.
The Guttmacher Institute states that third trimester abortions are less than 1.3% of the entire populace and are reserved for extremely rare medical conditions where there will be serious complications to the mother, fetus, or both.
And if you don’t think there are valid medical reasons for late-term abortions, chances are you’ve never heard of anencephaly.
Yeah. Anencephaly. Look it up.
At the same time, the Guttmacher Institute reminds us that 91% of all abortions happen in the first trimester, before 11th week of pregnancy, more than 65% occurring before the 8th week of pregnancy. Remember, that’s the time where we have the unfeeling kidney bean not yet anything maybe embryo.
And let’s not forget that spontaneous abortions/miscarriages occur all the way through the 20th week of pregnancy regardless. And that’s the cold hard reality of it.
As for those alarmist videos, they are just that, alarmist propaganda. And that wouldn’t be so bad if such propaganda only duped fools into believing it, but as it happens it can dupe otherwise reasonable people into believing it as well. And that’s dangerous, I think you’ll agree. Dangerous for the very reason that it weaponizes our ignorance and then seeks to use it against us.
When all is said and done, the facts are the facts and are readily available for anyone who wants to educate themselves on the truth of the matter. And the fact remains, second and third trimester abortions are extremely rare. Extremely and rare being the key words here.
So setting an arbitrary definition for the definition of “life” — one which conveniently aligns precisely with their pre-selected worldview, but which seems to habitually butt heads with the science — is all the pro-life side has to offer us. And I think you’ll agree, that’s simply not good enough to convince anyone that abortion ought to be considered murder or that it’s inherently evil. This is a black and white, overly simplistic view that doesn’t understand the first thing about the complexities and nuances involved in addressing the major ethical concerns permeating this debate.
So we’ve learned two things so far.
- The pro-life side’s legal claim of unborn fetuses having rights is nowhere in evidence and needs to be developed into a viable argument before being put into law.
As it is, the pro-life side has offered a non-starter. It’s a poorly thought out position based on political biases and emotional prejudices. It hasn’t considered any of the relevant material, which is why it relies on emotional pleas and alarmist tactics while vilifying the other side’s position, offering only propaganda instead of facts, to try and persuade others of the worthiness of their cause. It’s an ill-informed opinion masquerading as fact. And it’s dangerous.
- The pro-life definition of “life” is deeply flawed if not completely nonsensical.
Furthermore, it conflicts with what the science shows to be fact. At the same time the definition being offered deliberately ignores competing definitions and attempts to overrule them by making moral platitudes designed to manipulate people’s emotions into giving up these other well-defined definitions for vague, an nebulous ones which only seek to sow further confusion rather than bring any clarity to the issues at hand.
These are not trivial concerns, mind you. These are serious objections to the pro-life position. Damning, you might even say.
The entire pro-life side of the debate must first overcome these major obstacles and objections in order to become a viable argument. Only once it has been formalized as a real argument can it be worthy of consideration and debate.
Right now, all they have is an opinion. And it is on this lofty opinion that so much anti-abortion legislature hangs. Which is quite frightening to anyone with half a brain. I don’t say this to be divisive. What is shows is that pro-life supporters simply haven’t thought through the issues, have no solutions for the problems, yet want their position to carry the same moral weight. It doesn’t.
On the other hand, the pro-choice side succinctly avoids these same pitfalls and therefore is the sturdier position. It does this because it is offered, not as a fully independent argument, but as a contra-argument to what the pro-choice side offers, or in this case, fails to offer. The pro-choice side, by design, sides with reasonable and just policies based on our current scientific, legal, and moral understanding of what abortion really is. A valid medical procedure. As such, it’s not pushing an agenda in the same way the pro-life side is clearly pushing an agenda. It’s a counter-offer to that agenda, which says that you cannot arbitrarily strip a woman of her civil liberties simply because you have arbitrarily selected and random definition of “life” which you wish to impose on everyone else regardless of the consequences. Hence the pro-choice stance can be viewed as a push-back against the inherent illogicality of the pro-life stance.
PART 3: The PHILOSOPHICAL TROUBLE with the Pro-Life Stance
The pro-life position is plagued with legal problems as well as moral problems. But it is also riddles with practical philosophical problems. That’s just a fancy way of saying, if you were to give it a deeper consideration, the pro-life position is philosophically unsound.
