The “fallacy of irrelevant appeals,”

“I had an abortion. I was not in a libertine college-girl phase, although frankly it’s none of your business. I was already a mother of two, which puts me in the majority of American women who have abortions. Six out of 10 are mothers, which makes sense, because a mother could not fool herself into believing that having another baby was no big deal.”

So opens a recent post by journalist Hanna Rosin on’s infamous XX Blog. This opening salvo, meant to shock us even though she goes on to tell us we shouldn’t be shocked at all, is the introduction to her review of a book entitled Pro: Reclaiming Abortion Rights. The author, Katha Pollitt, is apparently disgusted by the way the nefarious pro-life movement has successfully perpetuated the stigmatization of abortion. Her book encourages women to claim with pride the sacred right that’s theirs and theirs alone: the right to kill their unborn child for any reason they deem suitable. Her book, according to Rosin (full disclosure, I have not read this book and so my response is based solely on Ms. Rosin’s summary of Pollitt’s main points) not only defends abortion as a woman’s right, but venerates it as a social and moral good.

And Rosin apparently agrees with her. It’s ridiculous, she tells us, that in 2014 anyone is still shocked by the fact of abortion. “[A]ny woman who’s reading this piece and has had an abortion,” she writes, “or any man who has supported one, should go in the comments section and [say so], until there are so many accounts that the statement loses its shock value. . . . We shouldn’t need a book explaining why abortion rights are important. We should be over that by now.” Get that, America? Moral outrage over abortion is like, sooooo forty years ago. Lots and lots of women have abortions. And these women don’t think there’s anything wrong with it, so it must be okay.

Logicians would say that this argument, if you can even call it that, hinges upon what they call the “fallacy of irrelevant appeals,” namely the appeal to popularity. Certainly Ms. Rosin doesn’t believe that simply because a lot of people do something, that makes that it morally acceptable. She wouldn’t agree that the horrors of the Roman Colosseum were morally acceptable simply because thousands and thousands of Roman citizens thought it was good fun to watch Christians and slaves and prisoners get torn to pieces by lions. She wouldn’t agree that the treatment of Native Americans by the American government was justifiable, even though most white Americans at the time believed the native peoples of the continent to be ignorant savages. She wouldn’t agree with John C. Calhoun’s argument that since the whole of the Southern agrarian economy depended upon the institution of slavery that it was not merely a necessary evil but a positive social good. She wouldn’t agree because she’s an educated, intelligent, civilized person and she recognizes barbarism and cruelty when she sees it. What’s more, she recognizes a bad argument when she hears one.

But of course, every ideology has its sacred cows, and for most Progressives abortion is one. On this issue, the normal rules of logic and rigorous argumentation are suspended and all that matters is “what women want.” Ms. Rosin says as much when she laments the need for abortion apologetics in the 21st century. To her, it’s a non-issue that doesn’t even merit serious discussion anymore. Even though about as many people are pro-life as are pro-choice, she doesn’t feel obligated to take any heed of the many essential questions at the heart of the abortion debate. Essential questions that men have been asking since the being of time. Ontological and philosophical and theological questions that run much deeper than the pro-life caricatures she so easily dismisses.

Read more on Christian Post in this article by Erica Wanis. She makes many excellent philosophical points – as well as some commonsense ones.


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