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RFD for Abortion Debate

whiteflame
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2/14/2016 12:04:33 AM
Posted: 9 months ago
This is an RFD for the debate between harrytruman and famousdebater given here: http://www.debate.org...

I've read a pretty large number of abortion debates, and with only a few examples to the contrary, they tend to look rather samey. I'm not saying that that's necessarily a bad thing (though that makes reading through the debates rather boring), but rather that it makes a reader rather accustomed to seeing a certain kind of argument and how it plays out. I've seen plenty of successful pro-life arguments, and similarly successful pro-choice arguments. Debates of this type tend to get rather ideological (as this one did, at least in part), but the arguments that work are effective because they're logical. They tell me a clear, coherent story about how something works, why I should believe that it works that way, and why I should care about it.

Some of those pieces are in this debate, but both sides fail to go the full distance. Each side makes a great deal of assumptions with their arguments, which is probably where the most egregious faults lie in this debate. There are numerous other problems, and I'll go through those in some detail, but if you're trying to convince voters, your story should be complete, well thought out, and logical. The lack of that makes this debate more than a little frustrating to read.

I'm not going to cover the debate exhaustively, mainly because that would involve me repeating myself multiple times. The debate stopped advancing for Pro basically after R1, since he spent much of the rest of the debate rehashing the same points and attempting to throw his case at Con's rather than refuting Con's arguments. Con didn't do much better, as some of his rebuttals in R2 are fresh, but much of the rest of the debate is just restatements of those rebuttals and his case. Both of you just spent way too much time rehashing your arguments and way too little time explaining why those arguments were something voters should buy.

Part of what makes this debate difficult to assess in the end is just a complete lack of explanation when it comes to what the topic requires each side to do. Each side talks about burdens to some degree with Con spending more time there explaining that the burdens are shared... but that doesn't really answer the basic question of what's being debated. Is it the morality of abortion? Is it a ban on abortions in the U.S. or elsewhere? Neither of you should be leaving this up to me. I shouldn't have to interpret anything " it should be spelled out clearly from the opening rounds, and it's not. By the end of the debate, I'm inclined to believe it's the latter because each side seems to assume that that's where it was going, though that wasn't at all clear from Pro's opening round. That would imply that this is a policy debate, so I should be focused on net benefits, right? Well... no, because Con spends a lot of time emphasizing a moral framework, and so I'm analyzing the policy change from a values perspective. So it's a bit of both: a morality debate over a potential policy change. That's how I'm assessing it.

But that's enough overview. Let's get down into the arguments.

I want to start off by examining the outcome of the arguments each side gave with regards to whether a gestating being counts as a human life. This becomes a very large portion of the debate, and it becomes absolutely absurd by the end.

Is a fetus alive? Both sides present overlapping characteristics of what is life, there's a ridiculous amount of argumentation as to why one side's definition is better than the other, when in reality that has nothing to do with this. Neither side argues that meeting a certain amount of a given definition is enough, and Pro argues that not meeting any of the pieces of these definitions is sufficient to deem these as non-life.

I'm not buying this argument from Pro, mainly because his logic just escapes me. I don't understand the argument. An infant is alive despite the fact that it can't reproduce. A fetus is not alive partly because it can't reproduce. That's the argument Pro is giving me, and it's nonsensical. Pro tells me in the final round that there are stages of human life, and that there are stages that occur before then, and that the latter stages are not human because... well, I really don't know why. Is it the fact that they're depicted in separate images? I'm sure I could find an image that shows all of this depicted together under the title "human life development." Pro doesn't explain why he's delineating them beyond saying that they're separately classified, and that's simply an appeal to authority. That's not a logical means of separating these two phases, and it makes even less sense considering that the stages of development include fetuses that Pro pretty much assumes are human life. If there's a delineation here as Pro states, then it's internal to the second image, and it's never clearly stated where that is.

Pro's argument on this point just comes off as arbitrary. He's not explaining to me in any meaningful way why I should treat everything past a certain point as life and everything before that point as non-life. It doesn't make sense to me, nor does the argument make sense in general. Pro seems to be arguing that the process of development brings the organism in question from non-life to life, which is just blatantly false (though, admittedly, Con does a poor job addressing this claim).

Now, Pro seems to get this by the end of the debate, instead arguing that it's a difference between humanity and lack of humanity instead of life and non-life. It might have been an interesting course to take, if it had been taken any time before R4 when Pro brings it up for the first time and explains it only to the most minimal degree. Questions of consciousness and sentience are huge in a debate like this, but we fail to get anywhere with this.

That just leaves me with the basic argument made by Con from the outset of this debate as to why they are human: their genetics. I personally have quite a few problems with this argument, but Pro never argues that genetics fail to show humanity, and only argues that it's insufficient in R4 with his human characteristics, which just aren't explored sufficiently to erase this point.

So I'm buying that what we're dealing with is a human life. It's a life, as Pro's arguments simply fail to establish that life is absent from the fetus. It's a human, as the major reason I have to believe it's of the species is basically unaddressed and never strongly countered.

Onto the specifics of each side's arguments.

Con starts off the debate with the classical pro-life argument: human life matters, a fetus is human life, ergo taking that life is harmful. It seems straightforward to me how these arguments should have been built, but it never gets built clearly. Con seems to assume that loss of life has its own value, and while I agree that that may be the case, it still has to be couched in something. Tell me about how rejecting the value of these lives inherently demeans the value of all human life. Tell me about why I should weigh this based on net benefits, how lives factor into that calculus, and how libertarianism doesn't. There were options here.

