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The Wall of Jericho

There’s an abortion clinic being built outside of Aurora, IL (near Naperville, where I work). It’d be the largest one in the country.

You can guess where this is going.

Protests. Pro-lifers. And quotations we don’t even have to take out of context to make the person sound crazy.

“Satan has been able to creep into our gospel. Jesus said that this is my body, take and eat from it. Now, we hear people say that this is my body, I can do what I want with it,” said Rev. Martin Heinz of Holy Angels Catholic Church in Aurora.

What?! People doing what they want to with their own bodies?! Heathens.

Then, we get this nugget:

Before the prayer rally, protesters carrying signs and singing hymns marched in seven groups of more than 100 through residential areas surrounding the clinic. Eric Scheidler, communications director for the Pro-Life Action League, called the march a “Jericho walk,” comparing their protest around the clinic to the biblical walk around the “impenetrable fortress of Jericho.”

But the Planned Parenthood abortion clinic is still standing. God clearly isn’t on their side. Or else the protesters are really bad trumpet players.

What if they do win?

“We hope to be celebrating with Eric and the others who have worked so hard to protect women and their babies from exploitation and death at the hands of deceptive Planned Parenthood abortionists,” said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman. “But if this abortion mill is allowed to open, Planned Parenthood is sadly mistaken if it thinks we are going to let it go at that. They have only seen the beginning of our opposition to their dishonest child-killing business.”

Child-killers. Abortion mill. Deceptive. If the pro-lifers mischaracterize and distort the other side in everything they say, why do they expect anyone to take them seriously?

Scheidler said that the Pro-Life Action League has scheduled a men’s vigil from midnight to 8 a.m. Tuesday and plans a protest from 8 to 10 a.m. with multiple clergy leaders and abortion protesters.

“Either way I will be out there,” Scheidler said. “If Planned Parenthood doesn’t open, then I’ll be out there celebrating. If it does, then I’ll be out there gearing up for the next phase against Planned Parenthood.”

Don’t some of these people have day jobs?

Anyway, the clinic will open at some point, even if it gets delayed. And women who need the help will get the help.

Advice to the pro-lifers: If you want more people on your side, stop making only Biblical arguments and religious references. Calling your march a “Jericho Walk” doesn’t make me want to listen to what you have to say. If your only arguments against abortion are religious in nature, those of us who can think beyond that will ignore you.

(Thanks to Mike for the link!)


[tags]atheist, atheism, Christian, conservative, pro-choice, pro-life, abortion[/tags]

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    Abortion (whether pro-life or pro-choice) doesn’t strike me as an inherently religious issue, so I agree that pro-lifers ought to stop making religious arguments as their primary mode of discourse.

    But by the same token, I wonder why most atheists I’ve met seem to be pro-choice. Why is that? Why not more pro-life atheists?

  • Kaleena

    Good question Mike! I was wondering the same thing!! As an ex-Catholic, I have very pro-life roots. I’m still pro-life, but not for religious reasons, for moral ones. I believe that life begins at conception and that taking that life (through abortion) is wrong. For me it has become a very simple issue.

    It is too bad that most pro-lifers can’t give more non-biblical reasonings.

  • Claire

    I believe that life begins at conception

    I always thought of that as a religious idea, although even then I didn’t understand where they got that from the bible. What would a non-religious reason for thinking this be? I’m assuming that you mean it’s a human life at conception rather that just that it is living.

  • Kaleena

    Yes, your correct. I should’ve been more clear. I believe that human life begins at conception. I know this goes against my scientific side, but I think it is an instinct more than anything…I guess I should think about that some more though.

  • Maria

    Abortion (whether pro-life or pro-choice) doesn’t strike me as an inherently religious issue, so I agree that pro-lifers ought to stop making religious arguments as their primary mode of discourse.

    I agree

    But by the same token, I wonder why most atheists I’ve met seem to be pro-choice. Why is that? Why not more pro-life atheists?

    they exist but you don’t hear about them much-check out http://www.godlessprolifers.org

    I think for the debate to truly move forward, it has to stop being such a major religious issue

  • Solomon

    “men’s vigil”

    Now doesn’t that just say it all?

    Sounds like men (as usual) trying to decide how women have to live their lives. We really ought to know better by now.

  • http://www.skepchick.org writerdd

    Anyway, the clinic will open at some point, even if it gets delayed. And women who need the help will get the help.

    Not all of them. Remember, there’s only a small window of time where you can get help in such a situation. After that, you’re a mother.

  • Keith

    Claire & Kaleena,

    In what sense is the life at conception some life other than human life? I am failing to understand the distinction … please clarify this for me …

    Don’t some of these people have day jobs?

    Why did you say this, Hemant? You point out (rightly so) that pro-lifers should watch the way they say things or they won’t be taken seriously. Yet your post includes little swipes like this one and another (far more damaging to your reputation as the “friendly atheist”) – “If your only arguments against abortion are religious in nature, those of us who can think beyond that will ignore you.” Little jabs about the intellectual inferiority of the religious are as off-putting to theists interested in positive dialogue as the term child-killer is to a political moderate.

