Do Pro-Life Advocates Want to Reduce Abortion? Sure Doesn’t Look Like It.

Do Pro-Life Advocates Want to Reduce Abortion? Sure Doesn’t Look Like It. May 4, 2016

Illegal pro-choice abortion pro-lifeThis 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:

Some mornings it just doesn’t seem worth it
to gnaw through the leather straps.
— Emo Phillips

Image credit: Alan O’Rourke, flickr, CC

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • igotbanned999

    The arguments I’ve heard from pro-lifers are along the lines of:

    “Using contraception to decrease abortion instead of just banning it is like teaching men how to beat their wives gently and safely instead of just banning wifebeating altogether”

    Someone seriously made that argument.

    • lady_black

      Except that with contraception, nobody is being “beaten” at all. For that matter, neither is anyone being “beaten” in abortion. I don’t think I could listen to an argument like that without laughing out loud.

      • igotbanned999

        From their perspective, non-procreative sex outside of marriage is just as bad as murder…

        • lady_black

          That and $1.50 will buy them a nice cup of gas station coffee.

        • Rudy R

          Because a very small Jewish culture over 2,000 years ago said so.

        • igotbanned999

          Basically

    • T-Paine

      What a stupid argument.

    • Anat

      Considering Christian child-rearing texts teach the ‘correct’ way to hit a child, this is ironic.

    • Cygnus

      What is stupid in the “pro-life” argument is that contraception is used to decrease abortion. They are idiots, contraception is used to decrease unwanted pregnancies.
      But what what kind of intelligent argument can you expect from rtl-ers?

      • Jeff Baker

        If you use contraception there is NO pregnancy!

        • Cygnus

          It doesn’t matter if I use or not contraception, I can’t get pregnant anyway. But I can have sex. What’s your point?

    • Did banning wife beating stop it? Perhaps their comparison is apt in a way they didn’t anticipate.

  • Lizard

    That’s because fixes that actually work acknowledge that women have rights to their bodies, which is what anti-choice advocates don’t want. They want to control the sexuality of women by keeping them barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen. I can’t believe there are people who don’t see this. Their rhetoric couldn’t make it more obvious.

    • Greg G.

      Their early arguments begin with, “if she didn’t want a baby, she shouldn’t have had sex in the first place” but when they realize how poor that argument is, instead of reconsidering their position, they search for a new rationalization.

      • TheNuszAbides

        sanctimony precludes backing down, and since the position wasn’t rational to begin with, rationalization would seem to be the only option

  • lady_black

    “Their goal isn’t to reduce murder, it’s to control sex. That whole abortion = murder thing is just a smokescreen.”
    Ding, ding, ding, ding! We have a winner!

  • Dannorth

    Thanks for the link to Valerie Tarico’s excellent article.

    That I couldn’t read without many a cynical chuckle about the chances of these propositions being seriously considered by the forced-birthers.

    As you yourself has said it’s not about reducing abortions.

    But if nothing else it can be used to show them the gulf between what they do and what they say they want to achieve.

    • TheNuszAbides

      as with apologetics, it’s primarily if not exclusively for the benefit of his fellow Bog-botherers, and any fence-sitters inclined to lazy thinking/searching (on the subject or regarding morality, moralizing or policy in general).

  • Sheila Warner

    Did you ever take notice that the passage in Leviticus only condemns men for homosexual acts, but not women who have sex with each other? The prohibition is not connected to sexual orientation, but the types of settings in which men had sex with other men. Christians can’t point to Leviticus to condemn LGBTQ orientations in the 21st century.

    • T-Paine

      And in the same breath say that Leviticus was for the ancient Israelites and that the old covenant is obsolete.

    • I believe the Romans passage mentions lesbians (unfavorably).

      • Sheila Warner

        It does. But it’s specific to pagan Temple worship, isn’t it?

        • Rom. 1:26 says, “Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones.”

          I’m not sure I see immoderate temple worship (temple prostitutes, for example) in there. The problem IMO is first the “God gave them over” thing. They were naturally held back from this … but then God pushed them to do it?

          The second problem is “natural sexual relations.” I assume this means that natural heterosexuals are having homosexual sex. That is definitely messed up, but that has nothing to do with ordinary homosexuality.

    • Rudy R

      The Leviticus condemnation to male homosexuality was less about morality and more about the promotion of baby-making. Quite simply, the Jewish leaders during the time of the Pentateuch were promoting male-female relationships to increase the Jewish population. Slapping Yahweh’s name as the originator would increase the likelihood of success to the policy. We see god-endorsements throughout the OT, that were more to do with pushing political planks than to moral declarations inspired from the Magic Man.

  • Eric_Dunham

    This article shows a deep lack of understanding of the the Christians it’s purportedly written for…

    • Susan

      This article shows a deep lack of understanding of the the Christians it’s purportedly written for…

      Then, enlighten us.

