Abortion Debate Review: Things Left Unheard
I recently played back the recent debate I participated in on abortion, and I was quite disappointed with it seeing it from a second person point of view. For one thing, the pro-choicers repeatedly talked over me whenever I tried to speak. Now, I tried to resolve that issue by being more assertive and trying to talk over the people talking over me, but the problem with that was that no one could make out what I was saying. If I had used that red microphone that I bought to make my audiobook, my voice probably would have come across more clearly like Elijah's did. Whenever I tried to talk over the people who talked over me, I just sounded like a buzzing fly. So, I barely got to make my points because I kept getting constantly interrupted from the other side. Maybe I could have been a little more assertive than I was, but I was trying to walk a fine line between assertive and rude/obnoxious.
Secondly, the debate lasted way too long, and because of that, it took a while to find the right time to sit down and watch it with my friends and family.
Thirdly, there were too many people. When I showed the debate to some friends of mine and my parents, they were all like "Aside from you, Elijah and Richard, I can't keep up with who's who." and "I can't keep up with who is on which side."
Viewing the debate from a second person point of view, I thought it was a fiasco. It was basically an interrupting contest like the kind you'd expect to see between commentators on Hannity or some other News political panel.
Any future debates I do should be a maximum of 2 on 2. I would really wish to avoid debates like that in the future, debates where I contribute only about 5% of the conversation, and the 5% that I do contribute is a struggle because of people who are unable to let people finish their thought process before they open their mouths.
Given that I think that many of my points went unheard, I'd like to address them in this blog post.
1: Human Zygotes die all the time and No One Does Anything To Stop Them
George Kurt said "I'm not really the person to argue the bodily autonomy or women's' rights reason to be pro-choice. Many people could do that better than me. I believe the unborn child, if you want to call it that, is not a child at conception. I alluded to many of the scientific ambiguities about that, and I believe that there are some common sense arguments. The most prominent, which comes from science, The majority of all successful conceptions or implants fail, and we let them die and nobody cares. It's just that when we prefer to selectively abort one that suddenly we assign the value of a human person to it." He brought this up again in the debate much later saying, "We don't save them when it is within our capability to do so as we do with the several zygotes created by an in vitro fertilization clinic."
This is one of the arguments' George Kurt made. He made it at 1 hour and 3 minutes in. First of all, that last tidbit is demonstrably false. Pro-lifers don't just assign value to an unborn fetus only when one aborts them electively. We believe they have the same value as an adult person from conception regardless of what you decide to do to it. If you abort it, let it develop full term, allow it to die in the womb, that doesn't do anything to change whether the unborn are living, breathing human beings and have intrinsic moral worth as a result. But more than that, he seemed to be implying that simply because the majority of zygotes die and no one ever or rarely does anything to stop them from dying, that therefore we ought to let them die, or that therefore, it's morally permissible to let them die.
As I said in the debate (or at least tried to say) was that this argument commits a logical fallacy known as the Is/Ought Fallacy. The Is/Ought Fallacy is committed when someone says that because X is the case, that therefore, X ought to be the case. Because X is the case, therefore, X ought to be the case. This is clearly fallacious. As I tried to say in the video, if you applied that same reasoning to other areas, you could morally condone anything. If rape were a common occurrence and it happened in cases where people knew women were being raped, but no one stepped in to stop the rapes from occurring, by Kurts' reasoning, we would have to conclude that it's okay to rape women and it's okay to allow women to be raped. This is clearly absurd.
Fortunately, I was able to get that out before Sokka chimed in. When Sokka chimed in, he seemed to imply that the is/ought fallacy doesn't apply in Kurt's argument. I found that odd, but I asked for clarification. I asked if he thought Kurt's argument was an exception to the Is/Ought Fallacy, and if it is, what justification could be given for thinking that it is, in fact, an exception. After all, some fallacies do have exceptions. Not all arguments from silence, for example, are logically fallacious. An argument from silence, for example, isn't fallacious if you have a high expectation for the silence to not be there. For example, if my cousin told my mother that last weekend when I went to the movie theater, I met Tim Allen, Tom Hanks, and Tom Cruise. We saw a movie together, and then went out and ate pizza together at Little Ceasars'. If someone told my mother that, what would she say? She would likely say "That's ridiculous" and my cousin said "Why don't you believe me?" and my mother said "Because he never told me about this. Surely if he met these 3 major celebrities and spent the day with them, he would have told me about it. Moreover, he would have taken selfies and showed them to me. Since he did not do those things, that gives me grounds to doubt your claims." Now, my mother's response is an argument from silence, but she didn't commit a fallacy. Why? Because she had good grounds for believing that if something that unusual happened to me, I would have said something about it. There's an expectation for silence to exist.
