Nancy is such a fool. Her ego, TDS, and self-serving idiocy should be evident to all. I would rather trust Andrew Yang, who is far more respectable, than her on this matter. And if even he says that we should pass the bill, then that says a LOT about her. She’s a petty, spiteful little crook who shields herself in the name of the “American people” that she claims to represent and know. In reality she in all of her wealth and power couldn’t be MORE removed from their actual needs. This is how “elitists” argue. They know better than you do about what’s good for you. She hides behind excuses like, “The bill does not cover need x” in order to pretend she’s a champion of the needy. I’m sure ANYONE could find some need in the bill that’s not addressed (e.g, perhaps the disabled are not funded as well as they could be), but these are just stupid excuses not to pass a $1.8 trillion bill and address the other needs later. Bottom line: Nancy is holding the American people hostage because it’s election year and she does not want Trump to take credit. Nancy’s excuses are as fake as her teeth. She needs to shut up and pass the bill.
I had the pleasure of engaging in a very thoughtful and important discussion with Britlandt Abney, who defended the pro-choice position. We delved into some complex philosophical issues such as the substance theory, the decisive moment theory, the reliability of intuitions, the moral salience of brain structure, criteria of personhood, Peter Singer’s infanticide, moral risk, and more! Enjoy.
In an article entitled, A Defense of Abortion, Judith Thomson presents what is perhaps the most famous article ever written on abortion, and is indeed one of the most frequently cited articles in academic literature on abortion. Pro-choice supporters had often denied the status of personhood on the fetus, some even going so far as to deny that the “clump of cells” qualified as human life. Thomson, on the other hand, does something quite unique in that she grants the personhood of fetuses but denies that this provides them an unqualified right not to be killed. Her well known violin example provides a clear case where a violinist has a right to life, but of which does not entail that they have a right to the involuntary use of your own body in order to ensure their own survival. Thomson therefore provides a general justification of abortion, but allows that there may be cases in which it is indecent (or selfish) to resort to abortion. She also states that while you have a right to remove life support, you do not have a right to ensure the death of that life should it survive after the removal of life support. This article will note several problems with Thomson’s argumentation, and show that in fact she has not shown that most cases of abortion are morally permissible.
Right to Life’s Slippery Slope
At the very beginning, Thomson briefly objects to what she calls the “slippery-slope” argument against abortion. This argument states that determining when a thing has a right to life in its development is arbitrary, so it must have that right from conception. In response, Thomson argues that this can just as equally be applied to the development of acorns, and yet it does not follow that acorns must be oak trees from conception. But this provides an uncharitable reading of the pro-life argument and is in fact a straw man. Their argument is more fairly treated as a reductio ad absurdum against abortion because it argues that if you reject that a fetus has a right to life at conception, then in principle there is nothing that substantially differentiates an infant outside of the womb and a fetus inside the womb (at whatever period of time) that would suddenly grant it a right to life.
A slippery slope is only fallacious because it causally claims that A will lead to B when the connection to A and B is at best a synthetic truth, where no clear causal connection has been empirically established between the two. A reductio ad absurdum, by contrast, focuses on logical principles that concern the entailment of relations between various propositions. If A is permissible, then this logically entails that B is permissible. The pro-life argument is eliminating general principles that might grant the status of a right to life (which does not require an exact time) – e.g, location, brain waves, ability to experience pain, birth, etc. It is argued that none of these principles are sufficient to grant a right to life, which entails that infanticide would be permissible if a fetus has no right to life at conception, but of course this is absurd. Therefore the fetus must have a right to life at conception. It is very easy to see how this argument is valid and possibly sound.
