The Essential Pro Life Arguments – Part II
by C. Fletcher Armstrong, PhD
In Part I, we began with the recognition that pro life arguments really rest on three simple fundamental beliefs. The first is normative, the second medical or scientific, and the third is political. First, the most basic pro life argument, that all human beings have a right to live. Second, that preborn humans are human beings, so they have a right to live. Third, that the primary purpose of government is to protect fundamental human rights.
With the humanity of the preborn child established by medical science, pro choice arguments have morphed into assertions that either (1) the preborn child is developmentally unentitled to rights of personhood, or even (2) the preborn child is entitled to rights of personhood, but those rights are superceded by the rights of the mother to her own autonomy.
For example, a mother has the right to her own bodily integrity, or perhaps the right to make plans for her own future. She has the right to determine what medical interventions will be performed or not performed. (In a world where Democrats are threatening to use the power of Government to decide for everyone what medical treatments they may or may not be allowed to have, we can all relate to the demand for this right.)
Yes, this is a compelling argument, but it is not decisive. In fact, the overwhelming majority of Americans reject this argument when applied to a second- or third-trimester preborn child. In a 1998 Wirthlin poll, whereas 61% of Americans said abortion should be legal in the first trimester, only 15% and 7% said abortion should be legal in the second trimester and third trimesters, respectively. In other words, most Americans accept the pro life argument that the preborn child in the second and third trimester have an unqualified right to life that is not superceded by the mother’s right of autonomy.
The pro life argument notes that the responsibilities of parenting born children also interfere with autonomy, arguably to a greater degree than pregnancy, yet we have laws that force parents, both men and women, to use their bodies to provide care for their children. With these laws, society rightfully demands responsibility from parents towards their children so that they do not endure suffering and death as a result of neglect. This obligation lasts for 18 years! How logical is it to then say that a woman has a right to choose to kill her child to avoid loss of autonomy for a 9-month period, but she may not kill that child to avoid loss of autonomy for an 18-year period?
The pro life argument also notes that, except for rape, both mother and father consented to become parents when they had sex. Certainly the father’s obligation to care for his child is legally enshrined from that moment. How is it logical that the mother, who shared in the same sexual activity, does not share in this same obligation?
The final pro abortion appeal is that abortion is a matter of personal morality that is best left to personal discretion. People will even say, “I am personally opposed to abortion, but the government shouldn’t tell people what to do.
The pro life argument is that our laws “tell people what to do” all the time. We have laws against rape, murder, child abuse, stealing, etc. Abortion takes the life of an innocent human being, so we should have laws to protect them since our Constitution guarantees us all the right to life. The pro choice argument is the same argument that some people used to defend slavery. Slavery advocates often appealed to the individual right of choice—“If you don’t like slavery, then don’t own one”— or a State’s right to chose whether to be a free state or a slave state.
The choice arguments are based on the feeling that abortion represents a nominal evil, or the lesser of evils, or even a necessary evil. At CBR, we use graphic abortion images to help people know that the preborn child is a human being (with arms, legs, heartbeat, etc), even in the first trimester, and that abortion is absolute evil that cannot be tolerated in a civilized society.
That government exists to protect fundamental human rights, that the preborn human is a human being, and that all human beings have the right to live ... these are the essential pro life arguments.
Fletcher Armstrong, PhD
Center for Bio-Ethical Reform