Crowd Sourcing: Arguments Against Abortion?

While reading the comments on a couple of my recent posts about abortion, I realized something. I have pro-choice readers who very informed on the topic and know the arguments backward and forward, pro-choice readers who are less sure on some of the arguments, and readers who are against abortion for a variety of reasons. And then I had an idea. I think it should be possible to bring the excellent arguments and information I’ve seen from some of you together with the honest questions I’ve seen from others.

In order to do this, I would like to collect all of the arguments against abortion that I possibly can. I will then post them, one at a time, and open the floor for discussion and rebuttal. I will moderate those threads carefully, not deleting comments I disagree with so much as requiring that the discussion be intelligent, civil, honest, and productive. Honest questions, honest answers, honest objections, honest rebuttals. These threads won’t be so much about changing individuals’ minds as about crowd sourcing rebuttals and sharpening arguments. Ideally these threads could become good resources.

This comment thread, then, is for arguments against abortion. I want arguments you think are ridiculous, arguments you find convincing, arguments you find difficult to refute, arguments you find easy to refute….all of them.

And here’s the important part: This thread is only for collecting arguments against abortion, not for refuting them.

Ready, set, go!

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • L’Ann

    1- Life begins at conception so abortion is murder.
    2- Sex is for procreation.
    3- Sex is supposed to be between husband and wife. Sex enrichens the bond, and children make a family.
    4- Women are supposed to be mothers. Doing anything that contradicts that is unnatural.
    5- If you don’t want a baby or aren’t ready or prepared for one, use protection or abstain.
    6- Abortion is anti-woman because lots of girls are murdered before being born.
    7- Abortion is sexist because many families willingly decide to abort girls over boys.
    8- The history of abortion is racist because it was often possible for racial minorities to get abortions, and some people even encouraged it, in the name of eugenics. You don’t want to support idustries like abortion and birth control that have their origins in those ideologies, do you?
    9- Abortion is ablist because many people will kill their unborn child if it has a defect or problem.
    10- Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time. Sex can result in pregnancy and a woman should be responsible enough to take the consequences.
    Those are the big ones I can think of right now.

  • http://TheBereanObserver Bob Wheeler

    I would just expand #1 a little to say that it sets a dangerous legal precedent that can be used to undermine human rights in general.

  • EmuSam

    Abortion is dangerous because it’s an invasive surgery.
    Abortion is dangerous because it increase your chance of getting cancer. <–Recently pretty common
    Abortion is dangerous because inexperienced doctors/non-doctors killed a woman I know.
    Abortion is dangerous because coat hangers in back alleys.

    I can't write any more without apologizing abjectly.

  • Falls Apart

    Scientifically speaking, a fetus (a) is biotic and not dead, therefore alive, (b) has human DNA, (c) has a chromosomal composition distinct from the parent. Thus, a fetus is a living, distinct human. Arguments of “personhood” or “sentience” are, to me, at best, meaningless, or, at worst, dangerous; when personhood is defined as something other than “a living, distinct human”, I fail to see where–and by whom–the line is drawn.

    If one accepts the premise that a fetus is a person, I fail to see how abortion could be permissible, as it is the active (not passive, making refusing to donate an organ and such a flawed metaphor) taking of a human life. Except, of course, in cases where the parent’s life is in danger.

    Now, I’m not saying that illegalizing abortion is necessarily the immediate solution. It’s certainly not the only one. I’m all for better sex-ed programs, available birth control, workplace equality, etc. I recognize that this is a complicated issue, and I’m not saying that I have a solution. All I’m saying is that I don’t think that what we have now is the answer.

  • Rilian

    Ron Paul says that abortion violates the non-aggression principle.

  • ArachneS

    Abortion causes women to be Suicidal and Depressed.

  • Niemand

    The fetus MIGHT be a person. It’s hard to say when personhood/self-awareness/thought begins and therefore the fetus might be/have any or all of the above and should be given the benefit of the doubt. (The one argument that gives me pause.)

    • Niemand

      BTW, just to be clear, I emphasized “might” not because I want to take a swipe at the anti-abortion movement (that interpretation occurred to me only after I hit post), but because the argument seems to me much stronger when people admit that there is doubt but argue that while there is doubt the vulnerable party should be given the benefit of that doubt.

  • Ryan Stauffer

    It seems like everyone agrees that a fetus becomes a person at some point. For some, that point is conception. For others, it’s much later–possibly birth. Scientifically, though, we have no idea. Therefore, to be on the safe side so we don’t kill any people, we should assume that point is as early as possible.

    • Ryan Stauffer

      Oops, doubled up with Niemand above. That’s what I get for not refreshing before I posted.

  • Beguine

    Abortion will make you infertile later.

    • Niemand

      Alternately or augmenting this argument, if you have fertility difficulties later in life you’ll deeply regret the chance you threw away.

