Friday, August 20, 2010

Fallacies of legalizing abortion

(A response to an article entitled “Filipino women need safe and legal abortion in RP” by EnGendeRights, August 2, 2010, posted in See

One needs not study Logic or Philosophy to see how this article is replete with lots of fallacious arguments. I am not exaggerating when I say that the bottom line of what it tries to convey is this: that we should save our women from numerous maternal deaths brought about by unsafe abortion methods by legally killing our children! In what follows, I shall unmask each of these fallacies and argue that abortion is immoral because it an act of murder. Legalizing abortion does not change its immorality, for what is legal may not necessarily be morally right.

The article opens with this affirmation: “‘Filipinos should address the issue of access to safe and legal abortion in the country. The impact of lack of access to safe and legal abortion is a grave public health issue as shown in the report of New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights entitled, “Forsaken Lives: The Harmful Impact of the Philippine Criminal Abortion Ban”, which was released today at Annabel’s restaurant. In the Philippines, over half of all pregnancies are unintended and one-third of these unintended pregnancies end in abortion. Due to the illegality of abortion, Filipino women induce abortion clandestinely through unsafe methods. The report cites recent statistics showing about half a million Filipino women yearly who, because of various reasons including rape and dire socio-economic reasons, induce abortion with about 1000 women dying and 90,000 being hospitalized due to complications from unsafe abortion. This means that the illegality of abortion does not stop abortion but only makes it dangerous for the health and lives of Filipino women,’ said Attorney Clara Rita A. Padilla, Executive Director of EnGendeRights, and former Visiting International Legal Fellow at Center for Reproductive Rights”.

The basic structure of the argument is this: because abortion is illegal in the Philippines, women clandestinely abort their babies through unsafe methods and many die due to complications. Therefore, to avoid numerous maternal deaths, abortion should be legalized to provide safer abortion methods.

The first fallacy committed in this argument is confusing cause and effect. The banning of abortion is not the direct cause of the numerous deaths of women who abort their children. Hence, the conclusion on the legalization of abortion to curb these deaths is fallacious. The illegality of abortion is simply a contributing or circumstantial factor that drives women to clandestine abortion employing unsafe methods, but never its cause. Abortion is harmful (may cause numerous maternal deaths) not because it is illegal. It is illegal – not legally allowed – because it is harmful: it causes the death of children and – as Padilla has cited – possibly that of the mother.

But what directly causes these numerous deaths of women is the women’s decision to abort. Had they not decided to abort their child, they would never have died of unsafe abortion methods. Now, legalizing abortion does not guarantee that these deaths would not occur. Instead, if abortion is legalized, more women would be encouraged to abort. The legalization of abortion would only raise to the highest level the risk of numerous maternal deaths.

A corollary fallacy in Padilla’s argument is this: legalizing abortion brings about safer abortion methods. This is absolutely false! Abortion, whether legal or illegal, is never safe because it always puts the mother’s life in great danger, while it kills mercilessly the child. That which kills is never safe!

So that women should not die due to complications from unsafe abortion, the best solution is not the legalization of abortion. The first most efficient solution is for the mother to decide NOT TO ABORT. This is the safest means to avoid numerous maternal deaths. Second, we need to persecute legally those who are doing abortion illegally in this country. If women would not abort and the law is implemented well, I am sure the problem will be solved.

The second fallacy is the appeal to authority. The report of New York-based Center for Reproductive Rights (CRR) claims to be an authority on this subject because it has conducted a statistical study on abortion in the Philippines. Padilla’s argument appeals to this authority and argues that we should consider its findings in addressing “the issue of access to safe and legal abortion in the country”. The basic structure of Padilla’s argument is this: CRR is an authority on this subject. CRR conducted this study and says that the impact of the illegality of abortion in the Philippines is harmful. Hence, CRR’s finding and conclusion is true.

Any law student who studies Logic could demonstrate well how illogical this argument is. CRR’s finding cannot be true simply because it claims authority on this subject. It can be true only if it follows logical reasoning, which I doubt it does. Hence, to argue that CRR’s conclusion is true because it is an authority on this subject is a fallacy.

I don’t doubt the professional authority of CRR in conducting statistical studies. But given the fallacious reasoning of its conclusion (namely, that illegal abortion causes numerous maternal deaths), what I doubt is its moral authority. When an argument does not follow reason, it cannot have moral authority because as St. Thomas Aquinas said, “The moral law is that part of the eternal law that applies to human choices and can be known by our natural reason”. Hence, what does not follow logical reasoning cannot claim moral authority. The CRR cannot have the moral authority on this subject simply because it lacks logical reasoning. Then, why should we appeal to it?

