(Part One is here.)
If an advocate has persuasive, honest, strong arguments not based on fallacies and rationalizations, I assume that those would be the ones he or she would use.
The recent Center for Medical Progress videos featuring employees of Planned Parenthood and StemExpress describing in graphic detail the process by which fetal tissue is harvested for research, and in some cases showing the process itself, have made abortion advocates squirm by making it difficult for them to deny that a tiny, growing human being is sacrificed in the act of abortion. This makes the evasive “choice” defense of abortion inadequate. Why shouldn’t unborn lives matter? Either because of neglect (“It’s legal” and “it’s my right” have been used to cut off debate for decades), because the rationale for debate has been built on a convenient fiction (“Life? I don’t see any life!”), or because there really aren’t any ethically satisfying justifications for abortion on demand, the pro-abortion lobby’s attacks on the videos have been notable for their lack of substance and abundant desperation.
This has been especially true of the analogies offered for the relationship between a mother and unborn child, and the fetus itself.
In the Washington Post last week, Margo Kaplan, who as an associate professor at Rutgers Law School should be skilled at analogies, attacked anti-abortion advocates with what she seemed to think was a definitive “gotcha!” She notes that there is nowhere near the same level of attention paid to frozen embryos that are donated to research as aborted fetuses, and from this concludes all manner of horrible things about abortion opponents:
With rare exceptions, the government doesn’t interfere with an IVF patient’s choices except to resolve disagreements between couples.The disparity between how the law treats abortion patients and IVF patients reveals an ugly truth about abortion restrictions: that they are often less about protecting life than about controlling women’s bodies. Both IVF and abortion involve the destruction of fertilized eggs that could potentially develop into people. But only abortion concerns women who have had sex that they don’t want to lead to childbirth. Abortion restrictions use unwanted pregnancy as a punishment for “irresponsible sex” and remind women of the consequences of being unchaste: If you didn’t want to endure a mandatory vaginal ultrasound , you shouldn’t have had sex in the first place.
It’s so much easier attacking a straw man than the real issue.
Taking the most radical and unhinged of anti-abortion positions and pretending that it represents the entire opposition to a policy is an occasionally effective but dishonest and unethical tactic. The vast, vast majority of opposition to abortion involves one problem and one problem only: the process involves the taking of innocent life. The rebuttal of the professor’s dishonest slur is inherent in the position that abortion proponents claim to find incomprehensible: that abortion in the case of rape or incest is no more ethically palatable than when the child was conceived through consensual sex. The conduct of the parents is irrelevant to the validity and innate human rights of the life being taken.
Moreover, the motives of anti-abortion advocates are irrelevant to the ethical question of whether the unborn should be vulnerable to being snuffed out on the whim of the mother. Okay, let’s assume that all of those who oppose abortion secretly hate women and are despicable hypocrites. So what? They are still asking a question that abortion proponents can’t seem to answer, unless that answer is, as Kaplan seems to believe, “We should be able to kill the unborn because the people who think we shouldn’t are pigs.”
Helpful hint: If you let your child be born, mom, don’t send him or her to Rutgers Law School.
Even to attempt this wanly disguised ad hominem attack, Kaplan has to pull off a fake analogy. Did you notice it? She says, “Both IVF and abortion involve the destruction of fertilized eggs that could potentially develop into people.” That’s technically true, but deceitful. The fertilized eggs in IVF aren’t alive and developing until they are implanted in a womb. Once they are frozen, they are like seeds that haven’t been planted. They are not “potential people” in the same way a growing fetus is. A fetus will become a fully mature human if it is not interfered with. A frozen embryo requires human intervention to get to the stage that a developing fetus reaches on its own. Analogizing a frozen fertilized egg with a developing fetus is like saying there is no difference between tomato seeds in a bag and a green tomato ripening on the vine.
While there are many who argue that destroying a frozen human embryo is also unethical, a reasonable and principled distinction can be made. I believe that once a fetus is aborted, or once a frozen fetus is definitely not going to be implanted, it’s wasteful not to use the tissue for research. (A much discussed article that I was going to post on but didn’t argued a few months ago that the organs of dead people should all be harvested for healthy organs, and I wouldn’t have an ethical objection to that either.)
