Personally, I find this argument to be one of the most destructive arguments a pro-lifer can use. I cannot think of any other argument, fallacious or not, used by a pro-lifer that is as counterintuitive to our mission as this one. All fallacious arguments should be avoided, but this one does much more harm then good and is poisonous towards our intellectual defense of the unborn.
The argument I speak of is what I call the Argument from Potential Goodness.
Have you ever heard a pro-lifer respond to a pro-choicer by saying something along the lines of, “Well abortion should not be done because think of all the people you would be aborting that would have eliminated cancer or found a cure for HIV/AIDS or solved world hunger if they had but not been aborted”? The pro-lifer in this circumstance is arguing that abortion should not be done because there is a good chance that it eliminates the future existence of a person who would have done something incredibly good for society.
This is a terrible argument for a couple of reasons. For one, pro-lifers who use this argument do not apply it consistently to other circumstances. The argument, after all, says that abortion is wrong because it eliminates from existence somebody who would do much good for society.
But what about those who would do evil things for society?
By this logic, couldn’t abortion be considered morally acceptable since we are probably aborting children who would, otherwise, grow up to become rapists, serial killers, and the like? We may very well abort the next Mother Theresa, but we may also end up aborting the next Hitler.
“Well no,” the pro-lifer may say, “it would not be acceptable to abort on those grounds because the unborn did not do the evil actions in question yet. The act of abortion, after all, is wrong in and of itself because it takes the life of an innocent human being with the right to life.” And this is absolutely true, but it brings me to my second, and more damning, criticism of the argument in question:
It is the exact opposite of what the pro-life position stands for!!!
To argue that abortion is wrong because we might lose out on somebody, for instance, creating a cure for cancer is to argue that abortion is wrong because of a contribution to society being missed.
But this is not what the pro-life position is. The pro-life position is that abortion is immoral because it takes away the life of an innocent human being that should not be taken away, regardless of whether or not the human being will contribute anything to society.
The reason why it is wrong to abort is because of what the unborn child is (a human being with the right to life) and what abortion does (takes away the life of the human being with the right to life). Thus, to say that abortion is wrong because of something the unborn will do, as apposed to what the unborn is, is contrary to our very beliefs.
Being a human being is what gives one a right to life; that is the truth. We consistently say to pro-choicers that any other qualifier that they give for the right to life is too arbitrary and, thus, eliminates many people who we recognize to have a right to life from having a right to life (such as the severely mentally disabled).
But it is no different when the pro-lifer argues using this Potential Goodness argument. It is too arbitrary and assumes that those who do not contribute to society do not have a right to life. Even if the pro-lifer does not intend to say such things, that does not change the fact that such an argument, taken to its logical conclusions, acts in direct contradiction to the real reason why abortion is such a gross immorality.
So please, stay away from using this argument. It ultimately contradicts the reason why abortion is truly wrong and, as a result, undermines our efforts to eliminate abortion’s access and acceptance. Whether one intends to or not, one undercuts the dignity that each and every person has from the moment of conception when one uses this argument.
For abortion is wrong because of who we are in our very nature, not because of what we may or may not do at some point in our lives.