Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Is "Don't Like Abortions? Don't Have One!" as bad as it seems?

A not uncommon pro-choice saying is this: "Don't like abortions? Don't have one!" Indeed, it's the stuff that bumper stickers are made of. 

Now, a bumper sticker probably never convinced anyone of anything important. And at first glance, it seems like this one shouldn't.

Why's that? Because thoughtful peoplecritical thinkerswill think about the general pattern of the slogan, what seems to be the pattern behind the "reasoning," and think about structurally parallel slogans:
  • "Don't like arson? Don't burn anything down!"
  • "Don't like child abuse? Don't abuse children!"
  • "Don't like car theft? Don't steal any cars!"
Since these slogans are absurd, many people will conclude that the initial slogan about abortion is absurd also. They might also claim that the slogan just assumes that abortion isn't wrong and so is question-begging

This conclusion, though, is premature. Consider these other slogans:

  • "Don't like strawberries? Don't eat them!"
  • "Don't like high heels? Don't wear them!"
  • "Don't like math? Don't be a math major!"
With actions that are not wrong or are morally indifferent, the slogan or "reasoning" works: it's fine! 

So, what's the deal?

People who think that abortion is wrong will see "Don't like abortions? Don't have one!" as problematic: "We wouldn't say that about many other wrong things, so we shouldn't say that about abortion!" 

But people who think that abortion is generally not wrong might find the slogan to be OK, thinking something like, "Look abortions aren't wrong, but if you find them problematic, just don't have one!" 

So is the slogan OK or not? 

Well, if abortion is wrong, then it's problematic. But if abortion is not wrong, it's not problematic. (At least it's not "logically" problematic, although it may be unpersuasive and counterproductive, given how people are apt to react to it.) 

So is abortion wrong (or usually wrong) or not? This is the question that needs to be answered. So we need to carefully work through the arguments on all sides to evaluate the slogan. 

All blog posts are here!


  1. Abortion, whether you agree with it or not, is always an ethical problem. The statement in question deliberately undermines this. It's a form of trolling.

    1. You seem to think that you know what's in the minds of people who say this. While you should ask them youself, I think they believe that they have somehow genuinely "shown" that abortion is OK. And I think that people who respond in quite sensible ways to this saying think they have refuted it. But things aren't as simple as they seem here, which points to what the real issues are and what people should really be talking about.

      Also, you might find this interesting: