The Case for Life
- Saturday, May 09, 2009
Emily: Pam, let’s talk about this later. Nothing I say right now will convince you.
Although the above conversation is contrived, the content of the exchange is very real. When it comes to abortion, many pro-life Christians don’t know what to say. They’re caught completely off-guard just like Emily was. Sure, they have pro-life convictions, but defending those convictions with friends and co-workers is another matter altogether. Better to stay silent and avoid embarrassment. Who wants to stir up a hornet’s nest the way Emily did?
The good news is, you don’t have to surrender in silence. There’s a better way. Simplify the debate by focusing on the one question that truly matters: What is the unborn?
Emily didn’t realize it, but Pam was cheating. Not that Pam meant to—she was just repeating what she’d heard abortion-choice advocates say in the popular media. Nevertheless, she was cheating by assuming the very thing she was trying to prove.
Put simply, each of her objections assumed that the unborn are not human beings. However, instead of proving that conclusion with facts and arguments, she merely assumed it within the course of her rhetoric. We call this begging the question, and as Francis J. Beckwith points out, it’s a logical fallacy that lurks behind many arguments for abortion.2 For example, consider Pam’s claim that we shouldn’t force our views on others. Do you think she would say such a thing if someone wanted the right to choose to kill toddlers? There’s no way. Only by assuming the unborn aren’t human can she make such a claim. Or take her objection that government shouldn’t get involved in our personal decisions. Can you imagine, even for a moment, Pam arguing this way if the topic were child abuse? Again her objection only flies if she assumes the unborn isn’t already a child. If he is one, abortion is the worst kind of child abuse imaginable. Pam also asserts that if we restrict abortion, women will be forced to get dangerous back-alley abortions. We’ll take up that specific objection in a later chapter, but notice that it, too, assumes that the unborn are not human. Otherwise she is claiming that because some people will die attempting to kill others, the state should make it safe and legal for them to do so.
I AGREE, IF…
Nadine Strossen is the former president of the ACLU, and I consider her a friend. She is pleasant, and I enjoy her company each time we debate. I wish more of my opponents were like her.
During a January 2008 Worldview Forum at Malone College (in Canton, Ohio), Nadine and I debated abortion in front of a full house of a thousand students, faculty, and others. The ACLU of Ohio even reserved one hundred seats in advance. This was our second debate in the course of a year. The theme of our exchange was “Abortion: Legal Right or Moral Wrong?”
The coin toss went to Nadine, which meant she got to speak first. She tried to frame the debate with an appeal to reproductive freedom. To paraphrase her case, reproductive freedom means the ability to choose whether or not to have children according to one’s own personal religious beliefs. That freedom is necessary if all persons are to lead lives of self-determination, opportunity, and human dignity. She repeatedly stressed our need to work together to reduce the high number of abortions, by which she meant pro-lifers should support tax-funded birth control programs.
Notice the question-begging nature of her claim. She simply assumed that the unborn are not human beings. Would she make this same claim for human freedom and self-determination if the debate were about killing toddlers instead of fetuses?
To help the audience see the problem, I began my own opening speech by saying the following (paraphrased for brevity):
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