Defending my position
Letter to the Editor | Thursday, August 24, 2017
I normally would not write out a response to a letter to the editor like the one from Mr. Leblanc that was published in the Observer on Monday, February 13th. I generally try not to become too bogged down in this kind of impersonal political debate that takes place over electronic media as opposed to in person discussion but I felt that there were certain things in the response to my letter to the editor that I should address.
Mr. Leblanc states that the position that I presented in my letter, that of supporting a women’s right to choose whether or not to have an abortion while also wanting to see fewer abortions performed, was a “paradox.” As Mr. Leblanc put it, “If abortion ought to be legal, then there is no reason for it to be rare. If abortion ought to be rare, then the moral case against it is strong enough that it ought not be legal.” Based on the discussion of the moral issue of abortion later in the letter, we as readers can infer that these statements are based off of premises that look something like this: (1) ‘If something should be done rarely, then there is some moral fault in it’ and (2) ‘If There is a moral fault in something, then it should not be legal.’ With these premises and the insertion of my premise that abortion should be a woman’s right, we get a valid argument for both of the statements from Mr. Leblanc. The arguments, however, are not necessarily a sound. For them to be sound, all premises must be true. The premises present some problems.
The first premise is flawed. Just because something should be done as rarely as possible does not mean that it is inherently morally wrong. Mr. Leblanc used the example of hip-replacements to show that if abortions were safe and legal then there would be no need to reduce their number outside of moral reasons. He says, “Consider a scenario where abortion … produces no harmful physical or mental side effects to the mother … If abortion is as safe as any other medical procedure then there is no medical reason to reduce the number of abortions: No one is calling for there to be less hip replacements.” Mr. Leblanc ignores the fact that there are still health risks to any medical procedure, even hip replacements. Doctors do try to avoid prescribing hip replacements by giving patients exercises and putting them through physical therapy. Hip replacements are only given to those that are deemed to truly need them, when the risk involved is outweighed by the benefit of having the procedure. This risk/benefit balance is why I am not going in tomorrow to get a hip replacement, not because I think getting a hip replacement is morally wrong. Abortion will always have risks associated with it. That is why I want to reduce its frequency. Similarly, we as a society want to see a reduction in the rate of obesity and would like to see people eat less junk food. This is not because being obese or eating junk food is moral wrong. It is because it beneficial to the person to lose the weight and eat healthier.
If we assume that the first premise is true and abortion is therefore morally wrong, we still have problems with the second premise. While yes, most things that are illegal are immoral, that does not mean that things that are considered immoral ought to be illegal. Premarital sex is considered by many to be immoral but there is no push to make it illegal. Similarly, alcohol is see by most as immoral to some extent but we ended prohibition long ago. Yes, it is true that we regulate alcohol, which is perfectly fine, but it is still legal for someone that has reached the proper level of maturity to consume it. These immoral things are legal because we realize that we as human beings have a right to our bodies.
Without these premises, it becomes hard to see the truth in the two statements that Mr. Leblanc uses to show the paradoxical nature of my position. Maybe “safe, legal and rare” is not as incoherent as one may think.
class of 2016
The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.