Trudeau’s Defense of Abortion is a Fail (So Was His New Effort on Saturday)
UPDATE! Trudeau tries to clarify his position…and fails again.
Trudeau’s Defense of Abortion is a Fail — Again
Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s impromptu defense of abortion (a week or so ago, in a now viral video) was an embarrassment to thinking Canadians. I gave it a grade of F. For my reasons, see here and here.
On Saturday, April 22, Trudeau posted a short video (1.5 minutes) on his official Facebook page to clarify his abortion-choice position.
The embarrassment continues. Another F.
Let’s look at Trudeau’s clarification. Then let’s assess.
Here is the crucial text (transcript) from Trudeau’s new video:
[O]ur government will always stand up and take action to protect access to reproductive health services…. We’re working with partners across the country to ensure better access to safe and inclusive reproductive health services. … With attacks on reproductive rights around the world, it’s really important that we not take things for granted; and we continue to stand up unequivocally. So let me be very clear. This government will never tell a woman what to do with her body. We are unequivocally and proudly pro-choice and always will be.
There are two serious problems with Trudeau’s “clarification.”
First, in the context of abortion, the issue is not merely about telling a woman what to do with her body. In the context of abortion there are two bodies, not just the woman’s body.
The fact is that the unborn baby is not the woman’s body. It’s the child’s body. And abortion destroys the child’s body. And whenever someone chooses to destroy another human body, government has a legitimate interest.
Second, to justify abortion-choice in terms of “reproductive health services” and “reproductive rights” is a deceptive abuse of language.
Reproduction, i.e., the creation of a child (pre-natal human being/person) conceived via sex, occurs BEFORE abortion takes place. Reproductive freedom and rights are exercised BEFORE abortion takes place.
The late Michael Bauman, Professor of Theology and Culture at Hillsdale College, observes:
When pro-choicers have unforced sex, they are choosing. That is freedom of choice. When they decide to kill the child conceived during that sexual encounter, that is freedom from choice. They chose; now they want to be free from the consequences of that choice, even if someone has to die.
In other words, abortion is not a reproductive health service. And justifying abortion in terms of reproductive rights and freedom is a ruse.
Final grade: F.
Our Original Story …
In a recent popular video Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, while visiting the University of Manitoba, is seen discussing abortion with a young man who doesn’t support abortion.
Pro-choicers praised Trudeau for “schooling” the young man, and pro-lifers were embarrassed with the young man’s lack of intellectual acumen.
That young man, it seems to me, isn’t the sharpest pencil in the pencil case. But I think Trudeau’s response is dull, too.
In fact (and I speak here as a retired philosophy professor), Trudeau’s response deserves an F.
Trudeau’s Response Deserves an F
Trudeau’s case for abortion being legal in Canada — right up to birth, for all women — hangs on two unqualified yes answers to two questions.
1) Do women have the right to choose what happens to their own bodies?
2) Should a woman who has been raped be allowed to have an abortion?
Trudeau clearly thinks the answers should be yes and yes, full stop.
I think Trudeau’s unqualified yes answers are mistaken — and dismally so.
Thinking Canadians Deserve Evidence and Reason
Here are my answers to Trudeau’s two questions, but with needed nuance.
1) Yes, generally speaking, women have the right to choose what happens to their bodies. But in the context of abortion, if we get clarity on the truth concerning abortion, then the answer to Trudeau’s question is no.
Why? Because, even though women have the right to choose what happens to their bodies, in the context of abortion there are two bodies, not just the woman’s body.
The fact is that unborn baby is not the woman’s body. It’s the child’s body. And abortion destroys the child’s body. Abortion kills the child.
Trudeau ignores this.
2) Should a woman who has been raped be allowed to have an abortion? Trudeau thinks the answer is, again, an unqualified yes. And so abortion in general should be legal.
My answer, however, is this: Rape does not justify abortion in general.
Rape is wrong and terrible, definitely. I agree with this 100%.
But perspective is needed, especially if we’re talking about whether all abortions should be legal (which is Trudeau’s view).
It turns out that of the total abortion practice (in North America), abortions for rape account for a small percentage only. According to Fordham University ethicist Charles Camosy, “about 1 percent of all abortions take place in situations where the mother was raped.” (Charles C. Camosy, Beyond the Abortion Wars: A Way Forward for a New Generation [Grand Rapids, Michigan/Cambridge, U.K.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2015], 20.)
But this means that to justify the general abortion situation because of these few terrible cases is to commit the fallacy of hasty generalization.
That is to say, Trudeau’s appeal to a tiny percentage of hard cases to justify the remaining 99 percent is a mistake in reasoning. In fact, it exploits rape victims to promote a general abortion-choice ideology.
Of course, Canadians of goodwill may disagree about whether abortion should be allowed in the case of rape. Nevertheless, one thing is certain and, I believe, can be agreed to by all Canadians: Rape doesn’t justify the general practice of abortion — not by a long shot.
Prime Minister Justin Trudeau did not “school” the young man who isn’t on board with Trudeau’s abortion program. From the point of view of evidence and reason, Trudeau’s justification of general abortion-choice is weak. And should be an embarrassment to thinking Canadians.
Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is a retired philosophy professor who lives in Steinbach, Manitoba, Canada. Hendrik is author of the book Untangling Popular Pro-Choice Arguments: Critical Thinking about Abortion.