The horror of the Kermit Gosnell case received lackluster coverage from a mainstream media that was far more interested in safeguarding abortion rights than it was in covering the gruesome nature of Gosnell’s crimes. Writing in her USA Today column as the story was unfolding, reporter Kirsten Powers called out the media for their “deafening silence” on a “basic human rights” issue. Power’s admirable efforts exposed the biases of reporters who were responsible for the blackout of the story, shaming news outlets into covering it at last.
Though she once described herself as pro-life, Powers has in recent years advanced some common misleading arguments against the pro-life movement which call for refutation.
Women and Bodily Autonomy
One of the reasons Powers says she is now opposed to the pro-life movement is because she does not “think it’s for [her] to tell women what decisions to make about an unplanned pregnancy.”
Powers is absolutely correct! If the preborn are not human, then we should not interfere with a woman’s choice to have an abortion.
If the preborn are not human, then abortion is justifiable. But if they are human, then the intentional killing of an innocent life is morally wrong. Powers has begged the question here, as she has assumed a woman should be left alone to make a decision about her pregnancy, but she has not proven her position on the moral status of the preborn.
Yet this is exactly the question that must be answered in the ensuring abortion debate: What are the preborn? If children in the womb are not worthy of equal protection under the law, and are subject to the decisions a woman makes about her body, then what sets them apart from the rest of us?
Pro-Lifers and Other Issues
Powers listed out several issues she feels the pro-life movement fails to address, such as police brutality, immigration, and healthcare. This is a common misunderstanding of the pro-life position. While plenty of pro-lifers involve themselves in other causes, raising questions about the level of commitment pro-lifers have to every other societal ill imaginable does not refute the pro-life position on abortion.
Any objection to the pro-life position must rebut the claim that abortion deliberately takes the life of an innocent human being. If a pro-choice person does not defeat this argument, then the pro-life premise remains.
Once again, this idea relies on the assumption that the preborn are not human. Imagine telling a group of people they cannot champion a specific cause unless they took care of a broader range of issues first. For example, would Powers tell people in the Black Lives Matter movement that they cannot oppose police brutality unless they can prove they’ve taken steps to resolve poverty and other world problems?
Individuals and pro-life organizations that oppose a specific form of injustice—the killing of human beings through abortion—do not have to apologize for their stance simply because their focus is on abortion, any more than the American Diabetes Association should apologize for not focusing on cancer.
Powers claimed that taxpayers aren’t forced to fund abortions. This statement is not true. A Freedom of Information Act filed in Springfield, Illinois, found 1,561 abortions were paid for by Illinois taxpayers in 2018. While the Hyde Amendment prohibits federal funding of abortions (except for cases of rape, incest, and life of the mother), at least 16 states fund abortion through their state, taxpayer-funded Medicaid programs.
In 2018, Planned Parenthood, the nation’s number one provider of abortions (more than 330,000 per year), received $616 million in taxpayer dollars; its limited healthcare services have decreased for years, while its abortion count has only increased. While the corporation claims the funds do not go toward abortions, the taxpayer funding pays for the same facilities that commit abortions.
Reasons for Late-Term Abortions
Even the pro-choice American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology (ACOG) has advocated for pre-term delivery, not abortion, when pregnancy complications arise. There is never a medically necessary reason to deliberately target a preborn child for destruction if the mother’s life is in danger. If health problems arise, there is a difference between intentionally killing a preborn child and intervening with the pregnancy in a way that has at least some chance of saving both mother and child.
Contrary to Powers’ claims that late-term abortions are only done for medical reasons, data from the Guttmacher Institute as well as information found in abortion care handbooks have thoroughly refuted this myth.
Christian vs. Secular Movement
Another charge that Powers lays out against the pro-life movement is that it’s not a “secular movement.” Even if this was true, why are secularists the only ones who can have their views represented in government?
Furthermore, an argument is either valid or invalid. To say that the pro-life movement is “religious” does not refute the claim that preborn lives are deserving of protection.
We’ve also seen the pro-life view appeal to non-religious persons. Journalist Nat Hentoff was a progressive atheist, but experienced an awakening of his conscience on abortion after writing about failed late-term abortions. There’s also Secular Pro-Life, an organization comprised of atheists and agnostics who oppose abortion. Another group, Pro-Life Humanists, stands against abortion based on the biological evidence of life in the womb. While the majority of the pro-life movement may be religious, pro-life views are by no means limited to those who are religious.
The abortion debate comes down to whether a human being’s value is intrinsic or instrumental. Neither side can escape this philosophical question. It’s not about which side is religious and which one is secular, but rather which side can offer a more thorough explanation for why humans are deserving of dignity.
If humans do not derive value based on the type of entity that they are, as the pro-life position states, then it becomes very difficult to build a solid foundation for equality if such a thing is not acquired until one possesses certain arbitrary traits.
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