A few months ago, I answered a list of “hard” questions about abortion that Trevin Wax of the Gospel Coalition said are never asked of pro-choice candidates. I have found a similar list at Priests for Life, this one with the more provocative headline, “PRO-LIFE QUESTIONS FOR PRO-ABORTION PEOPLE.” Really, nobody should be answering these questions because there is almost no one who is “pro-abortion.” I am going to give them the benefit of the doubt and assume that they really mean people who are in favor of abortion remaining legal and that they are just linguistically clumsy. Thus, I will answer their questions, which they say “were taken from the 1990 Life Activist Seminars by Mark Crutcher.”
Priests for Life also adds the following:
Note: Priests for Life engages in respectful dialog with those who disagree with us on abortion. We invite supporters of legal abortion to answer the following questions. If you write to us, we will respond to you, and will be glad to answer questions of your own.
I do plan to submit my answers to them and will update the blog when/if they respond.
(1) “Pro-abortionists say that outlawing abortion would restrict a woman’s right to privacy. Is that right absolute? Does somebody’s right to privacy exceed another’s right to live?”
I’m not sure who these pro-abortionists are, but perhaps you mean the Supreme Court judges who decided Roe v. Wade? There are many people who favor keeping abortion legal who don’t think the SCOTUS decision was particularly well constructed or that the right to privacy is really the basis for the right of a woman not to be forced to remain pregnant and give birth against her will.
(2) “If what you say is true and the issue isn’t really abortion but a woman’s right to control her own body, why doesn’t your agenda include drugs and prostitution? Aren’t laws against those just as restrictive to a woman’s right to choose what she will and will not do with her own body, as laws against abortion are?”
Some people (including those who support legalization of abortion) do believe in legalizing drugs and prostitution. There are also different ways to go about legalization. In Sweden, they have had reasonably good experience with legalizing prostitution but outlawing its solicitation, so all the blame goes on the John. California’s relaxation of marijuana laws has not caused any increase in crime and seems to have decreased drunk driving. However, each of those issues has its own complexities, as does the abortion issue. For instance, you believe in forcing women to use their organs to support the development of what you believe to be a full-fledged human being. Do you also believe in forced blood donation? Liver donation? Other organ donation? Hooking a person in need of dialysis up to a healthy person’s kidneys? Have you engaged in any of these things other than giving blood, even on a voluntary basis? If not, why not?
(3) “Why is it that the very people who say the government should stay out of abortion are the same ones who want the government to pay for them?”
That’s an oversimplification. Most of us do not want the government deciding what health care procedures we can and cannot access. People who have private insurance certainly wouldn’t expect the government would pay for any healthcare procedure they need. Many do believe that government funded health care should not exclude certain medical procedures because some people have a religiously-based objection. I am sure that you would not want blood transfusions or allopathic heathcare to be made illegal because some religious groups object. What if my religion deemed procedures others need or want to be immoral? Should I be able to have anything I don’t like excluded from Medicare and Medicaid coverage? Should we not fund health care for the needy in order to avoid these debates?
(4) “Abortion advocates say they are in business to help women. Other than offering to kill their children for them, what are you doing?”
I have never offered to kill anyone’s child. A fetus is not a child, any more than a senior citizen is a child, and in any case, I am not an abortion provider. As for what I do for women, I work full-time on an initiative to prevent preterm birth, the leading cause of infant mortality. Infant mortality is higher in the United States than almost any other developed nation. Even when babies survive a preterm birth, they often face lifelong consequences, such as respiratory problems or blindness. Causes of preterm birth, such as preeclampsia and placenta previa, can also kill or gravely injure mothers. I work to get lower-income women exemplary prenatal care beginning early in pregnancy so that they have the best chance to be be healthy and have healthy babies. I also publish research on best practices for maternal-infant health care. Other than trying to force women to birth, or make them feel guilty that they didn’t, what are you doing?
(5) “Pro-abortionists say that the unborn child is part of the mother’s body. If that is so, why does it have a completely different genetic code and often a different blood type? How do you explain the fact that it has it’s own immune system? Why is it male about half the time?”
Well, if it’s not part of the woman’s body, what is it doing in there, and why can’t she have it removed? The placenta also has separate DNA from the pregnant woman, so does that make it a person?
(6) “If we use the absence of brain waves to determine that a person’s life has ended, why shouldn’t we use the presence of brain waves to determine that someone’s life has begun?”