    At least pro-lifers sound like idiots because they perceive themselves to be fighting for the weak and defenseless. What is the motivation for these unnecessary barbs at the religious?

    Hemant, my wife and I read your book and enjoyed it a great deal. Really appreciated your willingness to write it with the quality and depth you did. Thank you. Your book maintained a tone that allowed me to listen with an open mind. My assumption is that this tone eminates from your personal character, not your editor’s suggestions. I look forward to seeing more of that character shining through each post as you try to change public perception of atheists. Good luck on that quest.

  • Polly

    Hemant,
    If these people were protesting the Iraq war, would you still ask if they had day-jobs?

    Kaleena said,

    I believe that human life begins at conception. I know this goes against my scientific side, but I think it is an instinct more than anything…I guess I should think about that some more though.

    This is my view as well. I would say that science can tell us what an embryo is only to a limited extent. Beyond that, it’s up to us to interpret what that collection of organized biomolecules really means to us.

  • infideljoe

    I get tired of christians and atheists alike assuming ALL atheists are pro-choice. I believe women have a choice – use contraception or the morning after pill. Abortion to me seems like an easy way out from taking responsibility for one’s actions. Does anyone think that abortions are REALLY a good thing? Why are so many pro-choice people against women having to see an ultrasound of their child before they terminated it? I have see all my kids through ultrasounds images and it gives you a hole new perspective. And why is it that men have no say in the matter? What if the man is willing to take responsibility to raise the child, shouldn’t he have a right to? After all, he did help create that kid.

    Remember, the only thing that atheists have in common is that we all don’t believe in god.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    In what sense is the life at conception some life other than human life? I am failing to understand the distinction … please clarify this for me …

    I was wondering this too. And Kaleena, why do you say it is “unscientific” to say that a human embryo or fetus is or is not human life?

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    Personally I was leaning much more towards a pro-choice position until my wife had a rough pregnancy with our daughter and we almost lost her at 20 weeks. After we spent the next 14 weeks fighting for her life, I had a lot harder time saying that she wasn’t fully a person that we loved and cared for until she was actually born (or until her third trimester or whatever).

    Now I’m much more in the middle. I want to see abortions reduced but I don’t think the best way to do this is by making it illegal.

  • TXatheist

    Alright, next time I”m in Illinois this will give me something to counter protest. I do that regularly down here in Austin. I’ve never come across a pro-life atheist but I’m sure they exist since they have a website. Don, my pro-life “buddy”, is a xian and regularly reads from the bible while standing out front of the facility. For me it boils down to minding your own business. The other regular, Ann, asked me a couple weeks ago about how I felt about the law requiring women to wait 24 hours after counseling on abortion. I said “I’m sure they have thought about this decision for a lot more than 24 hours already”. If you don’t believe in abortion, don’t have one is the motto I think is appropriate. Do I want women to get abortions? No, only if they want to. Otherwise the coat hanger is their next choice. In 1972 estimates were 1.1 million US abortions happpened. Rove vs Wade was in 1973. In 1974 1.2 million abortions happened in the US. Oh, Don and Ann are both retired so this as close to a day job as they get. There are a couple of rare showings from two college guys and 1 other guy has a weird schedule as he’s only there once in a blue moon.

  • jedipunk

    Pro-Choice does not mean Pro-Abortion.
    It means a woman can decide whether or not to deliver a child with severe spina-befida.
    It means a woman that is pregnanct with 6 children can opt to terminate 2 to give the remaining 4 a strong health life instead of 6 unhealthy children.
    It means a child raped can decide not to spend 9 months of her life reminded of her tormentor.
    Pro-Choice is not Pro Abortion….

    However, Pro-Life appears to be anti-Choice.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    It means a woman can decide whether or not to deliver a child with severe spina-befida.
    It means a woman that is pregnanct with 6 children can opt to terminate 2 to give the remaining 4 a strong health life instead of 6 unhealthy children.
    It means a child raped can decide not to spend 9 months of her life reminded of her tormentor.

    All of those are part of the reason I’m not fully anti-abortion either.

  • Polly

    TXatheist:

    I’ve never come across a pro-life atheist but I’m sure they exist since they have a website.

    That’s curious, since there are at least two self-identified atheists (myself included) who seem to be against abortion on demand on this very thread. And possiby a third one whose religiosity wasn’t 100% identified, except as “ex-Catholic.”

  • TXatheist

    Besides infideljoe I don’t see an atheist against abortion on this thread. You are against abortion on demand? That’s like saying I”m against war for the wrong reasons. Whose reasons justify it. Yours?

  • Claire

    In what sense is the life at conception some life other than human life?

