Abortion as an issue had seemed to have faded from the public consciousness until the rise of our postmodern President. Trump’s remarks to the mainstream media, along with herds of sign bearers making zoo noises, has continued to galvanize all the wrong people. Pro-life articles have been riding the social media merry-go-round enough to finally warrant a response that isn’t coming from the self-righteous hands of some post-graduate hoping to make rent. The Candiru is here to fill the void.
To be as generous as possible and appropriately “steel man” my opposition, I’m going to try and directly answer the best pro-life arguments I could find. Written by Ben Shapiro for The Daily Wire, the original article can be found here.
If you don’t have time to read it, here are the three retorts, paraphrased, that Shapiro advises the pro-life crowd to use when engaged-
- To “My Body, My Choice” – Pro-lifers aren’t interested in women’s bodies, only the unborn child – which they don’t consider as part of the woman’s body.
- To “It isn’t a baby” – Real science says life begins at conception, and, “Viability is a poor choice of standard for life – human beings are routinely non-viable without outside intervention, but that does not give us the moral justification for killing them. And viability would also mean that the standard of personhood would change with advancing science (children were not viable until quite late in pregnancy a generation ago, for example).”
- To “You can’t force me to keep someone alive” – There’s a difference between pulling the plug and forcible killing, and we have a moral duty to defend those we’ve placed into a precarious situation.
Shapiro’s pro-life stance is based on sanctity, the one I’ll be defending on personal freedom. That’s not to say there shouldn’t be limits and rules. Only that those rules should always consider, as much as possible, the liberty of the free agent. I’ll say up front that third, or in some cases second, trimester abortions aren’t something I’m going to argue for. Exactly what qualifies as an appropriate window is something to be discussed elsewhere.
Here are the responses I believe the pro-choice crowd who haven’t gone full death cult can make-
- The pro-life monomaniacal interest with the reproductive parts of female anatomy has always been clear, actually. It’s on display when they work to limit women’s access to materials that regulate their menstrual cycle. If only the focus stopped there though. It extends to creating rules for bedroom sport, and limiting contraception options for women and men. But doesn’t contraception prevent the need for abortion in the first place? This is where their authoritarian bent reveals itself completely. They believe the only reason for sex is procreation, ignoring the physical and emotional pleasure it gives, and limiting the personal rights of choice even further. The question of whether the fetus is part of a woman’s body or not is one of viability. To the extent that it requires her to survive, it’s a part of her body. This leads to viability itself as a metric.
- Viability isn’t the poorest choice of a standard for life – conception is. We intuitively know this. Does a miscarriage a week after conception have the same emotional impact on a family as a stillborn baby? Judging by the fact that many early miscarriages pass notice by the pregnant woman herself, obviously not. A couple doesn’t often attach emotional feelings to the fetus until sonograms reveal something worth experiencing. Nevermind that this belief also limits important scientific research, it ultimately means a woman can’t have the choice, even in the face of rape and incest, to rid herself of the fetus. How could she? We wouldn’t let a woman kill her baby after having it just because it also happens to be her father’s. And so she’d have to bear it, bring it to term, and raise it. Or, to the horror of most conservatives, the child would become essentially a ward of the state. In cases like these, this effectively strips a woman of her rights as a free agent. All on the basis that a clump of cells has the same rights as a person. “There is no other logical alternative to defining life that holds morally true across the board” Shapiro says. There is, he simply doesn’t like its elasticity. Viability is the better compass because it firms up the bedrock of personal freedom. We might put people on a ventilator when it seems they might be viable later. We only keep them on at the direction of them or their family. The important distinction here being that they were viable enough once to make that call for themselves. Ought implies can. Morality is inextricably tied to what we’re capable of. As such, the fact is that personhood does change with advancing science. If, as is likely and as Shapiro points out, we’re able to artificially raise a fetus even from its nascent state, then life at conception would be a more worthy argument. For now, it doesn’t beat viability.
- I think that viability speaks to this point as well, and so I’ve already answered it.
To close, personal freedom is paramount for a free society to remain that way. In this case, that means pro-choice for abortion.
Also published on Medium.