When Abortion Is the Merciful Option

Last week, voters in Albuquerque decisively defeated a ballot measure that would have banned abortion in the city after 20 weeks, by a ten-point margin. The failed ban, which made no exceptions for rape, incest or fatal fetal abnormality, was the culmination of a months-long campaign by anti-choice groups in the city, including a grossly offensive protest outside the New Mexico Holocaust Museum and a truck bearing the usual gory fetus pictures.

Since the bill was defeated by a solid margin and a similar ban has failed to advance in the Democratic-controlled state legislature, it seems likely that the anti-choice forces are stopped in their tracks for now. But their choice of Albuquerque wasn’t random: The city is the site of the Southwestern Women’s Options Clinic, one of just three clinics in the entire country (!) that offers abortion services up to 28 weeks of pregnancy.

Although a 20-week ban isn’t even arguably constitutional under current precedent, it would have been terrible for the clinic and the women who need its services if the ballot measure had passed. At the very least, the clinic would have faced a lengthy and expensive legal battle just to stay open, and the case could well have ended up before a hostile Supreme Court willing to reverse Roe.

Along with the Supreme Court letting stand two lower court rulings striking down Oklahoma anti-choice laws (one requiring unnecessary transvaginal ultrasounds and state-mandated shaming scripts, the other outlawing medication abortions), Albuquerque is a rare bright spot for choice in a national landscape that’s depressingly seemed to run mostly the other way in recent years. A case in point are the new Texas TRAP laws that have shut down many abortion clinics in the state with completely unjustified and medically nonsensical requirements about hospital admitting privileges.

Despite all their cloying rhetoric about love, the religious right has no concern for the women who are hurt by bans like this. For a concrete example, take this tragic story of a Chilean couple who found out, at 23 weeks of pregnancy, that their fetus had hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a serious malformation that’s swiftly fatal on its own. But the only treatment for HLHS is a series of difficult, dangerous open-heart surgeries beginning just after birth, with complications like brain damage the likely result. In the end, they decided that this amounted to futile treatment, and – since Chile has a no-exceptions abortion ban – had to travel to the U.S., to Southwest or a clinic like it, for an abortion. (Obviously, this particular couple had the means for that, though many others wouldn’t.)

Remember stories like this when you hear right-wing Christians prattling about how we have to ban abortion because of fetal pain. A ban like the one they wanted in Albuquerque would here have inflicted, not prevented, unbearable suffering, for both the infant doomed to a probable short and painful life and the parents who’d be forced to witness it. When women seek abortion, especially late-term abortion, it’s almost always because it’s the merciful option. The people who truly have the most compassion are the women and the doctors who make these difficult, realistic choices – not the religious fundamentalists who want to reduce everything to a morality play where human suffering doesn’t matter as long as everyone is reciting the proper lines.

Image credit: Shutterstock

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.

  • L.Long

    Well thanks for not using the lame title “pro-life”.
    As we all know they should named the “pro-fetus & Pro-dead women’ group.”
    And they have said ‘we have to ban abortion because of fetal pain’
    Well by that logic we should ban living because ya know life is pain.

  • http://batman-news.com Anton

    Great post.

    I’m a Christian, but I’m also pro-choice. A friend of the family and his wife had a baby with severe birth defects and developmental problems. Aside from the trauma and financial cost to the family, the suffering that the child went through before dying in extreme pain is nothing that a compassionate human being would want someone to undergo.

  • http://www.calgarysecularchurch.org/ Korey Peters

    “Forced-birth” is my preferred term.

  • Azkyroth

    I think “anti-choice” is most on point.

  • smrnda

    Just wondering, how does this go over with other Christians? I know that there exist some denominations that are pro choice, but overall, it’s one of those *official doctrines* in a lot of churches.

  • http://batman-news.com Anton

    That’s true, pro-life dogma has been pretty well instilled into the collective imagination of the pious in America. I don’t claim to speak for anyone but myself.

    In terms of Dennet’s religion-as-meme-complex, the pro-life issue developed as a rallying point for an evangelical community that thrives on culture war and discrimination. Pro-life isn’t some rational basis for activism, it’s a hate group that dehumanizes women.

  • Martin Penwald

    I can´t see the goal of the gory-pictured van. If you take pictures of an open-heart surgery, it would be gore too, but I don´t think it´ll help banning open-heart surgery.

    And, by the way, new-born childs are a very ugly sight just after the birth. Only their parents find them beautiful.

    So, what´s the point of this van, except claiming the stupidity of its owners ?

  • Viola

    It would be difficult for me to hazard a guess, because the church I was raised in was extremely liberal, but I think views on abortion may actually be distributed fairly evenly. Anti-choice churches do shout the loudest, but I’d be surprised if the really hardcore stance were the actual majority.

