An Analysis of the Arguments of an Anti-Anti-Abortion Activist

Is that enough As for you?

Original "Essay"


A friend of mine posted an informative and well-researched article on about abortion. As this issue is normally argued on the level of evidence-free shouting, I quite appreciated this.

How I Lost Faith in the “Pro-Life” Movement

I think the points made here can be summarized as follows:
  1. Laws forbidding abortion do not actually reduce abortions, but they do kill the women who have them.
  2. Birth control is a more effective means of preventing abortion anyway.
  3. Current science says that birth control pills do not actually kill zygotes.
  4. Even if C isn't true, they still decrease spontaneous abortions by more than enough to compensate.
  5. We could also decrease abortions by having more government programs to reduce the cost of raising children.
  6. The Pro-Choice movement lies about statistics.
In response:
  1. The link cited is broken (actually it leads to a page with newer NYT WHO stories - stupid news websites!). This is not your fault, but it does stop me checking it. My research on the Internet and things I have read before suggest that there are no good statistics on illegal abortions. However, legal abortions appear to be clustered in countries with liberal abortion laws (or none at all, as in Canada). Countries with few legal abortions may have abortion laws ranging from absolutely forbidden (e.g. Chile) to "effectively legal" (in India - I once asked an Indian girl about this and she said in practice on sex-selective abortions were illegal). Many of these low-abortion-rate countries have blue ranking on Wikipedia, although that can be misleading. I would say that "no effect" is too strong, but this is definitely an area where the law's power is limited.
  2. True. Someone needs to tell the Catholic Church about setting priorities.
  3. Interesting. I have since learned that this is partly a definitions trick. Near the end of the stem cells debate, some scientific organizations changed the definition of when pregnancy begins. Previously, it began when the sperm fertilized the egg. In the revised definition, it begam when the fertilized egg implanted on the wall of the womb. The theoretical advantage of the revised definition was that artificially-fertilized eggs never counted as embryos, so the laws about embryos would not apply to them.
  4. Interesting. I think that the standard assumption among pro-lifers that that natural abortions do not count depends on the distinction between sins of commission (doing things you shouldn't) and sins of omission (not doing things you should). Although this idea is deeply embedded in Christian theology, it is difficult to support it from the Bible (see e.g. Proverbs 24:11-12).
  5. That makes sense, although I am skeptical about how much it would help. The current cost of raising a child in Canada is about $250,000, with tax benefits accounting for maybe 15% (higher if you are low-income). This includes putting the child in child care until age 12 for about $60,000. Even if the government covered this entirely, the cost would still be about $150,000 a child. I will also note that social programs for families are not entirely a left-right issue, as this article implies. In the most recent federal election, the Conservatives wanted to introduce income-splitting for families with dependent children (when the budget is balanced - if ever), the Liberals promised nothing (they did promise $350/month = $75,000 over 18 years in the 2007 election, although that was before the financial crisis), and the NDP promised to raise the tax credit per child by $700 a year $12,500 over 18 years).
  6. Sadly true, I suspect. "No cause is so noble that it won't attract fuggheads." Or liars, zealots, and politicians.

Thoughts on Another Related Article


Another related article, posted by another friend.

Privilege and The Pill

Interesting. Civil and calm arguments on touchy subjects are always good, especially with evidence.

I understand the main points to be:
  1. Contraception (including morning-after pills) prevents abortions, so pro-life people should support it.
  2. Contraception (especially the better-working stuff) is expensive, so it should be subsidized. Otherwise, poor people won't be able to afford it.
  3. Men are not really informed parties in this debate because they do not have first-hand experience with the nastier issues.
  4. Despite the propaganda, morning-after pills actually prevent fertilization, not cause very early-term abortions.
My responses:
  1. Makes sense.
  2. Makes sense.
  3. This is unfair. Firstly, by my understanding, only people who are actually experiencing suffering at the moment really understand it. People who have previously experienced it are next, although memory can and will distort it. I know from past experience that the memory of being really cold, for example, is not nearly as unpleasant as the reality. The rest of us have think about it by analogy. Secondly, there are also lots of women (I assume most) who have not experienced these things either. Shouldn't they also be disqualified?
  4. The evidence cited here is rather weak. It seems medical science has gone from "we don't know how this works" to "we don't know how this works by it might destroy fertilized eggs" back to "we don't know why this works" again. Not a very compelling argument (for either side).
It should also be noted that the Catholic Church (who is heading the "against" group) does have a totally different, but arguable valid point. They think contraception violates natural law and thus fell they have a duty to oppose it. Personally, I think this argument is flawed, but forcing them to accept someone else's understanding of what their religion requires is a dangerous path. Especially because the Catholic Church is quite open that that is the real issue at stake.

I don't really have a position on contraception (and am not really looking for one), but these arguments do not seem convincing.

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