This is a particularly frustrating debate because it really is sort of a pointless disagreement. We are talking about scientific and medical terms, and there should be no disagreement. However, there often is, usually because neither pro-life nor pro-choice people actually understand the terms to describe human beings in the earliest stages of development.
It’s unfortunately the case that just because a person opposes abortion does not mean that opposition to abortion is a political priority for them. Hard as it may be to believe for many of us convinced pro-lifers, a person may oppose abortion but care far more about other political issues, and not be particularly inclined to vote on the the issue in politics. That’s why we’re not seeing the NI parties pay a political cost.
As a death penalty opponent, when I make arguments like this to supporters I’m trying to do two things: first I’m hoping that they’ll agree that that killing an innocent person is so terrible that even a small risk of it gives us reason to abolish capital punishment. I’m hoping to convince them that even if it was good to kill the worst criminals, it’s not worth killing the innocent to achieve it. But I’m also trying to do something a bit less straightforward. By inviting the person I’m talking to to think about the irreversibility, the terrible finality of death in the case of an innocent person, I’m hoping to make them less comfortable about imposing the death penalty even on the guilty.
This is an article two of our founding members wrote in September 2017 – a year and a half before the referendum on abortion in Ireland. (The article was published in the University Times, one of the two student-run newspapers at Trinity College Dublin.) Two years later, some of the questions it posed are as […]
By dodging the question of the morality of the abortion and focusing exclusively on the law – and in particular on a particular legal regime involving punishing women – people who talk about ‘forced pregnancy’ are subtly but effectively shifting the ground onto territory that favours them at the expense of having a conversation about the central issue: is abortion right or wrong? Everything else, including your attitude to the law, should be discussed once you’ve decided what you think on that critical question.
The Equal Rights Institute (ERI) is a great website for people looking for resources on how to talk about abortion both smartly and sensitively. One of my favourite posts of theirs is on what they call ‘the most underrated argument in the pro-life movement’: the Equal Rights Argument. This post discusses both the content of the argument and the way that the ERI recommends using it.
It’s not enough to ask whether the unborn human has an objective right to life, just as a human being not located in a uterus has. We also need to consider whether a woman’s right to determine what she does with her body (specifically, whether she uses her body to support another human being) overrides the other human being’s right to life. It’s very difficult to find a thought experiment that mirrors the unique human condition that is pregnancy, but I have found one that seems to come close: that of conjoined twins.