Are prolifers hypocritical?

By Bruce P. Blackshaw.

There has been a swathe of academic papers in recent years accusing opponents of abortion (described as ‘prolife’) of hypocrisy. It’s a popular theme outside academia as well. The argument goes along the lines of ‘if prolifers care so much about fetuses, why don’t they do something about X’, where X might be adopting frozen embryos, preventing miscarriages or adopting unwanted children. It might even be supporting universal healthcare. At a UK conference recently, one author listened to a presentation where the lecturer declared ‘prolifers don’t give a shit about children once they are born’.

Such claims tend to overlook the involvement many individuals and organisations with a strong prolife ethos already have in these sorts of activities. For example, the Catholic Church looks after 26 percent of the world’s healthcare facilities, and runs many orphanages. According to the Barna Group, U.S. Christians, who are generally prolife, are twice as likely to adopt as the general population.

The authors have made several responses to these accusations in recent years. Bruce Blackshaw and Daniel Rodger published a paper about miscarriage entitled The Problem of Spontaneous Abortion: Is the Pro-Life Position Morally Monstrous? As has Nicholas Colgrove. Blackshaw and Colgrove have also published a paper entitled Frozen embryos and the obligation to adopt.

In this paper, we have used a different approach. Instead of defending against specific claims of hypocrisy, we have taken a step back and tried to identify the common characteristics of these arguments. Having identified the pattern of these ‘inconsistency arguments’, as we call them, we have developed a general defence against them that can be applied to any inconsistency argument.

To summarise, we conclude most inconsistency arguments fail—they don’t take account of the full range of beliefs prolifers hold, and how they might act on these beliefs. Even if they do succeed, such arguments don’t discredit pro-life arguments—they just show prolifers to be hypocrites. We don’t begrudge philosophers producing these arguments, though. They have helped prolifers think through the implications of their beliefs more thoroughly. And if we are being hypocritical in certain ways, we want to know it.

Paper title: Prolife hypocrisy: why inconsistency arguments do not matter

Author: Nicholas Colgrove1, Bruce P. Blackshaw2, Daniel Rodger3

Affiliations: 1: Wake Forest University 2: University of Birmingham 3: London South Bank University.

Competing interests: None

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