So, some exceptions can be given to certain logical fallacies provided there are certain factors in place to justify that exception. So, I wanted to know if Sokka could provide me with a reason to think George Kurt's argument was exempted from employing The Is/Ought Fallacy. If no justification could be given, then another logical fallacy would have been committed; which is the Special Pleading fallacy (i.e unjustifiably making an exception to an established rule). No justification was ever given and the subject was changed.
2: The Ability To Act On Our Rights And Consciousness
One of the debaters (Sokka, I believe it was) made the argument that rights are granted to us from outside sources (e.g the government) and that in order to have the right, we have to be able to act on those rights. Human fetuses and zygotes are unable to act upon their rights. They can't protest to any wrongs done to them. Sokka compared them to animals. He said he doesn't believe animals have rights and implied that the reason they don't have rights is that they have no ability to act on those rights. To avoid the impression that I might be attacking a straw man, let me transcribe Sokka's argument word-for-word below:
"My position on this, it's like animal rights. I don't think animal rights exist because animals can't act on those rights. We might have moral obligations towards animals, but animals don't have rights that they can act upon, that they feel are being violated. So, animals don't have rights. They have whatever we give them, okay? So, it's the same thing when we start talking about something like a fetus or a zygote, or an egg that was just fertilized. It can't act on it's rights. It has no rights, it not a human in that sense. It can't act upon it's rights or protest when it would have its rights violated in the same way that you can. So, unless you're using a different definition of rights," and Richard interjected "What do you mean 'act on its rights?" and Sokka responded, "It can't protest."
My response was by that reasoning, you could kill someone in their sleep. If I'm asleep, I can't protest. If you come into my room with a knife in your hand, I don't have the ability to "act on my right" to life by protesting. I can't say "Please, don't kill me!" So, if having the ability to act on your rights is what gives you the right, then we should logically conclude that killing people in their sleep is okay. This is obviously an absurd conclusion, which makes Sokka's argument absurd, and dare I say, downright ridiculous. Sokka rebutted by saying that my response essentially compared apples to oranges. A human embryo isn't analogous to a sleeping person or someone in comatose because a sleeping person used to have consciousness and will have consciousness again in the future. In his words, "They did have rights. We don't take away rights the moment consciousness is gone, except when consciousness is gone for good, such as when someone dies. What rights does a dead person have? .... If you look at something like a fetus, it's never had rights, it's never had consciousness. So, to compare that to someone who's fallen asleep or who's in a coma completely misses the point of what we're talking about with rights."
If anyone doubts if this is a word-for-word transcription, you can watch the debate for yourself. From what I understand, Sokka's argument is that a sleeping person and a fetus are disanalogous because the former used to be conscious and able to act on their rights at some point in the past, while the latter never had consciousness or an ability to act. But I pointed out that that seems like bizarre criteria. Why is it that someone had to have consciousness in the past in order for the killing of that person to be unjustified? Why must consciousness have been something that existed in me in the past to make the killing of me immoral in the present? That doesn't make any sense.
It doesn't make any sense to say that the reason killing a sleeping person is immoral is that they used to have consciousness, but killing an unborn child is okay because they never had it in the first place. Moreover (and I don't think the audience heard this due to the people talking over me), I pointed out that both the fetus and the sleeping person WILL become conscious if you just give it enough time. But it's guaranteed that neither will become conscious if you exterminate them. If you terminate either, they will never get a chance to become conscious, but if you refrain from killing them, both of them will eventually reach a state of consciousness. The embryo will develop a brain capable of consciousness and the sleeping person will wake up.
I had trouble getting this across though because Sokka kept repeating "But it's not.", "But it's not", "but it's not". We get that, Sokka. But both a sleeping person and a zygote will eventually become conscious. That is the point you would have gotten if you hadn't constantly tried to talk over me with the same three-word sentence.
3: Making Abortion Illegal Wouldn't Stop People From Getting Abortions
RCS said: "If you just put in laws saying that abortion is illegal, that doesn't stop women from going to those clinics on the corner or getting illegal drugs shipped in from Mexico. That's what a lot of people in Texas are going through. A lot of the women aren't able to make it to the few clinics still open in Texas that provide abortions. They're literally going to Mexico and picking up medications which may or may not be safe and using those. They're self-medicating with these things. So, making it illegal doesn't necessarily solve the problem."
