If you’ve never thought logically about a deeply emotional issue like abortion, welcome, this article won’t overwhelm you.
If you’ve already had many conversations about worldviews and how your ideas relate to others, then there are resources linked below that will give you material for those conversations.
The Case for Life by Scott Klusendorf isn’t the ultimate philosophical and academic work of the prolife position but it does give lay individuals the tools and tactics to logically articulate their position. Klusendorf draws heavily from sources on both sides of the aisle on this issue and puts them in perspective so someone without prior knowledge on the subject can immediately grasp the collision of ideas.
As mentioned in the video, if you find yourself in a conversation about abortion the issue boils down to how to define the humanity of the unborn and whether they differ in fundamental ways from adults that justify ending their life.
What clarifies the conversation?
If it’s been awhile since 7th grade logic class, a syllogism is a formula for constructing a deductive argument that consists of two premises and a conclusion. In order to disprove the conclusion, one must show that it is either illogical or disprove one of the premises. Here is the syllogism of the abortion issue.
- It is wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being.
- Abortion intentionally kills an innocent human being.
- Therefore, abortion is wrong.
This is a tactic that Klusendorf states will narrow the conversation at least to the question “Are the unborn human?”
He writes in the book that if one can prove the the unborn are NOT human than the entire case for life is moot and there should be no moral qualms for obtaining an abortion than there would be to have one’s appendix removed.
This question is addressed by the science of embryology in that from the earliest stages of development you were a distinct, living, and whole human being. See these quotes from embryology texts at princeton.edu for more information. Another tactic for clarifying these differences is known as “Trot out the Toddler” and can be found on Klusendorf’s website.
In the one minute case for life I state at the beginning of the video, I quote Scott as saying “While science can tell us what the unborn are, we turn to philosophy to determine if their differences are fundamental in ways that would justify ending their life.”
Klusendorf runs a training company called Life Training Institute that educates people in the prolife position and they excel in the explanation of the philosophical differences between the embryo you once were and the adult you are today. From the page “How to Defend Your Pro-Life Views in 5 Minutes or Less:”
As Stephen Schwarz points out, there is no morally significant difference between the embryo that you once were and the adult that you are today. Differences of size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency are not relevant such that we can say that you had no rights as an embryo but you do have rights today. Think of the acronym SLED as a helpful reminder of these non-essential differences:
Size: True, embryos are smaller than newborns and adults, but why is that relevant? Do we really want to say that large people are more human than small ones? Men are generally larger than women, but that doesn’t mean that they deserve more rights. Size doesn’t equal value.
Level of development: True, embryos and fetuses are less developed than the adults they’ll one day become. But again, why is this relevant? Four year-old girls are less developed than 14 year-old ones. Should older children have more rights than their younger siblings? Some people say that self-awareness makes one human. But if that is true, newborns do not qualify as valuable human beings. Six-week old infants lack the immediate capacity for performing human mental functions, as do the reversibly comatose, the sleeping, and those with Alzheimer’s Disease.
Environment: Where you are has no bearing on who you are. Does your value change when you cross the street or roll over in bed? If not, how can a journey of eight inches down the birth-canal suddenly change the essential nature of the unborn from non-human to human? If the unborn are not already human, merely changing their location can’t make them valuable.
Degree of Dependency: If viability makes us human, then all those who depend on insulin or kidney medication are not valuable and we may kill them. Conjoined twins who share blood type and bodily systems also have no right to life.
In short, it’s far more reasonable to argue that although humans differ immensely with respect to talents, accomplishments, and degrees of development, they are nonetheless equal because they share a common human nature.
In those two basic points and utilizing the Columbo Tactic to clarify what the other person truly believes, you can have a rational conversation about the abortion issue. This doesn’t mean however that we can expect everyone to coalesce around a shared view, this is an issue that is deeply personal and tough to address for many.
You will hear some common issues come up when talking with proponents of the right to choose.
The most common are issues of bodily autonomy of the mother, exceptions based on cases of rape or incest, the alleged silence of the Bible on the topic of abortion, and the issue of embryonic stem-cell research and cloning. Check out these links to read about Klusendorf’s response to each in turn.
If you wish to dive deeply into the issue and look at the logical reasoning on each side of the issue, you’ll discover names like Francis J Beckwith, David Boonin, Peter Kreeft, Peter Singer, and Nadine Strossen. These individuals are all involved in writing, debating, and speaking extensively on the opposing views surrounding the abortion issue.
In conclusion, I encourage you to examine this issue logically. Go do your own study, I’m sure it will be an enlightening process.
Keep reading friends!
P.S. For extra credit, here are two links to debates that have happened in the past few years on the subject.
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