A recent comment by Donald Trump caused something of a stir. What a surprise. This time, it was about abortion, and he said that there has to be “some kind of punishment” for the woman who chooses an abortion, should abortion be made illegal. The internet exploded, as people of both pro-choice and pro-life persuasions came out to discuss the topic, largely coming out against Trumps comments. Here, I want to discuss one post from a pro-life individual that offers a critique of the pro-life movement for not arguing for a harsher punishment of women who choose abortions, in the case of them being illegal. That post is entitled, “Problem in the Pro-Life Camp.” At the outset, it is worth revealing my bias in this. I am pro-life myself and I think that this is a complex topic that many pro-life persons have not thought deeply about. I am essentially editing and re-posting my comments here with some context.
The post in question begins by stating the “problem” with the pro-life camp:
The problem that I have with the “pro-life” movement in general is that much of it appeals to the woman as being the victim/or merely the accomplice to the crime. Rather, the mother is the transgressor who in the majority of cases, knowingly tested positive in her pregnancy test and nevertheless, storms into the abortion mill with premeditated murder. Whether the sin is done in ignorance or not, she is still morally culpable before God. She is not a victim.
Men and women are indeed victims when abortion is presented as the only logical choice or the only option. They are victims when people of specific races are targeted for abortion advertising. But whether one agrees on this or not, it is largely irrelevant to the primary point you’re making in this post. It seems that there are two issues raised in the post, but they are interlinked: the notion that the woman is a victim in abortion is false, and that is intrinsically linked to the notion that woman is morally culpable.
The original post asked, “Can an abortive mother who has malice of forethought be considered a victim and be morally responsible the same time? Morally responsible for what? when they are already deemed a victim.”
It seems to me that there are clear cases where someone who is a victim could still be morally culpable. A child soldier who has been forced into fighting for a cause they don’t believe in is a victim, yet the killing he or she may do is not without moral culpability. We may give a lighter sentence or charge than murder, but that doesn’t mean that this victim is without moral culpability whatsoever. Indeed, I think this is a far better analogy than the one with the bully utilized in the original post. (A bully beats up someone to take their money, and then sends others to do so; are they a victim?) After all, the analogy with the bully begins with the bully directly beating up someone else! The analogy, then, falls apart at the beginning, because I don’t know of any case (I suppose there could be such a case–but I would be surprised if it were even possible) where a woman performed an abortion on herself.
Now my analogy is to show that the notion of being a victim is not incompatible with the notion of being morally culpable. It does not demonstrate that the woman who seeks an abortion is a victim. Instead, my purpose was to show that the complaint of incompatibility is mistaken.
Thus, it seems to me that the pro-life person who maintains that a woman is, in some sense, morally culpable for the abortion, while also arguing or believing that the woman is, in some sense, a victim in such a situation is not being inconsistent.
The original post appealed to a question asked in a group of women who had abortions. They were asked whether they believed they were victims. I agree that self-definition is vastly important, but I also think it is easy to be mistaken about such things. For example, someone who is working as a prostitute may say that they are not a victim and they did it by choice, but even if they choose such a profession, the fact remains that the act of purchasing another’s body for sexual gratification does, indeed, victimize them whether they acknowledge it or not. I’m not saying that women who have abortions are prostitutes, obviously. My point is that self-defining oneself as “not a victim” does not make it the case.
To sum up: my response has sought to demonstrate two primary points. (1) The notion of someone being a victim does not necessarily undermine the notion of that person being morally culpable; (2) Self definition does not necessarily show us with certainty that someone is not a victim.
I would like to emphasize that these points don’t necessarily reflect my own views. I have, instead, written simply to show that the argument here is not sound.
Responses and Replies
The author of the original post kindly responded to my comments above. The comment can be viewed at the original post. I offer below my reply.
A woman cannot be both a victim or morally responsible at the same time. Either she is a victim or morally responsible (i.e. murderer)… I am using ‘victim’ in a more specific and literal fashion concerning a crime against the unborn.
As a result, it would be a logical fallacy (violates the law of non-contradiction and Scripture) to call a murderer a victim.
