Friday, January 26, 2007

Re: Woman-Centered Pro-Life Advocacy [SK]

I somehow missed this earlier, but Frank Beckwith has a post questioning the new pro-life strategy--a strategy which focuses more on women than their unborn offspring.

Frank writes in part:

Although there is clearly something attractive about this strategy, there are good reasons to call it into question

(1) From a strictly moral point of view, abortion is not a serious moral wrong just because the woman suffers as a result of choosing or having one. For many abortions do not result in gratuitous suffering or harm to the women who have them, and clearly no prolifer would want to say that those abortions are morally benign. Thus, to offer consequentialism as a strategy for prolife victory is to concede the first premise of the abortion-choice movement: the self-interest and well-being of an autonomous adult (in this case, the pregnant woman) trumps any other interests. It seems, therefore, counterintuitive for the prolife defenders of the consequentialist strategy to want to provide a cultural environment hospitable to the moral primacy of consequentialism.

(2) Even if the NPS’s approach reduces the number of abortions, it does not follow that the culture is becoming more accepting of the prolife perspective. Although an appeal to self-interest may persuade some women not to have abortions, the choice not to abort for this reason is not the same as a moral conversion and intellectual assent to the prolife perspective. If a 19th-century American slave owner chose to free his kidnapped Africans because he was persuaded to believe that it was not in his self-interest to continue owning them, such an act, though good insofar as sparing the slaves a tremendous indignity, would not be equivalent to his being converted to the belief that no person by nature is property and thus ought not to be owned by another.

It would be, in other words, wrong to conclude on the basis of the slave owner’s act of liberation that he had become a converted abolitionist. The case is the same with a woman who decides that having an abortion is not in her best interest. Since the prolife position is based on the belief that fetuses are full members of the human community and ought not to be killed by anyone without justification, being persuaded not to have an abortion is not the same as moral conversion and intellectual assent to the prolife perspective.
Read the whole piece. The comments from readers are also great.


  1. But the reason abortion hurts women is that it kills their children.

    We need to get away from the whole idea that there's some sort of conflict of interests between the mother and the baby. Having a branch of the pro-life movement that focuses on the mother helps to clarify that there is no conflict of interests. What's best for the mother is also best for the baby, and what's best for the baby is also best for the mother.

    We need to stress that by focusing on the fetus as being the problem, and obsessing with eliminating the fetus, it's the prochoicers who are losing sight of the mother.

  2. Grannygump,
    Our critics think we're question-begging when we assert abortion hurts women emotionally (presumably because it's wrong) without first establishing 1) The unborn are human beings, and 2) elective abortion unjustly takes their lives.

    Without establishing those points first, there is indeed a conflict between mother and child--at least in the minds of our secular critics.

    That's why we can't lead with the mother.

  3. This is a good and appropriate topic for discussion. Because of the timing of it though, I feel compelled to express my opinion regarding events, which are proclaimed to be marches or walks for life, that are conducted on or near the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade. One of them, at least, has chosen to focus on the messages that "women deserve better than abortion" and "abortion hurts women". Thousands of these signs are provided to the participants of this event, but not a single sign or banner is provided by the organizers that speaks out for the unborn already killed or in danger of being killed by abortion. There isn't a single plea among the thousands of signs provided by the organizers that calls out for the protection and defense of the innocent children who are at risk of being exterminated. I think that is carrying the pro-woman approach too far.

    Yes, abortion hurts women and they do deserve better. And that message must be proclaimed and doing so can be very helpful in our efforts to change minds and hearts. But I believe that a march or walk for life on or near the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade should adopt the same purpose as that
    stated by the annual March For Life that is conducted in our nation's capitol
    . There are hundreds of other days during the year from which we can choose to focus on other messages. In fact, that is what many sidewalk counselors do on a regular basis. The anniversary of Roe vs. Wade is a day to mourn the loss of millions of American children's lives and the soul of our nation. And a day on which to plead on behalf of those yet at risk. It should be a day of solidarity. We should be walking in step with each other no matter how many miles separate us.

  4. I use the pro-woman approach 99% of the time because I feel it's a little difficult to expect a moral conversion at the point where a woman is in the midst of deciding. I say we use whatever tools are available to help the mother choose life for her baby.

  5. I would not disagree with you pro-woman that we need to use all of the tools at our disposal to convince a woman not to abort her child. Using woman centered arguments to accomplish that is understandable, especially if it is effective.

    This is completely different than our overall strategy of showing why abortion is wrong and should not be tolerated in our society. If we conflate the two, we not only lose focus, but lose the force of our arguments to a large extent.

    Now you've inspired me to post...


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