Instigator / Pro

THBT: On balance, the US ought to make abortion illegal.


The debate is finished. The distribution of the voting points and the winner are presented below.

Winner & statistics

After 10 votes and with the same amount of points on both sides...

It's a tie!
Publication date
Last updated date
Number of rounds
Time for argument
One week
Max argument characters
Voting period
One month
Point system
Winner selection
Voting system
Contender / Con

THBT: On balance, the US ought to make abortion illegal

The burden of proof is shared.

1. No Kritik.
2. No new arguments are to be made in the final round.
3. The Burden of Proof is shared.
4. Rules are agreed upon and are not to be contested.
5. Sources can be hyperlinked or provided in the comment section.
6. Be decent.
7. A breach of the rules should result in a conduct point deduction for the offender.

Round 1
Thx Whiteflames, 

THBT: On balance, abortion ought to be illegal. 

I.    Distinguishing the case of PRO and CON & the argument from inconsequential differences 

To establish the contention between the PRO and CON, we ought to first determine commonalities between the parties. PRO’s position is that the actualization of biological humanity suffices as a criterion for ascribing personhood, whilst CON holds that only after some finite time post conception, whether it be consciousness, birth etc, personhood ought to be ascribed.  The commonality can be observed in the fact that both parties hold that only beings with biological humanity can be considered (whatever CON chooses as the additional criteria [consciousness, birth etc] their additional predicate is applied on the backdrop of biological humanity) as possessing personhood, with the difference being that CON advocates that biological humanity is not the sole determiner of personhood. 

The commonality and differences between the two positions is crucial and ought to be clearly understood. 

  • PRO holds that all beings who are humans possess personhood
  • CON holds that all beings who are humans and possess X characteristic (be it birth, self-awareness) possess personhood
The additional burden which CON carries is clear - they must maintain that, not only must being human be fulfilled as a criteria, but also some additional predicate which they must define. PRO opines that the onus of identifying an additional predicate which does not result in logical inconsistencies is impossible. I propose three reasons for this. The first regards the logical impossibility of proposing a sound criteria for instilling personhood between conception and birth, the second observes that even if a criteria is conjured, it is subjective and ambiguous, thereby failing to satisfy the criterion of legal certainty, and the third finds that the creation of an additional predicate is itself an unnecessary ontological burden. 

Impossibility of proposing a criteria from inconsequential differences

The differences between a fetus and a born baby is three fold. 

  • Level of development 
  • Environment 
  • Degree of dependency
I assert that these differences are insignificant in determining the moral agency of an individual. 

Level of development

Children are generally less developed than adults yet this does not mean that children are morally inferior to their parents. Some people with developmental disabilities are also less developed than children, yet society never argues that these conditions are a reason for them to be executed. 


The geographic location of an individual surely has nothing to do with their moral worth.  Just as moving from the garage to the bedroom does not affect one's moral worth, moving from inside the womb onto the delivery room table shouldn’t either. 

Degree of dependency

It is often opined that "as a fetus is reliant on a separate entity, it has no serious right to life”. This argumentation can be applied to all human beings. No person isn’t reliant on some external entity, whether it is food, water, or oxygen - it just so happens that fetuses are also dependent on their mothers. Fetuses which rely on an umbilical cord in the womb should be as human as those who rely on a feeding tube outside the womb. 

Thus, it can be seen that the differences between a fetus and a newborn are nonconsequential. There is no stage between conception and birth that allows for people to soundly prescribe moral agency. Thus, if we are to pursue the notion that human beings ought to have rights, the only appropriate time to establish this is the actualization of biological humanity. 

Subjectivity and ambiguity 

Suppose that we compare the value of a fetus and a newborn. Ceteris paribus, a newborn, possesses more moral worth than a mere fetus. However, consider what a mother who, after countless attempts of conceiving a child and who finally succeeds, would think of their “fetus”. Surely, she would hold the moral worth of the fetus to equal, if not higher, moral regard when compared with live humans. Notice how, in the two examples, a very different moral worth has been yielded when considering the fetus’ value. Who is correct? The layman who cares little for the fetus, or the future mother who can finally fulfill her dreams of being a parent and who cares very much for the fetus? Notice that, even if one were to articulate a factor which determines moral worth, another party can simply object and propose their own criteria, thereby casting the conversation into a standstill. The fact that one being (the fetus) can be subjected to contrapositive moral treatments from differing individuals is wholly illogical - in reality, the fetus either has rights, or it doesn’t - a third option is impossible via the law of excluded middle. It seems clear, therefore, that a vehicle for determining moral worth which creates two contradictory assessments is not sufficient in prescribing personhood. Thus, even if CON can propose a criteria, it is purely speculative and merely an articulation of their personal values. Such ambiguities are wholly to contradictory to the stipulations of what makes a law, according to The Rule of the Law, subarticle, consistency

  • Introduction
    • The requirement of consistency is deeply rooted in English Law. The rule of law requires that laws be applied equally without unjustifiable differentiation. 
    • Inconsistency is one of the most frequent manifestations of unfairness that a person is likely to meet. 
As has been demonstrated via the previous arguments, the creation of an additional predicate outside of the actualization of biological humanity leads to inconsistencies which nullify the rights of born humans (those who are developmentally disabled, those who require a feeding tube etc) and thus squares perfectly to what The Rule of the Law stipulates oughtn't be in a law - unjustifiable differentiation

Another document that ought be referred to is the principle of legal certainty, which stipulates 

  • The legal system needs to permit those subject to the law to regulate their conduct with certainty and to protect those subject to the law from arbitrary use of state power.
CON's position prohibits certainty - if we argue that only self-aware being ought have rights, those who are temporality unconscious would lose their rights to life. It becomes a very real possibility that people lose their lives due to "loopholes" and "legal technicalities". PRO's position, however, is congruent with the principle of certainty - there is no contradiction in the postulation that all beings who have been concepted ought to, ceteris paribus, have human rights. To contend PRO's criteria of biological humanity entails that no human, born or unborn, have rights. Our society is one which grants moral rights to humans, so we can grant that it is axiomatically true that humans have rights, and thus my position too, axiomatically follows. 

Ontological burden

Even if CON can propose a criteria which evades the insurmountable burden which they face, the notion prescribing of an additional predicate (consciousness etc) is itself a mere ontological burden. The study of embryology and biology is not bettered or improved by the creation of some subjective criteria. Suppose that we adopt “consciousness” as the predicate - how does this further embryology or biology? When terms such as “life” are coined, they serve a purpose - to distinguish animals and plants from inorganic matter. Adding “consciousness” as the stage in which people get moral worth solely to permit abortion is a purely ad hoc and unnecessary maneuver. 


II.    Principle of uncertainty 

One fact that both pro-lifers and pro-choicers can agree on is that in order for abortion to be justified, there must be absolute certainty that it does not murder a human person.  When considering the nature of abortion, there are only four possible outcomes which can arise. They are as follows (consider with ceteris paribus):
  1. The fetus is a person and this is known. 
  2. The fetus is a person and this is not known. 
  3. The fetus is not a person and this is not known. 
  4. The fetus is not a person and this is known.  
The ramification of abortion in each of these situations are:
  1. You have intentionally killed a human being. 
  2. You have unintentionally killed a human being
  3. You have intentionally risked killing a human being. 
  4. You have done nothing wrong.  
Notice how all the above scenarios either involve criminal activity or are simply impossible. Scenario 1 is plain first-degree murder. Scenario 2 is akin to shooting toxic chemicals into a building which you believe, wrongly so, that there is no one in. Scenario 3 is comparable to fumigating a building without knowing whether there are residents inside. Scenario 4, as aforementioned is the only morally permissible situation however is impossible to recreate in reality, due to the indistinct measurements used to assess personhood. As it is there is no way to determine with absolute certainty that abortion does not kill a person, abortion at best requires its adherence to commit criminal negligence, and at worst is 1st-degree murder.

Notice how this issue of subjectivity is seamlessly resolved when adopting biological humanity as the criteria for who ought to have moral agency. When defining personhood in terms of CON's subjective metaphysical benchmark, the difficulty of the Principle of Uncertainty emerges. 


III.     Comparison to unjustified killing 

P1. If abortion is killing and the reason for aborting is unjustified, abortion is unjustified killing. 
P2. Abortion involves killing. 
P3. The reasons for aborting are unjustified. 
C1. Abortion is unjustified killing. 
P4. Unjustified killing ought to be illegal. 
C2. Abortion ought to be illegal. 

Fairly axiomatic and tautological. 

To kill is to deprive of life. Thus, as 96% of biologists believe that life begins at fertilisation (additional scientific evidence can be provided if pressed), and abortion involves the depriving of said life life, abortion is killing. 

