An article written on Everyday Feminism by Erin McKelle has been brought to my attention. Ordinarily I wouldn't take the time to respond to an article like this, but a friend asked for my thoughts on it. So I decided to write this in an article and share my thoughts with everyone who would care to read. The article is called 6 Abortion Myths Debunked. Needless to say her responses are less than impressive, and many result in simple red herrings and misunderstandings of science. I guess you could call this Six Abortion Myths Debunked Debunked.
Myth #1: Abortion is baby-killing.
I rarely frame abortion as baby killing because "baby" is an imprecise term. I can argue from the facts of science that the unborn are human beings from fertilization and that it is wrong and should be illegal to kill innocent human beings, whether or not they are babies.
So let's look at her arguments as to why the unborn don't qualify as babies.
1) A fetus is a developing mammal; a fetus develops at the second month of fertilization.
This is just misleading. It's true the developing human becomes a fetus after the second month of gestation, but she is an embryo before that. Zygote, embryo, and fetus are just stages of development of the same developing entity. So telling us that a fetus develops after the second month of gestation doesn't tell us anything about whether it's right or wrong to kill it. Once the fetus is born, she becomes a newborn, then a toddler, adolescent, etc. All stages of development of the same entity.
2) A baby is a human offspring that has already been born.
Sure it is, but it's not only that. The author of the article pointed us to the dictionary definition of fetus because it suited her purposes, but why didn't she point us to the dictionary definition of baby? Probably because the dictionary definition of baby proves her wrong. How is baby defined? As a human fetus.
There is only one drastic point in a human being's life at which we can point to her going from non-humanity to humanity -- at fertilization. Before you have the sperm and the egg, but when they fuse a new human being comes into existence. Every embryology textbook will tell you this. Once that event occurs, the human being begins a path of development that starts at fertilization and doesn't end at birth. In fact, development continues well into adulthood.
3) A zygote...is not the same thing as a human life that has already come into being.
Yes it is, for the reasons I outlined above. A human zygote is a human being. If she doesn't believe me, why doesn't she pick up an embryology textbook and read it from the experts?
4) Therefore, a fetus is a part of its mother.
This really goes without saying, but if this was supposed to be an argument, it's clearly a non sequitur. Even if the zygote isn't a human life, she hasn't shown why we should consider it a part of the mother. In fact, for a week or so before the zygote implants in the mother's uterus, she is a free-floating individual. She is not connected to the mother at all, but is conceived in the fallopian tube and pushed toward the uterus by tiny hairs called cilia.
But never mind this -- what does the child have to do to be considered not part of the mother? The fetus is just connected by the umbilical cord. In fact, the mother can die and her body kept alive until the child can survive alone, then the child can be born. No other part of her can do this. We can't keep her body alive, then remove her kidney and let it live out the rest of its life. If the kidney doesn't get implanted into another woman's body, it will "die," too.
Additionally, according to the law of transitivity, if A is a part of B, and B is a part of C, then A is a part of C. For example, if your finger is a part of your hand, and your hand is a part of your body, then your finger is a part of your body. So if the fetus is really just a "part of the mother," then you would have to say that every pregnant woman has four arms, four legs, two heads, four eyes, two noses, and roughly half the time, male genitalia.
In fact, she tries to argue that the baby is an autonomous being. I would disagree. When is the last time you've seen a baby feed himself, or change his own diaper, or drive himself to the store to pick up more formula? The only difference between a human fetus and a human newborn is that one is inside the mother, connected to the umbilical cord, and one is not. But this is not a morally relevant difference, nor does it make the baby autonomous just because he is no longer connected to the mother.
In no relevant sense of the term can the unborn be considered part of the mother.
The author of the article also alleges that fetal pain is a result of phony science. It's not based on phony science. Pro-choice people would love to think that all pro-life arguments are phony, but considering that the nervous system and the brain develop in the womb, there must be a point during pregnancy at which the unborn actually feels pain. The pain receptors aren't magically turned on by the act of birth. However, this is a red herring and has no bearing on whether or not the unborn are human (since some human beings, like Gabby Gingras, are born with a congenital inability to feel pain), so I don't feel obligated to support the science of fetal pain at this moment.
Needless to say, this first myth is not a myth at all, and McKelle has done a poor job of supporting her arguments.
Myth #2: Abortion is used as a form of birth control.
This one seems pretty straightforward. Abortion is used as a last resort. If contraception fails, a woman goes in to have an abortion to prevent the child from being born. Abortion is birth control. And it differs from contraceptives because contraceptives are meant to prevent conception.
McKelle's second paragraph actually refutes her own claim of this being a myth. She admits that most people don't use abortion as birth control. But if some people do, then this clearly isn't a myth. However, I still think that's a specious claim because all abortions are used for birth control. Her specific reason may not be "I'm getting an abortion because it's birth control," but since every woman goes in to have an abortion because she doesn't want the child being born (she feels like she's not ready to be a mother, she doesn't think she can afford it, wants to finish college, fears getting fired, etc.), it's clearly being used as birth control.
She argues that this doesn't make logical sense, but I think I have shown that it does. She says that this assumes that abortion is easier to access than contraceptives, but that has no bearing whatsoever on her argument. Expensive or difficult to access birth control is still birth control.
