Photo Credit: ABC News
This Sunday marked the 50th anniversary of the twin Supreme Court Decisions, Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton. With the recent legal decision of Dobbs v. Jackson this past year, the legal landscape of abortion in America looks very different, giving those who advocate on behalf of unborn human beings much needed hope.
Not everyone is happy however.
On Sunday, pro-choice politicians took to social media and speaking platforms to once again express their rage over the Dobbs decision. Interestingly, few who disagree with the decision seem to be able to cite where the legal reasoning of Dobbs goes wrong, and instead rely on common soundbites to make their point.
A case in point is remarks made by Vice President Kamala Harris. Speaking to a gleeful crowd Harris laid out her stance on the recent Supreme Court overturning of Roe. The speech is well-written, but poorly argued, and gives an example of several bad ways people argue for abortion. Pro-life advocates would do well to know how to respond.
First, Harris begs the question; that is, she assumes her position on abortion to be true when she should be trying to prove it. Citing the history of social reform in America, Harris makes the following comment
“In each of these movements, those leaders expanded rights which then advanced the cause of freedom and liberty.
And 50 years ago today, so did those who won a fight in the United States Supreme Court to recognize the fundamental constitutional right of a woman to make decisions about her own body, not the government.
For nearly 50 years, Americans relied on the rights that Roe protected. Today, however, on what would have been its 50th anniversary, we speak of the Roe decision in the past tense because, last June, the United States Supreme Court took away that constitutional right — a fundamental right, a basic freedom — from the people of America, from the women of America.”
Contrary to popular belief, the abortion issue has little to do with women’s rights to their own bodies. Virtually no one is bothered by the notion of women getting tattoos, plastic surgery, becoming heavyweight fighters and bodybuilders, or having access to elective surgical procedures to delay childbearing. All of these thing are perfectly legal with few people batting an eye, which raises the question why a “right to control one’s body” is so dependent on whether abortion is legal. While the debate over abortion may concern women’s bodies, it is not principally about women’s bodies.
Conversely, it’s worth noting that it is pro-life advocates who have pushed for legal protections on behalf of children born-alive following a failed abortion, with Harris’s fellow Democratic lawmakers being vehemently opposed to such measures, even those these scenarios have nothing to do with a woman controlling her own body. Even then, in a civil society, it’s normal to expect there to be limits on what a person can do with their body. Laws prohibiting public nudity, urination, defecation, recreational use of methamphetamine and even smoking on airplanes face little opposition, because we all recognize our bodily rights are limited by the well-being of other people.
Harris is assuming what she should be trying to prove. The reason why pro-life advocates are pushing forward legislation to restrict abortion is because we believe abortion to be the unjust killing of an innocent human being. Pro-life advocates cite the science of embryology, moral philosophy, and the nature of abortion procedures themselves to back up this claim. Harris needs to argue for why a woman’s right to control her own body should include abortion, instead of resorting to soundbites.
Second, Harris hides behind the hard cases
Harris cites several examples of hardships that have allegedly resulted from the Dobbs ruling:
The Court’s action has meant already that many dedicated doctors and nurses now lose their ability to care for their patients, that providers risk going to jail just for doing their job, and that patients are denied critical care and even fear that they will be punished simply for seeking care.
It has meant that a 10-year-old child in Ohio who was sexually assaulted and became pregnant had to leave her home — had to leave her home state and travel to another to receive care. It has meant that the doctor who treated her faced death threats and efforts to take away her medical license.
And for Amanda, a 35-year-old woman in Texas, it meant, in the midst of a miscarriage, she was denied treatment three times in three days at an emergency room because of that state’s abortion ban. And only after she developed sepsis, an infection that almost killed her, did the hospital finally admit her.
Harris isn’t being intellectually honest here. Yes, these are heart-wrenching scenarios that pro-lifers must compassionately address. Compassion, however, is not what is at issue.
Suppose pro-life advocates can ask following question: “Tell me, if we amended laws restricting abortion to allow for these specific scenarios, would you be willing to support restrictions on all other abortions?”
