Commentary

Stop Arguing the Exceptions: ‘What About Rape and Incest,’ ‘Ambiguous Genitalia’?

John Stonestreet
By John Stonestreet | May 25, 2017 | 2:36 PM EDT

Young girl holds pro-life sign at March for Life. (Wikimedia Commons Photo)

“But what about the … ?” Has a rare exception ever stumped you when making the case for life or anything else? Here’s how to respond with grace and truth.

“Humans have ten fingers and ten toes.” Now that shouldn’t strike anyone as a controversial statement, since almost every person ever born has had twenty digits. But what if someone argued in response that, because there are exceptions to this—people who because of injury or genetic defect lack a digit or two—we ought not describe ten fingers and ten toes as normal or descriptive of being human?

We’d rightly think that a silly argument, of course. So why do we tolerate this same kind of reasoning in modern social debates?

Take abortion. Perhaps you’ve heard someone challenge the prolife view with this exception: “Well what about rape and incest, or the life of the mother?” Or take gender. Folks ask me all the time, “But what about those born with ambiguous genitalia?”

These objections stop a lot of Christians in their tracks. But they shouldn’t.

When pro-choice activists insist that we can’t outlaw abortion because some pregnancies result from rape and incest, or endanger the life of the mother, they’re ignoring the fact that in nearly all abortions none of these considerations are factors at all. Rather, healthy babies are killed simply because they’re inconvenient.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t support the intentional taking of unborn life under any circumstance. As Live Action President Lila Rose often points out, the unborn are human beings no matter what the circumstances of their conception. Rape and other sexual crimes are monstrous, but abortion doesn’t undo those wrongs, it only creates another victim.

Arguing about exceptions like these only muddies the waters. And sometimes, that’s exactly what the pro-choice side wants.

The same thing happens when someone brings up ambiguous genitalia in the transgender debate. This condition is tragic, and the subject requires great care. But it’s also extremely rare—by most estimates, in fact, occurring in just one in twenty-two thousand births. In other words, when we allow this tiny fraction of a percent to control the entire debate, we obscure the overwhelming reality.

And so, for the sake of discussion, instead of arguing about the exceptions, why not just grant them? When someone challenges you about extreme cases for abortion, try replying this way: “Okay, let’s say we keep abortion legal in these rare cases. What about the other ninety-six percent of abortions that are elective? Can we end those?”

Nine times out of ten, you’ll hear crickets.

Likewise, when it comes to gender, grant that in cases of ambiguous genitalia, there really is a biological basis for doubt and that we must rethink medical practices that too quickly label someone male or female if the physical evidence isn’t clear.

By granting the exceptions, we force the other person to face the real questions, or admit they’re using rare cases as wedges for their real agenda.

But more importantly, these exceptions actually prove the principles we believe in. Here’s what I mean: If someone says, “if a baby was conceived in a crime, we have the right to kill her,” that person is appealing to the circumstances under which the baby was conceived. To then argue that abortion should be legal in all cases is to admit that circumstances don’t in fact matter. That my friend, is called a contradiction.

The same thing is true with transgenderism. To argue that biology matters in the case of ambiguous genitalia and then argue that biology doesn’t matter with clearly defined genitalia is nonsense. Our response should be: Biology matters or it doesn’t. Pick one.

Look, rare cases are tough and complicated. But that doesn’t mean that all or even most of the other cases are. So the next time someone argues for abortion or gender fluidity from an exception, grant it and then confront them with the vast majority of cases. And if they refuse, just ask them how many fingers and toes they have.

John Stonestreet is President of The Chuck Colson Center for Christian Worldview and BreakPoint co-host.

Editor's Note: This piece was originally published by BreakPoint.