Shots Across the Bow

A Reality Based Blog


Simple, and Misleading: A Response to the “Pro-Life Beliefs” Chart

Via Smijer comes this post about inconsistencies within the pro life position.

The basic premise is that if pro-lifers believe that abortion is the same as infanticide, why then do their policies not carry that belief out to the fullest extreme. Amp goes on to show a table (reproduced below) that, according to him, reveals the most damning inconsistencies.


On its face, the chart indeed looks very damning. It does seem to demonstrate that the pro-life movement is really the anti-"women having sex" movement. Unfortunately for the pro-choice folks, appearances are deceiving. Let's put aside for a moment the fact that the positions of the pro-life movement are in fact compromises designed to gain the most support, and therefore by nature will be inconsistent with an absolutist position. While this argument alone explains Amp's "inconsistencies," I think it's very instructive to look at the chart in detail.

What I find most interesting about the chart in question is its inherent bias against the pro-life position. In various places, it contains lgical flaws, buried assumptions, and raises straw man type arguments that fall apart when examined closely.

For example, consider the phrasing throughout the chart. Rather than being a normal outcome of sexual activity, pregnancy is referred to as 'suffering' or 'punishment' and placed on the same level as acquiring an STD. Isn't this the rather medieval outlook that Amp is accusing the pro-lifers of having? Most pro-lifers I have known view pregnancy as a natural consequence of sexual activity, a consequence that must be dealt with, not tossed aside.

All adult choices carry with them consequences that must be dealt with. If I choose to drink too much and drive, there will be consequences. If I choose to spend all my money having fun and neglect to pay my bills, there will be consequences to face. If I choose to indulge in risky activities, like hang gliding, or scuba diving, there may be consequences.

To immediately characterize the process of facing the sometimes difficult consequences of our decisions as 'suffering' or 'punishment'is to assume that it is somehow unfair to the one who made the decision, in essence saying they aren't accountable for their actions.

Granted, the availablity of contraception has enhanced the availability of recreational vice procreational sex, the hard fact remains that the sex drive is primarily procreative, and pregnancy is a forseeable result of sexual activity regardless of intent. That means that the possibility of an unexpected pregnancy must be a factor in the decision to have sex in the first place.

Now, let's look at the decision process a little bit closer. For some reason, most pro-choice advocates believe that the decision to have sex should bear no consequences to the female unless she chooses to accept them, while at the same time denying that same choice to the male. His consequences are determined solely by her choices. The usual defense for this is that biology places the greater burden on the woman, therfore she should have the greater choice. I would agree with that, except that most pro-choicers ignore the logical extension of that principle. By nature of her greater burden, and subsequently greater choice, shouldn't she bear a greater responsibility during the initial choice on whether to be sexually active?

The logical answer is yes; implicit in the power to make decisions is the responsibility to make good decisions, and to accept the consequences of those decisions. Abortion on demand is not facing the consequences, but avoiding them by destroying them. As a practical matter, the answer is also yes. It's her body that will be affected; therefore she should be extra cautious about the decisions she makes, and fully cognizant of the potential consequences.

Once we get past this subtle bias in the chart, we find it also contains a few glaring logical errors. Let's start with the first entry.

It claims that nobody would be sympathetic to parents who kill their children, therefore, any provision to protect the woman receiving the abortion from legal repercussions is hypocritical. May I remind Amp about the tremendous support Mrs. Andrea Yates received after drowning her 5 children? Thre were many who supported letting her go free; some of whom wanted to put her husband on trial for getting he pregnant in the first place. Apparently in some people's minds, there are circumstance where parents can be held blameless for murdering their children.

Further on, the chart claims that supporting lower welfare for poor single mothers is inconsistent with the belief that a fetus is a life. It characterizes the conservative position as saying that welfare encourages poor women to have babies, then argues that by cutting welfare, more poor mothers will abort their babies. The assumption buried in this conjecture is that poor women will get pregnant at the same rate regardless of welfare status, and that the amount of welfare available only affects the decision to keep the baby or abort it.

That assumption has not been tested. In fact, the evidence suggests that the opposite is true. Pregnancies to single women on welfare (particularly young women)have decreased and the abortion ratio has also decreased, indicating that not only are there are fewer overall pregnancies among welfare recipients, there's proportionally fewer abortions as well. Clearly, the argument in the chart is flawed. Supporting welfare reduction results in lower pregnancy rates, a lower abortion ratio, and fewer overall abortions, making it perfectly consistent with a pro-life position.

Another logical flaw is contained in the section on abortion bombers. The chart suggests that those who believe abortion is murder must support the bombers, who are only acting to protect the innocent. The flaw is that this analysis overlooks a key ethical standard; the ends do not justify the means. It's the same old moral dilemma; if you could go back in time and strangle Hitler in his crib, would you? If not, are you now partially responsible for the deaths of millions of innocents? The answer to the second question is obviously, "No." The only one responsible for those murders is the one who ordered it done. And this implies the answer to the first question; if you aren't responsible for the murders, how can you justify doing murder yourself?

The next flaw in the chart is it deals in outdated information. For example, the claim that most pro-lifers are against contraception and sex education. Twenty years ago, even ten years ago, this charge was true. Today however, many pro-life groups support sex education and contraception; even those who still favor abstinance as their favored method now grudgingly accept contraception as a better alternative to abortion. The absolutist position is held only by the extreme fringes of the pro-life camp, just as abortion as contraception is approved of only on the fringes of the pro-choice camp.

Another flaw is the section dealing with partial birth abortion. The chart claims that banning the procedure will not result in a single life saved, since doctors will use another process. There are two logical flaws here. The first is obvious. Just because some folks will find a way around a law does not make the law invalid. You could just as well argue that since murder is illegal, but some folks still commit murder, we should abolish all statutes against murder. The second flaw is more subtle. The objective of the ban is to make late term abortions a matter of medical necessity, rather than convenience, a position recognized as constitutional even by Justice Blackmon in the original Roe v Wade decision. Medical opinion on whether D&X is ever a medical necessity is divided with OB/GYNs falling on either side. Eliminating a medical procedure of dubious value, one that has been abused in the past, will save lives, even if another technique is eventually found. If that new technique is as close to murder as is D&X(the difference between a D&X and infanticide is approx 5"; the average length of a fetal head) then that process too will be scrutinized and opposed if appropriate.

So, now the chart is much less damning than it first appeared. Removing the bias, the inaccuracies, and the logical flaws, it is apparent that the chart is basically a well constructed bit of misleading propaganda. Pro-life is not anti-woman in a thin disguise. Most pro-lifers are motivated by a profound belief that a fetus is a person. Now, while many of the apparent contradictions can be resolved with the application of a little research and thought, those that remain are real, but are usually the result of compromise in order to create a larger base of support.

Important Disclosure: As a single male, I have a vested interest in the pro "women having sex" camp, but that interest in no way contributed to this post, or biased me in any way.
Posted by Rich
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At first I thought you were supporting this chart. I was about to write about how poorly researched the chart is, but you have done it already.

Posted by  on  12/07  at  06:10 PM

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