“How can you trust me with a child if you can’t trust me with a choice?”
This question came from a young woman in Northern California during a Q&A session following my presentation on the Case for Life. The room of nearly 1,000 students stirred and a few oooh’s told me that the audience felt this was a good challenge.
It isn’t a real challenge at all, but a blank assertion lacking any substance offered in the guise of a question. It is no different than when other people have responded to my talks by saying things like, “Women have a right to choose!” As Greg Koukl points out, if anyone said something like “Women have a right to take!” the immediate response would be to ask, “Take what?” The same response is appropriate for those making these sweeping assertions. “Choose what?”
My job was to help the questioner see the mistake that she made without embarrassing her or bullying her from the stage. Here is how I answered:
“I respect your freedom to make all sorts of choices. Where you choose to live, what you choose to study in school, and what clothing you choose to wear. But let me ask you a question. Do you think that you ought to be allowed to walk across the room, seize any item from one of your fellow students in this section over here, and keep whatever you take as your own without permission or consent from the previous owner?”
She immediately objected, “That isn’t the same thing!”
“I didn’t say it was. I concede that it isn’t. The question still remains, should you be allowed to make that choice?”
Again, immediately she responded, “Of course not.”
I asked her another question. “Why?”
“Because that would be stealing.”
Here I asked for further clarification. “So. Why should that stop you? You may choose to steal. Why shouldn’t I trust you with that choice?”
She answered, “Because stealing is wrong.”
“I agree. Would it be safe to say that we both characterize stealing as immoral?”
She nodded, “Yes.”
“Okay. We have reached a good place of agreement here. We both agree that you ought to be free to make certain choices in your life. We both also agree that there are other choices that are immoral by their nature, like stealing, that you should not be free to choose.
You asked me a question, how can I trust you with a child if I can’t trust you with a choice? My response is that you never addressed the nature of my objection. I have no interest in limiting your morally legitimate choices. I just argued for an hour that that intentionally destroying the life of an innocent human being for elective reasons or reasons of convenience is immoral. I also argued using science and philosophy that the unborn belong in the family of intrinsically valuable human beings. (see Scott's Case for Life page here) If those arguments hold up to scrutiny then abortion would fall into the same category as stealing from your classmate. It would fall into the category of actions that we both agree ought to be restricted. My objections to abortion have nothing to do with any evaluation about whether you can be trusted. It has to do with an evaluation of the nature of the act of abortion.
You are now free to address my arguments about the nature of unborn human life and our moral duties and obligations to them. I would suggest that your best resource in this endeavor would be David Boonin’s book A Defense of Abortion. I think he makes as good a case as possible for people that wish to defend the right to an abortion, though I obviously feel his arguments are ultimately less than convincing. Francis Beckwith and Christopher Kaczor have provided strong rebuttals to Boonin that I find convincing (see here and here), but you should read them for yourself and make your own determination.
What you and I cannot do is offer assertions without content. We both have to resist the urge to shout slogans and respect each other enough to learn to engage against the best arguments available. This issue is too important to be so casually dismissed.”