'Strident' voices in abortion debate
Sir, – Paul Cullen (Health & Family, November 1st), writing about the increasingly inevitable repeal of the Eighth Amendment, opines that “discussion is being dominated by the strident voices on the two ends of the spectrum, each group deeply attached to absolutist views on the subject”.
This all-too-common refrain suggests a false equivalence: that those who actively oppose abortion and those who actively support its availability are direct polar opposites – “absolutist views” – on a finite spectrum.
The usual conclusion of this question-begging cliche is that the most desirable or moral position may, or even must be some nebulous midpoint on the scale – a supposed “moderate centre ground” or the like.
This is the kind of fallacy that might lead one to argue that since some people are for slavery and some against, a little slavery is surely best.
Further, the anti-abortion position can be defined with some considerable measure of confident objectivity as absolutist or extreme by reference to clinically verifiable best medical practice, international human rights’ norms and opinion polling. (Support for an all-out abortion ban has hovered around 10 per cent in recent Irish polls.) The same cannot be said of the pro-choice position. It is therefore not good enough to suggest, by implying a false dichotomy, that since the anti-abortion position is absolutist, so too, ipso facto, is the pro-choice position.
– Yours, etc.