    It’s human, it’s living tissue, but it’s not a life. It’s only potential, like an egg, or in this age of cloning, most any cell. It is a part of the mother’s body and under her jurisdiction until such time as he or she can live outside the body.

    This is a philosophical point, rather than a scientific view, and so can be disputed, but in a country where most people are in favor of keeping abortion legal, what is your justification for making a law against their wishes?

    And why is it that men have no say in the matter? What if the man is willing to take responsibility to raise the child, shouldn’t he have a right to?

    While I appreciate all the wonderful men out there who step up and take responsibility once the kid is born, that’s not really the point. When men figure out how to gestate, then we can revisit this.

    Abortion to me seems like an easy way out from taking responsibility for one’s actions.

    So, if a woman took reasonable precautions but there was a contraceptive failure, she is entitled to an abortion, but a woman who got careless isn’t? That hardly seems like a qualification for motherhood. And why is it that other mistakes can and should be fixed, but this one a woman should just live with, not because she thinks it’s the right thing to do, but because someone else does?

    Abortion is a hard choice, and many women regret it later, but they aren’t children, and they shouldn’t be denied this choice. That’s not an argument that has been brought up yet, but just in case it is, there’s the rebuttal.

    If you don’t want an abortion, don’t have one. If you want to save lives, worry about the realized human lives wasted in wars and all the wrongly convicted people on death row, or join the Peace Corps and help a village find a clean water source.

    In the meantime, let women make their own moral choices.

  • Richard Wade

    I wonder how many people who want to force women to complete unwanted pregnancies are willing to adopt several of these children of women who are not capable of raising them themselves? How many severely physically handicapped, severely mentally handicapped, drug-addicted, HIV-infected babies will they give happy, supportive homes to? These “pro-lifers” don’t think about what happens to such kids, living their short, bitter lives in institutions. Since these “compassionate” adults want to force life on them, they should take some personal responsibility rather than just moral posturing.

  • Kaleena

    Polly and others: Sorry for being unclear- I would describe myself as an atheist.

    Claire: At what point is an embryo considered a human with rights? Once it has a heartbeat? Once it is born?

    Richard: I am a compassionate adult and I fully intend on adopting (more than one child) later in life.

  • TXatheist

    Kaleena,
    I”m sure Catholicism had an affect on your thinking. I know as I tried Catholicism for a bit. However, one thing I drastically changed was the view that the world is overpopulated and family size should be controlled. Do you think that the world is overpopulated for our natural resources?

  • TXatheist

    Richard, one thing I repeatedly hear is 4000 babies die a day from abortion to which I respond 40,000 people die every day worldwide from starvation/malnutrition.

  • Kaleena

    TXatheist: Of course catholicism has had an affect on my thinking (just as everyone’s experiences and backgrounds has influenced their thinking.) But, please don’t think just because I was raised catholic that I haven’t given this issue severe thought. I only share that because it gives some perspective.

    And yes, I definitely realize that the world is overpopulated (soon to be WAY overpopulated with a doubling time of only 61 years.) Can you imagine this world containing 13 billion people in just 60 years? But, in my book, the overpopulation of the earth doesn’t make abortion right.

  • Claire

    At what point is an embryo considered a human with rights? Once it has a heartbeat? Once it is born?

    I’m sorry, I thought I was clear on that, but maybe not – it turns into a he or she when it can live outside the mother’s body, maybe with medical help, especially for the lungs, which are the last to develop. Before that, it’s just a part of mom’s body. Depending on how the mother feels, it may be an incredibly much valued part or a less valued part, but it’s still a part.

    That’s at the current state of medical technology. When they develop an artificial womb (not soon, but it will happen eventually) the ethical questions will skyrocket, but some solutions will then be available. Pregnant but don’t want to be? Transfer the embryo to an artificial womb sponsored by either the father or a pro-life organization that can then be responsible for the child. The woman has handled the problem, the dad has a child or the anti-abortion folk think they have saved a life and they are happy. Until then, it should still be legal.

  • infideljoe

    It is a part of the mother’s body and under her jurisdiction until such time as he or she can live outside the body.

    So Claire, according to you if a women wants to use drugs while she is pregnant that’s her right because it’s her body. Is that right?

    While I appreciate all the wonderful men out there who step up and take responsibility once the kid is born, that’s not really the point. When men figure out how to gestate, then we can revisit this.

    A man should have just as much right. Without a man there would be no baby and without a women there would be no baby, it’s 50/50.

    I’m not for outlawing abortion, I just think it has become a form of contraception. And after a month, the baby has a heart and I don’t think women should be able to have one after that. http://www.ivanbelchev.com/myembryo/embryo.htm Should a women be able to wait till the last minute to have an abortion? Shouldn’t there be some kind of restrictions? Is anyone for late-term/partial birth abortions? Why shouldn’t a mother have to see an ultrasound of her child before she decides to abort it? It makes a big difference after you see that little baby inside you.

    Peace.