Merely establishing that abortion is killing is not sufficient in ruling that it is immoral - after all, the killing of a home intruder to defend your family can be argued as being a moral imperative. Thus, we ought examine the reasons people have abortions, in order to understand whether these reasons surfice in justifying what has been established as killing. 

According to the Guttmacher institute  the two most common reasons for having abortions were "having a baby would dramatically change my life" and "I can't afford a baby now" (cited by 74% and 73%, respectively). Obviously, these reasons do not justify the killing of a born human lives, and thus should not be justifications for killing unborn human lives. 

The conclusion is thus valid via modus ponens. The implication of the fact that abortion is unjustified killing entails that it is immoral. 

Unjustified killing is, tautologically, killing of which cannot be justified and thus, it ought not to be legal. 

The conclusion follows - abortion ought to be illegal. 



Through the three arguments proposed, the intellectual price tag of CON's position is clear - the ontological burden of manifesting an additional predicate on the backdrop of biological humanity is simply impossible and incongruent with the operation of the law. Furthermore, through the second contention, the uncertainty principle exemplifies the cumbersome burden which CON bears - not only must their position be probable, but it must be certain in order for abortion to be justified. The final contention draws a comparison to unjustified killing shows that abortion is akin to some of the most heinous crimes our society condemns. Thus, the resolution is upheld and CON's position is yielded untenable. 
Thank you for inviting me to debate this, Bones.

My position is simple:
P1: Policies that inflict structural violence ought not be implemented
P2: Making abortion illegal would inflict structural violence
C1: Abortion ought not be made illegal

I) What is structural violence and why is it important? (P1)

This framework precludes all other moral considerations because it necessarily includes all affected parties in any moral calculus, drawing attention to those who would otherwise be excluded as subjectively unimportant, “becom[ing] either invisible, or demeaned… so that we do not have to acknowledge the injustice they suffer. To reduce [the] nefarious effects [of moral exclusion], we must be vigilant in noticing and listening to oppressed, invisible, outsiders. Moreover, as government policy has the greatest capacity for harm, it must be held to the highest standard as the degree of violence and the lasting effects of that violence are far greater for a government than for any individual. Particularly when those resulting harms are unavoidable and cause severe physical and psychological harms, a government ought not inflict structural violence.

II) How does a ban on abortion inflict structural violence? (P2)

A) Elimination of care

1) Miscarriage and non-viable pregnancies

In cases of miscarriage where medical intervention is required, a ban on abortion eliminates access to both trained professionals and medications, yielding bleeding and infection risks that can cost lives. Also, “doctors may hesitate to treat patients with ectopic pregnancy, inevitable miscarriage, or previability rupture of membranes when fetal cardiac activity remains.

2) Reproductive coercion

Health centers function as “invaluable safe space[s] where providers can screen patients for reproductive coercion and intervene if necessary. They can prescribe contraception and provide abortion care. They are also important vehicles for advancing research on reproductive coercion.” They would either be shut down or rendered ineffectual, removing opportunities for potential mothers to escape abuse from their intimate partners. 34% of domestic violence survivors report that the abuse they suffered was tied to their childbearing decisions. That abuse often escalates during pregnancy and abortion provides a crucial means of escape. These abuses will be made inevitable for many when access to the most common female contraceptives is eliminated. The birth control pill and IUDs are considered “life-ending” by many because of their potential effects on implantation post-fertilization. Women will have to rely on men to prevent pregnancy during intercourse, but women will be saddled with the legal and physical consequences.

c) Patient-provider relationships

Pregnant mothers will have to delay treatments for illnesses like cancer that may kill the fetus, regardless of the health risks. Any treatments that are teratogenic or potentially abortion-inducing may become unavailable to any woman as a precautionary measure to prevent lawsuits against providers. Any basis for claiming a medical emergency will be contested in court. Patients who miscarry could be accused of having induced pregnancy loss as their physicians would be required to report them, with black and low-income patients being reported most often. Physicians could be investigated for treating miscarrying women for helping end their pregnancies. Women considering abortions would avoid doctor visits in order to hide their pregnancies, resulting in illnesses and injuries that harm the mother and fetus going untreated (e.g. higher rates of birth defects, stillbirths and perinatal deaths).

B) Destructive alternatives

1) Self-managed abortions

Medication is the safest means by which to manage an abortion. Other interventions come with additional risks, which get a lot worse in self-managed cases. An abortion ban necessarily reduces or removes access to these medications, leading “[p]atients [to] use unsafe methods… [that] may require lifesaving critical care for sepsis, hemorrhage, pelvic-organ injury, or toxic exposures.

2) Bringing to term

a) Base risk

Those who choose to carry a child to term and deliver it accept a 14 times greater mortality rate than those who abort. Excluding unsafe abortion practices, mortality rates would increase by 7% within a year and 21% over subsequent years post-abortion ban.

b) No exceptions

No one should have unnecessary and undue suffering imposed on them. Mothers should not be required to carry non-viable pregnancies to term. They should not be required to give birth to a child with Tay-Sachs disease who will die in agony within 4 years. Pro makes no exception for these cases, so these women would be subjected to pointless suffering.

They also should not be required to continue with pregnancy when their lives are in serious jeopardy. Pregnant women should be able to give consent to make medical decisions to save their own lives, yet Pro makes no exception for them, either.

c) Overburdening the medical system

3) Punishing miscarriages

Pro argues that the unborn ought to be treated the same under the law as any other stage of human development. A case of suspected abortion, therefore, is equivalent to a case of suspected murder or manslaughter, resulting in investigations that include obtaining access to medical records and determining whether the patient or anyone close to them was responsible, as well as investigations of their medical providers who may have aided and/or abetted.

However, pregnancy loss is not cut and dry. “[A]s many as 26% of all pregnancies end in miscarriage”, and while some of these cases have obvious causes, “[i]n most cases, it is too early to determine the exact cause”. As a result, almost every instance of miscarriage is grounds for investigation post-abortion ban. Women have already been convicted of manslaughter for miscarriage, but Pro’s case will make prosecutions far more common and widespread. “Pregnant patients who have bleeding in pregnancy or pregnancy loss may be vulnerable to reporting and criminal prosecution, whether they took measures to end the pregnancy or are having a miscarriage; spontaneous pregnancy loss and self-managed abortion with medications are virtually indistinguishable.” Given that medication-induced abortions are by far the most common form of abortion at 54% of all abortions, that’s a big problem.

Setting aside basic issues of court clog, classism will be rampant with this system. These women will be coming off of expensive, emotional health crises and may have to pay steep prices to defend against state and federal prosecution. All pregnant women will suffer; a miscarriage is already a would-be mother’s worst nightmare, but this would result in the legal system castigating her for its loss.

III) Case conclusions

Given the clear harms caused by banning abortion, it ought to remain legal. (C1) To be specific, abortion ought to remain legal for any reason up through 15 weeks (the latest point that medication-induced abortion can be used, amounting to well over 90% of all abortions in the US), with exceptions beyond that point for medical needs of both the mother and fetus and to address cases of reproductive coercion.

IV) Rebuttals

A) Policy considerations

This debate regards policy. The term “ought to” “refer[s] to a recommended future action.” As such, issues including what the action - making abortion illegal in the US - would yield and how it would be carried out are necessary considerations. Instead, Pro assumes a ban will solve. His P4 and C2 are used to convert from a purely moral issue (abortion is unjustified killing) to a policy stance (abortion ought to be illegal), yet that conversion is only meaningful if said policy is effective. Yet, both the World Health Organization and the Guttmacher Institute have found that the number of abortions in countries with and without a ban are basically the same. Pro can stand on principle, but that dulls his impacts.

B) Principle

So, let’s talk about those principles.

1) Distinguishing our cases

Pro ties a lot of his arguments on personhood to additional burdens for me. A reminder: rule 3 of this debate is that BoP is shared. We agreed to this ahead of the debate. I don’t suddenly acquire burdens because he makes pre-rebuttals that he believes require answers, though most of it stems from incorrect predictions about my case. My position regarding the beginning of personhood is that of uncertainty - we don’t and can’t know. The beginnings of personhood do not influence my case.

2) Inconsequential differences

Pro wants to have it both ways: he acknowledges uncertainty regarding when personhood begins, but claims with absolute certainty that fertilization is the first possible moment of personhood. Any stage of development, including those that come before fertilization (e.g. the separate gametes), is only distinguished by the “inconsequential differences” Pro claims cannot determine moral agency. If they are inconsequential distinctions from later forms of human development, the same applies to those that came before. Pro appealing to popularity and authority among a vague group of “biologists” via a broken link in his syllogism’s P2 doesn’t validate his certainty. Thus, Pro bites his own critiques about arbitrary selection and using subjective criteria for personhood.

