This is a clip from an episode of Life Report called “Recognizing and Defeating Logical Fallacies.” In this clip, I asked Trent Horn about the most common logical fallacies that pro-choice advocates make. I followed this up with the same question about pro-life advocates, but you’ll have to watch the full interview for that.
Here’s Trent on the most common pro-choice logical fallacies:
If you don’t want to watch the 4-minute video, you can read the full transcript below.
Well, there’s many kinds of fallacies that exist, I think there’s probably over 50 of them, and you can look up various lists of them online. So, there’s two kinds of fallacies that can occur in an argument: a formal fallacy and an informal fallacy. A formal fallacy occurs when there’s a problem with the structure in the argument, that can be represented with letters.
For example, one fallacy that I see frequently in the pro-choice side is the fallacy of the undistributed middle. It can be represented in a syllogism this way. Now, remember, a syllogism is just a fancy word for an argument like, “All men are mortal. Socrates is a man. Therefore Socrates is mortal.” Your standard argument. The fallacy of the undistributed middle goes like this: “All As are Cs, all Bs are Cs, therefore all As are Bs.” Now, your listeners might think, “Well, I don’t see what’s wrong with that,” and pro-choice people will put it this way: “All body parts can’t survive outside of my body. All fetuses can’t survive outside of my body. Therefore a fetus is a body part.”
But that doesn’t necessarily work. Because I might say that “all pro-lifers are mammals and all dolphins are mammals. Therefore all pro-lifers are actually dolphins.”
So the phrase I use to describe this to people is that just because two things have something in common doesn’t mean it’s the same thing. Now if this formal fallacy occurs, the middle – what it means by the undistributed middle – in a categorical syllogism like the “All men are mortal. Socrates is a man,” there are three terms, and there is a term that is referred to twice. In the case with Socrates, it’s “man.” And the thing is, though, in this argument, the undistributed middle, the term isn’t fully distributed. So, no, there are other beings that are neither pro-lifers nor dolphins that are mammals.
And, you know, just because two things have something in common doesn’t mean they’re the same thing. Just because a fetus and a body part both can’t survive outside of the body doesn’t mean they’re the same thing cause a fetus is a human organism and human organisms – we treat them differently than body parts. So that’s a formal fallacy.
Then there are many, many, many, many informal fallacies that occur. An informal fallacy, it’s not the structure of the argument, the problem is that there’s an ambiguity in human language and so…actually, if you just think of a lot of pro-choice arguments, I could probably spot what’s wrong with that, I mean what fallacy might occur.
Josh Brahm: OK: “so we need abortion because of poverty and we need to make it so that there are less poor people in the world. This is cruel to force a woman to remain pregnant if-if she’s poor.”
Trent Horn: Right. That’s called “argumentum ad misericordiam” – the appeal to pity. It’s the idea that “X is in a pitiful situation, therefore X is right.” That doesn’t follow at all.
An example I’ve seen used in writing to elaborate this is someone who said, “It’s morally wrong to draft young men because my son’s gonna be drafted, Mr. President, and he’s gonna get married to this great girl and he has his whole life ahead of him and, you know, why do you want to take that away from him, and me as a mother, he’s my, you know, I’ve only got one other son that’s just a screwball, and he’s my good son. Don’t draft my son, Mr. President, the draft is wrong.” Well, yes, that’s a very sad situation, but it doesn’t prove that a draft is wrong, and you haven’t given a reason, like maybe it’s wrong to use human beings against their will in combat.
You haven’t made an argument; you just said, “Well, you know, feel bad for me,” or “Officer, I don’t deserve this parking ticket because – look, I needed to get down here, down to the courthouse, and I have to deal with this custody case and my wife’s going to take my kid and half my stuff, and I just don’t deserve this ticket today.” Well, yes, you’re in a pitiful situation, but that’s not an argument why you don’t deserve a parking ticket if you’re parked improperly. So just because it’s a pitiful situation doesn’t mean the situation isn’t justified.
So, yes, keeping abortion illegal may make it more difficult for women and men in economic hardship, but at the same time, keeping abortion legal would violate the principle that it’s wrong to kill human beings because of hardship. So that’s one fallacy. And then there are lots of others, too.
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Special thanks to Bonnie Byrd for the transcription.