Debate Info

Yes, an undue burden exists. No, undue burden doesn't exist
Debate Score:3
Total Votes:3
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 Yes, an undue burden exists. (2)
 No, undue burden doesn't exist (1)

Debate Creator

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Is there such a thing as "undue burden" on access to abortion?

NOLO defines "undue burden" as the following:

"In the field of reproductive rights, having the purpose or effect of placing a substantial obstacle in the path of a woman seeking an abortion of a fetus that is not yet viable. Laws that impose an undue burden on a fundamental right are unconstitutional under current Supreme Court cases." 

The key to this debate question is found in the second sentence.

This is a common argument used by pro-choice plaintiffs or defendants in court in order to defend or advance their position.  The question for this debate is whether or not "undue burden" is truly something which exists, for if an undue burden does not exist, then the argument cannot be used.  Therefore, the question is posed once again: "Is there such a thing as "undue burden" on access to abortion?"

Yes, an undue burden exists.

Side Score: 2

No, undue burden doesn't exist

Side Score: 1

Sure, but I think this is a question which is going to be answered either on the basis of pro-choice or pro-life beliefs. You might as well have just asked do you agree with abortion.

Side: Yes, an undue burden exists.
1 point

I clicked "support" because you definitely are on the right track in pointing out where the discussion directs us to. Thank you for seeing the underlying question that shows skill.

Side: Yes, an undue burden exists.
1 point

The argument hinges upon whether or not abortion is a right, for if abortion is not a right, then there can be no such thing as an "undue burden". We can take a few different approaches.

Before continuing, we must define abortion. The definition I will use is the following: "Abortion is the intentional termination of the unborn from conception until birth." Now to examine the approaches.

First, consider the following approach: (Approach A)

Argument 1-

I) In order for something to be morally right, it must exist in a perfect world.

II) Abortion does not exist in a perfect world.

III) Therefore, abortion is not morally right.

Argument 2-

I) In order for something to be a right, it must be morally right.

II) Abortion is not morally right.

III) Therefore, abortion is not a right.

Argument 3-

I) In order for it to be possible to have an undue burden on an action or obtaining an object, it must be a right.

II) Abortion is not a right.

III) Therefore, it is not possible to have an undue burden on abortion.

Second, consider the following approach: (Approach B)

Five Fundamental Questions-

1) Are the unborn human?

2) Are the unborn living?

3) What about women's rights?

4) What about special cases?

5) Is there an alternative?

Question 1: Are the unborn human?

Answer: It can be demonstrated the unborn are human in the following ways. First, from a strictly physical/material/empirical perspective, something's nature, the what it is, is determined by what physically composes the subject. The unborn are composed of human DNA, therefore they are human. Second, from a non-physical perspective, we will step into the realm of Potency versus Act. According to St. Thomas Aquinas, "Potency and Act divide being in such a way that whatever is, is either pure act, or of necessity is composed of potency and act as primary intrinsic principles."

Potency is the potential for something to change, develop, etc. Act is the actual state of the thing in question. We all exist as potential and actual beings. We have the potency to change, and we actually exist as we are in this very moment. Of course, this points us to a more fundamental question: what do we actually exist as?

This leads us to our next step in the philosophical approach. All things which exist do so with two different "parts" of their nature; these being essential and accidental. Essential nature determines what something is, where if you were to strip everything else away this particular subject would remain at its core what it is by its essential nature. Accidental nature determines the specific subject in question. For example, all pear trees are essentially pear trees, yet they differ in height, the number of leaves, the sweetness of pears, etc.

Combining the two facets of the philosophical approach, we are left with this: the unborn actually exist as essentially human, with the potential to adopt accidental qualities and have these develop over time. If this were not the case, then a man and woman could be intimate and have a monkey for a child rather than a homo sapiens. It is clear the unborn have essential, intrinsic human nature, otherwise they would be able to develop into anything besides human babies at birth!

In fact, the very fact we are having the debate is clear to us then the unborn are indeed human. The word "unborn" is an adjective, not a noun. There are unborn lions, dogs, pigs, etc. We obviously are not discussing these creatures, rather when I say "abortion" or "unborn", it is clear in our minds we draw up the image of something resembling a human. Thus, we already assume humanity to begin with in the discussion!

