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.
Consider a store that sells at least one good. Assume the entirely conceivable possibility that it is a mom and pop store, and that one of the store’s owners happens to be the cashier at the moment. If you go in and purchase such a good, what rights are you and the cashier exercising?
The cashier’s right to sell you that good, and your right to buy that good, your right to possess that good, and your right to own that good would be uncontroversial choices. I mean, if the cashier didn’t believe you had the right to own or purchase that good (assume you are an adult, and also assume that the cashier has the right to refuse service to you for arbitrary reasons, like they are always wanting for bigoted marriage commissioners and anti–choice pharmacists) why the hell are they selling it to you (assume the store owners are able to afford to lose your business)? If they didn’t implicitly agree that you had the right to buy that good they would simply refuse to sell it. Clearly then, if a cashier allows you to purchase a good they implicitly agree you have the right to purchase, own, and possess that good.
What sorts of goods would you buy in a cookware store? An incomplete list would be pits, pans, oven mitts, kitchen timers, knives, rolling pins, cutting boards, forks, baking dishes, and china caps. Clearly then, if a cashier lets you buy a kitchen knife, they support your right to buy, own, and possess kitchen knives.
Now, consider what sorts of purposes one could purchase a kitchen knife for. Besides carving your thanksgiving turkey, is it not possible that someone might purchase a kitchen knife solely for the purposes of acquiring a weapon with which to knife someone? Is that not conceivable?
Now recall premise 2 from up above: “If you support the right to do something, you support people exercising that regardless of their reasons for doing so.” Combined with the above, it leads to an absurd conclusion: “If you are a cookware store owner, you support the someone’s right to buy a knife for stabbing someone.” Or, put more bluntly, “If you are a cookware store owner, you are pro–stabbing.
Rightfully, people would condemn such a conclusion as ridiculous and absurd. But based on the way anti–choicers reason, that it what they are required to believe.
This same sort of argument can be extended to other examples. For example, a not insignificant number of anti–choicers are opposed to gun control. Reasoning analogous to the above could be used to argue that anyone who supports guns supports gunning people down. Whatever absurdity you draw from it, you cannot arbitrarily claim that premise 2 from up above is “special” and applicable only to abortion, as this is the fallacy of special pleading.
As for what to do about sex–selective abortions, I agree with the Arbourist, Libby Anne, and others. Ban dowries, promote matrilineal descent, improve the value of girls, and so on.