The answer is of course going to be no. In her speech, Harris doesn’t ask that the law provide clarification to prevent these sorts of problems from arising; she instead wants to get rid of any law prohibiting abortion. So why bring up specifically difficult scenarios in the first place? If there is a reason to keep abortion legal for any instance, then why doesn’t she explain what that reason is, instead of hiding behind the hard cases? Using the hard cases to justify keeping all abortion legal is sort of like saying any and all homicides should be legal because there may be circumstances a person may have to use deadly force to defend himself. It doesn’t follow that because there may be a situation where abortion is justified, it is justifiable in every situation.
It bears mentioning that pro-life advocates weren’t opposed to abortion in the above mentioned case involving the ten-year old because they were heartless monsters. They opposed abortion because of an unwillingness to resolve one act of evil against an innocent human being by killing entirely different innocent human being. Suppose the question was whether we could help a ten year old by intentionally killing a toddler. Would we be justified in doing so? If not, then what is the difference when it comes to the unborn child in question? One act of intrinsic evil doesn’t automatically justify a different act of intrinsic evil. The ten year old in question is undeniably a victim of unspeakable evil, and deserves to be treated justly. However, this alone is not good grounds to say we should intentionally kill another innocent human being.
Harris is assuming the unborn are not human in order to make her claims. She would never suggest it is an act of unspeakable evil to deny a ten year old victim the ability to have a toddler killed. She only does it in this instance because she assumes the unborn are not human enough to qualify as a victim of injustice themself. She could be right about this, but she needs to justify this assumption and show why pro-life advocates are wrong to oppose killing the unborn. She doesn’t do this; instead, she deflects, and paints her opponents as moral monsters.
Third, Harris Attacks Rather than Argues
Towards the end of her speech, Harris makes the following remark:
And can we truly be free if so-called leaders claim to be, quote — I quote, “on the vanguard of freedom,” while they dare to restrict the rights of the American people and attack the very foundations of freedom?
Understand clearly, the majority of Americans — the majority of Americans oppose these attacks.
Americans of every background, in every community have voiced their perspective: from Kansas to California, Michigan, Montana, Kentucky, and Vermont. They spoke with their vote.
In essence, they said, one does not have to abandon their faith or deeply held beliefs to agree that the government should not be telling people what to do with their own bodies.
Harris-again-ignores the arguments for why people believe in restricting abortion, and instead attacks pro-life legislators as hypocritical for allegedly supporting freedom yet wanting to attack “the foundations of freedom”. This is nonsense. Slavery, spousal abuse, and child labor were freedoms once legally allowed in the United States, yet know one is attacked as a hypocrite for their support of bans on the practices. Harris is again assuming what she should be trying to prove: that abortion is a freedom American society should allow for.
If the issue were over the legalized killing of toddlers, would it make sense to gripe about restrictions on people’s freedoms to kill their toddlers? If not, then why make virtually the same argument about people killing their own unborn children, unless one simply assumes their unborn children are not human? However, if abortion is the intentional killing of another innocent human being, why shouldn’t Americans support restrictions on the matter?
Harris goes on to cite last year’s election results, stating that the vast majority of Americans oppose restrictions on abortion. This is irrelevant, and commits the argumentum ad populum fallacy; otherwise known as the appeal to popular consensus. It’s easy to see why it fails.
Suppose in the 2024 election, voting trends swing the opposite direction, with more people voting in favor of abortion restrictions. Would Harris have to admit her views on abortion are out of step with the vast amount of American people, and should be recognized as law? More likely, she would find another reason to dismiss pro-life arguments. Moreover, given the mass hysteria following the Dobbs ruling, with apocalyptic predictions of mass deaths of American women made incessantly, what is the more likely explanation? A.) Americans are critically thinking about the nature of the unborn entity in question, and the nature of abortion, before coming to their pro-choice convictions? Or B.) Americans voted to keep abortion legal in their states out of an abundance of fear or other emotions? It’s reasonable to conclude people voted with their emotions on abortion rather than with reason. Future elections may show different results when it comes to the legality of abortion as cooler heads beging to prevail.
Finally, Harris’s speech actually provides a good argument against legal abortion. By citing the standards of Liberty and Justice for all Americans, an important question is raised: Should “Liberty” and “Justice” include all human beings, or only those like us? Intentionally killing innocent human beings is the ultimate infringement on freedom, as by killing someone, you deny any and all ability to exercise one’s freedom. If the unborn are human beings, then intentionally killing them is a grave infringement on freedom(not to mention a direct attack on another human being’s body) because it permanently precludes any and all ability to make free decisions in life.