Posted by: bridget | 16 May 2007

Debunking the Pro-Choice Argument, Part III

This one is inspired by a comment made by Raging Red: If you don’t support abortion, you don’t support women. The corollary to this is that abortion is a woman’s rights issue, as pregnancy only affects women.

This argument assumes two things:

  1. That abortion is good for women; and
  2. As it is good for women, it should be supported by feminists.

Tackling the second point first: legally and morally, we do not condone everything that happens to be good for a person or a group of people. We do not condone robbery, although that happens to be good for the poor; one can still call himself an advocate for ending poverty without wanting to decriminalise theft.

Is abortion, though, comparable to theft? The pro-abortion group claims that the right to control one’s reproduction is a fundamental right; abortion is the manifestation and exercise of that right. One could extend this logic, however, to rape: no one should determine when and how an adult human seeks sexual gratification, as human sexuality shouldn’t be dictated by others; a rapist is merely exercising his fundamental right to control his sexual desire.

Nearly all actions that a rational human wants to engage in are, ultimately, self-serving and good for that person (at least in the short term). Yet, we criminalise some of them because they intrude upon the rights of others. Rape intrudes upon the right to bodily integrity of the victim; even though the claimed right (sexual fulfillment) is deemed to be fundamental by both conservatives and liberals, we do not allow that right to be exercised in this particular manner. We do not happen to care if the male in question is incapable of finding another method to experience human sexuality: the proposed method is wrong, regardless of the presence or absence of alternatives.

Likewise, whether or not a woman has another method of ensuring that she can plan her family and reproduction as she deems fit, abortion (the deliberate ending of a human life) is not acceptable. This pachyderm would not care if there were artificial wombs that unwanted children could be moved into – sounds like a great thing. The absence, however, of any other method for a woman to not be pregnant does not automatically entitle her to kill her child to accomplish that goal.

First premise: abortion is good for women.

As usual, the pachyderm will not engage in the theological reasoning behind how abortion is not good for women (although she believes that theology supports her position as well): secular reasons are sufficient. From an evolutionary perspective, humans are designed to have a relatively small number of children and to heavily invest in those children (k-selected reproduction). As such, we are designed to feel the most profound grief upon losing a child. We are not fruit flies, for whom one offspring hardly matters; we are made to attach deeply to our children as a means of survival.

Abortion has the same psychological effect as miscarriage, except with added guilt. Over 90% of women regret their abortions; six times as many women who had abortions are members of National Right to Life as are members of NARAL; 70% of relationships end after an abortion; women mourn the anniversary of the baby’s death; abortion may double the risk of infertility; and abortion, like second-trimester miscarriage, increases the risk of breast cancer. Furthermore, RU-486 causes severe haemorrhage in at least 2% of the women who take it, so they need surgical intervention. (A dear pachyderm friend had this happen to her.) Teenage girls who have abortions commit suicide at ten times the rate of their peers (another reason to have parental consent laws!) and 18% of women with post-abortive trauma have attempted suicide more than once.

Good for women? Young, single men are the largest supporters of a “woman’s right to choose.” Conveniently, abortion allows them to have sex without consequences (in the days of those pesky paternity tests, they cannot claim that the child is not their’s), and, in fact, allows them to have sex without contraception. Is it any wonder that date rape has become much more prevalent in the age of abortion on demand? What sane man would have sex with a woman he barely knows when he would have to fork over 17% of his salary for the next 18 years?

Of course, let’s not forget the fact that Planned Parenthood repeatedly ignores the issues of statutory rape in the young women who come in seeking abortions. For older men who seek to exploit and pressure young women, abortion is a godsend. A few hundred dollars ensures that he will not be incarcerated for his crime.

Kevin at Confessions of a Recovering Pharisee has a great post about how 91% of PP clinics agreed to conceal statutory rape, despite mandatory reporting requirements.

Abortion is often framed against biological reality: as only women can become pregnant, abortion is a feminist issue. The people who put forth this argument miss a fundamental point: abortion does not shift the burdens and consequences of sexual intercourse from women onto men, but rather, some remain with the woman and some are shifted to her baby. Abortion does not make men pregnant; it does not equalise the burden of reproduction or sexual action; and it does not eradicate the burden from women (see above). It is not an elixir to undo the inequality foisted upon women by happenstance of biology: the pregnancy (and its ending) still weigh more heavily upon women than men.

For this reason, many of us consider abortion to the be the ultimate exploitation of women.

Pachyderm note: edits to come soon – this is a rough draft.

