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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Pro-Choice Doesn't Mean "Pro-Abortion"


Pro-Choice Doesn't Mean &#... is listed (or ranked) 2 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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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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The Biblical Argument 2 - "I Knew You in the Womb"


The Biblical Argument 2 - "... is listed (or ranked) 4 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.