A bizarre video has been making the rounds on social media recently. Titled, “Kids Meet Someone Who Had An Abortion”, the video is a group of adolescents who meet and discuss abortion with the chairwoman of the organization “Shout Your Abortion,” Amelia Bonow.
Attempting to normalize abortion in American society, the video actually does a better job of normalizing bad arguments for abortion; completely dismissing, even mocking the arguments put forward by pro-lifers without providing much in the way of a cogent argument in favor of abortion.
Let’s review the argument being made against abortion. The pro-life argument can be expressed in a syllogism:
Premise 1: It is wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being
Premise 2: Abortion intentionally kills an innocent human being
Conclusion: Therefore, abortion is wrong.
Any objection that fails to show that either premise is mistaken, or that the conclusion does not logically follow from the premises, is simply irrelevant and not worth mentioning. Unfortunately, the video tries to dismiss the pro-life argument in several ways, none of which succeed in refuting this essential argument.
They Beg The Question
The most common theme in the entire video is the host’s avoidance of the real issue: Can we kill the preborn? What is the preborn?
To use an illustration from Greg Koukl (1), suppose you are standing at your kitchen sink doing the dishes one day, and your five year old son comes up behind you and asks, “Daddy/Mommy, can I kill it?” Since your back is turned, you are not sure what he has. Obviously, before answering the question, “Can I kill it?” There is an important preceding question, “What is it?” If the little boy has a spider or a cockroach, you may tell him to go ahead and kill it. But what if he has the neighbor’s new kitten or puppy? Furthermore, what if he has another child in his hands? No, we can’t say to go ahead and kill something if we don’t know what it is.
The problem with the video is the spokeswoman for “Shout Your Abortion,” along with several of the teenagers in the piece, constantly do what philosopher Francis Beckwith aptly calls “Begging the question”; that is, they assume what they should be trying to prove.
Consider the first few conversations. We (the audience) are told indirectly that sometimes mistakes happen, that people can’t afford a child, and other issues influence the decision to get an abortion.
Poverty is obviously a problem, along with people who think they will not be able to afford a child, but a question never gets asked: why stop with abortion to alleviate these problems? Why not allow parents to kill their newborns and toddlers as well to alleviate any problems that may arise? The answer is most assuredly a firm “No, that’s different.”
Ah, but that is the question! Why are the preborn so different we may kill them if we so please? This never seems to occur to anyone in the video, but it does raise a further question which deserves an answer: if the preborn are also human, just like babies and toddlers, should we really be killing them, or should we protect them, just like toddlers and newborns?
We also get a surprisingly candid moment when the host tells two sisters, “They stuck a straw into my cervix and sucked the pregnancy out…It was like a crappy dentist appointment.” Noticeably absent is any consideration of what abortion procedures do to the entity in utero. The description of the procedure the host gives seems fairly representative of first trimester abortions. Furthermore, pregnancy is a condition, not an object. Pregnancies cannot be removed, but they can be ended by removing a gestating human from a woman’s uterus. This is not only dehumanizing language, but also a factually incorrect statement to make. Why does she need to lie to children is she’s shouting her abortion? At least be honest.
However, taking a look at just what sort of entity is killed in the abortion procedure itself is helpful. The Endowment for Human Development, along with countless human embryology textbooks, such as Dr. Keith Moore’s The Developing Human (2), give us a vivid look into the womb to see just what kind of entity is present during a pregnancy. Given that the entity before birth, as well as afterward, has human parents and human DNA, it seems obvious the being who is killed, indeed, torn limb from limb by suction, is a human being. Saying it is anything other is ludicrous and fanciful, of the same manner as saying the earth is flat.
Second and third trimester abortions become even more brutal in their scope, such as the “Calvaria sign” Dr. Warren Hern describes in his textbook Abortion Practice (3), where an abortionist uses forceps to grab onto the “calvaria” (medical term for skull) of the preborn entity and crushes it, watching brain matter escape into the suction catheter.
