I attended an abortion debate between Nadine Strossen (head of the ACLU) and Scott Klusendorf (President of Life Training Institute) at Cal Poly last week. Since they had debated a couple of times before, I knew Nadine was familiar with Scott's arguments, and I looked forward to hearing her address those arguments. Unfortunately, it didn't quite turn out that way.
Scott was an excellent spokesman for the pro-life position, speaking with compassion (acknowledging the difficult situations women face), warmth, and clarity. His opening statement was straightforward and logical: Any hardship a woman faces in an unwanted pregnancy should take precedence over the life of the fetus only if the fetus is not a human being (i.e., if we would not allow a woman to kill her human toddler to ease certain hardships, neither should we allow her to kill her human fetus for those reasons). The scientific testimony from embryology textbooks explains that a fetus is a living human from the time of conception. The four differences between an unborn and a born human (size, level of development, location, and degree of dependency) are irrelevant characteristics when determining the rights of human beings. Therefore, the life of the unborn (innocent human beings) cannot be taken without adequate justification (i.e., for any reasons other than to save the life of the mother).
Nadine gave her opening statement before Scott. She remained civil and even friendly except for a few moments of tension and should be commended for that. However, even though she knew what was coming, she didn't try to head Scott off at the pass. In order to refute his arguments, she needed to address the one question she knew Scott would focus on: Is the unborn a human being? She needed to either offer evidence that a fetus is not a human being or grant that it is a living human and then give reasons why it should not have the same rights as a toddler. She didn't touch either of those subjects. Instead, she simply asserted that the unborn is "potential" human life without giving us reasons to believe this is so and then focused on the hardships of women, the dangers of illegal abortions, and the need for women to have reproductive control in order to have equal participation with men in their workplaces and communities (all of which Scott conceded should be paramount concerns--but only if the fetus is not a human being). Her case relied on the authority of past judicial decisions and on religious authorities who believe that not only is abortion moral but that sometimes women have a religious duty to choose abortion. (Since she accused pro-lifers of trying to "mandate a religious code," I found it especially ironic that she was the only one in the debate who made religious arguments, apparently desiring to mandate the religious code of those clergymen who think that abortion should be legal.)
Here is my frustration: Not only did Nadine ignore the arguments that Scott did make, she also seemed to be refuting what is commonly (and wrongly) believed to be the main pro-life argument (i.e., our religion says that abortion is wrong, therefore it should be illegal) even though Scott never brought the Bible or any other religious authority into the discussion. I've seen this happen on the STR blog, as well. We've been accused of having "only religious arguments" even though our clearly stated position relies only on science, logic, and the accepted--and even legally mandated--view in this country of equal rights. If even after a few debates the head of the ACLU isn't listening, what is it going to take?