Wednesday, February 22, 2017

How the “Planned Parenthood Baby Part Scandal” affects Bodily-Autonomy arguments for abortion [Nathan Apodaca]

Recently, the abortion debate in America has taken a new turn, as it has begun focusing on the methods of abortion that are used to terminate the pregnancy. The undercover videos released in 2015 by the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) purported to show that employees of Planned Parenthood were engaging in the sale of body parts of human fetuses that had been dismembered through abortion procedures. The unveiling of these videos and findings drastically shaped the abortion debate, and has, in my opinion, done more to put the pro-choice movement on the defensive regarding abortion procedures and “rights”.

Given this development in the debate over abortion, I think the pro-life movement has been given a new opportunity to respond to an argument given in defense of abortion that is beginning to gain more popularity in lay-level discussions, the argument from bodily autonomy, or bodily rights.

To summarize the argument, defenders of abortion rights, such as David Boonin and Judith Thomson, argue that just as a woman would have no moral obligation to remain plugged into a human being for a period of time to whom she bears no moral responsibility, she would also not be obligated to carry an unborn human “person” to full term. The argument has been gaining popularity through many lay-level discussions in recent years.

The problem with the argument is that it proves too much about bodily autonomy in relation to pregnancy. The recent debate over the Planned Parenthood videos can help pro-lifers make this case. Even if the videos were “faked” or “deceptively edited”, they do bring up an important question: Is “my body, my choice” really applicable to the abortion of a human being?

Suppose, based on the idea that fetal body parts can generate a pretty good profit, a woman becomes pregnant for the sole purpose of having an abortion. Using the slogan “my body, my choice”, she obtains an abortion and sells the fetal remains to the highest bidder. Would that be an acceptable action? Suppose it goes a step further, and a market is created for body parts of unborn human beings. Using the “my body, my choice” euphemism, human fetuses are conceived to be dismembered, have their organs and tissues divided up and sold to the highest bidders.

Many advocates of abortion choice would say that this is unacceptable. But why? If it's justifiable to eliminate a human being who is attached to another human, why not “connect” human beings so that they can be justifiably killed, and have the aftermath used for whatever purpose the woman desires? Given that a person can willingly donate a body part, such as a kidney, to those in need of an organ, then what would be wrong with allowing women to conceive human fetuses for the sole purpose of killing them and then harvesting their organs or tissues to treat other illnesses?

This is an absurd position to hold. In fact, since the videos were revealed almost two years ago, many pro-choice defenders have shied away from defending all elective abortions. I think the videos shed further light on the problems with the bodily rights argument, as that approach would mean that the only thing wrong with the sale of fetal body parts scandal would be that the woman wasn't notified about the use of the aborted remains, and thus missed out on potential profit. Incidentally, I had a conversation recently where someone said that the most horrifying aspect of the entire scandal was the idea that abortionists made a profit of the sale of body parts, as opposed to the methods used to obtain the body parts in the first place. This is ridiculous.

Friday, February 10, 2017

On Teen Vogue's Recent Abortion Articles [Clinton Wilcox]

Teen Vogue, apparently a publication geared toward teenagers, has recently published two articles about abortion. Now, seeing as though I'm not a teenager, I don't have any kids, and I'm a man of reasonably good taste, I don't read Teen Vogue (or, really, anything with "vogue" in the name of it). But it's distressing the kinds of things publications geared toward teenagers will try to push on your kids. This just goes to show how important it is for parents to be aware of what their children read.

One such article is called "11 Thoughtful Gifts Your Friend Who Just Had an Abortion Would Appreciate." It's actually a "slideshow", so I would encourage you not to click through it as slideshows only artificially inflate the number of clicks a website garners, giving them more money from their sponsors. I only read through one or two of the supposed gifts you should give your post-abortive friend. It's written in a style that's super-casual and intended to be funny (rather than helpful). However, before you click through you are greeted with a pop-up box that talks about how abortion is "never a simple decision" and making it as a teenager is "more than a little terrifying." Never mind the fact that encouraging children to abstain from sex would be an excellent way of ensuring they don't have to make these decisions. Instead, we'll just offer gift ideas for a girl who does go through it. Of course, to Teen Vogue, the reason many women need post-abortion counseling is "not because the act itself is so terrible, but because sometimes the world can be." In other words, the "abortion stigma" is the reason so many women regret their abortions, not because they're killing their own child.