There are two distinct philosophical failings of the pro-life side of the debate.
The first is how one gives autonomy to individual with no identity.
The second problem arises when you give the right to autonomy to two individuals inhabiting the same body and place their identities in opposition thus into conflict.
First, for the sake of argument, let’s concede to the argument and agree that life begins at conception.
We can grant pro-life proponents this much, because even if this is the definition we are using, the bigger moral problems are yet to come. In fact, you might even say the pro-life side still has all their work ahead of them.
In order to explain the problem, I first have to make everyone aware of a philosophical riddle that has baffled philosophers for centuries.
It’s called The Ship of Theseus paradox.
Now, the paradox has been discussed by ancient philosophers such as Heraclitus and Plato, and more recently by heavy weight thinkers like Thomas Hobbes and John Locke. The paradox, according to the Greek historian Plutarch, is as such:
The ship wherein Theseus and the youth of Athens returned from Crete had thirty oars, and was preserved by the Athenians down even to the time of Demetrius Phalereus, for they took away the old planks as they decayed, putting in new and stronger timber in their places, in so much that this ship became a standing example among the philosophers, for the logical question of things that grow; one side holding that the ship remained the same, and the other contending that it was not the same.
— Plutarch, Theseus
Essentially, the problem asks you to imagine Theseus’s ship. It is uncovered by modern archeologists on some Grecian beach. Unearthing it, they take the ship to a museum and, low and behold, discover some of the ship’s wood planks have rotted away. Subsequently, they replace those planks.
Now, here’s where the philosophical paradox comes into play. After a few years of sitting in the old museum, a few more of the ships planks rot away. Those too get replaced. Another few years crawls by, and another couple of planks get replaced. This continues on for many years until, finally, we come to the last original plank. It too has rotted beyond repair, and therefore gets replaced.
The paradox asks us, at what instant did Theseus’s ship change from one thing to another?
Some would say that it stopped being Theseus’s ship after 50% of the planks were replaced. Others would say it was still Theseus’s ship right up till the last plank was replaced. After that, no longer. But others would argue that it was still Theseus’s original ship even after all the planks were replaced because some of those new planks had been a part of the original at one time and thus carried with them the essence of Theseus’s ship.
Now, there’s not need to wrack your brain. There’s no actual solution to the riddle.
What the paradox is designed to show us is that things have recognizable forms, but these forms change. Because of this changing forms, whether the original or a facsimile, a thing has a kind of identity unto itself whereby we recognize its form as either Theseus’s ship or not Theseus’s ship.
The reason this becomes important in the abortion debate is this. When you define life as beginning at conception, you still haven’t identified when the life is a person. The essence of being a person is quite different from simply being a living thing. Single celled amoebas are living. Nobody rights laws protecting them. A multi-celled bacteria is a living thing. But we recognize it as either a bacteria or not a bacteria. But when you have a human embryo, we know it is a human embryo because it’s not a full-grown child. And then, we know and fetus is not an embryo.
So the problem with defining life at conception is that you’re trying to define one thing as another thing. You’re trying to define the single-celled amoeba as a multi-cellular bacterium, and as we all know – this isn’t possible. It’s nonsense. A thing is a thing is a thing. And that thing cannot be some other thing… until… well, it is. And that’s the Theseus Ship paradox in a nutshell. Or should I say bottle?
Simply put, to say life begins at conception and then giving that embryo legal rights would mean ONLY that embryo has legal rights. Not the fetus. You would have to write a separate law to say that the fetus has legal rights, apart from the embryo, if that’s what you want to say. And, to compound matters, you’d have to write yet one more set of laws to distinguish the rights of a fully living child apart from both a fetus and an embryo.
And this is a basic philosophical consideration which one would need to take into account before writing laws, since something as complex as biology involves changing forms.
Yet the pro-life side would rather not think about it in this detail. Again, probably because they aren’t offering a formal argument for their position. They aren’t offering reasons. They are offering mere opinions and then telling you, often times quite passionately, how they feel about their own opinions.
Well, I hate to be the barer of bad news, but an opinion doesn’t make a valid argument.
Of course, you will recall I mentioned there were two parts to the identity problem.