I think the conclusions here are hardly surprising, then. By what is written above, victim is being specifically defined as “a crime against the unborn” and then concluding, in accord with this definition, that anyone who disagrees is violating the law non-contradiction. Yet this is does not defeat the argument put forth above. I could just as easily say: “A woman can be both a victim and morally responsible at the same time. I am using ‘victim’ in the sense that makes this true. Therefore, disagreeing with me is fallacious.” Yet that is exactly what the response here has argued. I did assert that a woman can be a victim and morally responsible at the same time, but I defended that assertion with arguments.
Substantively we agree that it is a morally culpable act to seek an abortion. The area of disagreement remains as I outlined it in my original comment, and so far the response is simply to define out of existence any evidence to the contrary.
The author of the post followed with another response, arguing that the pro-life movement has consistently held that women are victims in abortions, but that they cannot be. He wrote,
abortive mothers are not victims, when they commit abortions… Either they are a victim or the transgressor when the abortion is committed.
In other words, what we have is simply a re-affirmation of the original point without argument. My purpose in commenting was to establish that being morally culpable is not incompatible with being a victim. I have been arguing all along this is a false dichotomy, and at no point has there been any attempt to refute the argument I’ve put forward. Each response has merely reasserted the initial premise without argument.
Because the purpose of my responses have been limited to the above point, I haven’t made an extended argument for how one might view the woman involved in abortion also as victim. Given the mere reassertion without argument, I believe that on some level my point has carried.
As a final question, I’d ask whether the author of this post, EvangelZ, believes that women are in no way harmed by abortion. That is, does he believe that abortion does not, in fact, lead to increased risk for breast cancer, that it leads to a higher risk of suicide, that it leads to increased risk for depression, that potential for future miscarriages is increased post-abortion, or that other risks (such as the possibility of the death or physical harm to the mother) are not, in fact damaging? The position of this post and the comments following it entail that no harm comes to the mother in any sense. After all, the mother is not–and according to the author–cannot be a victim (repeated claims of logical impossibility entail this). Hence, the woman cannot possibly be harmed by abortion, because that would entail that she is, in some sense, also a victim. Thus, EvangelZ or any who share this position are forced to conclude that abortion in no way causes harm to the mother. I think that is a pill too tough to swallow, because it seems obviously false.
Problem in the Pro-Life Camp– The original post I am responding to here.
Be sure to check out my other posts in which I argue for the pro-life position. Particularly relevant to the present discussion are “From conception, a human” and “The issue at the heart of the abortion debate.”
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I have more reading for you, dear readers, gathered from around the internet. This week’s topics are the doctrine of annihilationism (conditional immortality), Christian parenting, creationism, complementarian women, and the question of rape and abortion. Let me know what you think of the posts, and be sure to let the authors know as well. This is a snowy owl edition because it snowed here yesterday.
Death After Death– The concept of annihilationism, or, as its proponents prefer to call it: conditional immortality, is gaining more traction. It ought not be dismissed simply because it feels new or different. Here is a thoughtful post engaging with conditional immortality from a perspective of disagreement. What do you think about this issue?
Can We Tolerate Creationists?– Is it permissible to give a creationist a job anywhere? This might sound hyperbolic, but this post investigates a controversy that has surrounded the hiring of a young earth creationist for a BBC television spot. It ends with an insightful comment from the National Secular Society.
10 Ways to Get Your Kids More Interested in Their Faith– Developing faith is an important aspect of Christian parenting. Here’s a post that discusses how we might get kids interested in their faith.
Remember the Complementarian Woman– A call to egalitarians to not portray complementarian women in a way that isn’t true to their experiences and beliefs.
Responding to the Question of Rape with Wisdom and Compassion– “we should clearly express the genuine compassion we have for survivors of rape” [emphasis in the article]. These are words that pro-life people need to read and understand. Turning to an argument immediately is not always the best choice. If we don’t genuinely show compassion and care for those involved in making these horrific choices, then how can we truly call ourselves “pro-life”?
Here we have another round of posts for your reading, friends. Topics range from parenting gamers to Augustine, from women in church history to talking about abortion. As always, let me know what you think, and be sure to let the authors of the individual posts know as well!
