In November, the Atlantic published an article by Caitlin Flanagan entitled ‘The Dishonesty of the Abortion Debate: Why we need to face the best arguments from the other side’. We think that this has led to a discussion that it is worth drawing attention to.
Some pro-choice people may not think that the unborn baby is a human being with equal rights. But others may completely accept that the unborn baby is a living human but still think abortion is an acceptable choice, because they believe the right to bodily autonomy of the woman is more important than the right to life of the baby. It’s really important to clarify which type of pro-choice person you’re talking to.
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.
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.
The thought experiment itself is long and can be quickly summarised: you’re in an IVF clinic that is burning to the ground, and as you try to escape you come across a crying five year old child and 1000 frozen embryos. You can save the child or the embryos, but not both. Which do you choose?
This is one example of what an intellectually honest defence of abortion looks like – and the problems it runs into.
An interview with Kelsey Hazzard, founder of Secular Pro-Lfe.