Scott Tibbs
Herald-Times, December 20, 2003

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Thoughts on anti-abortion protests

(Full disclosure: I also participate in anti-abortion protests.)

There has been an interesting exchange of letters to the editor in the Herald-Times regarding whether or not it is appropriate for men to picket at Planned Parenthood. (Note: all links to stories in the H-T require a subscription.)This exchange started with a November 9 letter by Bernard Abrams, who objected to men protesting abortion. He wrote: "Unless a gentleman's wife has made a determination to terminate a birth, protests by others of the male gender are not relevant."

I know this is a cliché, but if I had a dime for every time I heard a statement like that I would be quite wealthy. This is a classic ad hominem logical fallacy. Abrams is not addressing the merits of the pro-life position, but the characteristics of the person taking that position. Why would a pro-life argument have more logical validity if a woman states it instead of a man? Of course, it does not. The gender of those opposed to (or in favor of) legalized abortion is irrelevant.

IU Students for Life President Lucas Weeks wrote on December 1: "The central issue of the abortion debate is simple: the question of the humanity of an unborn baby." Weeks is right. Is the fetus a human being or not? If a fetus is a human being, at what point (if any) should there be legal protections for that fetus?

If a fetus is not a human being, then there is no argument about abortion. If no one is harmed by the abortion procedure, women should not be prohibited from removing something growing in their body that they do not want. There is no justification for controlling an elective surgical procedure that harms no one. But it is not quite so simple. There is ample evidence to suggest that someone is harmed by abortion.

Jenni Klose, in her November 11 letter, raised several concerns that "abortion protesters" should address "If you are actually concerned about children". While the issues Klose raises deserve attention in their own right, they are red herrings to the matter of abortion and protesting of it. (This is not to say that these issues are unimportant, just that they are not relevant to the logical validity of opposing abortion.)

This is a common tactic as well, but opposing abortion does not necessarily obligate someone to support other causes, nor does it obligate someone to take a specific stance on an issue like capital punishment. It is certainly legitimate to question the consistency of pro-lifers in relation to their positions on other issues and/or their support for private charities, but inconsistency on other matters does not make a pro-life position logically invalid. (I would point out that many pro-lifers, especially Christians, do donate generously to charity.)

One of the most controversial tactics used by pro-life demonstrators (locally and nationwide) is the use of graphic photographs depicting the results of an abortion. This tactic made headlines on campus with the display of the Genocide Awareness Project two years ago. Since then, some local pro-lifers have used similar hand-held signs.

Many think that these signs are offensive, and should not be displayed. On the first point I agree, and on the second I do not. The signs should be seen precisely because they are offensive. If pictures depicting the reality of abortion are offensive, is not the procedure itself offensive? Every Thursday, Planned Parenthood snuffs out human life on South College in downtown Bloomington. What is more offensive, pictures representing the results of an abortion, or the killing center three blocks from Kirkwood?

Visible protests of abortion are not going to go away, especially not while Planned Parenthood operates an abortion clinic in downtown Bloomington. We should not expect dedicated pro-life activists to stop protesting abortion any more than we should expect opponents of Interstate 69 or the war in Iraq to stop demonstrating against what they feel is harmful. Is it too much to expect a reasoned explanation of why "reproductive choice" should continue, rather than the same old clichés?