I don’t know that everyone has the same definition of the end of life, so I’m not sure the parallel is accurate, but most anti-abortion sites I have explored say that fetal brain waves are detectable by day 40 of gestation. Does that mean you think an abortion before day 40 would be acceptable?
(7) “Since you say that your interest is in protecting women, what is your position on these at home, do-it-yourself, abortion kits now being offered by many abortion advocates? Also, do you feel it’s ethical for them to advise women to avoid the gynecologist’s office for not only these procedures, but regular check-ups as well?”
I have no idea of what you are talking about. Women can only get mifepristone from a licensed provider (generally a doctor, but in some states is can be an APN). A woman also has to have her pregnancy date confirmed to get the pills because they don’t work after about 9 weeks–that’s something a medical professional has to do. Basically, the only way to get these pills without seeing a doctor or APN is to get them illegally. Some women do this where abortion is illegal (e.g. Chile) or where legal abortion is difficult to obtain (e.g. South Texas). So it seems it is the anti-abortion crowd who is steering women toward do-it-yourself abortion.
(8) “We are now seeing the unborn being treated for disease, given blood transfusions and even operated on. When a doctor does one of these procedures, who is the patient?”
These doctors are called maternal-fetal medicine specialists because they must operate on the woman to operate on the fetus. The woman is the primary patient because she is the one who must consent to the procedures, and no one has the right to make her undergo them if she chooses not to.
(9) “Pro-abortionists try to justify their actions by saying that, while the unborn may be human, it’s not a ‘person’. Can you give a detailed description of the differences?”
I haven’t heard this particular argument. I’d have to see how the “pro-abortionist” constructed and justified the idea. It would be helpful if you had some sources. I’ve also never met a pro-abortionist–it seems they would be a pretty obscure group of people.
(10) “Pro-abortionists base a significant part of their argument on the concept of viability. Can you give me a description of what it means for someone to be viable?”
Can the fetus live a life independent of the woman in whom it began its gestation? If it can live without her in particular, then obviously it is viable.
(11) “Does it bother you that abortion is legal after the point where medical science has evidence that the unborn child feels pain?”
Science generally indicates that pain sensors are not developed until later in gestation than abortions are performed (with very rare exceptions). It is my understanding that pain medication can be provided for the fetus in those unique cases.
(12) “Why is it that abortion advocates say they want women to have all their options, but they then fight so hard against laws requiring totally informed consent?”
I’m not sure what you mean here. I would love better informed consent. For instance, women should be told that continuing a pregnancy (rather than having a legal abortion) drastically increases their risk of contracting hypertension or diabetes, being a victim of domestic violence, having abdominal surgery, having their vagina surgically cut, urinary incontinence, fistula, and dying, among many, many other complications. I’m not aware of anyone telling women this whether they want to have an abortion or continue their pregnancies.
(13) “What rights do you feel a father should have in an abortion decision?”
For this one, we need to separate rights from ethics. It is not within anyone’s rights to make a decision for another competent adult. However, if a man and woman are in a relationship and the woman gets pregnant, her ethical choice would be to discuss the pregnancy and any choices about it with her partner (as long as she wasn’t putting herself at risk for domestic violence or reproductive coercion).
(14) “Why is it that pro-abortionists fight so viciously to keep parents from having a say in whether their minor daughter has an abortion or not?”
Where are these proabortionists? Maybe they are all so vicious that they do not live with others in polite society. Why should a parent be able to force a minor to be pregnant and give birth? That carries enormous health and psychological consequences. Forcing pregnancy and birth on a minor sounds like child abuse to me. Most girls do tell at least one parent about their plans for abortion. If a parent can force a daughter to give birth, should the parent also be able to force a daughter to have an abortion?
(15) “If pro-abortionists are mainly concerned with the health and safety of women, why do they fight so hard against medical standards as legitimate out-patient surgery clinics?”
I am in favor of any standards that are demonstrated to improve women’s health. To test the value of these standards, we would need to do randomized control trials (or at least observational studies) of women receiving services in clinics that did and did not meet the standards of out-patient surgery clinics. As far as I know, most of the requirements introduced in law regarding abortion clinics have no demonstrated value, and no one is interested in researching the issue because medical complications from legal abortion are so unusual. Can you point me to the studies that show the benefit of each “medical standard” as applied to the provision of safe abortion services?
