This is the conclusion of our analysis of the question, “Does Pro-life Logic Mean Women Who Get Abortions Should Be Punished?” addressed by Greg Koukl of the Stand to Reason podcast. (Start with part 1 here.)
Pro-life advocates claim they want to reduce abortion … but do they?
Do pro-lifers really want to reduce abortion? I doubt it. Maybe some of those carrying the signs do, but their leaders, the ones pulling the strings, don’t. If they did, they wouldn’t be going about it so ineptly.
If abortion were murder, pro-lifers wouldn’t care what small nuisances replaced it. Suppose that sex education was thorough and contraceptives were easily accessible, and teenagers had safe and consensual sex. STD and abortion rates would drop dramatically. Sex outside marriage wouldn’t be these Christians’ first preference, but it’s far better than murder (that is, abortion).
Of course, few conservative Christians would accept this tradeoff. They want to reduce abortion rates, but they won’t yield prohibition on premarital sex to get it. Their goal isn’t to reduce murder, it’s to control sex. That whole abortion = murder thing is just a smokescreen.
You really want to reduce abortion? Here’s how.
They say that abortion is murder. They say that abortion in the United States is the equivalent of the Holocaust. But if they really believed that, they’d be focusing on steps that would actually work.
Koukl in his Pollyanna world pretends that making abortion illegal would eliminate abortion, but the statistics make clear that it would have little effect (see two posts ago). Only eliminating the need for abortion will be effective.
Valerie Tarico outlines the steps that would plausibly reduce the U.S. abortion rate by 90 percent in “What a Serious Anti-Abortion Movement Would Actually Look Like.” And yes, she’s saying that the current anti-abortion movement is not serious.
Her recommendations are simple, and instead of fighting pro-choice advocates, pro-lifers would actually be allied with them. If pro-lifers could get over the novelty of cooperating instead of obstructing (and ignore their leaders whose existence sometimes depends on conflict), they might be amazed at what they could get done.
Tarico’s suggestions include getting over squeamishness about sex so that children and teens can get correct and complete sex education in school and at home, focusing on sex education that works and discarding approaches that don’t, encouraging the best contraception as needed, and making sure that women in poverty have access to health care and contraception.
Pro-life advocates, look at the abortion rate. Harassing abortion providers and seekers may satisfy some need of yours, but that isn’t the way to reach your goal.
You want to reduce the abortion rate by 90 percent? Seriously? Then read and follow the guidelines in Tarico’s article and see how cooperating with pro-choice advocates would work. When you read it and conclude that you won’t take those steps, admit to yourself that you’re not serious about abortion.
How can you have a crime without a punishment?
I’ll wrap up this series by revisiting the inherent inconsistency underlying Koukl’s position, his avoidance of the punishment that goes along with the crime.
We don’t have to [determine the punishment] because that’s the second step after the first step has been solved, and this is something we are capable of doing and the rank and file too, and that is determining whether abortion itself is a genuine moral harm. (@22:13)
A “genuine moral harm?” Like what? Like murder? If so, then the punishment has already been defined, many times in many jurisdictions. Don’t call it murder unless you want to bring along the range of punishments that go with murder.
If not murder, then perhaps it’s manslaughter or some lesser kind of murder? Perhaps the woman isn’t a murderer but an accessory to murder? Those punishments have been defined as well.
If not murder of any kind, is it perhaps the moral equivalent of littering or jaywalking? In that case, it’s insignificant and you’re wasting our time.
If not something to be criminalized, perhaps it’s just a bad or immoral act that we don’t make laws against (adultery is sometimes in this category). If abortion is an example, don’t tell us you want it made illegal.
Koukl has painted himself into a corner. He desperately wants to say that abortion is murder (or something similarly bad), but he wants to drop the punishment. So he retreats by saying that abortion is a “genuine moral harm,” but what is that supposed to mean? Moral harm like murder, or moral harm like an unkind word to a stranger? Unless he tells us what abortion is (or at least what it’s like), the argument is just handwaving … but as soon as he does, there’s that unwanted punishment along for the ride.
We see this same problem with Christians opposed to homosexuality. They will point to biblical justification in Leviticus where God declares it as wrong. The problem is that God also gives the punishment: “[Both men] are to be put to death” (Leviticus 20:13). You can’t have a crime without the punishment.
When faced with fundamental problems in their arguments, too few Christians face the problem squarely and either fix the argument or discard it.
Read the first post in this series here.
Other posts on abortion:
- “What the Pro-Life Position Ignores”
- “Five Intuitive Pro-Choice Arguments”
- “20 Arguments Against Abortion, Rebutted”
- “A Defense of Abortion Rights: The Spectrum Argument”
Some mornings it just doesn’t seem worth it
to gnaw through the leather straps.
— Emo Phillips
Image credit: Alan O’Rourke, flickr, CC