Ten Bad Arguments for Abortion



As I prepare to join my local Walk for Life this morning, I came across an article by Dr. David Hershenov, Professor of Philosophy at the University of Buffalo entitled "Ten (Bad, But Popular) Arguments for Abortion." As someone who teaches college level courses in Political Science, I found that Dr. Hershenov is confronting the same arguments that I deal with when teaching on the Right to Privacy, which extended to include a Right to Abortion, as allegedly found in the United States Constitution.

While I enjoyed the entire article, the arguments that I want to emphasize are arguments 3 (The inability of men to become pregnant) and 4 (The burdens of pregnancy and childrearing are not equally distributed). Let me take them one at a time.

The inability of men to become pregnant

Dr. Hershenov states the basic argument this way:
Some students sincerely suggest that since men cannot get pregnant, they shouldn’t enter the abortion debate. Since their bodies won’t be subject to any laws enacted, they have no right to weigh in on the matter.
Dr. Hershenov gives an excellent response to this objection which is to think about the broader ramifications of such a position:
My students seeking to restrict the abortion debate to those who can bear children seem not to have considered the consequences of the principle here. If debate about a policy can only be pursued by those harmed by the policy, then budding eco-feminists don’t get to speak out about the evils of meat-eating—unless they fear becoming a meal of our factory-farming patriarchy. Further, sterile and postmenopausal women, such as Cecile Richards, Gloria Steinem, and Hillary Clinton, who are, like me, unable to become pregnant, will also have to take their seats on the sidelines. True, earlier in their lives abortion policy might have affected them—but the same is true of every man who is alive today only because his parents did not abort him.
I would add (as Dr. Hershenov does earlier) that there are many pro-life women out there. In fact, when I went by the Walk for Life event, almost all of the people setting up for the walk and seated at the sign-in tables were women. So, it is not correct to argue that this is somehow a male versus female argument. It is an debate between people who all have the ability to apply moral, scientific and philosophical reasoning to a debate.

The burdens of pregnancy and childrearing are not equally distributed

What about the argument that women are the ones who disproportionately suffer the consequences of carrying and raising a child? The man doesn't suffer physically at all when the wife becomes pregnant - in fact, he can bail out of the picture all together and leave the woman alone to bear the entire cost of the pregnancy. Dr. Hershenov puts the argument this way:
Men are free from the physical burdens and dangers of pregnancy, not to mention the threats to employment, education, and social standing posed by unwanted pregnancy and childrearing. Since only women can become pregnant, they suffer inequalities on account of biology. If women cannot avoid by choice a pregnancy that men avoid by nature, then they are permanently relegated to second-class citizenship.
Dr. Hershenov has an excellent answer to this challenge as well:
The logic behind this inequality argument, if sound, would even justify infanticide. Imagine a woman giving birth in an isolated community where there isn’t any formula, and there are no breast pumps, wet nurses, or other substitutes for her nursing. She must breast-feed around the clock, with attendant social, educational, and professional costs relative to the child’s father. Despite the unequal distribution of burdens, the mother surely can’t bring about the death of the nursing child. Similarly, an unequal distribution of burdens doesn’t justify killing the child prior to birth.
This is the pro-life tactic of trotting out the toddler which Dr. Hershenov uses with great effect.
I encourage everyone who cares about the abortion issue to read and ponder Dr. Herschenov's arguments. They are good and, in my view, quite compelling.

Comments

Joe Hinman said…
10 straw man arguments.
BK said…
Not at all.
Joe Hinman said…
You don't actually reflect a valid argument, and they do have them.
BK said…
First, these are ten bad arguments for abortion. It responds to arguements I have heard more than once in the classroom. Second, I have never heard a pro-abortion argument that is convincing, and I have heard a lot of them.
Joe Hinman said…
anyone can label an argument with which they disagree "convincing," that is part of making a straw man argument to claim that the opponent has no valid ideas nothing going for his case Look out for someone claiming such a thing they are not objective. you valid does not have to convince you.

The argument that the woman has a right over her on body is valid, the only valid way to ague against it is to counter with viability of the fetus, what is happening there is a conflict between two competing values, meaning it is a good argent but there is a good counter. \

I could be wrong but did you miss that one?
BK said…
I was trying to be polite. But it is not a "valid" or "invalid" question - rather a question of whether the arguments are sound. Here, the pro-abortion position has not one sound argument.

The argument that a woman has a right over her own body may be valid but it not sound. For example, a woman has no right to cut off her right arm simply because she wants to do so. But the question is really irrelevant to the abortion argument if the child in the womb is not simply a part of her body. That is where the argument breaks down for the pro-abortion position. There is no question scientifically that what is in the mother is alive and is a separate human being (DNA doesn't lie, and the human DNA found in the fetal cells is not the same as DNA of the mother).

