Intuitive Abortion Arguments

Many Pro-lifers love arguments based on intuition: show someone a photo of a fetus (always a fetus, never a blastocyst), and they’re supposed to intuitively feel that this is a person worth saving. So too with their photos of an aborted fetus, proffered in the hopes that America will legislate based on that which we find icky. Here’s my own emotional plea:

This is a zygote. It costs Americans ~$300 to kill a zygote.

This is an Iraqi girl. It costs Americans ~$1.5million to kill an Iraqi girl.

Which is more valuable, the zygote or the Iraqi? Which has more dignity? If you had to kill one, which would it be and why? How many deaths of one justify the loss of the other? 

The intuitive argument is thus: can you really honestly look the little Iraqi girl in the eyes and tell her she is worth no more than a diploid cell? That “what it means to be human” is simply to have a genome? 

Some (many?) of you now undoubtedly think I’ve “crossed the line.” So think carefully: what is that line, precisely? And why have I transgressed? And do your answers to those questions give clues to what’s wrong with the abortion debate and what to do about it?

9 thoughts on “Intuitive Abortion Arguments

  1. I was thinking something along these lines a few years ago when I realized this: the idea that life begins at birth, and that life begins at conception are both equally ridiculous. For a country that doesn’t hold any specific religious arguments in any regard, it’s incorrect to legislate based on either of those assumptions.

    Then I looked up Roe v. Wade, read most of the decision, and found that they agreed. So the most compelling question we should have as U.S. citizens and possibly as Christians is… how should we stand on the abortion issue if we are forced to assume that life begins somewhere between conception and birth? It becomes kind of clear that both sides have it a little bit wrong, which is another feather in the cap of our stupid two-party wedge political system.

  2. Totally agree with this. This is why the abortion issue isn’t as big for me as it is for other Christians during this particular election. On a side note the money concept is somewhat irrelevant in my opinion, unless I get more details like….. How did you come up with the 1.5 million anyway?
    And maybe see some figures like how many abortions per year compared to Iraqi civilian deaths per year in the past 5 years?
    And cost savings?

  3. Bob: if you’re interested in reading another case, check out Webster v. Reproductive Health Services (1989). Justice Stevens’ dissenting opinion is pretty fascinating.

    Remy: the $1.5M figure is cost of Iraq war divided by deaths. It’s a very artificial figure, and probably near-worthless.

    As for abortions/year, it depends on who you ask. It’s over 1 million per year in each of the last few years. This is why, supposedly, I’m only obligated to vote based on abortion. But doing these kinds of calculations is obscene to me. As I wrote here, I don’t think the evil of Nazism, for example, is primarily about the sheer numbers murdered.

  4. Because that leads to “nuance” and “compromise” and “shades of gray.” And it’s hard for me to be a single-issue, binary-driven dogmatist if we introduce any of those.

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