  • Christy

    Legalizing abortion makes women 100% responsible for choosing to give birth, thus taking away the responsibility of the man and society towards caring for the child. Why bother with requring maternity leaves be granted when people can just blame the woman for choosing to have her child? Why give extra assistance to women with children, wasn’t it those women’s choices to have the children?

    Having the option to have complete and total control over one’s reproduction makes having children a complete choice, instead of an inevitability or an open possibility, and it makes people more likely to judge and question whether they made the right choice or not, and less likely to just learn to be satisfied with what is.

    Having abortion legal puts women in a tight situation where they are forced to make a difficult decision. Sometimes the women feel responsible for the inconvenience that having the child would make for their loved one, and she makes a choice she secret doesn’t want but can never undo. Having that option available opens the door to so much coercison.

  • Niemand

    This isn’t an argument against abortion overall so feel free to delete if you don’t think it meets criteria, but an often heard argument that I think should be addressed goes like this: Abortion in the early stages is ok, but abortion after viability should be restricted because the fetus can live outside the uterus and therefore delivery makes more sense as an option since it ends the pregnancy without harming the fetus.

  • Nea

    I don’t know if they’re “good” arguments, but the ones I’ve heard the most are:
    1) Women who have abortions always regret it, possibly to the point of suicide.
    2) Young women who have abortions will curse the parents who bring them in.
    3) If women abort, their boyfriends/husbands will leave them.
    4) Abortion doctors are only doing it for profit and don’t care about their patients. (aka “Don’t let someone profit from murdering your innocent baby.”)
    5) Abortion not only kills a child, it kills all the children that child would grow up to have. God will judge the woman for *all* of those ended/unavailable lives.
    6) People who are pro-abortion had something horrible happen to them and now they hate God.
    7) Margaret Sanger was a racist and therefore anyone who supports Planned Parenthood is a racist.
    8) God loves your baby and you. Don’t turn your back on that (aka “abortion makes the baby Jesus cry”)
    9) You only think that the pregnancy is endangering your health/ruining your life/inconvenient; you need to have more faith (aka “God never gives you more than you can handle”)
    10) Anyone who has told a woman she can/should have an abortion is doing Satan’s work. Fight the devil! (In my area the protesters are almost entirely religious.)
    11) There are many people who would love to adopt that baby.

    I haven’t personally heard but have heard of “Abortion doesn’t make you not be a mother, it makes you the mother of a dead baby” and “don’t abort because you don’t want to be called Mommy.” I assume that these are variations on the theme of women are meant to be mothers… period.

  • Niemand

    Has anyone mentioned sex selection yet? A common version of the argument is that imbalanced sex ratios are bad for women and abortion based on gender is sexist and therefore it should be banned. And all abortion should be banned because you can’t prove that it wasn’t requested for sexual selection.

  • Christine

    I’m summarizing an argument from my women studies’ reader (so I’m probably missing parts, most of those essays were over my head). It’s not precisely *against* abortion, more of a “and this did us net good how?” argument. Actually, I guess it’s less against abortion (or, more precisely, the societal acceptability of abortion) and more about the idea of “pro-choice”.

    Access to abortion provides the illusion of choice. There are many women who feel that they had to have an abortion. (I don’t recall the essay addressing women feeling a need to say that they had no other choices to avoid guilt from anti-abortion family members/friends/elements of society/their own past, but this could be a factor.) And, in addition to the “well if a pregnancy is inconvenient you should just have an abortion” attitude that these women encountered, there was no support for any choice other than abortion – they might have wanted to keep the child, or give it up for adoption, but the policies at their place of work or education were such that they couldn’t afford it.

  • Christine

    Oh, and one of my own issues, specifically with abortion based on testing for Down’s or similar: it’s parents trying to make sure they have the perfect child. The not-so-nice flip side to the coin of “we don’t care, as long as their healthy”. The reason this bugs me so much is that it’s antithetical to parenting: trying to control what the kid will be like. And I worry because of the stories like the couple who sued the hospital that did their testing, because their child was born with Down’s Syndrome, and they were told the child wasn’t going to have Down’s Syndrome, and that’s why they didn’t abort. What if an accident caused a brain injury later in life with similar symptoms?

    It’s not precisely the abortion that I’m upset with in this argument, it’s the end to which it’s being used.

  • Sarah

    You could be aborting Beethoven. (can’t wait until I get the thread to refute that)

  • Sarah

    Also, “what if you regret it later, abortion is forever”

    • Rosie

      And I can’t wait to the thread where I get to refute that!

