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When the Abortion Debate Hits Your Town

Post-Dobbs, cities across America are revisiting the right to life. Here are three pro-abortion arguments you'll hear at your town hall, and how to answer them.

Recently, I attended a city council meeting in Temecula, California, to hear what people had to say concerning a proposed resolution to make Temecula a sanctuary city for the unborn and for the city council to, as a unified group, oppose Proposition 1, which, among other things, seeks to enshrine abortion into the constitution of California. There was no shortage of public comments, both for and against.

What I found interesting were the different lines of argumentation against the above resolution, all of which went beyond the local dealings of the City Council of Temecula. These were general arguments in support of abortion itself—and, in the case of some of the council members, the same sort of arguments that many political leaders give in relation to how they handle abortion issues.

I couldn’t help but think that many people are having these same sorts of conversations, especially in light of the recent Supreme Court decision in Dobbs v. Jackson and the upcoming 2022 midterm elections. This being the case, I thought it would be worthwhile to consider whether the arguments given at this city council meeting hold water.

We have space here to consider only the arguments that the public gave in support of abortion itself. I narrowed them down to three.

1. A city council shouldn’t be wasting its time considering an issue that pertains to religion.

The assumption here is that whatever is a religious issue doesn’t belong within the sphere of public governance. Since abortion is a religious issue, so the argument goes, abortion is beyond the scope of a city council’s governing authority. As one speaker put it, “they should be more concerned about real problems like fixing our streets and sidewalks.”

A pro-life speaker responded, rightly, that abortion is not a religious issue, but rather a human issue.

And why is this? Putting aside the different philosophical paths we could take, we can ask, simply, “Is a city council’s concerns about enforcing the law to protect your life a religious issue?” In fact, the city council explicitly expressed this concern by having over a dozen sheriff’s officers present to ensure everyone’s safety, given the contentious nature of the topic of discussion. And I think it’s safe to say the pro-abortion speakers would have responded “no.”

Protecting innocent lives is not, in the words of one of the pro-abortion speakers, “a religious ideology”—whether we’re talking about people after they’re born or before. Nor does it “brand the entire town in favor of one religion,” to use the words of another pro-abortion speaker.

2. You can’t claim to be pro-life unless you’re first tending to others who are in need and suffering harm and violence, such as homeless children and adults, abused children, etc.

 Let’s think about the logic embedded here: you’re not pro-life if you turn your back on protecting and improving the lives of these other innocent people.

Well, I couldn’t agree more! But this is a straw man. It’s not the pro-life position. No pro-lifer worth his salt is going to say that we should turn our backs on protecting and improving the lives of other innocent people. Fighting to protect the innocent lives of the unborn doesn’t entail a rejection of fighting to protect the innocent lives of others. It’s both-and, not either-or.

The reason for the focus on protecting the innocent lives of the unborn is that this is what’s at stake concerning current legislation within many states. States aren’t seeking to protect the “rights” of parents to abuse their children. They aren’t seeking to protect the “rights” of parents no longer to care for their children and leave them to fend for themselves. They aren’t seeking to keep homeless adults on the streets.

Moreover, we can’t actively fight for every just cause simultaneously. If we were to do that, nothing would ever get done. This doesn’t mean, however, that we turn a blind eye to the above abuses that do take place, even without the states promoting them. We unite our voices with whatever movement seeks to fight these abuses and recognize the need for such work to be done.

Furthermore, the abortion advocates who make this argument fail their own test. The argument is meant to expose the inconsistency of the pro-life position and show how bad pro-lifers are for turning their backs on innocent people who need help. But it’s the abortion advocates’ position that’s inconsistent and the abortion advocates who are turning their backs on protecting and helping innocent human people.

Their position entails that we must “be pro-life” by caring for the innocent lives of these other groups of people but not be pro-life when it comes to protecting and caring for the innocent lives of the unborn. And by not being pro-life when it comes to the unborn, it’s the abortion advocates who are turning their backs on innocent human lives.

3. If we take away a woman’s right to govern her own body, then no other rights matter. Let her decide what is best for her.

Well, you can’t have the right to govern your body unless you first have life. You don’t have to be a professional philosopher to see that you must be alive first before you can exercise any sort of right concerning your body. So the right to life would matter even if a woman’s right to govern her own body were taken away.

For example, the woman who made this argument started out saying she had two kids (outside the womb). If she had decided to harm her two born kids—whether by physical or emotional abuse, or abandoning them and leaving them to fend for themselves—then her freedom to govern her body could have been justifiably taken away by putting her in prison. But her right to life, at least in these circumstances, would still have mattered, and been respected through the justice system.

There’s another way in which this argument is flawed. “Let a woman decide what is best for her,” this woman said. But what if this woman decided that it was best for her to harm her born children, or even kill them? Should we, or a city council, turn a blind eye to that? Of course not! Why? Because no one has a “right” to choose to abuse or kill innocent human beings.

The question is not whether a woman has a right to do what she thinks is best. The question is whether a woman has a right to abuse or kill an innocent human being—namely, the unborn. And the response to this question, even by a city council, should be a resounding “no”!

In a truly Christian society, the idea of holding a public debate to discuss whether or not it is okay to murder children in the womb would be shunned. Perhaps, one day, our society will go in that direction. In the meantime, debates over the legalized murder of pre-born children through abortion must be tolerated—and we who seek to defend the little ones in the womb need to be prepared to respond to the opposition’s arguments, which we’ll be hearing more and more.

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