Abortion And Education: the logical flaws in the positions held by the ‘religious right’

OK – this is a very contentious topic.  Please, read my disclaimer first:

In this post, I do not wish to debate the morality of abortion or if it ought to be legal or illegal and anything else related to abortion itself.  Let’s leave that for a later post focused specifically on that topic.

This post is about the inconsistencies in the ‘principled positions’ presently proposed (held) by many people who consider themselves as part of the ‘religious right’ and/or (because they do differ at times, but not always) ‘social conservatives’.

No, I am not taking the position that they are correct or incorrect, right or wrong.  I am simply stating that they are inconsistent in their reasoning.  As in, ‘if A, then you cannot logically argue for B; if B, then you cannot logically argue for A’!

Now that I have presented the disclaimer at such great length, let me present the two positions, as I understand them to be argued by the aforementioned factions within the conservative movement.

Position A: 

A person’s a person, no matter how small – or within a womb he/she is.  Since the genetic material is set at conception, from zygote on, this is defined as a human being with full human rights and freedoms.  Abortion is immoral and should be illegal because by intentionally killing this entity, one is killing a human being and thus violating his/her civil liberties.

In other words, ‘Position A’ holds that killing a fetus is murder because civil liberties and full human rights kick in at conception.  The right of the child to his/her civil liberties is inviolable, regardless of what the parents’ views are.

Position B:

Parents have a right to raise their child as they wish, without interference from the government.

In other words, parents should have the right to exclude information from their child’s education which they don’t like or agree with, they may discipline their child in any way they see fit, and so on.  They could even subject them to plastic surgery for the hell of it, if they wanted to…

Please, don’t get me wrong – I do not know where the proper balance between the civil liberties of the child versus the civil liberties of the parents lies!

All I am saying is that if you think that the government has the right to interfere in in parental decisions from the very beginning – before the child is even born, it is logically inconsistent to then claim that the government has no right to interfere from that point on, whether it is sex ed in school or teaching children from a very young age that there are multiple religious beliefs (as well as disbeliefs).

After all, we do know from multiple, well documented studies that most children who receive religious indoctrination from their earliest childhood can never fully shake the effects of this early brainwashing.  We also understand quite well how this works and that early childhood religious indoctrination actually changes the physiology of a child’s brain.

This clearly interferes not just with the civil liberty of freedom of religion, it actually interferes with the right to bodily integrity:  the same right which is being violated by abortion if one were to extend civil liberties to the point of conception.

It seems to me that if one is arguing from a principled position, one can either argue that the parents have the exclusive right to make decision on behalf of their children or that children have their own civil liberties which nobody, not even the parent, can violate.

Both positions make very valid points.  But, they are irreconcillable with each other because each stems from a set of principles which abrogates the other.

Either the civil libertis of the child – especially the right to bodily integrity – start at conception, as argued in ‘Position 1’:  if this is so, the parents do not have the right to violate this bodily integrity, ever.  Not to circumcize their children (of either sex), nor to corporally punish them, nor to rewire their brain through early childhood religious indoctrination!

Or the parents, as guardians, have the right to treat their children as they wish, as expressed in ‘Position 2’:  they may subject them to non-medically necessary surgical procedures (religiously motivated or otherwise), they may spank them, they may deny them education and they may alter the natural structure of the brain through childhood religious indoctrination.

The problem comes in when the ‘religious right’/’social conservatives’ attempt to take both positions at once:  abortion is murder and government must step in to stop it – and the government has no right to ban childhood circumcision, ban corporal punishment and to over-ride the parent’s interference with healthy brain development and education….

Again, I am not passing judgment on either set of principles.

All I am saying is that people need to choose one set of principles and stick with it, or they will not only open themselves to justified ridicule, they will continue to taint the ‘c’onservative movement as a whole.