  • Kay

    I’m amazed at the absurdity of some of the responses here. How can there possibly be a real discussion of this important issue when people respond with such blatantly false statements?
    “Abortion causes women to be Suicidal and Depressed.” “Women who have abortions always regret it, possibly to the point of suicide.”, “Abortion will make you infertile later.”,” If women abort, their boyfriends/husbands will leave them” . Statements like these are simply not true, while they may be true for some women, it is ridiculous to think they are tre for ALL women. I also have a problem with any reason that refers to God. You may feel that you know God well enough to to know what He wants from you, but how can you possibly speak for all religions? How do you know that’s what God wants for every one else? There are plenty of religions out there that allow for abortions in certain situations. No one is forcing anyone to get abortions, I think we can all agree that that is terribly wrong, so if your personal beliefs forbid all abottion, you have the freedom to not get one even in the most extreme circumstances. Since there is no universal agreement on what God wants (or if there even is a God), I think the “it’s God’s will” argument cannot apply to everyone. That said, there are a few valid reasons left to be opposed to all, or most, abortions.
    1. A fetus is a potential life. Who are you to decide that that life does not get a chance to live?
    2. It is morally wrong to end a potential life while there are people out there who are willing, if not eager, to raise that child.

    • Libby Anne

      Kay – The readers leaving these comments aren’t necessarily saying these are arguments they find convincing – in fact, most of the commenters on this thread so far are 100% pro-choice. My goal here is to collect any arguments people have heard against abortion, whether they find them convincing or not. And sadly, those arguments you find so ridiculous are ones I’ve heard as well – and that’s part of the problem, that some in the pro-life movement are willing to use dishonest or false arguments like that. When I create the threads to discuss/refute these arguments, I think some will be fairly simple – for instance, the argument that women who have abortions end up with “post abortion trauma” or something of that sort – and some will be more complicated and likely more interesting – such as the discussion of whether a fetus should be considered a person.

      • Kay

        I just think it’s a waste of time to argue against such easily disproved lies. Maybe you should lump them all together and ask if anyone sees any truth or merit in those types of statements? I also think you should consider lumping all the “God” arguments together, since they will all boil down to whose religious beliefs are “right” and whether God even exists. But that’s just my opinion, it’s your blog, do what you want!

      • Libby Anne

        Oh, I do agree! I think I will group all of the “abortion is bad for women’s health, physically and mentally” arguments together. What I think would be useful is to bring together specific studies or statistics or webpages that refute this idea, so that it’s all in one place and easy to go back to. Thing is, growing up I thought that the argument I quote above was factually true. I had no idea that it’s not. So even though the argument is simply wrong, I think it’s important to be able to counter it with “that’s wrong, see XYZ study” or “that’s wrong because it doesn’t take into account XYZ.” I may also group all the arguments that invoke God together as well – thank you for the idea – because in a sense it comes down to “well fine, if that’s what you think your God wants, then follow that, but in this country you can’t force others to abide by your personal religious beliefs.” Any discussion on those arguments, then, would likely be, well, short.

  • ScottInOH

    As I’ve said on previous threads, the argument that still concerns me is a version of L’Ann’s #1, along with elaborations by Bob Wheeler, Falls Apart, Niemand, and Ryan Stauffer. That is, not only are we not sure when human life begins, but the history of progressive thought has been the continual expansion of the number of groups we consider fully human. Are we going to wake up in 20 years or 50 years or whatever and find the failure to grant fetuses the title of “human” just as horrifying as we now find the failure to grant slaves the title of “human” in the past?

    • CLDG

      Yeah, this gets me too. Discovering feminism has made me finally understand what pro-choice really means and how I can’t help but be it, but it also introduced me to the concepts of privilege and oppression and marginalized persons and I keep thinking about where and could a fetus fit into that, but I’ve never brought it up to discuss anywhere because it seems too trolly.

    • Nicola

      That reminds me of Susan B. Anthony’s argument, that we (feminists) are appalled at women being treated as property yet wish to treat our children as such.

    • ScottInOH

      I think this comment got eaten; sorry if it’s a double post.

      Additional note: I think the uncertainty of the humanness of the zygote/embryo/fetus may open the door to thinking about exceptions. For example:

      We don’t know if it’s a baby, so if the woman did something she knew might result in pregnancy, better safe than sorry (i.e., prohibit abortion rather than risk killing a baby).

      On the other hand, we don’t know if it’s a baby, so if the pregnancy was involuntary, then maybe we shouldn’t compound that horror just to avoid the risk of maybe killing a baby.

      (I don’t think I buy this, but it may be part of the thinking of people who oppose abortion except in some cases.)

    • Niemand

      Are we going to wake up in 20 years or 50 years or whatever and find the failure to grant fetuses the title of “human” just as horrifying as we now find the failure to grant slaves the title of “human” in the past?

      I think that there is an excellent reason to believe that the answer to this question is “no”, but will save it for the thread discussing the issue. (I’ve been batting my hand away from the mouse because a lot of these are arguments that are just begging to be refuted, but I think this is one of the ones that gets to the average pro-choice person more than most because most pro-choice people are, on some level, liberals who believe in equality and are worried that they are oppressing someone, even accidentally.)