3) The principle of uncertainty

This is Pro’s only argument that links his principle to his policy. He asserts that legal abortion can only be justified if there is absolute certainty regarding the personhood status of the unborn. This is false. Abortion policy is often driven by multiple factors. See: my case. What’s more, the factor Pro banks on is uncertainty, the harms of which range from having done nothing wrong to 1st-degree murder. These are all theoretical, so all 4 scenarios are, as he puts it, “impossible to recreate in reality due to the indistinct measures used to assess personhood.” It’s similarly impossible to weigh such a wide range of potential harms.

By contrast, known harms and benefits have legitimate weight. We know what effects an abortion ban will have. Pro must weigh these known harms against the harms that result from uncertainty, yet the 4 scenarios he gives have no probabilities, yielding impacts with no probabilities. Pro has conceded that he cannot weigh his impacts at all because of the very uncertainty this point relies upon.

4. Unjustified killing

Pro presents a syllogism for why abortion should be banned. Two additional (I’ve already addressed other points elsewhere) problems.
One, Pro claims that the most common reasons for obtaining an abortion are unjustified (his P3). Pro doesn’t explain why either of these reasons are unjustified and provides virtually no distinction between justified and unjustified reasons. Pro’s link complicates this further since the numbers indicate that surveyed women often provided multiple reasons for getting an abortion, so Pro’s decision to restrict it to these two reasons is flawed.

Two, Pro labels all abortion as unjustified killing. His P3 didn’t say “Many of the reasons for aborting are unjustified,” just as his C2 doesn’t say “Most abortions ought to be illegal.” These statements offer no exceptions, just like his case. Yet, these reasons exist, and some are even featured in the link in his P3 justification, including the health of the mother and fetus. Protecting oneself from physical harm is justified. Not all abortions kill the unborn and many result from non-viable pregnancies where the unborn would die anyway.

V. Summary

My case details many types of structural violence that an abortion ban would inflict on women in the US. A ban would severely harm women's health care, reproductive freedoms and protection from abusers, yielding increases in mortality rates, pointless suffering and subject grieving would-be mothers to legal action. Pro’s case, by contrast, never considers the impacts of his policy aims, instead focusing on an unweighted argument for uncertainty and a flawed syllogism.

Back to you, Bones.

Round 2
Thx Whiteflames, 


Contention IV.     (Additional) The narrow scope of CON's argument 
Observe that the resolution of this debate emphasis the term "balance", commonly defined as a predominating amount; a preponderance and interpreted in this manner by other debaters on this cite. A large portion of CON's argument hinges on statistically acute scenarios - medical interventions, Tay-Sachs disease etc). These anomalies do not represent the spectrum of possible scenarios for an abortion to take place. 

CON argues that illegalising abortion necessitates that these anomalies oughtn't be provided with abortions and thus should be taken into consideration. This mistakes the legal system as one of unwavering inconsideration. Consider, for example, theft, defined legally as the situation in which if one dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it. Would it be a reasonable to argue for the abolition of this law on the grounds that there exists scenarios in which the appropriating of someones property is morally necessary (you steal your kidnappers pistol to free your family)? Obviously, there exists reasonable exceptions in every law and thus illegalising abortion ought to be considered within that category. All laws operate with the assumption of ceteris paribus principle, that is, if all else is equal, X law ought to be abided by. The PRO position does not need to justify every possible scenario for one to find themselves in need of an abortion - they merely need to find that abortion as an act is itself, when all other factors are equal, immoral.


Affirmations I.    Distinguishing the case of PRO and CON & the argument from inconsequential differences 

CON alleges PRO for burden shifting and expresses dissatisfaction at their share of the burden. The nature of this debate is such that PRO must prove biological actualization as sufficient in granting human rights, whilst CON must find some other criteria to be sufficient. PRO merely articulates that any predicate proposed necessarily falls on top of the backdrop of biological humanity (consciousness, neural activity etc are all present after biological humanity). Not establishing a criteria results in the absurd conclusion that no humans have rights. 

CON then opines that their stance on personhood is uncertain, and that it is a fact we don't and can't know. I take three issues with this. 

  1. The first is that, when CON stipulates that the beginning of personhood is an unknowable fact,  they are appealing to incredulity - they are asserting that their world view does not possess the vehicle for determining personhood. The "don't and can't know" reflects only their position and oughtn't be understood as a universal difficulty which involves PRO's position, for PRO can easily prescribe a stage in which human beings possess human rights (personhood). 
  2. Though CON alleges that the prescribing personhood is an undoable task and involves a fact which we "can't know", their case (and the doings of humanity) hinges on the notion that human beings have personhood. CON's assertion that we can't prescribe personhood (they stipulate "my position regarding the beginning of personhood is that of uncertainty - we don’t and can’t know") carries great difficulties - if it is the case that we cannot prescribe personhood, it follows that no humans have personhood, which implicates the notion that no humans have rights. Obviously, CON disagrees with this sentiment - they don't really argue that "personhood" isn't an unknowable fact, but rather that it is a vague occurrence which takes place somewhere between conception and birth. This vague and ambiguous prescription is both morally indefensible and legally unacceptable (elaborated in PRO's r1, subsection subjectivity and ambiguity. 
  3. CON essentially concedes the entire uncertainty principle argument here - I will elaborate on the significance of this in the relavant section. 
Regarding the inconsequential differences, CON argues that the principle can be applied to the PRO position and that a fertilized and nonfertilized being differs only in inconsequential ways. However, this refutation can be rendered false by axiomatically granting that human beings ought to have rights. We live in a society in which human beings (at least grown) have rights and liberties which are upheld by the law. We can thus grant that human beings have rights. As a human beings come into existence at the moment of conception, it is axiomatically the case that it is significant - for they have become what is apodictically granted as worthy of human rights. Thus the burden falls on CON to assert that, not only is the adding of an additional predicate not an ontological burden, but that it is significant in conveying personhood. 


Affirmations II.    Principle of uncertainty 

CON argues that, as the potential range of harm inflicted by abortion is uncertain, it thus pales when compared to the known harms of abortion. This is a disingenuous comparison on three grounds. 

  • CON argues the harms of abortion are uncertain by virtue of PRO's uncertainty principle. This is false - the uncertainty only arises when we adopt CON's subjective benchmark for prescribing personhood - it is an issue only for those (CON) who wish to deny biological humanity as solely sufficient in converting personhood. 
  • If it is accepted, as I have postulated, that the unborn are deserving of human rights, it follows the killing of them (over half a million of them) is a far more morally depraved act than any negative effect of abortion which CON has postulated. 
  • The helplessness of the unborn human oughtn't be compared to the unlucky "mother". Consider the following thought experiment. 
    • Suppose there exists a room which gives all those in it a natural spike in dopamine for a period of 20 minutes. The entrance is free, however, there is one condition - if you enter, there is a 2 percent there about's chance that you will exist with a human being, whose life is contingent upon your body, attached to you for a duration of just under a year. Now suppose that you enter this room multiple times with no repercussions, however, after a number of trips, you find a human being attached to you. Are you morally allowed to kill this human being?
      • I assert that, in the thought experiment, it is a moral crime to kill the human being attached to you. Observe that the above is not some make belief scenario - it is the bedroom in which people have sex. The argument that there are risks in carrying the human (a risk which is well documented, observed and understood by any with minimal knowledge) does not hold - it is clear that these minute dangers were present before one enters a room and are implicitly accepted upon entrance.

Affirmations III.     Comparison to unjustified killing 

CON provides multiple refutations. The first is that their allegedly exists a leap from the moral to the legal, in which the legal impact of abortion bans is neglected. I have two refutations. 
  • The alleged "leap" is merely one which assumes that "unjustified killing" (killing which is tautologically unjustifiable) ought to be illegal. CON's argument that abortion bans are not effect does not harm this argument, for if it were the case that abortion bans did not work, the fundamental immorality of unjustifiably killing a human being still remains. For example, if it were the case that slavery bans did not lower the number of slaves that were captive, it does not follow that slavery ought to be legal, for the very principle of allowing slavery is itself a terribly immoral and negligent act. 
  • CON's fundamental postulation that abortion bans do not work is erroneous. 
  • CON opines that the two reasons I provided which I charge as "unjustified" are not substantiated. Recall that they were "having a baby would dramatically change my life" and "I can't afford a baby". I had assumed that these were obvious - if I were to attempt to justify  the killing of my hypothetical child on the grounds that the child would drastically change my life and that I don't have the money for it, these would surely be absurd. One would surely say that I could have at least with them up for adoption. But notice how the advocation is for adoption, and not killing the child. In the case of abortion, there is no third option, so the "adoption" hypothetical can be nullified. If one is not willing to allow for the killing of the child on the two reasons proposed, they oughtn't allow for the killing of the unborn on the two grounds. 



I fault the second premise of CON's argument, for carrying within it implicated presuppositions which are unproven.

