Monday, December 12, 2016

Response to Richard Rowe's "Why Pro-Choice is Right" Article, Part II [Clinton Wilcox]

This is my second part in a three-part series in responding to an abortion-choice advocate's article regarding why he believes "pro-choice is right." So far his defense of the abortion-choice position has been less than stellar. For part one in this series, click here. In the first part, I examined his first four arguments. Now I'll examine arguments five through nine.

Argument 5: "Responsibility and the Last Decision"

Rowe apparently thinks it "self-righteous" to hold women responsible for the life they create when they have sex. Of course we believe the man should be held responsible as well, but since it's the woman who gets pregnant, we'll be looking at her sense of responsibility. Rowe asserts that this doesn't hold up "in a philosophical sense."

However, Rowe is just another abortion-choice advocate who doesn't understand the cause and effect relationship of sex and reproduction. It may be true that pregnancy is outside of a woman's control, but, barring cases of rape, sex is within a woman's control, and since sex is the act that results in pregnancy, we absolutely can hold her responsible for the new life she conceives because she chose to have sex. Rowe also asserts that we don't hold people responsible for chance events, but if the chance event is a result of a volitional act, then of course we hold the person responsible. As Frank Beckwith argues in his book Defending Life, if someone drives drunk, even though they didn't intend to hit someone with their car (or, to put it in language Rowe is using, hitting someone with your car while intoxicated is a "chance event"), we still hold them responsible for the person they hit with their car.

Rowe brings up women who get raped, which is, of course, a very tragic situation, but this is completely off-topic. No pro-life advocate argues from the responsibility of sexual intercourse in the case of rape because she wasn't responsible for having sex. I argue that abortion in the case of rape is still wrong elsewhere, but as it's off-topic, there is no need to rehash it here.

Rowe then mentions people who used birth control of some kind. Of course if someone tries to use birth control, they are indicating their lack of desire to get pregnant, but using birth control only adds a barrier to reproduction, it does not change the reproductive nature of sex. So even using birth control does not absolve a woman from responsibility for the new life that is conceived because she still chooses to have sex.

After that, Rowe mentions women who conceive a child with a man who lied about being there for her if she gets pregnant. This is another tragic situation, one in which the sexual revolution of the 60's has helped create. This is a tragic side-effect of telling people that sex is for fun, no procreation, but this is, of course, false. Sex is reproductive, and if a woman is lied to by her husband, we should hold him responsible for the lie (and in fact, we do have laws requiring a deadbeat dad to pay child support), but this, again, does not absolve her from the responsibility of the new life she has created.

Argument 6: "It's the Economy, Stupid"

Let's lay aside that an article with such poor reasoning does not justify any sort of hubris on the part of Rowe, his next argument is an economic one. His contention here is that "at least half of all abortions come down to one thing...[lack of] money."

This argument and the reasoning for it underscores Rowe's complete ignorance on the topic of abortion (which, again, shows that he ought not be writing on it). For one thing, while a large number of abortions are because of a woman's financial reasons, there are many diverse reasons a woman doesn't have an abortion. For example, a study done by Guttmacher Institute showed that while 73% of women cited economic problems, 74% of women cited said that "having a baby would dramatically change my life". Seventy-three and seventy-four percent. This means that a large number of women citing economic problems also cited that having a child would dramatically change her life. This indicates that simply solving all women's economic problems won't eliminate what, in their mind, is a need for abortion.

Plus, it is not the responsibility of government to cover a woman's child. They had no part in the conception of the child, the mother and father did. And taking money from the taxpayer (which, in any other context, would be called stealing) to give it to a woman who has not legitimate claim to it is an immoral way to try and solve this problem. We should be concerned about ethics when we talk about proposing bills and signing them into law.

Aside from educating himself in the abortion issue, Rowe also needs to educate himself on how economics works.

Argument 7: "The Sanction of Life"

In this section is one of Rowe's most ridiculous in his entire article (which is quite a feat):
Argue all you want with Pro-Lifers -- you're never going to convince them that abortion ISN'T murder. (emphasis in original)
 I'm a person who tries to be as open-minded as I can. If someone presents to me a good argument against my position, I will reconsider my position and possibly change my mind if there is no good response to their argument. So on the surface, Rowe's claim here is simply wrong. However, the reason that most abortion-choice people stand no chance of convincing me and other thoughtful pro-life advocates of their position is one main reason: they rarely address the pro-life argument, and when they do, they either rely on false information, bad science, or bad philosophy. Rowe certainly hasn't addressed the pro-life argument, that abortion is wrong because it intentionally kills an innocent human being. If Rowe doesn't address that argument, then he has no hope to convince me.

Here, Rowe attempts to respond to the pro-life advocate on their own terms, saying "let's accept that abortion is murder for the sake of argument. What follows from that?" His response is that murder is acceptable as long as it's sanctioned by authorities. Soldiers can shoot people, executioners can kill prisoners, and pro-life advocates allegedly "actively applaud police for murdering unarmed men in the streets."

Of course, this last point is simply ridiculous. Pro-life people don't advocate miscarriages of justice. As for the rest of this, Rowe has simply committed an equivocation on "murder". Rowe has described one act of murder (police killing unarmed people in the street) and lied about pro-life people supporting that. However, the other acts are not acts of murder, even if they are acts of killing. Murder refers to unlawfully killing people, and abortion, unfortunately, is a lawful killing, which is why I don't say that abortion is murder (even if I argue that it is murder in a philosophical sense). There is a marked difference between killing an innocent child in the womb and killing a convicted murderer after a fair trial by his peers. One does not have to make the case that abortion is murder, though, to argue from the sanctity of life. Life is sacred, which is one reason why abortion is immoral. Abortion is not murder in a legal sense because it is legal, but it should be illegal because it is unjustified homicide.