  • EmuSam

    I’m not sure if there’s actually an argument against abortion in this, but when you mentioned 100% pro-choice and I realized I’m only 90% pro-choice, I figured I had to explore that.

    Around the time I was 8, at a nature preserve, a park ranger was very emphatic that we should not step off the trail because our feet in the soft mud would kill millions of bacteria or amoebas or * which were only known to exist in that location. In the intervening years, there have literally been times when I could not take another step for fear of what I would kill.

    I’ve mostly gotten over that, and I’m even not a vegetarian any more, but I usually don’t try to justify it to myself morally because I start to go in circles, and I can’t bring myself to accept as axiomatic that humans are more important that other life forms. Recently I’ve had some luck with reciprocity, but I still get hung up on selfishness, in an its-okay-if-someone-else-does-it-but-I-have-to-be-perfect way.

    So abortions are bad because don’t kill anything, even non-sentient stuff.

    As I said, abject apologies; and full support for people’s choices, whether they involve having children or aborting zygotes or a range in between. That extra 10% squeamishness is not worth impacting other peoples’ lives over.

  • Elise

    1. Abortion teaches a woman that the fetus she carries is a potential waste product and devalues her as a person.
    2. Abortion makes it easier for a man to talk a woman into sex which also demeans her.

  • peicurmudgeon

    Good reason to be against abortion
    1. (Null)

  • CLDG

    Arguments that in my post-conservative state still resonate:
    1- most basic and what, like you, I used to think was all there was: it’s human life that is developing into a formed person and shouldn’t be deprived of life. Post 1st T abortions are barbaric and horrific.
    Then, I guess you could say more overall cultural ones:
    2- abortion allows the commodification of children like discussed by Naomi Wolfe in Misconceptions (I believe). (And I think someone else was on this track above:) When parenting is such a Choice, allows for extra judgment and punishment of mothers, particularly mothers who are deemed less worthy of our increasingly high middle-class parenting standards.
    3- The ableism is really hard to get past. When that stat came out a few years ago about 90% of Down’s pregnancies aborted, it was a gut punch. I still couldn’t tell, much less force, any one of those parents that they HAD to raise a Down’s child, but damn.

  • C

    One I’ve heard, but haven’t seen mentioned so far, is the one where “Women are forced to get abortions by their parents, or especially by abusive/uncaring boyfriends who don’t want the baby, even when the women actually want the baby.”

  • Emily

    Abortion is big business, therefore abortion performing doctors and facilities have great incentive to manipulate disadvantaged (e.g. scared, poor, single, non-health-insured) pregnant women into having abortions. If a woman goes in for an abortion and at some point says she’s changed her mind, she’s told she’s not allowed to change her mind and is cajoled into having the abortion unless she’s brave enough to stand up to the employees pushing her along.

  • Uly

    About the only GOOD argument I can think of that covers all abortions or all abortions past a certain fetal age is “It’s a person, therefore it’s murder”.

    I don’t find it a very compelling argument for the vast majority of abortions. We might all disagree on when something becomes a person, but you have to have at least a few brain cells to rub together! Most abortions occur before that time. Afterwards it might get a little tricky, because obviously there can be no real dividing line where all fetuses prior to this are not people* and all ones after that point are. However, abortions that might bump into that dividing line (however fuzzy it might be) aren’t really all that common, and mostly have to do with health anyway.

    I suppose another argument might be the “Well, abortions are eugenics” argument, but it actually is possible to be both pro-choice AND anti-eugenics. (In practicality, you may have to be more firmly on one side or another. In my case, I’m a bit more firmly pro-choice, even the choices I don’t agree with. That includes, incidentally, the choice NOT to abort. Except in some very extreme situations, I don’t think it’s my business to tell people not to have children.)

    * Historically, not all societies have even accepted newborns as people. Infanticide is the normal recourse of people who have no access to either effective birth control or abortion, and while many infanticides historically (especially socially sanctioned ones) were of a variety where the parents could convince themselves that some nice person saved their baby and raised it, the fact is that many many babies have died that way shortly after birth. In our modern society we’re really very lucky that people generally don’t find themselves having to make that choice.

  • Cluisanna

    If you want more ridiculous arguments against the option of abortion, look at this site. I’m still not sure whether this is genuine or not.

  • Jaimie

    I once heard a pro-lifer say that abortion causes breast cancer.

    • Cyn

      And ovarian cancer, and osteoperosis. Also, that breastfeeding prevents all these, so obviously you have a death wish if you don’t give birth, then breastfeed also.