  • smrnda

    True. I’m aware that a number of denominations were pro choice until recently as well; it really is all a culture war tactic.

    I suspect that a number of Christians who are part of pro-forced-birth denominations really dissent privately on that, much the way Catholics probably dissent on a vast majority of points, but that many keep quiet.

    These days I find that we’re getting some Protestants opposing contraception, whereas in the past, this was seen as a major difference between the two camps. I suspect it’s part of a pissing contest to see who has more ‘pro life cred’ “You people think you’re pro life? We’re so pro life we’re anti CONTRACEPTION!” “O yeah, we’re anti contraception now too! And pro families with 15 – 20 kids! Beat that!”

  • http://batman-news.com Anton

    I suspect it’s part of a pissing contest to see who has more ‘pro life cred’

    I suspect you’re right. Think back to the good old days when pro-life hard-liners had the presence of mind to declare that they’d exclude victims of rape & incest from being forced to undergo pregnancy and childbirth. Nowadays even that much sanity is a thing of the past. The inflationary spiral of these displays of piety have real consequences, and real victims.

  • Jason Wexler

    “Oh yeah we are pro-polgyny, with women returned to their proper role as chattel, and rape for infidels!”

  • Jason Wexler

    Not true my best friend (who is a mother) has always said that babies aren’t cute until 6 months and that hers were particularly hideous newborns.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/daylightatheism Adam Lee

    The “inflationary spiral of piety” is a great phrase. I think Slacktivist, one of my favorite bloggers, has described the same phenomenon. Because a claim to greater purity than everyone else is how you attract attention and followers, when everyone is extreme, you have to be even more extreme to stand out from the pack.

    This also explains how right-wing evangelical opposition to abortion has expanded, seemingly just within the last decade, to also include opposition to nearly all forms of contraception. It’s a ratcheting process, and I have no idea where it ends.

  • J_Enigma32

    Many of them support the death penalty, and they also oppose universal healthcare measures and public assistance to children and single mothers. Many of them don’t even pay good tips to waitresses and waiters, and pull very cruel stunts where they leave these little religious tracts that look like 10 or 20 dollar bills, and they’re content to stand by and do nothing but cast aspersions as an entire generation drowns in debt.

    I think “Anti-Human” fits, too.

  • J_Enigma32

    I love the dizzying logic loops you get when you factor in their little “Age of Accountability” (how they justify their sociopathic god without having to admit he’s sociopathic), and things get even more interesting.

    According to the Age of Accountability, God will not send any child that is younger than X-years (usually right up until the preteens; once you’re a teen, you know all about sex and icky stuff so you’re not innocent anymore) to Hell. This little Voodoo Shark solves the problem, in their mind, of their murderous demon god broiling unsaved baby souls over open hellfire (tis the season).

    The problem is: If you know what the Age of Accountability is, by letting anyone live beyond that, you’re damning them to Hell. You are making that choice; if you had simply killed them before they got that far, they’re guaranteed a fast-track ticket to heaven. Since that’s murder, though, the obvious solution to guarantee your innocent little baby goes to heaven is to “kill it in the womb” – after all, Heaven is surely populated with every misshapen and malformed embryo, fetus, and other spontaneous God-abortion (i.e., miscarriage). So if you want to be a moral person, and you want to ensure as many souls get into heaven as possible, you would be ensuring these souls die before the hit the age of accountability. And the best part? That’s totally legal in every state!

    Which is to say, you’d be pro-abortion. You’d only only be pro-abortion, you’d be demanding that every child be aborted, because to do otherwise is to run the risk of damning that child yourself.

    It wouldn’t be the first time right-winger positions don’t make sense when you try to fit the puzzle pieces together to for a cohesive bigger picture, but i find this instance very amusing nevertheless.

  • Verbose Stoic

    The argument that this would be moral only works under the most common secular morality found on these groups, the idea that what is moral is to do what is in the “best interest” of a person or people. Thus, your argument holds: if there is a heaven, and if the child will go to heaven if they are killed before the Age of Accountability, and might go to Hell if they are killed after that (most religions don’t think that you can tell at that point if the person is going to go to Hell or not), then it is in the best interest of the child to kill them before then, and therefore it is moral to do so.

    This is based on the idea that it is moral to kill someone if you deem it to be in their best interest for them to die, which is what underlies the point in the OP as well. Again, this is a common view in the new humanist secular morality. The problem is that under almost all religious moralities and under a good number of secular moralities — Kant, most Virtue Theories, and right-based moralities — it’s not moral, but still immoral, because they all REJECT the idea that you can kill someone if you deem it to be in their best interest. Sure, some of them limit it to “with their permission”, but for the most part you don’t get to kill someone just because you think they’d be better off if you did.

