Posted by: SteveInCO · Thermonuclear MAGA | 07 Apr 2012

How Not To Argue for Abortion Rights


I no longer stand by this article.

I am no longer absolutist pro-choice to the moment of birth, but still have no issue with extremely early term abortions.  (So at this point, both “pro life” and “pro choice” would probably hate me for being on the other side.)

As I write this (on February 8) New York State passed a late term abortion law.  It’s a barbarity, walking all the way up to (but not crossing) the line into actual infanticide.  Apparently the Governor of Virginia has actually advocated for post birth abortions (a contradiction in terms because abortion by definition has to happen before birth); that’s infanticide in fact, and I never supported that.

Actually, there is ONE aspect of that article I do continue to stand behind. It was intended as a warning to the pro-choice side that they would lose the argument as long as they don’t confront the pro-life side’s terminology. I still believe that, but now I largely celebrate it rather than regret it, and I hope they never heed this warning.  (Again with the caveat that extreme early term abortion still does not grieve me–but the pro-choice movement in general and the New York measure in particular go far beyond that.)

“Women are people. Fetuses aren’t people.”

“Hallelujah!” said I when I saw this in a comment on an atheist forum.

So rarely do I hear someone who is pro abortion rights actually come right out and say this.  It needs to be said, it needs to be said repeatedly, and it needs to be said loudly.

I am going to address this to those who are pro-choice, or pro-abortion rights, but who for whatever reason, don’t say this.

Why should you change your tack?  Why should you start making this point?

Because the way I see the abortion argument play out 99 percent of the time is something like a bumper sticker war between “Keep your laws off my body” and “It is not a choice it is a child.”

The anti- side is asserting that abortion is murder.  “You are killing a child,” they claim.  Now if this were true it would be a serious charge.  Murder is one of the very things that we created government to prevent, and to punish if it happens in spite of preventative measures.  Murder is rightly outlawed, and we don’t accept excuses for it.  You are not allowed to kill someone because they are a drag on you.  You can’t just off one of your children because they are a major inconvenience to you or they prevent you from going to school or you want your life back, or whatever.  So that’s their argument.

What do you, the pro-choice side say in response?  Well usually you just say something like “keep your laws off my body.”  But that does not address the other side’s argument, and that argument must be addressed.  Because if abortion is in fact a murder, the government has every right to, in fact it is absolutely government’s business to, put their laws on your body, because it is part of the government’s freaking job to do something about murders and it can even to use force to do so.

Before “keep your laws off my body” or some such arugment even makes sense, you must establish–or at the least assert–that abortion is not murder, or you haven’t defended your point from the other side.  And if you don’t, at that point the person you are trying to persuade–the one watching you and the anti-abortion rights guy argue with each other–cannot be blamed for thinking you agree it’s a murder.

When it’s a choice between stopping a murder and giving someone more latitude in living their own lives, guess what wins?  You can prate all you want about your right to do this, but the way you argue this, you are implicitly asserting a right to commit murder when it would be convenient for you.  And that’s morally repugnant to most people.

The anti-abortion-rights side knows all of this and they just love it when you do not challenge their assumption that a fertilized egg is equivalent to a child.  They capitalize on this more by discussing partial birth abortion, by showing pictures of fetuses so late term they might as well be newborns, etc.  Anything to get people to accept that a fetus is a child.

And you fall right into their trap every time you fail to challenge it head on.

I live in Colorado.  Twice now (2008 and 2010) we’ve had to fend off a “personhood” amendment, which would have legally established that a fertilized egg is a person and to kill it is murder.  In both cases it lost, 70-30, which is a good sign; it says that the general electorate still refuses to “buy” that killing a zygote is murder.

In 2008, the opposition to the “personhood” amendment (i.e., the good guys, for those who get lost in double negatives) ran their campaign urging people to vote no with the catch phrase “It goes too far” because of the various effects such a law would have.  Miscarriages would need to be looked into by law enforcement, for instance, because a legal person died.

