MUST-READ: Matt Flanagan defends the pro-life position at MandM

This is a really good post. (H/T xxx)

First, he argues that none of the traditional arguments for abortion work if the unborn child is an innocent human being. He then explains briefly why the unborn child is human. And then he counters several objections to the humanity of the unborn.


The fact that a fetus cannot survive independently of its mother does not mean it is not a human being. Fetal viability is contingent upon the medical technology of a given culture. A fetus that is not viable in Chad is viable in Los Angeles. If viability is necessary for something to be a human then a woman pregnant with a viable fetus in Los Angeles who flies from Los Angeles to Chad carries a human being when she leaves but this human being ceases to exist when she arrives in India and yet becomes human again when she returns (Peter Singer Writings on an Ethical Life (2000) 148).

Similarly, while the fetus lacks consciousness, lack of consciousness does not make a being non-human. If it did, then a human being ceases to exist when asleep or unconscious and then pops back into existence upon awakening. Shooting someone would cease to be homicide provided we render him or her unconscious first.

I’m reading the comments now and it looks like one of the challengers is using the Violinist argument from Judith Jarvis Thomson, which states that a woman is justified in using deadly force to repel invaders, even if they are human beings.

The challenger says:

Yes, abortion is homicide. But abortion on demand is JUSTIFIABLE homicide.

If something is inside your body, then you’re entitled to have it killed. No exceptions. Even if it’s an “innocent” person. If you were inside my body, then I’d be entitled to kill you, and if I were inside your body, you’d be entitled to kill me.

Matt responds with this:

The question then is not whether the fetus is intruding upon a mother’s body, it is whether the fetus unjustly intrudes on her body. Has the mother done anything that places a duty on her to provide bodily support to the fetus or that gives the fetus a justified claim upon her body?

I maintain that in most cases such a duty exists. A parent has a duty to provide the children that their voluntary actions have brought into existence the normal, basic necessities that those children need in order to reach maturity.

Except in the very rare case of pregnancy from rape or in cases where the pregnancy poses a serious threat to the mother’s life this duty applies. The woman has engaged in voluntary intercourse, has brought the child into existence and bringing the child to term is one of the normal, basic, necessity the child needs to mature. Hence the fetus is not unjustly intruding upon the mother’s body.

That’s what I would have said, because I always emphasize the responsibility aspect. Babies don’t just appear out of nothing, you know.

But look what Matt’s wife Madeleine says:

I am assuming you are not wanting your argument to endorse infanticide. If this is the case, then you cannot simply appeal to “your body” as a newborn makes incredible demands on the body of its mother if it is breastfed. Even if not breastfed, the adult(s) taking care of it also have extremely high demands placed on their body to ensure its health and survival – sleep deprivation, formula making and feeding, nappy changing, financial drains (finances come from work, work requires the use of one’s body), immunisations, doctors visits, increased cleaning and housework and so on. The demands a newborn places on the body of another are higher than the demands a fetus places on the body of its mother; you can measure it scientifically by comparing the calorie intake required by the life-providing adult pre-birth and after-birth (and also by talking to any woman who has been pregnant and then has cared for their own child).

Now, the reason I do not think you intended to endorse infanticide is because you limited your appeal to “your body” with the addition of the qualification ‘location’ – you stated “If you were inside my body…” What I want to know is what is it about demands made on your body that gives you a right to kill when those demands are made inside your body but not when those demands, arguably greater demands, are made outside your body? It seems rather arbitrary to claim that one’s right to control one’s body has this kind of asymmetry.

It’s fun because she knows what she’s talking about from experience.

This post is highly recommended! And the comments are fun, too.

UPDATE: I had mistakenly stated that Madeleine had an abortion previously, but actually I was mistaken and must have been thinking of someone else. I apologize for my stupidity!

9 thoughts on “MUST-READ: Matt Flanagan defends the pro-life position at MandM”

  1. Presumably the woman who feels she has the absolute right to kill her child because the child is inside her would also reserve the right to chop off the penises of her lovers?

    1. I thought of that too. I recall that there are a few species out there in the world where the female kills the male after mating. I thought there was a species of spider that did that…can’t remember though.

  2. Thanks heaps for the link and recommendation Wintery Knight and xxx.

    Matt wrote his doctoral thesis on the ethics of feticide after we had spent several years running a pro-life student group on the campus we studied at. He has since been published on the subject in a few journals, he has participated in public debates on the issue and done many media interviews on it too. All this has helped to really hone his thinking on it and has given him the ability to take the more complex philosophical aspects of the debate and put them into plain english so that everyone can grasp them.

    This piece is effectively the condensed version of his phd thesis and all his academic works but in laymen’s speak.

  3. Thanks for the link. Great article with very well articulated arguments debunking the abortionists. There is a book at church I checked out one time that picked apart the abortionists arguments as well, I can’t think of the name of it atm, but this blog piques my interest to take another look at it.

    I added a few comments of my own to the blog as well.

    1. For Christmas, I gave Scott Klusendorf’s “The Case for Life” to my Dad, as well as my two favorite people Andrew and Jen. I recommend that book. It’s also inexpensive.

  4. I just used this link in another discussion, and this is what I was responded to with. I’ll post it here so maybe you can help me out by analyzing it:

    “Feticide isn’t homicide because a fetus isn’t a human “being.” It’s about as human as one of your organs. Yes, it has human DNA, yes it is alive, but NO it is not a human being, it is a fragment of a human being. If you have a kidney removed, is it considered murder? What about third trimester abortions? Though pretty developed, they still aren’t human BEINGS. The difference in this case, is that the fetus is PHYSICALLY DEPENDENT on the mother’s vitals, while an infant is SOCIALLY dependent, and can have its needs satisfied by anyone, without causing physical complications. The fetus is a parasite, and it is a privilege, NOT a right, for it to feed off of a woman. Conservatives often either fail to address these facts (like your link did) or they quote mine it.”

    I responded saying that Matt did indeed address this issue, and stating that the person responding to me must have not read the whole article.

    What I saw from that is that he just made the claim that a fetus isn’t a human being due to a difference in dependence (which Matt addressed), but he also offered no alternative explanation as to what constitutes a human being. My guess is really his only appeal is to consciousness and rationality, but Matt addresses that as well.

    Did I miss anything? I often know how to make an initial case, and I know when a responding argument “feels” wrong, like something just doesn’t quite add up, but it’s entirely another for me pick apart what a person has said line by line and disarm them. Thoughts?

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