Reductio ad absurdum is a debate device that boils an argument down to its most absurd conclusion in order to demonstrate its speciousness. As one would imagine, while presenting such an argument will never change the absurd thinking of ultra-right wing lawmakers and the Court, it can certainly expose their hypocrisy.
This week Brandy Bottone, a pregnant Texan person (note we do not refer to people as men or women any longer as they may be offended by being incorrectly referred to as what they appear to be) employed reductio ad absurdum when she argued with an officer who issued a ticket for driving alone in an HOV zone. She argued that, since she was pregnant, her fetus was a passenger. Thus there were two people in the car.
The great state of Texas may have to make a hard decision now that the state penal code recognizes a fetus as a full fledged person, but the state transportation code does not. Oh, the decision isn’t difficult philosophically. Of course fetuses are full fledged humans in any circumstance. Just ask the medical science experts on the Supreme Court. But just think of all the traffic citation income red states are going to lose if Brandy prevails. One of their codes has to be correct, so which is it? In Texas, the expense incurred by people being compelled to bear the burden of bringing a new mouth to feed into the world is of no consequence compared with the sanctity of fetal life. But maybe it’s a different matter if the state coffers have to forego a source of income when all those pregnant people become, logically, exempt from HOV traffic violations. This argument could stir up a hornet’s nest of complex legal cases if airlines or theaters cite it as justification for charging pregnant people for two tickets. I would not want to be the judge presiding over that case.
Also on a reductio note, a friend sent me a copy of an add that someone had placed in the paper offering a $1,000 award to any restaurant server who would deliver an egg to the table of an anti-abortion politician who ordered chicken. How do you want your chicken, Senator, scrambled or over easy?
Speaking of fine dining, have you read about the protest pro-choice folks staged outside of Morton’s Steak House where Brett Kavanaugh was trying to enjoy his $150 steak dinner? Courtesy of the NRA no doubt. Probably along with “a few” beers. The management stated he had the “right” to congregate and eat dinner in peace. Alexandra Petri, the brilliant Washington Post satirist, wrote a sublime rejoinder to that claim in her column, “Sorry but the Constitution contains no right to eat dinner,” (July 9, 2022 ). It’s a classic exercise in reductio ad absurdum that makes this writer green with envy. In fact, stop reading this pale excuse for a blog immediately and google that article. You won’t regret it.
Getting back to riding in cars with fetuses, obviously Texas transportation law is inconsistent with reality not only in that it does not recognize a fetus as a passenger, but it also fails to recognize the right of a fetus to acquire a driver’s license. The practical reason why there are HOV lanes is to discourage people with licenses from driving alone in their own cars instead of car pooling. Those who do not have the option to drive themselves don’t have the option to clog up the highway, so should they really count as occupants? Follow the logic to it’s ultimate conclusion. The way I see it, when you boil it all down, that not only includes fetuses but anyone who does not have a license. I don’t envy the Texas transportation department if they will have to sort out this conundrum.
This still leaves us with the problem of how a fetus can ride shotgun if they don’t have the option to purchase one. Not to worry. The way things are going, I doubt that will remain an impediment for long.