Needless to say, anything Teen Vogue writes on abortion should be avoided, but there's one article in particular I'd like to focus on. An Episcopal priest named Broderick L. Greer (I can't bring myself to use the title Reverend before his name) wrote an article for them called "I Am a Priest and This is Why I'm Pro-Choice." After reading it, there's only one possible reaction:

That's right. "Martin Luther is not impressed with your theology." Whenever I hear someone say "I'm pro-choice because I'm a Christian", or "I'm pro-choice because I'm a priest/pastor," my only real thought is "you probably have no idea what Scripture actually says about the value of children." At any rate, let's look through what Greer has to say on the issue.

Greer begins by repeating the oft-repeated and also oft-refuted claim that "upwards of five thousand women" died from having illegal abortions eleven years before Roe v. Wade. He talks about abortion eleven years before because he obviously wanted us to think that making abortion legal has made it safer. This is, of course, false. As Bernard Nathanson wrote in his book Aborting America, it's not legalizing abortion that made it safer, it was advancements in medical technology, such as the discovery of Penicillin. [1] Additionally, the "five-thousand women" died statistic is false. Nathanson wrote, "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?" [2] And of course, Greer pointed to an article by NARAL to support his claim, the very institution that agreed to lie about this statistic in the first place.

Greer also indicates that he believes pro-life people would have us return to those days, which of course, is still a specious argument because, as Nathanson has also told us, if abortion is ever driven underground again, it will not become dangerous, to say nothing of the fact that even before abortion was made legal, it was still largely done by physicians in good standing in their communities (see my article here for more on these two points and my sources related to them).

Greer fits in perfectly with leftist ideology. Not only has he bought their lies, but he also uses their language when he takes time out of his article to tell us that he doesn't have a uterus, and that "many of the decisions made about the bodies of people with a uterus are by cisgender men." Of course, those of us interested in objective reality and scientific truth call "people with uteruses" women. [3] He also says that the last thing anyone interested in "transformative public discourse" is another "cisgender man" telling people what they should or shouldn't do regarding their "reproductive health" (a buzzword for abortion). Here's the part where we can take a page from the leftist playbook and call him "cisphobic" for his views.

Greer then apparently struggled within himself about whether or not "cisgender" men should be able to make the determination about abortion for "people with uteruses". Greer, himself, may never be faced with the decision about whether or not to abort, but the reality is that many men are faced with that decision. It takes two people to conceive a child; the father has as much stake in the fate of the child as the mother does (and unfortunately many men coerce their girlfriends/wives into making the wrong decision and aborting the child). To say that men have no stake in this issue is to completely ignore the emotions, thoughts, needs, etc., of men. If we truly care about equality, then they should be considered, as well.

Of course, we can agree that pastors and priests are "companion[s] with people through life's most challenging and complex seasons." But if you encourage a woman to have an abortion, you are trying to help them escape their problems rather than face them head on. To any Christian who understands the value of human life, and who understands how God wants us to love our neighbors, we can't take someone in for an abortion. We need to help them through this difficult time, not by having their child killed but by walking with them through this difficult time, by petitioning the congregation to help walk alongside them, to help them with resources, etc. It's shameful that Greer would use his position as a priest to tell anyone that abortion is an acceptable way out of a pregnancy.

Of course, then Greer tells us that we need to "rediscover" the art of storytelling. Storytelling is important, but the problem is that Greer apparently thinks that stories trump reason and even Scripture. God tells us "you shall not murder," and that he "hates the shedding of innocent blood." No amount of storytelling about difficult decisions will negate these commandments from God, or will negate the basic biological fact that abortions kill an innocent human being.

Additionally, Greer uses the tired old talking point that "anti-choice" people only oppose abortion because of their religious views. This shows that Greer is clueless about the topic and has no right to be writing about it. Maybe he should stop talking about abortion not because he's "cisgender," but because he refuses to take an honest look at what abortion actually is.

