By Grace Hemmeke, Right to Life of Michigan Events & Outreach Coordinator
Sometimes a fallacy or a bad argument is made using only true statements. One such statement is, “Pregnancy always poses a health risk.”
Prolife debaters might balk at this statement, especially when they are already embroiled in a debate about abortion, and the statement comes from the pro-abortion debater. You can see the train at the end of the tunnel. You know that if you agree, this will somehow lead to a stronger pro-abortion argument. Why?
First, this statement in the context of a prolife/pro-abortion debate is an example of the fallacy of selective arrangement. Debaters often will choose what truths to tell based on how well those truths feed into their own conclusions or beliefs. To say that pregnancy always poses a health risk is true, but it ignores a large swath of other truths which would not benefit an abortion advocate to mention. This would be like saying, “I didn’t run over any three-legged dogs today!” While the statement is true, it can distract from other truths… such as the fact that I did run over a four-legged cat.
Apply that same logic here. Pregnancy can pose a health risk, but pregnancy also brings a new life into the world. Aside from that obvious benefit, pregnancy also brings significant benefits to the mother, both in terms of mental and physical health. During pregnancy, hormones in the body change, which lowers the chances that the mother will develop ovarian or uterine cancer. As another protective mechanism against cancer, a mother who chooses to breastfeed will have a reduced chance of developing breast cancer.
A Swedish study has shown that pregnancy, motherhood, and fatherhood are connected to increased longevity, with parents showing longer lifespans than childless adults. Although the researchers were unsure why this was the case, it’s clear that pregnancy and parenthood help people live longer.
While in the womb, the unborn baby exchanges certain cells with the mother, including blood cells. Those cells have been found in mothers long after birth, where they assist with healing wounds, autoimmune responses, and more. In some cases, scientists have discovered fetal cells in scar tissue from C-sections, indicating that fetal cells can even help the mother recover from a difficult birth.
Pregnant mothers have also proven to be more productive than childless women, even to the point where their brains expand in the hypothalamus, parietal lobe, and prefrontal cortex, which process motivation, senses, and reasoning, respectively. This study released by the American Psychological Association even found that mothers who had special attachments to their children, “who most enthusiastically rated their babies as special, beautiful, ideal, perfect and so on were significantly more likely to develop bigger mid-brains than the less awestruck mothers in key areas linked to maternal motivation, rewards and the regulation of emotions.” Love and relationships, even with babies yet unborn have obvious ramifications for brain health.
If a debater chooses to ignore these facts while highlighting the risks instead, prolife debaters have a reason to be wary. It may be that the pro-abortion debater is attempting to use the fallacy of selective arrangement. If you pick and choose what truths to talk about, you necessarily pick and choose which truths you will not talk about. Selective arrangement hinges on this and works effectively to draw a curtain over parts of an argument that would work against you. No matter how true those facts may be, they are not the whole picture. Pregnancy is different for different people, and although it carries risk, it also carries great reward, not the least of those being a new life.
So, what are effective responses to selective arrangement? First, don’t assume malice. Many people who consider themselves pro-choice are not fully aware of the sad reality of abortion or have been deceived by the abortion industries. This makes it easy to respond initially, as you have a chance to talk about the upsides of being pregnant, and the rarity of truly life-threatening complications. Some pro-life responses include:
“Pregnancy may have risks but it also has benefits.” You can use the studies above to talk about medical upsides of pregnancy. Sometimes bringing awareness to unknown facts is all you need to do to make the conversation more friendly. Or this could result in the pro-abortion debater fully revealing the selective arrangement if they simply disregard these legitimate scientific studies.
“No prolife law forbids treating the mother if her life is at risk.” Remind your opponent that the prolife movement isn’t out to harm women—just to save babies. You can use this line to push the conversation toward weighing the risks of pregnancy against the death that abortion always causes. This points out that even though there may be risks to pregnancy, those risks do not justify the intentional ending of an innocent human life.
“Abortion is much riskier to the mother than pregnancy.” You can go on offense and talk about the dangers of abortion. Research shows that 1 in 6 women suffer from severe bleeding after taking the abortion pill, and “nearly 8 percent of first-trimester chemical abortions failed to kill the baby—meaning that a woman would need surgery if she wanted to complete the abortion.” These statistics include only the women, but we also know that a successful abortion always ends an unborn child’s life as well.
It’s almost impossible to include all known data on any debated topic. But it is possible to choose samples of data that are complete, that don’t ignore certain uncomfortable truths, and that help the debaters to have a more rounded view of the subject. Remember that a conclusion is supported by facts. Facts should never be handpicked to help reach a predetermined conclusion.