Related Posts:

    1. Part I: If you can’t trust me with a choice, how can you trust me with a child? And, It’s wrong to bring unwanted children into the world.
    2. Part II: Why should a blob of tissue have more rights than a woman?
    3. Part III: If you don’t support abortion, you don’t support women.
    4. Part IV: Pro-lifers want to legislate morality; you can’t be pro-life and libertarian.
    5. Part V: Since so many babies die of spontaneous abortion, how can you be pro-life unless you want to save them first?
    6. Part VI: What about this violinist? If we don’t force people to donate organs, why do you want to force people to remain pregnant?
    7. Part VII: If abortion is murder, pro-lifers should want to imprison women
    8. Part VIII: Sherry Colb on abortion.


  1. I can’t tell you how many feminist blogs I have come across that are Avidly pro-abortion. Your stance continues to be refreshing as I think it is the logical one for a feminist to take, good stuff.

  2. Great post, Bridget. I’ll be linking to this one!

  3. […] of helping women, MFP (My Favorite Pachyderm) has a great post on the myth that abortion is good for women. Posted in […]

  4. Here is a biblical passage that sums up my position on NARAL, Planned Parenthood, and ardent pro-abortion supporters.

    “Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” – Isaiah 5:20

  5. Mommy Zabs,

    Thank you! You are right that, for some reason, abortion has become a feminist issue. It used to be the other way around: men loved abortion, and those old feminist biddies like Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony hated it. They looked for the day in which women would have enough control over their lives to not need to resort to such horrors, and they saw abortion as a sign that society is failing women.


    Thank you for the link. :)

    Total Transformation:

    Good point. I must say, abortion is great: $500 for a 10 minute procedure. Malpractice premiums that are a tiny fraction of those for OB-GYNs. Patients who are too ashamed to sue.

  6. When I was growing up I remember my father saying that as a nation, America had three great sins.

    1. Our treatment of the Native Americans.
    2. The millions of Africans we held in the bonds of Slavery.
    3. The countless young lives we have extinguished through abortion.

    I think he is right about all of them. The third one if especially damning considering all we know about what goes on inside the womb.

  7. Abortion isn’t good for women. My mom has led a Bible Study for Women of Rama for several years. She tells me horror stories of these women and how the guilt lingers. Most of these women are victims of the pro-baby killers. It is tragic.

  8. Kevin,

    Someone said that she never knew that pregnancy would have been easier. A child given up for adoption means nine months of bodily changes and discomfort; abortion is a lifetime of grief and guilt.

    I’ve know many women who had abortions. They all cry when they talk about it. What kills me is that we deem this right to be up there with voting and free speech as a basic civil right.


    I’ll agree with some of those. Mostly, I dislike how we focus on slavery and ignore what happened in the North. Slaves suffered from extreme psychological problems (because slavery is evil) but were physically healthier than factory workers in the North. It was still exploitation of humans – except one was done under the freedom to contract.

  9. “Mostly, I dislike how we focus on slavery and ignore what happened in the North. Slaves suffered from extreme psychological problems (because slavery is evil) but were physically healthier than factory workers in the North. It was still exploitation of humans – except one was done under the freedom to contract.”

    Several historians have claimed this point. The main problem with their argument from a moral standpoint is that even the poorest freeman is better off (psychologically) than the richest slave. One latter live with the constant fear that he, his wife, or his children might be sold to the cruelest master or punished in the most barbaric fashion.

    Beyond that, the evidence is not as convincing as it might seem on the conditions of slaves and free northern workers. “Time on the Cross” attempted to make a case similar to your comments. Unfortunately their work was filled with errors and poor research.

    When examining the evidence it appears that even the poorest workers in New York lived in more spacious quarters (which were also less densely packed with fellow human beings).

    The evidence on whose diet was better is inconclusive, although two things should be noted. Masters usually allotted slaves a diet of corn and pork- although some offered more around Christmas time. Many masters expected their their slaves to supplement their meager food allowance, consequently they allowed their slaves to plant small plots of land or hunt small game (all this on their one day off, Sunday). Also, it was not uncommon for slaves to develop a disease (I forget the name) that caused them to eat dirt (it had something to do with nutrient deficiencies from their poor diet.

    This isn’t saying that northern workers lived wonderful rosy lives. I am simply disputing that slaves had a better lot in life than northern workers.

  10. TT,

    Well, I did point out the psychological problems – or tried to. ;) I would, too, rather suffer and be free than we well-kept and imprisoned.