Christian Thinkers 101: A Crash Course on St. Augustine– We need to be aware of thinkers from the past for a number of reasons: so we don’t repeat mistakes made in the past, so that we don’t have to re-learn what was learned before, so we can have our biases challenged across time, and many more. Here’s a post that helps us do just that by introducing, concisely, the thought of Augustine, one of the greatest luminaries of all time.
A Parent’s Guide to Living with Gamers– Some parents may express concern about their kids playing video games. Here are some helpful thoughts from a Christian perspective for parents of gamers.
Women in Church History: Footnoted and Forgotten?– Too often, women’s voices are ignored. Here is a post highlighting some women throughout church history. Be sure to also check out a series of women in church history at a different blog that starts with early church history and the Desert Mothers.
Apologia Raido and the Defamation of Tony Lauinger: A Call for an Apology– There are different schools of thought regarding the pro-life movement, and this post is revealing as to how these schools of thought differ radically on method of engagement in law and in person.
Why Max Lucado Broke His Political Silence for Trump– More Christian leaders need to follow the example of Max Lucado and point out the absurdity of his election cycle and the claims of Donald Trump. One quote from Lucado regarding Trump saying he hasn’t asked for forgiveness: “I can’t imagine that. I’m just shaking my head going ‘How does that work?’ Does a swimmer say ‘I’ve never gotten wet?’ …How does a person claim to be a Christian and never need to ask for forgiveness?”
Women, War, and Evangelicals– A post noting the fact that despite the appeals to “natural law” and the like by complementarians, most Americans–and even plenty of evangelicals–favor allowing women into combat roles. See also my post on the topic.
Debased Coynage– Thomistic philosopher Edward Feser points out the total misunderstanding atheist Jerry Coyne demonstrated regarding some theistic arguments.
Armadillos and Ken Ham’s Hyperevolution Model– Young earth creationist groups like Ken Ham’s Answers in Genesis ironically put forward the most optimistic appraisals of evolutionary theory to be found. They just don’t like calling it that. Here’s another evaluation of Ken Ham’s model.
Planned Parenthood and Personhood Parables– A post featuring interesting thought experiments having to do with the rights (or lack thereof) of the unborn as well as discussion of some current events.
I hope I never bore you with my broad selections of posts! I think we have a super lineup here [groaner, I know] with posts on chivalry, the Jesus myth movement, old and young earth creationism, and a Super Bowl ad that is making waves.
Is Jesus a Myth? A Reply to Chris Sosa– A detailed, devastating response to Chris Sosa’s Jesus Mythicism. Historically, the Jesus myth movement is just absurd.
Chivalry, Agency, and Selfless Service– Does egalitarianism kill chivalry? What does chivalry say about agency? These and other questions are addressed in this fantastic post.
Ken Ham’s Biblical Evolution? I Have a book that says otherwise– An incisive critique of Ken Ham and Answers in Genesis on post-Flood animal diversification. Quote from the article- “I have a book before me that provides compelling evidence that Ken Ham’s view of Biblical evolution is wrong. That book is the Bible.”
What a Super Bowl Ad Reveals about our Abortion Culture– Russell Moore comments on the Super Bowl ad everyone is talking about–the one that “humanizes” the fetus.
7 Common Myths About Old Earth Creationism– Old Earth Creationism is often misunderstood and mischaracterized by its opponents on either side. Here are some clarifications on 7 common misunderstandings.
Brr! It’s cold in Iowa… but not as cold as it was in Minnesota! I still walk around without a coat on in 30 degrees (F) due to my time spent in the frozen north. Anyway, the cold has given me time to read, and I present this latest round of really recommended posts to you, dear readers. There are posts about stay-at-home dads and egalitarianism, Batman and Christianity, Answers in Genesis’s position on “kinds,” the flying spaghetti monster and Santa, and censoring pro-life voices! Wow, I’m excited. Let me know what you think, and be sure to let the authors know you enjoyed their stuff, too!
Egalitarianism is for Men, Too– As a stay-at-home dad currently, I wrote this post for Christians for Biblical Equality to show some of the challenges faced in my life as well as how an egalitarian theology can benefit men. This one is from the heart, folks.
