WATCH: Live Action debunks pro-abortion ‘violinist’ argument

One of the most famous pro-abortion arguments is the so-called “Violinist Argument.” In Live Action’s newest video, as part of the organization’s “Pro-Life Replies” video series, founder and president Lila Rose explains why this popular assertion doesn’t make sense.

In 1971, Judith Jarvis Thomson wrote an essay for Philosophy & Public Affairs, called “A Defense of Abortion.” In it, she made the violinist analogy:

You wake up in the morning and find yourself back to back in bed with an unconscious violinist. A famous unconscious violinist. He has been found to have a fatal kidney ailment, and the Society of Music Lovers has canvassed all the available medical records and found that you alone have the right blood type to help. They have therefore kidnapped you, and last night the violinist’s circulatory system was plugged into yours, so that your kidneys can be used to extract poisons from his blood as well as your own.

The director of the hospital now tells you, “Look, we’re sorry the Society of Music Lovers did this to you–we would never have permitted it if we had known. But still, they did it, and the violinist is now plugged into you. To unplug you would be to kill him. But never mind, it’s only for nine months.”

The argument is meant to demonstrate that, even though the preborn child is a human being, you cannot ethically force someone to keep another person alive for nine months. Therefore, abortion is acceptable. But this argument does not hold water.


“Obviously, no one has the right to kidnap you and force you into giving life support, even if the person you are giving life support to is highly valued by society,” Rose begins. But she goes on to explain why the violinist argument is not akin to pregnancy and abortion.

First, she notes that induced abortion is active and direct killing — not merely the removal of life support.

“Abortion is the direct and intentional killing of a child in the womb,” she says. “Here’s some frank descriptions. Abortions use suction or forceps to violently dismember a child while he or she is still alive, followed by crushing the chest cavity or head of that baby. Or, the abortionist uses large needles to inject poison into the child’s head or into her heart. Or they exsanguinate the child, meaning they drain the blood from the baby’s body. Or the abortionist uses pills to starve the baby of nutrients until he or she dies.”

Allowing someone to die naturally and actively killing someone are different. The cause of death in the two scenarios is different as well: the cause of death for the violinist is illness; the cause of death for the baby is active killing.

“We are not allowed to tear a violinist apart with suction or forceps, give a lethal injection to the violinist, drain the violinist’s blood, or starve the violinist to death with pills,” Rose says. “Look, a person’s bodily autonomy does not give them permission to actively kill an innocent person, which is what abortion entails.”

Second, Rose points out that parents have an obligation to care for their children.

“The violinist argument fails to take into account the special relationship — the natural relationship — between parents and children,” she says. “Parents have natural obligations to support their children, and our laws recognize these obligations. This is why we require that fathers pay child support, even for children that they didn’t want. And we should require fathers to pay child support while the child is still in the womb. He shouldn’t get to say, ‘My body, my choice!’ and opt out of supporting that child. Both parents are responsible to feed, house, care for, and otherwise not neglect the dependent vulnerable children.”

She adds, “If the parents don’t provide those things, they can go to jail for parental neglect. The fact that parents shouldn’t starve their children isn’t forced life support; it’s common sense. In the event that they cannot care for a child, a mother or father is not allowed to kill that child. They must make an adoption plan, so someone else can take on the responsibilities of parenthood.”

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Nothing is being forced during pregnancy, which is a natural occurrence; abortion is the only instance in which something is being forced: the child’s death.

And while the woman’s uterus was designed for carrying a child (it’s the purpose and function of the uterus) the violinist argument relies upon using artificial means to keep a stranger alive. There is no parental obligation to a stranger the way there is to a child.

“The pro-life position is not forcing anyone to give life support,” Rose concludes. “The pro-life position is protecting human beings — children — from murder.”

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