    • T-Paine

      No, it doesn’t.

      • Eric_Dunham

        Okay. Your depth of argument has astonished me into agreement.

        • Michael Neville

          His rebuttal of your unevidenced assertion is all that’s required. When you show how there’s a “deep lack of understanding” then a discussion can ensue. Until then, saying “yer rong” is sufficient.

        • Eric_Dunham

          Perhaps, if the rebuttal’s assertion wasn’t so fatally flawed. 🙂

        • Cygnus

          Better a “fatally flawed” assertion than a silly burping of yours.

        • Cygnus

          You stopped short where you were supposed to expand your idea, explaining why “this article shows a deep lack of understanding of the the Christians it’s purportedly written for…”

          So, because you did not bring any kind of argument, barely an in depth one, any kind of reply, including “No, it doesn’t.”, is a lot more intelligent than you fatuous observation.

        • Eric_Dunham

          *Your, and I think you meant unsubstantiated. Being unsubstantiated is not the same as fatuous.

          The problem is of course that I was not arguing, I was observing, as you seem to have noticed, but you’re trying to hold me to the standard of argument, a standard which I’m not willing to uphold, as I’m otherwise engaged.

        • Cygnus

          “The problem is of course that I was not arguing”

          Then correct your problem and stop pointing.

        • Eric_Dunham

          I have no problem. Neither do I have time to placate you.

        • Cygnus

          You described your problem then you had time to placate me. You’re wasting your time with inane replies.

          Go ahead and substantiate your claim that “This article shows a deep lack of understanding of the the Christians it’s purportedly written for…”

          I am waiting for an intelligent answer, about the topic of the article you’re criticizing, I am curious to see if you have one.

        • lady_black

          He can start by substantiating his idea that the article was written for Christians.

        • Eric_Dunham

          Fair point. I’ll edit it accordingly.

        • Cygnus

          He’s unable to articulate any intelligent idea. As you can see, he’s only able to waste other people time, answering to his inane replies.

        • Eric_Dunham

          Tut-tut. No need to be so condescending, my anserine friend.

        • Michael Neville

          Why not? You make a statement and then wasted time saying you wouldn’t justify it until you finally got off your dead ass to respond to requests for amplification. Condescension is what your pomposity deserved.

        • Eric_Dunham

          Haha. Assumptions of what I was or was not doing are unjustified.

          Again, condescension is unnecessary.

        • Michael Neville

          Okay, how about fuck off? Or even eat shit and bark at the moon? No condescension involved in telling you that you’re a useless piece of shit.

          Look, asswipe, if you want to play silly games then I’ll be happy to oblige. Your choice, tosser.

        • Eric_Dunham

          You seem to be a very pleasant type. .-.

        • Michael Neville

          I can be a very pleasant type. However I can be a very unpleasant type. It all depends on the person I’m interacting with. As I said, it’s your choice if we play silly games. Now it appears you don’t want to but when I told you to fuck off it appeared that you did want to.

        • Eric_Dunham

          As far as playing silly games, I didn’t want to engage with people who simply want to fight. I should have made my point sooner, perhaps, but I underestimated the crowd here, since—outside of your comments—everybody’s been willing to actually have a discussion, even if they disagree with me.

          I guess I’m more used to internet polemic than actual discussion.

        • Michael Neville

          When I wrote my comment all I saw from you was obfuscation about your “misunderstanding Christians” claimand whining about condescension. It wasn’t until later that you finally decided to engage us with why you had made your “misunderstanding” assertion. It took some prodding to get you to discuss your accusation with us. Apparently telling you to fuck off helped in that regard.

        • Eric_Dunham

          At the point you made this comment, I’d already answered the question and was discussing with anyone who continued to engage me… Including yourself. (You can see below where I replied to your comments)

        • Michael Neville

          While you had actually responded like an adult, having backed away from the whiny brat mode you were in before, your comment was below mine and I hadn’t read it yet. That’s why I specifically said “when I wrote my comment all I saw from you….”

          Do you have any more whines and wails?

        • Eric_Dunham

          No, I have nothing further to say on this subject. I think my point has been well made, despite your attempt to disregard it.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          You made a blanket statement that’s controversial, and then declined to provide evidence.

          Soooo, evidence or STFU & GTFO.

        • Eric_Dunham

          The fatal flaw in the article is simple: assuming that christians see some evils as inherently worse than others in the same way that others do. Consider, for example, that their heroes are as likely as not to be murderers.

          Which of course makes perfect sense if you consider life on earth as a “trial period” for a much longer life with some god who makes streets of gold and takes all your pains away for ever and ever, as long as you follow the rules their particular church sets.

          Also, since their god is all-loving and nonjudgmental (eyeroll), he will of course save all the fetuses.

