Debunking Courses Offered At PragerU Lesson 16—“The Most Important Question About Abortion”
Written By: Reverend Anton Sawyer
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With the 2022 Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade still fresh in the minds of everyone, not to mention still being headline fodder for almost every news outlet in America, I felt it only appropriate to dedicate this latest debunking PragerU lesson towards abortion. More specifically, their “moral” objections to the voluntary termination of a fetus. To be honest, before I began watching the video, I had already made a mental list of the talking points I knew I would be subjected to. Given their audience of millions and the overall influence they have on the Republican base due to this extremely large web presence—along with the fact that they’ve been around since 2009—I figured it would be a “greatest hits.” To my surprise, I was only about 50% correct. Though the rationales they provide for their arguments that I wasn’t expecting are just as bereft of self-realization and statistical analysis as everything else they peddle, there was still a level of surprise when it came to their leaps in logic.
In an attempt to maintain complete transparency, all research and statistical fact-checking for all articles can be found in the bibliography linked here.
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“The Most Important Question About Abortion”
To keep things clear, all statements from the video will be in bold, while all my responses will be in italics.
Today’s presenter is Dennis Prager, founder of PragerU.
Let’s talk about one of the most emotionally charged subjects there is—abortion—but in an unemotional way. Also, let’s not touch on the question that most preoccupies discussion of the subject—whether abortion should be legal or illegal. The only question here is the moral one: is the ending of the life of a human fetus moral?
Right out of the gate we see the word “moral” being used. It’s imperative to remember that to Prager, the morality they speak of is based on the concepts found in the Holy Bible. Morality is different for everyone. Yes, we could wax all the philosophical poetry we’d like about the humane treatment of murderers and psychopaths or dissect the possible situations that can lead to one feeling empathy towards their enemy if only to walk a mile in their shoes—but in the case of Prager, there is only one ordained set of morals. In America, one of the very first examples I can give in which both Christians and secularists are exposed to the complexities found in morality is when children are (always) asked at some point whether it is wrong for a poor woman to steal bread in order to feed her children. Do you let the children die? Do you disobey God’s commandment of “Thou Shalt Not Steal?” We in America learn very early on that there is usually no one right answer to any question brought from morals. Immediately Prager is setting a duplicitous foundation of what moral concepts are interpreted as versus what he means.
Get used to it in this video.
Let’s begin with this question: does the human fetus have any value and any rights? Now, it’s a scientific fact that a human fetus is a human life. Those who argue that the human fetus has no rights say that a fetus is not a person. But even if you believe that it doesn’t mean that the fetus has no intrinsic value or no rights. There are many living beings that are not persons that have both value and rights—dogs and other animals for example. And that’s moral argument number one: a living being doesn’t have to be a person in order to have intrinsic moral values and rights.
This entire section is conflating science with both law and morality. There are nuggets of truth sprinkled throughout this moral argument, but the way they are combined offers a definitive solution when the answer is actually very interpretive. Yes, if you read the National Library of Medicine, along with other medical journals, the scientific definition of human life begins at conception. It’s when Prager follows this by stating that legal human rights are equal to the concept of fetal rights that reality becomes murky. In essence, it’s taking two separate concepts—science and law—and combining them into a hybrid that doesn’t exist. According to 1 U.S. Code § 8 (a): In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the word “person,” “human being,” “child,” and “individual,” shall include every infant member of the species homo sapiens who is born alive at any stage of development. It’s also important to note that in many American locales, there is a common-law idea that personhood is the moment when a human is first recognized as a person. It’s this legal gray area that allows Prager to pull off the conflation. He then follows it by comparing rights with intrinsic value, thereby repeating the cycle. By jumbling these unrelated concepts together, it allows for his moral argument number one to “make sense.”
Also, when it comes to examining Prager's claim about "animal rights," it's pretty clear that they don't know what they are talking about. According to the US Department of Agriculture, there are only three federal mandates as it pertains to animal rights. The Animal Welfare Act (AWA), Animal Welfare Regulations, and Rules of Practice Governing Proceedings under the Animal Welfare Act. The animal welfare act mainly pertains to reducing animal suffering by enabling preventive action to be taken before suffering occurs. The responsibility placed on people who are responsible for domestic and companion animals is a duty requiring them to do all that is reasonable to ensure the welfare of their animals. The Regulations and Governing Proceedings are more for clarification purposes. Yet in these acts, animals aren't given any rights in any kind of traditional sense—especially as it pertains to abortions.
When challenged with this argument, people usually change the subject to the rights of the mother—meaning the right of the mother to end her fetus’s life under any circumstance, for any reason, and at any time of her pregnancy. Is that moral? It is only if we believe that the human fetus has no intrinsic worth. But in most cases, nearly everyone believes that the human fetus has essentially infinite worth and an almost absolute right to live. When? When a pregnant woman wants to give birth. Then society, and its laws, regard the fetus as so valuable that if someone were to kill the fetus, that person could be prosecuted for homicide. Only if a pregnant woman doesn’t want to give birth, do many people regard the fetus as worthless. Now, does that make sense? It doesn’t seem to. Either a human fetus has worth or it doesn’t. And this is moral argument number two: On what moral grounds does the mother alone decide a fetus’s worth?
