Tag Archives: pro-life philosophy

The Weak and Strong Pro-Life Arguments and Policy

There are two distinctly different streams of political philosophy, each of which calls itself pro-life.  They differ very strongly over the course of action that should be taken with regards to abortion policy.  Herein, I intend to analyze the differences and put forward a hypothesis to explain the differences.

The first camp, I will term (at this point) the “mainstream” pro-life camp.  They are the core of groups such as National Right to Life, the Family Resource Council, and Focus on the Family.  They strongly object to federal funding of abortion, except in cases of rape, incest, or life or health of the mother.  Their efforts focus on reducing abortions via such laws as ultrasound requirements, parental consent, and waiting periods.

The second camp, I will term (at this point) the “100%” pro-life camp.  They are represented in the American Life League and the pre-2006 Constitution Party.  They reject any exceptions to abortion ban and will, in many cases, assert that abortion is already made illegal by laws against murder.

The difference between them, as I see it, is the fundamental argument against abortion.  The first, that represented by the mainstream pro-lifers, I myself voiced in a middle school debate class.  It is the argument from personal responsibility, which is to say, any person who willingly undertakes an action of which pregnancy is a possible outcome is committing oneself to the entailing responsibilities of said action.  Particularly, in this argument, those responsibilities include the responsibilities for the outcome of pregnancy–to wit, the baby.  Following this argument, exceptions in the case of rape or incest would be permissible, as the victim of the rape or incest did not willingly undertake the action which resulted in the pregnancy, and is therefore not responsible for the consequence–the baby.

The alternative argument, belonging to the 100% pro-lifers, is that the baby is inherently and inarguably a human being, and is therefore entitled to all rights inhering to such a status, which includes the unalienable right to life.  Said right being unalienable, no right or privilege claimed by the mother grants her the authority to alienate the life from the baby.  As such, no exception to prohibitions on abortion are acceptable, as regardless of the restricition, be it parental consent, informed consent, or a waiting period, after meeting all restrictions, the mother is considered to be endowed with the authority to reduce her baby to a corpse.

The difference in the argument, as I see it, is the fundamental difference between these two camps.  This difference is particularly pronounced in that most current abortion restrictions (cf. Hyde amendment) include language allowing for exceptions in cases of pregnancies brought about by rape or incest, and the only argument I have yet seen that would, in and of itself, justify any limitation on abortion and also allow for such exceptions.

And, for the record, the first and second arguments I cited are, respectively, those the title calls the “weak” and “strong” pro-life arguments.  And I hold unapologetically to the latter.