One thing that has become clear in the debate about abortion in Northern Ireland (and everywhere else) is that, in lieu of a single convincing argument, abortion proponents like to carpet-bomb the conversation with multiple terrible arguments in the hope that quantity will make up for quality. This is because abortion-choicers have already decided that pro-lifers are ignorant women-hating rubes who wish to impose their religious views on everyone else, so why even try and come up with a convincing argument?
Exhibit A: This Belfast Telegraph Facebook thread on Liam Neeson’s abortion-choice advocacy. There are too many awful abortion-choice arguments here, so I’ll respond to the best of the worst.
The common “don’t like abortion, don’t have one” argument confuses objective claims with subjective claims. When a pro-lifer says abortion is wrong, they’re making an objective claim that abortion unjustly takes the life of a defenceless human being. In other words, abortion is objectively wrong for everyone, regardless of whether one likes it or not. It misses the point entirely, like saying, “Don’t like wife beating? Don’t beat your wife!”
Subjective claims cannot be deemed right or wrong as they are matters of personal taste. You cannot reasonably argue that cheese and onion crisps are objectively better than ready salted crisps. But objective claims are different. They can be evaluated as true or false based on the evidence. “Every successful abortion intentionally ends an innocent human life” is an objective claim based on evidence. If you think it’s wrong, prove it with science and facts. Anything else is intellectual laziness.
“Shut up, you silly man!” is basically what this comment is saying. Instead of defending the abortion-choice view with facts and reason, this person is trying to censor the pro-lifer by attacking their gender (but, oddly enough, not Liam Neeson’s gender). But: arguments have no gender.
Furthermore, there is no such thing as a “woman’s perspective” on abortion that trumps all rational inquiries into the issue. Feminists – let alone women in general – have no single view on abortion. The ability to bear children is irrelevant. And who says men can’t physically bear children? This is 2016! Oh, the transphobia!
Two terrible arguments for the price of one here. Scientifically, we know “Embryos, zygotes and foetuses” are distinct, living, and whole human beings. It doesn’t matter what names we give them. Sure, they differ in appearance but not in nature. This is such an obvious truth that not even abortion providers deny it. Faye Wattleton, a former President of Planned Parenthood, said: “I think we have deluded ourselves into believing that people don’t know that abortion is killing”.
Philosophically, there are only four differences between the embryo you once were and the individual you are today: size, the level of development, environment, and degree of dependence. None of these are value-giving properties. Humanness determines human value. And the unborn are human beings.
The second bad argument here is the absurd idea that in order to be against abortion, you must first care about already-born children. This is like some sort of ultimatum a movie villain might make: “If you care about the hostages, you’ll give me the gold bullion”. Or, “If you care about animal rights, why aren’t you adopting all the turkeys this Christmas?”
Suppose pro-lifers don’t care for born children (they do), it doesn’t follow that that justifies the deliberate killing of unborn children.
The idea that personhood begins at birth (or that a “person” and a “human” are separate things) is an arbitrary assertion. When pushed, the pro-choicer will probably respond by defining “person” as something that is self-conscious and capable of living independently. It is these qualities, say pro-choicers, that give human beings the status of “person” and therefore the right to life.
There are a couple of serious problems with this, though. First, why is a capacity for thought, self-awareness, and intelligence value-giving in the first place? And why a particular degree of development? Why not full development? Is an adult human with an IQ of less than 40 a non-person? If not, why not? Says who? These are questions that abortion advocates never adequately address.
Second, all of these qualities don’t materialise until some time after birth, meaning newborns are also disqualified. After all, infants are not self-aware and cannot make conscious decisions until (at least) a few months after birth, so what’s wrong with infanticide? Same goes for comatose patients, dementia sufferers, and those who are simply asleep.
It is true that “Being against abortions will not stop them,” and, “Having abortions illegal will not stop them”. So what? By that logic, should we legalise murder, domestic violence, and burglary? After all, being against those things and making them illegal doesn’t stop them. Nonsense. The core question is the status of the unborn: Are they human beings? If so, we should legally protect them like any other vulnerable group.
In sharp contrast to the lazy and ill-thought out pro-choice arguments above, the pro-life position is robust. It stands up to scrutiny. Pro-lifers contend, based on philosophy and scientific facts, that no human being, regardless of how developed they are or where they’re located, should be excluded from the community of human persons. It is an inclusive view open to all, especially the weak and powerless. Pro-life means equality, in the truest sense of the word.