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Recently I was hunting around the place for something interesting to share with you, and I came across this article on Why No One is Really Pro-Life.  Well my curiosity was piqued and I couldn’t resist clicking on the link to see what this person had to say. The author Jason sets off on a argument that seems fair, logical and well reasoned ..

Jason Eden • 3 June 2014:

My argument is that pro-life proponents don’t really believe that at conception a fetus deserves the same rights and protections as a fully developed human. By far the biggest loss of life in this regard is a result not of abortion—but miscarriage. Precise miscarriage rates in our society are unknown, but according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), close to half of all fertilized eggs are aborted spontaneously, usually before the woman knows she’s pregnant. The NIH puts the rate of miscarriage among women who know they’re pregnant at 15-20 percent. Medical technology, along with careful observation and proper medication, could be further developed that could theoretically save a percentage of those pregnancies. Why, then, aren’t we pushing for laws that require women to regularly submit to physician-monitored pregnancy tests and—upon getting a positive result—immediately placing that woman on bed rest and under observation to protect the fetus at all costs?

What I expect the response to be is “miscarriage is an act of nature, or an act of God, rather than an explicit choice to terminate the pregnancy.” This is a straw man, because most medical technology is used to thwart natural deaths for human life that we value—cancer treatments, antibiotics, etc.—and so what you are really saying here is that it is acceptable to knowingly not do everything possible to protect the life of the fetus as long as you are not willfully taking action against it. Can you imagine the parallels for other human life? If your child falls down, isn’t breathing, and you know CPR, is it okay to not save their life if the cause for their lack of breath is natural? If your child has a severe illness, is it okay to not get care because if they die, it will be from natural causes? Of course not. How is miscarriage any different, if we have the technology to detect pregnancy early and take extreme medical action? The answer is, if we really saw the fetus and our five-year-olds as equivalent, there would be no difference. The only explanation is we value the life of the fetus differently than we do the developed child.

This presents some interesting ethical dilemmas. What about a couple that knows the woman is at high risk for miscarriage? If they are trying to have children, they are knowingly creating a defenseless human life and putting it into a situation where it has a high chance of death. Should those couples be prohibited from procreating in order to prevent that loss of human life? Again, consider the parallel—you put your child in a room full of dangerous items (weapons, chemicals, etc.) but you hope they don’t harm themselves. We’d never do that, and would consider anyone who would a monster. At the same time, however, we look at the couple who faces the tragedy of multiple miscarriages and hurt for them, we don’t consider them monsters.

I could go on with example after example of avoidable tragedies we accept and how we look at it differently once the child has reached a certain stage of development, but my point is made. Many who consider themselves pro-life would go to herculean efforts to save the life of a child or to avoid putting a child into danger, but would not be convinced the same extreme measures were necessary for a newly-formed fetus at risk of miscarriage. Thus, they treat them as a separate category, with less of a right to protection, the very thing they say they despise about those on the other side of this issue.

When I came to this realization, I was forced to acknowledge that my argument was one of degrees rather than absolutes. Pro-life proponents may place a higher value on the fetus than someone who is pro-choice does, but they’re not being intellectually honest with their claims of equal rights. Having acknowledged this, the argument is forced to shift from a moral “life begins at conception” debate to a “at what point of development do we consider the fetus to have equal rights?” question. That is a completely different kind of discussion, and one that needs careful consideration without the absolutism of religious zealotry.

[The article ends]

It seemed apparent that there was a flaw in the argument that Jason had presented, but it took me a minute to put my finger on what it was. Thankfully there was a reply to the article that pointed it out.

G J:

Nice article. But it seems to suffer from the black-or-white logical fallacy  and a nice strawman of your own.

Let me try – A similar argument might state that no one can be prolife unless they stand out on the street passing out contraception and regularly adopt children from third world countries – therefore, no one is prolife and the position is foolish (I have heard this argued with passion too!). A Hindu might argue that you aren’t prolife because you don’t speak out for the lives of animals and vast quantities of fish that are killed each year. Those fish were alive and now they are not, correct? How could you then be prolife?

It gives the appearance of being logical but is pointless. We can always raise the stakes further so that it is impossible to be prolife. Indeed you could throw darkness over any position simply by stating that they aren’t really “this” or “that” unless they {insert some incredible list of herculean feats}. Thus “this” and “that” are silly. This looks like a black/white fallacy to me.

i think the biggest flaw however is in the strawman you make of “prolife.” Perhaps you might better think of it as ‘anti-abortion’. Perhaps you might then argue that prolife is a bad term for what the vast majority of ‘prolife’ folk actually are (this possibly quite true). That is unfortunate.

It simply means that given any question of abortion a prolife proponent is ‘pro the life’ of the child in question. Prochoice then in the same situation is ‘pro the choice’ of the woman in question. Prochoice advocates usually consider that the choice of the woman should trump the life of the child. Prolife advocates dispute this and argue the opposite – that the life of the child should always trump the choice of the woman.

By redefining prolife as “pro this mystical property called ‘life’ in every circumstance” you have removed it from it’s proper context – abortion – and then shown how it can be made to look foolish. This certainly is a strawman fallacy.

As far as I can see without the strawman and black/white divide .. you don’t actually have an argument.

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