Judith Jarvis Thomson is famous for the Violinist argument from her paper “In Defense of Abortion,” but she actually begins it with another well-known analogy: since an acorn isn’t an oak tree, a fetus shouldn’t be considered a child. Emily Albrecht explains why Thomson’s acorn analogy, while popular, is a fallacious argument that isn’t a problem for the pro-life position.
This quick response video addresses one of the most challenging pro-choice dialogue points, what we call the “human-plus” argument: that you need something like human nature, plus another feature like sentience or consciousness, in order to have personhood.
As Emily Albrecht explains, the human-plus argument isn’t challenging to respond to because it’s a good argument, but because it’s a bad one; human-plus is ad hoc, adding extra requirements just to exclude the unborn, and it’s hard to get people to realize why this is a problem. This video walks you through what we’ve found to be most effective when trying to help someone avoid being ad hoc in a dialogue about abortion.
Some people argue that, if for no other reason, we need broad abortion access because of situations in which a child won’t survive the birth process or other cases of poor prenatal diagnosis. In this quick response video, Emily Albrecht argues that euthanasia by abortion isn’t actually the compassionate option, and then shows why, even if euthanasia were acceptable, that wouldn’t justify abortions in general.
A while ago, we published a blog article featuring a dialogue I had over email with Chloe, a reader of my friend Isaac Saul’s Tangle newsletter. It was a great dialogue, and Isaac was also gracious enough to publish a condensed version of it for his readers.
Today, after last night’s story leaking a draft of Justice Alito’s (hopefully soon-to-be) majority opinion in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, Isaac published his own response to my dialogue with his reader. I responded to him privately to point out a couple ways in which I think his post mischaracterizes my position, but I also wanted to give an expanded public response, because the way he responded makes it seem like the team at ERI doesn’t actually understand pro-choice people very well.
(I think part of the issue is that Isaac is responding to the much shorter dialogue published in his newsletter, rather than the full version we published on the blog. We had to trim the full version aggressively to fit the word count he requested, which takes away time for some of the nuance we value in our dialogues about abortion.)
As I mentioned earlier, Isaac is a friend, so I don’t want this to be perceived as attacking him or anything like that. But I do think it’s important to clarify what I’m saying in my dialogue, since it’s important for me that people understand us as able to articulate the pro-choice position as well as any pro-choice advocate could.
Estimated reading time: 10 minutes.
In this Quick Response video, Emily Albrecht debunks the idea, floated by some prominent politicians like Bernie Sanders (and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, to a lesser extent), that the world is at a critical stage of overpopulation, so we need abortion as a means of population control.
For at least a couple hundred years, certain people have complained that the Earth has too many people and foretold the collapse of civilization if we don’t stop having children. Now, these predictions have been completely wrong every time so far, but people still take the overpopulation idea seriously. What’s worse, they often use it as a justification for active evil, such as abortion on a mass scale as a means to limit population growth.
The overpopulation argument is unfortunately trendy now because of a certain set of politicians. Bernie Sanders, for example, considers abortion necessary to control the population and avoid “climate catastrophe.” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez does a lot of hand-wringing over whether it’s ethical to have children at all.
Of course, their ideas, and the whole overpopulation argument as a whole, just assume that unborn humans aren’t persons, that they lack any rights against the state. What happens if you were to demonstrate personhood? Well, if the unborn are persons, then abortion to control the population is morally the same as infanticide to control the population, which is condemned by almost everyone.
Overpopulation itself isn’t actually carrying any weight in the argument. It’s used as a justification, but since it only works as a justification if the fetus lacks rights, it’s not adding anything. If the fetus lacks rights, then you don’t need an overpopulation crisis or “climate catastrophe” to justify abortion; it should be completely acceptable to kill the fetus for any reason whatsoever because the fetus isn’t a person. So the best way to counter someone who brings up overpopulation is to argue for fetal personhood using the Equal Rights Argument. Then, trot out ALL of the toddlers. It’s immoral to kill toddlers because of overpopulation, so the same would hold true if unborn humans have the same status and value as toddlers.