A Minute for Life: How to respond to ad hominem arguments

Welcome to a Minute for Life!

About abortion, comedian Dave Chappelle says, “If you have a d##k, you need to shut the f### up on this one, seriously.

This is a classic example of an ad hominem argument, that is, an argument that is directed against the person rather than against the position they are maintaining. In this case, it’s purpose is to either disqualify the male prolifer from arguing against abortion, or to distract them from even making the argument. Another example of an ad hominem argument is, “You prolifers don’t adopt or foster unwanted children, so you don’t have the moral authority to argue against abortion.”

When confronted by ad hominem arguments by pro-abortion people we tend to try to defend ourselves. But should we spend much time defending our right to speak out against abortion? Perhaps not. After identifying the statement as an ad hominem argument, we should say something like, “Okay, for the sake of argument, let’s pretend that I can’t speak out against abortion because I’m male. But you know that many females are against abortion. How would you respond to a female arguing against abortion?”

There are, however, some defenses to these ad hominem arguments. With respect to Mr. Chappelle’s statement, half of the unborn babies killed by abortion are male, so why couldn’t other males come to their defense? Or imagine if we tried telling nineteenth century abolitionists that they had no right to argue against slavery if they didn’t personally smuggle people out of slavery. That would be ridiculous. Slavery and abortion are both evil, and one needs no special qualifications or to do certain things before having the right to say so.

But again, the idea is to recognize the ad hominem argument, not let ourselves be distracted by it, and to try to steer the discussion back to the issue of humanity of the unborn.


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