Hern writes, “[at 18 weeks post fertilization age] it can be a significantly more difficult procedure accompanied by unnerving hemorrhage. Forceps use must be sure and relatively rapid. There is frequently not much time for exploring the nuances of different tissue sensations. Grasping and collapsing the calvaria [upper domelike portion of the skull] are often difficult. Stripping the calvaria of soft tissue is sometimes the first step in successful delivery of this part, followed by dislocation of parietal bones… [From 19 to 22 weeks post fertilization age] A long curved Mayo scissors may be necessary to decapitate and dismember the fetus, since it may be impossible to apply forceps or to do so while avoiding the thinned out cervix.”
Hern also describes on his website second trimester (weeks 13 through 28) abortions such as the following:
“At 20 menstrual weeks and later, the first step in the abortion procedure on the second day of her appointment is an injection of medication into the fetus that will stop the fetal heart instantly. The patient is awake during this procedure, which is done under local anesthesia and with the use of direct ultrasound vision. The woman does not observe the fetus on the ultrasound screen in this process….As with the earlier second trimester procedures (15-19 weeks), the later second trimester procedure (20-26 weeks) may require that the physician perform a surgical evacuation of the uterus (“dilation and evacuation” or “D & C”) using instruments such as forceps to remove the fetus and placenta. All the other steps taken up to that point, such as use of laminaria, induced fetal demise, and medical induction, serve to enhance the safety of the late second trimester abortion procedure.”
The above writings become even more ghastly when it is considered that children have been born during the second trimester, at 21 weeks (and possibly earlier), and are alive today.
Given this information, the notion throughout the video, “It’s not a baby, it’s a fetus, and we may kill it” seems inherently bigoted; indeed, even monstrous.
They Confuse Functioning As A Human With Actually Being Human
The only real attempt we get at an argument in the video is when the host brings up the notion that “Life begins at conception,” and dismisses it offhand with the teenagers she is talking with. Mockingly dismissing the notion in a manner befitting a high school sex ed class, the host fails to acknowledge the arguments in favor of the view,4-6 or the host of scientific literature supporting the conclusion that the life of a distinct, living human being begins at conception.
Aside from this gross error, one of the teenagers makes the off-the-cuff remark that “Like your arm is incapable of complex thought, a baby in the womb isn’t, either.”
No one bothers to defend this view though, and it is just asserted as if it settles the debate. The problem is, so what? Why does complex thought grant us a protection against being intentionally killed, instead of being protected because we are human in the first place? He never expands on this concept.
And how much complex thought is necessary in order to be protected from being killed? We never get an explanation. Some people, like the sleeping, the mentally ill, and someone in a medically induced coma may happen to not be capable at a given point in time to exercise complex thought; but it seems ludicrous to think they can be justifiably excluded from the community of human beings with a right to not be killed.
Likewise, newborns and toddlers aren’t capable of the complex thoughts of teenagers (like the ones in the video) and adults. Why should we draw the line to include them, but exclude those same children before they were born? Being born is merely a change in location, not a change in the way the neural structure of the human nervous system is organized, so using this standard to exclude the preborn but not the born becomes ad hoc and ultimately self-serving.
Also, if we may justifiably kill those who don’t possess an ability like complex thoughts, how far does this line of reasoning take us? Can we use them as food? As specimens for medical research? Can we use them to satisfy our sexual desires if we so choose? To use an illustration from Francis Beckwith and Scott Klusendorf, suppose we were able to direct the brain development of human embryos in such a way they don’t possess the mental capacities we deem valuable (complex thoughts, desires, sentience, etc.) when they grow older. Can we now enslave them? Use them to satisfy the needs and desires of those who possess these traits, no matter how disgusting and inhuman those desires may be? This is ghastly, but it does raise the important question: why is having a capacity for complex thoughts (or any other mental/physical characteristic) even relevant to how we should value others in the first place?
No, complex thoughts, nor other mental capacities, are not an effective way to demonstrate humanity, and the obligations it bestows.
They Assert Rather Than Argue
A third and even more common theme in the video is the abundance of assertions made. An assertion can be anything made without a reason to believe it. If I told you there was a pink flying elephant looking over your shoulder (one of you just looked), are you obligated to believe me? What if I provided reasons for that conclusion? You may still think my conclusion is silly, but worth checking out, however briefly.
In the video, we are told by the host, “If I am forced to create life, then I have lost the right to my own life.”
The claim may stir our compassion, but why should we accept her conclusion?