  • TXatheist

    No, it’s cool Kaleena. I just find Mormonism and Catholicism as the two most guilty parties when it comes to baby making to keep membership roles high.

  • Polly

    TXatheist,

    Besides infideljoe I don’t see an atheist against abortion on this thread.

    I find that I can see much better with my eyes open. Try it some time. I, Polly, am an atheist and I’m against abortion.

  • Claire

    Kaleena – is this an absolute for you, or is it ok in certain circumstances? What if a woman finds through testing that the fetus has anencephaly (the brain and skull fail to develop), and will either die during the birth or within a few hours? I’m wondering what non-religious justification there might be for requiring a woman to carry that pregnancy to term, if you don’t think there should be exceptions. And if you do think that’s a legitimate exception, why? It would appear to be a human life, by what I think is your definition (correct me if I’m wrong).

    This is, by the way, the most civil discussion of this topic I have ever seen on the internet.

  • TXatheist

    Wow Polly, I guess being against abortion on demand is the exact same thing as being anti-choice and I should have been able to read your mind when you use one of the two phrases. Next time I’ll be sure and read into words that aren’t there. My eyes are wide open but your vagueness was why I said I’d only seen infideljoe say he was an atheist and against abortion.

  • Polly

    @Claire

    When they develop an artificial womb (not soon, but it will happen eventually) the ethical questions will skyrocket, but some solutions will then be available.

    You’re the only other person I’ve seen mention this. I agree, it will solve a lot of problems. I think, even now, technology has caught up with some of the concerns about making abortion illegal. There are day after pills and even pills that can be taken within weeks of conception to terminate a pregnancy. Eventually, even an illegal abortion (if such a thing should ever occur again in the US) will be a helluva lot safer than the wire hangers of yesteryear. That scenario, to a large extent, is already antiquated. Drugs make it into the US everyday, so even a ban wouldn’t stop it if the demand was there.

    I am also against overpopulation but I don’t think aborting the “extras” is the answer, not to mention, those that have too maky kids are typically NOT the ones who will opt for abortion (Catholics and Mormons and certain traditional cultures) in any case, so abortion has no relevance. Unless the proposal is for enforced abortions?
    Rather, I think the solution is contraception and sex education especially in the 3rd world. Also, (and I know this is probably going to seem ironic to many, but it’s not in the least) the advancement of women’s rights and greater economic opportunities for women will also reduce the population bubble.

  • Claire

    according to you if a women wants to use drugs while she is pregnant that’s her right because it’s her body. Is that right?

    I don’t see how doing something illegal can be a right, but to keep up the conversation let’s make it alcohol, which is legal, and actually causes worse birth defects. Assuming she knows of the potential harm, it is indeed her moral choice to make. It’s a really really bad choice, but it is hers. We can condemn it (I would) but I can’t deny her her choices. Unless you think we should lock up all pregnant women so that they don’t make any bad choices? I don’t see any other way to avoid it.

    A man should have just as much right. Without a man there would be no baby and without a woman there would be no baby, it’s 50/50.

    I completely agree with that in respect to a baby. I just don’t think a non-viable fetus isa baby.

  • Polly

    TXatheist,

    Are you serious?

    That’s curious, since there are at least two self-identified atheists (myself included) who seem to be against abortion on demand on this very

    Mindreader? No.
    Fucking Dense? Apparently.

  • TXatheist

    Polly, I’m walking out of my place but I”m wondering if you are aware of how many kids in Africa are a result of rape(where sex ed and contraceptions are useless)?

  • TXatheist

    And that’s why I asked for clarification. I was typing when that post went up. Man, are you testy and foul-mouthed.

  • http://blueshifted.org Andy

    But by the same token, I wonder why most atheists I’ve met seem to be pro-choice. Why is that? Why not more pro-life atheists?

    Because any intellectually honest person has to admit that restriction and criminalization does not reduce the number of abortions, and in fact makes women less safe. The evidence is abundant and incontrovertible. Since we atheists are limited to empirical evidence in our reasoning, we can’t be in favor of such laws, even if we are pro-life.

    This is why most atheists don’t get along with the forced pregnancy lobby. A pro-life atheist, given the goal of reducing the number of abortions, would heavily promote rational sexual education, widespread distribution of free contraceptives, and a vast social welfare safety net to discourage women from aborting for financial reasons. The fact that religious conservatives do not favor these things should clue you in to where their priorities really lie.

    Superstition can be a powerful barrier to acting rationally to advance one’s moral convictions. Take the Catholic Church, for example–what do they do when confronted with the obvious truth that widespread use of contraceptives cannot help but reduce the abortion rate? This is non-trivial; the church’s teaching about the evils of birth control have had horrific effects in Africa and South America. This is why I can’t take pro-lifers seriously–they’re liable to have some religious tenet that prevents them from furthering their own stated goals, so they attack straw men instead (Hemant’s post being a classic example).

