Saturday, May 16, 2009

Keyes vs. Obama: Death Penalty and Abortion

Unfortunately, Keyes did not get a chance to respond to Obama's last statement but I would like to make a few observations.

Obama attempts to differentiate between the slaveholder and the pregnant woman "exercising her right to choose" by saying that the woman is making her choice "in extraordinarily painful circumstances." He attempts to dismiss Keyes' comments as mere rhetoric. This reply is weak and mistaken for several reasons:

First, Obama never addresses the argument. The analogy by Keyes is plain and provocative. Both the slaveholder and the pro-abortion choice advocate discriminate based on a morally irrelevant factor: level of development. Obama never addresses this but simply attempts to dismiss it as "rhetoric."

Second, Obama resorts to rhetoric himself. He characterizes abortion as a woman's "right to choose." Of course the question is, "choose what?" If abortion takes the life of an innocent human being, no one should have this "right." Obama does not address the only important question of the debate: what is the unborn? In refusing to address this, Obama must resort to euphemisms such as "right to choose" which, ironically, amounts to empty rhetoric in the absence of reason.

Third, Obama begs the question by assuming the unborn is not a human being. Imagine you lived back when slavery was under debate in this country. What if someone were to say, "Yes, but you don't understand. Slaveholders are exercising their right to choose slavery in extraordinarly painful circumstances. Times are tough. Slaveholders have families to feed and businesses to run. If you don't like slavery, then don't own a slave. But don't force your morality on others."* In point of fact, this was the exact logic used by some pro-slavery advocates. But notice all of this assumes slaves are not persons and instead are property, which is exactly what Obama is doing in the case of the unborn. He is assuming that which he must prove. He is begging the question.

* As a side note, this line of reasoning also commits the relativist fallacy. It treats an objective truth claim as if it were a relative or subjective preference claim. In other words, when a person says that abortion or slavery is immoral, they are making an objective truth claim. They are not making a subjective preference claim such as "I don't like abortion or slavery." To treat an objective truth claim as if it were a subjective preference claim is to commit the relativist fallacy, which is what both the slaveholder and Obama do. This is why the bumper sticker "Don't like abortion? Don't have one!" completely misses the point.

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