politics & history Every Compelling Argument for Why Pro-Choice Is Right

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List Rules Vote up the most compelling pro-choice arguments about why abortion should be legal

Abortion is a practice that dates back to the earliest recorded moments in history. The Chinese started doing it with toxic herbs some 4,700 years ago, and the 3,500-year-old Eber's Papyrus tells us that the Ancient Egyptians were no strangers to family planning. Even the Bible takes a pretty strong stance on the matter - in favor of it. People in Biblical times used to administer "bitter water" to a women suspected of infidelity, as described in Numbers 5:21-28. 

However, abortion and religion have had a long, tortuous history together, culminating in 1989 when televangelist Pat Robertson made it a central issue of his run for the Republican presidential nomination. Since then, the premature termination of pregnancy has become a polarizing vote-grabber that has created extremists on both ends of the debate.

This list covers some of the strongest arguments presented by both "Pro-Life" and "Pro Choice" camps. As you read through this list and its companion, Every Compelling Argument for Why Pro-Choice Is Right, try to bear one thing in mind: EVERYONE is "Pro-Life." Everyone. The only real questions are: Which life, when does it begin, and who has the right to decide its fate?

You won't find any simple solutions here...only hard questions, and even harder answers. Vote up the most compelling reasons for being pro-life below, and be sure to let us know what you think in the comment section. 
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The Biblical Argument 1 - Divine Abortion


The Biblical Argument 1 - Divi... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Every Compelling Argument for Why Pro-Choice Is Right
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There are three great flaws in using the Bible to justify a stance against abortion, and both come down to selective reading, or cherrypicking. The first and most glaring issue might have caught your attention in the Introduction. That is, Chapter 5 of Numbers, which gives a very detailed recipe for delivering "divine abortions." Essentially, if a man suspects his wife of cheating, he's to bring her to the temple. There, the priest will mix a solution of "bitter water," containing herbs and dust from the tabernacle floor by the altar. This was likely the same altar where sacrifices were regularly performed. It was probably absolutely saturated with years of dried animal blood, and every type of bacteria imaginable. Including, likely, botulism.

The woman would be made to drink this "bitter water." Then "..this water that causeth the curse shall go into thy bowels, to make thy belly to swell, and thy thigh to rot." (Num. 5:22) If the woman miscarried, it was a sure sign that she had committed adultery. Assuming that she survived the infection, she would be stoned to death in the street for her crimes. If she survived and didn't miscarry, she was cleared of any wrongdoing. 
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The Biblical Argument 2 - "I Knew You in the Womb"


The Biblical Argument 2 - "... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Every Compelling Argument for Why Pro-Choice Is Right
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"Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I set you apart. I appointed you as a prophet to the nations." - Jeremiah 1:5. This line is the go-to, slam-dunk Biblical justification for fetal personhood. It's also routinely misquoted, mis-attributed, and taken phenomenally out of context. 

A) The attribution: Jesus never said this. It was Yahweh speaking to Jeremiah.
 
B) The misquote: You'll typically hear Pro-Lifers misquote the verse as saying that God (or Jesus) "knew you IN the womb." Clearly, the verse does not say that. It says "BEFORE I formed you in the womb." Before...not IN. And that is relevant because...
 
C)  It's taken out of context. Yahweh wasn't making a statement on Jeremiah's personhood. He was making a statement on his own omniscience, and the fact that he effectively lived in all places and all times at once. Read the right way, there's actually a much more fascinating subtext there, as far as the fourth-dimensional reality of the "Block Universe," and the concepts of spacetime and simultaneity.  

But no matter how you read into it, the one thing it ISN'T saying, is that Jeremiah was a person before he was in the womb. Much less while he was in it. It's just Yahweh bragging about his power and omniscience. As usual.  
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Responsibility and the Last Decision


Responsibility and the Last De... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Every Compelling Argument for Why Pro-Choice Is Right
Photo:  uploaded by Richard Rowe
In the grandest tradition of the truly self-righteous, Pro-Life radicals will often deride women for refusing to accept responsibility for their decisions. But that doesn't really hold up in a philosophical sense.

One of the tenets of justice is that nobody can be held responsible for chance events; for things outside of their control. We may judge someone for putting themselves in the position for something to go wrong, but no remotely just person could hold another accountable for something they took measures to prevent. Responsibility is about the consequences of decision; if you didn't decide to do something, you can't be held morally responsible for the outcome. Responsibility always comes down to who made the last decision, and the most likely known outcome of that decision. 

Women who get raped clearly didn't make the decision to get raped. People who use birth control of some kind didn't make the decision for it to fail.  Women who conceive a child with a man they expect will be there to help raise it (probably) didn't make the decision for them not to be. So, how can anyone be held morally responsible for unintended consequences which they took deliberate measures to prevent? If that's the track you're taking, you might as well just throw the concept of justice out the window. 

