Monthly Archives: February 2016

gay foetus

Answering five common pro-choice arguments

After I wrote this article a few weeks back, I hadn’t intended on writing about abortion again for a while. It’s too depressing and grizzly and wicked. But, alas, abortion is back in the news again in Northern Ireland (is it ever out of it?) – and with that comes all the usual arguments and rhetoric in its defence.

Let me start by saying that there are no good arguments in favour of elective abortion. Not one. But abortion arguments are often delivered with such force and emotion that it can be easy for the pro-lifer to be steamrollered into submission by them.

Thankfully, forceful and emotional arguments do not necessarily make good arguments. In fact, many pro-choice arguments are so bad, and so absurd, that it makes me wonder if those saying them are even being serious. 

So, from ‘gay’ fetuses, to cleansing the world of poor people, here are some answers to five common pro-choice arguments doing the rounds today. 

1 – “Don’t like abortion, don’t have one!”

This argument tries to be clever by shifting the emphasis from abortion being an act that is objectively wrong, to an act that is merely about personal taste – like so: “Don’t like pineapples, don’t eat pineapples”. This, of course, is ethical tomfoolery; there are no moral questions to be asked in the eating of a pineapple (unless you stole it). Abortion, conversely, is a moral minefield. That’s why it’s strictly regulated with timeframes and medical consent. Even Marie Stopes knows this.

So let’s take the logic of this argument out for a test drive: “Don’t like slavery? Don’t own a slave.” “Don’t like wife-beating? Don’t beat your wife.” “Don’t like child abuse? Don’t abuse children”. When you reduce something that is objectively wrong to something that is a matter of personal taste, you completely miss the point as to why people disagree with those things in the first place.

You're completely missing the point here, lads.

Completely missing the point here, lads.

Abortion – like wife-beating, slavery, and child abuse – has nothing to do with personal taste. When a person says “abortion is wrong”, they are making an objective moral claim, not a subjective one. Abortion is wrong because it takes the life of an intrinsically valuable human being. Whether someone likes abortion or not is irrelevant.

2 – Abortion reduces crime rates.

This argument reminds me of the Steven Spielberg film, Minority Report.  Set in the not-too-distant future, Minority Report tells the story of a guy on the run from “PreCrime”, a specialised police department that can arrest future criminals based on foreknowledge provided by special psychics.

And that’s pretty much exactly how this argument works, too. The unborn will commit crimes in the future, therefore they must be apprehended. The only differences being; the crimes committed by the unborn are based on mere conjecture, and instead of being jailed, the unborn get the death penalty. 

Ironically, the people making this argument are often the same ones who oppose the death penalty. Yet here they are calling for it before a crime has even been committed. Spare the convicted rapist-killer, execute the might-be-convicted-in-20-years-time unborn girl. Yup. Welcome to our new rational and ethical future, people.

3 – May the fetus you save be gay!

The idea here is to call out religious people who oppose abortion and (possibly) homosexuality on religious grounds. The reasoning goes like this: “Hey, wouldn’t it serve those religious pro-life crazies right if a fetus they saved grew up to be gay? That’ll teach ’em! Bet they wish she’d been aborted now! LOLZ!”

This argument has several critical flaws. Firstly, it’s a genetic fallacy – that is, it attacks a perceived flaw in the origin of a person’s claim, then uses it to discredit the claim itself. For example: “Most pro-lifers are religious. I think religion is wrong. Therefore, pro-lifers are wrong about abortion”. A person’s religion has no more to do with whether or not abortion is wrong, any more than when that person speaks out against torturing pensioners for fun. 

There's a market for abortion merchandise. Who knew?

There’s a market for abortion merchandise. Who knew?

Secondly, this argument completely ignores the growing amount of secular pro-life movements. Like this one, this one, and this one. In fact, David Silverman, American Atheists president, conceded that secular arguments against abortion exist and aren’t going away. Even revered atheist Christopher Hitchens leaned pro-life.

Worst of all, though, is its rancid hypocrisy. Each year abortion kills hundreds of thousands of developing human beings that would have grown up to be gay. It seems the pro-choice movement has no problem killing the LGBT community so long as it’s before they’re born. It is the pro-life position, however, that argues from philosophy and science that all human life should be respected, regardless of age, gender, race, social standing, and sexual orientation.

