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Arguments don’t have chromosomes, people do

A tired and bigoted argument on abortion rises again

Whoopi Goldberg attends Variety's Power of Women Luncheon in New York in 2015. Photo by Andy Kropa/Invision/Associated Press

Arguments don’t have chromosomes, people do

Responding to recent oral arguments presented at the Supreme Court, a high-profile entertainer parroted a common argument. While hosting ABC’s The View, Whoopi Goldberg opined: “Do any of you men have any eggs or the possibility of carrying a fetus? How dare you talk about what a fetus wants. You have no idea.” Similar sentiments have filled social media feeds in recent days, each a variation of the bumper sticker slogan “No womb, no say.”

This style of ad hominem argument (literally, “to the man”) has skyrocketed in recent years. Sixty years ago, under the age of reason, ideas were typically criticized in the West if they lacked evidence. Under postmodernism, ideas are now criticized not so much because they lack evidence but because they are claimed to represent “intolerance.” Today, we have entered a post-postmodern era, when it is not a lack of evidence or a lack of tolerance but a person’s identity markers, such as the presence or absence of a second X chromosome, that make someone’s ideas true or false. How should Christians respond in the age of absurdity?

First, we should not evaluate ideas on the basis of whether the case is made by a man or by a woman. The case for life has been articulated brilliantly by pro-life feminists such as Sidney Callahan and many others. Callahan builds a careful case that abortion hurts women—physically, psychologically, and politically. Do pro-life arguments magically become true or false simply because they come from the keyboard of someone with different chromosomes? Dismissing a case because a man may be its messenger is an easy way to dodge meaningful arguments. But it makes us sexists, prejudging people and their perspectives on the basis of their sex. Why, after all, should we buy into the dogma that members of the human family may speak up for fellow humans if and only if they share external identity markers?

Second, the “no womb, no say” argument hijacks women’s voices for the cause of abortion. Abortion advocate Linda Greenhouse reminds us that Roe v. Wade was decided by “seven middle-aged to elderly men,” who “certainly didn’t think they were making a statement about women’s rights: women and their voices are nearly absent from the opinion.” A feminist heroine, the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg agreed that Roe “was not argued in weighty terms of advancing women’s rights.”

Polls have consistently demonstrated that there is nothing resembling a female consensus on abortion in the United States. Averaging the last four years of Gallup data, only 49 percent of American women identify as “pro-choice.” Directly relevant to the Dobbs case is the fact that a mere quarter of American women support abortion beyond 13 weeks. The Mississippi law at stake in Dobbs places the limit at 15 weeks.

The common retort from pro-choice advocates is that pro-life women have unwittingly fallen for the ploys of their male oppressors, a rather condescending assumption to make about tens of millions of American women. The slogan “No womb, no say” thus becomes a euphemism for no womb, you certainly have a say if you agree with us. But if you have a womb and disagree with us, then you have no say because clearly you suffer from internalized patriarchal oppression.

Third, the “no womb, no say” argument is hopelessly circular. It assumes the very thing it is trying to prove. To argue that abortion is exclusively a women’s issue begs the essential question: Are the preborn human beings? If so—which contrary to Justice Sotomayor’s claim is not a religious dogma, but a matter of clear science— then roughly half of the victims of abortion are male. If over 30 million male victims of the abortion industry since Roe v. Wade do not represent enough oppression for men to have a voice, then how many are enough?

When Goldberg says to men with indignation, “How dare you talk about what a fetus wants. You have no idea,” the point is that as a woman she, presumably, does have an idea what the fetus wants. Interestingly, Goldberg inadvertently acknowledged the fetus, which most defenders of abortion avoid at all costs. But does she dare to suggest that the fetus wants to be destroyed?

Thaddeus Williams

Thaddeus Williams is the author of the best-selling book Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth: 12 Questions Christians Should Ask About Social Justice (Zondervan/HarperCollins, 2020). He serves as associate professor of systematic theology for the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University and resides in Orange County, Calif., with his wife and four kids.

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