  • http://TheBereanObserver Bob Wheeler

    I think we need to make a distinction between moral arguments against abortion (it’s the destruction of an innocent human being, and we have a responsibility to care for our offspring), and pragmatic ones (it causes potential harm to the mother, etc.)
    As for when life begins, it used to be, prior to the 19th Century, that abortion was legal before the moment of “quickening” — the time when the mother could feel the baby moving inside the womb. The theory was that that was when the baby acquired a soul and became a living human being. Advances in medical science, however, demonstrated that gestation was a continuous process that started at the moment of conception. It was at about that time that most states changed their abortion laws to make abortion illegal at any stage of the pregnancy.
    What is especially disconcerting about Roe v. Wade is that the justices admitted that they did not know when the fetus becomes a person, but said that it didn’t matter. They treated the definition of “person” as a legal technicality. Thus, as far as they were concerned, abortion might very well involve the destruction of an innocent human being.

  • Steve Kellmeyer

    If abortion is legal for the woman, child support cannot be compelled from the man.
    This argument was advanced by Karen DeCrow, former president of NOW.

  • Christine

    I don’t think I’ve seen it, apologies if this is a duplicate – what about the father? Women can abort a child that the father really wanted to have. (This argument doesn’t sound that bad until you get to cases like the recent one, somewhere in the Maritimes, I can’t remember where, where a man sabotaged their condoms to get his partner pregnant so that she’d say. But I think that this argument should probably be addressed from the point of view of a man who accidentally got a woman pregnant but would like to keep the baby, for fairness.)

    • Christy

      What about the grandparents? It is their grandchild, right? Should they have an option of raising the child?

  • Rosie

    My cousin recently posted on FB, “it has a heartbeat three weeks after conception, and that’s a scientific fact, not religious dogma”. Printed on a picture of a somewhat older fetus.

    • Stony

      There is a reason some people want to legislate intrauterine ultrasounds. Once I saw my baby’s heartbeat (at 6 weeks), even though there was just a blob of cells with an electric pulse on the screen, for me, personally, and only me, there was no option any longer of terminating the pregnancy. (But I was lucky as this was a planned pregnancy and only became high-risk late in term.) There’s my anti-abortion argument for the day.

  • machintelligence

    No one has yet addressed the problem with using abortion as a primary form of birth control, so here goes: (Wait! I hear you say. Who in their right mind would do that? — Those with no access to birth control, for whatever reason, and those who feel that birth control is “worse” than abortion, again for whatever reason.)

    First– safety: While abortion in the first trimester is much safer than giving birth 0.6 vs 8.1 maternal deaths per 100,000 events (both presume a clinical setting, for “back alley” abortions I have no numbers, but they are very hazardous), most methods of birth control are much safer. I was unable to easily locate any numbers on this, but death is not usually listed as a possible side effect for most forms of birth control.

    Second– cost: Abortions cost $300 -800 (chemically induced) or $300-950 (surgical, first trimester) while birth control costs $15 – 50 per month for hormonal methods or a variable, but presumably lower amount, for barrier methods. (My source is Planned Parenthood.) Of course the frequency with which abortions would be needed depends on average time to conception. For a fertile couple, using no contraception, this is on the order of 6 months.

    Third–convenience: No numbers here, but birth control wins hands down.

    From the above it is easily seen that abortion is an inferior form of birth control.

    • Christine

      American statistics terrify me. 0.8 maternal deaths per 10,000??

      This brings up one important thing: Is this series on abortion going to address the different ways in which the word is used? I remember a study of I believe grade 6 students, where they discovered that most were fairly well educated on sexuality and birth control, but one question where a lot of students failed was whether the morning after pill caused abortions. It was phrased as “oh, students don’t understand how this works” in the summary of results, but I suspect it was due to ideological differences, where some people use abortion more as a moral term than a medical ones; ensuring that a fertilized ovum will not result in birth vs terminating a pregnancy after implantation.

      The columnist who wrote about birth control being so awful (which was brought to mind by this post) was using the morning after pill, not abortificants (why does my spell check not recognise that word? In fact, it suggests “antiabortionists”…)

      • Niemand

        American statistics terrify me. 0.8 maternal deaths per 10,000??

        Um…actually, it’s closer to 1.5 deaths per 10,000, per the CDC. Not including deaths from trauma related to abusive partners who batter their partners during pregnancy.

      • Christine

        I just followed that link, and looked up infant mortality as well. It’s one thing to know intellectually that the big country just to the South, which you always assume is pretty much the same as yours, is so badly off. It’s another thing to actually look at the numbers. I think this might say something about why the abortion debate seems to be so much bigger in the US. (Except that the reason it’s not as big here is that no politician touches it!)

      • Libby Anne

        Not having universal health insurance or universal healthcare does make a difference. Even with Obamacare requiring everyone to have health insurance, that doesn’t fix the problem – many insurance plans have such high deductibles that it makes more sense to stay home and ride a health problem out. I feel that pressure myself.