    So, it isn’t the case that the right-winger positions don’t make sense when you fit them together, because it only becomes nonsensical when you slip in a premise that they don’t support, but that follows from a left-winger moral position instead. Without that insertion, the argument fails.

    And that’s actually where the debate is in this case, even though most who argue it ignore what the debate is. It’s the clash over “Can you kill someone if you deem it to be in their best interest?”, with the religious side leaning “No” and the secular side leaning “Yes”. But there are good reasons to favour either side.

  • L.Long

    Good call ‘J’
    ‘Anti-choice’ is BS.
    If they were anti-choice then the woman can’t make the decision.
    OK as far as that goes. But if a doctor says the fetus is not viable, and going further may kill the woman, the Ahole Catlickers have shown themselves to be Pro-dead -woman and Pro-dead-Parasite, If you don’t think so then you have not been following the news.

  • GCT

    So, it isn’t the case that the right-winger positions don’t make sense when you fit them together…

    Nope, it is the case, and on multiple levels.

    A) If you claim it is immoral to “murder” therefore one should not do it, no matter the ends, then you’re making an argument that the ends don’t justify the means. But, this is a laughable argument to make when trying to justify the Biblical god for what I hope are obvious reasons.

    B) If you claim an absolutist view, then it is absolutely true that salvation is the highest good. Thus, there is no question what is best for someone. I’m not the one deciding what is best for someone else, as god has already done that. And, this leads to…

    C) It IS moral to want what is best for your children. And, if an unwed, teenage bride feels that she is already destined for hell, then it could be considered the ultimate sacrifice that she cement her place in hell in order to ensure that her baby (or babies, plural) should never have to suffer the same consequences.

    D) Also, we know murder is not actually immoral so long as god is pleased by it, so one can easily make the argument that god wants as many souls in heaven as possible, so the person who aborts as many souls as possible is doing god’s will, hence it is not immoral at all.

    And that’s actually where the debate is in this case, even though most who argue it ignore what the debate is. It’s the clash over “Can you kill someone if you deem it to be in their best interest?”, with the religious side leaning “No” and the secular side leaning “Yes”. But there are good reasons to favour either side.

    If by “the debate” you mean the case of whether it’s better to abort to send the soul to heaven guaranteed or not, I’d argue as I did above. If you mean the abortion debate itself, I’ll point out this is simply false. The debate is not about murder, but about the control of women.

  • GCT

    So, what´s the point of this van, except claiming the stupidity of its owners ?

    They’re hoping most people will simply have a visceral reaction to the pictures and create a negative feeling association with abortion.

  • Verbose Stoic

    A) If you claim it is immoral to “murder” therefore one should not do it, no matter the ends, then you’re making an argument that the ends don’t justify the means. But, this is a laughable argument to make when trying to justify the Biblical god for what I hope are obvious reasons.

    Except that most of those that might try to justify the specific actions or demands of God in that sense will make an exception for God, usually in terms of an argument of “God gives us life, and so God can take it away. We, however, cannot, because to do so would be making ourselves to be God, and that’s possibly the greatest sin we could do.” Even if they took a Utilitarian view, there are many ways to claim that in the Biblical cases there really does have that much more utility, even by invoking “self-defense” issues. And, at any rate, you certainly wouldn’t be doing it because you judged that it was in their own self-interest, which means you’d have to suss out the difference in most cases between notions like “self-defense” and “preservation of culture/society”.

    Of course, for most Christians, they can also sweep at least some of those OT examples under the rug through various means, including claiming that we and the world were so much more barbaric then, but that now there really is no need to act that barbarically, and to preserve that here. In short, to argue that we couldn’t take the strong stance on not killing people then, but we can and so should now.

    And for me personally, remember the “Stoic” view, which is actually probably harsher in this case than most Christian views, which would at least acknowledge the suffering as a concern, while the Stoics would not (whether they’d allow the abortion or not is an interesting question, and one that they didn’t really face when they were writing). The Stoics, however, would clearly not allow you to kill someone to get to heaven, even those that might accept that view.

    B) If you claim an absolutist view, then it is absolutely true that salvation is the highest good. Thus, there is no question what is best for someone. I’m not the one deciding what is best for someone else, as god has already done that. And, this leads to…

    But, of course, is irrelevant if you don’t think that people should be killed simply because you think it is in their best interests, as opposed to being clear that God thinks that they should indeed be killed in that case. It’s debatable whether being killed before one has had the chance to accept God or not is better than allowing the child to grow up and, while possibly being damned but also earning their reward. And the ultimate answer to all of these cases is simple: if God wants them to die, God will arrange it so that they do, as that will be part of their “life plan”. To interfere without being told to by God would be, again, acting as God, and pretty much all Christian faiths call that the ultimate presumptive sin, even if too many Christians act like it anyway.