    Eating dirt would probably be an iodine deficiency.

    Let me clarify: I don’t think that slaves had it much better than Northern workers, but do think that they were ALL exploited. It angers me that we focus so much on slavery when it was only marginally different from what other people experienced. If Northern workers got all sorts of diseases from working in those factories and didn’t have money to buy more than corn and pork,were they really better off?

    My (real) point is that slavery existed in a society that exploited workers to an amazing degree. This was not during the days of the Fair Labour Standards Act; this was coming on centuries of exploitation of workers. Slavery was but an extension of that – the final solution, if you will. Don’t forget, men also owned their wives during that time.

    It is frightening to think of humans owning each other or being able to destroy the health of another human with impunity. My point is that those things weren’t restricted to the slave-owning South: slavery was not part of a society that was otherwise peachy and rosy.

  11. Wow… a truly thought provoking blog, from a very impressive pachyderm (I was aware of their legendary memories, but I’m completely blown away by this one’s amazing comprehension and incredible logic)!

    PS… it’s good to confirm your safe arrival home.


  12. AA33J:

    Glad to hear that you made it home safely as well.

    Thank you! Glad that you are enjoying the blog. I must thank you for this post – as you lent me the paper to draft it and all. :)


  13. Like I commented in Part II, rape differs because the person being “intruded” upon is capable of consciously experiencing suffering, whereas a fetus is not (maybe I will get to a post soon that tells me it is… if so, I’m digging myself a hole here).

    Clearly, you do not consider this to be a very meaningful distinction, for you reject the use of sentience as a legitimate factor in determining the value of a life. I think this will remain the fundamental point on which we will continue to disagree.

    Regardless, the “women’s rights” side of the pro-choice argument is bunk. If one considers the fetus to have the rights of a human being that has been born, then the women’s rights issue flies out the window. That argument does not engage with the pro-life side; it simply talks past it by skirting the fundamental issue of the rights of the fetus.

    Those stats you provide regarding women who have had abortions (90% reject them! Six times as many women who had abortions are members of National Right to Life as are members of NARAL!) are remarkable, to say the least. Of course, as a Libertarian, I assume you would agree that the governmnet should not outlaw abortion in order to protect women. But I know you are not making that argument; you are only refuting what the claim about how abortion is good for women.

    And good job wrapping up how feminism should not come into this debate.

  14. As I responded in a different post, though, you can rape someone who is unconscious. When they wake up, they may know about it; it’s still rape, though.

    So we don’t allow people to attack those who will later find out about it, or may later find out about it. Is it okay, then, to murder an unconscious person, since he will never find out about the murder? In other words, is it only okay so long as the person never figures it out?

    There is a woman’s rights issue: we don’t want a society that is so protective of the fetus that it enslaves all women of childbearing age, lest they inadvertently do something that may someday cause a miscarriage. What we never do, in any social situation, is to declare that the existence of a right means that a person may exercise that right in any manner he deems fit, regardless of the consequences to others.

    Regarding stats on abortion: I agree that, as a libertarian, we should allow people to do things that aren’t in their best interests. (It sounds counterintuitive, but it beats the heck out of having the government determine our best interests and so limiting our actions.) I bring it up because it plays into the balancing of rights. An example:

    I have the right to, on private property, own two cars and crash one into the other. Perhaps I do it to recreate accident scenes for insurance companies or torts trials; perhaps I do it simply for the sake of modern art. Nevertheless, the right is mine and we don’t analyse my purposes when deciding if I’m allowed to do it. It is merely sufficient that I am not doing it to harm anyone else (physically or through fraud or other means).

    However, if I were to crash my car in a manner that would harm someone else, we would certainly analyse my purposes in doing so and the benefit to my doing so – we are balancing rights. My right to hear a loud “bang” is fine when it’s my own property, but is overridden when it harms another person.

    Likewise, if abortion is harmful to most women, it weighs against their rights to do this procedure when it results in the death of another (albeit a very small and, for the sake of argument, non-sentient person).

  15. Good points about rape and murder with respect to them still being serious crimes even if you don’t have awarenes that they are being done to you. I hadn’t heard that reasoning before.

  16. Thank you, Neil. :)

    (Let’s not forget, though, that we’re arguing against the people who think that starving Terry Schiavo was compassionate. Was it not appalling that the focus of the trial was on her mental abilities, rather than the fact that her parents were willing to care for her?)

  17. […] Part III: If you don’t support abortion, you don’t support women. […]

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