  • Claire

    Interestingly, I used to know a devout Mormon who was happy with the abortion laws as they are, making it legal and available. He thought it was immoral, he just didn’t think the goverment should get involved. I love it when people have unexpected opinions…

  • Pingback: My first (and last) abortion post at Blueshifted

  • Polly

    TXatheist,

    Man, are you testy and foul-mouthed.

    (I laughed out loud when I read that.)
    OK, my apologies. Really.
    I’m hardly ever such a prick. You just caught me on a good day. ;)

  • Polly

    If a woman makes the choice to NOT have an abortion in spite of the urging of the “father” (more like “inseminator”) to make use of her right to abort, is it right to give him the responsibility of caring for the child once it’s born?

    If you say, Yes:

    If he has no legal say in bringing the child to birth, why should he be burdened with the responsibility? Why is it only the woman’s choice to decide what happens for the next 18+ years? Gestation is only 9 months long. It may be a hardship, but that hardly entitles her to consign the father-to-be to 18 years of responsibility.

    If you say, no

    Then haven’t we provided an “out” for irresponsible men and placed all the risk and cost of sex on women?

    What say y’all?

  • Miko

    And Kaleena, why do you say it is “unscientific” to say that a human embryo or fetus is or is not human life?

    It’s unscientific in the sense that it’s not scientific (but not, say, in the sense that it’s anti-scientific). The definition of a “human life” is merely a linguistic choice: whether or not an embryo is a human life or indeed a life at all has more to do with what you choose to define as life than with science. If you describe anything that grows within something else as life, you’ll label a cancerous tumor as a life. If you describe anything under 2 years of age as not being a life, you’ll exclude a baby. Most definitions will fall between those extremes, but they’ll be nothing more than arbitrary definitions.

    Personally I was leaning much more towards a pro-choice position until my wife had a rough pregnancy with our daughter and we almost lost her at 20 weeks. After we spent the next 14 weeks fighting for her life, I had a lot harder time saying that she wasn’t fully a person that we loved and cared for until she was actually born (or until her third trimester or whatever).

    Since you (the two of you) are the ones making that decision, I’d say that’s the essence of the pro-choice position.

    But by the same token, I wonder why most atheists I’ve met seem to be pro-choice. Why is that? Why not more pro-life atheists?

    Standard disclaimer about generalizing, but I’d say atheists as a group tend to place higher value on individualism (as opposed to theists who typically place higher value on community, although of course both are just general tendencies and not hard-and-fast rules) and as such we’re uncomfortable with the idea of imposing our values on others.

    “We hope to be celebrating with Eric and the others who have worked so hard to protect women and their babies from exploitation and death at the hands of deceptive Planned Parenthood abortionists,” said Operation Rescue President Troy Newman.

    More advice to pro-lifers: Don’t say you’re protecting women. Say you’re protecting their “babies” if you wish, but you are most definitely not protecting the woman by restricting her options

  • Miko

    If a woman makes the choice to NOT have an abortion in spite of the urging of the “father” (more like “inseminator”) to make use of her right to abort, is it right to give him the responsibility of caring for the child once it’s born?

    The naysayers have a fair argument, but it’ll never be considered publicly by any politician as long as women make up the majority of voters.

    Then haven’t we provided an “out” for irresponsible men and placed all the risk and cost of sex on women?

    Actually, nature already provided that out by putting a nine month gap in the process. We just wouldn’t have provided an “in.”

    Don’t forget this question can be turned around: what about the man who wants the child but can’t stop the irresponsible woman from aborting it? “My body, my choice” is a fair argument, but it doesn’t really make sense to try and have things both ways. If a woman wants responsibility for what happens in her body, she should accept responsibility for what happens in her body.

  • Mercredi

    There are day after pills and even pills that can be taken within weeks of conception to terminate a pregnancy.

    Polly, your wording is ambiguous here, so I just want to point out (to J. Random Comment Reader, if no one else) that the morning-after pill does not terminate pregnancy. It’s a higher dose of ordinary non-estrogen-containing contraceptives, and it prevents pregnancy. It doesn’t terminate pregnancy.

    Interestingly enough, RU-486 (aka The Abortion Pill) works in part by inhibiting the very same hormone contained the morning-after pill.

  • Maria

    I get tired of christians and atheists alike assuming ALL atheists are pro-choice.

    Me too! It’s a stereotype…..

    I’m not for outlawing abortion, I just think it has become a form of contraception.

    I agree

    This is why most atheists don’t get along with the forced pregnancy lobby. A pro-life atheist, given the goal of reducing the number of abortions, would heavily promote rational sexual education, widespread distribution of free contraceptives, and a vast social welfare safety net to discourage women from aborting for financial reasons. The fact that religious conservatives do not favor these things should clue you in to where their priorities really lie.

