The Pro-Life Argument Shows How the Republican Party Doesn’t Argue in Good Faith

Daniel Blackwell, Guest Writer

     On Nov. 3, 2020, former Vice President Joe Biden beat out President Donald Trump in the presidential election. This electoral victory has been celebrated by Americans across the nation as an end to Trumpism and a return to American decency. The Biden campaign focused heavily on this sentiment, as President-elect Biden said in his victory speech, “I sought this office to restore the soul of America.” He continued, “It’s time to put away the harsh rhetoric, to lower the temperature, to see each other again, to listen to each other again, to make progress, we must stop treating our opponents as our enemy.”

Pro-life protesters outside the US Supreme Court on March 27, 2012. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons. (Elvert Barnes)

     This rhetoric, as gentle and agreeable as it sounds, displays two main failures in both the Democratic Party and in American politics as a whole. One, the assumption of good faith within the Republican politicians who represent their party and two, the ease and the willingness of leaders in the Democratic Party to compromise with the Republican Party. 

     Republican politicians always act in either bad faith or ignorance. Additionally, they prosper by exploiting the assumption of their good faith, which is defined by Oxford dictionary as, “honesty or sincerity of intention.” This assumption is present within both the Democratic Party and mainstream media. In order to substantiate these claims one has to first ask what the purpose of government is to establish what actions would act in discordance with this idea and therefore against good faith.

     Luckily, this question is answered by the preamble of the Constitution of the United States, which states, ‘‘We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.’’ 

     This establishes a clear framework to critique the actions of American politicians, and specifically those of Republican politicians. The constitutional framework allows us to ask “Were their actions done in good faith, ignorance, or bad faith?” Additionally, if they were done in ignorance, is this in itself a form of bad faith acting?

     First let’s focus on a partisan issue, the legality and regulation of abortion within the United States. According to a Gallup poll from 2020, 72% of Democrats surveyed identified as pro-choice in 2020 while 68% of Republicans identified as pro-life. This establishes abortion as a partisan issue, with one party supporting the procedure, and the other opposing it. In her 2019 paper on the topic, Professor Dabney P. Evans outlines and disassembles the typical Republican argument which challenges the morality of the procedure. To summarize, Republicans typically argue abortion on a moral basis, with arguments which claim that a fetus can and should be declared a human being once it has what they call a heartbeat. They refer to fetuses as “early in-development infants” and “unborn children,” when in reality the ‘heartbeat’ Republicans use to justify a fetus’ humanity is inaccurate and misleading. Evans debunks the heartbeat argument, saying  “The presence of cardiac activity is not equivalent to the presence of a functioning heart or heartbeat, defined as the pulsation of the heart.” 

     The philosophical question of when humanity begins is one which is necessary in this discussion, but for the majority of  “pro-life” arguments this question of personhood is answered by arbitrary, non-scientific markers in fetal development, identifiable in legislature as their “heartbeat” bills banning abortion after 6 weeks. The heartbeat bills are arbitrary philosophically, as a heartbeat isn’t something which implicates human life, and scientifically, as the “heartbeat” mentioned isn’t actually a heartbeat, as Evans explained.  

     A possible non-arbitrary guideline to work off of can be found in a 2017 article by John Miklavcic and Paul Flaman. The article provides the development of the cerebral cortex and brainstem as a possible parameter for the development of consciousness. Under this metric, consciousness would not be fully developed until around 26 weeks in gestation. 

     If, however, we forget the abstract for a moment and address the material realities of the procedure, the vast majority of abortions – 99% according to Planned Parenthood – happen before 21 weeks into development. This occurs before the development of the cerebral cortex, the brainstem, or the spine, and therefore any argument based on the fetus’ consciousness, a fundamental basis of humanity, is invalid. When actually addressing the reality of our society, the arbitrary “heartbeat” bill’s legitimacy falls apart and is revealed as what it is, a sham attempt at regulating female bodily autonomy through morality appeals.

     The aforementioned ideas could be easily taught and explained to Republican politicians within the span of a few minutes. Once they have been grasped the concept, the pro-choice argument is the only one which makes any sense, and the only one which would act in accordance with the Constitution. 