Review and Christian Reflections of My Favorite Works on Batman– Here’s a literary apologetics post on different Batman graphic novels. I decided to pick up one of these to start my own reading of Batman, since I’ve always enjoyed Batman. It is important to apply the Christian worldview to every aspect of our lives–including the fiction we read–and this is a good post showing how to do that.
Are Ruminants Derived from a Common Ancestor? Ruminating on the Meaning of Noahic “Kinds”– The Young Earth Creationist group, Answers in Genesis, is known for squeezing animals onto the Ark by reducing the number of species required, appealing to the notion of “kinds” in order to allow for common ancestors. Here is an analysis of just how difficult this assertion is to maintain.
God, Santa, and the Flying Spaghetti Monster– Often, atheists claim that God is on the same level, evidentially, as things like Santa Claus and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Here is an analysis of that claim.
Six Ways I’ve seen Pro-Choice People Censor Pro-Lifers– Here are six common ways that pro-choice people have interfered with people who are trying to choose to listen to pro-lifers on college campuses and elsewhere.
Aborting Aristotle by Dave Sterrett explores some of the metaphysical background needed to discuss the morality of abortion. It is a brief book best seen as a primer on issues related to abortion in philosophy.
The book proceeds in a logical fashion from showing that inconsistency doesn’t undermine the good things that people like Aristotle or Thomas Jefferson said, then arguing that metaphysics is necessary, and moving on through examination of some of the primary grounds for believing abortion is permissible: uncertainty and materialism. Then, arguments are put forward showing that natural law can be a basis for rule of law, that distinctions related to substance are important to the debate, that all humans are persons, and that we are persons not based on what we do but rather on who we are. The book ends wit ha chapter showing some ares of agreement or disagreement between pro-life and pro-choice advocates.
Weighing in at 120 pages, the book is quite brief on these various topics. Again, it functions as a primer, not an exhaustive overview of any of these issues. That limits its usefulness in some ways, as there are other books which provide groundwork on philosophy before diving into the abortion debate with greater depth. Where Sterrett’s work excels is in its focus on the concept of “substance” and its importance for understanding personhood. He demonstrates that much of the debate boils down to one’s philosophical background, and advocates one which sees humans as substances.
Aborting Aristotle is a great read for someone looking to ground themselves in the abortion debate. It is the kind of book that one should read before delving into some of the meatier works on ethics and bioethics related to abortion.
+Provides much-needed background knowledge of the abortion debate
+Builds a framework for discussing various arguments about abortion
-Relies a bit too much on quotes
One argument that is often used to defend certain acts which are argued to be immoral is the notion that these acts are “legal.” For example, one might say they are personally opposed to abortion, but it is legal and so they do not seek to end abortions. A more specific example has been the defense of Planned Parenthood in regards to donating fetal tissue. It is argued that the donation is legal, and so no wrongdoing has occurred. Evidence from the recent videos released seems to suggest that those fetal tissues might be sold, rather than donated, but that is not the issue at hand. The question to address here is: “Does the legality of an act make it moral?”
Thus, in the case of Planned Parenthood’s donations/sales, if legal, does it follow that it is moral?
To be blunt, the legality of an act is not enough to make it moral. One clear example of this would be antebellum slavery, which was legal for quite some time in the United States. Would those who want to assert that legality is enough to make an act morally permissible agree that slavery, at that time, was moral? If so, that is a tough pill to swallow. But we can go beyond that example and see how Nazi Germany was treated. After World War II, several of the perpetrators of the Holocaust and other atrocities committed by the Nazis were put on trial. The first of these became known as the Nuremberg Trials. The argument they made, however, was that they were obeying the law of their land. The argument was thus made that there was no law to which they could be held accountable.
