More Fallacies in the Headlines

In another post, we examine a serious fallacy made in a statement about transitioning to renewable energy, an important public policy discussion. In this post, we’ll look at the effect of this same fallacy on another important debate: so-called ‘late term abortion.’

The Fallacy? Hypothesis Contrary to Fact

The Perpetrator? A state legislator in Virginia, Republican majority leader Todd Gilbert

The Flagged Play? “Could a woman about to go into labor request an abortion if her doctor certified that she needed one for mental health reasons?”

Can you spot the fallacy in that question?

It may be important to note here that Republicans have moved much of the abortion debate to the individual state legislatures that they control. It is also true (in my humble opinion based solely on my personal observations as a journalist and as a congressional aide) that state legislatures generally do not contain the brightest bulbs in the pack—the smarter ones generally run for a state-wide or federal level office like insurance commissioner or governor or congressman or senator.

Some argue that the state houses are the perfect place for the abortion debate because state lawmakers are ‘closer’ to their local constituents and presumably know best what those constituents want. Abortion is a medical issue. I’m skeptical about how skilled local constituencies are at making an informed, accurate medical diagnosis. I certainly wouldn’t want a diagnosis of my medical situation to be put to a vote. Instead, I want a doctor.

So there’s some context. Now, on to the specific fallacy in question. The question put forward by the Virginia lawmaker would be laughable if it weren’t so tragically uninformed. No sane graduate of medical school would ever perform an abortion on a woman in labor. It simply does not happen.

But the claim creates such graphic mental images! How could any intellectually dishonest person resist making claims about viable babies ripped from uteruses at full term? It’s so grisly, so effective, so false. Why does this happen? Because the people who make such claims are either ignorant about the subject or they are attempting to mislead you.

Less than one percent of all terminations in the US are in the last trimester and then because the fetus is already not viable. But you don’t have to trust me on this. I’m citing facts that you can check for yourself if you need some educating.

Hypothesis Contrary to Fact frequently carries with it some sort of Hidden Assumption. The hidden assumption here seems to be that late term abortion is a popular form of birth control. That idea also is not true. And it’s astonishing any informed person would think so.

Be on the lookout. I’m positive this will not be the last case of such risible, nonsensical ideas clustering around important public policy debates…

Author: Craig Butcher

Craig Butcher is an award-winning educator who has taught critical thinking skills for more than two decades. In addition, he has worked on Capitol Hill as a congressional staffer and has been a top-rated broadcaster.