"If the unborn are not human beings, then comparisons to the Holocaust are insensitive," said Ruba. "Really that's the crux of the question that we need to ask them: are they [unborn children] human beings? In order for them to accuse us of being hateful, they have to prove that the unborn are not human beings. And they don't want to engage in that debate."
Joyce Arthur calls the question of the moral status of the fetus "fetal focus fallacy".
In her opinion, those questions are irrelevant, because women will "need" abortions, and so long as they "need them" it's a moot point. Women must control their bodies.
And that's how supporters of legal abortion (SOLAs) maintain their stance. So long as the fetus is irrelevant, they win.
Besides wanting to control the framework of the debate, there are several reasons why SOLAs will not argue about the fetus . It has to do with the fact that as a group, their opinions are divided. They can be divided into certain (and non-exclusive) categories:
1. From a philosophical standpoint, they don't know the answer themselves. It's irrelevant, right, so why would they bother?
2. They do believe the fetus is a human being, but don't care (which would cast them in a bad light)
3. They don't know the facts, as I've learned through many debates.
and I think this the most politically important answer:
4. If they did answer the question, they'd lose allies.
The reason why the movement to legalize abortion was able to consolidate their support was that it had an extremely relativistic approach to the issue of the status of the fetus.
You can think whatever you like of the fetus, but a woman's right is supreme.
Combined that belief with the idea that legal abortions save women's lives-- that makes people feel good about supporting abortion. I don't think many people stop to think of the contradiction in that position. But it makes it seem plausible-- fetus is irrelevant + abortion saves women lives= support legal abortion. In popularizing this stance, they've allowed people who would not otherwise support abortion to be onside. If they ever collectively decided to take a stand on the status of the fetus, they would lose support. Because individual SOLAs have different opinions-- from the idea that it's just a clump of cells, to the idea that the fetus is a full human being (with no rights). So long as there is no "official" consensus, they can keep everyone onside.
In practice,most supporters of legal abortion treat the fetus like a non-human, especially in the first trimester.
That is the only way they can maintain a philosophical and moral coherence, and not disturb their consciences.
Because if they were to acknowledge that a fetus were a human, that would mean they were killing human beings.
And while it can be logically consistent (though erroneous) to say that a human being is not a person, we know that throughout history, those who sought to oppress and kill people on a mass scale first dehumanized their targets and denied them personhood.
That puts abortion advocates in an uncomfortable position.
They consider themselves to be the advocates of equality.
But on some level, they are saying that other humans are more equal than others.
That has disturbing implications.
This is why SOLAs will eventually address the issue of the moral status of the fetus (although I doubt Joyce Arthur and the abortion lobby will be the ones to do it.)
First, Joyce Arthur and those who think like her assert without proof that the belief that women need abortions is a more important issue than the issue of the moral status of the fetus. They've never had to make a case for their point of view.
Second, it's all fine and good to say the fetus irrelevant. But the issue of the fetus raises questions, and saying that the fetus is irrelevant sends an implicitly dangerous message.
Ifa fetus is a human being with rights, and if the conflict of rights can be solved by one human being imposing death on another, that makes killing an acceptable solution to a conflict of rights.
You can assert that your rights is more important than someone else's rights, and if the dilemma seems intractable, you have the right to kill that human being.
Pro-lifers raise a number of important philosophical questions and dismissing them as irrelevant is not an intellectually satisfactory position for most people. The human mind, like the rest of nature, abhors a vacuum. When questions are raised, and answers sought, the need for authenticity and logical consistency pushes the mind to find answers, even if they are deemed "irrelevant" by some. That is the beauty of the human intellect.
If they do not answer these questions, they will lose ground. By raising questions, pro-lifers will create that vacuum and pro-lifers will fill it.
We only need to persistently present the facts in a calm and peaceful manner. I am not saying this is the magic bullet. I don't believe in magic bullets for such complex questions.
I am saying it can only further our cause.