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16 thoughts on “How to Make a Pro-Life Argument in 2 Minutes or Less”

  1. Philmonomer says:

    One of the reasons why I’m not a fan of this presentation is that it sets up an false dichotomy: either the fetus is a human being (a person) and thus entitled to all the protections of a person, or it is no different than having a tooth pulled. Surely there are other options? For example, your dog is not a human being (a person) but killing it (simply for your convenience) is not morally equivalent to having a tooth pulled (simply for your convenience).

    1. Choz says:

      We aren’t talking about dogs. We are talking about a fetus inside a human being. What other options are there? It’s a human or a….what?

      1. Philmonomer says:

        It’s a human in the earliest stages of development, not yet entitled to all the protections of personhood.

        1. Choz says:

          Why not? when does she become a person?

          1. Philmonomer says:

            It emerges over the course of a pregnancy. Much in the same way that being an adult emerges over time.

        2. Choz says:

          My question was WHEN do they become a person. And again, we are talking about a HUMAN being. All this talk about personhood is meaningless because only human beings can be persons. And you should not be allowed to kill a human being without justification.

          1. Philmonomer says:

            My question was WHEN do they become a person.

            I answered your question: over the course of a pregnancy. Maybe you can answer my question: When is a child an adult?

            And again, we are talking about a HUMAN being.

            Ok. Although I think of it more as a member of the human species at the earliest stages of development. “Human being” can mean a lot of things, depending on the context.

            All this talk about personhood is meaningless because only human beings can be persons.

            I don’t think so. One day, alien life might be persons. Maybe chimpanzees too (although I doubt it).

            And you should not be allowed to kill a human being without justification.

            Here, I think there are two things going on: 1) the status of the fetus (as more time passes/development the status changes) and 2) a woman’s right to her own bodily autonomy (which is not absolute, but a consideration).

      2. Philmonomer says:

        We aren’t talking about dogs.

        I’m curious, can you explain why I brought up dogs?

  2. Jeff S says:

    The video fails to establish the basis for valuing human life. He starts from the assumption that all human life is valuable. The four differences he talks about don’t really address that question. Pro Choicers don’t believe that the unborn life is as valuable as the born human life, and that’s the key you have to undo if you want to win the argument

    He gives the four differences and argues that none of them are “reasons for killing” (which uses rhetoric to frame the discussion as “killing”, which the pro choice does not agree with that word), yet he fails to establish that developmental progress is not a good reason. He talks about how someone later on the curve (a child vs an adult) doesn’t make a difference, but that does not prove anything about earlier on the curve. More work would have to be done to establish that the a 1 week old fetus and a fully formed infant are of equal value. In fact, I’d suggest that most people I know would insistently not attribute these the same value, nor does the Bible even give us a solid reason to equate the two.

    Thus, this will not convince your average pro-lifer. Honestly, I think it’s a fools errand to try to make an argument about a very complex topic in less than two minutes.

  3. Thomas Aquinas says:

    Jeff S. wrotes: “(which uses rhetoric to frame the discussion as “killing”, which the pro choice does not agree with that word).” Surely the fetus does not simply vanish into another dimension. It in fact dies. That would mean that the doctor who performs the act that results in the fetus’ death kills the fetus. Prochoicers may not like the word, but the fetus is in fact killed. As for the developmental argument you are offering, you have to first establish that development is relevant to the intrinsic value of human persons, for it clearly does not appear to be so for several reasons. First, the embryo is the same being that becomes the fetus that becomes the newborn that becomes the toddler and so forth. If it’s the same thing, then it is identical to itself. But if it is identical to itself, then it cannot gain or lose intrinsic value, since intrinsic value is an essential property to any being that has intrinsic value. To deny this would require that one believe that one was once an embryo and a fetus but gained intrinsic value at birth or some later time. That does not make sense, since it would mean that the fetus “gained” an essential property and then remained the same being after birth. But a being cannot undergo essential change without ceases to be that being. One cannot, for example, kill a squirrell in your backyard, prepare it in the oven, serve it at dinner, and then claim that the squiller “become” a meal. When the squirrell it died, there was no longer a squirrell. What occurred was essential (or substantial) change, which means that the heap of cells that once occuppied the same space as the squirrell is not the squirrell.

  4. steve hays says:

    i) It’s true that even if the baby were not a person, killing it could still be wrong. The example of the dog makes that point.

