In case you have not heard the news yet, North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple has signed legislation that would ban most abortions if a fetal heartbeat can be detected, something that can happen as early as six weeks into a pregnancy.
With the signing of this legislation, North Dakota is now thrust into the national spotlight and social media pages are full of dialog on this issue. Some individuals are posting on social media websites that they are, “Proud to be a North Dakotan,” whereas others are, “Grateful that they are not living in that backwards state!” Obviously there are very strong opinions on this issue of abortion, life, and the women’s right to choose.
The ethos of the people who are against North Dakota’s new anti-abortion laws is best captured by this person’s comments, “The time when women can no longer choose, that day is a day of degradation and shame. Through Governor Dalrymple’s signature women have lost their right of choice. Enough said!” With that said, what is this issue mainly about? It seems from the dialog and talking points flooding the internet that this issue is ‘solely’ about a ‘woman’s right to choose?’ Is this the case? Actually it is not solely about a women’s choice, for there is an undeniable relationship between choice and abortion/life. Let me explain.
One of the common stances on the abortion/life issue is that individuals are indifferent towards abortion (or possibly against it) and at the same time pro-choice. They may even say,
“I’m against abortion and will never have one. If one of my friends gets pregnant and wants an abortion, I will do everything I can to talk her out of it. But I don’t want the government involved in taking away a woman’s choice. I guess that’s why I’m against abortion and am pro-choice.”
It may even be argued that there is a false cause between ‘freedom of choice’ and ‘abortions’ (i.e., that the two are unrelated), but the reality is that this is not the case. If there was a false cause relationship between freedom of choice and abortion, then there would be no reason for individuals to be upset by North Dakota banning the majority of abortions. Otherwise stated, the very fact that there are concerns about a woman’s choice due to legislation in North Dakota on abortion, shows that there ‘is’ a relationship between choice (i.e. antecedent) and abortion (i.e., consequent).
As I previously stated though, many individuals want to deny the implications of choice on abortion. They want to embrace choice while denying that it has any bearing or implications on abortion. The problem with this rationale is that it is an example of a basic logical fallacy of contradiction. Let me explain.
Since there is an obvious relationship between choice and abortion we can state:
Choice = Abortion
However, in order to be pro-choice and to simultaneously be against abortion, the equation will need to look like:
Choice ≠ Abortion
Obviously, it is difficult to reconcile how one can hold to ‘Choice=Abortion’ and to ‘Choice≠Abortion’ at the same time. The opposition of two different ideas will surely bring about cognitive dissonance.
In order to graciously help surface this apparent cognitive dissonance, I do not believe it is wise to resort to ad hominem attacks, name calling, or disrespect. Rather, I would suggest asking the following questions in order to surface the cognitive dissonance, show the relationship between choice and abortion, and challenge individuals to think about the source and basis of their ethics:
- When someone says they are pro-choice, ask them, “You are for choosing what?” The person’s sentence of saying that they are pro-choice needs to be completed. What will exactly be chosen?
- Once the choice is identified, there needs to be a completely ‘different’ set of questions. These different questions are, “What are the implications of that choice and are the implications of that choice right or wrong?” Keep in mind that choices do contain in themselves ramifications, ramifications that happen as a result of particular actions or set conditions. Choices are not neutral, but typically result in a consequent.
- The final questions are, “How do we know that the consequent of the choice is right or wrong? What do we base our ethic upon to answer whether or not the result of the choice is morally just or morally wrong?” Ethics need to be derived and founded in and upon something. An ethic that merely appeals to popular opinion commits a bandwagon logical fallacy and an ethic that appeals to personal experience also commits an anecdotal logical fallacy.
While many rejoice in the work done by the North Dakota legislature, I believe that there is still work to be done and this work is to be done with compassionate conversations, humility, and integrity. Therefore, God bless you as you compassionately dialog and ask questions, like the ones stated above, with neighbors, friends, and acquaintances on this important subject; a subject not merely about women’s choice, but a subject that pertains directly to the issues of life.
 Scott Klusendor, “Why Your Friends Are ‘Pro-Choice’ (And What To Do About it)” http://www.pastormattrichard.com/2012/11/why-your-friends-are-pro-choice-and.html (26 March 2013).