Wednesday, June 18, 2014

How Not to Address Pro-Choice Arguments in 1,000 Words [Clinton Wilcox]

There's a video on YouTube that claims to be able to destroy "pro-abortion" arguments in two minutes by vlogger Buster Stein. I believe that we should be making the best arguments we can for the pro-life position, and responding adequately to the best arguments from the pro-choice side. Unfortunately Mr. Stein here does neither of those two things. Despite the title of his video, he doesn't address a single pro-choice argument nor does he make a very compelling case for the pro-life position. Stein's pro-life arguments are just taken from internet memes that you see floating around Facebook, but as is the case with memes they make lousy arguments. Additionally, his entire video is spent making a positive case, defending the pro-life position, instead of making a negative case, responding to pro-choice arguments against the pro-life position. Let's take a look at his arguments.

"If we're considered dead when our heart stops beating, shouldn't we be considered alive when it starts?"

Sure, but what about before that? Does Stein believe human life begins when the heart starts beating? My guess would be no. So why is he using this argument? Human life starts at fertilization. Once the heart starts beating it is required to keep you alive. But before that point, you are able to survive without a heart. Besides, as Dr. Maureen Condic has written in her essay "Life: Defining the Beginning by the End," it's not brain death or when the heart stops beating that determines true death. It is when your cells stop communicating with each other. She writes, "The medical and legal definition of death draws a clear distinction between living cells and living organisms. Organisms are living beings composed of parts that have separate but mutually dependent functions. While organisms are made of living cells, living cells themselves do not necessarily constitute an organism. The critical difference between a collection of cells and a living organism is the ability of an organism to act in a coordinated manner for the continued health and maintenance of the body as a whole. It is precisely this ability that breaks down at the moment of death, however death might occur. Dead bodies may have plenty of live cells, but their cells no longer function together in a coordinated manner." This is what happens at the moment of death, and this is what determines when you are truly dead. You may irreversibly lose the ability to function as a person when your brain dies or your heart stops, but it is the ability for your cells to act as an integrated whole that determine whether an organism is alive. So if we want to take a symmetrical view to human life, if our cells stop communicating when we die, then when our cells start communicating as an integrated whole (which happens at fertilization) is when we should be considered alive.

Even aside from the symmetrical view, there are reasons to know that the unborn are living organisms: They metabolize food for energy, they respond to stimuli, and they grow through cellular reproduction. So Stein is correct that the question is are the unborn alive, but he is using a bad argument to get himself there. Aside from that, everyone agrees that abortion kills something. What is at issue at the abortion issue is: are unborn human beings things that are morally permissible to kill? In that respect, Stein has not addressed this pro-choice argument.

"The same people who are for abortion have already been born."

This is a fair point, attributed originally to Ronald Reagan. It's true that no one advocates for their own people group to be killed. But again, this doesn't respond to pro-choice arguments. This is a pro-life argument of its own.

"Eagle eggs, unborn eagles, are protected whereas unborn humans are not."

This is another bad meme argument. Eagle eggs are protected because eagles are an endangered species. Chicken eggs are not protected. If the human race was on the verge of extinction, I think it's entirely possible that our government would outlaw abortion to attempt to get our population numbers back up.

Conversely, it's also true that many people care more about animals than they do human beings. This is a confusion, of course, as there are many reasons to think that human beings are intrinsically valuable whereas animals are not. In fact, many people who believe this way have probably been hurt by people in the past. But someone can believe both that it is wrong to kill animals and that it is wrong to kill unborn human children.

"People are concerned about the right to choose, but the right to choose what? Murder?"

This is a question-begging statement, as he hasn't made the case that abortion is murder. People who are pro-choice are not advocating for the right to choose murder because they don't believe that abortion is murder. You need to have that discussion, first.

Also, it's excellent that he points out that we're not trying to condemn women who have had abortion. Massive brownie points for that.

"These children deserve a destiny and a future."

This is one of the better statements he makes in the video, especially since a very similar argument has been expounded by philosopher Don Marquis. But unfortunately, he doesn't go into detail regarding their right to their future.

So I appreciate Buster Stein's enthusiasm and his desire to talk about the issue. The problem is that he's not using the best arguments that he can to defend his position, and a thoughtful pro-choice person won't be convinced by them.


  1. Speaking of pro-life arguments, I was on a pro-life forum and we were talking about the millions of children that had been aborted. I made a comment lamenting the fact that among the children aborted, there may have been scientists greater than Einstein, statesmen greater than Churchhill, programmers greater than Linus, and authors greater than Tolkien. Imagine a world in which Lincoln was aborted in the name of "choice", so instead of growing up to preserve the USA and free slaves, he ended up in a medical waste container. And yet we live in a world deprived individuals like that. Who is to say we haven't lost the politician who negotiated peace in the Middle East? I think we have a right to not only mourn their deaths, but also to mourn all we've lost because of them. Anyway, imagine my surprise when I was lambasted by fellow pro-lifers for saying that.

    1. Well, I wouldn't lambaste you for saying that. But I would point out that remember, the pro-life position is that one is valuable for what you *are*, not what you can *do*, which is what the pro-choice position is. Einstein was intrinsically valuable, he wasn't just valuable because he was a genius. So abortion would be wrong even if it could be proven that no one of consequence had ever been aborted.

      Also, the sword cuts both ways. It's true we may have aborted the next Beethoven or Einstein, but we also may have aborted the next Hitler, or serial rapist, or Stalin.

  2. I don't think I have a argument that would satisfy you, but let me ask you to consider something. There was a time, not long ago, where abortion was almost universally thought of as a great evil. Abortion was something that only fringe segments and psychopaths would even consider. If we could go back in time, and ask an average person living then, "why is abortion wrong?", I think you, Scott Klusendorf, and others in the pro-life movement would give them a failing grade on their arguments. Our ancestors had built a society in which abortion is illegal, the abortion-rate was a fraction of ours, but they didn't have what you'd consider convincing arguments for why abortion is wrong.


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