What’s Magical About Abortion Pills?

An abortion advocacy group, Reproaction, has a national campaign called “Abortion Pills are Magic.” As you browse their website, you find they label their stance on abortion as “progressive.” They unapologetically push for easier access to abortion and an absolute right to abortion. They represent the extreme of the pro-choice end of the spectrum. 

Magical Unicorns

Estimated reading time: 11 minutes

Their vision statement says (emphasis added)

Reproaction’s vision is to uphold abortion rights and advance reproductive justice as a matter of human dignity. We introduce a new culture of accountability, and empower and inspire the reproductive rights movement and the broader progressive community to openly and enthusiastically stand up for abortion rights.

Their closely-related mission statement also specifically addresses abortion:

Reproaction’s mission is to increase access to abortion and advance reproductive justice.

 

Refuting “Abortion as Self-Defense”

Editor’s Note (1/26/21): A pro-life philosophy professor, who wishes to remain anonymous at this time, has provided an addendum to our argument against abortion as self-defense which presents the pro-choice argument in a logically valid form (stating the premises and the resulting conclusion). This should help clarify both a) what it is that the self-defense argument is claiming, and b) which problems specific premises in that argument have.

 

There is a new pro-choice argument that has begun to gain popularity. Many pro-life advocates have not heard of it yet, but to change minds on abortion, you need to know how to both identify and graciously refute it.

Estimated reading time: 26 minutes.

A woman in a self-defense position.

When I teach pro-life apologetics, I usually explain that there are two primary disagreements between the pro-life side and the pro-choice side and a bunch of distracting arguments that have grown from misunderstanding the issue at hand.

Most pro-life people are familiar with the first primary disagreement. These are pro-choice arguments that deny the humanity of the unborn child. These arguments about personhood definitions largely dominate the philosophical literature on abortion. People argue about what constitutes a person and then explain how the human embryo does or does not qualify. Notice that this is a philosophical question, not a scientific one. Science tells us what is killed during abortion: an embryo or fetus that is living, whole, and human. And philosophy tells us whether or not that human embryo’s life is valuable.

The second disagreement in the abortion debate is centered around bodily rights, in other words, the slogan that we have all heard before: “My body, my choice.” This argument is different from the first disagreement because it isn’t about whether or not abortion is killing a person. Instead, it argues whether the killing can be justified by the woman’s right to her own bodily autonomy.

A pro-choice person could agree with the pro-life community on the first personhood point, but still justify their position by arguing from bodily autonomy. However, it is more likely than the average pro-choice person will disagree with me on both points.

This new argument that I am going to refute today I am calling the “Abortion is Self-Defense Argument” and it doesn’t address either of these first two controversies. In fact, it can be used by someone who agrees with the pro-life position on both points, and that is one of the reasons I believe it seems so convincing on its face.

Scientism is Not Only Self-Refuting, but Dangerous

Part Three

Scientism is not merely wrong, but dangerous. This is the claim I want to make to conclude our series on scientism. It probably seems like an aggressive claim; perhaps it is. But it’s also right there in the subtitle of JP Moreland’s book: Learning to Respond to a Dangerous Ideology.

Estimated reading time: 8 minutes.

Power outlet on fire.

I started this series by explaining why scientism is self-refuting. Whether someone believes in strong scientism or weak scientism, their belief is logically incoherent. If scientism is true, then the non-scientific foundations on which scientism (and science!) rests would be null and void. If scientism were true, it would prove that scientism couldn’t be true; it’s a logical contradiction and has no merit as a system of thought.

I then covered the ways in which scientism influences how everyone talks about abortion. Both pro-life and pro-choice people often act like science is the thing with all the answers, but, in reality, science can only get us so far. Some scientific facts, like those from embryology, give us relevant information, but we have to use that information in non-scientific ways to come to a reasoned conclusion about abortion.

If you’ve gotten this far, you may wonder how scientism still exists and why it continues not only to survive but thrive in the public sphere. My answer is simple: scientism is a means of power for some things against other things. It is a convenient weapon in favor of moral relativism against absolute moral truths and those who claim them. Every meaningful defense of human rights must rest on moral truth, so denying moral truth must lead to an eradication of grounds for human rights. Scientism is not bad just because it is incorrect or unhelpful, but because it is a danger to humanity.

The Limitations of Science in the Abortion Debate: Why You Need Philosophy

Part Two

One of our not-so-secret missions at ERI is to help pro-life advocates to think well about philosophy as it relates to the abortion debate. The problem with scientism is it says that philosophy isn’t a valid way to reach truth or discover facts. According to this position, our philosophical case for the unborn doesn’t matter, because only science really matters.

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes.

Book with glasses.

Now, if scientism was true, we would have to drop our strong philosophical arguments and just talk about biology. Biology and embryology can be helpful in articulating the pro-life position, but we don’t think they can get you all the way there. Just knowing that the fetus is human doesn’t tell us how to think about it. But scientism is false—more than that, it’s self-defeating, as I showed in the first article in this series.

So, How Far Can Science Get Us?

This is important, so to say it again: scientism does not equal science. Scientism says that arguments don’t matter, only bare scientific facts. Science stems from philosophical foundations. It answers questions about the world while using basic rules of logic to do so. This makes it a second thing, not a first thing, but scientism pretends that science is first and only. As C.S. Lewis writes:

“You can’t get second things by putting them first; you can get second things only by putting first things first.”

If we pursue science as first (scientism), then we lose science in its proper place.

And science in its proper place gives us good and valuable facts which can support various arguments in the abortion debate. We cannot say, with the justices playing make-believe about biology in Roe, that we don’t know when life begins. 96 percent of biologists (not just embryologists, mind you) agree in acknowledging that life begins at conception.

The study of embryology expands on this consensus by telling us what happens at and after conception. An individual human being develops from a single-celled organism into a recognizable baby, maintaining biological integrity and continuity the entire way. We can detect early cardiac activity; we can observe the differentiation of stem cells; we can see movement and interaction. And science adds new discoveries, such as the likely pain threshold for prenatal humans recently being pushed back from 25 weeks to 12 weeks.

Scientism: the Self-Refuting Argument that has Contaminated Abortion Dialogue

Part One

Scientism is the belief that truth, insofar as it exists, is only (or best) discovered by using the scientific method. In other words, scientism says that fields like biology, chemistry, and physics are superior ways (or the only ways) of knowing what is true and that philosophy or theology can only be matters of opinion, rather than ways to discover the reality around us. This belief isn’t often named, but it shows up everywhere. Public media and private conversations about all sorts of topics make use of this worldview by stealth.

Estimated reading time: 7 minutes.
Nuclear Energy Waste

Science vs. Scientism

Despite “science” being in the name, scientism is actually not a doctrine of science. Rather it is a philosophical position that distorts science by undermining its very foundation.

We want to help you confront this false ideology when it appears in conversations about abortion and other important issues. We’re indebted to Dr. J.P. Moreland’s work on this topic, Scientism and Secularism, and we’ll just use page numbers to reference his book (which you can buy on Amazon) throughout this series of posts. Moreland is a professor at Biola University with a Ph.D. in philosophy, but also majored in chemistry and was awarded a fellowship for Ph.D. study in nuclear chemistry before choosing philosophy instead. In other words, he knows a thing or two about both science and philosophy.