          And that’s not even getting into the idea of the soul, which of course is far more important than the body…

          So, in conclusion, seeing abortion as murder is not incompatible with their worldview, not by a long shot. And that is exactly why this article shows a deep lack of understanding of Christianity.

        • lady_black

          That depends on what “Christian” you talk to. Catholics and some others believe the unbaptized go to “hell.” That’s why trying to address “Christians” on an atheist blog is pointless. They can’t even agree among themselves, even to what defines a Christian.

        • Eric_Dunham

          I would agree with that. You can’t argue a religion’s beliefs from the outside.

          Side note, Catholics believe in purgatory, don’t they?

        • lady_black

          Eh… in theory, yes. But purgatory is for the baptized.

        • Eric_Dunham

          Thanks for clarifying! I’m not familiar with Catholicism.

        • Michael Neville

          So you make claims for Christians without knowing much about the largest sect. Seems like you’re the one without an understanding of Christians.

        • Cygnus

          Now we are going somewhere. But too much time was wasted to make you to get to the point.

        • T-Paine

          #Ignorethetroll

        • lady_black

          As has already been explained in previous posts, “abortion = murder” is just something they SAY. They do not ACT as though an embryo is a “really for sure person” and as though they really BELIEVE abortion =murder.
          I don’t see too many tampon funerals going on, and when you ask one what the penalty should be if abortion = murder, you get mostly blank stares and equivocation.
          They have zero proof that souls exist. They have zero proof that a zygote is a human being. And they don’t behave as though they believe a word that they. themselves, say. So how seriously is a reasonable person supposed to take them?

        • Eric_Dunham

          There is a distinct difference between ovum and zygote. One has a complete genetic code, giving it the ability to grow, the other does not. So nobody proposes tampon funerals because there is no way to claim the ovum is a person.
          I have, however, seen funerals held for miscarried fetuses, or even first trimester embryos. (Complete with names and burials)
          When addressing punishment, a lack of a clear stance, or even an unwillingness to impose punishment, is not an admission that you don’t think something is wrong. Most abolitionists left slave owners alone after emancipation, even though they literally fought a war to prove their moral position.

          As far as souls, they don’t need proof because god and jesus and stuff.

        • lady_black

          A zygote is not a person. And having graduated nursing school, I’ve forgotten more about the subject than you’ll know.
          Most zygotes don’t end up as babies. Most end up on a tampon, or a sanitary pad, or in the toilet, as they pass harmlessly out of the woman’s body without ever even causing a pregnancy.
          Of those that do implant, about 25% are shed before the woman even knows it exists. So yeah… to be consistent there should be tampon funerals if there was even a chance that one contained a blastocyst.

        • Eric_Dunham

          I am actually aware of all of those statistics, but arguing that someone should mourn every period if they believe in embryonic humanity simply doesn’t follow.
          It might seem like a logical conclusion, but funerals are a ritual to express grief over those we knew, not those we didn’t.
          As an example, I think that neither of us would attend the funeral of someone we didn’t know, even though their humanity isn’t in doubt at all, and I think it’s even more obvious that we wouldn’t attend a funeral for somebody we didn’t know that only might have died.

        • lady_black

          That isn’t what I said. Certainly in the absence of contraception they should.
          People who use vasectomies, tubal ligations, IUDs, implants, birth control pills and condoms should be exempt.

        • lady_black

          Oh, and it certainly DOES say you don’t think something is a CRIME (not “wrong”) when there is no punishment. Otherwise, what’s the point?
          Our laws don’t address “sins” and “virtues.” Only “legal” and “illegal.”

        • Eric_Dunham

          This ignores other non-moral concerns for the sake of making an argument. For example, I can have a moral objection to people smoking, particularly around children, but choose the tact of raising smoking taxes, instead of endorsing punishment for smokers.

        • lady_black

          Then you don’t think smoking is a crime. And you’re correct. It isn’t.
          I am NOT “ignoring” moral concerns. Our United States laws simply don’t DEAL in “moral” and “immoral.” Only in “legal” and “illegal.” And never the twain shall meet..
          People have a right to be immoral, so long as they aren’t infringing upon the rights of other person.

        • Eric_Dunham

          But I can think that it should be a crime, and still not think you should be punished.
          We govern morality constantly. I mean honestly, virtually all law is made for one of two reasons: the gain of the people passing it, or to govern moral principle.

          We didn’t legalize women’s suffrage because it was legal. We legalized it because it was moral. The same with slavery, or child abuse, or neglect, or pretty much any criminal law. Even insider trading is illegal because we consider it wrong for somebody to get an upper hand because of their position.
          Where morality is a concern, the law follows.

        • lady_black

          You don’t understand the nature of a crime, then. Crimes are offenses against the state/the people. We have a secular government. It doesn’t give a hot shit about “moral principles.” Only about RIGHTS.

