How to talk about abortion

Sometimes it’s better to eschew asserting our own views and try out the Socratic method.

When discussing the issue of abortion, pro-lifers are often quick to assert their own views. Often, a more effective strategy is to ask simple, pointed questions which force your friend to think through the issues. You do not have to waste time defending or explaining your assertions, because you are not making any. You are simply helping your friend to realize the inconsistencies in his or her own beliefs. Consider this online conversation sparked by my previous article concerning Obama’s support of late-term abortion. (Note: This conversation has been reproduced without correcting grammatical and spelling errors.)

John: Quit complaining about abortion. The fact of the matter is the horrible stories that we hear about abortions don’t happen often enough to be vilified into a social issue. Also if you look at the social construction you don’t see affluent people having abortions, you see the poor and the impoverished having them because they don’t make enough to support that one more life.

Murray: How many abortions do you think occur in the US every year? Of these, how many do you think are performed after the first trimester?

John: Its her choice.
John: Thats all.

Murray: Do you believe that “after birth abortion” (i.e., infanticide) is a matter of personal choice as well?

John: Of course infanticide is a personal choice. so is murder and adultery. The only difference is when the thing has its own rights. I personally believe that it is when it is popped out. I’m not a huge fan of the later pregnancy abortions that happen, they might as well just have the thing and give it up for adoption. But i still support her right to choose.

Murray: How do you know “the thing” has her own rights after she has “popped out”? Are you willing to force your “personal beliefs” on other people?

John: No but you certainly are

Murray: Are you saying that you would not force your personal beliefs about infanticide on other people, that is, you would not support laws which outlaw infanticide?

John: Murray, you are doing a good job trying to trap me, i commend you, however the answer is two fold. I would not force my beleifes on anyone, because my personal beliefes do not matter in the grand scheme of things. Do i think that killing a baby outside of the womb is wrong, yes. should the person go to jail yes. Should a woman decide she no longer wishes to be pregnant early in her pregnancy can she have an abortion yes. if she decides later she might as well continue on and put it up for adoption given its proximity to life.

Murray: You say that you would not force your personal beliefs about infanticide on anyone, and then you say that you support laws which outlaw infanticide. Which one is it? It can’t be both.

John: I do completely understand that. Do you believe that there is a God, yet go to a doctor?

Murray: What do you understand?

John: I don’t want to force my views on anyone. I don’t think we should kill babies.

Murray: But you also think it should be illegal to kill (born) babies, right?

John: But it is not my place to say what people can and can not do. it is our collective duty as a nation to decide how we want to discipline those who we deem to be socially deviant, not yours alone, not mine alone. we can voice our opinons not force anything. There is a difference between forcing my opinion and enforcing a law. a law is decided by millions, not just one

John: that is how my belief that those who kill born babies should go to jail and my wish to not force myself on others can coexist

Murray: What would you do if you lived in a society where the majority did not believe infanticide was wrong?

John: Murray, let me level with you here. You can not ask that question. The reason being we can not say how our opinions would change is the society that constructs them were different. we can only think and articulate our feelings through the social lenses that have been embedded in us by out society.

Murray: So you do not disagree with anything that your society believes? Your beliefs are completely dictated by the beliefs of your society?

John: I must not have been clear, i apologize. culture and society establish a norm of beliefs through which we view the world. For the most part those views don’t change or deviate from what is given, In the question you presented, if infanticide was the norm, and we had little contact with the western Christian world i would most likely be trained to believe that killing babies is not wrong by my culture. Do some of my views differ from what mainstream society dictates, of course. I am a proud gay man, who would love to get married. i disagree with my culture that says i can not get married, and i am fighting for my rights. that is what i meant by my original comment. I did not want you to go all holier than you with the babies debate.

Murray: So by fighting for your rights, you are not forcing your beliefs on others, but by fighting for the rights of unborn children, I am forcing my beliefs on others?

John: I am not trying to force anything, I personally am just voicing my opinion in the crowd. Thats all

Murray: How is that different from what I am doing?

John: Because i am fighting for me.

Murray: Is that better than fighting for others?

John: they are apart of my community and if our opinons resonate we will stand together. Some gays don’t want marriage because they believe that it fits into the hegemonic norm which we live to defy. My stance is that women can choose on abortion, because this is a woman’s issue and this issue is being talked about by two men. women need to decide. also by focusing on the child and not on the woman you make the woman less of a person, who has needs and wants and a desire to make her life her own. forcing her to do something she doesn’t feel she wants is coercive and forceful.
John: And fighting for others is important, you just are not apart of their community and therefore have no idea what you are talking about. thats why all i have to say on the issue is let women decide

Murray: Would you ever fight for people who were outside of your community? For example, would you have marched with Martin Luther King Jr.?

John: You are taking my words out of context. The african american movement was fighting for rights as people, something that we can all fight for. the ideals of human equality. to possibly answer your next question about baby equality the answer is yes, we should fight for those who are already in this world. we should not kill babies. we agree there.

Murray: You speak of human equality. Do you believe that all human beings are equal and therefore share certain fundamental rights?

John: We are going to argue over when a human becomes a human. we will have different sides. I do not care to argue this. because once again, the male opinion does not matter. it is her choice. should there be some established guidelines and laws preventing people from killing the already born, yes. but before that there is ambiguity, and as men, who know little to nothing about pregnancy we should not be the people to talk about his nor make laws the prohibit her from doing what she feels she needs to do
John: And yes. but by denying women the right to choose we limit their rights.
John: As men we have the power to inseminate, it is equally fair that they have the power to either keep it or not.

Murray: We could never argue over when a human becomes a human. A human could never not be a human. That is logically impossible.
Murray: By “yes,” are you affirming that all human beings are equal and therefore share certain fundamental rights?

John: Of course. which direction can you spin that?

Murray: No spin. A human being is defined as a member of the species Homo sapiens. Every scientist on the planet agrees that a human fetus is a member of the species Homo sapiens. This is not open to dispute. The species of an organism is not determined by popular vote; it is determined by the DNA of that organism.
Murray: I have to run to a class now, but I have enjoyed hearing your views. Thank you for sharing them. If you are interested in hearing my views on the matter, please see my post here.

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