    C) It IS moral to want what is best for your children. And, if an unwed, teenage bride feels that she is already destined for hell, then it could be considered the ultimate sacrifice that she cement her place in hell in order to ensure that her baby (or babies, plural) should never have to suffer the same consequences.

    But even you have to agree that it isn’t always moral to act to achieve that, which is the case with the “kill all children now!” idea for almost all Christian faiths. And note that a very large number of Christian faiths deny that she is destined for Hell, and could in fact be redeemed at some point, so that doesn’t even work for most of them either.

    D) Also, we know murder is not actually immoral so long as god is pleased by it, so one can easily make the argument that god wants as many souls in heaven as possible, so the person who aborts as many souls as possible is doing god’s will, hence it is not immoral at all.

    You can argue that, but no Christian religion accepts that, and it is very shaky theologically. And note that this argument contradicts A) above as I pointed out. So the easy counter is “When God actually tells you that that’s the case, then fine, but if He doesn’t, then you have to accept the best thoughts of whatever denomination you’re following … and none of them think that’s acceptable.” Note that both the stories of “The Good Shepherd” and “The Prodigal Son” strongly contradict the idea that it’s some sort of contest of numbers; God values each soul individually, and so won’t be happy with you losing yours to save theirs.

    If you mean the abortion debate itself, I’ll point out this is simply false. The debate is not about murder, but about the control of women.

    So you say. But that assessment is like the above: based on YOUR worldview, not theirs.

  • J_Enigma32

    Ah, okay. It makes so much sense. So a right-winger will just agree in killing someone else when it’s in the right-winger’s best interest (i.e., the death penalty) rather than the person’s own interest.

    Thank you for proving my point in a very vivid way. We won’t kill people to save them, but we’ll kill without hesitation to save us (and brag about it, like Rick Perry did). Not only are they hypocrites, but they’re greedy, selfish, ego-centric bastards, too.

  • Martin Penwald

    Or with anti-abortion propaganda.
    I´ll talk of that with my friend Pavlov.

  • J_Enigma32

    Actually, no. The debate is to control women, and I’ll give you an example:

    Rape and incest exemptions.

    Why is a baby produced by rape or incest any less viable or important than a baby produced by consensual sex? Why do they deserve to be punished because of how they were conceived, when they didn’t even have the choice of choosing?

    And yet, many right wingers will throw in exceptions for rape and incest to their anti-abortion bills without hesitation. That they do so proves it isn’t about about saving the fetus at all. If it were, they would defend all fetuses equally. Instead, they’re only defending those that are the result of consensual sex. Why?

    Because they’re punishing women for having consensual sex. Every argument I end up involved in, it never deals with the baby, but it comes back to the choices made by the woman. If the baby were the important thing, the choices made by the woman wouldn’t factor in at all. And yet, they do. When talking about a consensual baby and choice, the common response is, “The woman already made her choice.” When talking about rape, she didn’t have a say, so suddenly the sympathy is with her. Why the schizophrenia? If you were pro-life, you’d support the baby regardless how it was conceived, independent of the choices made by the mother.

    But that’s not how it goes.

    And because that’s not how it goes, it just goes to show yet another level of innate hypocrisy int he prof-life movement.

    Granted, there are individuals now pushing for no-rape/no-incest exceptions. But they’re extremely unpopular even with the larger pro-life crowd, when that should be a view the entire pro-life crowd needs to be taking in order to be intellectually consistent.

    Of course, one can’t expect intellectual consistency from a never ending stream of emotional appeals with no logic to back any of it up.

  • Verbose Stoic

    The usual answer to that is that it applies to innocent people, and the death penalty is not applied to innocent people. This is also part of a justification for self-defense. The children there are innocent, as would be the foetus. This was precisely the reasoning used to justify not allowing an abortion in the Pheonix bishop case, and was what drove home the debate for me personally, since the reasoning of “You’re never allowed to take the life of an innocent to save the life of another” is one that I can’t argue against due to it being explicit in Stoic reasoning, and yet I wanted to allow the exception for the life of the mother.

    I argue for that exception here: http://verbosestoic.wordpress.com/2010/12/27/when-is-it-okay-to-kill/

    But at least you now have to admit that your example of an egregious and, to you, humourous inconsistency is not in fact one, and so you now have to resort to the much more common inconsistencies to even make a case.