4 – “Abortion is compassionate. You can’t condemn a child to a life of poverty!”

For several long, torturous years I lived on a street full of hard-partying students. Words can’t describe their awfulness. If only I had thought of this argument to justify getting rid of them. Here’s how the chat would go between me and my community police officer:

Me: “Yunno, those insufferable students are a real inconvenience. They pee in the entry and leave half-eaten curry chips on my window ledge. I’m going to kill them all.”

Police Officer: “You can’t do that! They’re whole and distinct human beings! Science confirms it!”

Me: “Well, that’s debatable. But think about it; I’m actually doing them a favour.  They’re only going to spend their days living in poverty and squalor anyway. A diet of Cornflakes and Tennents Lager is no way to live.”

Police officer: “Hmm. I hadn’t thought of that. Here, use my gun.”

This argument is terrible and scary because it assumes that certain human beings are somehow less worthy of life than other human beings simply because of their circumstances. This is full-on eugenics. Hardly surprising, though, given that the abortion industry was built upon such ideology. Just ask Margaret Sanger.

5 – My body, my choice!

If there’s one thing the pro-abortion lobby has succeeded at, it’s in hijacking the word “choice”. Let’s dispel the myth now: pro-lifers are not “anti-choice”. They respect the right to choose. They believe, without exception, that a person should be free to choose their own partner, who to vote for, their own job, their own religion (or none), etc., etc.

However, choice has limitations. You cannot choose to skin dogs for personal pleasure, abuse children or shoot students. The very nature of those choices is abhorrent. You have no right to choose them. Nobody – bar tyrants and the criminally insane – believes they can choose to take the life of another human being with impunity.

my body my choice

Moody black and white doesn’t make it true.

To “choose” abortion, then, begs the question and assumes something about the nature of the unborn. Are the unborn somehow different, less valuable, and off our moral radar? Can we just kill and dispose of them because their geographical location is different? Or because they’re smaller and less developed? Scientifically and philosophically, the answer to all of those is ‘no’.

And there are two bodies involved, not one. We know this because of embryology and ultrasound technology. Each human being has a unique set of DNA. Embryos have a unique set of DNA. Therefore, two human beings. Then, further along in development, the unborn can develop body parts and substances that a pregnant woman doesn’t have – like a penis or a different blood type. How is this possible if only one body is involved?

Progressive discrimination

It’s funny that pro-lifers are continuously charged with discrimination. They “discriminate” against women. They “discriminate” against doctors. They “discriminate” against a tolerant society. But actually, to be truly pro-choice – to support complete bodily autonomy – involves embracing pretty much every kind of discrimination. Abortion because it’s a girl? Sexist. Abortion because it has Down’s? Disability discrimination. Abortion at 22 weeks but not at 25 weeks? Ageist. Abortion because a mixed-race child wouldn’t be acceptable? Racist. Abortion because the gay gene has been discovered and some parents don’t want a gay fetus? Homophobic.

If this is what liberals mean by “progressive,” God help us all.

Can Secular Humanism save Northern Ireland (and the world)?

The words of John Lennon’s Imagine are often rolled out in times of religious violence. The Paris attacks, for example. Putting aside the fact that Lennon was a wife-beating philanderer who mocked disabled people, it’s easy to understand why – religion has caused much pain and suffering. As the song (more or less) goes: imagine there’s no religion, no heaven, no hell – just everyone living in peace.

It’s hard to imagine a time of no religion, given how humans have been religious one way or another since the beginning, and it’s even harder to imagine everyone living in peace because, well: politics, oil, greed, corruption, power, money, sex, self-aggrandisement, land, race, alien invasions, and –  sometimes – religion.

That hasn’t stopped humanists like Stephen Fry from imagining, though. They imagine Humanism to be the gold standard of worldviews, the gateway to rationality, tolerance and everlasting peace. Can I get an amen?

So what exactly is Humanism? Well, the name says it all. Humanism is the philosophy that all human beings, in and of themselves, have value (what’s known as ‘intrinsic’ value), deserving of respect and equality – but secular (from the Latin meaning ‘this world’), so God is not needed. We see this in all their writings and manifestos (I don’t know why, but for a movement that rejects dogma and authority, they love their manifestos).