Furthermore, Thomson obfuscates matters by conflating an acorn with an oak tree. An acorn is just a seed, but when its growth has become actualized (its conception), it is indeed of the oak tree kind at conception even if it has not reached full maturity in its development. So if by oak tree we simply mean the adult period of an acorn’s development, then of course it is not an oak tree, but it should be obvious that its conception grants it the status of being an oak tree, just not of the fully developed sort. Similarly, no one is claiming a fetus is a fully developed person at the moment of conception, only that its personhood is being developed (or gradually actualized) at conception. So for pro-lifers, it is the possession of the essence that grants one a right to life. This personhood does not need to be fully developed for one to have a right to life anymore than claiming that an acorn must be fully mature in order for it to have the status of belonging to the oak tree kind. So defects can occur along the way such that one’s rational capacities do not get properly developed, but since they participate in the human kind, they still have a right to life.
The Violinist of Death
Of course Thomson’s main argument is that abortion is still permissible even if we pretend that it does have a right to life, and that is what we will now dispute, but it was necessary to explicate the pro-life position before doing so. With respect to her famous violinist analogy where a dying violinist is attached to her body without consent, she admits that at best this only permits abortion in the event of rape, but then says that the right to life “shouldn’t turn on the question of whether or not you are the product of rape” (49). It would appear that there is a conflict of intuitions here. Our intuition that cutting off support for the violinist is permissible would be an argument for aborting a child who is the product of rape, but on the other hand, we do not want the right to life to hinge on how that life came to be. To reconcile this, we can say that the violinist is disanalogous after all.
We can invoke the foresight–intention distinction. With the violinist, one can foresee his death after withholding life support without intending or directly causing his death. The violinist’s death is the result of his own illness. But this is not analogous to abortion since abortion is a direct killing of a life via tearing apart of limbs or some other such method, not simply a foreseeing of its death by a removal of life support. This distinction allows the mother to save her life even if it foreseeably comes at the death of the fetus as long as it is not intended. Another disanalogy is in the fact that the child’s life biologically requires that particular mother for its growth, whereas the violinist is an artificial juxtaposition onto another. There is a sense in which that particular birth is the result of natural processes (albeit under coerced circumstances) whereas the violinist is completely artificial, and this makes a significant difference in how we treat either case because nature is the ground of our natural rights.
A defender of Thomson could push back by insisting that such distinctions are real but irrelevant because it could be further imagined that the violinist is the mother’s own child. Any such element could be introduced to the thought experiment to bypass the above distinctions. For example, one could imagine the violinist can avoid death by literally being reborn with all of his memories reinstalled later but it must begin within that female’s womb. Is the female morally obligated to give birth to this violinist despite it being done without her consent? To answer this question, it seems we are left again with intention. Did the violinist intend to violate her consent? Because if so, then she has a right to terminate his life even if it is for a good cause. Everyone has a right not to be killed (negative rights), but no one has a positive right to intentionally violate someone else’s life in order to preserve life. For example, it is immoral to rape a woman even if it would save a 100 lives. A woman has a right to kill that person to defend her rights, no matter how “noble” his end may seem.
Suppose, however, that the violinist’s desperate friend goes against both the will of the violinist and the will of the female. Does the female still have a right to kill the reborn violinist? No, precisely because it was not the violinist’s fault. Intentions matter. The female has every right to seek legal action against the friend, but she has no right to kill the violinist. I’m willing to bet that most people’s intuition would support this. Imagine a person dumps an infant in an alt-right’s house by breaking in (and vandalizing) and in response, the alt-right person says, “My house, my choice!” and shoots the infant in the head with a shotgun. Was that morally permissible? Surely not. The infant had no fault in the matter; it was the person who dumped the child that should be held accountable for violating his property rights. In the same way then, we can say that a woman ought not to kill a fetus even if it is the product of rape because the fetus did not intend any violence to her bodily rights. Unless the fetus threatens her life, it seems that rape does not justify an abortion.
Against Death’s Defense
Perhaps the most egregious and definitive error that Thomson makes is her attempt to justify not just rape cases but the majority of abortion cases. To respond to those who argue that pregnancies are the product of a voluntary act, she compares the event of pregnancy to burglary: “If the room is stuffy, and I therefore open a window to air it, and a burglar climbs in, it would be absurd to say, “Ah, now he can stay, she’s given him a right to the use of her house-for she is partially responsible for his presence there…” This is as implausible of an analogy as implausible gets. The sexual act is by its very function directed toward the production of life. It is not comparable to some accidental event like burglary or people-seeds floating in the air, it is instead a natural effect of sexual activity that you voluntary partake in, regardless of whether you intend the effect.