Greer then executes some stunningly bad reasoning. He reasons that because abortion rates fell sharply in the Obama years, this "debunks" the "myth" that outlawing abortion will somehow decrease abortions. The language he uses shows that he doesn't understand how outlawing something will reduce its instances of it. This is just embarrassingly bad reasoning. Additionally, it doesn't follow that because abortion rates fell during Obama's administration that outlawing abortion won't reduce its instances. In fact, one of the major reasons abortion rates fell is because of the numerous pro-life laws that were passed and the fact that so many Planned Parenthoods closed up shop. Of course, this won't stop abortion-choice ideologues from claiming they're the ones responsible. (See Seth's and my article here for more on why voting for abortion-choice presidential candidates does not actually reduce abortion rates, and an examination of the argument that abortion rates dropped under Obama's administration.)

Greer repeats even more talking points. Yes, abortions will happen whether they are legal or not, just like rapes, murders, and thefts happen despite being legal. Abortion needs to be illegal because killing an innocent human being must be punished. Plus, the law is a moral teacher; not only will law-abiding citizens not seek abortions, but many abortion-choice people will become pro-life because the law is telling them that abortion is wrong.

Additionally, we are not merely "pro-birth" just because we oppose leftist policies. This may come as a shock to Greer, but pro-life people follow their moral convictions. This means that we support policies that are ethical, and leftist policies that steal money from taxpayers to pay for children conceived by a man and woman who chose to have sex is unethical. I wish Greer would have a better moral compass if he intends to shepherd a church.

Greer is simply not a good priest, and not a good thinker. Notice how he didn't make one compelling argument for abortion. He just relies on abortion-choice talking points and "stories" to make his case. Nothing you read in this article is any different from anything else you read on sites like Salon or Mother Jones. Articles like this should reinforce in all of our minds why the pro-life position is true.

[1] Bernard N. Nathanson, M.D., with Richard Ostling, Aborting America, (New York, Doubleday, 1979), p. 194.
[2] ibid., p. 193, emphasis theirs.
[3] This is not to say that any biological female without a uterus is not a woman. Obviously some women need to have their uteruses removed for various reasons, or some unborn women have their capacity to develop a womb impaired in some manner. But it is undeniable that one defining feature of womanhood, even if not every woman is able to fulfill their ultimate capacity for it, is the natural capacity to become pregnant.

Edit: It has just come to light that in the first article I linked to, the author actually manufactures many of the items she promotes in her article and neglected to disclose that information.

Monday, January 30, 2017

More of the Same Fallacies From an Abortion-Choice Advocate [Clinton Wilcox]

I was pointed to an article by Alan Levinowitz called "Why Do Pro-Life Advocates Only Seem to Care About Unborn Lives?" Of course, the real reason is because abortion-choice advocates are too lazy to do any real research into what people in the pro-life movement actually do. But that would make for a very short article.

Levinowitz starts off by saying he uses abortion as a case study in his comparative ethics course. Considering how rife with fallacy his article is, it actually does give me concern for his students. He is apparently drawing his students away from the pro-life argument not based on logic or reason (which is essential for coming to conclusions on ethical questions) but based on emotion and logical fallacies. There is a silver lining here -- Levinowitz does recognize that abortion-choice advocates can't take the "moral superiority" of their position as granted and should seek out challenging dialogue partners to discuss it further. So if Levinowitz happens across this article, please get in touch with me. I'd love to discuss this further with you. We could even set up a debate on this issue, if you'd be game for it.

Unfortunately, Levinowitz starts out with a major scientific snafu. The unborn organism is not a "fertilized egg" -- this is an unfortunate dehumanizing term for a human zygote, but as embryologist Keith L. Moore informs us, "Human development begins at fertilization, the process the during which a male gamete or sperm unites with a female gamete or oocyte (ovum) to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual." [1] The term "fertilized egg" is a misnomer. Once the egg is fertilized, a new embryo at the single-cell zygote stage comes into existence.

Levinowitz then goes on to say he has certain questions which make it difficult to engage in dialogue with pro-life people, but of course all of these questions are beside the point of the pro-life argument. The pro-life argument is a simple one:

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

I teach to my beginning logic students that in order to refute an argument, you must either show it to be invalid (i.e. the conclusion does not follow logically from its premises) or it is unsound (i.e. it is invalid and/or one or both of the premises are false). So as we're going through this article, ask yourself: "How does this refute the pro-life argument Clinton has outlined above?" The reality is they don't. Now, I do intend to offer responses to Levinowitz' questions, as well. I don't want it to appear that there are no answers to them. But keep asking yourself how his questions refute the pro-life argument above. They won't, and so he hasn't even done any damage to the argument. If an abortion-choice advocate can't refute the argument above, then intellectual honesty demands they accept our argument as true, whether or not they "feel" like it is true.