My response to this point was that by this logic, you would have no grounds for making anything illegal. I could argue "Well, people are going to steal from others whether it's illegal or not" or "People will murder innocent people whether it's illegal or not", or "people will sexually abuse little children whether we make it illegal or not", yet I don't think anyone would say that these immoral actions should be legal. It is true that making it illegal doesn't solve the problem, but it doesn't follow from that fact that these things should, therefore, be legalized. Murder should be illegal because it violates a person's right to life. Theft should be illegal because it violates a person's right to property. Sexual abuse should be illegal because of the harmful mental effects it can leave on the victims. Moreover, if abortion is murder (and the scientific evidence overwhelmingly shows that it is), then if you think murder should be illegal, then you should think abortion should be illegal. Should the killing of innocent humans not be outlawed?
A second point I tried to make was that the law is, for some people or even many people, a deterrent. While some people break the law, others refrain from breaking the law. Why? Not because they're good people necessarily, but simply because they don't want to go to prison. Some people abstain from evil simply because they don't want to face the consequences for doing evil. They do the right things for the wrong reasons. Even as a kid, not with the law, but with my parents' household rules, I would sometimes obey my parents or refrain from disobeying them simply because I didn't want to get spanked or grounded The household rules were a deterrent for me. Likewise, I think a lot of people haven't stolen a computer from their local Wal-mart, or killed someone they hold a grudge against, simply because they wish to avoid doing hard time. If abortion were illegal, it would still occur, but it would likely be diminished in number. Some women would refrain from getting abortions merely because they don't want to face the penalty for breaking the law.
I also brought up the movie "The Purge" as an illustration. In this movie, everything that was illegal was declared legal for a full 24 hours. In anyone committed a crime within those 24 hours that all crimes were legal, they wouldn't be prosecuted the next day. I said in the debate that the movie was an interesting thought experiment of how much crime would drastically increase if everything was made legal. Fear of the law is a deterrent. It obviously doesn't prevent crime, but I think it does impede it to an extent. At 1:37:00, "Sophia" started condescendingly responding "You're using fiction. You're refuting reality with fiction. He has empirical data on his side, you have a movie. This is the Hovind defense with f****g coffee." When I tried to respond to "Sophia", he (surprise, surprise) interrupted me. "We have data, you have fiction. You need to realize that. He's giving actual, real world results and you're making s*** up."
I realize that The Purge is fiction. I realize that it's a movie. IT'S A THOUGHT EXPERIMENT! Perhaps if I had shouted like that, I could have been heard, because I repeated "It's a thought experiment" over and over, but the people in the hang out had this uncanny ability to let other people finish. Anyway, does he honestly believe, or expect any thinking person to believe for a single moment that if nothing were illegal, that crime wouldn't skyrocket? That the level of crime would remain exactly as it is? Apparently, he does. I find it baffling that a person would think the level of crime would remain exactly as it is if nothing at all were illegal. It is intuitively obvious to me that if The Purge occurred in real life, cars would be stolen off of every car lot in the country, women would be raped en masse, Wal-Marts would be looted all over the place. Does he honestly expect rational people to believe that if all laws were put on hold for a little while, people wouldn't go out and do as they please? Give me a break!
4: Forcing A Woman To Carry A Baby To Term Enslaves Her
At 2 hours and 8 minutes in, George Kurt made arguments that forcing a woman to carry a pregnancy to term enslaves the woman. If women aren't allowed to abort their fetuses, if they're required to carry their pregnancies to term, then the woman is essentially enslaved to her child. At around 2 hours and 5 minutes, he said "It's the controlling of the body of another person." and "I do grant personhood to a woman who is capable of becoming pregnant. You are literally taking charge of the insides of her body. That is slavery."
I've heard the Slavery argument from pro-choicers before, and in my opinion, it makes the number 1 most ridiculous pro-choice argument of all pro-choice arguments. It is the king of illogical pro-choice arguments. For one thing, as my partner Elijah Thompson pointed out, his logic should lead to him being in favor of abortion throughout all 9 months of pregnancy. After all, a woman is just as "enslaved" at 9 months of pregnancy as she is within the first 24 hours. If he honestly believes that a pregnant woman is enslaved to her fetus, he should be in favor of abortion for all 9 months of pregnancy, and maybe even up to the mere moments before birth!
Additionally, the logical entailment of George Kurt's argument is that every human being who has ever come into being was once a slave owner. Even George Kurt himself was once a slave owner. He enslaved his own mother for the 9 months that she was pregnant with him. This is overwhelmingly absurd.
In retrospect, I think that was a big waste of my evening, to be honest. I was mostly a spectator for most of the debate, and when I did get a voice, it was drowned out by my opponents. I'm grateful that Elijah and Richard were allowed to speak more than I was. I could have a done a lot better in that debate if I had just been allowed to speak. Maybe that was the point.