The second part is more subtle, but also that much more damaging to the pro-life stance.
Even if we grant the pro-life definition of life, and even if we grant them that an unborn fetus is entitled to certain legal protections, what they seems to be forgetting in all of this is… the MOTHER.
As an already fully actualized, autonomous, individual she has legal rights. Thus had legal standing in cases brought against her by her unborn fetus. Which is technically impossible, which, inevitably, explains why pro-lifers always argue for legal involvement in such cases when erecting anti-abortion policies. They NEED to control the mother’s rights, because what they are doing, in this case, is putting the mother’s rights in opposition to the unborn fetus’s rights.
This creates a big moral problem. Because the only way to resolve this issue, in a court of law, is to demote a woman to the status of property.
In the case of abortion, what the pro-life side is seeking to do is say that the unborn fetus resides inside the host mothers, as a tenant resides inside an apartment building, and that the mother cannot unlawfully evict the fetus because the fetus has every right to live there – and has nowhere else to go.
The problem isn’t that a fetus cannot pay its rent, but that the mother has been made into property in order to imbue the unborn fetus with the same legal rights and standing as the woman mother.
I’m sure you can see how making a person into property is not only ill advised but, all things considered, completely amoral. Yet, this is what has to happen when you place an unborn fetus’s legal standing on par with its autonomous mother’s. A conflict of identity which pits individuals against each other in both legal and moral terms – which is a huge philosophical problem.
And, no, saying “life begins at conception” does not solve this problem. It only exasperates it. It presupposes all life is sacred, but for mysterious reasons that aren’t justifiable and only muck up the discussion with unnecessary metaphysical considerations that have no place in the discussion.
Saying abortion equates to the same thing as murder simply isn’t true. It’s not even a logical consequence of “life beginning at conception” because the law does not automatically imbue all forms of life with equal rights, let alone state that preventing a thing from gaining a life is the same thing as taking it. Another reason saying that “abortion is murder” is simply incorrect.
And, finally, stating rather matter-of-fact like that “abortion is evil” is simply a failure of moral reasoning of the highest order. Quite frankly, it is the embarrassing admission that you’re not yet ready to have a sophisticated discussion on the finer, highly complex, aspects of human rights and ethics. It is the happy display of one’s failure to reason through the issues well – and it’s not deserving of any special kind of consideration – at least not until a better argument is made.
The bottom line is this. Right out of the gate the pro-life stance is indefensible. Consequently, it fails to meet the challenge of justifying itself and making a valid case on numerous fronts, including the legal, moral, and the philosophical.
Worse than this stupendous failure, however, is that the pro-life position seeks to jeopardize a mother’s rights, a woman’s civil rights, and places her at the mercy of policy makers who haven’t the first clue as how to address the complicated bio-ethical concerns something like human biology and abortion raise. Meanwhile, the pro-life side continues to defer all responsibility of a rigorous examination of the relevant concerns and continues to deride the pro-choice side and offer only the wailing lamentation that “abortion is murder” and, in their mind, “abortion is evil” even though these claims are nowhere in evidence and are often found to be in opposition of the truth.
Needless to say, a lot of work needs to be done first developing their argument before the pro-life side can carry any relevant weight in civil rights discussion. As it is, it’s not even close to being a valid, let alone viable, argument. At most it’s an opinion which deliberately seeks to fortify itself behind the walls of ignorance. Then asks us to use this ignorance to lash ourselves senselessly with it – because feelings. I think you’ll agree with me that this simply isn’t good enough. Especially when it comes to import hot topic issues like women’s rights and human rights.
Meanwhile, the pro-choice stance doesn’t suffer these same flaws and isn’t in conflict with science or legal theory in the appalling way the pro-life stance clearly is. The pro-choice side honors the woman’s autonomy and doesn’t fall into the same trap of pitting her identity and rights as an individual against those of her unborn fetus’s. And it certainly doesn’t seek to make her into chattel or the property of the state by placing her at the mercy of the courts and ignorant politicians and policy makers who ask her to lash herself with the biting tendrils of their ignorance as well – because feelings.