  • P2: Making abortion illegal would inflict structural violence
The premise is complex, especially considering the implications of PRO's arguments and can be interpreted in two ways. 

  1. The unborn are not deserving of human rights (PRO's argument that they are deserving of human rights is false), thus the net harm of terminating them is lesser than the net harm which abortion entails.
  2. The unborn are deserving of human rights (PRO's argument that they are deserving of human rights is true), however, the net harm of terminating them is lesser than the net harm which abortion entails . 

It is clear that the presupposition here (that the unborn are not deserving of human rights) is unproven, via PRO's contentions. CON has not proposed a sound predicate for instilling personhood thus currently, in their analysis, no persons have rights. The only way for CON to escape this is to propose a criteria which overcomes the plethora of difficulties highlighted in PRO's first contention (non-consequential differences, subjectivity and ambiguity, and ontological burden). 


If it is conceded that the unborn does indeed possess personhood and thus ought to have rights yet it remains the case that the damages of banning abortion exceed that of actual abortions, CON's position can then be rendered false by comparing the unborn to the born.

If it is conceded that the unborn has a right to life yet abortion still ought be legal, we can substitute "unborn" for "born" in order to test for CON's consistency. This shouldn't be an issue - if CON agrees that the unborn has a right to life, we can genuinely substitute "unborn" for anything which possess the same right to life. 

  • Unborn = human right to life 
  • Born = human right to life 
  • Unborn right to life = Born right to life 
We can now return to my aforementioned "dopamine room" thought experiment and scrutinise the claims of CON - it is clear that many arguments cannot apply to born human beings ("if its not legal people will do it anyways" doesn't stick). It is clear that if it is understood that the unborn has rights, akin to it's born counterpart, then the killing of it for many of the reasons CON cited is insufficient. 

Further critique

CON's analysis is deeply rooted in utilitarianism - the notion that abortion ought be legal because its negation results in X amount of decrease in suffering. A notorious difficulty of utilitarianism is that it neglects to protect individual human rights, a difficulty which CON's argument faces. Even if it were the case that banning abortion causes more harm than good (a notion which has already been disproven), it doesn't follow that we ought "abandon ship" and accept the systemic killing of human beings. 

  • Consider the hypothetical scenario in which 20% of the population act as slaves for any family who wishes to have their services, and that this has been a common practice for half a century. The slaves do many mundane jobs - they ensure that the streets are clean, that people get their food (some of the slaves work on farms and produce products) and that the city is liveable and safe (roads are paved etc). Now suppose that, after a while, the population begins to wonder whether the keeping of these slaves is moral. One side argues that it is wrong - the slaves are humans who ought have rights and liberties. The other side, however, argues two points - 1) the net happiness is higher than if we allow these slaves to go free and 2) as we have already had these slaves for half a century and become accustomed to their service, the removing of them will cause much harm (people will starve, driving amidst unmanaged potholes and uncleared obstructions will result in deaths and diseases will spread as no one is sanitising the streets). 
Notice how both the arguments cited are, whilst technically true, morally depraved. The net utility of the hypothetical slaves is not justification for it's legality. Further, the net harms which will result from banning them isn't an argument either - the fact that the population has become reliant on an immoral practice is no justification for it's legality. Fundamentally, abortion is an act that is so morally depraved that practically no utility can justify it's legalisation.  

Specific refutations

The overview sufficiently address a large number of CON's arguments, however, some of them are of an amoral nature, which I will refute in this section. 

Reproductive coercion

The banning of abortion will only remove abortion clinics, and not the crucial clinics which investigate reproductive coercion. 

Self-managed abortions

The continuation of a crime and subsequent harm it causes is not an argument. Making theft illegal puts many people in danger - the bank robber in a shoot out with the police harms both parties and pedestrians, yet this isn't a reason to make theft legal. 

Overburdening the medical system

Argument can be made for live humans - out system is full thus we ought kill the orphans who no one really wants. 

Punishing Miscarriage 

CON holds that the PRO position necessitates the charging of women who undergo abortions. This is not necessarily the case. In the legal sphere, mens rea is a criterion which, in most scenarios, must be met in order for criminal charges to be made. It is unclear that this is the case regarding abortions - institutes such as PlannedParenthood often relay misinformation with euphemisms such as "it's just a cluster of cell" to downplay the severity of abortions, and thus deceive women. This is akin to if an individual invited a pedestrian to "press a button for a prize" which in actuality set off a bomb killing numerous lives. Just as how the person who pressed the button isn't in the wrong, so too, in many cases, is the mother - they are merely ignorant to all the facts. 



From the analysis provided, PRO has sufficiently satisfied their burden and substantiated the notion that abortion ought to be illegal. CON's case been largely exposed as incongruent, from it's ambiguous entailments and inability to render born human rights.   
Thank you, Bones.

I. Setup

A. Definitions

Pro defines “balance,” severing it from its context. The term is “on balance,” defined as “taking everything into consideration”. This topic does not preclude debate over “statistically acute scenarios.” If anything, it demands their inclusion.

B. Burdens

“Rule 3: The Burden of Proof is Shared”

That is the sole burden analysis required. Pro chose to use his framing of personhood as the basis for his argument, but his choice doesn’t require that I present an alternate criteria for personhood. It also does not foist any additional burdens onto me, nor does the resolution state or imply this burden.

II. Case Frameworks

Con’s framework is unclear. He opposes unjustified killing, but never distinguishes unjustified from just reasons. He argues that personhood begins at conception, though that only emphasizes that reasons should be justified. The policy side of his case is inherently utilitarian. He even cites a number to award value to the unborn population, quantifying their loss for comparison while he simultaneously argues that utilitarianism is a flawed framework that yields terrible outcomes. Pro does state that the rights of others are comparatively irrelevant because they aren’t sufficiently “morally depraved” or are too “statistically acute” to warrant consideration, so at least his framework has clear exclusions.

My framework is simple: structural violence is bad. Contrary to Pro’s slavery hypothetical, my case isn’t “rooted in utilitarianism”. I’m not arguing that my numbers are bigger; the efforts to render people invisible in order to deem their suffering irrelevant, particularly when the cause is institutional, are the most insidious and therefore hold the greatest weight. Pro’s hypothetical validates this: both slavery and a ban on abortion inflict structural violence by making these people and their suffering invisible.

III. Case Overviews

My case examines the ways an abortion ban results in violence and the populations that would be affected. As my syllogism shows, an abortion ban subverts the needs of many to those of the unborn, so the aim of my case is to prevent the resulting imposition of structural violence that would marginalize and oppress those people.

Pro’s response is to claim that my P2 has “implications” that aren’t implied. I didn’t omit arguments regarding who is and isn’t inherently “deserving of human rights” because that is not relevant to my argument. Due to the “indistinct measurements used to assess personhood” (Pro’s quote) that make it difficult to objectively designate what personhood is or when it begins, other metrics should be used to determine what legal protections the unborn ought to have (e.g. whether those protections inflict structural violence). I also do not presuppose whether someone should terminate their pregnancy; my position is that the availability of abortion is necessary to prevent structural violence.

Pro’s case had neither stated nor implied exceptions in R1, but now Pro inserts vague caveats like “reasonable exceptions” and says that it is “not necessarily the case” that women will be charged for seeking/obtaining an abortion. The former are never clarified beyond alluding to “medical interventions” that could apply to any number of cases, nor is it clear who would be charged for violating the ban. Pro’s case is on shifting ground making it impossible to determine where and how it applies. We only know that some abortions will be banned and that someone may be held responsible if they violate the ban.

IV. Advantages/Disadvantages

A. Pro’s Advocacy

1. Pro’s Policy

This is built on a single impact: lost lives of the unborn. He quantitates this at “over half a million.” Any reliance on that number to outweigh my impacts encounters three problems:
  1. It relies on utilitarianism as a framework, which Pro has rejected
  2. My framework should be preferred (see: II)
  3. Lack of solvency means he can’t access it

On Pro’s solvency, my article cites two papers and neither rely on comparisons between developed and developing countries. The Lancet paper shows that the percentage of pregnancies that were aborted decreased between 1995 and 2008 (down from 36% to 26% in developed countries - see Table 3). The BMJ paper shows that Europe and North America have the lowest regional average rates of abortion (note: that excludes Mexico) between 1990 and 2019. Abortion was legalized in several of these countries over these periods. These are better indicators for how the US is likely to behave because they focus on trends among nations rather than asserting that two developed countries will behave similarly despite distinct legal structures, enforcement and population dynamics.

Meanwhile, Pro’s claims of solvency are both cherry-picked and poor comparisons. The Ireland case is a shift from illegality to legality, so it cannot show the dynamics of abortions after a ban is imposed. "Once a procedure becomes illegal, the need is still there… Women will look for services, safe or unsafe, to terminate their pregnancy." The numbers given are also questionable. Their source before 2019 is “the UK's Department of Health and Social Care”, so they exclude anyone who traveled to other countries and any instances of illegal abortions. The UK case only involves increased access, which means it is even less indicative of the effects of a ban. It also only begs the question on his solvency; Pro has provided no mechanism for his policy and thus no way to assess how effective it will be.

