Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Debating Abortion on Campus

A story about one Catholic philosophy professor's quest to change minds about abortion - at Berkeley.  He has been doing the debate for 46 straight semesters.
"Have you ever been raped or been pregnant?" a young woman demanded.

You could almost see Dennehy rolling his eyes.

"Suppose I said yes," he said, unable to keep a slight snippiness out of his voice. "What's your next move?"

"I was just curious how your opinion would have changed if you were in that situation."

"What has that got to do with the validity of my argument?"

Her gambit failed; now she was on the defensive: "It's just a question."

"There are only two issues in an argument, miss," Dennehy said. "The facts, and the conclusions you draw from the facts.

"When we teach logic, that common fallacy is one of the first things we teach: shifting the attention of the argument and the evidence to the person arguing. It's absolutely irrelevant."

Potts sat attentively; students shifted a bit in their seats. If students thought Dennehy was going to play the avuncular, patient professor, they were wrong.

Dennehy, a Roman Catholic son of Irish immigrants and a father of four, began publicly arguing against abortion in 1969. Two years earlier, California Gov. Ronald Reagan had signed a law legalizing limited abortion. Dennehy became active in a local antiabortion group and was invited to make his case on a local radio station. After that, his debating career took off.

Each time he makes the trek across the Bay Bridge to debate Potts, he steels himself a little; he knows that, generally speaking, he is entering enemy territory.
Continue Reading.
Tip o' the hat to OSV Daily Take.


Eric said...

While it was a good thing to see that debate occuring in such foreign territory for prolife ideals, I did see one troubling sentence "Dennehy was unwavering. A woman can abort a fetus only to save her own life. In all other cases, even rape, abortion is tantamount to murder." This is out of line with Catholic teaching, is it not?

Marcel said...

I am guessing the person writing the article didn't understand some of the nuances he was making. There are non-abortive procedures that can save a woman's life and might cause the baby to die - without intending for that to happen.

So, my guess it was not the professor's point, but an error by the article's author.

Maggie said...

Dennehy has a fabulous little book called "Soldier Boy: The War between Michael and Lucifer" that at I highly, highly recommend. It's entirely dialogue, and it's great.