The most notorious of Padilla’s fallacies is a double fallacy of the appeal to common practice and the appeal to popularity. Here’s how she formulates it: “Spain has liberalized its laws to allow abortion on broad grounds and yet we are left to contend with our old colonial laws. Other predominantly Catholic countries that allow abortion are Belgium, France, Italy, Poland, and Hungary (whose constitution protects life from conception but permits abortion up to 12 weeks of gestation). Recent abortion liberalizations occurred in Colombia, Mexico City (legalized abortion in the first trimester without restriction in April 2007) and Portugal (allows abortion up to 10 weeks of pregnancy).”

While it may true that the Philippine legal restriction on abortion is “one of the vestiges of Spanish colonization”, it does not logically follow that once Spain has lifted up its restriction, the Philippines should also follow. That abortion is a common practice in other countries is not a logical argument in favor of its legalization in the Philippines. The mere fact that most people do something does not make it correct, moral, justified, or reasonable.

Besides, Padilla mentioned that these countries are Catholic countries, insinuating that even Catholics accept abortion, which is another gross fallacy. In Spain, where I am based at the writing of this article, the law on abortion has been passed despite the strong opposition by thousands of Catholics. With similar fallacious arguments and Machiavellian political tactics now being employed in the Philippines, pro-abortion advocates here had succeeded in pushing anti-life measures like the Spanish abortion law. (Another is the law on same-sex marriage which is also anti-family. I cannot understand why Padilla mentioned this in her article.)

Padilla is right: the abortion law is part of President Zapatero’s “bold social reforms” – bold, because it violates the human person’s basic right to live and the parents’ basic right to take care of their underage pregnant daughters who, thanks to this law, may now abort freely even without parental knowledge and consent. Is this the way we should protect our women from numerous maternal deaths? By eliminating the right of parents to form the conscience and to take care of their pregnant daughters, are we really protecting these women from maternal deaths?

One last fallacious argument. Padilla noted that “The Philippine law on abortion does not even allow express exceptions based on rape, risks to the life and health of the woman and fetal impairment… Our constitution provides equal protection of life from conception and the life of the woman. This constitutional provision does not prohibit abortion as exemplified in the case of Hungary which has the same constitutional provision at the same (time) permits abortion up to 12 weeks of gestation. In the case of Colombia, the Constitutional Court declared the Colombian abortion law unconstitutional and permitted abortion on the following circumstances: when the woman’s life or health is in danger; when the pregnancy is the result of rape; and when the fetus has malformation incompatible with life outside the uterus”.

Very intriguingly, Padilla considered logical the fact that Hungary and Colombia permit abortion up to 12 weeks of gestation while providing in their respective constitution equal protection of life from conception and the life of the woman. But she seemed to find it illogical that the Philippines prohibit abortion, adhering completely to its constitutional vow of protecting life from conception. Obviously, the Philippines is more consistent with its constitutional commitment than the other two abovementioned countries. I cannot understand why those who are inconsistent in their words and actions are admired and commended, while those who are consistent and faithful are disapproved and criticized.

An immoral act can hardly be defended by any rational argument. No sufficient appeal to authority or to statistics can change the immorality of abortion, whether legal or illegal. Its basic logical structure is simple: Murder is a heinous immoral crime. Any action that kills a living human being is murder. Abortion takes the life of a living human fetus inside the womb of the mother. Abortion is a heinous immoral crime.

Abortion advocates would usually argue that the fetus is not yet a human being, or if it already is, it is not yet considered a human person. But if it is not a human being, what is it? If it is not yet a human person, when will it become? What these abortion advocates could not deny is that abortion, besides possibly killing the mother, surely kills a living being, the child. And killing is murder. The most logical question they cannot answer logically is this: Why not let our children live?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

That is so true!

"Sacerdotes, 'consagrados en la Verdad'"

Estar inmersos en la Verdad, en Cristo, de este proceso forma parte
la oración, en la que nos ejercitamos en la amistad con Él y aprendemos a
conocerle: su forma de ser, de pensar, de actuar. Rezar es un caminar en
comunión personal con Cristo, exponiendo ante Él nuestra vida cotidiana,
nuestros logros y nuestros fracasos, nuestras fatigas y nuestras alegrías -es un
simple presentarnos a nosotros mismos ante Él. Pero para que esto no se
convierta en un autocontemplarse, es importante que aprendamos continuamente a
rezar rezando con la Iglesia.