Quick Response #10: Back-Alley Abortions

Emily Albrecht responds to the pro-choice concern about back-alley abortions. Pro-choice advocates claim that, if abortion becomes illegal, more women will die in “back-alleys” trying to have dangerous abortions. How should this effect our thinking about the legality of abortion?

Watch all the videos in ERI’s Quick Response series here: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLsN8Ay8poS-It-dWSmblq1ZufOH-MVj1L

Related Links:

Banning Abortion Won’t Stop Abortions

Statistics on the Abortion Rate:

Alternative Reality Story:

Pro-Life Apologetics: The Equal Rights Argument:

Script Text

Pro-choice people are often legitimately concerned about the effects of making abortion illegal. They believe that women will still seek abortions, but those abortions will now be conducted in dangerous environments or “back-alleys” as the slogan goes. Now, I’ve often heard it asserted that these back-alley abortions will continue AT THE EXACT SAME RATE as legal abortions occur now, and this rhetoric quite frankly makes no sense. The abortion rate doubled immediately after abortion was legalized, making it quite clear that more women wanted legal abortions than illegal ones. We address this further in our video “Quick Response: Banning Abortions Won’t Stop Abortions,” so go check that out for a more thorough response.

While we believe that the far majority of women will no longer seek an abortion if it is made illegal, there will still be some women who are desperate enough to seek an unsafe, illegal abortion, and those women certainly need to be discussed.

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 I don’t want anyone to get hurt in an abortion, legal or illegal. But I also don’t think that we can hold the law hostage because of citizens threatening to hurt themselves. Let me explain what I mean with a bit of a weird story:

Let’s suppose that we live in an alternative reality where abortion as we know it is physically impossible. The uterus is so protective of the fetus that you simply cannot reach the fetus to kill it by the medical or surgical means that we use today. The only way you could kill the fetus would be to do something drastic that would injure the woman as well—like stabbing her abdomen with a knife, for example. In this world, infanticide is also illegal, just like it is in the United States today, but there is a group of pregnant women who are campaigning to make infanticide legal. They are so desperate to not have a child that they are threatening to stab themselves in the abdomen with a knife if the government won’t let them kill their infant after it is born. Thus, there is severe pressure for the government to make infanticide legal in order to prevent these women from hurting themselves in the pursuit of an inherently-dangerous abortion.

This is an extremely tragic situation. Now, I’m not saying that this is what women are like or that there are any women out there who would actually do this. And I absolutely do NOT want any women to hurt themselves. But, I also don’t think that the government can hold the law hostage because of citizens threatening to hurt themselves. That alternative universe shouldn’t make infanticide legal because infanticide is clearly wrong. It’s the kind of wrong where innocent people are subject to violence and murder. Regardless of your other politics, I think we can agree that innocent people being subject to violence and murder is the kind of thing the government should have laws against. 

So if the prohibition of infanticide shouldn’t be held hostage by people threatening to hurt themselves, then the outlawing of abortion shouldn’t be held hostage either. The true question is whether pro-lifers are right that the killing of human infants and the killing of human fetuses should be viewed with equal weight. If you use the Equal Rights Argument to establish that the unborn deserve the same right to life and protection from violence as newborn humans, then the answer is simple. I don’t want anyone to get hurt in an abortion, legal or illegal. But the potential of back-alley abortions is not enough to justify the legality of deliberately killing humans.

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