Humanism – could do with a better logo.

Humanism – like the Hyundai badge only with a big dot.

Humanism (at least of the secular variety) is also, at its core, the positive face of atheism. Whereas atheism says: “No. I am not for anything. I am a mere lack of belief”, Humanism says: “Yes. Come join us. We’re for something. We’re for humans. We’re for a secular utopia with no religion (worth speaking of), no heaven, no hell – just everyone living in happy Humanist harmony”.

Fair play to them. God The cold, dark universe loves a trier.

To a certain extent, though, I agree with them; if us humans don’t get the human-beings-have-intrinsic-value thing right, nothing else matters.

But, can Humanism even account for – let alone achieve – intrinsic human value, given its atheistic framework? Well, to paraphrase C.S Lewis, an atheist telling someone else how things ought to be, is a bit like a puddle of milk telling another puddle of milk that it ought to have been spilt differently. Where are they getting the ought from? Both puddles of milk are nothing but smelly, sour accidents. There is no ought.

So here’s the deal-breaking flaw of Humanism: when you dig deeper into its atheistic philosophy and examine their evidence for what human purpose actually is, it cuts off the very branch it sits on. Humanists say over and over in their manifestos that human beings have objective purpose and value, yet you read the writings of Richard Dawkins, who neatly sums up the purpose of humanity as being, “Machines for propagating DNA”.

Wait a minute! What? I’m pretty sure the kipper I just ate for brunch was also a DNA machine. Does a DNA machine really have intrinsic value?

Think of it like this: have you ever looked in the mirror, clean-shaven and smelling of freshly-applied Brut and said: “Hey! You are one smooth DNA propagating machine”? No, me neither. Plus, I’m a Cool Water man. How about looking into the face of a newborn and saying, “Ahh, wee DNA propagator”. Unless you’re a Terminator, nobody talks like that.

Must. Destroy. DNA. Propagators.

“Must. Destroy. DNA. Propagators.”

So, on the one hand, Humanism wants to affirm intrinsic human value, but on the other hand, it jettisons the only viable source for intrinsic human value – God – and in doing so pulls the rug out from beneath itself, lands awkwardly on its ankle and limps off teary-eyed hoping no-one noticed.

For those who did notice, however, why should human beings have more value than cats just because human meat computers happen to be more advanced than cat meat computers? Says who? Unless there’s an ontic referent, Humanism is just a form speciesism; that is to say, Humanism is the arbitrary privileging of one species over millions of other species. And speciesism is bigoted, man.

humanism meat computer

A meat computer.

The best Humanism can strive for is extrinsic value, not intrinsic value. The difference is crucial. Extrinsic value is the value we humans put on things, and this is precisely what we see coming from Humanism. They’ll say: “Sure, the unborn are human beings, but they’re not persons so we can take their lives and call it a choice”. (Idea: maybe Humanism should rebrand itself as ‘Personism’ since being a person is what really matters). And, of course, a hundred-odd years ago, humanist heroes of the Enlightenment like Immanuel Kant placed similar extrinsic value on black people:

The Negroes of Africa have by nature no feeling that rises above the trifling. Mr. Hume challenges anyone to cite a single example in which a Negro has shown talents, and asserts that among the hundreds of thousands of blacks who are transported elsewhere from their countries, although many of them have even been set free, still not a single one was ever found who presented anything great in art or science or any other praiseworthy quality.

Notice how Kant assumes black people are not fully human. This is what happens when you take Humanism to its logical conclusion. This is what happens when humans get to ascribe value. We saw it then with black people, we see it today with the unborn.

Intrinsic value, on the other hand, is the idea that every member of the human species is valuable, regardless of his or her individual characteristics and abilities (including those with Down’s syndrome, Mr Dawkins) because every human being shares the same valuable human nature. This is a universal quality, not something handed down by an organisation, government, or judge. 

So, no, Humanism cannot save Northern Ireland, or anywhere else for that matter. If man is the measure of all things, as Humanism preaches, we’re in trouble. Deep trouble. History has proven this fact countless times. Objective, intrinsic human value – true human value – has to be fixed, immutable, and given. It has to be grounded in the character and nature of God.