As a rationalist, I can only see the pro-life position as a non-starter. Indeed, it appears that at this time, the pro-choice position is the only valid position in the whole abortion debate. And that says a lot about why this debate never seems to be able to be resolved. The side that needs to argue their case, the pro-life side, continually fails to do so. Yet relying on the strength of their propaganda alone they have convinced thousands to take their side – because feelings – and despite the fact that it defies all reason to do so. And that’s the sorry state of affairs as they are today, in 2016, I’m sorry to report.
I don’t expect what I will say will change very many minds. But it’s worth noting, that whenever an advocate for pro-life says that “abortion is murder” or that “abortion is evil” they clearly haven’t thought things through. People who understand the finer details and all the nuances of the problem would simply not resort to emotional appeals. They’d approach the problem more thoughtfully and with deep consideration.
At the end of the day, if it were up to me to decide, I would strongly urge pro-life supporters everywhere to stop making moral platitudes and proclamations based on their emotional knee-jerk reactions to some alarmist anti-abortion propaganda videos on the Internet and get to work making their case as solid as they can in order to win the uphill battle of tackling the scientific, legal, and moral problems of their unrefined, ill thought through, largely illogical, and frequently damaging position.
Tristan Vick is a published author who writes both fiction and non-fiction. In 2014 he sold the rights to his zombie novel series BITTEN to Permuted Press and Winlock Press. In addition to this, he also has published the cult hit paranormal detective novel The Scarecrow & Lady Kingston: Rough Justice, also by Winlock Press. His next major novel will be the cyberpunk techno-thriller Robotica, published by Regolith Publications. In addition to his fiction work, Tristan Vick has published numerous books in the area of religious history and philosophy. He co-edited the critically acclaimed book Beyond an Absence of Faith with the philosopher Jonathan M.S. Pearce, which collected the de-conversion stories of religious apostates from a variety of religious faiths including Islam, Christianity, Hindu, and two cult survivors. More recently, Tristan Vick published a critical examination of the work of Christian apologist Randal Rauser and Christian apologetics in general in his book The Swedish Fish, edited by the religious scholar and historian Robert M. Price.
You can learn more about Tristan Vick and his other works by going to his official author blog: www.tristanvick.com
You may find his religious and philosophical writing online at www.advocatusatheist.blogspot.com
Tristan Vick’s Amazon.com author profile can be found at http://www.amazon.com/Tristan-Vick/e/B005359NBO/ref=dp_byline_cont_pop_ebooks_1
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With regards to when life begins, I take the positon that life began but once, billions of years ago. Gametes are but a product of life, like CO2 is a product of respiration. Life is a process.
Further, I think that when people suggest that life begins at conception they are implicitly accepting the idea that a thing called a soul is injected into the freshly fertilized zygote, and that the soul must be coddled and cossetted for three-score years and ten in a virtual marriage to a physical body – in sickness and health, till death do they part.
Very interesting post.
You’ve obviously given the issue more thought than about 98% of the general population.
I always believed that life began at conception.
I feel that since all 46 chromosomes are there, it’s alive.
I don’t believe it is a baby until much later in development, though. It’s just a collection of cells with the potential to become a human being.
I also believed anyone who aborted was a murderer.
That’s the whole fundy upbringing.
I don’t believe it’s up to me to decide what a woman should or should not do when she is pregnant and does not wish to be. I don’t know if I could have had an abortion if I had an unwanted pregnancy, but I never had to make that decision.
I absolutely believe that my daughter should be able to have an abortion if she wants to do so. I’d drive her to the clinic and hold her hand.
And that it should be safe and legal and that she can go and have it done without interference from anyone.
Especially people who have ZERO stake in the matter.
And people who have never researched it or given it any thought at all other than ‘pastor says it’s bad’ should keep their mouths shut and find something productive to do with their time.
Thanks for the compliments. Yeah, I’ve tried to give it some thought. At least to the best of my ability. 😉
There’s a wonderful hypothesis out there which links the reduction in US crime rates in the early to mid 1990s, completely and utterly against every expectation, with the Supreme Court Roe v Wade decision in 1973. Essentially the theory appears to correlate a reduction in unwanted babies with less criminality 20 years later.
