The illogic that pro-abortion people embrace as wisdom

With Texas having passed a law that authorizes private citizens to sue those who carry out or facilitate abortion on a fetus with a heartbeat, the anti-abortion crowd has gone wild.  They've filled my Facebook page with panic and venom.  One of the most popular memes — which pro-abortion people view as extraordinarily wise — likens laws against abortion to hypothetical laws that force people to donate bone marrow or allow their bodies to be used for scientific experimentation.  Even reading what I wrote, you may have seen the logical fallacy, but let me expand upon it anyway.

Here's the post that I'm seeing over and over again and that has apparently been shared at least 100,000 times on Facebook:

Last night, I was in a debate about these new abortion laws being passed in red states. My son stepped in with this comment which was a show stopper. One of the best explanations I have read:

Reasonable people can disagree about when a zygote becomes a "human life" — that's a philosophical question. However, regardless of whether or not one believes a fetus is ethically equivalent to an adult, it doesn't obligate a mother to sacrifice her body autonomy for another, innocent or not.

Body autonomy is a critical component of the right to privacy protected by the Constitution, as decided in Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), McFall v. Shimp (1978), and of course Roe v. Wade (1973). Consider a scenario where you are a perfect bone marrow match for a child with severe aplastic anemia; no other person on earth is a close enough match to save the child's life, and the child will certainly die without a bone marrow transplant from you. If you decided that you did not want to donate your marrow to save the child, for whatever reason, the state cannot demand the use of any part of your body for something to which you do not consent. It doesn't matter if the procedure required to complete the donation is trivial, or if the rationale for refusing is flimsy and arbitrary, or if the procedure is the only hope the child has to survive, or if the child is a genius or a saint or anything else — the decision to donate must be voluntary to be constitutional. This right is even extended to a person's body after they die; if they did not voluntarily commit to donate their organs while alive, their organs cannot be harvested after death, regardless of how useless those organs are to the deceased or how many lives they would save. That's the law.

Use of a woman's uterus to save a life is no different from use of her bone marrow to save a life — it must be offered voluntarily. By all means, profess your belief that providing one's uterus to save the child is morally just, and refusing is morally wrong. That is a defensible philosophical position, regardless of who agrees and who disagrees. But legally, it must be the woman's choice to carry out the pregnancy. She may choose to carry the baby to term. She may choose not to. Either decision could be made for all the right reasons, all the wrong reasons, or anything in between. But it must be her choice, and protecting the right of body autonomy means the law is on her side. Supporting that precedent is v/hat being pro- choice means.

Let me break down the main points in this, two of which are completely wrong and one of which is morally repugnant:

Wrong statement No. 1: "Reasonable people can disagree about when a zygote becomes a 'human life' — that's a philosophical question."  No, it's not a philosophical question.  A zygote is a human life at the earliest stage of development.  There's no chance that it's going to turn into a fish, a cat, or a toaster.  If it survives, based upon its existing genetic make-up, it will inevitably become a recognizable human being.

Repugnant statement: "regardless of whether or not one believes a fetus is ethically equivalent to an adult."  Once you admit that, as a biological fact, a fetus is a human being, to then start parsing whether it is "ethically equivalent to an adult" (and why not to a child or baby?) has all the moral implications of inquiring whether Black or Jewish or Polish or Catholic human beings (or whatever other distinction you wish to make) are morally equivalent to each other.  If they're not — if one is less than the other — you've already started justifying genocide.

Wrong statement No. 2: Here's where we get to the huge logical fallacy, and I bet most of you already figured it out.  This analysis tries to say the arguments that apply to saving a life are the same as the arguments that apply to taking a life.

The premise is that you have it within your power, by allowing an invasive medical procedure, to save the life of someone else.  If you act, that person will live; if you do nothing, that person will die.  Certainly, that's an interesting ethical conundrum about our duty to our fellow man.

But here's the key sentence: "Use of a woman's uterus to save a life is no different from use of her bone marrow to save a life — it must be offered voluntarily."  The woman's uterus is not being used to "save a life."  Absent an act of God (i.e., miscarriage), that life will continue to exist if the woman does nothing.  What ends the life is an affirmative act — namely, abortion.

The sentence also ignores the reality that women's primary purpose for existing — and I really hate to say this — is to incubate babies.  Nature doesn't care about women's liberation.  All it cares about is that a species can procreate.

Giving life, therefore, is an integral part of the female identity.  It does not require an affirmative act.  It simply is.  This is quite different from the post's hypothetical, which imagines an affirmative act to save a life.

One of my favorite series of books ever is C.S. Lewis's Narnia collection.  Since I was raised in a non-religious (albeit very Jewish) environment, his books probably did more to shape my intellectual and moral landscape more than anything else I read as a child.

In the first published Narnia book (The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe), the two older children approach a professor because they're concerned that their younger sister, Lucy, is crazy.  The reason is that she claims that she traveled to a magical land and, indeed, that their other brother, Edmund, was there too.  Edmund denies this.

The professor asks the older children two questions: first, who is more honest — Edmund or Lucy?  The older children unhesitatingly say Lucy is.  The second question is whether Lucy is insane.  No, of course not, they respond.  The professor (who himself had been to Narnia) follows up like this:

"Logic!" said the Professor half to himself. "Why don't they teach logic at these schools? There are only three possibilities. Either your sister is telling lies, or she is mad, or she is telling the truth. You know she doesn't tell lies and it is obvious that she is not mad. For the moment then and unless any further evidence turns up, we must assume that she is telling the truth."

When I read that post equating saving a life to taking a life, and learn that it's been shared over 100,000 times, with people blinded by its brilliance, all I can think of is "Logic!  Why don't they teach logic at these schools?"

Image: Human fetus at 10 weeks by drsuparna.  CC BY-SA 2.0.

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