  • Verbose Stoic

    You’d have to demonstrate that the people who will allow rape and incest exceptions also wouldn’t allow exceptions where it is clear that it is in the best interests of the foetus to perform the abortion. I think you’ll find the number of people doing that to be rather small, and only a slight increase when you consider people who would allow exceptions in the first two cases but not to save the life of the mother even if she had consensual sex. For example, I personally would support the exception for the life of the mother (the case for it is linked above) and likely the exception for where it is clear that it will only result in suffering for the child when born, and to some degree a rape/incest exception based on an argument that it fits into one (too great a mental burden; we don’t want the mother driven insane by this). But the latter is indeed controversial and shaky to me because of the “innocent person” angle; the foetus didn’t do anything to deserve being killed in this case, and so if the mother thinks she could indeed handle the stress of such a pregnancy then I’d claim it immoral to have an abortion in that case, and I think that properly defensible under a secular philosophy, that of the Stoics, and probably most Virtue Theories, and almost certainly under Kant, and even under Utilitarianism.

    So, you’re trying to claim an inconsistency that demonstrates “control over women” from a set of viewpoints that are an aggregate of what is believed, not what is actually believed by any one of them. I suspect that most who take the very strong “You cannot take an innocent life” to the extent of not allowing an abortion when the mother’s life is in danger will not support rape/incest exceptions — and we can look at a number of recent cases that prove that — while those who do allow rape exceptions likely allow for “best interests of the child” and “life of the mother as well”. Which means that your case about it being to control the woman fail, as it is no longer a case of people trying to control consensual sex only, but splits around views of when killing is permissible.

    Note that this is an especially bad argument since those right-wingers who are most likely to hold the strong views about abortion ALSO tend to hold women responsible in some way for rape, which means that if they really wanted to control women they wouldn’t make rape exceptions either.

  • Nathaniel

    There still is an inconsistency in the notion that it’s perfectly alright to kill innocent civilians via air strikes in Iraq attending weddings, but not alright to abort fetuses. Even more so given that for such people there is a good chance they think all those Iraqi’s are going to hell, being Muslim and all.

  • GCT

    Except that most of those that might try to justify the specific actions or demands of God in that sense will make an exception for God, usually in terms of an argument of “God gives us life, and so God can take it away.

    And, that would be both special pleading and self-defeating since they also claim to hold to an absolute morality. It still makes no sense. The rest of the response to point A is in the same category.

    The Stoics, however, would clearly not allow you to kill someone to get to heaven, even those that might accept that view.

    Why not? This view seems to suffer from the same problems.

    But, of course, is irrelevant if you don’t think that people should be killed simply because you think it is in their best interests, as opposed to being clear that God thinks that they should indeed be killed in that case.

    The point was that I don’t need to “think” it’s in their best interest; I KNOW it is. This objection doesn’t actually address what I wrote.

    It’s debatable whether being killed before one has had the chance to accept God or not is better than allowing the child to grow up and, while possibly being damned but also earning their reward.

    It’s not debatable at all actually. Given the chance to be damned or the chance to attain the best possible reward – well, there’s no actual choice there, unless you’re willing to claim that heaven is not eternal bliss and there are varying levels of heaven, so living longer is better. But, that comes with a whole set of different problems that make the argument nonsensical once again.

    And the ultimate answer to all of these cases is simple: if God wants them to die, God will arrange it so that they do, as that will be part of their “life plan”. To interfere without being told to by God would be, again, acting as God, and pretty much all Christian faiths call that the ultimate presumptive sin, even if too many Christians act like it anyway.

    How would you know that you are interfering? In fact, how can you possibly interfere in god’s plans? Again, this makes no sense.

    But even you have to agree that it isn’t always moral to act to achieve that, which is the case with the “kill all children now!” idea for almost all Christian faiths.

    But, that’s the point. They claim that it’s not moral, but that’s at odds with the idea that salvation is the best thing ever.

    And note that a very large number of Christian faiths deny that she is destined for Hell, and could in fact be redeemed at some point, so that doesn’t even work for most of them either.

    But, why take the chance? I can ensure that she goes to heaven, or she can be tainted by original sin and bound for hell unless she gets saved.

    You can argue that, but no Christian religion accepts that, and it is very shaky theologically.

    And, I can point them to the Bible. The point is that the Xian religion is not very consistent, so claiming that they would argue against this isn’t a very compelling counter.

    And note that this argument contradicts A) above as I pointed out.

    No, it doesn’t.

    Note that both the stories of “The Good Shepherd” and “The Prodigal Son” strongly contradict the idea that it’s some sort of contest of numbers; God values each soul individually, and so won’t be happy with you losing yours to save theirs.

    If I’m doing god’s work, then I wouldn’t be losing my soul. Secondly, if I’ve already lost my soul, then I would be doing him a favor.

    So you say. But that assessment is like the above: based on YOUR worldview, not theirs.