2. Pro’s Principle

The principle-focused arguments Pro gives all have the same problem: any impacts are solely symbolic, lacking any substance. Pro uses comparisons to establish their importance, but they are all flawed.

a. Theft analogy

Like the next analogy, this argument assumes that abortion is immoral. It is broadly agreed that theft (and slavery) is immoral. The same is not true for abortion, regardless of Pro’s assertions. We cannot presume the immorality of abortion, though even if we did, that does not make a policy banning it moral. If the ban bars individuals who had morally justified reasons for seeking out an abortion, then the morality of a ban is mixed. Also, whether we’re talking about theft or abortion, if a ban failed to decrease the number of thefts and increased structural violence, then the ban is clearly flawed and the response ought be changed.

b. Slavery analogy

This argument ignores the harms of a ban and focuses solely on his lack of solvency. If banning slavery accomplished nothing and resulted in dramatic increases in structural violence, then yes, the ban would be harmful no matter the principle it upholds.

c. The Dopamine Room

This is an oversimplification, reducing all considerations to consent alone (i.e. if those who enter the room accept the consequences, then the harms of those risks cease to be important). The room isn’t comparable to conception. Pro reduces every harm down to one: “exist[ence] with a [contingent] human being… for just under a year”. Pro also lumps every other harm into the category of “the unlucky ‘mother’” as though all harms stem from that choice alone. Structural violence is an external imposition to which no one consents. Pro also doesn’t explain how consent mitigates any of the harms I’ve presented.

The “thought experiment” also assumes informed consent is a given, implying that every person who enters the room does so of their own volition, is of legal age to provide consent, is fully informed of all the potential consequences of entering the room, and fully understands those consequences. Even if we assume that risks are “well documented, observed and understood by any with minimal knowledge”, it is fallacious to assume that everyone who enters the room knowingly consents. If any of these are inaccurate, then the person in question has not provided their consent and Pro’s conclusions do not follow.

3. Burdens and Inconsequential Differences

Pro’s argument violates the latter argument, as he arbitrarily selects fertilization as the beginning of a human being. Pro believes that fertilization uniquely confers personhood, but he begs the question: what criteria for personhood does it satisfy that separate gametes do not? Pro appeals to popularity among “biologists” as vague authorities but that just begs the question of what criteria they use. Pro’s three inconsequential differences - level of development, environment, and degree of dependency - apply equally well to phases pre- and post-fertilization.

By contrast, neither argument applies to my case (see: I.A. [our burdens are equal] and III [I have no criteria for personhood]). The only responsive point Pro gives here is that conceding uncertainty regarding the beginnings of personhood somehow strips all humans of their rights. Pro calls this uncertainty “morally indefensible and legally unacceptable,” but his warrant for that point focuses on the arbitrary selection of criteria for personhood. Nowhere in any of his arguments does he explain why uncertainty is, itself, harmful. And yes, that includes the next argument.

4. Principle of Uncertainty

There are two ways that this argument could work.

He could be using it to evaluate the consequences of uncertainty in isolation, yet Pro resigns those harms themselves to uncertainty; the 4 scenarios he gives have no probabilities, yielding impacts with no probabilities. Pro also drops that known impacts that will happen outweigh unknown impacts that might happen, particularly when he concedes that one of the plausible impacts is that no harm is done. Despite this, Pro asserts that killing the unborn is “a far more depraved act than any negative effect of abortion”, providing no means to weigh depravity and dismissing the depravity of imposed structural violence.

Pro could also be weighing his certainty regarding personhood against my uncertainty. Pro turned this framing against himself, since he says that it only applies to cases that apply a “subjective benchmark for prescribing personhood.” I haven’t (see: III). Pro has: fertilization (see: IV.1.c.). Pro also concedes that uncertainty is a given since it is “impossible to recreate in reality due to the indistinct measures used to assess personhood.” Unless he has suddenly come up with a criterion to assess personhood (his “Inconsequential Differences” point rejects any such criterion), his case is the only one to which this applies.

5. Unjustified Killing

The only impact I can find here that isn’t tied to solvency is that he achieves a symbolic victory, which I covered in IV.1.b. Symbolism has no impact.

Even Pro’s symbolic victory is fraught. Pro continues to assert that the two reasons he has cited are unjustified, though his only explanation for why is that they are “absurd” and that adoption is an option.

On the former, Pro never establishes where the line is between a justified reason and an unjustified reason. He just wants voters to trust him. Even if you buy that these reasons are unjustified, Pro drops that his own source shows that women often provide multiple reasons for getting an abortion (note how the numbers don’t add up to 100%). Since Pro hasn’t demonstrated that any other reasons are unjustified, voters should assume that any of them could be justified, and since Pro’s syllogism relies on absolutes, it fails. Even if you grant that his case presumes exceptions, his syllogism does not. This is a principle argument, and the principle is absolute.

Adoption is a red herring. It remains an option for those considering abortion, and structural violence is inflicted no matter who gets the child.

B. Con’s Advocacy

1. Elimination of Care

a. Miscarriage and non-viable pregnancies

Pro’s response relies on his exceptions (see: III). Also, those exceptions don’t solve. Pro drops doctor hesitation, lack of medication and training - all these harms stem from providers’ fears of criminal prosecution.

b. Reproductive coercion

Many of these reproductive health clinics provide abortions, making them abortion clinics and ensuring that will be closed by Pro’s policy. Funding for reproductive health centers will also be in jeopardy; groups like Planned Parenthood (which operates more than 600 health centers nationwide) that play key roles in both reproductive health care and abortion services will have their funding stripped and their clinics closed. This will make emergency abortions more difficult to get, rendering Pro’s exceptions useless.

Even if these clinics stay open, Pro drops that intimate partner abuse is uniquely tied to childbearing decisions, escalates during pregnancy, and that abortion is a crucial means of escape. Pro offers no alternatives to these women. He also drops that the birth control pill and IUDs will be banned, stripping essential reproductive freedoms from women and subjecting them to greater abuses by their partners. Clinics that cannot offer abortions will not solve these problems.
c. Patient-provider relationships

Pro drops this point wholesale. Women could be subject to litigation under his ban, but even if they aren’t, their doctors will be. Any case of medical emergency will be scrutinized and doctors who perform them will be investigated. They will hesitate to give pregnant patients any treatments that could harm the unborn, regardless of the patient’s status. Treatments of cancers will be delayed. Treating miscarrying women would be fraught as every case would be investigated as they may have helped end their pregnancies. End result: doctors will let patients suffer and die, and patients won’t trust their doctors.

2. Destructive Alternatives

a. Self-managed abortions

Similar to my point about assuming abortion’s immorality (see: IV.A.2.a.), voters should not assume the criminality of abortion. The comparison to theft is also generally unwarranted, as abortion involves issues like access to health care and reproductive rights. Harms of sepsis, hemorrhage, pelvic-organ injury, or toxic exposures still apply.

b. Bringing to term

Pro drops the base risk. Extend the increase in mortality rates up to 21%.

Pro tries to dodge the no exceptions point by claiming exceptions (see: III).

Pro argues that overburdening the medical system is nonunique. Two problems. One, Pro drops that the population born as a result of this ban will have an outsized number of “fetal anatomical or genetic diagnoses… disabilities or complex medical needs” and how the burdens that forcing their families to have them impose. Two, Pro is granting new legal protections to a large set of humans who currently do not have them and, in many cases, might not even be born into the world alive. This harm is unique in that those legal protections threaten access to necessary medical interventions for those who have been born into the world alive and are already protected under the law.

3. Punishing Miscarriages

Pro continues to dodge with exceptions (see: III). Pro never says that women won’t be charged, only that they won’t “necessarily”. Pro also drops that women have already been convicted of similar crimes. Pro’s case doesn’t shift away from that; he doubles down.

Pro can’t seem to decide how much solvency his case will have. He has two options.

  1. Abortion is banned and law enforcement investigates widely including a many miscarriages, which yields the harms I laid out in R1
  2. Abortion is banned and law enforcement must establish intent (mens rea) before proceeding with investigations and bringing charges

Pro suggests the latter, so he concedes that the vast majority of abortions will go undetected. Any medication-induced abortions won’t be investigated because miscarriages and medication-induced abortions are indistinguishable. Pro provides no means by which intent can be discerned for these cases. That’s 54% of all abortions, which will increase under an abortion ban since Pro is creating a loophole through which these abortions are impossible to prosecute. And Pro helpfully provides another way to avoid prosecution, since he claims that mothers “are merely ignorant to all the facts”, which makes malice aforethought impossible to establish (this also undercuts his Dopamine Room argument - you can’t both claim that they have perfect reproductive knowledge of pregnancy and every associated risk while simultaneously claiming that they’re prone to accepting reproductive misinformation). This alone destroys most of his solvency.