10 Responses to “Abortion And Education: the logical flaws in the positions held by the ‘religious right’”

  1. Derek Says:

    finally, a REAL conversation about abortion, that is discussing the logics of it, rather than the morals, because morals don’t exist in metaphysical reality. they are simple subjective manmade contrivances.

    i still hold that the pro-choice stance is “murder”. with a brain at 5 weeks old, a fetus is an independent agent (yes, it needs sustenence, but whatever had a brain can ACT independently). so it is inconsistent for the pro-choice stance to say killing a newborn is morally wrong whereas aborting a baby one minute before it comes out of the womb is okay. that is a manmade invisible demarcation line, which is successfully used to alleviate any possible moral dilemma or guilt. another thing, abortion is wrong with exception to incest or rape? so it’s a human life when its convienient and its not a human life when its inconvienient? the pro-choice position is much less logical based on society’s moral precepts.

    but since our society runs on pragmatism and inconsistent morals, across the board, what’s the harm in continuing abortion and using the stem cells to help research disease cures?

    Xanthippa says:

    Ah – but this is a discussion of the ‘morality’ of abortion – off-topic for this post!

  2. CodeSlinger Says:


    Of course you are right. The positions you label A and B are mutually inconsistent.

    Not only are they inconsistent, they are stated in such categorical all-or-nothing terms that they are incorrect as well.

    A human being comes into existence gradually, beginning with a single cell, the zygote, and culminating, if all goes well, in an adult person. The process develops in a number of more-or-less clearly demarcated stages: zygote, embryo, foetus, baby, child, youth, adult.

    A zygote, obviously, cannot meaningfully be said to have individuality or awareness, let alone rights or responsibilities. A normal adult presumably has all of these attributes.

    Thus, by all but the most pedantic definitions, a zygote is not a person. But under normal circumstances it will develop into one. So for practical reasons the law must define some unambiguously recognizable point in the process, after which it is legally recognized as a separate and distinct person.

    However, even once the bare essentials of personhood are recognized, a child is still not a complete person. It has not yet developed the necessary faculties. Thus the law prescribes a graduated progression of rights and responsibilities, each taking effect at some unambiguously recognizable point until the age of majority, when a person has all the rights and responsibilities of a free adult.

    Before reaching adulthood, the child has insufficient faculties to meet its own needs. Therefore, since the parents brought it into the world, it is the parents’ responsibility to see to it that those needs are met. This includes providing food, shelter, education, discipline, moral and spiritual guidance – all the things which are collectively known as child rearing.

    However, there can be no responsibility in the absence of the freedom to act to discharge that responsibility.

    So, you see, an accurate description of the situation easily resolves the inconsistency.

    Two conclusions follow immediately.

    First, there is a point in every pregnancy before which the foetus cannot reasonably be called a person, and terminating a pregnancy before that point cannot properly be called murder – but terminating it after that point cannot rightly be called anything else.

    Second, the responsibility of parents to rear their own children demands that they be free to do so according to their own best judgement, and as long as they do so in good faith and to the best of their abilities, no one has any right to interfere – least of all, the state.

    Admittedly, this pair of conclusions will satisfy neither the collectivists of the left nor the collectivists of the right.

    But, of course, nothing reasonable will ever satisfy either of them.

  3. CodeSlinger Says:


    You are also right in saying that “early childhood religious indoctrination actually changes the physiology of a child’s brain.”

    But you seem to imply that this is something bad and unique to religion, when in fact…

    Anything we teach a child changes the physiology of the child’s brain.

    That’s how learning works.

    All learning takes place by a process of rewiring the brain.

    Neuroscientists call it “synaptic plasticity.” Pathways in the brain which get used a lot get stronger, and those which don’t get weaker; many of the weakest ones disappear entirely. Neurons which don’t have enough connections die off. There is no avoiding it.

    So, you see, we must rewire children’s brains in order to make functional adults out of them.

    And we are much better off to leave this rewiring to parents, who mostly love their children and want the best for them – as opposed to the state, which loves only power and reduces people to nothing more than human resources.