Again, argue all you want about the decisions that precipitated the situation - but the one who makes the last positive decision is the one ethically responsible for an outcome. And, here in the civilized world, we generally don't make a habit of holding people morally responsible for consequences they took measures to prevent
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Pro-Choice Doesn't Mean "Pro-Abortion"


Pro-Choice Doesn't Mean &#... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Every Compelling Argument for Why Pro-Choice Is Right
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This should go without saying, and you'd think it would - but the common view among Pro-Lifers is that people are out there getting abortions because they just LOVE doing it. They act like there's some evil abortion fan club out there, just hanging out in the back alley behind a Planned Parenthood, waiting to pounce on an innocent mother and terminate her pregnancy.

Of course, that is patently absurd for most people. For the vast majority of women, the decision to get an abortion comes down to a matter of perceived necessity. You could argue all day over whether or not that decision was actually necessary, or just seemingly necessary - but it is necessity, not desire, that plays the pivotal role in the decision to keep or abort a fetus.
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It's the Economy, Stupid


It's the Economy, Stupid is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list Every Compelling Argument for Why Pro-Choice Is Right
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At least half of all abortions come down to one thing, and one thing only: money. Specifically, not having it. Here's a fun experiment: Write your congressman, and have them propose a bill that will fully fund a child through a decent middle-class lifestyle all the way up to college. Expect it to cost in the neighborhood of $300,000 each. Call it the "Abortion Prevention Child Care Act." Then, watch as abortion rates plummet by at least half overnight. 

Actually, you won't get to watch that... because invariably, staunch conservatives would kill that bill before it ever came up for a vote. Still though, it would be an interesting exercise in watching those same Pro-Lifers talk their way out of supporting the greatest abortion reduction legislation of all time.   
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Adoption Isn't a Bottomless Option


Adoption Isn't a Bottomless Op... is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list Every Compelling Argument for Why Pro-Choice Is Right
Photo:  uploaded by Richard Rowe
Adoption is one of the go-to alternatives for anti-abortion advocates - and it is true that there's a waiting list a mile long for parents looking to adopt. But it's not nearly long enough to offset abortion. At present, there are a little more  than a million abortions a year in the United States - and that's not counting Plan B "abortions." So, let's do the math.

Currently, there are about 250 million legal adults in the United States. Roughly 100 million are single, unmarried, and unlikely to adopt. About 15 percent of the remaining 150 million are senior citizens, and 44 percent of the remaining 135 million are below the poverty line. That leaves 75 million individuals, or about 37 million couples, who could even theoretically adopt. The average family in America already has three children. Once you start whittling down the factors, you find that fewer than a million couples in the U.S. are married, not poor, are under 50 years old, and have two children or fewer. That's a million theoretical, potential parents who might consider adoption. 

In other words, there are not enough potential adoptive parents to cover a single year of abortions in the United States. In order to eliminate abortion in America with adoption alone, each and every viable couple in the U.S. would have to adopt at least one child a year, forever. Meaning, they'll have at least 18 kids living under their roof at any one time. And then they wouldn't be middle class anymore...they'd be dirt poor, and unable to support children. 

So, yes, adoption is a noble thing - but it's nowhere near sufficient to handle even the most conservative abortion figures. 
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The Biblical Argument 3 - A Baby's Worth


The Biblical Argument 3 - A Ba... is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list Every Compelling Argument for Why Pro-Choice Is Right
Photo:  uploaded by Richard Rowe
You might be wondering at this point how Yahweh, loving God that he is, could take such a hard line on abortion. The answer to that is pretty simple, and very, very clear by Jewish Law. 

According to the Talmudic Law by which Jesus lived, from conception to the 40th day, a fetus is considered "merely water." It is considered a complete non-entity. From the 40th day to the minute labor begins, the fetus is considered a "limb" of the mother. Alternately, an "organ," like a kidney, or an extension of the uterus. When labor begins, the "limb" is "uprooted," and is considered an independent entity; though until the head begins to crown, the baby's life is still considered of lower value than the mother's. 

Even immediately after birth, the baby is still quite literally "worthless" until he or she survives at least one month. Then, the baby is worth five shekels of silver if it's a male, or the three shekels if it's a female. That's about $45 and $27 in today's currency, and was a common rate to pay for slave children at the time.
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Constitution, Not Opinion


Constitution, Not Opinion is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list Every Compelling Argument for Why Pro-Choice Is Right
Photo:  uploaded by Richard Rowe
Here in America, we actually have a requirement that laws be based on reason and demonstrated effectiveness, not pop morality. No matter what your moral beliefs are, they do not take precedence over other people's rights. And abortion is a right. It's been consistently challenged by every level of court ever since Roe vs Wade. Each time it has been challenged, judges from all walks of life, cultural backgrounds, and religions, have decided that abortion should remain a right. As long as the 14th amendment stands firm, it will be.