(16) “Let’s look at a hypothetical situation: two women become pregnant on the same day; six and a half months later woman A has a premature, yet healthy, baby; woman B is still pregnant; a week later each decides she doesn’t want her baby. Why should woman B be allowed to kill hers and not woman A?”
Well, in most cases at 6.5 months, a pregnant woman can’t just walk into a clinic and have an abortion. There are few places where she can get one, and it is expensive. So it seems we would need to know her reason–did she find out that her fetus had a disorder that would lead to inordinate suffering and an early death? Is she risking her own life or health if she continues the pregnancy? But let’s say she was a perfectly healthy woman with a perfectly healthy fetus who just didn’t want to be pregnant any more. It would seem odd to me that anyone would carry a pregnancy that far and not want it, so it would be important to be very careful to make sure that the woman was of sound mind and wasn’t being coerced. If all conditions were met, I would say that she could have an induction or cesarean (whichever was safer) in a facility ready to receive a very premature, live infant, but it’s hard to imagine this situation happening at all.
(17) “If it became absolutely clear to you that the unborn child is a living human being, would you then favor outlawing abortion?”
If it’s a “living human being,” then abortion is not necessary–it can be birthed and someone else can care for it if the mother doesn’t want to.
(18) “Why don’t we each look at the downside of our respective positions? Have you ever thought about what the ramifications are if you are wrong?”
I’m not sure what you mean…I do not want anyone to have an abortion who does not want one, so what would the ramifications be? I think other social policies in this country that are punitive to poor women and to mothers in particular turn many women toward having abortions they don’t really want. I think the ramifications of our current social policies are immoral.
(19) “When it was first discovered that the brain cells of aborted babies were a potential treatment for Parkinson’s Disease, the ABC NEWS program, NIGHTLINE, carried a story about a woman who’s father suffered with this malady. She wanted to be impregnated with the sperm of her father, for the purpose of creating a child, which would then be aborted, and it’s parts used to treat him. Do you see anything wrong with this?”
We are going back to the law vs. ethics issue. I do not think it is ethical to get pregnant intentionally if you do not want to have a baby. However, that doesn’t mean I would want to law to step in to make this decision for others. You might also fix the usage error in your question (whose vs. who’s).
(20) “Should a woman be allowed to have an abortion for absolutely any reason, such as sex selection, selective reduction, or job promotion? If not, when not?”
I think it is important to work to change society so that women are never put in this position–having one sex valued over the other, having ridiculous numbers of embryos implanted during IVF, or pregnancy discrimination on the job. Coercing women into giving birth is not the answer to these problems.
(21) “I am going to take the liberty of characterizing your position, and then I want you to tell me where I’m wrong. You want abortion to be legal right up to the moment of birth, in other words for all nine months of pregnancy; for any reason whatsoever, for no reason whatsoever; for a minor girl of any age, without parental consent, without even parental knowledge; and if she can’t pay for it, you think the taxpayer ought to. Is there anything inaccurate about that statement?”
Well, yes. Lots of things. I do not think we should force women to be pregnant. I also think that if the fetus can live outside the pregnant woman, there is not reason not to let it live. Situations in which women want to abort viable fetuses are rare, and I think the cases of women doing so “for no reason” are close to non-existent. A late term abortion is a lengthy, painful, expensive, and difficult procedure–it seems like there would have to be a good reason to have one. Coerced pregnancy and birth are unethical for everyone, minor girls included. In my ideal world, we would have universal health coverage, so I suppose the government would be paying for abortion just like it pays for all other health care. But under the current system, I think insurance, including government issued insurance, should cover abortion the way it covers any other procedure, and that the government should step in financially as it does with any other health care procedure (which is generally not at all).
On the flip side, let me characterize your position: you believe that abortion should be illegal from the moment of fertilization, in other words, before implantation has even occurred; that abortion should be illegal for any reason whatsoever, including a woman’s life or health; that it should be illegal for a female human being of any age and in any condition, even girls under age 10; that parents should be able to force their minor daughters to give birth at their own discretion (whether or not they plan to pay for their daughter’s care or to care for the resulting infant); that parents have the right to know about a daughter’s abortion even if they will kill her as a result; and that all health insurance should be privately paid, meaning that those in need may have no access to quality healthcare. Is there anything inaccurate about that statement?