Ask any biologist: the sexual organs are for reproduction. Some biologists would deny that this has normative force, but that’s irrelevant to the point here: procreation is not accidental. To use your sexual organs as if they accidentally produce children is like playing with a gun and being surprised that it killed somebody. It’s obvious function is to kill things. You are responsible for carelessness, and even if you did all in your power to ensure the safety was on, aimlessly pointing your gun at everyone in class is still a stupid thing to do just as much as having sex with contraception countless times is. If you truly do not want the responsibility of taking care of life, then you should not use a “life-making” organ in the first place! So when life is created, even if it is “accidental” with respect to your intentions, it is not accidental with respect to your natural functioning.
To make matters worse, Thomson takes the role of intention to the extreme when she claims that “we do not have any such ‘special responsibility’ for a person unless we have assumed it, explicitly or implicitly.” If pregnancy is not avoided, if abortion is not obtained, and if child is not put into adoption then the responsibility is assumed. In other words, the parents have “given it rights” by affirming their responsibility for it in some way. This is where Thomson’s argument utterly fails. No pro-lifer would ever accept the idea that the parents can decide whether a child is worthy of having rights or not. Part of what made her case so persuasive is that she worked with pro-life assumptions, but this is so off the ballpark, one can only wonder who she is attempting to convince. Parents do not have responsibility to their children because they choose to, but because they are obligated to. To suggest otherwise is to put the cart before the horse.
Furthermore, if rights can be “given,” then they can just as easily be taken away. Thomson begs the question by assuming that if a right is given through assumed circumstances, it can never be taken away. But why is this the case? The only inalienable rights that we possess are those that we possess intrinsically, but if rights are conditional, then in principle they can be taken away if the conditions no longer apply. To make man the arbiter of rights is one of the most frightful things that one can propose, as it in principle allows for slavery and other kinds of evils. Thomson has endangered the notion of natural rights in her attempt to defend abortion and as such, this gives us a very strong reason to reject her proposal. The presumption in favor of the right to life is still very much alive and well today.
No Christian should be caught dead walking with this movement (Ephesians 5:7-8). To walk with them is to walk with darkness. No doubt there is some light in this march (eg., its opposition against sexual abuse in Hollywood), but Lucifer’s ploy has always been to disguise himself as an angel of light. He will take some truth and taint it with the blood of deceit. According to their Mission statement, they believe that no one should cut or restrict them from their “ability to access quality reproductive healthcare services,” which includes of course a right to abortions. This is obviously unacceptable, but additionally, they strongly promote the LGBTQ movement that the Christian takes to be perversions of God’s creation (Romans 1). They argue that these people should be free from “structural impediments,” but we all know that this includes any Christian structure as is evident when they seek to remove tax exemption from “bigoted” churches or far worse, when they want to force Christian bakers to make gay wedding cakes.
Ladies and gentlemen, the “Women’s March” pic.twitter.com/YKyeRocWQK
— Kassy Dillon (@KassyDillon) January 21, 2018
Let’s also not forget all sorts of vile people belong to this group. These are the same people who were wearing “pussy hats,” the same people who proudly dress like sluts, the same people who utter repulsive things, and the same people who commit all sorts of sexual immorality. They are as Scripture says, “lovers of self” and “lovers of pleasure” rather than lovers of God. These are people we should avoid (2 Tim 3:1-5). These are the same people who would in a heartbeat blaspheme and mock the Lord Jesus Christ. Not everyone is vile in this group, clearly, but it is enough to be a problem. Psalms 1 says, “Happy is the man who does not… sit in the seat of scoffers.” As commentaries note, to sit in their seat is to identify with their sinful plans and behavior. How unhappy is the man who associates with the Women’s March, for God will discipline or worse, deny him!