    True, some parents may be incompetent or abusive in some cases.

    But the state is demonstrably incompetent and abusive in all cases.

    Xanthippa says:

    I will answer both your comments in an upcoming post – they touch on the next bit I have been ‘sweating’ on how to phrase.

    It may take me a day or few, but, I am working on it.

  4. letterstoadyingdream Says:

    I think you might have missed something. The two ideas do not contradict since they are about two separate things. One if the idea that a person has the right to life and depending on where you say life begins after that mark it is murder to take the life of someone without just cause. So when the government stops murder it is protecting a persons rights. The government isn’t taking away someones rights by saying you cannot murder someone it is simply protecting someone else’s rights since we do not have the right to murder. Now this argument is based off of the definition on when life begins so we can argue that line but if you believe life starts at conception you believe that the government has the duty to protect the life from murder. That is how you can hold both views without it contradiction or even bringing in morality or religion. The problem is that people see the ability to have an abortion as a right that should not be stopped while some people believe it isn’t a right since anything that can be considered a right cannot interfere with someone else’s rights. In this case it is the right of life something that most people have 4 ideas about. One being that life can never be taken even as a punishment through the legal system, can only be taken as a punishment through the legal system in only certain cases, can only be taken through the legal system or in self defense or can never be taken even through the legal system or in self defense. The argument on abortion is about trying to designate when life exists so we do not have to make another option such as a life can only be taken through the legal system or if the mother doesn’t want it.

    I’m not going to get into the rest of the argument since I’m honestly just to lazy to do it right now.

    Xanthippa says:
    I think that I agree with you on the core of what you have said. I certainly agree with your assessment that this is dependant on when you consider ‘human rights’ to kick in.

    My point is – and my only point is – that there are people, especially on the ‘religious right’, who claim that the ‘human rights’ of an ‘unborn baby’ kick in at conception, which is perfectly fine on itself. It is a valid view – one of many valid views.

    The contradiction comes in when these same people then fail to respect the child’s ‘human rights’ when it comes to freedom of religion by unashamedly brainwashing them into one religious faith onlyv- which is a psychological hack so deep that it prevents most (not all – but I think the stats are running at over 90 percent) from being able to change religions once they grow up.

    It is this contradiction: insisting on everyone respecting the human rights of the non-adult person here – but not there – that I am criticizing.

    This is cherypicking when to uphold one particular principle – and it is this moral dishonesty which taints the sicoally-conservative movement.

    • letterstoadyingdream Says:

      I understand your point but we already accept that a child’s rights are limited. We don’t let them vote or exercise other rights adults are afforded. A child cannot buy a gun although the parent my buy t for them therefore it is up to the parent wether or not the child can exercise their 2nd amendment rights, I know your in Canada so this doesn’t apply, so the parent has the ability to either allow the child a right or not. It’s the same with free speech. A parent can allow or not allow a child to say certain things such as curse words. So by not allowing the child to use the F word the parent is taking away the child’s right to free speech, but we accept and allow this. Even if you took religion out of it anything you teach a child who has a limited understanding can be considered brainwashing. Religious or non-religious we still try to teach children morals basically forcing those morals onto the child to some degree. At this point the argument becomes how much of this is acceptable and is there a way to legislate where the line is. The easy answer is that as long as the child isn’t mental or physically abused you do nothing. Although even with that I’m sure some people out there consider teaching a child their religion (forcing it on them) is a form of mental abuse but if you go with that logic any morality or ideals you try to force on your child is mental abuse. The only difference is where it comes from. I just don’t see religion as any different from any other ideology or moral system. Some are bad some aren’t, some are both to varying degrees and there is only so much we can do before we become what we are claiming to be against. When it all comes down to it we are going to brainwash the children to at least some point so we can all sit around and try to hash out a list of things it’s OK to brainwash them about and how much and see how well that works or we can let the parents do their thing and just make sure no one is getting that hurt.

