Saturday, October 25, 2008

The Illogic of Obama on Abortion

[The following essay is by a graduate philosophy student, whose name I have withheld, given the possible detriment to his or her career this essay might bring if he or she is identified. No, the academy is not a bastion of political fairness. The author was willing to identity his or her name, but I counseled the person against it. In any event, the logic is flawless and furthers the case against Obama.]


Obama on Partial Birth Abortion: Some Reflections on the October 15 Debate

Finally! Obama’s stance on abortion finally came up, but, true to form, McCain missed the opportunity to land punch. That’s not to say that McCain did not try. For all his swinging in the air, McCain just could not touch the ducking-and-diving Obama. McCain brought up Obama’s voting record in the Illinois state senate and rightly pointed out that Obama is no friend to the pro-life movement. More to the point at hand, McCain also pointed out Obama’s resistance to a ban on partial birth abortion. Obama was able to dodge these blows by citing legislation that already protected infants born alive and his favorable attitude toward a ban on partial birth abortion that made an exception for the health of the mother. McCain did his darndest to rebut the “health of the mother” clause, but again to no avail.

Perhaps the following reflections will hit a little harder that McCain’s comments made last night. First, picking up where McCain left off, let’s think about late-term partial birth abortion and a case where the mother’s life is in danger. Picture the following scenario:

A woman goes to visit her Ob/Gyn; she’s eight-months pregnant. The doctor gives the woman a thorough evaluation and decides that there is a [sufficiently] high probability that the woman will die if she either (1) continues the pregnancy or (2) gives birth. The doctor goes on to recommend an abortion because the life of the mother is at risk.

In the third trimester, the only option the doctor has for performing an abortion is a partial birth abortion. We have a case, then, where to prevent (1) the doctor must bring about (2). Either way, the woman will die. Perhaps one can formulate an example where it is merely the “health” of the mother at risk. This does not drastically change the situation. Fetuses in the third trimester of gestation are viable. If, all things being equal, the mother would keep the baby if it were not for the health risk, then why not merely induce labor and keep the baby? Or, if vaginal delivery is the problem, why not do a C-section and keep the baby? In the sever case where the life of the mother is at risk, I see no way of saving that life through partial birth abortion.

Therefore, an exception clause for the life of the mother is unjustified. In a less severe case where the mother’s health is at risk, the fact that there is no significant difference between giving birth to keep the baby and giving birth to abort the baby mitigates against the need for an exception for the health of the mother. In either case, partial birth abortion is an unnecessary practice. Therefore, Obama should not have any qualms about supporting a total ban on partial birth abortion.

Second, McCain failed to mention Obama’s position toward the Freedom of Choice Act. If this were to become law, all restrictions on abortions, including partial birth abortions, would be repealed. Further, the act would provide tax-payer dollars to fund abortions on demand. Obama has said that one of the first things he would do as President would be sign the Freedom of Choice Act into law. Two things Obama said in last night’s debate are relevant. First, he claimed that he would like to see less abortions take place. Second, he claimed that he supported a ban on partial birth abortion (again, as long as the exclusion for the health of the mother was included in the bill). I think the best way to highlight the problem is to give a couple of deductive arguments.

1. Obama supports a ban on partial birth abortion (given the appropriate exclusions).
2. Obama will sign the Freedom of Choice Act into law.
3. If the Freedom of Choice Act is signed into law, then a ban on partial birth abortions would be impossible.
4. A ban on partial birth abortions will be impossible with Obama as President (from (2) and (3)).
5. Obama supports a ban on partial birth abortion (given the appropriate exclusions) and he will make such a ban impossible as President (from (1) and (4)).
Statement (5) is a contradiction. One cannot at the same time support a ban and support legislation that would prevent such a ban from taking place. Therefore, either (1), (2), or (3) is false. (3) is true. That makes the culprit either (1) or (2). Obama said both (1) and (2), albeit on different occasions, and I leave it to the reader to decide which one he’s really going to support.

Now, onto the second argument…

6. If the Freedom of Choice Act is signed into law, then any pregnant woman in the country would be able to get an abortion without that procedure being cost prohibitive [the act provides federal subsidies for those who cannot afford an abortion].
7. If abortion is no longer cost prohibitive, then there will be more abortions.
8. If the Freedom of Choice Act is signed into law, there will be more abortions (from (6) and (7)).
9. Obama stated that he wants fewer abortions.
10. There will be more abortions (from (2) and (8)).
11. Therefore, Obama wants fewer abortions and will sign into law an act that will increase abortions.

Now, (11) is a contradiction. (6) is true, (7) is reasonable, (8) follows deductively from (6) and (7), and so the problem is again the fact that Obama says one thing (10) and plans to do something (2) that contradict one another.

It’s certainly fair to ask whether Obama is really for less abortions or for more abortions and whether he is really for a ban on partial birth abortion or for zero restrictions on abortion. As far as I can tell, there is nothing coherent in Obama’s stated positions, and that is troubling. It seems that the contradictions either stem from incompetence or deception. In either event, the guy shouldn’t be President. Hopefully, that’s a smack right in the kisser.

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