Debunking the Debunker – 5

Into the home stretch…

Common Argument #8: What if Winston Churchill or Martin Luther King had been aborted?

Your Response: Are you saying abortion policy should be influenced by how good of a person a fetus ends up becoming? If that’s the case, what if Joseph Stalin or Pol Pot had been aborted?

Are you saying it’s ok to abort people who would have been good?  (Rhetorical questions can always swing back around).

Granted, this is not a particularly effective argument, neither intellectually nor emotionally; Millstein is correct about that.  But let’s answer the rhetoric:

It would have been wrong to abort all of those babies.  At the moment they were (hypothetically) aborted, they were innocent.  It is always wrong to take an innocent life.

Now, there may be an argument in suggesting that the abortion of Joseph Stalin would have been a lesser evil, compared with the evil he did; and there’s the elephant in the room – what is the role of free will here?; in any event, none of this would make abortion good.


Common Argument #9: Many women who get abortions regret their decision later on.

Your Response: This is a pretty common argument. As with shaming of teen moms, it pops up in subway ads…

…and anti-abortion rallies.

We bet you do, dude.

This is a bad argument. Should the government ban people from doing things they sometimes regret? Think of everything you’ve ever regretted — not moving after college, dating the wrong person — and ask yourself if you wish there had been a law to prevent you from doing that thing. You probably don’t, because you probably believe people should be able to choose their own paths in life regardless of whether they regret those choices later on. I agree, which is part of why I’m pro-choice.

Again, Millstein is correct:  As an argument for banning abortion, this is a bad one.  And while I have never seen a man holding that particular poster, it’s at least a legitimate (albeit lighthearted) criticism of men entering the abortion debate.  I’m not aware of any others.

And so – again – we will not seek to revive this particular argument, but deduce what it was pointing at.

Namely, people tend to regret bad decisions, not good ones.  They regret them when the look back and realize the decision was the wrong one.

It is interesting, therefore, that Millstein cites this as a reason why he’s pro-choice:  He thinks people should have room to make bad decisions (one presumes, in order to learn from them).  First, someone may want to warn him that he’s starting to sound like a conservative…

Second, I fully agree with the principle, to an extent.  And our justice system is based on the notion of proportionate punishment (certain grievances notwithstanding).

What does it say when taking an innocent born life is punished severely, but taking an innocent unborn life is “a common medical procedure”?

The regret – as many women explain – is a recognition not just that their abortion was a bad decision, but a profoundly bad decision.

As I say, Millstein is still correct.  Regret is perhaps indicative of having done something wrong – it might even reach the level of certainty, with any given individual – but it can’t reliably tell us how grave an act is, or whether it should be illegal.

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