Personally I love the idea, simply because there’s a logical compulsion to it, but I have not studied it enough to know how much truth there is to it. Pro-lifers, of course, have done everything they can to undermine the suggestion but…well, you’d expect nothing less. For anyone interested the book is called Freakonomics by Steven Levitt and Stephen J Dubner, and takes potshots at several areas in obscure ways, for example juxtaposing cheating in exams with Sumo wrestling!
PS Tristan’s article is truly excellent and covers the issue in ways I hadn’t previously considered.
There were lots of other considerations that I couldn’t include because I was addressing very specific key points here.
I would have liked to talk about alternatives to the pro-life stance that allows for their position without infringing the rights of the mother. Their version of pro-life is always to be anti-abortion and therefore anti-woman. But there are other options to pro-life they typically don’t consider.
I would have liked to talk about how abortion actually aids in unwanted pregnancies, helps limit the amount of homeless mothers and children who aren’t economically stable enough to be a family, cuts back on welfare, lowers the poverty levels, and helps limit the overpopulation problem in many areas.
Also, I would have liked to talk about how allowing for abortion saves many women’s lives, and why making abortion illegal often endangers women’s lives and ensures that we lose not just the baby but the mother also.
There’s lots of practical reasons for why abortion is necessary, morally and otherwise.
But my article was meant to address the shortcomings of the pro-life position specifically. Maybe I’ll do one in the future about the benefits of abortion.
The evangelical efforts to stop abortion are widespread and include Centres to Help those ‘in need’. It must be understood that the help they are offering is using every means available to them to prevent a woman from going through with an abortion. There is no assistance in fair, balanced counsel that allows for both carrying to term and ending the pregnancy. As Tristan says, they call abortion murder and cry huge tears over the millions of poor, unloved babies who are tortured and ripped from the womb! All of it is based in ignorance, or that is what I would like to believe. In truth, what it might be based on is much more calculated and hateful. When one reads Tristan’s very clearly structured look at pro-lifers’ views as they are in our world, it is difficult to accept that they are offering ‘help’ to a woman at all. What they appear to be offering is a manipulative, cultish embrace that lacks respect for decency and human boundaries. They essentially bully people into carrying a fetus to term. They serve a God who is not love but a force for enslavement and harm. They rejoice in taking away freedom and imposing their control.
The advice that Tristan offers the pro-life movement is unfortunately laughable among the ‘saved’. They see it as pandering to murderers and playing the game of deception. There is a dark irony in the stance. It reminds me of the worst bully in my public school. He beat you up to show his love. If you broke down, were beaten, then you were his friend and in the club, HIS club,
One thing I couldn’t get into, since this article was about the legal, moral, and philosophical failings of the pro-life movement, is the viable alternative the pro-life position could take with regards to allowing abortion given certain medical re-assurances that the *potential* life would be preserved in DNA samples for later cloning. And that only one possible form of the baby would perish, but that it would be replaced with the same baby at a later date. Instead of sperm banks you’d have DNA banks for invetro fertilization of clone-babies of previously aborted fetuses.
Of course, don’t ask pro-life advocates to think out of the box let alone address complicated bio-ethical problems. The whole notion of killing a thing but at the same time preserving the life of the thing would utterly confuse them.
My point is, they lack imagination in finding solutions for the problem they are faced with. And in their authority-driven minds, where morality comes down from on High, they cannot seem to comprehend other viable solutions to their problem, which is why they always go back to trying to trample the civil rights of women.
My daughter and I saw a pro-life bumper sticker a couple of days ago (before I formed you in the womb, I knew you). I told her that if every pregnancy was 100% to term all the time, no miscarriages, no birth defects, no harm to the mother’s health, they would have a much better case for the “murder” charge.
This is very true. 😉 You speak wisely.
What a thoughtful article, thanks for this. I will be digging into later when it’s not so chaotic around here.
Bruce: Love the print function – thanks. I printed it out so I could digest it properly while sitting at home on the patio. (I’ll never go fully digital – love holding a book, as it were).
I’m gonna have to pack a lunch before tackling this article. Much to read and think about here!
Wonderful. I had three early miscarriages after the horror of my pre-eclamptic/HELLP pregnancy which eventually led to the death to our neonatal daughter. In the echo before the evacuation of the uterus they found the ova “blighted”.
Yes, it had implanted; but, it had not been fertilized. This happens all the time. My obstetric history could possibly have been a chapter in a text book.