Q1: Why do no signs at the March for Life mention maternity or paternity leave? Why aren't expansive parental leave policies on every pro-life website and mentioned by every pro-life politician?

Again, the pro-life argument is regarding the right to life of unborn children. Maternal and paternal leave are important questions of policy, but there is no reason to try and fight all of society's problems in order to fight to end abortion. Levinowitz might as well condemn the American Cancer Society for not trying to end AIDS, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's disease. The reality is we can't fight to end all of society's ills because if we try to end all problems, we won't end any of them. A better question is, why don't you work to stop people from killing their children then we can start to talk about maternal and paternal leave. But right now parents having their children killed is a much larger problem. This is just a fallacious ad hominem dismissal of our argument.

That being said, many pro-life advocates do support paternity and maternity leave. I can't speak for all politicians who consider themselves pro-life, but I'm generally pretty skeptical about politicians. Any given politician could simply be pro-life to try and win support from conservatives. I'm pretty confident that our current VP is pro-life, and I'm also very confident that Rick Santorum is pro-life, who took Barbara Boxer to the woodshed over her view that partial-birth abortion (known colloquially by the more sterile name D&X, Dilation and Excavation) is morally permissible.

Q2: Why didn't any of the speakers at the March mention contraception? Why don't pro-life people (including politicians) care about sex education?

There is a legitimate debate over the moral permissibility of contraception. But whether or not pro-life people support contraception is irrelevant to the truth of our argument, so this boils down to another fallacious ad hominem dismissal.

The reality is that not all of the speakers believe contraception to be morally permissible, myself included (note: there is likely a difference of opinion among those in LTI on the question of contraception -- this opinion is my own and should not be seen as representative of the other speakers and writers in LTI). However, I do believe that contraception should remain legal, for those who do not have a moral problem with it. It is better to prevent a child from coming into existence than it is to take a child out of existence once they are here. But there is absolutely no reason why any speaker at the March should mention contraception. In most places in the United States, condoms are as available as candy. Of course, that doesn't mean that we will want to provide contraception for anyone. People need to be responsible for their sexual choices, which includes abstaining if they can't afford contraception. This is just a lazy attempt to avoid the pro-life argument.

Q3: Why is adoption only mentioned in passing, if it is mentioned at all?

This seems to be a question pro-life people can't win on. Of course, pro-life people argue that if a woman is considering abortion, she should consider adoption instead, which is the morally right thing to do. But whenever pro-life people mention adoption, abortion-choice people dismiss that as callous to women because it's such a difficult decision. Now Levinowitz seems upset that we don't mention it enough. Again, this is a fallacious ad hominem dismissal of the pro-life argument. Our argument is that abortion is wrong because it intentionally takes the life of an innocent human child. This would be true whether or not we believed in adoption.

Q4: Why do we focus so much on the Christian God if we welcome everyone? How do we expect to win over people like Levinowitz if prayerful protest is more important than funding health care services?

I agree that there's more the pro-life movement can do to welcome those who are not Christians. But the pro-life movement has gone a long way in becoming more inclusive. In fact, Kelsey Hazzard, president of Secular Pro-Life, spoke at the March, as well. She is an atheist (and she is also a friend). There are many other non-religious pro-life organizations, such as the Pro-Life Alliance of Gays and Lesbians and Pro-Life Humanists. So in this case, we're dealing with a new fallacy, the hasty generalization. He's making a generalization based on his observations of speakers at the march, but ignoring the very real counterexamples from people representing organizations who were also there at the march.

Pro-life people are much more interested than abortion-choice people in health care services. However, non-socialists, like myself, do not believe in stealing money from taxpayers to give to people who have no legitimate claim on it. This is why we don't believe in funding health care services -- each individual person should be free to do with their money as they please, which includes choosing where to give their money for charitable giving. Many pro-life people do, in fact, give donations for health care services. There are at least three times as many pregnancy care centers than there are Planned Parenthoods in the United States, and unlike Planned Parenthood, these organizations do not get billions of dollars in government grants. They subsist on generous donations from financial supporters. They give prenatal services, and help pregnant women and parents of born children in need by offering parenting classes and free items like car seats and diapers. They do all of these services for free. You don't get that at Planned Parenthood.