This irritating, hypocritical and illogical rationalization is less a true rationalization than it is a childish deflection of accountability. It is especially popular in the political arena, and practiced with special shamelessness by pundits. When a critic points out a genuine example of dishonesty or other unethical conduct on the part of particular official, that official’s defender will immediately retort with the names of one or more examples of similar conduct by individuals the critic favors. Note that this does not in any way address or disprove the charge; indeed, resorting to this tactic usually means that the critic is correct. The argument being put forward is essentially the same as the one offered by a child admonished by a parent: “But you let my brother get away with the same thing! You like him best!” The theory is that it is unfair to criticize anyone for conduct the critic may have excused or ignored in another. That may be true, but it is irrelevant to the conduct under discussion. If the conduct of an elected official is unethical, then the official is accountable for it whether others have gotten away with it or not. Adopting the Favorite Child Excuse has several implications, none of them valid, including:
…What my guy did is OK, because your guy did it.
…The conduct of your guy, which I think is wrong, should set the standard of conduct for my guy, who I think is better than your guy.
…The worse your guy can behave without being criticized, the worse my guy can behave without my objecting.
…The conduct I deplored in your guy is acceptable to me in my guy, because you didn’t have the integrity to criticize it.
…It’s all right for my guy to do what your guy did, but I still think your guy is scum for doing it, and you were a hypocrite not to criticize him.
Kaplan carried this one unethical step further, attributing bad motives to a distinction she doesn’t see or agree with. Anything to avoid the task of making a reasoned and coherent defense of abortion that acknowledges the humanity and rights of an unborn human life.
On Vox, Amanda Taub’s approach was to develop a masterpiece of deceit and confusion to find an analogy that justified a women’s decision to take that life.
She writes [I can’t resist commenting on some of this in BOLD]…
Pro-life activists tend to focus on whether a fetus is a person, and whether life begins at conception. [ Well yes, and I would think this issue would concern a pro-abortion advocate as well, wouldn’t you? But they won’t focus on that, because an honest inquiry might be too hard to reconcile with their favored policy.] But even if you do believe that the fetus is a person at any given moment in the pregnancy, the nature of pregnancy is an inarguable medical fact: It involves taking the mother’s body — her blood, her uterus, her vital organs — and using it to save the life of another person. [This is the “alien invader” view of pregnancy used by pro-abortion zealots to make mothers feel hostile toward their own babies. It’s an unwelcome invader! It’s the enemy! Abortion is self-defense! Uh, it is the innocent human being that continues the existence of the species, and part of a natural, necessary biological process that a woman is well- aware of from puberty, and constructed specifically to engage in.]
We have a term for that: organ donation.
It is uncontroversial in this country that other types of organ donation should never be forced. Parents are under no legal obligation to donate their organs to save their children’s lives after they are born, even though there is no debate about the “personhood” of children who are living outside the womb. Yet when it comes to fetuses whose personhood is a subject of debate, pro-life activists demand that this obligation be legally enforced.
This is another straw man technique: convert the question you have no good answer for into one that has a clear answer, and pretend that the questions are the same.
Being pregnant isn’t organ donation, and thus cannot be forced organ donation. When I donate a kidney, I have one less kidney, and no further responsibilities. There is no such loss to Taub’s “donor,” who ends up with more—a child—after the “donation,’ not less. She also has an additional obligation that no organ donor has: to care for an additional member of her family.
A fetus starts out as a part of the mother’s body, though a rapidly differentiating part, then becomes, not a stranger forcing the mother to give up organs, but a child. The continuance of the species depends on a moral, ethical and biological duty for the mother of a gestating child to protect, care for and assist the safe development of that child. The relationship is nothing like that of an organ donor forced to contribute a kidney to a stranger.
Looking at tissue donations, like bone marrow or blood, while it is true that “parents are under no legal obligation to donate their organs to save their children’s lives after they are born,” is there any question that not doing so is unethical and horribly wrong? Yes, Amanda, we understand that abortion is legal. The issue is whether it is right, a question of ethics rather than law, and your answer is “It’s legal!”
Taub’s is a dishonest, illogical, intentionally disorienting analogy…desperate, in fact.
Desperation is all the abortion advocates seem, to have if they have to account for the unborn as lives.