New York congressman Anthony Weiner is a YouTube superstar for his epic rants against the GOP. His latest tour de force that had a lot of liberals saying “boo-yah” is this diatribe in the current abortion debate. (We’re past saying boo-yah by now, right?)
(By the way, you have to love the sensational title the YouTube user gave the video.)
You can also read the transcript here. I’ll just comment on a few selected statements.
Don’t let anyone who supports this bill ever say to you, “I’m for less government regulation. Oh, there’s too much government regulation.” You’ve gotta be kidding! You can’t vote for this thing and then say you’re for less government regulations—the mother of ALL government regulations! This is the regulation of an individual woman in a room with her doctor AND Congressman Pitts, apparently.
Within all this rhetoric, Weiner doesn’t argue that the unborn are not fully human. He doesn’t prove his conclusion with facts or arguments, he’s just assuming it. That reasoning is fallacious, because it begs the question. Arguing that abortion is acceptable because a woman has a right to control her own body assumes there is only the woman, the doctor (and Congressman Pitts – zing!) in the room. The unborn’s body is excluded because Weiner’s assuming that she/he is not a person. But that’s just an assertion, it’s not an argument. He does it again here:
…But I think most Americans, of all political stripes, believe there’s a basic right to privacy. Is there anything MORE basic, more basic than your body? Is there any more basic privacy there? Well, not according to [looks and gestures at Pitts], not according to many people. And that’s the conversation here.
For the sake argument, maybe he’s not assuming…So a child doesn’t have a right to its own mother’s body for survival? We’re really just concerned for the mother here? Say that a mother and her newborn are stranded on the side of a road due to a snowstorm. The baby becomes hungry but the woman doesn’t want to breast feed her baby. That baby is depending on her breast milk to survive, but the mother refuses. It is, after all, her body and so she lets the child starve to death. The state has no right to butt into her private concerns in such a case, right?! Are parental responsibilities really just voluntary? This sort of radical “bodily rights” line leads to absurd conclusions when followed out.
Things got a little more interesting when GOP representatives jumped in the middle of Weiner’s monologue.
Rep. Johnson: I think you’re forgetting someone, Mr. Weiner. How about this little girl here? (Holds up image of dead fetus) This is from the grand jury report. Talking about the privacy of the body—what about her body? You’re forgetting someone. There’s another human individual, a member of the human family who’s involved here. That’s why it’s different—
Rep. Weiner: When you say “another,” Mr. Johnson, are you stipulating that the woman has rights here?
Rep. Johnson: Of course the woman has rights, including her right to life, but the unborn child is also a member of the human family.
Rep. Weiner: And, Mr. Johnson, do you think that a bunch of members of Congress should make that determination, where that line is?
Rep. Johnson: We think that the Congress makes laws for all members of the human family.
Rep. Weiner: So that’s a yes. You think 435 fairly well-to-do, mostly white men should make that decision?
Rep. Johnson: I think the elected representatives of the American people should—
Rep. Weiner: —should make the decision for that woman and that child?! (emphasis mine)
Rep. Johnson: Can I finish my answer?
Rep. Weiner: It doesn’t sound terribly enticing, no.
I guess I’m not really seeing some sort of ingenious debating skills on display here that others do. First of all, Weiner just admitted that the unborn is a child. Whether he was using the Republican’s language or it was a Freudian slip, I don’t know. But I would certainly hope that 435 elected “fairly well to-do, mostly white males” (as if arguments have race or gender) are able to discern what basic embryology teaches us; about facts that we’ve known for years. Even former Planned Parenthood President Dr. Alan Guttmacher was puzzled that anyone would question whether life begins at conception. Quoting Guttmacher:
This all seems so simple and evident that it is difficult to picture a time when it wasn’t part of the common knowledge
At no point in anyone’s prenatal development did they undergo a considerable change of nature. Humans start as humans and die as humans. This isn’t rocket science.
But let’s say for the sake of argument that we can’t actually be sure the unborn is a human. That doesn’t make abortion okay. Uncertainty is an argument for being anti, not pro-abortion rights. To illustrate, let’s pretend that I am working for a pest control company and I’m performing a fumigation at an apartment complex. I have a moral responsibility to see to it that the apartments are completely vacant before starting to fumigate. If someone is in their apartment, and I’m too lazy to check and someone dies as a result, that’s manslaughter. If nobody is in the apartments, but later it is revealed that I didn’t check to see the place had been vacated, that’s gross negligence on my part. I think most of us would agree that such behavior is morally reprehensible.
I guess that I really don’t care what sort of amusing rhetoric Weiner wraps his arguments in, they just aren’t that good. They may elicit Nelson Muntz like “ha ha’s!” among pro-choice people who may not have considered the full implications of their views, but they don’t carry much philosophical punch. What is in dispute here is a basic, fundamental question – “what is the unborn?”. If pro-choicers can effectively argue that the unborn are not human, then there’s nothing left to debate.