V. Conclusion

Pro really wants this debate to be solely about the morality of abortion divorced from policy. Yet, this debate is about policy, which deals in real world solvency and consequences. Turning a blind eye to those consequences yields structural violence, destroying lives for some purported “greater good.” In this case, Pro does not even achieve tangible benefits as he willfully dismisses the harms his ban would cause. Pro wants to stand on symbolism, but if doing so rejects the needs of women and perverts the medical system, then his stance isn't worth the cost.

Back to Pro.

Round 3
Thanks Whiteflames for an intriguing debate. 

CON's weighing off the harms of abortion on women can be considered strong only in our society - one in which the unborn are presupposed as being subhuman and whom's killing thus elicit a lesser outrage than the "pointless suffering" of "pregnant women". I ask voters to approach this debate from a purely logical ground - one in which the aforementioned presuppositions are dropped. 

0.     Preliminary

CON's misunderstanding of PRO's thought experiments

CON has disingenuously misrepresented my thought experiments and thus avoided their principled stipulations. I wish to highlight that my thought experiments were not all supposed to be analogous to abortion - they are merely supposed to falsify certain facets of PRO's principle. Consider, 

  • Theft analogy 
    • Intended only to prove that a law oughtn't be universal in order to be implemented
  • Slavery analogy
    • Intended only to prove that 
      • Utility is not synonymous with moral
      • "Structural violence" as a result of banning X is not necessarily negative
        • a racist aristocrat who dies because he no longer has slaves to get him food and himself has become reliant on slaves is not a deterring factor to banning slavery, though it is technically "structural/systemic violence". 
          • CON's critique is that if banning slavery resulted in "structural violence" then they would oppose it. Notice how they ignore my previous argument,
            • Consider the hypothetical scenario in which 20% of the population act as slaves for any family who wishes to have their services, and that this has been a common practice for half a century. The slaves do many mundane jobs - they ensure that the streets are clean, that people get their food (some of the slaves work on farms and produce products) and that the city is liveable and safe (roads are paved etc). Now suppose that, after a while, the population begins to wonder whether the keeping of these slaves is moral. One side argues that it is wrong - the slaves are humans who ought have rights and liberties. The other side, however, argues two points - 1) the net happiness is higher than if we allow these slaves to go free and 2) as we have already had these slaves for half a century and become accustomed to their service, the removing of them will cause much harm (people will starve, driving amidst unmanaged potholes and uncleared obstructions will result in deaths and diseases will spread as no one is sanitising the streets). 
          • Though lengthy and already mentioned, this is extrodinarly crucial. Notice how this example results in structural/systemic violence, yet I would wager that CON would not allow, in the above scenario as opposed to their vague "structural violence" one, that allowing slavery is morally depraved. Much the same is for abortion, though there may be harms, the fundamental immorality of allowing abortion is simply unignorable.
On balance

It is evident that demanding no exceptions is incongruent with every other law. To prove this, PRO used the theft analogy - that though theft is illegal, there are still exceptions to the law. CON counters this by asserting that the comparison is disingenuous, on the grounds that it "assumes abortion is immoral". This is a clear misunderstanding on CON's part. The cogency of the analogy does not require abortion to be immoral - as highlighted above, the analogy deals with the very specific claim that a law can have exceptions. Take, for example, the non-criminal law that gives people the right to vote. Though this is a law, there are exceptions to the law - some people (specific criminal) do not have the right to vote. Does this mean that we ought abolish the law which permits a right to vote, on the grounds of some minute aberration? CON's critique is simply disingenuous.

Structuring of PRO's conclusion 

Though CON does with to admit it, the debate hinges entirely on the philosophical determining of whether the unborn ought to have rights. If we do not establish whether the unborn have rights or not, 

  1. There exists no criteria for instilling personhood, thus no humans have rights.
  2. It is impossible to weigh the alleged structural violence of banning abortion with the act of abortion.
Neglecting to determine a criterion for personhood and subsequently arguing about how we ought to treat the unborn is akin to arguing, prior 1868, that black people ought to have the right to drive. There is no point for discussion, for it has not, at this stage, even been decided whether a black person ought be considered human beings. If we do not know whether X being has rights, how can we decide whether violating ought to be illegal? It is clear that we ought to act differently if X has rights, compared to if X doesn't have rights, thus, the most fundamental question in this entire debate is whether the unborn ought to have rights. To understand this better, consider the following syllogism 

p1. If the unborn are ought to have rights, the effects of killing them is more immoral than the effects of banning abortion. 
p2. The unborn ought to have rights. 
c1. The effects of killing the unborn is more immoral than the effects of banning abortion. 

Though the formulation of this argument is new, the content is not, evidenced by the fact that all the substantiations of the premises are merely rebuttals and affirmations of previously made stipulations. Consider this a contextualisation of the debate thus far. 


Premise I.     If the unborn are human beings, the effects of killing them is more immoral than the effects of banning abortion. 

Here, I will tackle CON's structural violence arguments under the assumption that the unborn ought to have rights (moral status of the unborn will be examined in p2 [affirmations of PRO's contentions])

Case Frameworks 

CON alleges that PRO "opposes unjustified killing, but never distinguishes unjustified from just reasons". PRO clearly highlighted in r2 that "if I were to attempt to justify  the killing of my hypothetical child on the grounds that the child would drastically change my life and that I don't have the money for it, these would surely be absurd", thus clearly establishing a framework -in order for the justification for killing the unborn to be sound, it must also serve as sufficient for justifying the killing of a child. 

CON alleges that PRO's critique of utilitarianism is hypocritical, as they use numbers to quantify the deaths which abortions cause. This conflating of soft and hard utilitarianism is disingenuous. There is a clear difference between arguing that the holocaust was wrong because of the number of people, and thus utility, it harmed/decreased, with arguing that the world ought to enslave all Australians because the number of people, and thus utility, in Australia does not compare the benefits their slave labour can bring to the world. There are obviously situations in which the utility of a given act does not justify the act, yet there are also cases in which the utility is simply too great to ignore.  

Even we grant that both forms of utilitarianism are the same, CON frames my position dishonestly - my original mentioning of the utilitarian based argument from the number of humans abortion kills was a response to CON's utility argument. It was merely IF it is accepted, as CON has, that utility is the primary determinator of whether a bill ought to be a law, THEN abortion ought be illegal as the harms of killing 70 billion people far outweighs any possible harm which CON can provide, for the IF principle which CON advocates actually supports the PRO position. The PRO position is not contingent on this principle - they are merely using it as a reductio ad absurdum, whilst the CON case is entirely contingent upon it. 

CON states that "my framework is simple: structural violence is bad", because banning abortion renders the suffering of people"invisible". However, it is immediately apparent that if we accept that the unborn have a right to life, the only beings who are being rendered quite literally invisible are the unborn. CON bears a cumbersome burden if they wish to pursue this line - they must find some act so morally depraved that the institutionalisation of the murder of almost a million unborn. 

Case Overviews

CON's unproven implications see PRO's r2, Overview

CON asserts that they "didn’t omit arguments regarding who is and isn’t inherently “deserving of human rights” because that is not relevant to my argument". This is as close a deal breaker as voters will get - the literal concession that CON's proposition does not allow for the determining of who ought and oughtn't have have human rights entails that there exists no criteria for personhood thus no persons have rights

CON argues that the exceptions to abortion bans PRO highlights are unclear. To clarify, my standard is that the justification for abortion must be justification which suffices in allowing for the killing of a child. The mothers life being in danger, is an example which I am compelled to add only occurs 0.005 percent of times. 

PRO's policy doesn't work?

Recall my foremost stipulation under this premise before engaging. 

CON argues that abortion bans don't work. It is clear that this does not mitigate the immorality of abortion. If PRO were to argue that a ban on rape does not lower the number of rapes that occur, this clearly that this does not suffice, for it would mean that law enforcement could do nothing if confronted with such a case. 

CON argues that there has been a decrease of abortions globally. Even if this were true, funnily enough, there has also been a "jaw dropping" global crash in children being born since 1950. CON also states that the US has far less abortions and implies that this is because the practice is legal. This is a clear example of the mistake whereby one mistakes correlation for causation, CON never shows, nor do the statistics strongly imply, that there is a causation link. 

CON attacks PRO's sources for it only providing a single year after the ban was imposed. To expand

CON's advocacy 

Reproductive coercion 

CON argues that Planned Parenthood would be in "jeopardy" if abortions are banned. Funnily enough, Planned Parenthood often assert that abortions accounted for 3 percent of the nearly 10.6 million total services provided by Planned Parenthood clinics in 2013, according to its annual report, so a ban would only effect minimally to their services. Planned Parenthood can still provide sexual education and psychological support to those who require it. 