So we don't believe in stealing money to use it for health care, but we do believe in using our money to do real good and choosing where our money would offer the most benefit. I expect to win over people like Levinowitz because I expect them to be reasonable. His entire argument is based on irrationally dismissing the pro-life argument, so I'm not impressed by his questions. They argue beside the point, and they don't even really reflect the reality of the pro-life movement.

So Levinowitz (who also quotes the misguided words of Sister Joan Chittister) believes that unless we're willing to steal money from the taxpayers for health care, we're not "really" pro-life. This is just absurd, and it shows that Levinowitz is not really as willing to understand pro-life people as he claims to be. Again, the real question is why do you believe children outside the womb should be fed and clothed, but we should kill children inside the womb just because they're unwanted? You don't get to claim the moral high-road here.

Levinowitz ends by quoting Matthew 6:5, taking it out of context (which leads me to question whether he's actually read the Gospel of Matthew, since he's just using it to make a political point). Unfortunately he seems blissfully ignorant of such other verses as Proverbs 6: 16-17 ("There are six things which the Lord hates, yes, seven which are an abomination to Him: Haughty eyes, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood..."), Jeremiah 19: 3-5 ("'Hear the word of the Lord, O kings of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem: thus says the Lord of hosts, the God is Israel, "Behold I am about the bring a calamity upon this place, at which the ears of everyone that hears of it will tingle. Because they have forsaken Me and have made this an alien place and have burned sacrifices in it to other gods, that neither they nor their forefathers nor the kings of Judah had ever known, and because they have filled this place with the blood of the innocent and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, a thing which I never commanded or spoke of, nor did it ever enter my mind..."'"), or Psalm 127: 3 ("Truly children are a gift from the Lord; the fruit of the womb is a reward").

Those on the left love to use the Bible out of context to support their views, but always try to downplay it when it can be used against them (e.g. arguing that abortion is not a "religious issue" if someone shows from Scripture why abortion is wrong).

Levinowitz' challenge, of course, is easily met. And my invitation to discuss this further with him is an honest and serious one. Unfortunately, as there really is no good justification for abortion, abortion-choice people will continue arguing beside the point to distract away from the simple logic of the pro-life position.

[1] Keith L. Moore, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, 7th ed., Philadelphia, PA: Saunders 2003, p. 16.

Monday, December 19, 2016

New Video Series on Abortion [Clinton Wilcox]

Life Training Institute's Seth Gruber begins a series of pro-life training videos to equip you to respond thoughtfully and graciously to popular pro-choice arguments.

Below is the latest video in the series, Is Abortion the Responsibility of the Church?, and here's the link for the playlist to see past videos.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

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

I've spent the last two articles responding to an article by blogger Richard Rowe, in which he asserts (without any good arguments but with a whole lot of unjustified arrogance) that pro-choice is the right position. I'm more than willing to consider somebody's arguments. I have read some of the best defenses of the abortion-choice position that is out there. Rowe's defense doesn't even come close to supporting his position. He would do well to study the issue before trying to write on it again. Here's part one in this series, and here's part two.

In this part of the series, I'll be responding to Rowe's last three arguments.

Argument 10: "Constitution, Not Opinion"

This is a common contention among abortion-choice people, that abortion is a "right" grounded in the Fourteenth Amendment. Of course, this is complete hogwash. Abortion was legalized in 1973, with a few states liberalizing their abortion restrictions for a few years prior to that. The Fourteenth Amendment was ratified in 1868. This means that the unborn were full persons under the law, protected by the Constitution until Justice Blackmun and the majority on the supreme court decided to redefine what a person is under the law so that they could specifically exclude the unborn. This amendment protects the rights of the unborn, but an unjust panel of Supreme Court activist judges changed that.

In fact, read the language of the 14th Amendment:

 All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. (emphasis mine)
The Amendment reads "all persons born or naturalized in the United States." The text of the Amendment assumes that birth is an event that persons will undergo. It does not establish birth as the point when one becomes a person, but that one is already a person under the law. In fact, using Rowe's logic, a foreigner is not legally a person until they become naturalized in the United States. But this is obviously absurd. The 14th Amendment protects the unborn. Besides which, even if they weren't persons under the 14th Amendment, it wouldn't follow that we could then kill them, because we are not allowed to kill non-citizens in the United States just because they are not citizens. They still have natural rights, even if they don't have rights as U.S. citizens.

