BreakPoint: Don’t Argue the Exceptions

Beating Bad Arguments for Abortion and Transgenderism

“But what about the . . . ?” Has a rare exception every stumped you when making the case for life or anything else? Here’s how to respond with grace and truth.

“Humans have ten fingers and ten toes.” Now that shouldn’t strike anyone as a controversial statement, since almost every person ever born has had twenty digits. But what if someone argued in response that, because there are exceptions to this—people who because of injury or genetic defect lack a digit or two—we ought not describe ten fingers and ten toes as normal or descriptive of being human?

We’d rightly think that a silly argument, of course. So why do we tolerate this same kind of reasoning in modern social debates?

Take abortion. Perhaps you’ve heard someone challenge the prolife view with this exception: “Well what about rape and incest, or the life of the mother?” Or take gender. Folks ask me all the time, “But what about those born with ambiguous genitalia?”

These objections stop a lot of Christians in their tracks. But they shouldn’t.

When pro-choice activists insist that we can’t outlaw abortion because some pregnancies result from rape and incest, or endanger the life of the mother, they’re ignoring the fact that in nearly all abortions none of these considerations are factors at all. Rather, healthy babies are killed simply because they’re inconvenient.

Now don’t get me wrong. I don’t support the intentional taking of unborn life under any circumstance. As Live Action President Lila Rose often points out, the unborn are human beings no matter what the circumstances of their conception. Rape and other sexual crimes are monstrous, but abortion doesn’t undo those wrongs, it only creates another victim.

Arguing about exceptions like these only muddies the waters. And sometimes, that’s exactly what the pro-choice side wants.

The same thing happens when someone brings up ambiguous genitalia in the transgender debate. This condition is tragic, and the subject requires great care. But it’s also extremely rare—by most estimates, in fact, occurring in just one in twenty-two thousand births. In other words, when we allow this tiny fraction of a percent to control the entire debate, we obscure the overwhelming reality.

And so, for the sake of discussion, instead of arguing about the exceptions, why not just grant them? When someone challenges you about extreme cases for abortion, try replying this way: “Okay, let’s say we keep abortion legal in these rare cases. What about the other ninety-six percent of abortions that are elective? Can we end those?”

Nine times out of ten, you’ll hear crickets.

Likewise, when it comes to gender, grant that in cases of ambiguous genitalia, there really is a biological basis for doubt and that we must rethink medical practices that too quickly label someone male or female if the physical evidence isn’t clear.

By granting the exceptions, we force the other person to face the real questions, or admit they’re using rare cases as wedges for their real agenda.

But more importantly, these exceptions actually prove the principles we believe in. Here’s what I mean: If someone says, “if a baby was conceived in a crime, we have the right to kill her,” that person is appealing to the circumstances under which the baby was conceived. To then argue that abortion should be legal in all cases is to admit that circumstances don’t in fact matter. That my friend, is called a contradiction.

Same thing is true with transgenderism. To argue that biology matters in the case of ambiguous genitalia and then argue that biology doesn’t matter with clearly defined genitalia is nonsense. Our response should be: Biology matters or it doesn’t. Pick one.

Look, rare cases are tough and complicated. But that doesn’t mean that all or even most of the other cases are. So the next time someone argues for abortion or gender fluidity from an exception, grant it and then confront them with the vast majority of cases. And if they refuse, just ask them how many fingers and toes they have.


Further Reading and Information

Don’t Argue the Exceptions: Beating Bad Arguments for Abortion and Transgenderism

The apostle Paul urged Timothy to “be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.”  Let’s heed that encouragement. Do your homework and be prepared to respond in a winsome and truthful manner to those who would “argue to the exception.”


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A Practical Guide to Culture: Helping the Next Generation Navigate Today's World
  • John Stonestreet, Brett Kunkle | David C. Cook Publishers | June 2017
Reasons given for having abortions in the United States
  • Wm. Robert Johnston | | January 18, 2016
Exception Fallacy description
  • Changing Minds website

Comment Policy: Commenters are welcome to argue all points of view, but they are asked to do it civilly and respectfully. Comments that call names, insult other people or groups, use profanity or obscenity, repeat the same points over and over, or make personal remarks about other commenters will be deleted. After multiple infractions, commenters may be banned.

  • Just one of many voices

    This article pin-pointed one of the things my eyes were open to when I took research methods for my master’s degree. “New research says…” “A new study suggests…”

    So often, these “studies” are simply throwing out data that does not support their hypothesis.

    • gladys1071

      the same can be said about the pro-life side, they throw out data that does not support their agenda, each side has its arguments.

      I side on the side of a woman has a right to refuse to gestate for 9 months.

      • AtTheCrossroads

        Hey gladys1071, to be consistent, would you then also argue that a mother has the right to refuse the inconvenience of caring for her infant? If she’s a humane person and doesn’t want to watch her infant die, can she just inject it with a saline shot to the brain? When would you grant a young girl the right to live . . . even if it inconveniences others? When does the right to live trump another’s right to not be inconvenienced? Perhaps you would say the mother could look to adopt her baby out. As one who has adopted, I can tell you this takes time, effort, and inconvenience, too. Why not let the mother kill her infant rather than be inconvenienced with round-the-clock care until she can adopt her out? “You shall not murder” is pretty clear, wouldn’t you say . . . and also kind of important. Jeremiah 6:16 NIV

        • gladys1071

          Read my comment again. I was referring to pregnancy and gestation. I believe in that situation a woman’s right to refuse to gestate should supersede.

