Friday, February 12, 2016

Refuting Planned Parenthood on viability and SCOTUS

The "viability" argument goes something like this: "A fetus can't survive on its own outside the womb, therefore, it's not a fully developed human." Therefore, says the Planned Parenthood supporter, abortion is morally acceptable.

For example, we see this from among Planned Parenthood's Arizona advocates, one of whom writes that a woman has the "right not to be forced to give birth and choosing not to carry a non-viable, non human being..."

With the scandal of Planned Parenthood having been caught on film negotiating the sale of infant body parts, such supporters of the organization are perhaps finding themselves having to seek refuge in such shelters as the "viability" argument. (By the way, you can keep abreast of the Center for Medical Progress and David Daleiden's legal battle surrounding Planned Parenthood at Life Legal Defense Foundation.)

So what's wrong with the viability argument?
  • The presence of human life is not dependent on the subject's personal capacity to survive in any particular environment. For example:
    • Even a post-live-birth baby cannot survive without a variety of dependencies and isn't "viable" of his/her own accord. A newborn baby cannot feed him/herself, dress him/herself, protect him/herself, nor a variety of other things that can easily determine that child's fate. Thus, a baby's ability to viably self-preserve is not a logical measure by which the presence of human life is determined.
    • If the PP supporter is referring to a baby's ability to survive outside the womb even with medical assistance, there is another problem. Throughout history, the stage at which a baby has survived outside the womb gets younger and younger. The PP supporter finds him/herself arguing that human life comes into being at a different point, depending on whether that child was born in 2016 or 1916. The same supporter would have to argue that human life comes into being at a different point, depending on whether that child was born in Beverly Hills or the terrains of Somalia. Holders of this view must change their view of when they believe human life to exist by appealing to available medical technology. This is a nonsensical position.
    • If the PP supporter is merely talking about respiration, there are clearly situations in which even an adult human cannot "viably" respire of his/her own accord, such as under water, in outer space, in a dense fire, amid toxic air, or other situations. Point being––ability to respire is not a logical measure by which the presence of human life is determined. It's absurd to say an adult who cannot respire in any given environment is less than human. 
The Supreme Court argument goes something like this: "The Supreme Court determined that a fetus isn't a human being." Thus, says the PP supporter, abortion is morally acceptable.

For example, we see this implied by NARAL Wisconsin, outlining what it believes to be good arguments to tell pro-lifers, including the following statements (emphasis mine): "The Supreme Court has said and I believe that legal personhood begins with birth" and "Embryos are a cluster of cells with the potential to develop into a human life if implanted into a woman's womb and brought to term."

So what's wrong with the Supreme Court argument?
  • The presence of human life is not dependent on any verdict by the Supreme Court of the United States. For example:
    • The Supreme Court itself has reversed its own prior verdicts. In fact, it has done so well over 100 times. Appealing to a source that denies its own immutability is hardly a satisfactory argument.
    • Thus, appealing to the "Supreme Court" results in the nonsensical position that human life began in the womb prior to 1973 but not after 1973. It fails the same test as the "medical technology" fallacy described in the first section above: depending on when a child was born, the court's Roe v. Wade opinion may not even have existed. In fact, prior to 1789, SCOTUS didn't even exist. 
    • As well, the Supreme Court's jurisdiction ends at the United States. Obviously, the majority of the human population is not subject to SCOTUS verdicts. Appealing to a single country's legal verdict as the benchmark for a philosophical argument for all of humanity is self-defeating when the court itself does not claim to govern all humanity. 
    • In an ironic twist, Planned Parenthood doesn't even embrace verdicts of the Supreme Court. For example, in 2014, SCOTUS upheld a federal abortion ban involving second trimester pregnancies.  PP immediately sent out a press release which stated: "Planned Parenthood Federation of America (PPFA) denounced the ruling."
It's not difficult to refute arguments built on shaky ground as we can see here. It may be a bigger challenge simply to find a mind willing to permit his/her views to pass scrutiny.

Regarding the matter of abortion, I would suggest the discussion must always be founded on whether or not that which is in the womb is a human life. Biological arguments are effective here. It is no secret that the when a zygote is formed at conception, the baby has a unique DNA, distinct from the mother. Even the government admits this:
The zygote contains all of the genetic information (DNA) needed to become a baby. Half the DNA comes from the mother's egg and half from the father's sperm. Fetal Development, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2013) (see more references at Life begins at conception, science teaches, Live Action News)
The NLM is ironically part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services––the government entity that admitted oral contraceptives increase cancer risk in women. And here it admits the unique DNA identity of the enwombed infant from conception.

Building on the science from a philosophical perspective, we can observe the beginning of the life process with the merger of the egg and sperm (the zygote). And we can observe continuity from that stage until a person passes away. To assign human life's beginning at some other point along the empirical timeline inevitably proves arbitrary, inconsistent, and fails scrutiny. For some examples of these flawed arguments here at TCV, see Replies to Planned Parenthood arguments or Notre Dame professor's flawed argument for abortion.