Are Anti-Abortion and Pro-Choice Compatible?

John at Locusts and Honey responds to SimplyComplexJen on this topic.

John’s basic argument is that an abortion involves taking a human life without that person’s consent, i.e., the consent of the unborn child, and thus one cannot oppose abortion personally and yet support permitting it legally.

Frankly, I think John has left out most of the logic on this one. Hidden assumptions lumber through this like elephants, just begging someone to see them. One may, for example, simply disagree with the idea that the state always has a duty to accomplish the goals John states.

Do I have to assume that every wrong act must also be a criminal act? John says no on a list of acts he considers wrong. He draws the line at abortion, because someone is harmed without his or her consent. But that simply moves the goal posts. So I ask again: Does every act that harms anyone else have to also be a made criminal? This is precisely the question that must be answered by the person who is personally opposed to abortion, yet believes it should be legal. I would suggest that one must ask just how effective enforcement of that particular law is going to be, and what other consequences there may be to its enforcement. The resources required in order to properly enforce a law should also be given consideration. I think this is an important point that is often ignored in immigration law. People tend to assume that if we would just pass tough enough laws, the flow of immigrants would stop. Are we prepared to pay the full cost?

Here we have the assumption that the best response to any harmful act is to make it illegal. In other words, one must assume that the best way to reduce the number of abortions in this country is to make it illegal to perform such abortions.

But let me add one more point–jurisdiction. We have certain limits on how much we invade the privacy of one’s home. One could make an excellent argument that the state’s jurisdiction ends right around skin level, and what goes on insides a person’s body is not under the jurisdiction of the state. I’m not entirely comfortable with that argument myself, and an abortion does not take place entirely inside someone’s body, but I do believe a quite rational person could make such an argument.

Frankly, I see no logical requirement here whatsoever. All we wind up with is the necessary conclusion that John and certain other people don’t find these compatible in the way that they see the duty of the state. Others can surely differ, and can do so coherently. (Not me, of course. Oh, I am pro-choice politically and anti-abortion personally, but I’m not terribly coherent right now. đŸ™‚ )

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  1. Do I have to assume that every wrong act must also be a criminal act? John says no on a list of acts he considers wrong. He draws the line at abortion, because someone is harmed without his or her consent. But that simply moves the goal posts.

    This is not mere goal post moving, but an ethic: permissibility is premised on consent. The child does not consent to be killed, and therefore one may not harm it.

    But let me add one more point

  2. I’m pro-life to the point that I would not even make an exception for rape or incest. BUT… legislation will not stop abortion. Until it is socially/morally impermissible, abortion will continue. So continuing education is the way to go – detectable heartbeat at 18 days, free sonograms, info on fetal pain, etc. – along with providing every possible support for the pregnant woman whether she chooses adoption or to keep the baby. All the women I know who have had abortions felt they had no other options; given better circumstances they would have kept the baby, or feeling that there was no stigma to giving it up for adoption they would have chosen that. Because they were told at the time that basically, it wasn’t a real baby, they had abortions – and all three regret it now. I know that’s not true for everyone, but I believe it is true for most women.

  3. Do I have to assume that every wrong act must also be a criminal act?

    No, but you’d be a pretty sinister person if you didn’t agree that killing an innocent person ought to be illegal.

    The argument that the choice to kill versus spare the fetus is so pivotal to how the woman will be living the rest of her life can be applied to any choice to kill somebody else or let them live. The logic Susan Smith employed in choosing to drown her two sons was exactly the same logic she’d employed when she’d chosen legal abortion previously. It was killing, yes, but a necessary killing to get her to where she wanted to be in her life.

    If we’re going to say that women have this right to live their lives the way they want, even if that means killing their kids, why draw the line at birth? Why draw it anywhere? Why not let women wait until they get to know the kids, get to try motherhood and see if they’re any good at it, see if they like it? Why force them to make the decision blind, when the child in question is still unknown in-utero? The mother who drowned a bratty toddler, or shot a mouthy drug-using juvenile delinquent teenager, is at least acting on real-life knowledge, and not based on her predictions.

    Either women have the right to opt out of motherhood at any point they choose, or they do not have that right at all.

  4. Well, no, John, your argument is not internally logical. I just didn’t take the time for it.

    You have several disjuncts. You give “protecting people from harm” as one of the functions of government, yet your conclusions assumes both that the government must protect all people from harm, and that criminal legislation is the best way to do this.

    When I first read it, I simply saw your logic as inapplicable to me, because of the skipped assumptions. I believe that a permissible function of government is to protect citiziens from harm, yet I don’t believe it is even possible for the government to protect all citizens from harm equally or successfully. Therefore prioritizing and strategy comes in whether we like it or not. We would like to think that all lives are equal, but they aren’t, and in practical terms they can’t be unless we also have unlimited resources.

  5. Hi Christina,

    I’m delighted you came around to demonstrate polarizing language. I’m immune to polarizing language–it doesn’t bother me. For example:

    No, but you

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