Monday, October 26, 2015

Are Pro-Lifers Hypocrites?

An abortion routine from Reginald Hunter, a comedian, has been making the rounds lately on social media. He's asking a relevant question: are pro-lifers hypocrites if they think it is sometimes okay to take human life? However, his flawed argument fails to do justice to the issue.

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"Fundamentalist conservative Christians believe that an embryo in a woman’s body is sacred, and no one should harm it."

“Fundamentalist, conservative Christian” usually drags up mental images of uneducated, angry, bigoted hypocrites. Rhetorically, it’s a great way to get people on your side. Logically, it’s both irrelevant and inaccurate. There are secular pro-lifers as well as pro-life supporters from many other religions. 

I assume “sacred” was chosen to make it seem like solely a religious issue. It's not. Yes, religious people believe there is a religious perspective on the question of abortion, but it's only one of several components that make up a unified, cumulative case argument for why abortion ends the life of a human being.

"But they don’t believe that the same embryo, once it leaves the woman’s body, should be exempt from execution."

Plenty of people (including many pro-lifers) are opposed to the death penalty for a variety of reasons, but one thing is certain: people eligible for the death penalty are not the innocent human beings they were before they were born.

Those who commit capital crimes have chosen an action that invites a response. To those who support the death penalty, the criminal's willful taking of human life is now proper justification for a punishment that mirrors the crime. You may not agree with them, but supporting the death penalty is not inconsistent with believing the innocent unborn should not be killed.*

"Or going off to war and killing other embryos, as long as they are foreign."

Once again, the question of proper justification is important. Just War Theory has been cited for millennia by the religious and non-religious alike as a way of deciding whether or not war can be justified. It has nothing to do with embryos being foreign and therefore of less importance. Pro-lifers aren't racist. In fact, the United States has at times gone to war to protect those 'foreign embryos' (#WWII).  Once again, people may have principled reasons for opposing war, but the belief that some wars (and thus the killing that occurs in them) can be justified is not inconsistent with the belief that the killing of innocent babies cannot.

So if we are specific and stay on topic with this debate, what we're trying to decide between us is: at what age is it appropriate to start killing human beings?

No, actually, that's not the question at all. His implication that pro-life advocates are just trying to find the line that allows them to kill people is rhetorical foolishness. We are trying to decide if it there is ever a situation, not an agewhen it is appropriate (or justified) to kill another human being. People are no more justified in taking the life of a young person because they are young than they are in taking the life of an elderly person because they are old.

Bet let's stay on topic per his request. Mr. Hunter has given an interesting insight into what happens when an abortion occurs. By his own words, he claims the debate is over how old human beings should be when we start killing them - which apparently means he believes that abortion kills a human being.

In the two examples he used, pro-lifers believe that they can "start killing human beings" when those human beings have either committed a capital crime or committed themselves to military service. As for Mr. Hunter, he has apparently decided it is okay so start right away, without waiting for the innocent child to commit a capital crime or join an armed conflict.

If we want to stay on topic, what we're trying to decide between us is for what reason is it appropriate to start killing human beings. If we want to be specific, we are trying to decide for what reason it is appropriate to begin killing unborn human children.

That's the debate, and it deserves more than a punch line at the end of a manipulative joke.


*Ectopic pregnancy is a commonly cited instance of a non-elective abortion that is typically considered justified (see discussion on abortion and the Doctrine of Double Effect)


  1. The saddest thing about this "joke" is that it isn't even funny. Crappy logic aside, how many laughs did the joke get? And, as you point out, the reasoning is so poor. Does anyone believe that we oppose abortion but that our real question is at what age is it legit to start killing a human being? It is sad that rhetoric is more effective than logic in our culture.