The ten bad arguments file even addresses this and gives a pretty good answer. It notes that it is ironi that the claim that the fetus is literally a part of the mother undermines three well-known abortion defenses. Some say, first, that abortion remedies a fetal violation of the mother’s bodily integrity. But if the fetus is a part of the mother, then it can’t violate her bodily integrity. Only something that isn’t a part of her body can violate her bodily integrity. Second, the fetus is sometimes called a trespasser. But one’s part can’t trespass upon oneself.

The truth is that it doesn’t matter whether the fetus is a part of the mother’s body. Consider conjoined twins who share parts that are essential to the life of each. Neither should be able to control those shared parts and take them with her upon surgical separation. So part-hood as such doesn’t matter morally, since there are limits to what you can do with your own body parts. What matters morally are other factors like the value of the conjoined twins and their capacity to be harmed and benefited.

If killing innocents were permissible only when they are parts, then newborns could be killed prior to the cutting of the umbilical cord, while embryos not yet embedded in the uterine wall could not be terminated. Oddly, abortifacients would be immoral but infanticide would not.
Joe Hinman said…
it's not unsound just because you disagree with it. In order to say women don't have right over their own bodies you are going to have to deny them basic equal stats as citizens and as adults relative to men, are you prepared to do that? If so what basis for doing it in secular society?
Joe Hinman said…
The argument that a woman has a right over her own body may be valid but it not sound. For example, a woman has no right to cut off her right arm simply because she wants to do so.

why not? that's is a red herring if you mean to bring in issues of mentalhealth and self harm/ A Abortion is not analogous to cutting off your right arm. Does a woman have a right to have a tooth extracted?

But the question is really irrelevant to the abortion argument if the child in the womb is not simply a part of her body. That is where the argument breaks down for the pro-abortion position. There is no question scientifically that what is in the mother is alive and is a separate human being (DNA doesn't lie, and the human DNA found in the fetal cells is not the same as DNA of the mother).

that is a false manner of reduction the issue to self serving territory. As I pointed out before the Independence of the fetus begins with viability outside the womb. Before that point there is no generally accepted philosophical principal that establishes the Independence or priesthood of the fetus. You must demonstrate how becoming is the same as being. It is in the process of becoming doesn't mean it is.
Joe Hinman said…
The truth is that it doesn’t matter whether the fetus is a part of the mother’s body. Consider conjoined twins who share parts that are essential to the life of each. Neither should be able to control those shared parts and take them with her upon surgical separation. So part-hood as such doesn’t matter morally, since there are limits to what you can do with your own body parts. What matters morally are other factors like the value of the conjoined twins and their capacity to be harmed and benefited.

that does not negate the viability standard, Because at some point early on conjoined twins are one egg, at that point it is not viable outside the womb,

If killing innocents were permissible only when they are parts, then newborns could be killed prior to the cutting of the umbilical cord,

No that fallacious, they are already viable outside the womb by the time you are ready to cut the cord,


while embryos not yet embedded in the uterine wall could not be terminated. Oddly, abortifacients would be immoral but infanticide would not.

by the same token embrios at that stage could be prevented from attaching by taking ru486 there would be no aborigine and no pregnancy, there is no good reason not to do it
BK said…
Joe,

I originally wrote a quick off-the-cuff response to what you wrote which challenged all of your responses, but I removed it because in my view it was only throwing fuel on the fire. I am left puzzled by your position, so I need to take it back to the basics. Since you have taken up the pro-abortion argument for purposes of this discussion, I have two questions for you (they have multiple sub-parts, so I guess that you could say I have more than two, but they really are only two questions) that will help me better understand why you think the way you do on this very important issue. The two questions are these:

Is the embryo/fetus inside the womb a living human being? If not, why not? Do you not believe that it is living or do you not believe it is a human being?

What exactly is "viability" and what makes you think that it is more important than whether the embryo/fetus/child is alive? In order to have a clear understanding of what you are talking about, I need a clear definition of "viability" and why it even matters in the first place. How do we know at what point a fetus is "viable"? Is there a test that can be run to determine viability? If the embryo/fetus is alive and human (as I think clear), then what difference does viability make at all in the discussion?

If you answer these two questions, we may be able to get somewhere.
Joe Hinman said…
I hope you will consider the things I said,I don't have time or energy to argue about it because I think the need to confront atheists is grater. We re not really serving apologetics by arguing about it.
BK said…
I disagree that it doesn't serve apologetics unless you limit apologetics more than I have seen anyone else do. But I will leave it. If you ever want to answer my questions, we can go further, but as it stands I don't get anything out of what you have written because we are on two different islands with no bridge between them.

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