Pro-Life With a Footnote

Jason Dulle

It is fairly common to find individuals who are morally opposed to abortion…with a footnote. It is said that abortion is morally wrong except in cases of rape or incest. In those cases abortion is morally acceptable. According to the Barna Research Group approximately 32% of the American population holds to this view (compared to 23% who believe abortion is morally wrong and should be illegal in all circumstances). I have developed a tactic that will quickly and efficiently expose the muddled moral thinking inherent in their view that you can employ when engaging individuals who express this view to you in conversation. Let me illustrate the tactic in a mock conversation.

Linda: I am opposed to abortion, except in cases of rape and incest.
Jason: Why is it that you believe abortion is morally wrong in all other cases?

Linda: I believe abortion kills a real human being.
Jason: So you believe that abortion takes the life of an innocent human being?

Linda: Yes.
Jason: Does abortion do something different to those children conceived through rape or incest?

Linda: What?
Jason: You said you believe abortion is wrong because it takes the life of an innocent human being. I am wondering if abortion does something different to those children conceived by rape or incest. Are they not innocent human beings? Does abortion not take their lives as well?

Linda: Well I guess they are innocent human beings as well.
Jason: Would it not be more consistent, then, to be opposed to all forms of abortion since abortion always takes the life of an innocent human being regardless of the way in which the child was conceived?

Linda: I guess it would.

Strategically what we are trying to do is get the individual to think about why it is that they are opposed to abortion in all cases except for rape and incest, and then evaluate whether or not the principle(s) that makes abortion wrong in those also applies in the case of rape or incest. Clearly the same principle(s) applies. By making the individual state his/her moral principle and then apply it to the case of rape or incest they will see their own contradiction in thought.

The conversation could take another turn at this point. The individual may see the contradiction in thought but use the emotion card to trump the moral conclusion they are forced into. They may say it's not fair to require a woman to carry a baby (that was conceived through incest or rape) to term because of the emotional pain it may cause the mother. After all, each day the baby is in the mother's womb it is a reminder of the moral evil committed against her.

While this is a compelling emotional argument, it has nothing to do with the moral issue at hand. The moral question is determined by asking What is the unborn? If the unborn is a human being then no justification for abortion is adequate. While I admit that applying the moral rule can be emotionally difficult in circumstances such as rape or incest, the moral principle itself is quite simple and straightforward.

The best approach to trumping the emotion card in this situation is to ask the individual Is it morally acceptable for the victim to kill the rapist? He brings her emotional pain, doesn't he? Is it ok for her to kill the family member that molested her? After all, she may have to face that family member every day of her life for many years. The clear answer to these questions will be "no." Ask, "If it is not morally proper to take the life of the human being guilty of committing the moral evil against the girl, why would it be morally proper to take the life of the innocent human being in the womb? Since when do we force another human being to forfeit their life so someone else can feel better?" Conversation over.

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