Any time? Under any circumstances? This simply isn’t true. In 2022, Pew Research found that 69% of Americans polled felt that abortion should be legal in the case of rape or incest. The poll also found that 73% agreed with abortion in cases where the mother could die (NOT that her rights were being infringed upon). In the same poll, only 29% of Americans support abortion legal by 24 weeks, with the numbers rapidly declining the later the pregnancy becomes. If it were just a woman’s rights issue, then those who support legal abortion nationwide would want it to be a complete free-for-all. These numbers also directly contradict the notion that if a woman simply doesn’t want to give birth, then the child is just an afterthought when the dump truck comes on Thursdays to get the refuse. Even if a woman wants to have an abortion, society has shown that there has been worth placed on that fetus given that both the length of time and circumstances of conception weigh heavily on those minds.
We certainly don’t do that with regard to a newborn child. It is society, not the mother or the father, that determines whether a newborn child has worth and a right to live. So the question is: why should that be different before the human being is born? Why does one person, a mother, get to determine whether that being has any right to live? People respond by saying that a woman has the right to “control her body.” Now, that is entirely correct. The problem here, however, is that the fetus is not “her body,” it is IN her body. It is a separate body. And that’s moral argument number three: no one ever asks a pregnant woman “How’s your body?” when asking about the fetus. People ask, “How’s the baby?”
I find it interesting that Prager, the conservative bastion that they are, is so concerned about a society raising a child, given that this has become their number one argument against the LGBTQ+ community—that children are being groomed into this lifestyle via societal pressures. So, a society that has zero vested interest in the life of a potentially aborted fetus at large should force the raising of that child on a single person without knowing any extenuating circumstances? That’s what you’re saying, Dennis?
I’m not even going to justify the inherent stupidity behind the “How’s the baby?” question that is at the core of this third moral argument with a counterpoint.
Moral argument number four: virtually everyone agrees that the moment the baby comes out of the womb, killing the baby is murder. But deliberately killing it a few months before birth is considered no more morally problematic than extracting a tooth. How does that make sense?
I have to admit that conflating infanticide with abortion to pull at the emotions in order to intertwine them as inseparable is clever—a tried-and-true deceptive masterpiece. Unfortunately, the statistic above show otherwise. If only 29% of Americans think that abortions at 24 weeks should be generally legal, I can guarantee you that unless the woman is about to experience an amniotic fluid embolism or the like, there are a majority of Americans who view an abortion at month seven or eight should be punishable by law.
And finally, moral argument number five: aren’t there instances in which just about everyone—even among those who are pro-choice—would acknowledge that an abortion might not be moral? For example, would it be moral to abort a female fetus solely because the mother prefers boys to girls, as has happened millions of times in China and elsewhere? And one more example: let’s say science develops a method of determining whether a child in the womb is gay or straight. Would it be moral to kill a gay fetus because the mother didn’t want a gay child? People may offer practical reasons not to criminalize all abortions. People may differ about when personhood begins, and about the morality of abortion after rape or incest. But with regards to the vast majority of abortions—those of healthy women aborting a healthy fetus—let’s be clear. Most of these abortions just aren’t moral. Good societies can survive people doing immoral things. But a good society cannot survive if it calls immoral things moral. I’m Dennis Prager.
The lack of knowledge that Prager sometimes reveals inadvertently is always entertaining. In the same Pew Research poll, support for legal abortion is greater among those with higher levels of education. While majorities of those with a postgraduate degree (69%), bachelor’s degree (64%), and those with some college experience (63%) say abortion should be legal in all or most cases, adults with no more than a high school education are more divided on the issue: 54% say abortion should be legal in at least most cases, while 44% say abortion should be illegal in all or most cases. This means that those who would seriously consider abortion are educated enough to know that the decades-long Chinese policy of only allowing one child—thereby tipping the scales in favor of a certain gender to carry on a lineage—ended up being an abject failure.
The rapid decline in China’s workforce due to this archaic policy has caused so many issues within the nation’s economy that the policy was lifted in 2016 to allow for two children, only to see the nation change the policy yet again in 2021 to allow for three children due to even more of a rapid decline of birthrates than initially anticipated. Given that most educated people know this, then I can’t see the argument of gender as being a determining factor in someone getting an abortion as being valid. With that being said, I have to give credit to Prager’s subtlety. Since most conservatives view liberals as Communists, it further cements the emotional narrative of those who get abortions as being Chinese, communists, or liberals (i.e. same difference).
Also, it's really disgusting watching Prager use the LGBTQ+ community to offer a sense of “moral superiority” to the conservatives of America, given how many videos PragerU has produced which has tried to decimate that very same group. The only reason to use your fetus being gay as an example is for some Republican somewhere to feel good about themselves knowing they wouldn’t abort their kid due to the sexual orientation of their child; all while in the back of their minds knowing that if the child were gay, then they could be sent to a prayer camp to “get fixed.”
Given my history with Prager, I knew that most statistical analyses would be thrown out the window in favor of hyperbole. Yes, this was present. But I wasn’t expecting the utilization of the LGBTQ+ community in the way they were. This, plus the fluidity with which Prager was so easy to navigate between scientific, legal, and moral theories all without batting an eye was also striking—though for a different reason. When you are talking to the average joe on the street and get into a political discussion, more than likely all you’ll get are talking points. Nothing of any real substance. Yet, the level of conviction with which they relay the information shows nothing but certainty. It’s because of the ease with which Prager (along with any number of talk show political pundits), can mold completely unrelated elements of law, science, and bits of the human experience into an indistinguishable mess that, to the average joe, it all makes sense. Sure, the common person may not be able to relay all the details of information in the same way as the big boys, but I promise you that in their heart of hearts that doesn’t matter because they FEEL all of it—and it feels good.
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