Argument 11: "Adoption isn't a Bottomless Option"

I have no idea where Rowe gets his statistics from, and he doesn't even attempt to adequately support them. For one thing, according to this site, the average number of people in a family is 3.14. If the couple is married, this would leave one extra person, meaning one kid. If a single parent, that would mean two kids. Yet Rowe asserts (without evidence) that the average family has three kids. He may be relying on outdated statistics for his argument, since it appears that around the time of World War II in the 1950's, the average woman had 3.8 kids. But now, the average woman is expected to have only two children in her lifetime (not the three that Rowe asserts). This even seems absurd on the face of it, since thanks to factors like legalized abortion, the United States is barely at the replacement rate, or slightly below it. Each family must have two children in order to keep the replacement level steady.

So Rowe's argument is based on false and misleading information. Plus, according to real statistics, there are currently 36 couples waiting for every one child to adopt. Additionally, Rowe here assumes that adoption is the only argument pro-life advocates make against abortion (it's not), and he also assumes that every woman who chooses not to abort will automatically choose to adopt (they won't). While adoption is certainly a good option for a woman who is considering abortion, it is not the only decision a woman can make if she decides to go through with her pregnancy. Many abortion-minded women choose to keep and raise their child if they decide not to go through with the abortion.

Argument 12: "Abortion Bans Kill"

Now Rowe is arguing that if we ban abortion, that will lead to dangerous abortions being performed. However, Rowe apparently thinks there haven't been any medical advances made since the time of ancient China. A woman who has an illegal abortion need not resort to "dangerous back alley" abortions. In fact, before abortion was legalized in 1973, abortions were mostly done by doctors in good standing in their communities, doctors who had access to better medical technology than a coat hanger, crowbar, or alcohol. See my article here on why making abortions illegal won't result in dangerous abortions.

Even now, though, legalized abortion doesn't guarantee sterile clinics. A Michigan abortion clinic was closed in 2014 due to unsterile and otherwise unsafe conditions, as well as a host of other problems. Abortion-choice advocates and politicians don't keep watch on these organizations, it takes undercover work and complaints by pro-life organizations to get these clinics shut down. Abortion-choice advocates aren't always as "pro-woman" as they would like us to believe.

The bottom line is making abortion legal hasn't made it safer, advances in medical technology, such as Penicillin, is what has made abortion a safer procedure.

Let's recap all of Rowe's arguments:

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

10) "Constitution, not opinion" -- this argument is based on a faulty understanding of the Fourteenth Amendment
11 ) "Adoption isn't a bottomless option" -- this argument is based on false, misleading, and outdated information -- plus, it assumes it is the only argument for the pro-life position
12) "Abortion bans kill" -- this argument is just false, as banning abortions don't necessarily make it more dangerous, and legalizing it hasn't guaranteed its safety

Richard Rowe is just another abortion-choice advocate who has no good argument for his position. This is unfortunately all too common among abortion-choice bloggers. If you want to read someone who makes a good case for their position, you need to read those who have written books, and even then, you have to be selective. For every good defense of abortion (by good, of course, I don't mean successful), such as David Boonin's A Defense of Abortion and Michael Tooley's Abortion and Infanticide, there's a bad defense of abortion, such as Katha Pollitt's Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights and Eileen McDonagh's From Choice to Consent: Breaking the Abortion Deadlock.

Of course, making a good defense of abortion is a tall order because not only do you have to defend the indefensible, that it is permissible to kill an innocent human child for the sake of convenience, but you also have to defend highly counterintuitive ideas, such as that biological connectedness does not matter in the parent/child relationship, and that parents don't have natural obligations to their offspring. Richard Rowe's article severely misses the mark in his attempt to argue the abortion-choice position.

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.