    Ah, no. It’s based on the evidence of the policies and stances put forth by actual anti-choice people.

  • Science Avenger

    “…the death penalty is not applied to innocent people. ”

    But it is, a lot, so much so that a lot of us who used to support it just can’t any more. So there needs to be a new “usual answer”, because that one won’t do any more.

  • J_Enigma32

    not applied to innocent people

    You don’t think we’ve executed innocent people before?

    When you can prove to me 100% that these people are guilt of the crimes they’re accused of committing, then I’ll agree with the death penalty. You can get up to 99% certainty, but there’s still that 1% certainty. And that 1% certainty is usually all that’s needed in a highly emotional case.

    Until then, the argument boils down to: we need to punish them and keep them off the street so they don’t hurt other people. A fair argument – but killing them so they don’t hurt other people without being 100% certain that they were responsible for the crime they’re accused of may very well mean executing an innocent person for the safety of everyone else.

    So the argument is invalid. The inconsistency still stands.

  • Science Avenger

    “And, by the way, new-born childs are a very ugly sight just after the birth. Only their parents find them beautiful.”

    For some of us, probably many more than would ever admit it, that effect last until they are about 18. ;)

  • J_Enigma32

    “You’d have to demonstrate that the people who will allow rape and incest
    exceptions also wouldn’t allow exceptions where it is clear that it is
    in the best interests of the foetus to perform the abortion.”

    But the core of the rape and incest abortions are about the events that lead to conception, not the fetus itself. What it boils down to is what the mother did/what happened to the mother, and punishing the mother for being sexually active. Everyone (okay, almost everyone… okay, fine, very few people, especially depending on the circumstances of the rape) can sympathize with a rape victim. So it seems unfair to her to force that on her, right?

    And there’s the crux. Because the argument isn’t about the fetus at all; it’s about the woman and her actions, and whether or not she warranted it. That’s not about saving the fetus; that’s about punishing the woman. I don’t have to prove that these people would allow exceptions where it’s in the best interest for the fetus (most don’t care; see the opposition to universal healthcare and the silence for the protection of pregnant women, coming from the same crowd. A very strong silence comes from their lack of support for a recent bill that would ensure pregnant women won’t lose their jobs for being pregnant; they didn’t support it at all and some even opposed it. It isn’t about the fetus. It’s not about the best interest of either the fetus or the mother; it’s about punishing the mother for being pregnant and having sex outside of marriage). They don’t care about what happens to the fetus after it’s born. They only care about it while it’s a fetus. They may say they do, but their actions – and the results of their actions – tell an entirely different story.

    And intent is not magic. Actions and results speak louder than empty words and platitudes.

    “Note that this is an especially bad argument since those right-wingers
    who are most likely to hold the strong views about abortion ALSO tend to
    hold women responsible in some way for rape, which means that if they
    really wanted to control women they wouldn’t make rape exceptions
    either.”

    No, these people are being intellectually consistent. Their beliefs are rotten and evil, but they’re consistent. Their beliefs are harmful, but they’re all justifiable by the same intellectual framework. And the fact that this is what the pro-life positions looks like when its internally consistent just goes to show how rotten, evil, and harmful the whole thing actually is.

    while those who do allow rape exceptions likely allow for “best interests of the child” and “life of the mother as well”

    If that were true, there would be a poverty exception, too. There would be a mental illness exception, there would be more exceptions than just rape and incest (both events that happen to the mother); they would take into consideration whether or not the parents had access to healthcare, whether or not they had access to good education, and other things that would benefit the child. But they don’t, an they don’t care. Ergo, they don’t care about what’s good for the child; they only care about what’s good for the fetus insomuch as it backs up their punishment of the mother for being sexually active, by forcing her to give birth. Then they turn around and scream about adoption – forcing a woman to give birth and then stealing her child away is certainly not taking into considerate her health interests; that’s punishing her once again. And then they shove the child in the foster care system, which as we all know is wonderful and craps out rainbow-filled unicorns and lollypops.

    They don’t care about the child, they don’t care about the mother, and they don’t care about the ethics. They care about punishing the mother by forcing her to give birth to a baby.

  • J_Enigma32

    I read an interesting conspiracy theory regarding abortion a while back; I don’t know how much stock in put into it, but I wouldn’t put it beyond the right to be doing something like this.

    The theory goes something like this: Know that felons cannot vote. When you are accused of a felony, you’re basically stripped of your right to vote in some states; you are permanently banned.

    Now, look at the number of bills they’re trying to pass right now that basically criminalize women for getting pregnant. There was a story a while back, a year or so ago, about a woman who was taken to court for “murdering” her unborn fetus (because she took drugs; it was a black teenage girl, the prosecutor white. Are we surprised at all by this point?) and charged with a felony. Look at all the personhood amendments they’re pushing through; if these get passed, they end up defining abortion as murder – and in the worst case scenarios, miscarriages, too.

