Refuting Judith Jarvis Thomson's "A Defense of Abortion" (Part 3)

Judith Jarvis Thomson
Click here to read part 1.
Click here to read part 2.

This is the continuation of my dissection of the "ultimate pro-abortion argument". If we can prove this argument wrong, we can prove any pro-abortion argument wrong. This series will probably have roughly nine parts to it, because it is naturally divided up into sections. I have not put the "important parts" in italics this time, because this section is relatively short. My comments are (in parentheses and underlined).

This particular section is, for the most part, correct. Things get stickier in the later sections, but this one is pretty much a logical argument--it's the way Mrs. Thomson says these things that is unsettling. Her conclusion isn't incorrect--it's the manner in which she gets there that is wrong. Be aware as you read it that she is setting the stage to convince you later that the woman has a right to do whatever she wants with her unborn children. At this point in time, she is still speaking about times where the mother's life is in danger.
Judith Jarvis Thomson: A Defense of Abortion

From Philosophy & Public Affairs, Vol. 1, no. 1 (Fall 1971).

(Reprinted in "Intervention and Reflection: Basic Issues in Medical Ethics," 5th ed., ed. Ronald Munson (Belmont; Wadsworth 1996). pp 69-80.)


The extreme view [that abortion is not permissible even to save the life of the mother] could of course be weakened to say that while abortion is permissible to save the mother's life, it may not be performed by a third party, but only by the mother herself. (But since it is not immoral to kill one person in order to prevent both of them dying, it doesn’t matter who performs it.) But this cannot be right either. For what we have to keep in mind is that the mother and the unborn child are not like two tenants in a small house which has, by an unfortunate mistake, been rented to both: the mother owns the house. (Not directly, perhaps. Usually though, the mother has already risked allowing another person into her house, so therefore it is not the other person’s fault that he is now in the same house as the mother.) The fact that she does adds to the offensiveness of deducing that the mother can do nothing from the supposition that third parties can do nothing. But it does more than this: it casts a bright light on the supposition that third parties can do nothing. Certainly it lets us see that a third party who says "I cannot choose between you" is fooling himself if he thinks this is impartiality. If Jones has found and fastened on a certain coat, which he needs to keep him from freezing, but which Smith also needs to keep him from freezing, then it is not impartiality that says "I cannot choose between you" when Smith owns the coat. (Except that Jones wouldn’t be in danger of freezing if it weren’t for Smith. And usually Smith isn’t in danger of freezing—only Jones is.) Women have said again and again "This body is my body!" and they have reason to feel angry, reason to feel that it has been like shouting into the wind. Smith, after all, is hardly likely to bless us if we say to him, "Of course it's your coat, anybody would grant that it is. But no one may choose between you and Jones who is to have it." (Unborn children don’t steal their mothers’ bodies.)

We should really ask what it is that says "no one may choose" in the face of the fact that the body that houses the child is the mother's body. It may be simply a failure to appreciate this fact. (No one may choose because choosing is murder. The mother must decide what’s best when it’s either her life or her unborn child’s life at stake.) But it may be something more interesting, namely the sense that one has a right to refuse to lay hands on people, even where it would be just and fair to do so, even where justice seems to require that somebody do so. Thus justice might call for somebody to get Smith's coat back from Jones, and yet you have a right to refuse to be the one to lay hands on Jones, a right to refuse to do physical violence to him. This, I think, must be granted. (Like doctors refusing to perform abortions. Even if it wouldn’t be murder, they should indeed have the right to do this. As it is murder to choose “Jones”…then nobody is morally allowed to make that choice.) But then what should be said is not "no one may choose," but only "I cannot choose," and indeed not even this, but "I will not act," (In the case of the mother’s life in danger, yes. She (with the help of the father) are the only people who can make that choice.) leaving it open that somebody else can or should, and in particular that anyone in a position of authority, with the job of securing people's rights, both can and should. So this is no difficulty. I have not been arguing that any given third party must accede to the mother's request that he perform an abortion to save her life, but only that he may. (Thank goodness for that, at least.)

