What is the Pro-Life Argument? Syllogism, Syllogism, Syllogism
The 3 most important words in pro-life apologetics are: syllogism, syllogism, syllogism!
A syllogism is a form of deductive reasoning consisting of a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion. The pro-life position can (and should) be stated as a syllogism. As we shall see, if you do not stay tethered to your syllogism, you lose. It is that simple.
1. What is the Pro-life Argument (Syllogism)?
It’s a logical argument that can be stated formally as follows:
P1: It is wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being. P2: Abortion intentionally kills an innocent human being. Therefore, C: Abortion is morally wrong.
As we shall see, pro-life advocates defend their argument with science and philosophy. They argue from the science of embryology that the unborn are distinct, living, and whole human beings. They argue from philosophy that there is no essential difference between you the embryo and you the adult that justifies intentionally killing you at that earlier stage of development. In short, each and every human being has an equal right to life. We will take up that defense later, but for now, notice the key point: Pro-life advocates present an argument for their position.
Arguments can be evaluated three ways. First, are the terms clear? Second, are the premises true? Third, does the conclusion follow logically from the premises? If the argument passes these tests, it stands.
2. What Do We Mean by “Wrong?”
To say abortion is wrong is to make an objective moral claim rather than a subjective one. Subjective claims are about what I like or prefer — for example, ice cream flavors. Objective claims are about what is morally true regardless of likes or dislikes.
are about the subject or, in this case, the individual making the claim
are created by the subject
are matters of personal preference
are equally valid, since no one’s preference has any more authority than anyone else’s
are not about the subject, but are about the “objects” of focus and how they relate
exist independently of the individual, which means that objective truths are true whether one prefers them or not, or whether one is even aware of them or not
are discovered by the subject rather than created
can be true or false, and can usually be substantiated with evidence, which means that objective claims are not equally valid.
People often confuse the two types of claims. Example: Bumper sticker — ”Don’t like abortion? Don’t have one!” Note the intentional use of the word “like.” The sticker does not refute the formal pro-life argument above, only changes it from an objective claim to a subjective one that critics like better.
Imagine saying, “Don’t like slavery? Don’t own a slave!” or, “Don’t like spousal abuse? Don’t beat your wife!” Pro-life advocates don’t oppose abortion because they find it distasteful; they oppose it because it violates objective moral principles.
Understanding that the wrongness of abortion is objective eliminates the pro-lifer’s fear of appearing unkind or arrogant. Since, by their nature, objective views can be right or wrong, when you make your claim you are submitting to the individual(s) in front of you that you could be wrong. That’s a humble posture, which frees you to be curious about your opponent’s view and to invite them to consider your argument.
Main point: When pro-life advocates state that abortion is wrong, we shouldn’t confuse the type of claim they are making. They are not saying they dislike abortion. They are saying it is wrong regardless of one’s personal tastes or preferences. Their claim is objective, not subjective.