Rape is About Power and Control – So Are Abortion Bans – Keep Abortion Safe and Legal, Huh?

  • Hendrik van der Breggen, Author
  • Retired Associate Professor of Philosophy, Providence
Billboard posted by pro-choice group along freeway near Albuquerque, New Mexico.

“Rape is about power and control. So are abortion bans. Keep abortion safe and legal.” Or so we are supposed to think, at least according to some billboards posted by a pro-choice group along a freeway near Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Is the argument a good one? Answer: Nope.

The first premise – i.e., the claim that rape is about power and control – seems very much to be true, so there’s no disputing it. However, the second premise – i.e., the claim that abortion bans are similarly about power and control – is problematic. And thus the move from the premises to the conclusion – i.e., the claim that we should keep abortion safe and legal – is also problematic.

Why? Because there’s a faulty analogy in the second premise: abortion bans are not about power and control as rape is. Yes, abortion bans and rape are about power and control in a sense. Some power and control is being exerted in both cases. That’s a similarity, yes. But it’s a superficial similarity. There is also a hugely significant DISsimilarity that renders the premise’s comparison faulty. Whereas rape involves power and control over women (and some men), bans on abortion are significantly NOT like rape. Unlike rape, bans on abortion are about stopping the exercise of power and control that harms other human beings (children). So bans on abortion are more like BANS ON RAPE which stop the exercise of power and control that harms other human beings (mostly women).

Thus, the argument fails to justify the conclusion. It commits the fallacy of faulty analogy.*


* The argument might also commit the fallacy of question-begging (i.e., to assume mistakenly as established what is at issue). The argument might also assume that the unborn are not human beings or not persons or both. On the question of whether the unborn are human beings, see sections 2, 5, and 6 of the following article, and on the question of whether the unborn are persons, see section 7: “Untangling popular “pro-choice” claims and arguments concerning abortion.

Note to critics: Please take a look at least a few of my previous articles on abortion (see archives) before offering a comment or criticism. Thanks.

Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is a retired philosophy professor (formerly at Providence University College, Manitoba) and author of the book Untangling Popular Pro-Choice Arguments: Critical Thinking about Abortion.