Sunday, December 11, 2016

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

This may come as a shock to some people, but no one is entitled to an opinion. The only opinion you have any right to is a well-informed opinion. If you can't reproduce your opposition's arguments in a way they would agree with and approve, you have no right to try to respond to their arguments. Now Ranker is not exactly a site one should go to if you want to find good arguments for controversial positions. This is another article that was shared with me, this time from Ranker, ironically entitled "Every Compelling Argument for Why Pro-Choice is Right" (ironic, because missing are the only good arguments for the abortion-choice position, bodily rights and personhood arguments). Richard Rowe has give us thirteen arguments for his position. I'll look at the first four in this part. I'll split this up into three parts and look at the other arguments in future installments. Unfortunately many people believe that because they can post up a blog article that gives them the right to write on any particular issue. However, the author of this article, Richard Rowe, has not earned the right to speak to the abortion issue. He doesn't even know the best arguments for his own position, and he clearly does not understand the pro-life argument.

Rowe begins his article by stating that abortion is a practice that dates back to early times, which is true. However, he is gravely mistaken when he says that the Bible takes a strong stance in favor of abortion. The Bible is a pro-life book from start to finish. God takes a pretty firm stance against taking innocent blood. Plus, ancient Jewish and Christian texts have said, in no uncertain terms, that abortion is immoral. The Didache, in fact, calls abortion murder and says it, among other sins, is "the way to death." Rowe takes one passage, Numbers 5:21-28, and asserts that the Bible is in favor of abortion.

I've responded to this passage elsewhere, but two things need to be said about it. First, even if this does have an abortion in mind, it doesn't follow that because God commanded abortion, we are, therefore, justified in having abortions and performing abortions in lieu of a divine command to do and have them. Second, an abortion is not in mind here. This was a curse proclaimed on adulterous women. We have to remember that children were a blessing to women, so this curse would shrivel up the womb of a woman who committed an adultery. This would only result in abortion if she was actually pregnant, but it would prevent her from ever getting pregnant again. An abortion is not in mind here. This was a test to see who committed adultery. A woman who didn't commit adultery would gladly drink the potion to exonerate herself. A woman who didn't would not because of the effects of the curse.

Now let's look at his arguments in turn and respond to them.

Argument 1: "The Biblical Argument 1 -- Divine Abortion"

Rowe asserts that there are three great flaws in using the Bible to justify a stance against abortion. Herein lies the second issue with his lack of credibility on this issue (the first being his lack of the good arguments for his own position) -- it's true that most pro-life people are Christians and are ready to make a Biblical defense of the pro-life position. However, most pro-life people make a non-religious case from human rights and the biological humanity of the child. There are also non-religious pro-life organizations, such as Secular Pro-Life. So how would Rowe respond to them?

The third issue that Rowe doesn't understand the Bible. He is wrong when he says Biblical arguments for the pro-life position boil down to cherry picking. In fact, from start to finish the Bible has pro-life themes in it (see my linked article above). It is the abortion-choice advocate, not the pro-life advocate, who cherry picks Bible passages to justify their own position on the matter. The abortion-choice advocate has to deal with some bothersome verses as "you shall not murder" (Ex. 20:13, Deuteronomy 5:17), that child sacrifice has "never even entered [God's] mind" (Jeremiah 19:5), and the fact that third trimester John the Baptist "leaped in the womb" when Mary, pregnant with first trimester Jesus, approached his mother, Elizabeth (Luke 1:41). They also have to deal with certain troublesome passages as the numerous ones in the book of Psalms in which the psalmist assumes a continuity of identity with himself from the womb (e.g. "in sin my mother conceived me", Psalm 51:5). We don't cherry pick verses because the Bible is simply a pro-life book through and through.

This argument is just rehashing Numbers 5 from Rowe's introduction. However, Rowe is mistaken when he says that she would then be stoned to death in the street for her crimes. The passage does not say that. In fact, the passage actually says "...and the woman will become a curse among her people." Still not very pleasant, but not the same thing as being stoned. Since Rowe is evidently familiar with this passage, the only conclusion we can reasonably draw is that he is purposely trying to mislead people with his article.

Since I've already responded to this argument, we'll move on.

Argument 2: "The Biblical Argument 2 -- 'I Knew You in the Womb'"

This next argument doesn't belong on this list because it is a negative argument responding to a pro-life argument. The way logic works is that you must make a positive case for your position to prove it. Merely responding to another person's argument does not justify your own position. So it does not belong on a list of arguments "showing why pro-choice is right".