      • Niemand

        I have an interesting statistic with respect to maternal mortality in the US and risk of pregnancy relative to other activities, but will save it for the debunking thread.

      • Christine

        There’s other issues beyond health coverage – it’s a cultural thing too. Even if a woman has good coverage, and can easily afford the deductibles, appointments generally would involve taking time off of work. From everything I’ve heard, American workplace culture discourages this. There’s also little issues, like the fact that Diclectin is illegal in the US. And the anti-science movements. Sure, neither of those are going to result in that many deaths, due to the small number of women affected in each case, but they add up.

    • Emily

      I’ve heard the “abortion as a primary method of birth control” describing the condition in socialist/communist countries. I think the examples I heard discussed were Russia and the Ukraine, where it’s common for women to have upwards of a dozen abortions. Btw, this is a fun comment thread because there’s no onus on me to fact check or cite a source. But I guess that’s part of the point, isn’t it?

      • machintelligence

        Well… it’s not required, but it is appreciated.

      • Emily

        But that’s how pro-life (and many other) arguments and positions get constructed. They’re made of narratives which are heart wrenching, anecdotal, and passed verbally. So, it becomes to an individual, post-abortion trauma is real because the volunteer I know at the crisis pregnancy center hears these women’s stories and she told me. And I know that in godless places with socialized medicine abortion is a primary form of birth control because the missionary I heard give a presentation talked about the women he knew of in Russia having dozens of abortions. While anonymous, the stories of women who have had abortions and their partners, family, etc. are canonized and passed on. And since nobody gets up in a Women of Faith conference and confesses, “I had an abortion 9 years ago, nothing negative happened as a result, and I’m sure glad I made that decision,” it certainly appears as if the tearful stories of pain and loss are the only abortion stories. In fact, I think it’s important to consider this social construction of the pro-life position and stories of pain in the treatment of this issue.

      • machintelligence

        Further evidence that the plural of anecdote is not data.

  • Caitlin

    Here are some arguments that I did not see

    1. Legal abortion defined by the state can lead to state-coerced abortion, as is sometimes seen in China. It is important to recognize that legalizing abortion can ALSO be about controlling women’s fertility.
    2. Legal abortion allows the normalizing of abortion for potentially unethical reasons, such as valuing one gender over the other or not beliving those with disabilities can have lives worth living.
    3. Legal abortion, when considered societally acceptable, can make women feel pressured to have abortions for the convenience of others (for instance, not having a child with a disability because of the burden to the state). This kind of thinking can also lead to a belief that if a woman CAN choose abortion, she alone should bear the responsibilities of childrearing (so no welfare, public schools, maternity leave…)
    4. Abortion rates did not change substantially after Roe v. Wade, so women will obviously still be able to get abortions. Making it illegal is a moral statement. Just because we know people [put currently illegal activity here] doesn’t mean we should make it legal.

  • Leonora F

    Argument against abortion: the attitude that it’s cruel to let certain children, such as facially disfigured children, to be born, leading to a shallow society that only values certain types of human life – most of all valuing the successful, good-looking type. The devaluing of disabled people, the idea that they shouldn’t exist; that having all Downs Syndrome kids aborted is essentially the same as ‘curing Downs Syndrome’.

    • machintelligence

      True, but just wait until genetic engineering becomes more feasible. Think about it: designer genes !

  • Evelina

    This is similar to some that have been posited, but I haven’t seen anyone put it quite this way. If the fetus doesn’t count as a person because it’s entirely dependent upon the mother for survival, that opens the door to kill born people who are entirely dependent on others, such as the seriously disabled. (I don’t agree with this but it’s an argument I’ve heard.)

  • jwall915

    I have only glanced through the comments, so this is probably repetitive, but here’s my two cents.

    1. Abortion is murder.
    2. Children are blessings from God, who wouldn’t want one?
    3. It’s an innocent life that deserves protection.
    4. If you didn’t want to get pregnant, then you shouldn’t have had sex.
    5. People will stop using birth control if they can easily obtain an abortion.
    6. They are unsafe and cause breast cancer.
    7. Most women regret having one and suffer depression, anxiety, and other mental disorders.

  • Danielle

    Dead fetuses are ground up and put into vaccines and various consumer products.

    • Judy L.