    Now, figure felons cannot vote. If you’re charging a wide swath of the female population with the felony of essentially being pregnant and have a miscarriage or getting an abortion, you’re stripping a lot of them of their right to vote. Which means they’re taking away the right for women to vote through a backdoor that also covers the “pro-life” angle, as well, and lets them claim to be “tough on crime” because they’re not letting felons vote.

    Like I said, I don’t know how much stock I put into this. I don’t think they’re that intelligent, to be honest with you. But this is certainly a possible side-effect of their harmful and wretched little policies.

  • Science Avenger

    It also supports your argument that its about punishing the woman for “immoral” behavior that so many pro-life people are anti-birth control.

  • Martin Penwald

    That´s why I support abortion until 18 years after the birth.

  • Leeloo Dallas Multipass

    But the fact that the religion has a rule against killing children in this situation IS the inconsistency. I’m generalizing here, but fundamentalist Christian culture doesn’t seem to place a lot of value on a child’s autonomy; many fundamentalists are happy to force their children to attend their church, put them into therapy if they disapprove of their sexuality, etc, for what they perceive as the child’s own good. If they placed a strong value on self-determination and the right of the individual to decide for themselves, then there wouldn’t be an inconsistency in not killing children before the age of accountability– but instead they tend to favor placing harsh strictures on their children, (and anyone else they can manage), in the service of keeping them out of hell. Yet the one thing that, in their system, is GUARANTEED to keep their children out of hell, they view as evil. That’s the inconsistency.

    Yes, there’s “Thou Shalt Not Kill”. But plenty of people who espouse that rule are okay with killing certain convicts, animals, enemies in wartime, etc. The way it’s applied, it’s just “It’s wrong to kill those who it’s wrong to kill”, a tautology. There’s no reason kids couldn’t be in the “okay to kill” group, especially since the Bible endorses killing children in various places.

  • smrnda

    Here’s the out – tell them you had a vision from god saying to do it, and then it’s okay and cannot be disputed. After all, if god tells Abraham to kill his kid, who is to say he isn’t going to tell others to kill kids?

  • smrnda

    There’s also an issue of social and cultural capital. The hard core fundies have been on a program seeking cultural domination for a long time, so they control many highly visible Christian institution, and thus kind of control the “Christian brand” (to put it in marketing terms.) They are a self-appointed group who decides who is a Real Christian and who is not and who vocally proclaim these judgments.

    I’d suspect more tolerant people don’t have the desire for such visibility or to decide what’s True Christianity and what is not.

  • smrnda

    I don’t know if there is a conscious plan, but there are some fundies who are not a fan of women voting. It may be an unconscious tendency to seek to criminalize women that just happens to have this effect, which also tends to weaken the political power of the group.

    Look at what the war on drugs has done to the Black population. By subjectively targeting a group of people, they have been disenfranchised, decreasing their already weak ability to affect the political process, which at the same time gives white people more power relative to their true numbers.

  • Azkyroth

    What.

  • Azkyroth

    *sigh* another good, productive discussion, aborted. If only the OP had pulled out. ;/

  • Verbose Stoic

    You don’t think we’ve executed innocent people before?

    Knowingly?

    If it was knowingly, it was wrong. If it wasn’t, then it was done with the best evidence and knowledge they had that an innocent person wasn’t being killed, which is quite different from the case you describe. You can argue that the risk of killing an innocent person is too high to also support the death penalty, but this is different from doing it knowingly. So, no inconsistency, as it is quite easy to distinguish the
    cases.

  • Verbose Stoic

    As children, they don’t have autonomy before the age of accountability, but they will develop into beings that have autonomy, and while those strictures are, well, strict, they aren’t killing the child before they can accept Jesus themselves. Ultimately, the whole notion of the age of accountability belies the statement; they can’t be held accountable because they can’t really know and understand what it means to follow Christ, and for most of the religions not being able to know that is a bad thing, even if you could get into heaven without it.

    Note that not all Christian religions have the idea that children automatically go to heaven. Catholicism, for example, is probably one of the Christian religions that most opposes abortion and relies the heaviest on the “don’t kill an innocent person” argument, and has never accepted that children who die before the AoA automatically go to heaven. One of the whole problems with these sorts of generalizations is making sure that you aren’t building a theology by taking pieces from diverse religions that ends up being one that none of them actually support.

    As for the other cases you cite, I do talk a bit about them, but they aren’t cases of “innocent persons”, either because they aren’t persons, or aren’t innocent.

