There are a number of arguments from those who wish to see elective abortion remain an option for pregnant women, ranging from the flat-out evil and dehumanizing to the mildly irritating. But there is one argument that seems to go unchallenged, and it needs to be. It goes like this: “If you’re so against abortion, why aren’t you adopting all the unwanted children born in this country?” There are several iterations, but that’s how it goes in general. Here’s why it’s not a strong argument in the least:
1. It’s an argumentum ad hominem (literally, arguing against the man). Ad hominems don’t only come in the form of name-calling. This one is rather subtle, in fact. Rather than arguing against the ethics of permitting mothers to terminate their pregnancies, rather than debating the humanity of the unborn child, rather than debating the legality or prudence of prohibiting elective abortion in medical practice — this argument rests solely on the person against whom it is made. This is provable: The argument falls flat when made to someone who actually has adopted unwanted children. Therefore, the strength of the argument comes solely from the other person, rather than on the logical validity of the conclusion.
2. It’s a red herring. It takes the argument away from the actual ethics of the practice of elective abortion and puts the pro-life person on the defensive. If he fails to recognize that this argument is a mere red herring, he either has to justify himself or admit that he has not adopted unwanted children. If he does the former, he is accepting the ad hominem nature of the argument and refuting the argument not with logic but with his own person. If he does the latter, he is admitting that he is part of the perceived problem — and has closed the door to diagnosing part of the problem that has exacerbated the widespread practice of elective abortion to be the widespread practice of promiscuous sex (and the attendant desire for that practice to come without consequence).
3. It misses the point. The pro-life argument is and ever remains that the unborn child is fully human, possessing the same right to his life as I have to mine. That’s it. No justification can possibly trump that: not the law, not cost, not convenience, not an appeal to a woman’s “right” to choose. The appeal to not adopting unwanted children does not address the humanity of the unborn. That there are children born to parents who do not want them is admittedly a terrible thing, but is the solution to deprive them of their life before they have a chance to be born? From time immemorial, mothers have told their children that two wrongs don’t make a right; there’s wisdom in that. If the unborn child is fully human, even the fact of unwanted children cannot justify depriving unborn children of their life.
Next time someone tries this argument with you, don’t let him get away with it!