The “Pro-Life” Dilemma

My brain seems to have hit a snag in anti-abortion logic.

The way I see it, there are two possible reasons for being against abortions. Let’s do this point-by-point:

1. You are non-religious, but  believe that all life should be protected. This position has some logical extensions that must be addressed:

1a) you believe this protection extends to all animals (mammals/birds/fish etc), and thus you are a strict vegan. Or:

1b) you believe this protection extends to all multicellular organisms. You are a strict vegan and must watch the ground carefully with every step you take so as not to inadvertantly cause the death of an ant or other small creature. Or:

1c) you believe this protection extends to all life, no matter how large or how many cells it consists of. You are a strict vegan, watch the ground carefully with every step, and do not bathe or brush your teeth out of respect for the parasitic life forms that flourish upon your person.

Alternatively:

2. You oppose abortion for religious reasons. You do not believe that all life is sacred (and thus are not necessarily vegan etc.), but that human life is somehow special because of this magical and unique quality called a ‘soul’, which God imparts to the organism as soon as conception takes place.

Now, we all know that in a secular society, a purely religious belief cannot become enshrined in law and imposed on the rest of the public. Therefore, Reason #2 for opposing abortion should be thrown straight out without any need for examining its claims at all. It is a perfectly valid position for an individual to take for themselves; it is not a valid position for a secular law to be based upon.

Let’s re-examine the options again:

  • 1 a), b) and c) – still under consideration
  • 2) Not relevant to law-making 

Logically, this leads to the conclusion that the only anti-abortion activists that should be taken at all seriously are the Non-Religious Vegan Pro-Lifers. Personally I think that Vegan Pro-Lifers who only refuse to cause harm to large animals are drawing an arbitrary line – there is no reason to believe that large animals are superior to parasites – so the only ones I would take seriously in their position on abortion would be the Non-Religious Vegan Great Unwashed. All parasites, including (but not limited to) organisms growing in the womb of a woman, should be considered sacred!

So the only legitimate anti-abortion position, the only anti-abortion position that could possibly be taken seriously in terms of law-making, comes from rabid hippies with questionable personal hygiene?

See, this is where I hit the logical snag… I don’t think that these people actually exist.

Can we please stop wasting our time on the abortion ‘debate’ now? Or is there perhaps some perfectly reasonable third position against abortion that I haven’t considered?

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6 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. David James
    Jun 19, 2012 @ 11:50:15

    That’s a false dichotomy!

    Reply

  2. Jessica LeAnne
    Jun 19, 2012 @ 13:02:43

    I would make an addendum to #2: the people who fall under this category believe that secular laws should be designed to follow religious laws (much like how those Godless Muslims in the Middle East rule their countries, but hey…who’s actually following that comparison?). Therefore, #2 people are the ones who fight tooth and nail for anti-abortion laws to be passed on strictly religious grounds.

    Unfortunately, if pro-choicers stop debating the #2 group about abortion laws and practices, the #2 group will find a way to use religion to take away person choices and freedoms from everyone, even those who don’t believe in the religion.

    As long as there are people who want to control what others do with/to their bodies, these menial, inane, and petty fights will continue until either one of two things happen: 1) we all kill ourselves in total war; or 2) the rapture happens and the religious people scream “I told you so” from Heaven.

    Reply

  3. Jake
    Jun 28, 2012 @ 17:42:11

    Hi Jen,

    First time reader, first time commentator (via unequally yoked).

    So, I agree with you that laws based on purely religious ideals are nonsensical. But I also think you’re making a false dichotomy when you say “it’s either religious nut jobs or vegan super-hippies” that have a legitimate claim to oppose abortion. Specifically, this part-

    “Personally I think that Vegan Pro-Lifers who only refuse to cause harm to large animals are drawing an arbitrary line – there is no reason to believe that large animals are superior to parasites – so the only ones I would take seriously in their position on abortion would be the Non-Religious Vegan Great Unwashed”

    First of all, I don’t think value is binary. It’s not that something is either “self-aware, sentient, and of equal value to a human” or “of no value whatsoever”. There’s a spectrum. It’s pretty clear that fully developed gorillas, for example, share many of the same traits as humans- they feel guilt, excitement, and even have learned rudimentary sign language and are able to communicate coherently. Heck, if you’ve ever owned a dog you know they have personalities all their own. And nobody (well… maybe super-vegans) would equate killing a human to killing a dog.

    Further, I don’t think large animals vs. parasites is any more of an arbitrary line than whether a baby happens to still be inside the womb or outside the womb. Since (I assume) you’re wouldn’t be cool with killing a one day old baby, it seems odd to me that you’d be comfortable killing a negative one day old baby (I’m not trying for the negative connotation of the word “killing” here… I’m just not sure what else to call it, since it’s definitely alive, even if we don’t call it human).

    All this to say, I think it’s reasonable to conclude that a fetus falls somewhere in that spectrum- not all the way at “parasite”, but not all the way at “human”. And it’s reasonable to conclude that where that fetus falls in the spectrum changes as it develops. I’m certainly not going to claim that a few dozen cells cobbled together in a particular part of a woman’s anatomy is of equal value to a human. But I’m also not going to claim that a fetus one day away from birth is of no value whatsoever.

    My inclination is that it’s better to error on the side of caution here. What that means, I’m not entirely sure- certainly it means limiting the period in which abortions are allowed. Whether it means outlawing abortions entirely, I’m less convinced. Certainly we have to weigh the rights of the woman in any situation, but if the rights of the woman don’t extend to killing a baby the day after its born, I don’t see how they should extend to killing a fetus the day before it’s born.

    It’s a complicated issue to be sure, but I think the “only nut jobs and super vegans” approach, along with dismissing the ‘debate’ as not worth our time, is a mistake. Just my two cents

    Reply

  4. Kirjava
    Jul 03, 2012 @ 15:03:02

    “error on the side of caution”??

    Why does a gorilla which has learnt rudimentary sign language become more valued than one that hasn’t? Or should I say, since when does something that shows human-like traits become more valuable. Sure, we can relate more to something that understands us, or something that we can understand. But that doesn’t mean it’s life is more worthwhile than something more alien to us, yet has worked hard to live its life in this world.

    I’m not saying I’m a “Non-Religious Vegan Great Unwashed”, I just really dislike when people decide to pick and choose which creatures lives are worthless and which aren’t based on how we relate to them.

    Reply

  5. Jen
    Jul 03, 2012 @ 16:14:28

    For the record, I do realise that there’s a difference between an egg/sperm one day after conception and a baby one day before its birth. Perhaps I should have stated that more obviously (I just thought it was obvious already). I doubt there are many pro-choicers who support unlimited abortion (i.e. right up until birth).

    Also for the record, I have nothing against the “super-vegans”. Despite my terminology, they are actually the only group whose pro-life position I have any respect for, as they seem to be the only group with a logically consistent position. The reason I refer to them in such a snarky manner, as the ‘vegan great unwashed’, is because the majority of people I suspect of being pro-life are the very antithesis of left-wing hippies, and would hate to be referred to as such. I’d love to meet one of the red-steak-eating, death-penalty supporting, gun-rights-promoting “pro-lifers” and call them a bleeding-left-wing-hippie to their face. I think it would be fun!

    Reply

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