Questions for Pro-Lifers

Earlier this week, I answered a set of “tough questions” posed to advocates of reproductive choice. Well, turnabout is fair play.

Although millions of religious people want abortion to be outlawed, they’re surprisingly vague on the details. What exactly would their ideal society look like? How would they write the law and how would violators be punished? These are plainly important and relevant questions that I’ve never seen anti-choicers address in a clear and comprehensive way.

To help them clarify their vision, here’s a set of questions that would allow us all to better evaluate whether the anti-abortion movement would have good or bad consequences for women, for men, and for society as a whole. As I’ve done in the past, I’ll add links from this post to any opponent of abortion who answers these questions.

* * *

  1. Biological evidence suggests that a large number, if not a majority, of fertilized eggs are spontaneously aborted at a very early stage of pregnancy (by some estimates, as many as 50%). Do you consider this an ongoing humanitarian crisis that urgently needs medical research?
  2. If you could write the law however you saw fit, how would you enforce a ban on abortion? For example, in El Salvador, when women come to hospitals seeking treatment for a miscarriage, they can be detained until a forensic vagina investigator can arrive and perform an exam to see if they had an illegal abortion. Would you have something like this? If not, what enforcement mechanism would you have?
  3. Why do you think it is that so many proposed abortion bans have no exception for the woman’s life or health? (For example, anti-abortion laws with no health exceptions exist in Chile, Honduras, Suriname and El Salvador. Even in the U.S., similar bans have been passed by Republican legislatures in Indiana and South Dakota.) Do you think there should be such an exception?
  4. Would you permit exceptions to an abortion ban in the case of rape? If so, how would this work? For a pregnant woman to get an abortion, would she have to accuse a specific person of the crime, and would he have to be tracked down, arrested, charged, put on trial and convicted, all before the point of fetal viability?
  5. What do you think the penalty should be for doctors who perform abortion?
  6. What do you think the penalty should be for women who seek out an abortion?
  7. If your answers to the last two questions are different, why are they different?
  8. Since IVF clinics also create and discard fertilized embryos, would you also be in favor of outlawing IVF?
  9. Since abortion has been legal in the United States for decades and doesn’t seem to be on the verge of being outlawed, do you think it would be a good idea, as a fallback, to make effective contraception more widely available so that there are fewer unwanted pregnancies and less need for abortion? If not, why not?
  10. If you would, address this purely hypothetical situation: There’s a five-alarm fire at a fertility clinic, and you’re the first firefighter to enter the building. On one side of the building, there’s a petri dish with half a dozen frozen embryos. On the other side, there’s a cowering five-year-old girl. You only have time to save one. Which would you choose and why?
  11. Bonus question for evangelical Christians: Until the late 1970s, many prominent evangelicals were pro-choice. Clearly, opinions on this matter have changed very dramatically in a relatively short amount of time. What do you think accounts for this?

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About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

  • Frank L. Ludwig

    It’s a shame nobody has answered this yet. Even though you address religious people, I imagine you’ll also accept the reply of a pro-life antitheist.

    1. This question does not apply to me because I don’t consider the zygote a human being; even though it has its individual DNA, it is not an organism at that stage. In my opinion life begins at implantation.

    2. I would treat it like any other law. If there were sufficient indications for a crime, the case would be investigated. But suspecting an abortion behind every miscarriage is simply paranoid.

    3. I am not an expert myself, yet I have heard from some experts that an abortion is never needed to save the mother’s life, but that the necessary treatment of the mother may cause a miscarriage. In either case I consider the mother’s life paramount. (This does not include threatening suicide, though.)

    4. The case of rape does not make the child’s life worthless. Apart from that, rape stories are commonly made up to obtain abortions, the most (in)famous case being that of Norma McCorvey (Roe v. Wade). As for how to deal with these situations, see point 9.

    5. I haven’t really thought about it, I imagine 10-20 years would be reasonable.

    6. Maybe 5-10 years, with the possibility of mitigating circumstances and a suspended sentence, especially if she already has children to look after.

    7. Firstly, for the doctor an abortion is business and makes a profit. Secondly, as someone in the medical profession he should know what he is doing to the child while the mother may be ignorant.

    8. See point 1 – since I don’t consider zygotes as human beings, I have no problem with IVF.

    9. In order to combat unwanted pregnencies, I think all types of contraception, including the morning after pill, should be freely and anonymously available to anyone and widely promoted, especially in schools, colleges and universities. This may sound very expensive, but it will save a lot of money in the long run because there will be less abortions.

    10. Are the frozen embryos zygotes? Anyway, I would think they’re being used for experiments and not survive, so I would save the older child.

  • http://bigthink.com/blogs/daylight-atheism Adam Lee

    This was originally posted on another site and got many replies. You can read my summary of the results here and here.


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