The Christian might say, “But Jesus spent time with the adulteress and the tax collectors! I’m just doing the same. I take the good and leave out the bad.” Do not deceive yourself. Jesus was the light who came to expose men of their evil deeds so that through recognition of their sin they could repent. The Bible explicitly says, “Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them” (Eph 5:11). I dare the Christian who professes to do this to participate in the Women’s March while exposing their wickedness. Speak against the sin of abortion! Speak against the sin of sexual promiscuity! Explain how their “good” deeds are nothing but bloody tampons in the eyes of God. I guarantee you that you would be stoned, crucified, or beaten down faster than you could say, “Just kidding!”
I fear that the Christians who I see associating with this movement are doing it because they want to be liked and feel good about fighting for justice in the eyes of the world. My brothers and sisters, do you not know that friendship with the world makes you enemies of God (James 4:4)? You cannot take the good and the bad because by participating in this movement, you are empowering them to accomplish all that they intend. I understand how difficult the temptation is. You want to be well liked and you want to do good. Being part of a worldly movement does that. I struggle with that too, but when the zeal for God’s truth comes, it tramples my fear like an elephant trampling on a mouse. I would rather temporarily die at the hands of men than eternally die for rejecting my Lord and Savior. It all comes down to that one choice: Who will you serve? Are you ready to forsake all? Are you willing to risk death for your faith?
From a more political angle, their mission is for the most part nothing more than bumper sticker slogans meshed with virtuous sounding words. For example, having a right to kill a precious baby is now phrased as having a right to women’s health. Well that sounds great! Who would be against women’s health? Or as the movement represents, it speaks for women’s rights in general and in support of better overall social treatment. Of course all of these are good things, but the substantive meaning or spirit that lingers behind these very terms represent nothing more than Satan’s agenda to make this world into a free for all. It may give a sense of solidarity, justice, and accomplishment to march as you scream, “Women’s rights!” but that is no different than marching for endless sex under the guise of “Freedom!” The movement identifies itself with a laundry list of liberal agendas that have nothing to do with women’s rights specifically, but they champion it all of the same because it sounds good to add as much “goodness” as possible so that they feel extra good about themselves.
What does any of that “women’s right” banter even mean these days? Let’s just take women’s rights. Name one right that women lack but males have. Legally speaking, there is no such thing. In fact, if anything women have one right that men do not have: the right to kill their own child. That’s significant. Now of course I know the feminist mantra. They will respond that socially speaking, they are still treated as second class citizens with the wage gap, lack of female representation in government or other fields, the existence of rape culture, and the like. A specific example of this is given in March’s PDF: “the rate of imprisonment has grown faster for women than men, increasing by 700% since 1980”. They claim that it is our moral imperative to dismantle this inequity. But this is ridiculous. Men are TEN times more likely to get incarcerated than women. Should men be starting their own march about how this is the result of women socially mistreating them (e.g, cheating or saying hurtful things)?
There is so much misinformation and non-sequiturs associated with this movement that even if I were not a Christian, I wouldn’t want to be associated with their fortress of lies. It is often told that there is a 70 cents wage gap between males and females, but a feminist organization (AAUW) demonstrated this to be absolutely false. What happened is that these people who promote the wage gap myth got their data from sources that did not account for the relevant differences between men and women. Once that is accounted for, the difference in pay becomes next to nothing. And whatever difference in pay that is there, it is very difficult to attribute it to any sort of sexism. This is what often takes place in the feminist movement. They will use some statistic and extrapolate some claim that goes beyond what the data in fact shows. What happens is they project their narrative onto the data, rather than the other way around.
Look, I understand that there may be some well intending Christian out there who may have participated in this movement because they are misinformed but genuinely want to do the right thing. There are indeed some good causes that this movement stands for. I do not condemn you as much as I strongly rebuke you to stay away out of love for your souls and a desire for the goodness of God to truly prevail. You have to understand that whatever good that this movement seems to represent to you, it can be done far better under the March for Life movement that I bet you missed. Or if not that movement, start a movement that encompasses a return to Wollstonecraft’s version of feminism based on lost virtues like self-control and purity. But as much as I sympathize with movements, I think every movement is bound to fail if it is not moved by the Spirit.
