Pro-choice advocates constantly describe the intentions of pro-lifers with the word “force.” “Pro-lifers want to force women to stay pregnant, force them to have babies, force them to go through pregnancy, force them to be a parent.” All of these statements are common, and all of them are false.
The word force implies a threat. It implies violence. It implies aggression. It’s a tragic irony given that the aggression, violence, and threatening behavior doesn’t come from pro-lifers, it comes from doctors killing babies.
The pro-life position is simple: you don’t get to kill people, very young embryos are people, so you don’t get to kill embryos. It’s very straightforward.
It is true that by saying “don’t kill the embryo,” other things naturally follow from that, such as “go through pregnancy, give birth, and either raise the child or give him to someone else who will.” But that isn’t the same as forcing someone to do these things.
If it sounds to you like I’m just playing semantical games, consider the following case:
My pro-life apologetics speech from the 2017 Students for Life of America conference in D.C. has been posted! This talk includes a few ideas that we’ve never spoken publicly about before.
The speech includes these topics:
- Why I avoid accusing people of committing logical fallacies, and what I do instead;
- The four-step method of trotting out a toddler that we’ve found to be most effective;
- How to respond and how NOT to respond when people say “No one knows when life begins.”
- Three reasons why the Equal Rights Argument changes more minds about abortion than any other personhood argument we’ve ever tested;
- Why every pro-choice person must choose between one of three extremist options;
- Three implications of standard bodily rights arguments.
- Click here to learn more about the Equipped for Life Course.
- Click here to apply for a scholarship for the Equipped for Life Course.
Bodily rights arguments for abortion are always extremist arguments, at least in the way people present them. No bodily rights argument that I have ever seen (or even heard of any pro-choice advocate making) leaves room for abortion exceptions.
Not all pro-choice people are extremists.
A 2013 Gallup poll found that 80% of Americans believe abortion should be illegal in the third trimester. A 2012 Lozier Institute poll found that 77% of their respondents believed sex-selective abortions should be against the law. Most people, even pro-choice people, believe there are circumstances when abortion should not be legal.
But almost all pro-choice people use extremist arguments.
What is an extremist argument?
By “extremist arguments,” I don’t mean “arguments that extremists often use;” I mean arguments that necessarily lead to an extremist position. I am not saying that having an extremist position means you must take extremist or violent action. I am just saying if you make an argument that logically requires an extremist position and you don’t take that extremist position, you’re being inconsistent.
For instance, suppose someone said, “Having dark skin makes you a non-person, but I really like lots of people with dark skin and I think people ought to be nice to them.” They’re advocating for being nice, but “having dark skin makes you a non-person” is an extremist argument. The logical conclusion of that argument is that anyone who has dark skin should not be legally protected, that it is morally justified to enslave or kill such people. It doesn’t matter how kind, compassionate, or well-meaning the person is who says it; the argument is extremist.
People are welcome to try to justify abortion with extremist arguments, but they should expect to be gently challenged to hold a consistent view. If you’re making an extremist argument, you should be consistent and hold the extremist view that comes with it.
Many pro-choice people have responded to the recent shooting by blaming pro-life advocates. In this article I show why such claims are completely unjustified by analyzing culpability and what it means to incite violence.
Photo credit: Colorado Springs Police Department
Last Friday a 57-year old armed man named Robert Lewis Dear walked into a Planned Parenthood facility in Colorado Springs and opened fire. He barricaded himself inside for hours, and before surrendering himself to police he killed three people and wounded nine more.
Ben Domenech at The Federalist summarized many of the weird things that have already come out about Dear:
As is so often the case in these circumstances, Dear is described by neighbors as an odd loner, who avoided eye contact and spoke unintelligibly. In South Carolina, his previous residence, he had been arrested after hiding in the bushes and peeping into his neighbor’s house. He shot a neighbor’s dog with a pellet gun and threatened him with bodily harm. In Colorado, he lived off the grid in a trailer, on a five-acre plot of land he apparently purchased for $6,000 in 2014. This followed a series of cabins and trailers — without electricity or running water — that he stayed in after his divorce in 2000.
Dear has no history of affiliation with the Republican Party or pro-life groups or politicians.
While we don’t yet know very many details about his initial questioning by police, it was leaked that he said something about “no more baby parts” at some point. This is a clear reference to the Center for Medical Progress’ (CMP) undercover videos that have provided evidence that Planned Parenthood illegally sells body parts from the babies they kill in abortion. Planned Parenthood and others are claiming or implying that pro-life advocates are partially to blame for the shooting because we have been saying that Planned Parenthood sells baby parts.
Are pro-life advocates culpable for the shooting? By culpable I don’t mean “the only person to blame,” or even “the primary person to blame.” I also don’t mean “ought to be legally prosecuted.” By culpable I mean “morally blameworthy for their actions.” Whether pro-life advocates are culpable for the recent shooting depends entirely on what it means to incite violence. While I will not answer every possible question about what circumstances could make one culpable, I will argue that there are two extreme ways of thinking about culpability that we should avoid. I will also argue that the right way to determine if a statement incites violence is to examine the statement, not merely whether or not it was credited for violence.
Let’s start by examining four fictional cases.