          Please don’t compare taking care of newborn, 2 year old any already born child to GESTATION. I am strictly referring to pregnancy only. A woman owns her body and she has a right to refuse to gestate for 9 months.

          I don’t consider abortion equivalent to murder.

          • Just one of many voices

            Hmm, maybe you need to read my comment again too?

            I was simply referring to research at large, any topic; never even hinted at a specific group. I certainly never said pro-lifers were an exception to dishonesty.

            Forgive me if I took this wrong, but your words seemed to jump straight out of the box with an attack on pro-lifers. Is there something behind that? Looking at your history of comments, it looks like, perhaps, others have really condemned you at times.

            *sigh* Alas, it only takes a few to give Christianity a bad name (or any group I suppose). Only a few of the very judgmental types to make us all seem spiteful; only a few that compromise the beliefs to make the whole boat feel unsafe.

            As I exit, I’m thinking of John 8, were Jesus shows grace toward the prostitute, and especially James 2:12-13 where it says to “speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.”

            And for the Pharisee reading this, neither I nor the Bible said that this mercy permits us to compromise and sin when it’s convenient. It is saying we must show mercy & forgiveness to others, or else we will not receive it.

          • gladys1071

            Thank you for being gracious even if we disagree on this issue. Yes I have been attacked for having a different view on this issue.

          • Just one of many voices

            Cool, so nice to meet someone who can talk & disagree in a civilized manner!

          • gladys1071

            i appreciate it, i have been attacked a lot for being a Christian and moderate pro-choicer. I just have a really hard time taking away a woman’s right to her body and elevating embryo/fetus rights.

          • gladys1071

            Yes I agree with what you say. I was just stating that both pro-lifers and pro-choicers twist facts to favor their view, it is troublesome, I wish both sides could have a better dialogue, but I have found that each side in entrenched with is unfortunate.

  • EarlT


    ” A Picture is worth a thousand words ”

    ” google Abortion Pictures ”

    is a phrase that can help change minds.

    If people do

    google ” Abortion Pictures ”

    then they can See for themselves.


    Use the phrase

    ” google Abortion Pictures ”

    in Debates, and Writings.



  • Robert Callino

    I would like to make an analogy. Having sex is a bit like driving a car. Just as you can have an accident with a car, your birth control can fail. If we have an accident with our car and it is our fault, we have to pay. The same thing with gestation. The problem is that human beings in the womb are not considered worthy of having any rights by pro-choicers. Pro-lifers consider them persons and pro-choicers do not. Since feti and embryos are human, they deserve to have the right to life. We all start out that way. I know that they are small, undeveloped and in the mother’s body. All the more reason to protect them.

  • Robert Callino

    This is the point that I was making. Pro-choicers do not grant equal rights to the unborn and pro-lifers do. Another example would be if you invite a person to live in your house and then you kill them. For a pro-lifer the womb is the house. We cannot agree because our definition of a person is different. The privacy-bodily integrity argument fails, if the embryo-fetus is a person. This is what the SCOTUS said in Roe v Wade and it still holds to this day.

    • gladys1071

      You cannot grant equal rights to two people inhabiting the same body. What pro-lifers want is to give the embryo/fetus SPECIAL rights, meaning the right to be gestated inside another person’s body that is NOT EQUAL, that is SPECIAL/BEYOND equal rights.. You are right the womb is like a house, the house Owner OR uterus owner has a right to refuse gestation and controls the contents of the house/uterus. Now i don’t consider the embryo a person, but even if it was, it should not be granted SPECIAL RIGHTS to be gestated and STRIP the uterus owner of her rights.

      • Gina Dalfonzo

        Gladys1071, frankly, it sounds like you’ve declared war on biology. I’m sorry to have to tell you that the odds here are not in your favor.

        • gladys1071

          you are probably right, i am guessing most people here completely dismiss a woman’s right to her body and she is completely forgotten in the equation.

          • Josiah Stark

            You dismiss a woman’s right to someone else’s body that she has become responsible for carrying. You realize that if a pregnant woman is killed, it’s considered a double homicide right?

            The only thing I can gather is that it doesn’t matter what we say or how we say it because you pro-choicers are content with your choices. Changing the definition of a person to justify escaping an inconvenience (severe or not) is controlled sociopathy. It is much like how we emotionally distance ourselves from deaths that are not related to us. Because you’ve lied to yourself that it’s not a living thing, you need not enter the grief of it.

            Or if you would like the simple explanation, our values are completely different.

          • gladys1071

            i actually disagree with the double homicide law, since the fetus/embryo is not considered a person under the law, so that law it is a contradiction.

            Actually the woman has a right to refuse to gestate for 9 months doesn’t matter that it is a life, her rights to refuse to be incubator supersedes the embryo/fetus claims to her uterus. It may sound callous to you but, if a woman does not have a right to her body than she has nothing. You have failed to think through the ramifications of banning abortion and forcing women to gestate unwanted pregnancies. You want to elevate embryo/fetus to have MORE rights than the pregnant woman, and reduce them to 2nd class citizens

            Would you compel or force a loved one of yours to gestate an unwanted pregnancy? does that seem compassionate to you?