      It’s true. Atheists like me buy tins of imported aborted-fetus jelly and enjoy it on toasted crumpets with clotted cream. (Yes, that is probably the squickiest sentence I have ever written.) Thanks for giggle, Danielle. :D

  • HJ Hornbeck

    What? Sixty-odd comments, and no-one has mentioned Don Marquis? “Why Abortion Is Immoral” makes most anti-choice arguments look like chicken feed:

    There’s also the consciousness slippery slope:
    1. We grant the right to life in proportion to conscious ability.
    3. Fetuses lack consciousness.
    4. Therefore, fetuses lack a right to life.
    5. Comatose and anethsetized patients also lack consciousness.
    6. Therefore, those patients lack a right to life.
    7. Babies and infants have less consciousness than adults.
    8. Therefore, babies and infants have less right to life than adults.
    9. Points six and eight are absurd and contrary to our moral code.
    10. Therefore, level of consciousness cannot be used to determine right to life.
    which can be followed by:
    11. The next-best determiner of right to life is species; we consistently say “humans” have a right to life, and not “conscious entities,” after all.
    12. As fetuses are the same species as adult, they must have the same right to life.
    13. Therefore fetuses must be protected from harm as strongly as adults.
    14. Therefore, abortion must be opposed on moral grounds.

    There are more good ideas on this Wikipedia page:

  • Judy L.

    Stupid, Offensive, and Easily Refutable Arguments Against Abortion, just off the top of my head:
    1. Fetuses are persons, and their personhood trumps a woman’s personhood, their right to life trumps her right to self-determination and bodily autonomy. Therefore, abortion is murder.
    2. God prohibits abortion (except for the ones he causes).
    3. Unless it’s rape, having sex is signing a contract to conceive and carry to term.
    4. Even if it is rape, see #1. (Thank you, Paul Ryan.)
    5. Abortion promotes a culture of Death.
    6. Abortion allows women to avoid the consequences of sexual activity, and there must always be consequences.
    7. Abortion (and pre-natal testing) allows people to terminate pregnancies that would otherwise result in the birth of children with disabilities or children who have disorders that will cause early death, and that demeans the lives and dignity of disabled people, it interferes with God’s perfect plan, and we’re not supposed to ‘play God’ anyway.
    8. Only selfish, wicked women have abortions; good women carry to term, deliver, and place their infants for adoption.
    9. What about men’s rights to their unborn children? A woman should not be allowed to unilaterally kill an unborn child who is rightfully half owned by the father.
    10. You will regret it, you will get cancer, you will wind up infertile, you will be haunted by the ghost of your unborn child, and your abortion will result in the erosion of the family and directly contribute to the cheapening of life and the social collapse that inevitably ensues.

    I have to add, Libby, that while the anti-abortion arguments are diverse, and the approaches are equally diverse (i.e., some people will talk about religious morality and permissibility while others will take a secular view, and some will make arguments based on culturally-specific abortion practices rather than simply evaluating ‘abortion qua abortion’) I think it’s important to make the point that these arguments are made for only one reason: to impose our will onto women, to try to convince them or physically or legally prevent them from doing something we disapprove of. This is the fundamental difference between the anti-abortion agenda and the pro-choice position. A woman might find herself the subject of coercion to have an abortion (like in the case of families and cultures that prize boy children over girls), but in those situations ‘pro-choice’ arguments are not in play. Pro-choice arguments are not fodder for forcing or talking women into having abortions. There may be pragmatic arguments used to encourage a woman, especially a young woman, to choose abortion in the case of an unplanned pregnancy, but again, those aren’t “pro-choice” arguments, because all pro-choice arguments are about making it possible for women to exercise their own wills and their own choices and to have access to all the tools available to control their reproduction, including the variety of methods to terminate pregnancies. I know you asked for no refutation in this post, but, as I said, I think it’s really important to frame the “debate” truthfully, because it’s not really a debate. Pro-choice and anti-abortion positions are not actually the two sides of the ‘abortion coin’. The opposite of anti-abortion would be pro-abortion, i.e., requiring women to have abortions. Pro-choice is about preserving the right for women to choose the option of abortion for themselves and to be able to exercise that option. Anti-abortion is about claiming the right to impose your will on others, requiring women to not have abortions by making abortion services unavailable and thereby enforcing pregnancy and childbirth as the only ‘option’ once conception has occurred.

  • lisa

    I recently read that an elected official was arguing that having an abortion causes a woman to have children with disabilities as punishment from God for aborting the 1st born.

  • Skeptityke

    Here’s a good utilitarian one, only valid in certain cases.
    The thing that makes murder bad is making the victim unable to experience the rest of their life, in short, cutting it off against their will. The bad part about murder can’t be exclusively about suffering, because then it would be morally neutral to kill someone by anesthetizing them while sleeping. This factor does not change based on the development of the individual. Just take it back in time. If the negative characteristic of making the victim unable to experience the rest of their life applies to killing a 1 year old child, it also applies to a 6 month old, and then 3, and then just being born, and then -3 months… etc, back to conception. The often thrown-about benchmark for determining whether abortion should be done or not, the state of neural development of the fetus and its ability to feel pain, is actually irrelevant, since we would still consider killing someone in a completely painless way to be murder.
    There are ways to evade this conclusion in certain circumstances. Of course, in conditions where the mother’s life is at stake, along with the child’s, abortion should be done. The argument could also be made that the net negatives to bringing a new individual into an already severely resource-strained planet can justify abortion. Finally, if the mother, or child, or both, are in circumstances where the child being born would have severe negative effects on the life of the mother or child (hard life circumstances), abortion would also be permissible. However, in a non-resource-strained world, where the mother and child will not have their quality of life greatly reduced by the unwanted pregnancy, and where the life of neither are at stake, the net positive of the entire future life of the baby greatly outweighs the net negative for the mother of 9 months of inconvenience. So, in those circumstances, abortion is as wrong as murder.
    I made this myself. To the best of my knowledge, it is a novel argument.

