A Pro-Life Refutation of the Bodily Rights Argument for Abortion

Opinion   |   Josh Brahm   |   Jun 9, 2013   |   8:00PM   |   Washington, DC

This is a recording presenting the “de facto guardian” argument at the Students for Life of America Regional Leadership Summit at the University of Southern California (see picture below).

During my presentation, I describe both types of bodily rights arguments, discusses the most common pro-life responses to the violinist analogy and why they are unpersuasive to many pro-choice atheists, and then explains the de facto guardian argument that may solve this problem.

Listen to the speech: Download Audio MP3 | 00:47:06

JoshBrahm-BodilyRightsSpeechIn listening back to this audio, I believe I failed to properly credit a few of the ideas I spoke about. Giving credit where credit’s due is really important to me, and in the context of this live speech environment where the seminar was running late and it wasn’t clear how much time I would have, I forgot to credit some of the ideas I communicated.

As I said in the speech, the De Facto Guardian concept is primarily Steve Wagner and Tim Brahm’s idea. (Although crediting that concept is really complicated and a longer explanation of this is on the first page of the de facto guardian paper.) We came up with several stories to illustrate the idea, but the Cabin in the Blizzard story that we ultimately chose is Steve Wagner’s story.

Also, the way that I talk about rape is heavily influenced by Steve Wagner.

The last thing that I did mention but I wish I had emphasized more was how much I respect the pro-life leaders that have taught some of the arguments that I believe aren’t very persuasive to atheists.

Virtually every pro-life philosopher and apologist that have had any influence in my life have taught these concepts, as have I. I probably wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now if it wasn’t for their work. And while I believe their responses to the violinist story may be true ideas on a principled level, I am arguing that their responses have pragmatic problems, because they are unpersuasive if an atheist doesn’t agree to certain worldview assumptions, and because in some cases they don’t explain why chemical abortions should be illegal.


  1. What is Right to Life of Central California?
  2. Wouldn’t “good Samaritan laws” obligate the woman in the cabin to feed the child?
  3. What is the morally relevant difference between your cabin story and Thomson’s violinist story?
  4. So when rape comes up on campus, should I start with the “cabin in the blizzard” story?

Related Links:

  • Click here to read and discuss the de facto guardian paper, published by Steve Wagner for the JFA Philosophy Team.