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Can You Be Pro Choice and Anti-Slavery?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of

Leonard Pitts is trying. But he just can’t seem to write coherently on the issue of abortion. The reason for his incoherence is that he fails to understand that the issue boils down to two questions: “Is the unborn human?” and “What gives humans value?” Had he properly framed the issue he would not have written such an incoherent defense of abortion rights in a recent nationally syndicated column titled “Can You Be Pro Choice and Anti Abortion?”


Pitts uses a tactic employed by many in the pro-choice movement. He denounces the pro-life tactic of displaying pictures of dismembered fetuses saying, “Those things never come close to persuading me.” He compounds his callousness with narcissism by saying “They never leave me feeling anything but angry and assaulted.”

As a black man, Leonard Pitts should have known better than to denounce the display of aborted fetuses by using the term “things” to describe them. Opponents of lynching displayed pictures of beaten and dismembered blacks to bring to light the brutality of the practice. Would Pitts dare tell someone who showed him a picture of the open casket of Emmitt Till “get that thing out of my face?” Or would he react like a man by acknowledging and confronting the evil before him?

I only raise the question because Pitts claims to be “angry and assaulted” by those “things” honest people call humans. Pitts doesn’t seem to understand that the abortion debate is not about preserving the feelings of grown men. It’s about preserving the bodies of defenseless babies.

Later in his rambling defense of the pro-choice position Pitts admits that he was once persuaded by another pro-life placard, which he claims takes a “different approach.” The placard read “Abortion Stops a Beating Heart,” which Pitts describes as “a tacit appeal to shared humanity and common conscience.” Pitts admits that he was unable to reject the placard, which “conceded – indeed, banked upon – (his) humanity.” He goes on to assert vaguely “There’s a lesson in that.”


Yes, Leonard, there is a lesson in that. The “Abortion Stops a Beating Heart” placard informs despite the fact that it presents a flawed argument in at least two respects. First, it leads some to falsely assume that life begins with a detectable heartbeat. Clearly, it does not. There is growth in the form of metabolism and cell division from the point of conception, which is long before the heartbeat is detected.

Second, the placard wrongly focuses on human functioning as a source of value. To be clear, the unborn is not valuable because of what it can do - whether pumping blood with a heart or emitting waves from a functioning brain. (Conversely, the handicapped are not less valuable because of things they cannot do). Like all other humans, the unborn is valuable because of the kind of being it is. It is fully human and thus the subject of natural rights. And it is fully human long before the heartbeat is detected.

But the point is nonetheless made that abortion kills whenever a heart that was beating ceases to beat. Therefore, Pitts understands at some level that abortion is murder. Nonetheless, he fights to preserve its legality. But what are his reasons? He provides exactly four.

Bodily Autonomy. First, Pitts states that, “a woman should have the ultimate say over her own body, period.” The problem with this argument is that it is irrelevant. Pitts previously admitted that he knows abortion stops a beating heart. Unless the woman has two hearts then another body is involved. Obviously, this undermines his simplistic bodily autonomy argument.


Medical Safety. Pitts also says he worries about “pregnant women drinking whiskey laced with gunpowder” or “sticking needles in their uteruses.” In other words, he thinks legalized abortion saves lives. Pitts fails to recognize that Planned Parenthood (through their national medical director Dr. Mary Calderone) admitted in 1959 that deaths due to “unsafe” abortions only resulted in a few hundred deaths per year. Calderone specifically claimed that as far back as 1957 there were only 260 such deaths in the course of the entire year. Note that this candid statement came before her organization started to profit from abortion.

In contrast, legalized abortion has produced over a million deaths per year for over four decades running. Therefore, the math behind Pitts’ lifesaving argument only works if the pregnant woman dying from an “unsafe” abortion is human and the child within her is not. But Pitts’ already conceded that isn’t true. Whiskey laced with gunpowder stops two beating hearts. Remember the placard, Leonard?

Poverty Prevention. Pitts compounds his callousness by saying that abortion is justified if the mother of the child cannot “feed or cloth” her offspring. Note that Jonathan Swift once argued that killing poor children could effectively alleviate poverty. But Swift was writing satire. Apparently, Pitts is serious. He thinks we can alleviate child poverty by killing poor children – unless, of course, he thinks the unborn isn’t human. But he already conceded their humanity, right? Or did he mean something else by “shared humanity and common conscience?”


Unwarranted Punishment. Finally, Pitts is bothered by the prospect of sending a woman to prison because she had an abortion due to economic distress. In fact, he says he “abhors the idea.” But why should the law be faulted for making it a crime for one human to kill another for economic gain? The poverty versus prison dilemma is a false dichotomy anyway. The solution to the problem is adoption not legalized murder.

Nonetheless, Pitts claims to be against abortion while fighting to make it legal in front of millions in his nationally syndicated column. Just imagine a pre-civil war Pitts living in the North conceding the “shared humanity and common conscience” of his black brethren in the South. Then imagine him advocating for the legality of their confinement.

Perhaps he would even hold a placard reading “Don’t like slavery? Don’t own one!”

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