     So how does the Republican argument relate to the Constitution, and how easily can it be argued that their majority pro-life opinion was created in good faith? The pro-life argument was created in bad faith, as it goes against what is outlined in the Constitution by being antithetical to the promotion of personal welfare and against liberty for pregnant women.

     Regarding personal welfare, the person being considered in this argument – and any argument based in science – is that of the pregnant woman. The detrimental effects of bearing and raising a child have been well-documented and outlined. According to the USDA in an article titled “The Cost of Raising a Child”, it cost around $233,610 to raise a child from birth to 17 years old in 2015, in middle income marriages with two parents, a cost which has had no significant change since 2015. There is also a psychological toll on the mother during birth, post-birth, and throughout the child’s life. According to a research paper titled “Pregnancy as a psychological event” by authors Artur Bjelica and Nila Kapor-Stanulović,  “Pregnancy is identified as a potent stressor that can seriously affect the psychic status of pregnant women, perinatal outcome, but also psychic functioning of the new-born individual.”

      Apart from the actual birth of a child, pregnancy can also greatly affect the functioning and needs of pregnant women. As this is the case, where are the pro-life bills calling for pre- and post-birth paid maternity leave or regulations toward creating workspaces which address the needs and safety of pregnant women? These questions aren’t the focus of pro-life discussions, and therefore highlight yet another contradiction in the argument.

     If this argument isn’t in fact made in bad faith, but rather in the ignorance of a flawed understanding of pregnancy, then Republican politicians are still to blame. As a politician, it is their responsibility and duty to serve the public as well as they can, and their duty to act according to the purpose of their job, as previously outlined by our Constitution. In failing to become properly informed on this topic, one which has been researched and developed for many years, they have failed their job, failed the people, and shouldn’t be respected as possible candidates in the future. If abortion was a new procedure ignorance may be granted as a reasoning to flawed legislation and understanding. This, however, isn’t the case, and their ignorance is a failure representing incapability to properly complete their job.

     Pro-life is an intentionally divisive term within itself, nevertheless being functionally wrong at the same time. Actual pro-life politics, when applied to abortion, would allow a woman’s right to choose as being necessary to her life. Pro-life views wouldn’t support women being forced to endure pain and hardship because of a pregnancy they were forced to carry to term. Pro-life politicians wouldn’t encroach on the welfare and personal freedoms of others. Republican politicians are not pro-life; Republican politicians are pro-suffering, pro-unnecessary government overreach, and anti-freedom.

     What does Biden, a Democrat, have to do with Republican politicians? Well, within Biden’s calls for unity and less division in our nation he fails to address the inequality of the two main parties of our system. In terms of abortion legislation the Democrat pro-choice position is in alignment with science while the pro-life argument is not. Within this adherence of science it can be gleaned that their majority pro-choice view was created in good faith, something which cannot be argued for the Republican viewpoint. 

     Therefore Biden’s calls for unity and bipartisan support are created within the false assumption of equality and intellectual value between the different ideas of the two parties. However, the evidence and basis of the Republican pro-life argument is practically non-existent, and therefore shouldn’t be considered as something to compromise with. When a party holds a view which is created in bad faith, that party should lose credibility, and therefore a call for unity with that party is a call for ignorance and against science.

     The answer to bipartisan politics isn’t to compromise with politicians who are wrong or unification in terms of a two-party system, it is education and critical thinking. To truly unite the country, we must convince the Republican Party’s base to end their support for politicians who act in bad faith, and to reassess the material realities of policies and actions they support.

     Biden isn’t “winning politics” for seeking bipartisanship, he is a centrist who is either incapable or unconcerned with addressing the realities of what the Republican Party supports. 

     According to Biden, “We need a Republican party. We need an opposition which is principled and strong.” He’s right, there should be principled opposition to the Democratic Party, but that opposition isn’t and shouldn’t be the Republican Party. His calls for unity, in the context of the two-party system, aren’t a reason for praise but rather a point which should be criticized and rebuked by anyone who supports the scientific method. To compromise with a party who won’t act in accordance with science validates the legitimacy of the aforementioned party, and delegitimizes the party who chooses to so happily compromise.