      I don’t really think it’s cherry picking so much as a different understanding of our rights and how they affect or should the family unit.

      Xanthippa says:

      I think you made my point when you said that a child’s rights are only upheld as per the wishes of the parent: this, of course, would make abortion – perhaps even infanticide – perfectly OK, because it would simply be the parent’s choice not to uphold the child’s right to bodily integrity!

      So, either se acknowledge that children have rights of their own – and the parents cannot over-ride them. This would mean no abortion – but it would also limit the way parents raise their kids.

      Or we acknowledge that parents may abrogate their childrens’ rights as they see fit – in which case we cannot stop abortion and child abuse, like religious instruction. (In Canada, we have had a court decision, called the Irwing case, which forbids all advertising aimed at children under the age of 11 years because since their mind has not formed sufficiently to distinguish reality from non-reality, it has been ruled to be a form of abuse. It seems to me that childhood religious instruction falls very much into this same ‘advertising aimed at monirs’ category – it is time we acknowledged it.)

      Once you start mixing the two things – saying the parents’ have the rights in one but children in the other, you have abandoned principle-based positions and that is undefensible.

  5. letterstoadyingdream Says:

    I meant that we acknowledge that parents may abrogate a child’s rights to a point or at least limit them not that the parent may abrogate all of the child’s rights. The question becomes where the line is on when they have gone too far. Such as you can limit a 8 year olds speech and how much T.V. they watch but you cannot take away his life. To me abortion goes to far, since you could argue if the parents have the ability to take away a child’s right to life where is the line and as of now we do not even have a firm line on that. I don’t think they contradict since while we can stand on principles there is nothing wrong with saying something is OK except in these specific circumstances.

    Xanthippa says:

    By the way: I have never – nor would I – limited my children’s freedom of speech, including swearing. Ever. I would not do that because that would be an unreasonable infringment on their rights, in my never-humble-opinion.

    I have explained to that that the social convention in our community is that children should not swear – and I have, at times, asked them to please not use words the society considers age-inappropriate for them when we are in public or in front of people like grandparents and/or their friends because I would like to look like a ‘good’ parent, which includes teaching children age-appropriate language. They usually (though not always) thought it a reasonable request and complied – with a knowing smile.

    But I have never made this an order nor have I ever punished them for using swearwords.

    • letterstoadyingdream Says:

      I may not be fully explaining myself although since I practically wrote a book in the comments I might no be so good with words and stuff…

      Xanthippa says:

      I understand – but disagree.

      I have been struggling with writing a follow-up post in which I wish to address this better, but, it is difficult to find the right way to express what it is I mean….

      (I have been working on this, several hours a day, for over a week. I think that part of my problem is not having anyone around whom I could kick the topick around with in order to see which way of expressing myself are making my point most understandable to other people.)

  6. CodeSlinger Says:


    letterstoadyingdream is making all the same points I made.

    It’s a gradual process, Xanthippa, not all-or-nothing.

    A zygote has no rights. An adult has all rights.

    In between, rights are acquired incrementally as growth and development proceed.

    There is no contradiction in this.

    Everything you teach a child will be considered “mental abuse” by those who disagree with what you teach. That’s why it must be left up to the parents — no one else has a right to interfere.

    And this is a good thing, because anyone who interferes — especially any organization which interferes — will almost certainly be doing it to further an agenda. And that agenda almost certainly is not in the best interests of the child or the family.

    Of all those who might want to influence what a child is taught, the ones least likely to have an ulterior motive, and most likely to want the best for the child, are…

    the child’s own parents.

  7. the 3 forms of influence: rewards, indoctrination, and punishments « power of language blog: partnering with reality by JR Fibonacci Says:

    […] Abortion And Education: the logical flaws in the positions held by the ‘religious right’ (xanthippas.com) […]

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