    Good point! I know many people of all backgrounds who don’t like the idea of on demand abortion and/or using it as a method of birth control, who don’t necessarily want to outlaw but want to help curtail it, as mentioned above. However, they are not wanted in any pro-life circle b/c they support the very things mentioned above, as well as other issues that the conservative pro-life movement doesn’t support (like abortion for rape and incest and med reasons, etc). If you don’t think everyone who gets one is a horrible sinner and you don’t agree with other things like that condoms are bad and all that, they usually don’t accept you, and they say stupid things like “you must love abortion and killing babies”. Of course not all religious pro-lifers are like this, but I’ve found many of the ones who like to protest outside clinics are. You’re either with them their way and support everything they support or you’re against them and you’re a baby killer. Period, no room for disucssion. It’s sad, really. What’s worse, a condom or an abortion?

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    I wonder how many people who want to force women to complete unwanted pregnancies are willing to adopt several of these children of women who are not capable of raising them themselves? How many severely physically handicapped, severely mentally handicapped, drug-addicted, HIV-infected babies will they give happy, supportive homes to? These “pro-lifers” don’t think about what happens to such kids, living their short, bitter lives in institutions.

    Richard, that’s not a fair accusation. I know many pro-life people who are doing exactly these things – adopting children, supporting single-mothers through their pregnancies, etc. For instance, check out ECFA. I can tell you numerous beautiful stories about one family in particular from my old church (a very conservative Baptist church) who altered their entire careers so they could adopt children at risk for abortion and also provide foster care for at-risk single mothers during their pregnancies.

    Not all pro-lifers are like those protesters out at the Aurora clinic (those people piss me off too). Many of them are like my friends (or at least do things – fundraising, etc. – to help support my friends’ efforts at providing real, compassionate abortion alternatives).

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    It’s human, it’s living tissue, but it’s not a life. It’s only potential, like an egg, or in this age of cloning, most any cell. It is a part of the mother’s body and under her jurisdiction until such time as he or she can live outside the body.

    Claire, I appreciate your perspective here, and that definition makes a certain degree of sense to me.

    However, I am also a pastor, which means that I end up consoling and counseling couples in my church who struggle through heart-wrenching things like miscarriages. I don’t think I could give this definition to the couple in my church who were just absolutely devastated by a miscarriage that occurred only 7 weeks into their pregnancy. I don’t think it would have been helpful for me to say “Well, you know, it wasn’t really a baby yet.” To them it was.

    What would you say in such a situation?

  • Jen

    Don’t forget this question can be turned around: what about the man who wants the child but can’t stop the irresponsible woman from aborting it? “My body, my choice” is a fair argument, but it doesn’t really make sense to try and have things both ways. If a woman wants responsibility for what happens in her body, she should accept responsibility for what happens in her body.

    No man can make a woman go through nine months of pregnancy. How the hell would that be fair? What if he changes his mind and takes off before the kid is born? What if he convinces her to have the baby out of spite, and then runs? Child support is uncertain these days, and I know several woman whose baby-daddies are not paying a dime.

    Also, while you may not be trying to say this, how is that an abortion is not taking responsibliy for what happens in your body? I am an autonomous creature- I choose the circumstances under which I have sex, and I take birth control to prevent pregnancy, and if my body or my birth control somehow fails, I will take responsibilty and get myself over to Aurora and take care of it. Are you trying to imply that if I don’t want to get pregnant in my lifetime, I should have a lifetime of celibacy? Or just wait till menopause?

    If he has no legal say in bringing the child to birth, why should he be burdened with the responsibility? Why is it only the woman’s choice to decide what happens for the next 18+ years? Gestation is only 9 months long. It may be a hardship, but that hardly entitles her to consign the father-to-be to 18 years of responsibility.

    I can understand that the position men are in kind of sucks. On the other hand, if there is a baby, there is a baby, and someone has to take care of it. I wish there was some sort of opt-out-of-parenthood card, but alas. Also, while woman may force men to py for a child, they are not forcing them to raising it (in any other wya than financial) and they are not forcing them to carry and bear a child, which is no picnic on a woman’s body.

    I believe women have a choice – use contraception or the morning after pill.

    And if they fail? Not all€ woman can take hormones for 30+ years. Not all women are in good relationships where they aren’t raped by their husbands who don’t care about condom use. Not all woman have access to the morning-after pill, and it doesn’t always work besides.

    Does anyone think that abortions are REALLY a good thing? Why are so many pro-choice people against women having to see an ultrasound of their child before they terminated it?

    I am against it being forced on a woman along with biased materials, as is the norm in some states. There is no other operation where patients are forced to view anything. I haven’t seen every x-ray taken of me. Why is this any different? If a woman wants to see it, let her see, and if she doesn’t, why make her? Let me tell you, under three months (when the vast majority of abortions are performed), the embryo is teeny and looks nothing like a baby- so what exactly is the point of forcing her by law to look?

    Should a women be able to wait till the last minute to have an abortion? Shouldn’t there be some kind of restrictions? Is anyone for late-term/partial birth abortions?

