Friday, May 31, 2019

False Choices in the Abortion Debate

A short time ago, the Alabama legislature passed and Gov. Kay Ivey signed what is perhaps the most pro-life law this nation has seen since Roe v. Wade. It bans all abortions except for when the life of the mother is at stake, and does so on the explicit understanding that human life is intrinsically valuable and begins at conception. Not even pregnancies in the case of rape or incest are excepted from this law, which is in keeping with that understanding of life’s value.

While not going quite as far, Georgia and Missouri also recently revised their laws to ban abortions after a fetal heartbeat can be detected. That is usually within about six weeks of conception, which is little more than the time it takes to detect the pregnancy itself. While not as philosophically powerful as the Alabama law, that makes them effectively a total ban on abortion.

These have obviously been good developments for the pro-life movement, and have just as obviously created consternation among pro-abortion advocates. As a result, we have been seeing a resurgence of some of their favorite tropes. It is important to be prepared to answer such comments if we are going to continue to fight for innocent life.

Finding the False Dichotomy 

One of the most popular arguments is to claim the pro-life position is not actually “pro-life,” but “pro-birth.” They point out that if we really cared about children, we would not waste resources on punishing abortionists. Instead, we would advance social programs that enrich the lives of young mothers and their children, enabling them to escape the stresses that make abortion seem like the only option. Abortion bans exacerbate poverty, according to this view. Therefore, pro-life people lack compassion.

It amazes me that this argument is one of the first places pro-abortion advocates go, seeing as it is also one of the weakest they can make. It’s a classic “false choice fallacy,” presenting a situation as either/or when it is really both/and. Every time I hear it, my mind immediately goes to the story from John 12:1–8. After Mary, the sister of Lazarus and Martha, had anointed Jesus with a costly perfume, Judas Iscariot responded by saying,

“Why wasn’t this perfume sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?” He didn’t say this because he cared about the poor but because he was a thief. He was in charge of the money-bag and would steal part of what was put in it. Jesus answered, “Leave her alone; she has kept it for the day of my burial. For you always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.”

It should be evident how similar the implication of the pro-abortion argument is. They claim that efforts to protect life are “wasteful,” and that resources should instead go toward ameliorating poverty. They never explain why both things are not possible, when in fact they are and when biblically-minded Christians work to see them both done. That is the point of Jesus’ response. There was not a choice between helping the poor and mourning the destruction of innocent life (His life, in this case). We can help people at the same time that we save people. It is not a zero-sum proposition, and Christ followers cannot be commanded to treat it as one if Christ did not.

It must be remembered that we are far and away the most charitable people in the country. We are the most likely to support crisis pregnancy centers and the services they offer before and after birth, the most likely to foster children, and the most likely to adopt. On top of which, charity has even been instilled into government. This country already has a robust welfare system. In fact, it is so generous that I have personally seen parents abuse it by claiming to be single when actually living together. They felt the state benefits outweighed the value of getting married. I have also seen pregnant women plan pregnancies because they know they can fall back on the social safety net. My point is not to make a judgment. It is to recognize the reality of what is available to those who have children rather than killing them. I will not be told that attempting to protect life is ungenerous. Not when generosity is so self-evident.

Removing Burdens

This brings us back to the description of Judas. The pro-abortion movement puts the lie to its own words. They do not care to see funds go to help the poor. Their implicit position is that it is preferable to kill the poor than to let them live. It is the only logical conclusion of the argument. Abortion, the final destruction of life, is better than poverty, an escapable condition of life. They do not want to help the poor. They want to eliminate the burden of them.

The argument doesn’t work, then, but it isn’t truly designed to. It is an irrational argument. I do not mean that as an attack, I mean it in a literal sense. First, as I have shown, it is illogical. Second, it denies obvious truths. The nature of human life is not simply a matter of theology. It is also a fact of philosophy and of biological science that human life begins at conception. You can quibble over whether human life has value, but of course, that opens the door to much more than abortion. But there is never a good reason to say life begins later than conception. Still, that is usually what they say so they can assuage the guilt that comes with saying abortion is a right. The whole position is, therefore, irrational by definition.

Instead of being rational, it is emotional. It is an appeal to desire rather than to truth. At the most generous (or naïve) end, the desire is to show compassion. Poverty is seen for the evil it is and abortion is uncritically viewed as a solution. No thought is given to alternatives, nor to the true victims. At the worst end, the desire is for convenience. And we should be honest enough to see this as the most common explanation for abortion. It is rarely because the child is too difficult to raise. Rather, it is because the child is too difficult to raise without the sacrifice of selfish goals. And of course, the child is most often the result of uncommitted and unprotected sex, which is another form of selfishness.

This argument attempts to frame the pro-life movement as uncaring. When you look closer, you see it is the pro-abortion movement that lacks both heart and mind. They ask us to ignore the good that we can do and then act as though they have scored a point by believing murder is better than temporary hardship. I do not like to get agitated, especially when it is possible that I might be speaking to people who hold to this belief. It can cause a defensive reaction from them rather than encouraging the reflection necessary to change. But it is hard not to be upset when they start the discussion in bad faith. It is deeply offensive to be accused of lacking compassion when compassion is our primary motive. If they want to stop us from being devoted to saving the innocent unborn from wholesale slaughter, they are definitely going to have to try harder than that.

Have a question about the Bible? Want to share this article on Facebook? Interested in becoming a patron of Quest Forums? Check out the links in the sidebar!

No comments:

Post a Comment