  • Verbose Stoic

    You can argue that too many innocent people are dying and so they shouldn’t support the death penalty — ie that it is wrong of them to do so — but you don’t get to it being a massive inconsistency that has anything to do with the abortion case originally talked about.

  • Verbose Stoic

    Not all religions that hold the “innocent person” line accept that, as not all right-wing people accept that. Again, though, it isn’t an inconsistency, but a known problem with any such moralities (religious or not): can you allow collateral damage when you know that it will happen and you will kill innocent people? Unlike the death penalty case, this is indeed a problem because in the other cases you don’t know if innocents will be killed, but here you do … but this is a problem, not a damning inconsistency. Various moralities have handled this in various ways.

  • Verbose Stoic

    But the core of the rape and incest abortions are about the events that lead to conception, not the fetus itself.

    As I pointed out above, not to ME they ain’t. And I don’t think that most of the religious cases are making that argument either, so you’d need to provide references for that before I can evaluate it.

    If that were true, there would be a poverty exception, too. There would be a mental illness exception, there would be more exceptions than just rape and incest (both events that happen to the mother); they would take
    into consideration whether or not the parents had access to healthcare,whether or not they had access to good education, and other things that would benefit the child.

    Are you seriously suggesting it reasonable to say that a child is better off dead than being poor, or living with mental illness, or living with a parent that has a mental illness? And you call OTHERS evil?

  • Verbose Stoic

    Depends on their reasons for that; often, the two are unrelated, or related by a notion of “soul” as well (see Catholicism for the latter).

  • GCT

    Um, “pro-life” except in cases where you’re on death row, regardless of whether you are innocent or not? Nope, sorry, that’s inconsistent, no matter how much you try to pretend it isn’t.

  • GCT

    It’s not a compelling argument to point out cases that aren’t being argued. What do I mean? The whole point was that for religions that do have an AoA, blah blah blah. Bringing in religions that don’t have an AoA is not a sufficient rebuttal to the original point. It’s a red herring, in fact.

  • Leeloo Dallas Multipass

    That’s why I qualified with “many” and “I’m generalizing” — I’m talking about the Left Behind-style crowd. That’s not all Christians. But it’s a-not insignificant chunk. If the members of another sect don’t think kids go straight to heaven, then I agree they’re not being inconsistent by not sending them there.

    A bit of an side thing, but you mentioned believers in the age of accountability not wanting to send their kids to heaven without being able to know and understand what it is to follow Christ. Could you clarify — do they believe that if you go to heaven as a child you’re somehow “stuck”? That there could be non-Christian kids running around heaven who get to live there but aren’t wired into Jesus, and they never grow up? It seems to me either they’d be able to mature and become Christians when they attained an understanding, or they’d stay kids, but in a really nice place (certainly better than hell), so either way, they’re better off being sent early. Or is there something else that’s supposed to happen? Does it differ between sects?

  • Alex Harman

    I also like “pro-coercion,” since it highlights the fact that what they want is to coerce women into gestation, labor and childbirth. I consider that a violation of their right to bodily autonomy every bit as monstrous as coercing intercourse; a “pro-lifer” is the moral equivalent of a rapist.

  • Verbose Stoic

    The problem is going to be finding a sect that, in fact, actually has the contradiction. For it, you need a sect that believes:

    - A foetus should not be aborted even if it would be better off for it if it was.

    - You can kill innocent persons if it is in their best interests.

    - A child that dies before the AoA automatically goes to heaven.

    That’s if you want to tie it back to the abortion debate. And there is a vanishingly small amount of Christian sects that hold all three of these things, since a great number of them don’t accept the second, and most that accept the second would have no problem with the first. Thus, yeah, you kinda need to get into specific sects even when arguing just for the “You should kill your children before the AoA so that they’ll go to heaven” because even those sects that can get into that contradiction — meaning accept both the second and the third propositions — likely have ways around it.

  • Verbose Stoic

    It wasn’t meant to be a compelling argument for anything other than “Talking about some kind of right-wing, pro-life, Christian view having this amazingly humourous contradiction isn’t a very good argument, since one of the strongest right-wing Christian positions on this — the Catholic one — doesn’t have this problem.”

  • GCT

    Which is why the argument was stated as being a problem for THOSE WHO HOLD TO AN AGE OF ACCOUNTABILITY. You coming in and saying, “Well, not all Xians hold to an AoA” isn’t answering the objection, and pretending that we’re saying something different than we are isn’t answering it either.

  • GCT

    We’ve already outlined how and why it’s a contradiction. You’re basically left with saying “Nuh uh” at this point. What you’re basically trying to argue is that they aren’t inconsistent because they believe inconsistent things and hold to those consistently…somehow…


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X