    That is such a straw man, it is completely bullshit, and you must know this. The only time third trimester abortions are performed in America is when the fetus is severly deformed or dead, or will cause the mother to die. There is one place in America that I am aware of that women can go to get a third trimester abortion- by the fantastic feminist Dr Tiller in Kansas- and it is just not something women undertake lightly. How stupid, exactly, do you think women are that they would wait so long and then suddenly decide to abort, just so they can take off of work, fly to Kansas, and stay there for a two+ day procedure?

  • ash

    Mike C, we all know the level of emotional attachment to something is not pre-destined or judged by it’s outward appearance or composition, so of course it wouldn’t have been helpful to say that. i also suspect that that couple had planned and wanted a child, in which case it’s an emotional loss from the time they started planning, not just 7 weeks. so yeah, i wouldn’t even attempt to address what they physically lost…i’d address the extremely real grief caused by the loss of potential. which, frankly, is probably exactly what you did.

  • Miko

    Also, while you may not be trying to say this, how is that an abortion is not taking responsibliy for what happens in your body?

    Actually, that’s exactly the opposite of what I was saying. I meant that if you’re accepting responsibility for having the abortion or not, you don’t get to shirk the other responsibility.

    No man can make a woman go through nine months of pregnancy. How the hell would that be fair?

    Again, he can’t, for the same reason as above. My point is that the man who wants a baby from a woman who wants to abort it is in exactly the same position as the woman who wants a baby fathered by a man that wants to abort it, except that in both cases the final choice is hers.

  • Claire

    What would you say in such a situation?

    Mike, I would hope it would be anything comforting I could think of. To really want a child, to know you are going to have a child, then to lose that (whether you want to call it a child or just a possibility) is devastating. What I was proposing was more along the lines of a public policy or legal definition, and the situation you describe is absolutely not a time to be trotting out definitions.

    When laws start getting made, then it’s time.

  • Miko

    I don’t think it would have been helpful for me to say “Well, you know, it wasn’t really a baby yet.” To them it was.

    What would you say in such a situation?

    It really has nothing to do with cellular structure. It has to do with the fact that they’ve already bought the whirlamobile and painted the nursery pale blue. In that situation, we say exactly the same thing we would to a couple that was unsuccessful in conceiving at all.

  • Jen

    However, I am also a pastor, which means that I end up consoling and counseling couples in my church who struggle through heart-wrenching things like miscarriages. I don’t think I could give this definition to the couple in my church who were just absolutely devastated by a miscarriage that occurred only 7 weeks into their pregnancy. I don’t think it would have been helpful for me to say “Well, you know, it wasn’t really a baby yet.” To them it was.

    That is sad, and I wouldn’t try to say it wasn’t a baby, just as I do not talk about how Heaven isn’t real at funerals. That doesn’t mean it is a baby, though. Even the couple had to know this- they didn’t miss Adam, who loved green beans and always smiled at clowns and who loved to clap his hands. This was a potential person, who might have liked beans and who may have hated clowns and who might have grown up to be their favorite kid or a serial killer. And while I am saying it wasn’t a baby, I am not saying there isn’t grief at the loss of this particular potential person.

    I agree with Claire, though, that what they need to talk about at therapy is different than what we base our laws on. If this couple tried to make aborion at seven weeks illegal because they were sad that they had a miscarriage- well, that doesn’t sit well with me. We can’t base laws on feelings.

    My point is that the man who wants a baby from a woman who wants to abort it is in exactly the same position as the woman who wants a baby fathered by a man that wants to abort it, except that in both cases the final choice is hers.

    Which sucks, but it has to be that way, because otherwise you are forcing a woman to either have a baby or have an abortion. Since it is her body, we can’t have a say in it. Again, while I wish men could have an “opt out” option, it would be a very difficult law to pass because ultimately, there is a baby, and someone needs to pay for it, and the courts are going to have a difficult time telling kids they can’t get money for their books cause their bio father decided to sign a waiver.

  • Kaleena

    TXatheist: yup, catholics and mormons definitely do their fair share of “multiplying”. It is sad that they still see this as an effective means to spread their religion.

    Claire: Yes, this is an absolute for me except when the embryo is endangering the life of the mother. And I agree on the civil discussion. thanks! :)

    Miko: thanks for interpreting why my defining human life to begin at conception was “unscientific”. I couldn’t figure out what I meant, but you hit the nail on the head: semantics! And I agree with your comment about protecting babies not protecting women.

    whewh! that took a while to catch up! what a great discussion!

  • Claire

    My point is that the man who wants a baby from a woman who wants to abort it is in exactly the same position as the woman who wants a baby fathered by a man that wants to abort it, except that in both cases the final choice is hers.

    I will agree that isn’t really fair to the man, but there’s a larger perspective – men still have more of the power in this world (although it’s changing), and somehow, somewhere, there’s got to be a final limit to it – and a woman’s body is that limit.