        • Eric_Dunham

          Secularism and morality are not exclusive, contrary to popular opinion. What I suspect you’re arguing against is the mix of religion and government. To that, I would point out that moral philosophy has a long history separate from religion.

          Consider this series of questions: What are rights? Where do they come from? Why do they matter? Why does the state protect them?

          I challenge you to give me a sound reason why they *should* (not why they are, since you could always appeal to tradition, which is not a reason) be protected that doesn’t invoke morals.

        • lady_black

          While I agree that protecting someone’s rights are the correct “moral” thing to do, that doesn’t mean that morality is the *sole* reason for a law.
          In the United States, you have the right (liberty) to swing your arm. That right (liberty) ends at the tip of someone else’s nose. Yes, that’s a simplistic way of putting it, but it illustrates the principle. You’re free to decide for yourself if swinging your arm is “moral.” At the point where your swinging arm contacts someone else’s nose, you are held legally liable for the result. That’s just how it works.

        • Eric_Dunham

          I hope I’m not not getting on your nerves. It’s been quite nice to have a decent conversation with someone that disagrees with me.
          I find that most people just want to yell, not consider the other side.

        • TheNuszAbides

          various regulars here readily yell–because they have considered ‘the’ other side at length but are still (perhaps predictably) approached with presumptions otherwise; or because they used to be on ‘the’ other side, and prefer not to suffer [e.g.] taciturn condescension at the top of a thread. i think you’ll find most of us open with clarifications and questions when engaging the less-combative.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          You’re abating harm to beings with independent existence and AGENCY.

          the conceptus has neither.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          A distinction without a difference if the parasite is unwanted.

          You’re discussing rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.

        • Michael Neville

          The fatal flaw in the article is simple: assuming that christians see some evils as inherently worse than others in the same way that others do.

          Catholics divide sins into venial (minor) and mortal (major) so some Christians do consider some evils to be worse than others.

        • Eric_Dunham

          I fear that I wasn’t clear, that was completely my fault.

          I’m not trying to argue that they don’t see division (some would claim they don’t, but I’d argue that point), but rather that those divisions are not seen from the same perspective.

        • Susan

          seeing abortion as murder is not incompatible with their worldview, not by a long shot. And that is exactly why this article shows a deep lack of understanding of Christianity.

          Thank you for clarifying.

          The article seems to be addressing the assumption (because of souls and other incoherent, unevidenced concepts) that many christians see abortion as murder.

          The trouble is that if they were consistent, they would do everything in their power to diminish the numbers of “murderable” fetuses in the first place.

          That includes comprehensive sex education and access to birth control.

          So, I don’t understand your point.

          Your explanation does nothing to alleviate the problem Bob S. is addressing in the OP.

        • I’m missing your point.

          Sure, let’s assume that pro-life Christians see abortion as murder. Did I say that this was incompatible with their worldview? What I’m saying is that the consequences of that suggest one course of action, a course of action that they don’t take–that’s the problem.

        • Greg G.

          So, in conclusion, seeing abortion as murder is not incompatible with their worldview, not by a long shot. And that is exactly why this article shows a deep lack of understanding of Christianity.

          Christian anti-abortionists make that argument but they don’t believe it as shown by their response of not arguing that it be punished like murder. Bob has made that point clear in this series.

        • Michael Neville

          If you didn’t have a problem then you wouldn’t have made the accusation that “[t]his article shows a deep lack of understanding of the the Christians it’s purportedly written for…”

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          You made an assertion

          Defend it or retract it.

        • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

          Logic 101…if the question is ‘Why?’, the only sufficient answer is ‘Because’

          But Eric_Dunham wants to belive he’s profound…

    • lady_black

      Who told you it was written for Christians?

      • Eric_Dunham

        I replied below, but I wanted to also make a note here. You’re right, it’s not written “for,” it’s written “towards.” I have corrected my statement above.

        • lady_black

          Try “written about” (as opposed to “to” or “towards”) pro-lifers.

    • Rudy R

      Please enlighten the atheist readership on the one true Christian understanding. Is having a abortion equivalent to murder, and if it is, should the mother and doctor face Federal and/or State punishment?

      BTW, most atheists in America were prior Christians, so most understand Christians and their motives.

    • RichardSRussell

      That which is adduced without evidence may safely be ignored without regret.

    • HairyEyedWordBombThrower

      I don’t give a damn what xtians think.

      I want them to allow women their civil rights to medical care.

  • Robert, not Bob

    Every time someone says they couldn’t POSSIBLY believe some insane idea that contradicts all real evidence they’re shown to be wrong. I see no reason to assume most anti-choicers don’t actually believe that banning abortion really prevents it, and that includes the leaders-they’ve been at this long enough to have a new generation raised on the rhetoric.

  • John Brooke

    Do we have statistics on the effectiveness of the proposals that should limit the number of un-planned pregnancies ?