However, even in responding to a pro-life argument, Rowe misses the mark entirely and shows that he doesn't understand that which he is trying to criticize. To begin, Jeremiah 1:5 is not a verse I typically use in a Biblical defense of the pro-life position. I think if we are to take the words literally that "before I formed you in the womb I knew you," this would lend itself to the Mormon position that we exist spiritually before we are conceived in the womb. This is not speaking of fetal personhood but of God's foreknowledge. But let's look at Rowe's subpoints.

A) Misattribution: Rowe says that Jesus never said this. It was Yahweh speaking to Jeremiah. Rowe is correct on this point, but incorrect on another. I have never heard a pro-life Christian say that Jesus says this. Jeremiah is an Old Testament book, so of course it wasn't Jesus speaking. Rowe can't even get this basic point correct, and doesn't link to any pro-life person claiming these are the words of Jesus.

B) Misquote: Rowe claims that pro-life people misquote this verse as saying "in the womb I knew you," rather than what it actually says, "before I formed you in the womb, I knew you." This is, of course, correct in how the verse reads. However, again, I have never heard a pro-life person claim that God said "in the womb I knew you," at least not if they were quoting Jeremiah 1:5. Take the meme to the right of this paragraph, for example. This is by Ohio Right to Life, and it is certainly not a misquote. Again, Rowe doesn't link us to any pro-life Christian who misquotes this verse.

C) Out of context: Of course this verse is taken out of context. All quotes are taken out of context, which is why it's the responsibility of anyone using a quote not to misrepresent it when they take a quote out of context. Rowe is correct in that Yahweh is not speaking to Jeremiah's personhood here, but that's an irrelevant point. Yahweh could be assuming Jeremiah's personhood in the womb, just as Yahweh assumed that Moses was a prophet without making the case for Moses' prophethood every time He spoke to him.

Finally, Rowe states that this passage is God "bragging about his omniscience and power" "as usual", again indicating that Rowe is clueless about what is actually going on here. God is not bragging; he was explaining to Jeremiah since he had selected Jeremiah to be a prophet.

Again, the only reasonable conclusion I can draw is that Rowe is simply lying about pro-life people for the sake of his article.

Argument 3: "The Biblical Argument 3 -- A Baby's Worth"

More lies from Richard Rowe. First, he provides absolutely no evidence to support his contentions here about a "baby's worth" in Jewish law. Second, this isn't a Biblical argument at all. The Talmud is a book of Jewish civil and ceremonial law. It is not considered part of the Hebrew Scriptures. Considering this basic error, Rowe should not be taken seriously on his understanding of this issue.

Now, even if the Jews disagreed with Christians regarding abortion, this is not cause for alarm. The Jews also disagree with Christians about other things, such as Jesus being the Messiah. So while this kind of argument might work with Jews, it would not work with Christians. I am not Jewish, I am Christian, so looking at the Talmud would not convince me to take a different interpretation of Scripture. However, it is difficult to see how Rowe's interpretation of the Talmud could be correct regarding how the Talmud sees the fetus and infant, considering that abortion was absolutely forbidden after the point of viability, and if killed at even one day old outside the womb, the transgressor was guilty of murder (Nid. 5:3).

Argument 4: "Pro-Choice Doesn't Mean Pro-Abortion"

This really is a non-argument. It's true, of course, that most abortion-choice people do not consider themselves pro-abortion because they consider abortion a "necessary evil". However, Rowe is incorrect that there isn't an "abortion fan club out there". There are those in the abortion-choice community who really are pro-abortion and think that abortion-choice people should start adopting pro-abortion rhetoric, such as this person, who understands that the term "pro-choice" is inherently misleading, or this person who believes they should be painting abortion in a positive light to have an impact on the culture and "remove the stigma".

So while most abortion-choice people would not consider themselves pro-abortion, there is a subset of the abortion-choice population that embraces the term instead of shying away from it. They may be in the minority, but you should not pretend they don't exist.

At any rate, this is a debate over semantics which has nothing to do with whether or not abortion-choice is the correct position on the matter. So this is simply a red herring.

To review Rowe's first four arguments:

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

It is clear that Rowe has no understanding of the intellectual climate of the abortion issue, or of the positions of those he wants to criticize. He also has not done an adequate job of supporting his own position, with three arguments that don't even address the topic at hand. This is only the tip of the iceberg. I'll look at his next four arguments in the next part of this series.