Sorry to hear it.
My wife experienced her first miscarriage after 2 months of pregnancy this past year. The doctors kept on reassuring us it was normal and that the majority of women experience this.
That got me to thinking about the pro-life notion that babies are magical creatures which never spontaneously abort is a bizarre and unrealistic fantasy.
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As soon as sperm meets egg, there is a complete human being. A zygote is morally equal to an adult. That many die very young is tragic, but in no way undermines the fact of their humanity. To say otherwise is to say that 4-year-olds in developing countries are not alive because so many children die before the age of 5.
We get it. You are a zygote worshiper. Now go away.
No Andrew, you don’t get away with this claim. You’ve turned a biological fact into a moral claim. You are perfectly entitled to regard a zygote as equivalent to an adult, by definition born, adult, but others do not. That is a philosophical matter on which people disagree. Where there is disagreement then, in the main, choice prevails.
Andrew James Patton cannot even put together three lines of decent logic. 4 year olds in developing countries are the same as a sperm mated with an egg? Yep and bacon is peanut butter and Christmas is a car tire and Jesus lives in Sweden and doesn’t speak Amurkan.
No, Brian. It makes perfect sense.
You consider a two-year old a human being, correct. We typically call those toddlers, right? It’s a term we use for that stage of life.
Let’s go back in time a bit farther, when the child was just a couple of months old. And I’m sure you’d still agree that the child is still a human being, even though it’s barely capable of doing anything to provide for itself. At this stage, it’s still referred to as a newborn, relatively speaking.
So now you may be asking what my point is. It’s this—that same child—whether it’s two years old, two weeks old, or two weeks into conception—is a human being. Scientifically speaking, it has the same human DNA that it possesses years and years after birth. While it’s still an embryo (another term used for that particular stage of life, like toddler or newborn). It has a heartbeat. While in the fetus stage, it looks like a human and does just about everything a human outside of the womb does—blink, smile, cry, drink, swallow, move, urinate, sleep, dream, taste, yawn, hiccup, and while it doesn’t need to use its lungs yet, it will still breathe in amniotic fluid to prepare itself for life outside of the womb. All things considered, that all sounds very human-like, does it not?
And before I go, just a few more counterpoints for you to consider:
“The fetus/embryo isn’t self-sufficient. Thus, it’s not a human.”
Newborns aren’t self-sufficient either. They still rely totally on a caregiver for comfort and nourishment, and yet it’s considered wrong to kill one. So why is a fetus/embryo any different?
“The fetus isn’t capable of feeling pain, so it’s OK to abort it.”
On the contrary, there are scientists that speculate that fetuses can actually feel pain much earlier that originally thought. Though whether it does or doesn’t is irrelevant. The premeditated killing of a human being is still considered murder and reprehensible, whether or not that human is capable of feeling pain or not. So why is a fetus any different?
“Abortion is necessary for the health of the mother.”
Again, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Most babies that are aborted are completely viable—there is nothing about having that baby in the mother’s womb that’s going to kill her. The only exception would be for an ectopic pregnancy, but that’s not really considered an “abortion” since the goal of correcting that is not to kill the child, but rather to help the mother.
I do hope this gives you something to think about. 🙂
You wrote “Most babies that are aborted are completely viable.”
Really? I mean, really? Eighty-nine percent of abortions take place in the first trimester. No fetus is viable at 13 weeks.
“Very few abortions occur at late or full term. 89% of all abortions occur in the first trimester, with 63% occurring in the first nine weeks. 98.8% of abortions take place before viability. Late term abortions after twenty week are 1.2% of all abortion procedures performed in the United States. Out of 1.2 million annual abortions, 14,400 are after 20 weeks. Most of these abortion are medically necessary due to the health of the mother, the fetus, or both.”
Here is the position as I see it. I see a parallel with religious pro-life position and biblical creationism. That man and woman were created instantly and not evolved it is the same as life being created at conception rather than evolved (eg from cell to cells to embryo to baby).
It is essentially an extension of the Genesis vs science debate, just in a different form (ie the same biblical creation concept/philosophy). Notice also how the religious position demean the women’s rights (anyone else see another biblical based comparison?). With that in mind, the differences of opinion won’t be resolved any time soon.