I suppose that in some views of human life the mother's body is only on loan to her (What?? No, the mother’s body is only on loan to the child, not the mother!—unless Mrs. Thompson is talking about a religious view (our bodies are God’s), which I suppose she may.), the loan not being one which gives her any prior claim to it. One who held this view might well think it impartiality to say "I cannot choose." But I shall simply ignore this possibility. My own view is that if a human being has any just, prior claim to anything at all, he has a just, prior claim to his own body.(Unless that person has already willingly (albeit perhaps accidentally) loaned out her body.) And perhaps this needn't be argued for here anyway, since, as I mentioned, the arguments against abortion we are looking at do grant that the woman has a right to decide what happens in and to her body. But although they do grant it, I have tried to show that they do not take seriously what is done in granting it. I suggest the same thing will reappear even more clearly when we turn away from cases in which the mother's life is at stake, and attend, as I propose we now do, to the vastly more common cases in which a woman wants an abortion for some less weighty reason than preserving her own life.

Image found via Google Images. No copyright infringement intended.

The Much Disputed Abortion-Breast Cancer Controversy

I'm not going to bother to cite studies saying that abortion increases the risk of breast cancer, because there are probably an equal amount of studies saying that it doesn’t. There is a reason that I love logic: when all else fails, there’s nothing like some good old deductive reasoning.

Earlier this week a prominent surgeon, professor,  and president of the Breast Cancer Prevention Institute, Dr. Angela Lanfranchi, published a paper in the medical journal Linacre Quarterly about this link. I read her report, and decided to give a simplified version of it on here. She doesn’t cite any specific studies, but her logic is irrefutable.

It’s an undisputed fact that a woman who goes to term with a pregnancy reduces her risk of breast cancer. Before she’s pregnant, her breasts aren’t fully developed, and thus cancer vulnerable. When a woman becomes pregnant, the amounts of the hormones estrogen and progesterone increase radically, stimulating breast growth in the mother. The number of underdeveloped cancer-vulnerable breast cells multiply dramatically during the pregnancy, and it isn’t until the 32nd week or so that the new breast cells actually mature and become cancer-resistant. About 85% of all the breast cells (both old and new) become cancer-resistant after the first full pregnancy. More and more cells become cancer-resistant with each subsequent full pregnancies, even further reducing the chances of developing breast cancer.

When a woman gets an abortion, however, she ends the pregnancy before her breast cells finish developing, and the body stops sending the hormones that would eventually “finish” the breasts. This leaves many more underdeveloped cancer-vulnerable breast cells than the woman would have had if she hadn’t gotten pregnant at all.

Abortion still increases the risk of breast cancer even after a mother has had a full pregnancy. The breasts change every pregnancy. Also, an abortion increases the risk of having a miscarriage and/or a premature birth, if the cervix or another part of the woman’s body is damaged. A natural miscarriage occurs because of insufficient amounts of progesterone and estrogen, and a woman’s breasts won’t develop with insufficient amounts anyway, while abortion-caused miscarriages can occur for other reasons. A premature birth, if it occurs before 32 weeks, increases the risk of breast cancer because the breast cells are not finished developing.

If you have the time (or even if you don’t), I urge you to read at least in part Dr. Lancranchi’s paper. It contains much more scientific, specific information than I put in here, and she explains it much more thoroughly. She also explains a link between breast cancer and some types of birth control.

A few side notes:
1. I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!
2. I decided to change my posting days to Tuesdays and Fridays, so that I can have a more equal amount of time to prepare each post.
3. I intend to be picking up pretty much where I left off: finishing my “ultimate pro-choice argument” rebuttal and a summary of our presidential candidates.
4. I now have an email address,, to which you can email me about anything related to this blog.
5. Thank you so much for your patience. I’m eager to get back to work!
Images found via Google Images. No copyright infringement intended.


Put simply, being pro-choice means you want people to be able to choose. I live in the US. I am extremely pro-choice. Pro-choice is the same as pro-freedom. That’s one reason I don’t call pro-abortion people pro-choice. That gives the wrong implications, as if I’m anti-choice, which I’m not. But for this post, whenever I say pro-choice, I mean pro-ability-to-choose-abortion.

The funny thing is, most pro-abortioners aren’t really pro-choice. The evidence of this is everywhere. They complain about the pro-abortion label, saying “nobody’s pro-abortion”. (Wait, so does this mean they’re admitting abortion is wrong? That it isn’t ever the best choice, people should just be allowed to choose this unwise choice?)  I, on the other hand, am fine with the label “anti-abortion”. It doesn’t bug me in the slightest to be called that. I am anti-abortion. However, I use the label “pro-life” on myself, because it tells why I’m anti-abortion…because I want to save life. Otherwise, I could very well be anti-abortion because I’m anti-women (which would be odd, since I’m female myself, but who knows), anti-non-Christians, anti-poor-people, anti-reproductive-health-rights-that-don’t-agree-with-my-own-political-agenda.

