Thursday, June 29, 2017

A Conversation With a Congressman About Abortion

On a recent errand to the local office supply store to purchase a pair of bookends (just what every man in his early 20's shops for...), I happened upon a conversation with a man who happened to be running in the coming congressional election to become my district's next representative. During the course of our discussion, which had turned to the pro-life issue, he made several comments about the pro-life view that I think need to be answered clearly. While I was not able to respond to these points at the time, I'll briefly write them out here so that others may have an idea on how exactly to respond.

Before I begin, let's review the pro-life syllogism (a type of formal argument):

          P1: It is wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being.
          P2. Abortion intentionally kills an innocent human being.

          C: Therefore, abortion is wrong.

Whether or not this argument succeeds is dependent on the truth of the premises. If both premises are true, then the conclusion logically follows.

Keeping this in mind, here are the three remarks I got from the Congressional candidate:

1. "If the unborn is a person, then we'd have to amend the laws regarding the carpool lane to allow pregnant women to drive in the lane by themselves."
Frankly, I find this statement puzzling. So? Even if that were what we needed to do, what does that entail? How do the rules that determine the number of persons needed in a car in order for that car to legally drive in the carpool lane determine the status of the unborn as valuable human beings? The statement does nothing to answer the syllogism, and in fact simply assumes that the unborn are not full human beings.

This also confuses moral reasoning with civil traffic law, which tends to vary from state to state, many times due to the environment and the amount of traffic on the highways. There would be no need to change the laws regarding the carpool lane to include human beings in-utero, as the purpose of the carpool lane is to cut down on unneeded drivers( which doesn't seem to help in Southern California...)
As Clinton Wilcox wrote in an earlier post, carpool lanes are simply a societal convention, and not enough to determine personhood, nor should they be.

2. "The US Constitution only determines human beings to be persons at birth. We would have to amend the Constitution to allow for the unborn to be considered persons."
Actually, in perusing the constitution , the 14th Amendment is discussing the rights of persons who happen to be citizens. A non-citizen of the United States is obviously not going to enjoy some of the same privileges as an American citizen, but that does not mean they aren't a person because of it. If I cross into Mexico, I am considered a foreigner there, but I still retain my status as a person because of what I am, not where I call home.

Speaking of which, why does birth even matter in determining who gets to live? While birth is a milestone in terms of development, it seems odd to think that transitioning from one environment to the next will somehow make one protectable under the law. If only eight inches is what makes one worthy of protection, then it would seem that something like "human rights" and being a person is not really of much importance in the first place.

3. "What are you going to do about all the unwanted children? There are a lot of poor families who cannot afford to take care of their children. They will suffer worse without abortion."
Frankly, this statement is both question begging and demeaning at the same time. It begs the question, by simply pretending that abortion has no effect on those same children whatsoever. It would be absurd to say that we should legalize homicide for the poor, so that they can kill their already born children as well, and thus not have to worry about how they will take care of them. If it is wrong to treat children in that regard by eliminating them when their lives become burdens, then it is just as wrong, if not even more so, to kill them when they may possibly become a burden in the future.

Also, it is very demeaning to "the poor" and those around them to think that the only thing ensuring their welfare is through a particular policy. This is a classic "either-or" fallacy, in that if someone does not support policy "A", they want poor women to die in the back alleys of America, at the hands of illegal abortionists. Or that the poor families who do keep their children will not be able to make it financially, because of the number of children they must support.. This is absurd, and is a very low view to hold of one's fellow countrymen. Just because a particular law or social practice that is intended to help ensure one's welfare is not in place, does not necessarily mean that people will not find other ways to help themselves and those around them. Think about places like Interfaith, the Salvation Army, or the Red Cross. Just because a particular social practice is not in place in society(in this case, abortion) it doesn't mean that no one will step up to help those in need.

Needless to say, the candidate I spoke to will not be getting my vote.

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