Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Reductio ad absurdum? How about ad nauseum...

The basic goal of a reductio ad absurdum ("reduction to the absurd") argument is to take someone's position and find an extreme example that would bring about an "absurd" result if the same logic is applied. This can be an acceptable argument so long as the logic is being applied in a consistent manner and all relevant factors are taken into account.

A common argument used to attack just about any legislation restricting or outlawing abortion is that of the case of rape or incest. This is employed as a reductio ad absurdum by appealing to an extreme circumstance. Are rape and incest horrible crimes? Absolutely, and so the argument goes that because the pregnancy is the result of this horrible crime those vitcims should have the right to deal with it in the manner they see fit. This argument is made over and over again every time abortion legislation comes up. When a little logic is applied to the situation however, we'll see that this argument relies on emotion rather than reason.

I recently came across an interesting article written following South Dakota's landmark law in 2006 banning all abortions except those necessary to save the lift of the mother. The article was written by Jan LaRue, chief counsel for Concerned Women for America, and dealt with the topic of why abortion bans shouldn’t include exceptions for victims of rape or incest.

The fundamental question that is raised by the issue of such cases is, "What makes the case different from other cases where abortion is ostensibly forbidden?" The answer has nothing to do with the child whose life will be terminated, but rather the circumstances under which the child was conceived. In other words, the child is condemned to be the victim in the termination of his or her life because the mother was herself a victim in the conception of it.

The article puts it this way:

Since the law does not permit a victim to aid her recovery by killing her rapist, why should the law permit her to kill the innocent unborn child? If aborting the child will aid in the woman’s recovery, why not permit her to kill the child at any age?

To do so is to make the child suffer for the crime committed by his or her father. It is why:

  • We do not permit a parent of a murdered child to kill the child of the murderer.
  • We do not permit a victim of robbery to steal from the robber’s child.
  • We do not permit a victim of arson to burn the home of the arsonist’s child.

Somehow, the morality and sense of justice that is so obvious when considering these questions escapes many when the same principles are applied to the pre-born child.

To be sure, cases of rape and incest are terrible for the woman. However, I cannot see the justification for terminating the life of an innocent child because of it. It only compounds the crime by making the innocent child suffer for the sins of the guilty father. As the article points out, many studies have shown that those victims who do carry their pregnancies do not regret it and that their child actually "brought peace and healing to their lives."

So when it comes down to it, while the argument for rape/incest exceptions attempts to make a strong case on emotion grounds, it really ignores both the emotional and legal results. Killing an innocent child will not undo the crime that was done to the mother. All it will do is repond to one crime with another.

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