The Arbourist’s latest post covers the issue of sex–selective abortions. Now, unlike over there, I’ve never had any sort of anti–choice misogynist come over and blather on with empty words and talking points. However, I am fully aware of how this is used as an argument against abortion. Such an argument goes something like this:
“You support abortion. Therefore, you support sex–selective abortion.” Put into good form (all premises and sub–arguments explicitly stated) it goes as follows:
- P1: You support abortion rights
- p2: If you support the right to do something, you support people exercising that regardless of their reasons for doing so.
- P3: Some people use the right to an abortion for reasons of sex selection.
- C: Therefore, you support sex–selective abortions.
Now, this argument is valid, which is a technical term meaning that (1) it is impossible for all of the premises to be simultaneously true; and (2) that it is impossible for the conclusion to also be false. Clearly, however, this argument is unsound, as I would like to think most people clearly see that premise 2 is false. It is obvious that supporting the right to do something does not require you to support all possible rationales for exercising that. To rational people, that is obvious.
However, because of the way they use the argument this post is about, anti–choicers are required to believe that premise 2 is true (this is the charitable interpretation; the uncharitable [and likely true, IMO] is that they are being dishonest. [If they believed the premise to be false, well then they’d clearly see how their argument is unsound and therefore would never use it if they were honest.
I will now grant for the sake of argument that premise 2 is true, and will show how accepting its truth leads to an absurd conclusion.
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