A large part of the reason for this is the complete lack of a framework. Con alludes to a couple of frameworks throughout the debate, stating that there's a governmental obligation of some sort and that conservatism upholds his views, but neither of these are ever fleshed out.
whiteflame
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2/14/2016 12:04:52 AM
Posted: 9 months ago
The focus on the fetus ends up doing more harm than good, as it allows Pro to reflect on other stages of development and point out that they don't reach the same standards of human life that the fetus does. It also doesn't help that Pro's argument seems to be that a fetus is life so long as it can potentially reach a phase in development where it satisfies the criteria he presents " I'm not really given a solid reason to treat the fetus as human life when it doesn't directly satisfy the standards he's presenting. As I said above, I'm still buying that that's the case, but only because Pro failed to present a logical, reasonable reason for me to dismiss your arguments.

Con does eventually try to defend this by arguing that there are other stages of development post-pregnancy that would also not meet the standards, and that's a good argument. It tells me that there are life forms we would consider human that wouldn't meet these standards by that same token. It tells me that Pro's stance is hypocritical. It's really the major thing I'm taking away from Con's case because, apart from this, the rest of his case solely applies to fetuses and therefore fails to assess the importance of all lives that could be aborted. Trouble is that it's all I'm getting. I'm not getting a reason why hypocrisy matters, though I could certainly infer some. Hypocrisy, by itself, is not an impact.

The rest of Con's arguments get lost in the echo. The pre-rebuttal on the clump of cells argument goes nowhere, as do the multiple ineffective metaphors, which leave me with more questions than answers.

What's really confounding to me is that Con's responses to Pro's case tend to do more harm than good.

In R3, Con argues that women guilty of illegal abortions should be subjected to lashes (cruel and unusual punishment), 5 year imprisonment (great place for a baby to spend their first 5 years, and a great way to ensure that poor mothers become even less capable of supporting their children), and death by stoning (extreme cruel and unusual punishment, and resulting in many kids growing up without a parent or with a single parent). This was utterly baffling, and if Con had thought to analyze this to any greater extent than "but that's not absolutely recognizing the importance of life", the debate very well could have ended here. You didn't have to make this argument, you weren't pushed to do it, and yet you offered up an easy opportunity to destroy your case outright on a net benefits or value level.

In R5, Con starts in on a tangent about what a good model for governance is, turning over to issues of freedoms within the UK and U.S. This is completely unimportant to the debate at hand, and all it does is invite criticism, whether from your opponent or from your judges. Generally not a good idea to antagonize any judges that may be from England in an effort to prove something that has abolutely no bearing on the outcome of the debate.

It's not like Con didn't have access to other arguments they have have used. For example, the adoption point could have come up quite a bit earlier and actually been a player in the outcome for this debate instead of a side-note. There were shades of an argument that abortion is risky in any form, but it's never directly stated anywhere.

Pro's arguments are beefier. He has a framework, and though I never feel like I get a solid reason why I should prefer libertarianism (the reasons why I should prefer it appear to be assertions that "freedom is good" and "less government is good", and the sole other reason I can see is "I've explained it better"), it's also the only fully elucidated framework that exists in this debate. So it's the only one I have the means to analyze any of the arguments given through.

I already explained why the fetus is both human and alive for the purposes of this debate. With regards to the result of this knowledge as it applies to the framework, the issue is the lack of say of the fetus. That's a problem, clearly, though as Pro points out, the lack of capacity to understand and consent to any given action damages the mentality that this is a major transgression on a libertarian framework.

Illegal abortions show a loss of personal freedom and a resultant harm. Pro's responses just don't do anything to affect this, as he argues that we can reduce the number of illegal abortions by increasing the level of punishment. That's avoiding the point, and it fails to counter this argument. While the link to libertarianism is somewhat tenuous, as these people are making personal choices in any case, the argument is still potent due to a general lack of response from Con.

That just leaves basic personal choice arguments with regards to the ability of individuals to choose how their lives progress from their late teens, which is clearly restricted by being forced to have a child that they are pregnant with, and with regards to the ability of women to affect what happens to their body, which has implications for equality in society. The push out to equality seems somewhat off the framework, but it's clear that these freedoms don't exist if abortion is illegal.

None of these points are tremendously persuasive because none of them have the same kind of massive impact as loss of life necessarily has. But if you're going to essentially grant that libertarianism is the framework for both sides in this debate, then life loss needs to be linked to it strongly, and weighed against these points. Each of these has clear links to libertarianism, and Pro's points simply didn't. That leaves me with little choice but to vote Con.
xus00HAY
Posts: 1,390
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2/15/2016 1:26:35 PM
Posted: 9 months ago
Lets talk about the elephant in the corner of the room.
Pro life is racist.
Back in the day American courtship was a man and a woman would date for awhile, then she would get pregnant and he would step up to the plate and show everyone what a good man he was by marrying her.
Then we had the sexual revolution in the 1960s. Now middle class white women use birth control and abortion as a plan B if the birth control fails. Todays woman sees motherhood as an option she could do after college, graduate school, and getting a good job and some experiance, and if she was able to get a husband who is not a loser.
This is what middle class white people do, I don't know what other kinds of people do, but the percentage of them keeps getting larger.