Test Your Argument

The experimental Test Your Argument feature allows you to see how you'd fare against the arguments of the contributors. There are three steps, offering you three opportunities to extend, critique and build the best arguments possible.

The participants


Aisling Hubert - anti-abortion pressure group, Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform

Kate Greasley - lecturer in the University College London Faculty of Laws

Ed Condon - Catholic canon lawyer

Wendy Savage - retired gynaecologist


Giles Fraser - priest and polemicist.

Anne McElvoy - senior editor at The Economist.

Claire Fox - from the Institute of Ideas.

Tim Stanley - historian.

About the programme

Under the 1967 law, terminations were made legal for the first time in limited circumstances, with the agreement of two doctors. In practice this has meant that it has not usually been difficult to get an abortion in the first 6 months of pregnancy. The technology has changed: the threshold at which a baby has a good chance of surviving outside the womb has decreased, so at 23 weeks' gestation, one foetus might be aborted while another is put in intensive care. Social attitudes have changed and many doctors now support the official line of the British Medical Association which wants abortion to be decriminalised completely.

So is it time for abortion to be treated like any other medical procedure that is regulated by the General Medical Council? On the other side of the dispute are those who say the Act has been too liberally interpreted. With nearly 200,000 abortions a year in the UK, they say we effectively have 'abortion on demand' and they want the law to be tightened to protect the rights of 'pre-born children' and their mothers. Whatever the details of time-limits and interpretation of the law, the moral dividing line remains as deeply-etched as it was in 1967: it is between those who think a human life starts at conception and those who don't.

Have a go at taking part in the debate yourself. Can you make the best choices to win the argument?

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1   Strengthen

Here we want you to argue the anti-abortion case. There are different ways to make sure your line of argument is as strong as possible. Choose something from the boxes below to help you argue this view.

The unborn foetus should have human status in its own right.

Click now to select a line of argument that will best support the statement.

The most fundamental human right is the right to life Click to listen on iPlayer  
If we're going to say that an unborn child isn't able to have its own heartbeat, what about people with pacemakers? Click to listen on iPlayer  
Science says about the beginning of human life that at the moment of fertilisation, you've got a distinct, living and whole human being Click to listen on iPlayer  

Scientific evidence is often a strong basis from which to argue

Explicitly identifying your opponent’s potential argument (with a phrase like ‘if we're going to say that...’) and then attacking it can be rhetorically very powerful

A claim that is thematically strongly connected – that rights are fundamental, for example – works well as an attacking point

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2   Critique

Now let's try arguing the pro-abortion case. When you're arguing you need to develop the skill of critique as you're going along. That means listening hard to distinguish what types of claims are being made

A woman should have autonomy over her own body.

Can you see a factual statement to back this up?

Abortion is a question of rights Click to listen on iPlayer  
I also used to go on platforms and say, it's like a mass holocaust, and then I actually found out about the quickening and St Thomas Aquinas agreeing and I started thinking maybe... Click to listen on iPlayer  
It's the woman who has the baby, it's the woman whose body is changed Click to listen on iPlayer  

Facts can be drawn from all sorts of domains such as empirical observation, science and the law

Opinions are much more difficult to judge objectively

Stories and experiences are common in argument. But, does that mean it's valid for this person but not necessarily true for everyone?

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3   Impartiality

Can you create an argument based on good debating points that won’t be accused of being biased or based on vested interests?

Using the 24 week limit as a test for viability is no longer a reliable limit.

Can you construct an argument to make the case for the unreliability of the 24 week limit in 3 steps? Click the options to put them in order to reach the conclusion in Box 4.

Using the 24 week limit as a test for viability is no longer a reliable limit.

Choose the starting point for your argument:

Born at 23 weeks, in some hospitals, the survival rate is actually at 70 per cent Click to listen on iPlayer  
According to The Times of this year, born at 23 weeks, in some hospitals, the survival rate is actually at 70 per cent Click to listen on iPlayer  
A premature baby at 24 weeks has a pretty good chance of actually living Click to listen on iPlayer  

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4   Position

To give us helpful feedback, tell us where you stand on the spectrum. Are you in favour of tightening the law on the time limit for an abortion or liberalising it?

Liberalise the Law
Tighten the Law



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