The following comments are from this post.
“It has been estimated that about half of all human conceptions end in spontaneous abortion, and usually the woman doesn’t even realize she was pregnant. In fact, about 20% of all recognized pregnancies end in a miscarriage. I think there is a rather obvious truth here that cries out for acknowledgement 🙂 If God exists, he is the most prolific abortionist of all…. lol”
The argument is common, and goes as follows:
- Pro-life individuals don’t appear to care about the many embryos and foetuses lost through miscarriage and still-birth.
- Since pro-lifers don’t care about these unborn children, they must not really care for unborn children at all.
- Therefore the pro-life agenda is not to save unborn children, but to repress women (and can therefore be shunned and ignored).
(The religious aspect to this, that God must necessarily be a causative agent for every event that occurs, is a different discussion for another time).
The issues with this are:
- The suggestion that pro-lifers don’t care about the unborn who are lost through miscarriage and still-birth is completely baseless. It requires the assumption that anyone who may be working towards or supporting medical treatment and research to prevent miscarriages must therefore be pro-choice. It also ignores the possibility of concurrent advocacy; I can both support and actively participate in miscarriage prevention, while concurrently advocating for the right of the unborn not to be unjustly killed.
- This is akin to suggesting that an advocate against infanticide doesn’t actually care for infants because they are not doing anything about SIDS. Or that an advocate against elder abuse doesn’t actually care for the elderly because they’re not doing anything about finding a cure for cancer. The line of thinking would say that any care for a portion of the population affected by a particular fate is invalidated if all natural causes of harm or death are not also addressed, which is clearly unreasonable.
- Given the problems with (1) and (2), this is no longer a logical conclusion.
Two other points detrimental to this argument are:
- The difference in dealing with natural and anthropogenic (man-made) causes of death. As Scott Klusendorf has put it, “Does it follow that because nature kills people we may deliberately do so?” Does embryonic and foetal death through natural miscarriage then justify the intentional killing of embryos and foetuses through induced abortion? As with any analogous situation that you can imagine, the answer has to be ‘no’.
- The suggestion that there exists a difference between the wanted unborn child and the unwanted unborn child. A crux of the pro-life stance is that every unborn child, regardless of how much they are desired or, conversely, despised, has the right not to be unjustly killed. What this argument regarding miscarriage seems to be trying to suggest is that pro-lifers should focus their attention on preserving the lives of wanted unborn children who would otherwise be lost – as if the lives of these unborn were somehow more important than the lives of those who are aborted. This is an attitude that belongs to the pro-choice crowd, and has no place in the pro-life movement. Thus to criticise pro-lifers for standing against abortion while unborn children are lost through miscarriage is to criticise them for being consistent with their own beliefs.
So the two questions I would ask someone who challenges the pro-life stance with this argument would be:
1. Does natural death justify a lack of action against intentional killing?
2. Is a wanted unborn child more worthy of being saved than an unwanted unborn child? (The response may be ‘yes’, in which case they need to justify how it is acceptable to determine the worth of one being based on the attitude of another.)
Another point to this is the undue emphasis that can be placed on the feelings of the women experiencing a miscarriage. So that what I am about to write it is not misinterpreted, let me be clear that every embryo or foetus lost through miscarriage is a child, and every woman who experiences a miscarriage – no matter how early – has the right to mourn the loss of a child. That being said, it is important to recognise that the fact that some women feel that they have lost a child is not what determines the status of the embryo or foetus. Equally, the fact that other women do not feel that they have lost a child when they miscarry – with many explaining their sense of loss as stemming from having lost the potentiality of a child (see here for an article written from this perspective) – does not determine the status of the embryo or foetus either. Emotions do not necessarily equate with facts.
“Finally, the primary opposition to abortion is from Christian religious groups.”
“Well, the whole bunch of literal bible-humpers who can’t say a sentence without invoking ‘god’ or ‘jesus’ annoy me. I usually find that those who shriek “abortion is murder!” the loudest are creationist types, who think the earth is 6,000 years old, that fossils were laid down in a Genesis Flood, and that dinosaurs romped with Adam and Eve in Eden.”
It’s amazing how people love to cling to their stereotypes. I believe this is because it makes it easier for them to dismiss the arguments of the pro-life side. Unfortunately, they’re (a) basing this on a logical fallacy, and (b) wrong.
A. The logical fallacy at play is known as ad hominem, or attacking the speaker. The content of the argument is ignored in favour of attacking the source of the argument. The author of the second comment above is committing this fallacy in suggesting that because the source of an argument against abortion is held by a creationist, the argument itself can be dismissed. The author of the first does a similar thing, broadening the field to include all Christians. This side-steps all discussion of the issue at hand, in a way that suggests that there is an unwillingness or inability to engage in the argument (one might question why). It ignores the obvious fact that truth does not depend on its source, but is a stand-alone concept. It is also extremely unproductive, as it shuts down what might otherwise be a worthwhile discussion.
B. They’re also wrong. Secular, non-religious groups are becoming more and more prominent in the pro-life movement. I’ve linked a few examples below;
Secular Pro-Life Perspectives
Atheist & Agnostic Pro-Life League
A 2004-2005 Gallup poll aggregate shows the two ‘extreme’ viewpoints on abortion (‘legal under any’ circumstances, and ‘illegal in all’ circumstances) according to religion. From this, you can see that although the ‘illegal in all’ stance is more common among Christians, 10% of those who were classified as ‘no religion’ also held this view. Also worthy of note is that the percentages of Christians with viewpoints at either end of the spectrum were nearly identical: 20% for ‘legal under any’ versus 22% for ‘illegal in all’. It’s a pity that the two intervening viewpoints (‘legal in most’ circumstances, and legal in ‘only a few’ circumstances) were not shown, as this would have conveyed more information than merely including the two diametrically opposed viewpoints.