After the recent vote to legalize abortion in Ireland, the age-old abortion debate has flared up again, and with it, a particularly flawed argument the supporters of abortion use. This is the argument that people who don’t support abortion can simply choose not to have one, but still allow other people to access abortion services.
The reason this argument fails is because its very premise is based on a misunderstanding of the way that people who are pro-life see the issue. To a pro-choice individual, the argument seems valid. They might compare it to gay marriage. Even though some people are uncomfortable with gay marriage, that does not give them the privilege to deny homosexual people their right to marry. Shouldn’t the same logic be applied to abortion as well?
For most pro-life supporters, however, these two situations are incomparable. Pro-life individuals believe that a human life begins at conception. Abortion is therefore the unjust killing of a human being in the most vulnerable stage of its life. A person with a moral objection to gay marriage can still support it. No one is hurt in that situation. A pro-life person, however, cannot support abortion because, from their perspective, abortion equates to the murder of a human being.
To a pro-choice person, the statement, “Don’t like abortion? Don’t have one,” is comparable to the statement, “Don’t like alcohol? Don’t drink it.” They see pro-life people similarly to abolitionists: zealots who seek to impose their personal moral code on all of society. To a pro-life person, the statement, “Don’t like abortion? Don’t have one,” is comparable to the statement, “Don’t like slavery? Don’t own a slave.” They see the pro-choice argument as robbing a human being of their own fundamental rights.
The debate over abortion is emotional and exhausting, and the two sides see the issue from fundamentally different perspectives. With topics this complex, “gotcha” arguments like these never make any progress. They only serve to further aggravate people, and usually damage the any potential for thoughtful and productive conversation. With abortion, as with all arguments, it’s important that one takes the viewpoints of their opponents into account if they hope to ever effectively communicate with them, much less persuade them.
Featured Image Citation: Image of a Pro-Choice protest sign. Photo by Chorlotte Cooper on Flickr, licensed under CC BY 2.0. No changes were made to the original image. Use of this image does not indicate photographer endorsement of this article. Image link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/cecooper/5479764357