Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Responding to Back Alley Logic Butchers

We are living through a zombie apocalypse of sorts, rhetorically speaking. Old arguments that should have died long ago in light of solid responses keep finding new life in the "blogosphere" and on social media, especially with abortion finding its way back into the public dialogue due to recent events in Ireland and the United States.

Common among these arguments is the claim that pro-life legislation will lead to scores of dead women. From "back alley butcher" statements to feminists protesters waving coat hangers at rallies, to claims that thousands of women will die if abortion is made illegal, the argument is, like a horror movie zombie, still coming around. Even some college professors(Who really ought to know better) have repeated these sound bites.

Ironically absent these cries of supposed fear is any real rebuttal to the pro-life argument:

Premise 1: It is wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being.

Premise 2: Abortion intentionally kills an innocent human being.

Conclusion: Therefore, abortion is wrong.

As philosopher Chris Kaczor points out, questions about women's health and abortion are indeed important, but they still fail to settle the question of the moral admissibility of the act of abortion itself. Do we have any obligations to protect innocent human beings before birth in society and our law? Or can we dispose of them whenever their existence becomes a burden upon us? Philosopher Mary Anne Warren, herself an advocate of abortion, is in agreement; highlighting that murder is wrong regardless of the social consequences of prohibiting it.

This raises a question: Should the law protect the innocent from being intentionally harmed, even though some may be unintentionally killed as a result? Consider that some have been killed accidentally by unsuspecting family members when entering their own residence late at night, being mistaken for a burglar. This is undoubtedly a major tragedy, especially for the family. But does it logically follow that the moral position a society should take is to legalize armed burglary so that no one accidentally dies in this manner?

For another example, should armed robbery(stealing items off a person directly) be made legal so that no one gets accidentally shot by an overly nervous, trigger happy pedestrian walking through a high crime part of town? This is also a tragedy, but it is going to be really hard to argue that this is grounds for abolishing laws against robbery.

Aside from the logical mistakes, there is an honesty question that needs to be asked of our critics: If pro-lifers were to propose a law that restricted abortion but also made sure that no woman had to seek out a "back alley butcher", would our critics then join us in opposing abortion? Some may say yes, but many will still retort that "Abortion is a fundamental right." Ah, but that is the question at hand. Abortion is only a fundamental right if it is a moral act, and it is only a moral act if the unborn are not human. That needs to be argued for, and not simply asserted. This goes for everyone, on Twitter and in the academy.

One last point on the topic, those who raise the concern of women dying from illegal abortions do have some explaining to do. By what basis do we know that "[abolishing abortion] will be a death sentence for thousands of women", as the Women's March responded to the nomination of a pro-life Supreme Court Justice recently? Very often there is little to no support provided for the claim. As the late Dr. Bernard Nathanson(a former abortionist) points out, there is very little support to back up the claim:

"How many deaths were we talking about when abortion was illegal? In N.A.R.A.L., we generally emphasized the drama of the individual case, not the mass statistics, but when we spoke of the latter it was always "5,000 to 10,000 deaths a year." I confess that I knew the figures were totally false, and I suppose the others did too if they stopped to think of it. But in the "morality" of our revolution, it was a useful figure, widely accepted, so why go out of our way to correct it with honest statistics? The overriding concern was to get the laws eliminated, and anything within reason that had to be done was permissible." (Bernard N. Nathanson, M.D., Aborting America (New York: Pinnacle Books, 1979), 193)
While more can be said about the actual data on the number of deaths from illegal abortions in the pre-Roe years( Abort73 has a good list of sources, which can be found at http://www.abort73.com/end_abortion/what_about_illegal_abortions/. Also see Erika Bachiochi's The Cost of Choice: Women Evaluate the Impact of Abortion)

The purpose of the objection itself needs to be questioned. Are those who raise it doing so out of an emphasis on truth, or as a means of fear-mongering in an already tense political climate? With women dying even during the era of legal abortion in the United States at the hands of men like Kermit Gosnell, it should be obvious that those who truly care for the needs of American women would be willing to consider all the implications of legal abortion today, not just the immediate emotions that all too often drive cultural debates.


  1. Hello,

    I enjoy reading all of your blog post. I have gained valuable information that has allowed me to have debates/conversations with pro-abortionist online and in person to try to persuade them to the pro-life side. However, when debating I continually get this same argument over and over and I was wondering if you could help me find some resources on how to respond to it. Also, I think it would make a great blog post for you to discuss as I see it commonly thrown out by the pro-choice side, but it is hard to find responses to it online.

    The argument that I keep getting is this: The abortion rate fell to an all-time-low under pro-choice Obama - in large part because of the focus on providing better, more comprehensive health care to more people, things that are being undone at the federal level by Trump, and potentially at the state level because of pro-life governors and legislators. Therefore, they ask why would anyone vote for Republicans when the abortion rates decline faster under a Democratic leadership. If we really care about reducing the abortion rate then we should not be cutting programs that reduce contraception access. If we really cared to reduce abortions then we should be voting for Democrats.

    Among other things, I then go on to point out that the abortion rate has been consistently declining since 1980, and the abortion rate has fallen by over 50 percent over the past 34 years. The abortion rate decline during the Obama administration was largely a continuation of this long-term trend. Also I have stated something that was written on this blog that even if pro-choice Presidents and legislators were responsible for a short-term decline in abortion rates, our ultimate goals are different. So if we were to stick with pro-choice Presidents, we might have short-term success but our ultimate goal will never be met, which means that looking at the big picture, we’ll actually be losing more lives than saving. In addition, I pointed out that there are many studies that show that when funding for teen pregnancy services has been reduced (such as in the United Kingdom) it actually reduced teen pregnancy rates ( I cite other studies as well). Also, saying they want it reduced would mean that there is something morally wrong with abortion. If there is nothing wrong with abortion, then why celebrate the fact that the abortion rate has gone down? Lastly, the democratic platform wanted to abolish the Hyde Amendment and get ride of all abortion restriction which would have increase the abortion rate. They have recently voted against a 20 week abortion ban (which many liberal European counties have), and against the born alive abortion survivors protection act. This was not my full reply back to them, but just a few points I gave.

    There reply back was: The reason for the trend is simple: access to contraception is more effective in reducing the number of abortions than regulation that controls access—and under Democratic leadership, access to affordable contraception has increased. https://qz.com/857273/the-sharpest-drops-in-abortion-rates-in-america-have-been-under-democratic-presidents/ Unwanted pregnancies are the primary cause of abortions. When you increase contraception and health care coverage, guess what happens? The number of unwanted pregnancies drop - which leads to fewer abortions. Also, the rate has not been just dropping in a straight line for the past 50 years. The rate has fallen faster under Democrats than Republicans

    I know this is a lot of information but any information you could provide as a how to respond would be greatly appreciated.

  2. You may find this helpful:


    1. Thanks Caleb, that link had some helpful information.


All comments are moderated. We reject all comments containing obscenity. We reserve the right to reject any and all comments that are considered inappropriate or off-topic without explanation.