Over the past several years as political tensions and sloganeering have escalated in the culture and on social media, a revived version of the “seamless garment” argument for abortion has been leveled at pro-life advocates. Critics will assert that pro-life advocates are hypocrites at best and deceivers at worst because of their exclusive focus on the humanity and moral status of the unborn to the exclusion of other issues of moral importance. Probably the best articulation of this view comes from progressive pastor John Pavlovitz, in an article he wrote during the 2016 Presidential Election:
“I actually don’t believe you’re pro-life, I believe you practice a far more selective and convenient defense of Humanity. From where I’m standing it seems as though ‘Life’ for you, comprises a very narrow demographic—one that bears a striking resemblance to you. The unborn are easy to advocate for because you can idealize them into something palatable to you, something benign and comfortable, something in your own image. You see, it’s not that you’re really pro-life, you’re pro-straight, white, Christian fetuses.”
-Pavlovitz, “Fellow White Christian Friends-I Wish You Really Were Pro-life”, 2016
Pavlovitz then goes on to level a number of accusations at pro-life advocates. He alleges that if we “really were pro-life”, we would fight against homophobia, for single-payer healthcare, against racism and for open borders, and a whole host of other liberal talking points.
Pavlovitz isn’t alone. In her video “Kids Meet Someone Who Had An Abortion”  , Amelia Bonow of “Shout Your Abortion” asserts that the term “pro-life” is merely propaganda; that if we were truly “pro-life” we would care about life after birth. As Bonow puts it,
“Pro-Life is just a propaganda term. People who say they are ‘Pro-life’ don’t take care of babies after birth, and when their family ends up in poverty. Or they are also trying to take away people’s healthcare. They aren’t pro-life; I’m pro-life. They are anti-choice.”
Other prominent pro-choice activists such as actress Alyssa Milano have leveled similar accusations on social media and in interviews. Memes abound on Twitter and Facebook accusing pro-lifers of being hypocrites.
The accusation is prevalent, but is it truthful?
Let’s go back to the basic pro-life argument:
Premise 1 – It’s wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being.
Premise 2 – Elective abortion kills an innocent human being.
Conclusion – Therefore, elective abortion is wrong.
If an argument is valid, a matter of how the argument is constructed, and the premises sound, either demonstrably true or more likely true than not, then the conclusion necessarily follows. In a valid syllogism, the premises must be either refuted, proven wrong, or undercut, proven more likely wrong than right, to avoid the conclusion. Our personal feelings about the argument are irrelevant.
The behavior of pro-lifers does nothing to refute or undercut the premises of that argument. Even if it were true that pro-lifers are cloaking their callous indifference to the born in advocating on the part of the unborn, it would hardly imply that the unborn can be justifiably killed. Those who level the accusation either intentionally erect a smokescreen or mistakenly avoid answering that basic pro-life argument.
As I have written elsewhere, to borrow terminology from Scott Klusendorf, there are two types of people who make this sort of an argument: Crusaders and Inquirers. An Inquirer wants to know how her belief in the wrongness of abortion should also lead her to value life at other stages of life. Her quest is noble.
The Crusader wants none of it. He’s just out to score rhetorical points at the expense of truth. His quest is lazy and foolish. Pavlovitz, Bonow, Milano, and others like them are all examples of Crusaders, out to make a snarky comment that shuts up pro-lifers.
The Crusader’s charge is bold but hardly clever. Suppose pro-lifers did exactly what our critics are demanding of us. We ended gun violence overnight. We made healthcare available to all. We ended racism, bigotry, and all other forms of immoral exclusion overnight, and fixed the environment.
Would our critics then join us in opposing abortion as a great moral injustice? It’s hard to imagine staunch pro-choice advocates lining up to become outspoken pro-life advocates all because we had created heaven on earth. They will just give us a new laundry list of excuses to deal with. So why even bring it up to begin with?
Furthermore, why do the unborn have to wait for a near heaven on earth to be created in America before we will protect them in our laws? What is the essential difference between the born and the unborn that allows us to kill the unborn until we have made the world better for the other? Pro-lifers contend that the unborn are valuable human beings just like the racially oppressed, the poor, and the broken, and that there is no essential difference between the born and unborn that allows us to justifiably kill the unborn.
We also contend that the unborn are being unjustly killed in numbers that far exceed every other moral issue in America today. Now it is possible that we are mistaken about the humanity of the unborn; but our critics must establish that we are mistaken in the first place, not hide behind cheap rhetorical shots on Twitter. In other words, critics must engage our essential pro-life argument instead of personally attacking the alleged moral failings of pro-life advocates.
The Inquirer is different. Chances are, she fully understand and affirms the pro-life argument, but is still confused about how to address other topics. She may be concerned about how to address other issues of human life in other contexts.
To this I am sympathetic. However, the unborn deserve special attention because they are treated like no other group in America today. More unborn children will be killed by the end of this week than all other groups (Minorities, the poor, women, victims of gun violence) combined. This happens with the full blessings of the Supreme Court of the United States, an entire American political party, the majority of higher education, Hollywood and other big businesses (Think of the boycotts of “Heartbeat bill” states), and every single Democratic candidate for the American presidency. Until that changes, pro-lifers are right to focus extra attention on the unborn. The deck stacked against the unborn is immense.
The allegation that pro-lifers are inconsistent or hypocritical is pointless. It’s also statistically false, as we will see in part two.
This video has been removed since this article has been written. The original title was “Kids meet someone who’s had an abortion.”