Rowe continues to argue from lack of distinctions. It's wrong to kill a baby who "threatens to cost you your nice house, sports car, and lifestyle" because the baby is not a direct threat to that. The woman conceived the child (and can always put the child up for adoption if material things are more important than human beings to her). Additionally, the child, having been conceived by his mother, has a legitimate claim on her resources. An arsonist, however, does not and is a direct threat to your property and potentially life. If an arsonist is threatening your life, you have the right to kill him to protect your own, even if he's insane. But if an arsonist sets fire to your house, you do not have the right after the fact to kill him. You must turn him in to the authorities and let justice be served.

The analogy to drone striking is also absurd, but for other reasons. It is immoral to commit drone strikes on innocent people. This is not an argument against the pro-life position.

Rowe ends this section that if you condemn abortion based on "the sanctity of human life," you have to be consistent and condemn people bombing innocent people in drone strikes. But we do, so this amounts to more deliberate lies from Richard Rowe about pro-life advocates. He asserts that "killing innocent people for convenience and profit is a way of life for homo sapiens." All I have to say is I hope no one ever trusts their kids around Rowe.

Argument 8: "Bans Are the Least Effective Solution"

Of course, as is Rowe's habit, he doesn't support any of the claims he makes in this section. As a matter of fact (and contrary to what Rowe believes), restricting abortion does lead to reduced numbers of abortions. Michael New has done research in this area (see Michael New's article here for more information on this subject). Pro-life laws that restrict access to abortion do result in lower incidences of abortions. They also result in abortion clinics closing their doors, which is why Planned Parenthood, among other pro-abortion organizations, fight tooth and nail against common sense legislation restricting some abortions.

Of course, Rowe dismisses these laws as "deadly", "sociopathic," and "controlling," but this is just extremist caterwauling. All laws are controlling, in that they restrict what we can or cannot do, legally. So the fact that these laws are "controlling" is nothing more than a trivial fact. These laws also are not deadly, nor are they sociopathic. A girl's life does not end just because she has a child.

He also asserts (without evidence) that abortion and pregnancy rates are highest in deeply conservative, religious areas of the country. You mean like the super conservative state of New York? New York has the highest abortion rate in the United States, and it is also one of the most liberal states, while Utah, known for being mostly Mormon, has the lowest. Contraception is also widely available in New York. The use and availability of contraception may play a factor in reduction of abortion, but it is not the main factor. And whether it plays a factor at all is still slightly dubious, since a significant number of women who use contraception still wind up pregnant (either through contraception failure or simply not using it correctly), a full 51%, and the wide availability of birth control leads to more risky sexual behavior, so it may actually drive abortion rates up due to the increased number of couples (especially teenagers) having sex.

Rowe, of course, refers to "abstinence-only" education as "asinine", and "a terrible idea." By his logic, though, since kids are going to do drugs anyway, we should allow them to use drugs, just educate them on how to do it safely. I was a teenager once. It's difficult enough to navigate high school without having to worry about having sex. Our culture is largely responsible for that, because you see sex almost everywhere you look. But we should not be encouraging teenagers to have sex, only to "do it safely" (since there is really no such thing as safe sex). If we tell teenagers to abstain from sex, especially if they have parents who model a sense of morality for their kids, then like me, teenagers can avoid giving in to temptation. It's only if we glorify sex do we then run the risk of our teenagers having sex before they are ready to settle down.

Argument 9: "The Second Amendment Argument"

Rowe begins by telling us this isn't an argument -- which means he's trying to artificially inflate his list with more bad arguments.

Rowe repeats the tired old claim that making abortions illegal will not stop women from obtaining abortions, which, of course, is true, but this is a trivial point, since making rape, theft, and murder illegal hasn't stopped all acts of rape, theft, and murder. Rapists, thieves, and murderers deserve to be punished, and abortionists who take the life of an unborn human being deserve to be punished, as well.

Of course, Rowe's argument here amounts to a false analogy. Gun owners oppose gun control laws because good guys won't be able to protect themselves against bad guys with guns. But the act of abortion is not moral for anyone to obtain, so there is no parallel good to the bad that abortion does.

Nine arguments in, and Rowe is still floundering. Let's recap his nine arguments so far:

1) "Divine abortion" -- a non sequitur, mixed with a misunderstanding of the passage in question
2) "I knew you in the womb" -- not an argument to support his position
3) "A baby's worth" -- an assertion with no evidence, mixed with a red herring
4) "Pro-choice doesn't mean pro-abortion" -- a red herring
5) "Responsibility and the last decision" -- Rowe doesn't understand the cause and effect relationship between sex which is a critical failure for this argument
6) "It's the economy, stupid" -- Economic reasons are not the sole reason that women abort, so solving economic problems will not reduce the abortion rate significantly, if at all
7) "The sanction of life" -- Rowe conflates "murder" with "killing", so this amounts to a fallacious equivocation
8) "Bans are the least effective solution" -- the information relied on here is simply inaccurate, so this argument fails
9) "The Second Amendment argument" -- this is a self-proclaimed non-argument

Any good argument for "why pro-choice is right" continues to elude Rowe in his article. In my next and final part, I'll respond to his last four arguments.

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