Abortion Debate

This activity teaches students the value of logical consistency through a debate on abortion.Students are split into pro-life and pro-choice groups.  They are asked to come up with a consistent position keeping in mind the readings on abortion done prior to class.  The class then has a debate followed by a discussion.  This activity sets up papers that the students later write by emphasizing the importance of logical consistency.   Below are the instructions:

Should abortion be legal?

Develop a coherent, defensible version of your position that everyone on your side is going to rally around.  For example, if you’re the pro-choice group, think about whether the legality of your position comes from the fact that there’s nothing morally objectionable about abortion, or because of the women’s right to choose.  Also think about whether or not you support all forms of abortion, or only abortion in the first two trimesters.  If you’re pro-life group, think about Thomson’s distinction between strong pro-life and weak pro-life—that is, decide whether you want to ban abortion under all circumstances, or whether you want to make exceptions for rape and whether there’s a threat to a mother’s life.


Development of positions and opening statements – 15 minutes

Take 10 minutes to decide on your specific position and to come up with a 1 minute opening statement, which each side will choose one person to present.  (During this time, you should choose someone to listen carefully during the debate and come up with a closing statement.)


Q & A – 25 minutes

After that, I will ask each side three questions, alternating between each side. (Responses should last no longer than 1 minute.) The other side will have an opportunity to respond (1 minute), and the initial group with have the opportunity to put forth a rebuttal (1 minute).

Though I will grade participation on being an active participant in the formation of your group’s position, and not just on formal debate performance, please make a deliberate effort to give as many different persons as possible the opportunity to speak.  No single person should dominate their group’s responses.


Closing statements – 5 minutes

Each side will have 2 minutes to deliver a closing statement.