Pro-abortion people are pro-abortion, not pro-choice. Sure, they believe they’re pro-choice, they truly do. But they aren’t. They truly care about women. They really do.  But they’ve convinced themselves that abortion is the only best choice for anybody with financial troubles, boyfriend troubles, husband troubles, kid troubles, health troubles, school troubles…the list goes on and on. They complain, sue, and lobby against things that might—just might—decrease their abortion sales.

For example.

“Choose Life” license plates. (The opposite view would not be “Respect Choice”, like pro-abortioners say, because this license plate doesn’t say a thing against choice. It’s just advocating the choice it thinks is best—like pro-abortion people do and pretend to not do.)

Safety regulations normal for other healthclinics/hospitals/etc. (The list here could be ENORMOUS (quite frankly, it’s ridiculous), but I’ve only included a few fairly recent examples.)

Regulations that require abortion clinics to give, um, health facts about abortionboth about the baby and the women. Like…duh? Aren’t people supposed to do that before any medical procedure anyway?

Crisis Pregnancy Centers. It’s amazing how much pro-abortioners complain about CPCs. They will scream (usually not literally) out at protestors, “Why don’t you stop protesting and go do something USEFUL—like actually HELPING these women!!” And then they go scream (not literally) out atCPCs to stop “lying” to women, who are doing exactly what they just screamed at the protestors to go do. Bit of a contradiction, don’t you think? Contrary to popular pro-abortion beliefs, most CPCs aren’t lying. They’re giving the women facts that the abortion clinics won’t. Like all the health risks. Mental health risks. Drug abuse statistics. Suicide statistics. Infertility statistics. Fetus development. Pictures. Ultrasounds. In some cases, lawsuitsby women against local abortion clinics for damages done by abortion.

Covering up a pro-life speaker with chants, instead of engaging in conversation with him, so any woman listening would be informed of both sides, and therefore be equipped to make a truly informed choice.

The multitudes of examples prove that most (if not all) pro-abortion people really are not pro-choice. If they were, they would let the woman make an informed choice. But no. They only allow women to see pro-abortion propaganda, and not show the women the other side of the story—whether or not they think it is true.

One more fact to think about: why do you suppose reproductive health clinics always do many more abortions than adoption referrals?

Sounds like pro-only-one-choice to me.

Disclaimer: I am generalizing in this post. There are exceptions to every rule. I have found that most “pro-choice” people aren’t really pro-choice, and that’s why I referred to them as one body of people. Also, there probably are deceptive CPCs out there (stretching the truth, giving theories as a solid fact, etc.). Etc.
Images found via Google Images. No copyright infringement intended.

This Is My Happy Face

Now that you are somewhat freaked out by my creepy hypnotic happy face, I shall explain. Basically, MY COMPUTER IS NOW BACK IN SUPERB WORKING ORDER!!

Excuse me while I do my happy dance.

In case it wasn't clear before, the problem on my computer was slowing my internet waaaayyy down. To where it could take several minutes to load a page. Yeah. Not good. I have to do a lot of research for the vast majority of my posts, and most of my research is done online. I also am taking two online classes this school year. And, sadly, blogging is not at the top of my priority list. But now my internet is nice and speedy (I'll open new windows just for the satisfaction of watching them load in mere seconds), which means...I can go back to blogging!

Not right away, unfortunately. 'Cause guess what? My family and I just moved out of our Kansas house yesterday! (Yay!) And we can't move into our new North Carolina house quite yet. And once we do move in, it'll be chaos for the few days afterward with trying to figure out where to put everything and finding missing can openers, pillows, and schoolbooks. But the end is now in sight! Just give me a few more weeks and I'll come roaring back in! I may do a few posts between now and then; it depends on what I can squeeze out time for.

Thank you for hanging on and waiting for me!

To tide you over until then, here's some recent news:

PepsiCo is using aborted fetal cell lines in their research for their beverages. In response to complaints from pro-life groups, PepsiCo responded that using these cell lines would result in "great tasting, lower-calorie beverages." Really?! If I regularly drank/bought Pepsi, I would boycott it. As it is, I'm asking all of you Pepsi drinkers to do my boycotting for me!

And by the way, I'm now subscribed to this amazing site. It sends me an email every day with the headlines (and the text of the articles itself, if you format it that way) of the day's pro-life news. It's great and very convenient.