Straw Man Arguments and Heartbeat Bills

A “straw man argument” is a well-known logical fallacy in which one person refuses to address the actual issues and instead sets up a different argument to attack. The recent “heartbeat bills” that prohibit abortion after a heartbeat can be detected have spawned some good examples of this fallacy. Here is a quote that is being copied and pasted all over the Internet this week:

If you are a woman who supports this, then you are essentially tying your own noose. These laws go so much further than criminalizing safe abortions. In Georgia, a woman who miscarries can now be interrogated and investigated, and ultimately charged with murder if they find ANY way that she could be liable for the death of the baby. Tripped and fell down the stairs – how can we prove it was an accident? Liable. Found out you were pregnant at 6 weeks and stopped smoking immediately, only to miscarry a week later? There’s nicotine in your system, liable. Ohio has a bill under way that would make birth control pills, IUDs, etc, illegal. Going deeper, this has an even larger fall out than women’s health. Violations of these laws are felonies. Felons cannot vote. Do you see where we are going?? These laws that are passing attack women, and they threaten every single one of us. They take away our rights that were already hard-won. I am terrified of where this leads. Feel free to copy and paste.

Copypasta 5/22/19

The “heartbeat bills” that have now been signed into law in Ohio, Georgia, Mississippi, Missouri, and Kentucky all declare an embryo with a beating heart a “human being.” Most of these new laws specifically exempt the mother of that embryo from any criminal or civil penalties for seeking an abortion. Georgia does not specifically prohibit such penalties in the text of the law, but the bill’s sponsor insists that it was never the intention to prosecute women and many of Georgia’s district attorneys have already made it clear that they have no intention of prosecuting women who seek abortion. The intent of each of these “heartbeat bills” is to make it a crime to perform an abortion on a human embryo with a detectable heartbeat, not to seek an abortion.

The Internet meme argues that women who seek abortions will be deemed felons, who will then lose their right to vote, and will then be subjugated by majority rule. That would be a powerful argument–if it were true. With hundreds of thousands of abortions every year, the political balance of power could be changed if women were systematically disenfranchised. That would be an assault on our democracy that must be opposed!

But the “straw man” here is just not true. A woman’s right to vote is not in danger, even if she has an abortion. Instead, this is a time for women to decide how to cast that vote. Some women will choose to vote for Democratic politicians who want to make abortion legal up until a baby’s due date. (New York just passed such a law; Virginia tried to do so; every Democratic Senator running for President in 2020 voted against a bill that would require a child born alive after an abortion to have a doctor of his or her own.) Others will choose to vote for Republican politicians who want to recognize the unborn child as a human being. Still others will prefer leaders who support the kinds of laws that are typical in Europe, where abortion is generally legal in the first trimester, significantly restricted in the second trimester, and unthinkable after a fetus becomes viable in the third.

Women of America, your right to vote is not under attack. But your ability to vote for your own values is under attack! Your ability to vote for what you believe in is compromised each time you fall for a fallacy. Don’t let anybody else trick you into voting against your conscience!

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