It’s hard arguing with people who believe “life begins at conception”, and I know it’s not black and white, so that’s why this discussion is so hard.

Hard, not impossible. I think we need to rely on science, not religion.

Nope…it is potential human life when there is no brain activity….and by law and science it is legally dead. Sperm are as much potential life as those dividing cells, zygotes, fetus…prior to brain activity. And your life at conception is a religious view and not all religions share that view….

A fetus is not a human being either. A zygote is not a human being either. Until brain activity….all of these are only potentials. And why if you are not bringing religion into it, do you think YOU have any right to weigh in on another woman’s reason for deciding to terminate????? Oh yeah, without religion, you don’t.

And finally, your answer about religion is unsurprising, and also the biggest flaw in your argument. If the only reason humans have “inherent value” is that you believe they were endowed with said value from a god, then you cannot expect to enforce those beliefs on others who believe differently than you. That is a fundamental basis for our society, and the ultimate defense for choice. If it goes against your religion, then don’t do it. But you can’t use religion as a basis for laws. 

The above are actual comments from a family member and her friends in one recent Facebook discussion I was involved in. They perfectly exemplify a category of arguments for abortion that Francis J. Beckwith addresses in Chapter 5 of his book Politically Correct Death: Answering Arguments for Abortion Rights (1), which I am currently covering in a series of posts. Arguments from Tolerance derive from a philosophy of pluralism and basically maintain that abortion should not be outlawed because people have different religious, moral, and philosophical views on it. So it would be wrong, or intolerant, to impose one view over another.

Beckwith identifies several subcategories of “tolerance” arguments.

Argument from Religious Pluralism
This is the argument my Facebook debate opponents used with me, and it’s a favorite among abortion-rights supporters. They charge that our objections to abortion based on a view that life and personhood begin at conception are of a purely religious nature, so to criminalize it would be to unfairly preference that view over others. Apart from the fact that this charge is totally false (neither Beckwith nor I have in this series invoked God or religion in our responses to the arguments), it is self-refuting to maintain that we should not impose one theory of life over another while doing just that. Legalized abortion assumes a theory of life which holds that personhood and human rights are indeterminate but can be bestowed on the unborn at the will and whim of the woman, and imposes that theory on all of us.

In addition, as Beckwith states, “the fact that a particular theory of life is consistent with a religious view does not mean that it is exclusively religious or that it is in violation of the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.” Would we argue that murder and theft should not be criminalized because they are specifically prohibited in the Ten Commandments? Furthermore, if in the name of tolerance abortion-rights advocates expect me to deny or disregard my very fundamental belief in the value of human life from conception, is this not “a subtle and patronizing form of intolerance,” as Beckwith suggests?

Argument from Imposing Morality
This argument says it’s wrong for anyone to force their own view of morality on someone else and is very similar to the religious pluralism argument except that it can be used against “non-religious” people who nevertheless hold to a view of morality that says the unborn have inherent value and deserve protection from harm. The problems with this argument include:

  • It assumes a subjective view of morality which allows each individual to decide what’s right and wrong. If morality is relative to the individual then the argument is self-refuting as it claims an objective wrong, i.e. imposing morality.
  • It would require us to abandon laws against theft, rape, child pornography, and more because they are based on a particular view of morality which some do not hold.
  • Abortion-rights advocates don’t recognize the hypocrisy of arguing against imposing morality while insisting that taxpayers, including pro-life ones, help pay for abortions for women who can’t afford them.

The arsenal of abortion arguments is broad and varied but weak and ineffectual. One begins to get the impression upon examining them that the pro-choice movement has put a lot of time and effort into stockpiling weapons for quantity rather than quality. When one doesn’t land they just lob another dud. Next time I’ll look at a few more of them.

1. Francis J. Beckwith, Politically Correct Death: Answering Arguments for Abortion Rights (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1993)