So since I’ve had zero to do the past few days, I’ve barged into an abortion discussion which mostly seemed like an echo-chamber of pro-choice tropes from atheists who demonstrably have little idea of the arguments against their position.
These guys are intelligent, no doubt, maybe even more than I, but the fact however remains: they are completely ignorant of the arguments against their position, evidenced by the tripe that was on display.
Their issue with abortion, or the reasons they are pro-choice, could be condensed in a few words, really:
1. The fetus isn’t human, anyway.
2. So what if it was potentially human; potentiality doesn’t matter.
3. We need to respect a woman’s choices with regards to her body.
Well, firstly, that a fetus is human isn’t really in dispute. Rather what is is whether it should be afforded rights. There seems to be much confusion between ‘human’ and ‘person’; a fetus is human (if it’s a human fetus, that is) but not a person in the conventional sense. So the question isn’t at all whether the fetus is human but whether this human should be afforded the same right as that of a person, specifically the right to live.
For reasons that are blindingly obvious, pro-choicers like to eschew ‘potentiality’ as a factor for determining whether one has a right to live; what is merely potentially a human-person (a fetus), they say, isn’t actually a human-person, for what is becoming is yet to become. And, as if it hasn’t been amateurish enough, some even respond to the potentiality argument by parroting Sam Harris, saying sperm is potentially human too but nary a tear rolls down our cheeks upon its passing. Or they’ll say, jeeringly, that each cell in our body, containing our DNA as it does, is potentially human too, obviously equating this with what one means when he says the fetus is potentially a human-person.
Of course this is all blitheringly idiotic, as it confuses nomological possibility with ‘potentiality’ of the sort that’s relevant here. Sperm or any other cell in our body won’t turn human by themselves; there’s no risk of someone’s ejaculate magically becoming a full-fledged human-person all by its lonesome. By contrast, however, a fetus, through the normal course of events, will be a human-person.
It gets worse: when you ask most for their criteria for being a human-person, you usually get ridiculous answers (like I got) like it should be sentient/conscious, have the ability to feel pain, and so on. When it’s pointed out that, with this criteria, even lower-level animals fit the bill, the senselessness gets compounded with answers in the line of ‘those animals aren’t human!’, because humans, apparently, are special because they are, egads, human!
They appear to be dumbfounded when you expressly point out that a full-grown chimp, or, heck, even a full grown rat, would be, using their criteria, more of a person and thusly ought to have greater moral status than a newborn infant. At some places I’ve discussed this even, pro-choicers get shocked witless when you make the abortion-infanticide equivalency by pointing out that newborn infants are not self-aware, have only a rudimentary form of consciousness, and scarcely feel any pain besides hunger (prick them with a needle and they’ll feel nothing). They won’t accept the moral equivalency of abortion and infanticide despite that they hardly have any reasons for not doing so.
This is when they’ll argue — in other places I’ve discussed this, they’ll even often risibly be arguing — that it makes no sense to compare humans to animals because, come on, humans are humans. ‘They’re like special, yknow!’ As if that answers anything, as if I’m a jerk for making the comparison, despite that it was their criteria for personhood.
Of course an infant has greater moral status than an animal who more fits their criteria of person, but for that we’ll need two things: 1, reference to the divine, and, 2, reference to its potential, both of which are realities the pro-choice atheist denies, putting him thusly at a pickle, since he’ll now have to admit either one of two things (or both): 1, a full-grown chimp has greater moral status than an infant, or 2, he’s a specie-ist — that is to say, he ascribes greater moral status on humans because he’s human, which is to admit to making an argument that’s equally as fallacious as one that stems from racial or sexist prejudices.
Finally, I’m not at all convinced that the ‘choice’ of the woman trumps the life of the fetus. That begs the question that the fetus has no right to live in the first place. And, barring instances wherein she was raped, or where her life were in danger, it is to forget that she made a choice long before this ‘choice’ we’re all supposed to respect and bow down to.
To know exactly where in which your run-of-the-mill pro-choicer’s arguments logically conclude, one need only familiarize himself with the work of bio-ethicist and very respected secularist philosopher, Peter Singer, who is both a champion of animal rights and is of the mind that there is zero difference between abortion and infanticide.