Calvin Freiburger


Brilliant new thought experiment may help abortion advocates see value of pre-born babies

Brilliant challenge throws the ‘burning clinic’ fallacy back in abortion zealots’ faces
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Calvin Freiburger By Calvin Freiburger

October 18, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) – If you’ve been reading abortion arguments on the internet for more than five minutes, odds are you’ve seen abortion apologists ask pro-lifers about a hypothetical fertility clinic that’s on fire.

It’s a thought experiment that asks us to imagine we have the chance to rescue a container full of frozen embryos or a born child – but not both. Most people are assumed to pick the latter, which supposedly reveals that deep down, not even the most ardent pro-lifer really believes embryos are people.

It’s nonsense, of course: scores and scores of pro-lifers have demolished the thought experiment on numerous occasions (including yours truly). In a nutshell, the scenario fails because it doesn’t change the objective scientific fact that embryos are people, and it confuses the additional variables forced on us in triage situations for statements of value and licenses to kill in non-emergencies.

Nevertheless it persists, usually accompanied by pro-aborts’ smug, simple-minded satisfaction that they just, like, totally owned those anti-choice yahoos.

We’re revisiting the burning clinic today because the folks at Dank Pro-Life Memes put a brilliant new spin on it Tuesday that deserves to be heard far and wide. Instead of asking pro-lifers to choose between embryos and adolescents, they’re asking abortion advocates whether they would save a pregnant or non-pregnant woman.  

Both women are equally valuable, but there’s a second person accompanying the former. Saving the pregnant woman means saving two people versus saving one. Of 211 votes, 95% chose to save the pregnant woman. 

Who would a pro-abort choose, though? I suspect most would also pick the pregnant woman, due to a blend of moral intuition and the rational assumption they’d be perceived as monsters if they didn’t (though one can’t help but wonder what rationale they’d come up with for prioritizing the one who wasn’t expecting).

But why would the presence of a "fetus" they consider to be essentially worthless make a difference? Out of respect for the mother valuing a child she wants? That can’t be it; the non-pregnant woman wants and values important things, too, and may very well have children of her own she desperately wants to see again.

There are any number of reasons to save a six-year-old over an embryo jar that don’t negate the embryos’ personhood – for example the terror and agony of a child who could perceive his immolation, the emotional torment his death would inflict on his parents and siblings. But, there is only one reason for choosing the pregnant woman: recognition that she carries something much more valuable than a cluster of extra cells.

Pro-aborts love the burning clinic fallacy because trying to undermine pro-lifers’ motives sidesteps having to defend abortion itself. So the next time you find yourself locked in debate with one of them, try putting their own logic to the test with this simple question.

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Calvin Freiburger

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Calvin Freiburger is a Wisconsin-based conservative writer and 2011 graduate of Hillsdale College. His commentary and analysis have been featured on NewsReal Blog, Live Action, and various other conservative websites. Before joining LifeSiteNews, he spent two years in Washington, DC, working to build support for the Life at Conception Act with the National Pro-Life Alliance, then worked a year and a half as assistant editor of You can follow him on Twitter @CalFreiburger, and check out his personal website,