    • Landon

      The future-value argument is not novel, but good on you for coming up with it independently.

  • jemand

    What about derails such as, why are you talking about abortion rights before we’ve fixed x y and z worse thing? A prioritizing of values on the limited energies one can expend on social disagreements, in which fighting for abortion rights just isn’t worth taking the time and energy away from something else, and the downside of losing abortion rights isn’t important enough to make it matter.

    I suppose a variant of it could also apply the other way around too, an argument that the ills of abortion are low enough in the face of worse issues that need fixing, and given limited resources, should be abandoned to fight on another front…

    But regardless, I don’t think it’s necessarily just on the level of “which side of this argument has the best case” but even “given the limited amount of time we have to engage with the world and try to change it, why is *this* argument worth having?”

  • Landon

    I think my original comment got lost, somehow, so here goes a condensed version – find Don Marquis’ “An Argument that Abortion is Wrong” (I think that’s the right title). It’s the strongest purely secular argument against abortion I know of. Fortunately, it’s beatable, but it serves as a useful model for what kind of argument can be mounted against abortion when you rule out all supernatural premises. [Rosalind Hursthouse has a secular argument that is kinda/sorta/not-really/maybe anti-abortion, but I think virtue arguments fail on other grounds, so I didn't include that]

    • jemand

      the condensed version is itself a link to somewhere else? You can’t put it in a comment?

      Oh there’s another argument. “Abortion is wrong because of an argument that takes longer than a hundred years to comprehend” (I like coming up with esoteric bending what the argument is about arguments, apparently)

      • Landon

        Well, I am hesitant to do a capsule version of what was carefully argued in a full length paper, but Marquis’ argument is essentially the “future like ours” argument that skeptityke seems to have stumbled upon independently. It does not require any notion of the soul to sustain the argument – Marquis’ argument seems to go through if we allow (a) that a fetus is something that will eventually have a “future like ours” (i.e., a human life) and (b) that depriving anyone of his or her future is morally wrong.

        The argument is quite strong on its face, but it has several weaknesses. For instance, it seems to generate the conclusion that contraception is just as wrong as abortion, as it is basically a secular “every sperm is sacred” argument. Marquis demurs this conclusion, but Alastair Norcross has show that it does, in fact, follow from his argument as it stands. If you’re not willing to treat that as a reductio in itself, Ann Cudd has a good argument that even if we allow that a fetus has a right to its future life, this is not enough to decide the case. Once we come to that conclusion, add in a Talented Violinist and you’ve got a good rebuttal to Marquis.

  • Evelina

    A friend of mine just shared an article on Facebook that claimed that childbirth is medically safer for the mother than an abortion. This pretty much falls in with the “abortion harms the mother’s future fertility and/or psychological well-being” but the article claims that abortions are connected to higher mortality rates for women who’ve had them.

    • LeftSidePositive

      False–every OB-GYN I’ve talked to says that the mortality rate of full-term pregnancy in the United States is about 7 to 8 times higher (NOT 7-8 percent–a FACTOR OF SEVEN+, that is to say 700%-800%) than a first-trimester abortion. Later-term abortions are more risky than 1st trimester ones, but they still only approach, but do not surpass, the risk of death of full-term pregnancy.

      I can’t recall the paper from whence my professors got the 7-8 fold figure that they quoted in their lectures, but a recent study published in Obstetrics & Gynecology in February 2012 found the rate of death from delivering a term baby to be FOURTEEN times higher than induced abortion:

      The way the forced-pregnancy brigade generally tries to paint abortion as more dangerous is they look at the entire year or more after the abortion or delivery, and look at all-cause mortality–but people who choose abortion (never mind the fact that similar studies anti-choicers have linked me to are comparing people choosing abortions with ALL pregnant women, including those carrying wanted pregnancies!) are more likely to be poor, more likely to have unstable living situations, more likely to have physical and mental health problems before their pregnancy, MUCH less likely to have regular access to health care (or they would probably been on birth control in the first place!), etc., etc., etc. SO, it’s not the abortion that’s dangerous–it’s all the bad life circumstances that make one need an abortion, and those don’t go away by forcing someone to have a kid!

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