Patient-provider relationships

CON states: Pregnant mothers will have to delay treatments for illnesses like cancer. This can be refuted on the grounds of 
  • Being an acute minority 
  • An exception (mothers life's in danger)
Bringing to terms

CON states: extend the increase in mortality rates up to 21%. The source cites "49 additional deaths". This is incomparable to the millions of human lives killed in abortions. 


CON cites technical difficulties of punishment however, appeals to incredulity. The same reasoning can be used to legalise killing. "How could we ever determine if X killed Y, if no one was watching and there are no camera's". No one ever said this would be easy, CON ought to have more optimism in our criminal justice system. 


Premise II.     The unborn ought to have rights. 

Inconsequential differences

CON argues that the PRO position falls victim to uncertainty, because PRO has arbitrarily selected fertilisation as the beginning of human life. When confronted with the fact that 95 percent of biologists agree to the PRO position, CON states questions what criteria they use. CON is asking for an objective criteria. This is simply impossible, for no knowledge can be truly objective as postulated by the Munchhausen trilemma (all knowledge is either circular, regressive or axiomatic). The PRO position, however, is as "objective" as the mainstream would consider climate change is "objective" (PRO's logic would allow for one to prescribe to climate change skepticism, as all scientists fundamentally use reason, which they cannot epistemically justify). 

Furthermore, using the inconsequential differences on conception was already refuted preemptively in the first round

  • To contend PRO's criteria of biological humanity entails that no human, born or unborn, have rights. Our society is one which grants moral rights to humans, so we can grant that it is axiomatically true that humans have rights, and thus my position too, axiomatically follows. 
The above quotation truly highlights the intellectual necessity for CON to propose a criteria - if there is no criteria, then it follows that no human beings have rights. As CON has not stipulated any criteria, their position entails no human rights. PRO, however, prescribes a clear line for when humans ought to gain rights, a line which is immutable and ultimately the only sound criteria. 

Principle of Uncertainty

CON again misunderstands the uncertainty principle. The subjective metaphysical benchmark only exists if we deny the scientifically established criteria for the beginning of life. In the PRO worldview, there exists clear and absolute harms from abortion. The confusion and ambiguity only exists in CON's postulation.  

PRO asserts that CON "concedes that uncertainty is a given since it is “impossible to recreate in reality due to the indistinct measures used to assess personhood.”. This again misrepresents PRO's argument - PRO was referring to the impossibility of CON to propose a criteria because their criteria is inevitably indistinct. It is clear that PRO's methods for measuring personhood are absolute and unwavering - for all beings that have been through conception, they are prescribed human rights. 

Thus, we can observe that, as CON concedes that his understanding of personhood "is that of uncertainty - we don’t and can’t know", there institutionalising of abortion is essentially the legalising of a roulette, in which thousands of human beings (CON concedes that at least some of these will be human beings worthy of human rights) are institutionally murdered. Such a position is wholly untenable, from both a legal and moral perspective. 

Unjustified Killing

CON argues that there is no line between justified and unjustified. See CON's unproven implications. CON does not accept that the reasons (huge impact on life and I can't afford it) and argues that labelling them as "absurd" is unacceptable. I hand this to voters, for I maintain that it is an axiomatic bedrock to hold that killing a child for those two reasons ought not be legal. 

CON again brings up the 1 percent (literally 1 percent) scenario regarding why people have abortions. This is wholly impudent and would be akin to me crafting my entire case around third trimester, 8 month and 30 day abortions. I have not done so, despite such an argument being essentially unfalsifiable, because such would render PRO unsportsmanlike and be an argument from an extrodinarly minute aberration. CON states that PRO never mentions these exceptions in their opening statement. PRO can similarly say that they have not defended third trimester abortions anywhere in their case. Just as how literally every other law that exists has exceptions, we ought to allow for minute exceptions to a ban on abortion. 

Fundamentally, CON has complicated this argument. It was initially very simple - the reasons (having a child is too big of a commitment and I don't have the money) for killing what is scientifically understood as a human being are unsatisfactory and thus abortion is unjustified. CON never engages with the reasons and instead opts to focus on the literal 1 percent. 


Conclusion I.     The effects of killing the unborn is more immoral than the effects of banning abortion. 

The conclusion clearly follows. The CON position fails on the grounds that it does not prescribe human rights to anyone and essentially institutionalises the killing of what has been scientifically and philosophically determined as being human. The so called harms of banning abortion pales in comparison to the genocide which it allows. CON wishes that the debate regards only the legal aspect, however, overlooks the impossibility of such without first understanding whether the unborn ought to have rights. 

Thank you, Bones.

A couple of overviews to start.

OV1: New Arguments

“Rule 2. No new arguments are to be made in the final round.”

Pro has clearly violated this rule. Every response to my structural violence framework is new. Pro quotes those words once in R2 in the context of my syllogism, but never addresses them. He also presented a new syllogism that relies on those responses. Voters, this warrants a conduct violation, and these points should not factor into your decision.

OV2: Pro’s Shifting Case and Framework

Pro’s Case

In R1, Pro’s argued for banning abortion, providing no exceptions. In R2, he provided vague exceptions for “medical interventions”, arguing that “there exists reasonable exceptions in every law”. In R3, he clarified what some of those medical interventions could be.

I don’t have a problem with Pro’s case having exceptions; he could have presented every plank of his plan up front, exceptions included, and I would have accepted them. Instead, Pro presented those exceptions after the first round to evade harms that applied to the ban he argued for in R1, and then repeated that trick in R3. These tactics are clearly abusive, and voters should reject them. Do not reward him for recognizing his omissions too late.

Pro’s Framework

Pro added utility to his impact calculus, arguing that the number of unborn deaths outweighs my case. Regardless of whether said utility is soft or hard, regardless of the size of the impact, it violates his critique: “neglect[ing] to protect individual human rights” in favor of a net positive. Pro’s whole argument may not be contingent on utility, but this impact absolutely is, and it is the only impact Pro has with any substance. Voters, you should buy Pro’s critique, which aligns well with my framework as neglect is a tool for inflicting structural violence and dismiss Pro’s own utility-based impacts as “morally depraved” (his words) for rejecting consideration of individual human rights.

This debate breaks down to three questions.

1) What is structural violence and why is it important?

Yes, this is my P1 from R1. It's still crucial to this debate, and Pro decided it was worth addressing here in R3.

A) What is structural violence?

1.  Someone(s) be morally excluded from consideration
2.  Some external imposition, e.g. a new law
3.  Said external imposition inflicts lasting trauma/death upon those affected

Taking all three factors into consideration, structural violence is always harmful. Pro claims that positive structural violence exists, but his examples don’t qualify.

The racist aristocrat fails to satisfy #1 and #3. They are an aristocrat so, by definition, they are part of a ruling class that is not morally excluded. They are also included by virtue of their wealth, which also grants them influence. That purchasing power also means that the loss of slaves does not inflict lasting trauma. If he dies because he doesn’t have slaves anymore, then the aristocrat has made the choice not to pay for the help he needs despite having the resources. They inflict that trauma on themselves.

The slavery hypothetical has the same problems. Slaveholders are not rendered invisible (they are active participants in determining whether slavery should remain in place, often by virtue of their wealth and social placement) and reduced “net happiness” does not qualify as lasting trauma.

The unborn are not rendered invisible just because abortions happen, as they are central to any discussion of reproduction and abortion policy. They also fail to satisfy #2. Structural violence requires that the system impose these harms. Refusing to implement a ban cannot cause structural violence because it does not impose anything. Any infliction of harm is done by individuals, not an institution.

Pro also places these cases in a vacuum, excluding their context and, thus, ignoring the net effects of structural violence. Slavery yields substantial, pernicious and long-lasting marginalization that persists well after slavery ends. We must address those instances of imposed structural violence that mete out the worst harms. Even if we accept that some structural violence is inevitable, preventing the most egregious forms of it should still be preferred.

B) Why is structural violence important?

This framework precludes all other moral considerations because it necessarily includes all affected parties in any moral calculus, drawing attention to those who would otherwise be excluded as subjectively unimportant. “To reduce [the] nefarious effects [of moral exclusion], we must be vigilant in noticing and listening to oppressed, invisible, outsiders.

Unlike utilitarianism, my argument doesn’t blindly favor majorities: it draws attention to those who are marginalized regardless of their numbers. Governments have a greater capacity for inflicting structural violence, and when those resulting harms are unavoidable and cause severe physical and psychological harms, a government ought not inflict structural violence. The harms a government can cause via structural violence are massive, regardless of who they directly impact. These function as independent reasons to prefer my framework to Pro’s, as his argument explicitly furthers the very mentality that expands and entrenches structural violence.

