Earrings, Abortions, and A Fortiori Arguments

Tonight on the news I heard this same old argument again: “If minors need parental permission to have their ears pierced, shouldn’t they have to get parental permission in order to have an abortion?”

foetus earrings? The assumption underlying this argument is clearly that if it’s okay to require parental permission in the case of something as relatively insignificant as ear piercing, it must be even more justified to require such permission in the case of abortion – as though the case for requiring parental consent were stronger for abortion than for ear piercing.

But surely the asymmetry goes precisely the other way. I don’t know what I think about requiring parental consent for ear-piercing – I haven’t given it much thought – but clearly no great harm is done to a child when parents refuse to allow ear-piercing, and so requiring parental consent in that instance, whether justified or not, is not especially burdensome to the child. But to force an underage girl to bring an unwanted pregnancy to term can ruin her life – to say nothing of the “merely” physical pain and danger involved. In brief: preventing one’s daughter from having an abortion counts as child abuse; preventing her from getting her ears pierced does not. Hence even if requiring paternal permission in the case of ear-piercing is legitimate, requiring parental permission in the case of abortion is not.

(Of course there’s the further nasty fact that in all too many instances the father of the pregnant girl is also the father, by incestuous rape, of her foetus, in which case requiring her to get her father’s consent is especially obscene. Anti-abortion websites dismiss this argument, trumpeting the statistic that incest results in pregnancy in only about one percent of cases. Some pro-choice websites list a much higher statistic, but suppose the lower figure is correct; it seems to show an astonishing callousness to dismiss that “one percent” as a small number. If one percent of all anti-abortion activists were being thrown off Beachy Head into the English Channel and then buried, I reckon it would seem like a large enough percentage then.)

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7 Responses to Earrings, Abortions, and A Fortiori Arguments

  1. Kevin November 7, 2007 at 12:26 am #

    Ah, fetuses on hooks, what a picture choice. How tasteful, Master! ; )

  2. Mike November 7, 2007 at 11:45 am #

    Yes, and lets not forget how many kids and ear-piercing places actually obey that rule about parental consent.

    My goodness the rebuttal almost writes itself…

  3. Administrator November 7, 2007 at 1:11 pm #


    Ah, but are they foetuses, or are they born babies, symbolically dragging their teenage mothers down just as they literally drag down her hapless earlobes?


    Not sure I see how the rebuttal writes itself. How does the willingness or unwillingness of kids and ear-piercing places to abide by parental consent affect the argument one way or the other? I claimed “The case against requiring parental consent is much stronger in case A than in case B.” How does “Parental consent often doesn’t happen in case B anyway” count as a reply?

  4. Kevin November 7, 2007 at 3:28 pm #


    You know, I have NO IDEA, on further reflection, why I thought they were fetuses rather than babies. Why would ANYONE make fetus earrings? (A fashion trend waiting to happen?) I guess I just ‘show a corrupt mind’.

  5. Dain November 7, 2007 at 4:53 pm #

    While on the topic of abortion, here’s something interesting:


    Apparently aboriton rates are the same whether illegal or not.

  6. Mike November 8, 2007 at 11:50 am #


    Well in a sense that kids and shops often don’t obey laws or rules requiring parental permission to get an ear piercing, because if a kid really wants an ear piercing, someone will give them one for a price, whether they have parental permission or not. All such rules do is provide opportunities for black market ear piercers to ply their trade and possibly endanger the kids seeking them.

    Now, replace ‘ear piercing’ with abortion, in a similar manner to the way those that make the ‘permission’ argument do. The very logic they use to require permission can be used to support the futility of such.

    I agree with your points, I am merely pointing out other flaws in their reasoning.

  7. Gene Callahan November 8, 2007 at 4:59 pm #

    “But to force an underage girl to bring an unwanted pregnancy to term can ruin her life…”

    As might the knowledge that she had unneccesarily killed her unborn child.

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