I keep seeing ads saying that those of us who believe abortion is wrong, even in cases of rape and incest, are “extreme.” This is my “extreme” position: it’s wrong to intentionally take the life of an innocent person.
So, those that call this position extreme have to explain why they disagree with this statement vis-à-vis abortion. Here’s how I see that you can take exception to this position:
Objection 1) “it’s wrong”. Someone may say that they don’t want to be so dogmatic about this. Saying “it’s wrong” really means “it’s always wrong.” They want the statement to read: “it’s sometimes wrong to intentionally take the life of an innocent person.”
Reply to Objection 1) These people are saying that certain classes of persons, e.g., those resulting from rape or incest, or heck, even persons residing with the womb are able to be killed at any time if, and only if, the person doing the killing decides that the person should be killed and the person doing the killing (or requesting it) has the child in their womb. Note that many people who hold this position do believe that it is wrong for someone to kill an unborn child against the mother’s will. “Various states have passed ‘fetal homicide’ laws, making killing of an unborn child murder.” (Wikipedia). The interesting thing about this position is that to determine the morality of taking the life of a baby, you need to know two additional pieces of information: (1) does the mother want the child? (2) Has the baby taken a breath? The answer to both questions must be no for the act to be moral in the view of those that hold this position. To those that hold this position, I would ask: what is it about “wantedness” by the mother that confers a degree of inviolability that unwantedness does not? Likewise for taking a breath. Both of these seem like completely arbitrary accidental properties of the person. Neither wantedness or having ever taken a breath confer any special magical additional “personhod” upon the individual. And then, the fact that you have to have both at the same time? Again, arbitrary. You might as well say that you may take the life of another person until that person can recite the lyrics to 10 Beatles songs. That’s just as valid a criteria as “wantedness.” To these people, I say: examine your beliefs in more detail. Surely there are other classes of innocent people that can be morally killed. Why just the unborn?
Objection 2) “life”. Someone may say that they agree with the extreme position, but that “life” doesn’t apply to an unborn child, i.e., they aren’t really “alive.”
Reply to objection 2) Read a biology book. Clearly they are alive. At least as much as a plant is alive right? At the very least you can consider them to be a vegetative life form. Further, to believe that by literally simply changing where a baby is located, it goes from non-life-form to life-form instantaneously is, to say the least, a little silly. Also, to these people I would say: if you truly believe there is no life here, then you should also find the position of those who believe abortion is wrong except in cases of rape and incest to also be extreme. If there is no life, there is clearly nothing wrong with abortion, at any time, for any reason, ever. 9 months along and you want to get an abortion just because? Go ahead, there is no life at stake.
Objection 3) “innocent”. There are those that hold the position that the baby is not an innocent life. No seriously. :) They hold that the baby in the womb is equivalent to a parasite. See: (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Defense_of_Abortion). “You wake up in the morning and find yourself back to back in bed with an unconscious violinist. A famous unconscious violinist. He has been found to have a fatal kidney ailment, and the Society of Music Lovers has canvassed all the available medical records and found that you alone have the right blood type to help. They have therefore kidnapped you, and last night the violinist’s circulatory system was plugged into yours, so that your kidneys can be used to extract poisons from his blood as well as your own. [If he is unplugged from you now, he will die; but] in nine months he will have recovered from his ailment, and can safely be unplugged from you.”
Reply to objection 3) The problem with this position is that it exactly flips the situation on its head! The baby didn’t kidnap the mother to use the mother to live, the baby was connected to the mother without any say. A much more accurate scenario is this: A wake up in the morning and find yourself connected to a machine that, if disconnected, will kill you. Can the person that kidnapped disconnect you? Well, obviously not. With regard to the rape issue, where both mother and baby are victimized, again, a much closer analogy is this: you wake up in the morning to find that someone has kidnapped you and your friend, and connected you together with a machine that is keeping both of you alive. However, you are both able to disconnect from the machine, but if you do, you will end up killing the other person. If you wait 9 months, you can both be disconnected from the machine and you will both be fine. In some very real sense, the other person is using your body to stay alive. Are you able to disconnect and kill the other person, who was put in that position through no fault of their own? To my thinking the answer is clearly you cannot disconnect and kill the other person. Even though neither of you wanted to be in that position, you now have a moral obligation to not take the life of that person.
Objection 4) “person”. Here’s a more common objection; that the unborn child is not really a person.
Reply to objection 4) I would appeal to the same arguments mentioned before. What is it about taking a breath that magically makes an unborn child without rights suddenly become a person? What kind of metaphysical magic happens by the intake of oxygen? Something I never learned in my philosophy class apparently. Hint: if I show you a picture of an obviously alive newborn baby and I ask you if that newborn is a person, you should not need to ask me whether or not the baby has taken a breath yet in order to make your determination. To these people of course, I say the same thing as to the people who object to the term “life” in objection 2: If they aren’t a person, not only is abortion ok, but it’s always ok, in any case. Killing a non-person is not murder.
Of course, what this means is that the most non-sensical position to take in the abortion debate is that abortion is wrong except in cases of rape or incest. As we’ve seen, either abortion is either always ok, or it is always wrong. There are only two positions to take here that make any logical sense. And yes, they are both extreme.
I want pro-choice people to recognize my position like I recognize theirs. Their position is that the pro-life people are trying to take away the rights of women. My position is: if it is true that an unborn baby is not an innocent person, then you are completely right! I agree with you! If my position on what an unborn baby is is wrong, then you are unquestionably right, my position takes away the right of a woman to do what she wants with her body; definitely a bad thing. Now, I want the pro-choicer to recognize my position. That is, “Ok pro-lifer I agree with you that if it is true that an unborn baby is a person, then you are completely right! There is no issue of a woman doing what she wants with her body, because this is affecting taking someone else’s life, which would be murder. In which case, my position would be wrong.” Note that the entire argument rests on answering only ONE question: is an unborn baby/fetus/whatever-you-want-to-call-it an innocent person? There is no point in arguing about anything else. That is the argument. Or rather, that should be the argument. Whenever you are arguing with a pro-choicer who says, “you just want to take away a woman’s right to choose!” Recognize that for what it is: a complete red herring, and begging the question. Saying that I’m for taking away a woman’s right to choose is only a true statement if we’ve already decided that the unborn baby is not an innocent person. But that’s precisely what we should be arguing about!