They disguise their true position by appealing to the hard cases.
Some people argue that legal abortion protects rape victims from compulsory motherhood. They castigate pro-lifers as cruel and insensitive toward women suffering from sexual assault. This seems like a powerful objection, as nearly everyone understands that rape is profoundly evil. Victims of this heinous crime deserve our best care.
But there’s a moral consideration as well. How should a civil society treat innocent human beings that remind us of a painful event? May we kill them so that we can feel better? Put differently, can you think of any other case where, having been victimized yourself, you can justly turn around and victimize another completely innocent person?
If the unborn is a human being, he or she should not be killed to benefit the mother. Hardship does not justify homicide. Hence, we are back to one question that trumps all others in the abortion debate: What is the unborn?
The appeal to hard cases is flawed in another way that has nothing to do with one’s attitude toward women or the morality of abortion. It is flawed because it is misleading.
Here’s why. The pro-choice position is not that abortion should be legal only when a woman is raped, but that abortion is a fundamental right she can exercise for any reason that she wants during all nine months of pregnancy. Instead of defending this position with facts and arguments, many disguise it with an emotional appeal to rape. In fact, arguing for abortion-on-demand from the hard case of rape is like trying to argue for the elimination of all traffic laws, because you might have to break one rushing a child to a hospital. Francis J. Beckwith uses this illustration in Politically Correct Death.
To expose the smokescreen of abortion advocates just say, “Okay, I’m going to grant for the sake of discussion that we keep abortion legal in cases of rape. Will you join me in supporting legal restrictions on those abortions done for the convenience of the mother?” The answer is almost always no. Why was rape brought up in the first place? This is simply a strategy to disguise their own extreme view that abortion should be legal for any reason whatsoever.
If abortion advocates think that abortion should be a legal choice for all nine months of pregnancy for any reason whatsoever, including sex selection and convenience, they should defend that view with facts and arguments. Exploiting the tragedy of rape victims is intellectually dishonest.