    That said, Philmonomer’s argument turns on the assumption that personhood is a necessary presupposition of according the baby all the same protections as an adult. He doesn’t defend that assumption. Let’s consider some problems with that assumption:

    Does personhood range along the same continuum as intelligence? Are there degrees of personhood, matching degrees of reason?

    If so, does that mean a universal genius like Da Vinci is more of a person than Philmonomer? Is Da Vinci entitled to fuller protections than Philmonomer?

    ii) What about an adult who begins to lose their mind due to dementia or brain cancer? It’s in the early stages. They haven’t lost their mind. But their cognitive faculties are now diminished. And they’ve become more forgetful. Does that makes them less of a person? If they were killed by a mugger or houseburglar, would that be less than murder?

    iii) Does someone cease to be a person when they are anesthetized or put in a medical coma?

    iv) Philmonomer seems to view the baby as a potential person. Suppose, for the sake of argument, that’s true. There’s more than one kind of potentiality.

    For instance, dating and engagement are both behaviors which carry the potential for marriage. As a rule, there’s nothing wrong with not becoming engaged. However, there are situations in which breaking off an engagement is wrong. That can be very harmful. Even though engagement is merely a potential marriage, it can be emotionally destructive to break off an engagement without due cause, in a way that’s not the case if the couple was never engaged in the first place.

    So we need to distinguish between at least two kinds of potentiality:

    a) A hypothetical or counterfactual that never got started

    b) The initiation of a trend or process that will eventuate unless it’s disrupted

    These are not morally equivalent. Once something is underway, it can be wrong to halt it. Depends on what we’re talking about.

    To take another illustration, suppose a young athlete is counting on a sports scholarship to pay for college. If he’s cheated out of that, he was wronged–even though at this stage it was just a potential outcome. Robbing people of future opportunities can sometimes be gravely wrong, even if those were just potential futures.

    v) There are parents who grieve over a miscarriage. They grieve a lost future, both for themselves and their child.

    Same thing with parents who grieve the death of a child who dies from leukemia or cystic fibrosis. They lament what will never happen.

    There are different kinds of deprivations. There’s losing what you had, then there’s losing what might have been. A missed opportunity can be as great a deprivation as losing something you actually had.

    Suppose your heart is setting on weeding a particular woman, but she’s killed by a drunk driver. You lost a potential lifetime of happiness.

    vi) Let’s go back to the personhood argument. Philmonomer doesn’t explain why he denies personhood to unborn babies. Perhaps his unspoken argument is that the brain produces the mind. Personhood is dependent on brain development. That presumes physicalism.

    But suppose dualism is true. Suppose the mind is grounded in the soul. The soul uses the brain. The brain is like a receiver.

    The soul has some innate character traits. Some innate tacit knowledge. In addition, the soul acquires knowledge through experience.

    Its ability to learn or express itself is dependent on the condition of the receiver. It can do more with a more developed receiver. A damaged receiver will impair its ability to express itself.

    Should we risk murdering a person based on a physicalist theory of mind? What if that’s mistaken?

    vii) Philmonomer refers to “a woman’s right to her own bodily autonomy.” But in context, we’re not talking about women in general, but a mother in particular.A pregnant woman is a mother. It’s not like a relationship between two perfect strangers. Rather, family members have social obligations.

    viii) Moreover, we have duties to perfect strangers. If a child falls into a river, do I not have an obligation to dive in and attempt to rescue the child, even if it’s not my own child, and I risk drowning in the process?

  5. steve hays says:

    There’s also the question of how you ground women’s rights or abortion rights. If women are just animals, if women are simply the byproduct of naturalistic evolution, then what makes a women entitled to bodily autonomy?

    How is a fleeting and fortuitous organization of matter a property-bearer of rights? According to naturalism, women come into existence and pass over of existence all the time–like all other temporary organisms. There’s a 100% turnover rate. Every human being is essentially replaceable and interchangeable in the cosmic junkyard.

  6. Philmonomer says:

    Thanks for the response. If I remember correctly, comments/responses from you degenerate quickly; I’ll pass.

    1. Steve Hays answered all of Philmonomer’s objections and then some.

      1. Philmonomer says:

        You can rest assured there are good, solid, philosophical defenses of abortion out there (just as the reverse is true). No on is going to deliver any “knockout blows” in the comments section on a blog.

  7. É um assunto muito delicado.

    Mas nada é por acaso, então fica difícil julgar opções como esta.

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Justin Taylor, PhD

Justin Taylor is executive vice president of book publishing and book publisher for Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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