But “it goes too far” doesn’t address the fundamental issue, and it also implies that there is some sort of anti-abortion law that would not go too far for the opponents to accept.

In 2010 the slogan was “it still goes too far,” again failing to address the fundamental disconnect between the two sides.  It’s as if you are conceding that a fertilized egg is a person, you just don’t want to go to “ridiculous” lengths to prosecute murdering someone.  But what is a ridiculous length?  You’ve conceded the principle. needlessly, and are offering to negotiate.

(I am reminded of a story about Groucho Marx.  At some fancy Hollywood bash, he asked the starlet next to him if she would sleep with him for a million dollars.  “Oh of course I would” she said, and he responded, “How about for five dollars?”  She became irate:  “What kind of woman do you think I am?”  “We’ve proved that, now we are just negotiating price.”  She has conceded the principle, and now finds herself arguing with a guy about how cheap a whore she is, rather than whether she is a whore.)

How long before the voters see this and decide that if both sides agree it’s a person, then they should pass the amendment that says so, and worry about the details later?

This is just one case study, that I hope will identify the danger of not challenging personhood, of not challenging the “abortion is murder” meme and simply telling people to mind their own business.

We dare not allow the perception that abortion is murder to take hold in society.  Once it has, you cannot counter its effects by asserting inconvenience or privacy, because murder trumps those.  The personhood premise must be attacked directly or the other side will look more principled than we do, and then they will win.

Personhood is wrong in fact and must be forcefully identified as such or we will ultimately lose this war.



  1. See also and

    Seems to me that if abortion is defined by law as a separte crime than murder or manslaughter, and it clearly is (murder is defined at CRS 18-3), then under the law, abortion, even an unlawful one, is not the legal murder/homicide the anti-abortion crowd claims it is (they tend to misconstrue the legal and moral definitions of murder), and is indeed a separate issue, which lends to the arugment that a fetus is not considered the same as a person under the law (which is why the personhood amendments are propsoed, to remove that separation).

    Of side interest in 18-6-101 is the part that states a married woman’s abortion requries consent of both spouses, meaning that if she goes and gets one where the father is not the husband, it’s considered unlawful. Makes me wonder how many times that one gets broken.

    • I believe it was overturned by Roe v. Wade. It would therefore go back into force if Roe v. Wade were overruled.

      The current state of the law isn’t quite the subject of this rant on my part (though it is interesting to those in Colorado), my rant has more to do with the way the argument is being framed today in the wake of Roe v. Wade. Someone on the anti- side has decided the best way to overturn the hated Roe v Wade is to convince people that abortion is murder. This line is being pushed in many ways, sometimes quite openly, other times subtly (“It is a child not a choice.”).

      Someone on the pro- side has decided the best response to that is to simply ignore it and continue talking about women’s rights in a vacuum, which I contend is dangerous. If the anti- crowd succeeds in convincing mainstream society that the law ought to treat it as a murder, arguing about women’s rights won’t win against the perception that the pro- side wants to make a particular form of murder legal and is using weasel excuses to do so rather than admitting that that is what they want to do. Thus the pro- side needs to actively work to prevent that perception from taking hold, instead of sitting back and letting it happen by default.

  2. I tried looking at your web site with my iphone and the structure does not seem to be right. Might wanna check it out on WAP as well as it seems most cellphone layouts are not working with your web page.

    • I do not myself have an Iphone (or anything similar), so I can’t see what you are talking about. So please be more specific; tell me just how it does not seem to be right. (Better yet: Can you do a screen shot?)

      I am not sure what I can do with the info though, since I am simply using a pre-canned WordPress layout and really have very little control over it. I know in a couple of cases I’ve uploaded photos that are a little bit too large to fit the layout (the central column of text won’t get any wider than about 500+ pixels even on a 1280 pixel screen), but I didn’t do so on this particular post.


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