Every movement will fail if it fails to understand the root problem: the condition of man is such that it is fallen and depraved. The feminist is right to point out that they are victims of violence and that it is unsafe sometimes for them to even walk down a street. But statistics show that men are even less safe than women when it comes to being subject to violence. Women are being raped just as men are being killed. Sexism is just blatant evil that comes out at the surface, but the real evil lurks beneath and it’s not hidden sexism but a corruption of our nature in general. You can hurt a woman without being sexist just because you desire to do evil and you love darkness. Men and women can both be victims of evil, but the gospel truth is that they are not just victims of evil, they are sons and daughters of evil. I dare you to live and preach that message in this world, because you’ll find that no movement that has not been moved by God will be able to bear such a message.
So prepare for hated, prepare for death.
Or be loved by the world, but burn in the flesh.
Courtney Hood recently published a heartfelt article that I greatly sympathize with, at least with respect to her care for others. As someone who is prolife, there is more to human life than just its birth, but I think the article gets several things wrong:
I do value all stages of life so there’s an appeal to this, but I will say that if we cannot value life at its most innocent and vulnerable stage, how can we claim to value life at any of its other stages? At what stage does life start mattering and why that stage? If we cannot properly value the most fundamental aspect of life (which is our right to live) then our quality of life is not a right either. So the question can be turned around.
Now, to address this articles’ objection, we care about the quality of life but in a different way. The article condemns our moral values as expressing “outdated views” without realizing that these values are the pillars of a thriving society. To borrow from Plato, “An unexamined life is not worth living.” The quality of life is directly affected by our moral values. So if we think it is permissible to have premarital sex, children out of wedlock, no-fault divorces, and the like then what inevitably occurs is that the quality of life suffers with it. The family is one of the most effective weapons against poverty, but once the family breaks down, so does our life.
The liberal position is like encouraging a child to play with fire and afterwards providing free governmental care. Conservatives promote moral values that preemptively discourages harm from occurring in the first place. The liberal solutions to these problems (minimum wage, food stamps, welfare, etc) at best just patches the holes of an already sinking ship. You have to get to the root of a problem if you’re going to solve a problem, otherwise you’re just delaying and covering up the harmful effects until it sinks. I should note that only God can change hearts, however, so conservatives can only offer trade off solutions in the political realm.
Also, it’s not that conservatives are in principle against healthcare or against providing some kind of safety net for struggling mothers. We just have different methods of doing so that emphasize individual empowerment rather than dependency. The problem with liberals is that they equate their policies with caring about the quality of life and anyone who disagrees with their way of doing things must not care about life. This is completely unfair. Some disagree with minimum wage laws, for example, because it increases unemployment. They may be wrong, but it’s not because they do not care about life.
If a fetus does not have a right to life, then when does it gain a right to life? After it comes out of the womb? This implies that changing location suddenly gives a human a right to life. That’s obviously ridiculous. What about consciousness? Well we’re technically unconscious when we sleep or get knocked out, so do we temporarily lose our right to life? Surely not. Even six week old fetuses have some level of consciousness (http://www.ehd.org/dev_article_unit7.php).
Perhaps a certain level of consciousness gives a right to life, but that’s arbitrary. Why does that level of consciousness give a right to life? Suppose a person went into a coma but had a 100% chance of recovering. Surely it’s not moral to kill them during a coma. Furthermore, this implies that people with greater levels of consciousness are more valuable than others, which is clearly false. So a right to life must not come from the level of consciousness.
In fact, rights cannot come in degrees like consciousness does as the above example shows. This leave us with the best answer: We have a right to life because we are of a certain *kind* of being at the very moment of conception: a rational animal (aka being human). Kind, not degrees of consciousness, are what give humans the right to life. Since fetuses are humans, abortion is wrong.