Therefore, it is clear to see the answer to Question 1 is "Yes, the unborn are human."

Question 2: Are the unborn living?

Answer: It can be demonstrated the unborn are living in the following ways. First, let us look at the dictionary definition of life, using two separate sources. First, Merriam-Webster defines Life in the following way: "an organismic state characterized by capacity for metabolism, growth, reaction to stimuli, and reproduction". Under this definition, the unborn fit the bill, for they have the capacity for metabolism, they are growing, they react from the moment of conception to different stimuli, and they reproduce on the cellular level. On top of this, if left to actualize their potential, (see Question 1), the unborn will be able to do all of these on a larger and more complex scale. Thus, under the first definition, they are living.

The second definition says "Something is considered 'living' when it is composed of active DNA/RNA". This being the case, the unborn clearly possess active DNA/RNA. Therefore, they are living by this definition as well. From these two definitions we have shown clearly the unborn are living from a physical/material/empirical position. (As an additional note for consideration, here is a third definition which the unborn fit as well: "A new individual is created when the elements of a potent sperm merge with those of a fertile ovum, or egg." Encyclopedia Britannica, 15th Edition, Article on Pregnancy, Chicago, 1974)

It will be easier to address objections to life from the philosophical point of view.

Objection 1: Something is not living if it is dependent on another thing to survive; The unborn are dependent on another to survive; Therefore, the unborn are not living.

Answer: This argument fails because first, it is self defeating. In order for the unborn to be dependent on something to survive, the must already be alive, thus undermining the original premise.

Second, imagine, if you will, conjoined twins. Conjoined twins are dependent on each other, are they not alive? Of course, we would state this is absurd. The twins Dr. Ben Carson separated were individual, unique, living human beings and they were dependent on each other to survive. Thus, to say the unborn are not living because they are dependent on someone else or something else if in an artificial womb is false.

To expand upon this answer, (even if too broadly, perhaps), we are all dependent on someone or something else to sustain us. We are contingent beings, each depending on the choice of our parents to make us, and depending on gravity as well as other universal constants to remain the same. This being the case, to assume we cannot truly be alive until we are completely self-sufficient is to eliminate the right to live for every human being in existence, which again is absurd.

Objection 2: The unborn are not living from conception, but rather from the moment they develop [X].

Answer: Usually, X is replaced with heartbeats, pain, brain waves, etc. However, it is clear the unborn are clearly growing even before developing any of these qualities, otherwise it could not actualize the potential to have these qualities! Also, there are fully grown adults who have neurological disorders which render them incapable of feeling pain. Are they no longer living? Of course they are living! What about when you are on an operating table, and your heart has to be stopped for a transplant or a special surgery? Of course you are still living! It would not be just for the surgeon to harm you or, dare I say, kill you, because you are clearly still living! Therefore, we once again find the objection is absurd.

The answer to Question 2 is an affirmative, "Yes, the unborn are living."

Thus, we have living human beings. Using the original definition, then, we find the abortion is the intentional termination of living human beings. Since they have not committed any crimes, they are also innocent. Therefore, abortion is the intentional termination of innocent living human beings.

Question 3: What about women's rights?

Answer: The dilemma here is the category mistake. Women do not have rights by virtue of being women, but rather by being human. The right to vote, to work, to liberty, equality, etc. are all rooted in this fundamental understanding of women and men being equal. Women and men have the right to their own bodies. Women and men have the right to self-defense, etc because these are human rights. Therefore, the proper way to ask the question is "Does anyone have the right to terminate an innocent living human being?" The argument goes as follows:

A) No one has the right to terminate the life of an innocent human being.

B) Abortion is the termination of the life of an innocent human being.

C) Therefore, no one has the right to an abortion.

The most common objection is rooted in the right to privacy. However, it should be clearly stated and understood that unless you are living, you do not have the right to privacy. While this may seem morbid and sad, take into account a fallen soldier. For the funeral, he is embalmed, dressed, and laid in a casket without giving any consent to go against his privacy. Why? Because he is not alive to do so. Therefore, the right to life is superior for without it, privacy does not follow. It must also be understood that privacy can be violated without the consent of the living as well, this is the definition of a search warrant. Please do not misread what I am saying. I am NOT saying we need to get search warrants on women seeking abortions, for that is absolutely ridiculous. I am saying simply the right to privacy is not an end-all, be-all right.

