Intellectual objections to the pro-life position fall into five general categories.
- Abortion should be legal because it solves one or more social or personal problems.
- Abortion should be legal because an unwanted pregnancy is an unjust imposition.
- Abortion should be legal because it is a matter of personal or “religious” opinion.
- Abortion should be legal because it is a constitutionally protected right.
- Abortion should be legal because it does not destroy anything with moral standing (personhood).
Challenges that fall in the first category include those that involve maternal or fetal health, overpopulation, equal opportunities for women in education or the workplace, poverty, rape, and crime. These challenges often “beg the question” by presuming the very point of disagreement—fetal non-personhood—and can be countered most effectively using Born Person Analogies1.
Challenges that fall in the second category include those that involve references to “controlling one’s reproduction,” “lifestyle choices,” and various parasite comparisons. The “Violinist Argument” and analogies to organ-donation are the main manifestations of this last item. These challenges include some of the most inane as well as some of the most sophisticated arguments available to pro-choicers. The latter can be answered by elucidating the distinction between killing and letting die.
Challenges that fall in the third category include those that involve references to “imposing” beliefs on others or “freedom of conscience.” Like Category 1 challenges, these arguments beg the question. They must be answered by showing the contradictions of moral relativism.
Challenges that fall in the fourth category are those that make reference to privacy, the Constitution, or legality. Some of these arguments boil down to particularly blatant question-begging—claims that abortion should be permitted because it is legal. Such challenges can be dealt with by clarifying that the debate is not about whether abortion is legal but whether it should be legal. A knowledge of the muddled history of Roe v. Wade can also help.
Challenges that fall in the fifth category include those that belittle the status of the unborn child. Answering these challenges requires an apologist to establish that unborn children are human organisms and that to be a human organism is a sufficient conditional for moral standing. Tactics for accomplishing this were discussed in the previous chapter.
Challenges that do not fall into any of these five categories are probably ad hominem attacks devoid of intellectual content.
On the following pages, we offer sample responses to challenges from each of these categories. Because this list is far from exhaustive, memorizing specific answers will be less helpful than paying attention to the different approaches taken for each type of challenge.
Challenges that fall in the fifth category will be encountered while accomplishing Task 2 (showing that an unborn child is a person). Responses to these challenges attempt to defend Premise 2. All the others will be encountered as part of Task 1 (showing that fetal personhood is the only relevant question to the abortion issue). Responses to these challenges attempt merely to demonstrate Premise 1.
If a pro-choicer challenges you with a question that you have not encountered before, you should be able to recognize it as belonging to one of these categories, which will guide your response.