The argument was rejected, and the legacy of these trials led to the creation of various international law organizations and more specific definitions of war crimes and crimes against humanity. But the question that must be pressed is whether these trials were just. The laws that they were condemned by were largely created after or during the trials themselves. What were the Nazis guilty of? The answer has already been provided, in part, as crimes against humanity. By willingly participating in and carrying out genocide and other atrocities, despite having orders to do so and acting within the laws of their land, the Nazis had still violated a higher law, which held them to a moral standard. There remains much debate over the legal basis for the convictions and executions of those who carried out the atrocities, but it seems that if one ultimately wants to argue that the law is all it requires to make something moral, they must side with the Nazis and agree that they should not have been held accountable for their acts.
We can therefore see that the mere appeal to a law to argue something is moral is not enough. Anyone who disagrees must assert that slavery, as it was being conducted in the United States, was at least morally ambiguous if not a moral good, because it was legal. Similarly, they must assert that the genocide the Nazis carried out was itself at least morally ambiguous if not a moral good, because it was legal and they did it under orders. The absurdity of these two conclusions should lead any reasonable person to agree that the legality of an act is not enough to establish its morality.
Thus, the simple legality of an act does not make it moral. An appeal to an acts legality does not mean it should be dismissed from moral scrutiny. Planned Parenthood should justly remain under intense scrutiny.
I am pleased to present this wide range of topics to you, dear readers! I hope you enjoy the reads as much as I did. We have posts on the origins of the Gospels from an atheistic perspective, domestic abuse, the ontological argument, soft tissue in dinosaurs, and Bill Nye on abortion. Let me know what you think, and be sure to thank the authors as well!
Where the Gospels Came From– This is a satirical post that highlights how broad swaths of internet atheism tend to view the origin of the Gospels. It’s well worth reading as it highlights some of the major errors.
When Staying in an Abusive Relationship is Part of Your Theology– It is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and this post from Christians for Biblical Equality highlights one major difficulty with some theologies- they argue that one should stay in an abusive relationship from theological reasons.
The Probability of God’s Existence is Either 0% or 100% (video)– Kenneth Keathley offers this analysis and presentation of Alvin Plantinga’s ontological argument. He defines terms and answers some major objections, with the objections offered by atheists themselves.
“Soft Tissue” Found in Dinosaur Bones– Creationists sometimes claim that the finds of “soft tissue” undermine the possibility for an old earth perspective. Is that the case? Here is some analysis of this claim and some more recent findings regarding allegations of blood and other soft tissue found in ancient fossils.
Responding to Bill Nye’s Abortion Video– Bill Nye “The Science Guy” made a lot of claims about science and abortion in a video recently. Here’s a thorough analysis and refutation of his claims.
I have to say I’m very excited about this Really Recommended Posts round-up. The diversity of the set speaks for itself. I hope you’ll enjoy reading the varied posts. The topics we have this week are sexism, Shark attacks (but there’s more to it!), biblical inerrancy, the Gospel of Jesus’ wife, and the Planned Parenthood videos. Let me know your thoughts, and be sure to let the authors know as well!
10 Ways Men Can Fight Sexism– Here is an excellent resource that recommends ways that men can be engaged in fighting sexism. Yep, the description is straightforward, but the advice is invaluable.
Thoughts on Shark Attacks– My wife, Beth, wrote this post about a recent discussion we had with some kids and adults about her arm. Here are some reflections on grace, Lutheranism, and more.
7 Problems With Christian Opposition to Inerrancy– Here is a post which outlines some difficulties with Christians denying the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. I’m not sure I’m completely sold on all of these (for example, the argument that Jesus held to biblical inerrancy seems possibly a little weak), but it remains a good discussion to read nonetheless. What are your thoughts?
The Gospel of Jesus’ Wife: Patchwork Forgery in Coptic… and English– An in-depth look at portions of this alleged “gospel” and the ways in which it exhibits signs of being a forgery.
Planned Parenthood, Fusion GPS, and the Smokeless Gun– “To the surprise of no one, the group Planned Parenthood hired to exonerate them exonerated them.” Planned Parenthood hired a company to try to clear their name, and–shockingly–they allegedly did so. But did they really? Here is an analysis of the findings of the study. See also: Center for Medical Progress Refutes Planned Parenthood’s Claims About the Videos Point-by-Point– the director of the group who recorded the undercover videos directly addresses the concerns raised about them being edited (or not).