II. Can we determine the beginning of personhood and is it necessary to do so?

Pro argues that personhood begins at fertilization under the assumption that all stages of human development are human. This view stemmed from his position that there are no consequential differences between any stages of human development after fertilization. That only begs the question: what distinguishes the steps that come before the zygote from the zygote itself and those that come after? Pro relies on fallacies, appealing to a “scientifically established criteria for the beginning of life” that he never provides and appealing to popularity among an assumed authority of vague “biologists.” Pro even concedes that there can be no objective criteria for personhood, which also precludes any scientific validation. The Munchhausen trilemma doesn’t help him, either; we can accept that certainty is impossible but still seek the truth objectively by considering the available evidence as we do with climate change, but Pro refuses to do so. Pro’s decision to eschew objectivity when establishing his criteria for personhood is an abdication of this self-assigned burden.

Failing to meet this burden is a big problem for Pro. In R1, Pro argued that a lack of certainty borne of subjective criteria for personhood “entails that no human, born or unborn, have rights.” Pro made clear that any degree of uncertainty at any point along human development yields this result, yet he has conceded that his own position lacks objectivity and therefore certainty, and thus concedes that his view of personhood would also entail the revocation of human rights from all humans.

Pro’s personal certainty does not render his argument immune to his own critiques. Pro’s position on the beginning of personhood is subjective, making his position subject to his principle of uncertainty argument. This means that every single one of Pro’s impacts on the lives of the unborn are relegated to uncertainty, as the degree of harm caused by their loss is entirely unclear. Pro even dropped the sole weighing mechanism he put on this point – based on the Dopamine Room thought experiment – because he knows that issues like the consent of the mother have no bearing on this debate.

Pro’s impacts are the only ones that require certainty with regards to the beginnings of personhood. Mine simply apply the existing legal standard for granting rights to persons and examine the consequences of extending it to all the unborn. That still applies in the face of philosophical uncertainty, and it is the only non-contradictory means of assessing arguments that either of us has presented.

III. What would an abortion ban achieve/cause?

A. Pro’s solvency

Pro keeps claiming increasingly large numbers of the unborn killed by abortion, and though none of them are cited, the biggest question hanging over his case is whether or not a ban reduce them. To that end, Pro presented two sources. Their relevance rests on a correlation between Ireland, the UK, and the US that Pro has not established in the face of distinct legal structures, enforcement, and population dynamics. Pro also claims that the imposition of a ban (his case), Ireland’s removal of a ban, and the UK’s expanded access to abortion produce correlatable results, though he never supports this and he ignores my source that cites demand as the key factor that does not change if abortion becomes illegal. Both sources also exclude pertinent data, including abortions that took place in other countries and instances of illegal abortion.

My data shows that, as a percentage of all pregnancies in developed countries, abortions have declined. As percentages, they aren’t affected by the raw number of children being born, which is a non-sequitur. Remember: this is about Pro’s solvency. He needs to show a causative link between a ban and a reduction in abortions. This data demonstrates that the number of abortions decline even as the number of countries that legalize abortions increase, which suggests that Pro’s link is unclear at best, reversed at worst. Pro also drops that data trends are more applicable to the US.

Pro has also undercut his own solvency. By invoking mens rea, Pro has effectively hamstrung his case, reducing its effectiveness to 7% of all abortions at best, since 93% of abortions occur during the first 13 weeks. Abortions that occur during these 13 weeks will become more common due to this loophole, so his solvency will be far less than 7%. The lack of distinction between a miscarriage and an early-stage abortion is an unsolvable impediment to enforcing Pro’s ban. By contrast, forensic investigators are trained to determine causes of death in developed human beings, whether it happens on camera or not. Pro is neither adding new expertise nor affording them magical tools to solve this problem, so incredulity necessarily follows when Pro claims it can somehow be done regardless. His optimism is severely misplaced.

B. Unjust killings

Pro’s syllogism is absolute: “The reasons for aborting are unjustified”, “Abortion is unjustified killing”. These statements don’t leave room for exceptions, even if you grant that his case does. Pro’s choice to add those planks functions as a concession that some reasons are justified and, therefore, that not all abortions are unjustified killings.

Pro also undercuts his syllogism by reducing all reasons to the two he asserts are “absurd”. If you buy that assertion, it only tells us that these two reasons are unjustified. That’s a problem, as Pro’s own source shows that women often give multiple reasons for getting abortions. Voters should assume that all these reasons are justified, including: relationship problems (48%), completed childbearing (38%), physical harms to the mother (12%), health of the fetus (13%). These numbers reveal that Pro’s analysis excludes most abortions since his argument applies solely to people who give these two and only these two reasons; each of these could be second, third or fourth reasons for getting an abortion, and each independently justifies that abortion.

Finally, the only impact here is symbolic. If the ban does nothing to reduce the numbers of abortions, then its impact is similarly negligible. If the ban inflicts structural violence to achieve a symbolic victory, then it is a pyrrhic victory that only causes harm.

C. Consequences

Given the predictable harms of his plan, Pro can only try to mitigate their impacts. Pro keeps referring to a phantom "1 percent", reducing the harms his ban would cause to a minute number to then dismiss them as “aberrations”. This is the definition of marginalization, and an effort to subvert the needs of these groups that Pro relegates to a small minority to his unborn majority. Setting aside the obvious contradiction (Pro’s own slavery hypothetical critiques this calculus), these groups are worthy of consideration, and Pro’s efforts to lump them into this “1 percent” undervalue and even demonize their suffering.

1. Effect on patients

Mothers would be subjected to investigations, trials and jail time. To avoid those harms, they will hide their pregnancies, resulting in illnesses and injuries to the mother and fetus. But even setting that aside, all pregnant women will suffer from this ban; a miscarriage is already a would-be mother’s worst nightmare, but this would result in the legal system castigating her for its loss. Anyone considering pregnancy will live in fear of what the system will inflict on them if they miscarry.

2. Effect on providers

Providers would also fear prosecution. Any case of claimed medical emergency will be scrutinized and the doctors who perform them will be investigated. They will hesitate to give pregnant patients any treatments that could harm the unborn, regardless of the patient’s status. Treatments of cancers, even if they eventually receive them during pregnancy, will be delayed, facilitating metastasis and other harms. Treating miscarrying women would be fraught as every case would be investigated as they may have helped end their pregnancies. Anyone going through or considering pregnancy will have to face a new reality: they could suffer and die while their providers are legally barred from helping them. Those providers would also lack the tools, treatments, and capability to help them, as they will not receive training for abortions or have access to abortion medications for treating miscarriages, so even if they don’t hesitate, doctors will still be unable to help their patients.

3. Diminished resources

No matter how many clinics remain standing after the ban, reproductive coercion will continue in the absence of abortion. Abortion serves as a crucial means of escape that can never be replaced. 34% of domestic abuse victims have their suffering tied to childbearing decisions; that suffering will only increase due to the concomitant ban on birth control pills and IUDs, which will place more power over their reproductive choices in their abusers’ hands. Pro’s ban also uniquely overburdens their families (particularly the poor) and the healthcare system as a whole with medically fragile patients and perinatal mental health crises. This could result in countless lost lives under the stresses of rationed care as the system struggles to address this influx, harming many who depend on the medical system.

4. Actual violence

Pro cherry-picks the wrong number when assessing loss of life from these additional pregnancies: a 21% increase is 140 new deaths per year, not 49. That only represents those who die during pregnancy; many more will suffer medical complications. Add the harms of sepsis, hemorrhage, pelvic-organ injury and toxic exposures still result from a lack of legal access to safe abortions, since this paper doesn’t include these deaths. Add the threat of violence that these cases pose, since every pregnant woman is now subjected these risks without recourse.


This is the group over which Pro plasters his "1 percent" statistic, a group he renders faceless and nameless to obscure their suffering, considering it "wholly impudent" to focus on their concerns. These are each deeply and broadly affecting instances of structural violence. Pro’s ban would pervert the medical system and subject pregnant mothers to extensive physical and mental trauma. These harms cannot be ignored or marginalized by society without abdicating moral responsibility entirely. We cannot claim to be acting morally in a world where we inflict these harms without due consideration of the many people who will suffer from it. We cannot claim any moral high ground these consequences take a backseat to a philosophical question that we may never be able to answer objectively, or to a ban that is ill-conceived, vague, and achieves nothing more than a symbolic, pyrrhic victory over a practice that will remain common.

Voters, the harms that this ban will inflict are clear. Pro is willing to accept or ignore these losses in a vain attempt to seek a greater good but has never acknowledged their scope and depth, and instead doubled down on the very mentalities that make structural violence so insidious and damaging.

Vote Con.