Keeping in mind the abortion procedures described above, comparing the inconveniences and troubles someone may experience while pregnant seem rather weak compared to the greatest evil of being killed. Being killed will permanently deny any possibility of enjoying any of the blessings (and challenges) of life, now and forever.
Helen Watt (7) writes,
“Harms to the woman posed by pregnancy and childbirth, if that is the comparison, will rarely approach the seriousness and irreversibility of death for the preborn child. After all, few adults would choose an option that would end our own lives in preference to the burdens of pregnancy, and the stresses and sacrifices (though also the joys) of bringing up a child. Even the sorrow of giving up a child for adoption does not seem comparable to death in terms of harm: if offered a choice between adoption and a firing squad, most of us would have few hesitations.” (Emphasis in original)
It seems obvious the host is grossly overstating her case, to the point of dishonesty. Furthermore, it is worth noting pregnancy is not the act of creating life; sexual intercourse is. Saying women should not be forced into creating life makes plenty of ethical sense, especially in discussions about the morality of birth control and surrogacy; in terms of abortion, though, the vast majority of women already willingly engaged in the life-creating act of sexual intercourse. The question then becomes, do women and men have any moral obligation to the new human being created through their action?
As Helen Watt puts it in her book, this seems fairly obvious. After all, it seems odd to think of a mother having special obligations to her own kidney, or having a relationship with it. But, the notion of having obligations to her own child, in the womb and without, seems obvious to all but the most stubborn adherent of postmodern feminist theory.
They Attack The Pro-Lifer Instead Of Their Argument
This theme becomes common in the second half of the video. In fact, the host becomes somewhat agitated at people using the term “pro-life”:
“Pro-Life is just a propaganda term. People who say they are ‘Pro-life’ don’t take care of babies after birth, and when their family ends up in poverty. Or they are also trying to take away people’s healthcare. They aren’t pro-life; I’m pro-life. They are anti-choice.”
This claim is a flat out lie, and is painfully obvious to anyone paying the slightest bit of attention. Pro-lifers regularly step up to help those in need. In north San Diego county alone, there are more pro-life resource centers for women (and men) in need than abortion clinics. In my own hometown, Escondido, two pro-life pregnancy resource centers provide healthcare to those who need it. There are even pro-lifers opening up housing and adoption referrals for women who choose to keep their babies, but are homeless and in need of a place to stay. “Shout Your Abortion”, the organization the host represents, does none of this, and doesn’t help women who decide not to have an abortion find support. So much for Amelia Bonow being “pro-life”…
This isn’t all. Consider the following: groups and affiliates like the Obria Group, CareNet, LifeLine, Heartbeat International, and the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) connect people in need to thousands of care centers; many of whom operate with no tax dollars or government subsidies whatsoever. (Planned Parenthood only has about 600 clinics nationwide, a number which continues to dwindle).
NIFLA’s website uses Google maps to help people in need find an affiliate in their local area. Ironically, NIFLA was recently in court over a California ruling forcing their California affiliates to advertise and refer for abortion services in a patient’s local area. It’s the pro-choice movement which has regularly tried to shut down these centers or change them outright into pro-choice facilities, thus taking away actual life-giving healthcare; not pro-lifers.
According to groups like “Shout Your Abortion,” the only charity and healthcare that gets count is the one bearing the taxpayers’ signature. This is the product of lazy thinking and outright lack of real charity.
More can be said about this, such as the role the world’s biggest pro-life organization, the church, has played in helping those in need of assistance, or pro-life progressive and leftist groups working to change minds and gather support for government welfare and healthcare from within the movement.
Given that anti-abortion advocates regularly step up to help those in need, is this enough to convince Amelia, and those who raise this kind of criticism, that abortion is a moral wrong? If pro-life advocates were to fulfill every obligation our critics asked of us; if we were to put food on every table in America, end police racism and brutality, support government run healthcare reform, and much, much more, would our critics be willing to admit that abortion is wrong because it intentionally kills an innocent member of the human race?
The answer to this question is usually a resounding “No!” This raises another question: Why bring up these issues in the first place, then? If abortion is a morally benign or morally good choice, then its proponents need to actually offer a defense of it, and stop hiding behind dishonest and lazy slanders of their opponents.
