Do You Support a Woman's Right to Choose?

Jason Dulle

A common question asked of pro-lifers by pro-choicers is "Do you support a woman's right to choose?" This is a loaded question intended to make us look bad. If we answer "no" it will appear that we are opposed to choice in general. If we answer "yes," well…we are simply lying. So how do we respond in a way that both avoids the intended trap, as well as makes our case for pro-life? Consider the following response:

"This is a loaded question that needs to be unpacked. Of course I affirm the right to choose. I, along with every other American, affirm the right of all people to make free-choices-women and men alike. The question is not whether I affirm the right to choose, but whether or not I affirm a particular choice.

"Choices do not hang in mid-air. We choose things. Not all choices are good, so each choice must be evaluated on its own merits to determine its moral value. In this case the sort of choice I am being asked to affirm or deny is a woman's right to choose to terminate the life of her unborn baby. I do not affirm this particular choice because the philosophical and scientific evidence supports the idea that such a choice unjustly terminates the life of an innocent human being. This is a moral evil, and any choice that results in a moral evil against another individual ought to be restricted.

"Freedom of choice is not without its restrictions. Those restrictions are based on what it is that we are choosing. Does a woman have the right to choose to end my life? No. Why? Because I am a valuable human being. Does a woman have the right to choose to end her unborn fetus' life? That depends on whether or not the unborn is a human being. If it can be shown that it is a human being, then no, she does not have the right to choose to terminate its life.

"I believe free-choices need to be restricted when they do harm to other people, as does every other sane human being. The abortion question hangs on whether or not the unborn is a genuine human person who becomes the recipient of harm because of its mother's choice. If the unborn are genuine human beings who are truly harmed by an abortion, then we should not tolerate a woman's right to choose an abortion anymore than we should tolerate a woman's right to choose to kill another human being."

The tactic behind this sort of response is as follows:

1. The question is intended to make us look bad if we answer with the simple "no" that it seeks, so we need to buy some time to unpack it before we give our answer. Delaying a direct answer, however, opens us up to the charge of ducking the question. We can avoid this charge by immediately calling the spade a spade. By contending that the question is loaded we will be allowed the time to explain how it is so.

2. We explain that it is loaded because it presents choice as something in the abstract, when in reality the issue concerns one particular choice: the choice to end the life of the unborn. The real issue is not choice, but the object of that choice: What is being killed?

3. The question also presupposes that any limitation on our choice is morally evil, so we must give examples of situations in which all agree that our choices must be limited. This can be done through appealing to counter-intuitive examples, and by appealing to the questioner's own moral principles. Most liberals hold to the ethic that we are free to exercise our choice unrestrained so long as it does not hurt other people. Using this ethic as part of our argument against abortion will resonate with the questioner. It is rather difficult to argue that someone is wrong when their position is informed by your own moral principles! The only place they can argue with us on is whether or not the unborn are genuine human persons, which takes us right where we want to go--right to the heart of the debate.

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