May we also address the objection about "my body, my choice" in the following manner. Women do have the right to their own body. Certainly she has the right to control the use of her arm by choosing to swing her arm. However, that right stops when her arm approaches the tip of my nose especially if I have not done her any harm.

And finally, we must take into account the most pressing matter of the objection. What about the right of the unborn to their own body? It is a fair question to ask. It must be understood that if life results in privacy, and the unborn are living, then they too have the right to privacy.

Therefore, it is demonstrated that there is no right to an abortion.

(On a special note: the unborn are not parasitic. They have a symbiotic relationship in which they receive nutrients and give stem cells in return to the mother.)

Question 4: What about special cases?

Answer: This is where things become, shall we say, sticky. Most people, after establishing the previous claims, will agree with the idea of "legal, safe and rare." They will attempt to limit abortion with a few exceptions, the "special cases". These cases are usually rape, incest, disability, and emergency medical situations.

We will start with emergency medical situations. Dr. Anthony Levatino performed over 1200, yes, 1200 abortions. However, after stopping abortions and working specifically with emergency pregnancies, he discovered there was never, yes never, any situation in which an abortion was medically necessary. This is coming from a man who has over 40 years of medical experience. See the attached video to hear his explanation.

Next, we will examine disability. Often, this is rooted in "quality of life" arguments. However, it has been demonstrated on numerous occasions that people who are born with disabilities defy the odds time and again. We must always keep in mind doctors can be wrong, and they often are. This is not denial, this is factual reality. Also, it is important to note disability does not change whether we are talking about living human beings. They are, in their nature, still living human beings. If the barrier to their full potential were removed, they would function fully as "normal", because they have the basic inherent capacity to do so.

Incest is an objection for two fundamental reasons. First, incest is usually do to the wicked act of rape, and/or will often lead to disability. We have already addressed disability, so we will move forward to addressing rape, which will then answer the question of incest.

Rape is evil, and horrible. Let me make this clear. I know individuals who have gone through these awful events. And, (not "however" or "but"), and the right to life still remains. The criminal, not the child, is guilty of the evil action. The father should face their punishment, the child should be allowed to live. The child has done nothing wrong. There is a hidden assumption we make by thinking we can "reverse" the action by "forgetting" through abortion. However, no person will ever forget what happened to them. Ever. My friends will never forget. Understand clearly there is no reversing the deed, an abortion only adds another moral dilemma which adds to the vulnerability of the victimized mother. Rather than add to the problem, we need to strengthen the mother, encourage her, and in my own favorite saying, let her know she can "mother like a boss".

We have demonstrated then that there are no special cases to abortion.

Question 5: Is there an alternative?

Answer: Yes, there is an alternative. Foster care, adoption, raising the child yourself, abstinence, all of these options are available. While many object to the idea of foster care or adoption due to the poor management of the system, we must keep in mind we do not know the future, and we, just like doctors, can be wrong. Instead of diverting funding and energy in to providing abortion, something which is morally wrong, we need to divert the funding and energy into foster care and adoption, something which is morally acceptable and preferable to abortion on any given day.

Therefore, using this approach, we have demonstrated the following:

1) The unborn are human.

2) The unborn are living.

3) There is no right to an abortion.

4) There are no exceptions to allow for abortion.

5) There are alternatives which do not allow for the violation or exploitation of human rights, and provide a better option.


Therefore, through Approach A and Approach B, it is clearly demonstrated abortion is not a right, and is not morally good. The final objection one may make is that "you cannot legislate morality". However, this is easily demonstrated as false. All laws are legislating morality, as they say "do this", "don't do that", "you can do this", "you cannot do that". These are moral claims, and therefore since all laws do so, all laws are moral laws. The Constitution of the United States encourages moral laws as well, stating in the Preamble "We the people, in order to form a more perfect Union", and in Article I where is states Congress shall have the power to write "all laws necessary and proper", these are moral terms. Therefore, we can, we must, and we are expected to legislate morality.

It is clear then that it is permissible to legislate restrictions and obstacles to abortion, and there is no such thing as an "undue burden".

Thank you, and I hope this adequately answered your questions.

Dr. Levatino: Is abortion ever medically necessary?
Side: No, undue burden doesn't exist