One other attack on pro-lifers is raised by Amelia and one of her teenage guests, saying “old, white men” aren’t going to tell them what to do. It’s a common slogan, and makes for a great bumper sticker or hashtag, but it’s just a lazy dismissal of the pro-life viewpoint.
Consider: if every single person who was opposed to abortion was young, female, and non-white, would Amelia and her colleagues join us in opposing abortion? Clearly not, so why bring up the race, age, or gender of those who oppose abortion in the first place? Given that Roe v. Wade was decided by (gasp!) nine old white men, the slogan seems fairly silly. Apparently the opinions of old white men are only valid if they agree with Amelia’s and those of her colleagues.
This is just old-fashioned sexual and racial prejudice, repackaged to sell merchandise and score political points. It also ignores the brilliant contributions by pro-life advocates who don’t fit into the stereotype that has been lazily offered. There are young pro-life advocates (such as myself) and the thousands of teenagers and young adults in the Students for Life of America network. There are also young pro-life advocates, like Lia Mills of Canada, the other writers of Human Defense Initiative, Let Them Live (started and run by pro-life Millennials), and countless others.
Along with that, if men’s opinions on abortion are not worthy of consideration, then there are plenty of women who can answer the call: women like Erika Bachiochi (her fantastic book, The Cost of Choice: Women Evaluate the Impact of Abortion, answers this call very well, by compiling the writings of various women from a whole host of academic disciplines on the subject.), Megan Almon, Lila Rose, Kristan Hawkins, Stephanie Gray, Helen Watt, Mary Ann Glendon, Gianna Jessen (a survivor of a saline abortion) and many more, just to name a few.
There are also many people of color who have contributed deeply and valiantly to the pro-life cause: Star Parker (herself a post-abortive woman) of the Center for Urban Renewal and Education, Dr. Alveda King (the niece of the ever-great reverend Dr. Martin Luther King and another post-abortive woman, speaking out on the issue and providing comfort to women in need of healing), Jannique Stewart, Ryan Bomberger of the Radiance Foundation, and many, many more.
The idea the argument against abortion can be dismissed offhand because it is made by old, white men is simply a flat-out lie. It’s also a foolish notion: as Francis Beckwith notes, arguments don’t have genitalia; people do, and thus, their arguments shouldn’t be dismissed because they aren’t a race or gender we happen to like at the moment.
No, the video of kids meeting with Amelia does nothing to establish abortion as a moral, normal good for society. In fact, it simply helps confirm many of the biases that people have against those who oppose abortion, through lazy dismissals, bad arguments, ad hominem insults, and snarky political posturing.
The “#SHOUTYOURABORTION” movement may be holding the hearts of many at the moment through tearful and heart wrenching stories, but it is instead the desperate plea of a movement which has broken tens of millions of men and women and helped slaughter tens of millions of little children who never got to see the light of day or feel the warm embrace of those who loved them.
Abortion, like racism, slavery, segregation, and sexism, is just another rejection of the American experiment’s founding principle: that all men, women, and children are created equal, and bearers of inalienable rights: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
The fact the movement is resorting to videos such as the one by Shout Your Abortion is evidence that the movement is in its death throes.
- Koukl, Gregory. Precious Unborn Human Persons. 2014, Stand to Reason.
- Moore, Keith, et al. The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology. 10th edition, Saunders, 2015.
- Hern, Warren M. Abortion Practice. Alpenglo Graphics, 1990.
- George, Robert P. Embryo: A Defense of Human Life. 2nd edition, The Witherspoon Institute, 2011.
- Condic, Maureen L. When Does Human Life Begin? A Scientific Perspective. The Westchester Institute White Paper, Volume 1, Number 1, The Westchester Institute For Ethics & the Human Person, 2008.
- Buratovich, Michael A. The Stem Cell Epistles: Letters to My Students about Bioethics, Embryos, Stem Cells, and Fertility Treatments. Cascade Books, 2013.
- Watt, Helen. The Ethics of Pregnancy, Abortion and Childbirth: Exploring Moral Choice in Childbearing. Routledge Annals of Bioethics, 1st edition, Book 16, Routledge, 2016.1.