Myth #3: People who have abortions regret it or experience intense grief.
This one is again straightforward. Pro-choice people have a tendency to take pro-life claims and blow them way out of proportion. Pro-life people don't say that all post-abortive women regret their abortions or experience intense grief. But this obviously does happen, as there are organizations that are formed specifically to help women who are feeling grief about their abortions, such as The Silent No More Awareness Campaign and the IRMA Network (IRMA stands for I Regret My Abortion). You can find testimonies from post-abortive women at those websites. Denying these women exist shows that many pro-choice people are more interested in their ideology than in actually helping women. There are many negative aspects to abortion and by denying them, the pro-choice crowd are doing a disservice to the women they claim to want to help.
McKelle claims that Post-Abortion Syndrome doesn't exist, but Post Traumatic Stress Disorder does. And if a woman's abortion was traumatic, she could certainly become intensely depressed, even to the point of taking her own life.
So McKelle's claim that most women (75%) who get abortions felt the benefit outweighed the harm is irrelevant in trying to wave this away as a myth. I don't know if this is accurate, as I'm not going to investigate the studies she's drawing from (studies, especially in contentious cases like abortion, can be greatly skewed by those with an agenda). But the argument is not that all do, or even that most do (though there may be some uninformed pro-life people who make that claim). But the reality is that many women do regret their abortion.
Whether or not women regret their abortion says nothing about its moral permissibility, so pro-choice people are doing a grave disservice by pretending it doesn't happen.
Myth #4: Only selfish women have abortions.
I personally don't like to make claims about a woman's state of mind when she goes in for an abortion. Again, a woman's state of mind says nothing about its moral permissibility or impermissibility. But considering that a mother is supposed to place her children's well-being above her own, I can see why people would think abortion is (if not always, then usually) a selfish decision.
Let's look at a recent case regarding Megan Huntsman, a woman who got pregnant seven times and killed six of the seven children after they were born (one was stillborn). Now, she could have gone in for an abortion while she was pregnant and had those children legally killed by abortion (and in many places in the United States, you can have the child legally killed up to the point of birth). I'm assuming that McKelle is morally opposed to infanticide, based on a statement she made early in her article. So why is abortion not a selfish decision, but these six cases of infanticide are? Should a mother not be held responsible to care for her children while pregnant with them? Why do her obligations only begin at birth?
McKelle makes the statement that those who choose to remain childless are choosing themselves. But if you choose your own welfare over the welfare of others, that is, by its very definition, selfishness. There is nothing wrong with choosing to remain childless -- the wrong obtains when you kill your own children in order to do it.
McKelle also quoted a girl who was young and scared during a pregnancy, and decided the best decision for her baby was to have the baby killed rather than grow up in poverty. But to see why this line of thinking is morally bankrupt, all one has to do is ask, if she had given birth and decided to kill her child when the child was two years old, would we have allowed her to get away with saying "this was the best decision a mother could make for her child"? Would we even agree with this line of thinking if it was a toddler, and not a human fetus, whose life was hanging in the balance?
Myth #5: If abortion becomes illegal, abortion will end.
Absolutely nobody thinks this. Abortion numbers will go down, because I believe people are generally law-abiding citizens. But obviously people still rape, steal, and murder despite it being illegal. Does that mean we should legalize it to make rape, theft, or murder "safe and rare?" Of course not. Whether or not making abortion illegal would reduce the instances of it, murder of a human being is the kind of act we make illegal because there must be consequences for those who choose to do it.
She assumes, as many pro-choice people do, that making abortion illegal only changes the safety of it. This is completely bogus. What made abortion safer for the woman was not legalizing it, it was advances in medical technology. In 1972, the year before Roe v. Wade, according to the U.S. Bureau of Vital Statistics Center for Disease Control, as cited in Dr. and Mrs. J.C. Wilke, Abortion Questions and Answers, rev. ed., the number of women who died in illegal abortions was 39. Medical advancements, not legalization, have made abortion safer for the woman (though it's almost always fatal for the child).
Myth #6: Only women get abortions.
This objection is just silly. I'm not convinced that transsexualism is a real thing (I'm open to being wrong and have been recommended books on the issue that I will be studying), and "cissexualism" is certainly not. But the reality is that only people with female hardware get abortions. If McKelle wants to complain about this, she should talk to pro-choice people. They use arguments that make this assumption much more than pro-life people do, such as with their argument that "if men could get pregnant, abortion would be a sacrament."
This is just another red herring, apparently because the gay rights issue is so important to her that she's willing to homosexual-juke the abortion conversation. But the reality is that the issue of gay marriage and homosexuality is a separate issue from the abortion issue, because pro-life people believe that all human beings, homosexuals included, have natural rights such as the right to life. The pro-choice side is the exclusive side because they believe that unless you fit some prerequisites, you aren't "one of us."
McKelle claims to be interested in human rights, but I don't think she has a clear grasp of them. Human rights means that all human beings, unborn included, have natural rights like the right to life. And having a right to choose does not mean that all choices are equal, or that all choices are "right" to make. The unborn are human from fertilization, so the unborn have human rights from fertilization.