    The 18 years of child support without prior consent? Yup, that’s unfair. I have no defense for that one. I have no answer either, except welfare, and I don’t think that’s a good one. Or men could ask women sign a contract (or vice versa) before sex outlining financial responsibilities or lack thereof in case of pregnancy, which might solve the problem right up front.

  • Maria

    Not all pro-lifers are like those protesters out at the Aurora clinic (those people piss me off too). Many of them are like my friends (or at least do things – fundraising, etc. – to help support my friends’ efforts at providing real, compassionate abortion alternatives).

    Glad to hear that!

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    This may be sort of unrelated to what we’ve been talking about here, but one thing I’ve notice about the abortion debate (having been on both sides to some degree) is that both sides seem to be talking past each other. Both sides seem to be imputing opposition to their key issues to the other side.

    So the pro-choice side, whose key concern is women’s rights, accuse the other side of being motivated primarily out of a desire to control and restrict women. And the pro-life side, whose key concern is the life of the child, accuses the other side of being all about abortion-on-demand and devaluing human life in favor of personal convenience. And it seems that anything either side says get interpreted by the other through the lens of these assumptions.

    Of course neither side really matches up to the caricatures painted by their opponents. Pro-life people really are primarily motivated by a deep passion for the life of the child. And pro-choice people really are motivated by a similar passion for the rights of women. And both to me seem like noble motivations, which is why I so often find myself in the middle on these debates and not wanting to identify myself with the poisonous rhetoric of either side.

  • TXatheist

    Mike,
    I know you are split so you may not be the ideal person to ask but how does someone on the pro-life side decide they know what is the best action for a pregnant woman to take? I don’t think anyone on the pro-choice side wants abortions to happen and tries to use education to reduce pregnancies but we don’t understand why someone else thinks they should tell a woman she can or can’t have an abortion. That’s the mystery to me and why I remain pro-choice.

  • Keith

    I know many pro-life people who are doing exactly these things – adopting children, supporting single-mothers through their pregnancies, etc.

    I second Mike’s statement … I know many pro-lifers who put their life where their mouth is.

    And that’s why I asked for clarification. I was typing when that post went up. Man, are you testy and foul-mouthed.

    Tx, did you just call someone testy? :-) … good to read your posts again, man … shame the Cardinals really went in the thank – hope you have other Redbird fans to mourn with in Texas … good luck with the counter-protests

    It’s human, it’s living tissue, but it’s not a life. It’s only potential, like an egg, or in this age of cloning, most any cell. It is a part of the mother’s body and under her jurisdiction until such time as he or she can live outside the body.

    This is a philosophical point, rather than a scientific view, and so can be disputed, but in a country where most people are in favor of keeping abortion legal, what is your justification for making a law against their wishes?

    Claire,

    Thanks for the response. Thank you for clarifying what you were saying about the embryo being potential life. That helped me understand.

    You asked where I got my justification for making a law against the majority of America’s wishes. First off, I don’t remember making such a law, or even recommending making such a law, hence it will be difficult for me to justify it. However, if one were to justify making any law that goes against majority wishes, it would probably be because it was the right thing to do. If someone considers saving life or potential life the right thing to do … they would. If someone considers protecting personal freedom the right thing to do … they would. And if someone considers saving life or potential life while protecting personal freedom, they will end up like Mike C – having a hard time being heard in the midst of all the missiles … how can we better hear the folks who care about both issues?

  • http://prosthesis.blogspot.com macht

    There’s been discussion above about what happens at conception and if there is anything that modern biology has to say on this topic, it is that the fertilization of a egg results in a new human life. It isn’t a “potential” life, it isn’t a non-human life … it is a new, living, individual, human organism. Go to your local university library and open up any embryology textbook if you don’t believe me. Anybody who has any respect at all for science has to concede that point. It’s a basic scientific fact.

  • Polly

    Mike C,

    And both to me seem like noble motivations, which is why I so often find myself in the middle on these debates and not wanting to identify myself with the poisonous rhetoric of either side.

    THANK YOU!
    I agree completely.

    But, doubtless you’ve noticed that in atheist circles, it’s common to find the assumption that pro-life MUST mean religious(specifically, fundie), anti-contraception, anti-sex education, anti-women’s rights, and on and on. But, in my case and I’m sure others, just the opposite is true on all counts.

    If I didn’t think a fetus was a human life worthy of protection, I couldn’t care less what others do. I don’t view it as on par with murder, but it’s much more than just tissue in my view.

    What interest do I have in limiting the rights of women? NONE.
    And, from an economic standpoint aborting all the potential trouble makers would be tremendously cost-effective in the long run, saving me tax dollars. And there’s nothing fiscal conservatives love more than their tax dollars. :)

  • TXatheist

    Polly,
    And on our side I see the 40000 people dying everyday as a bigger tragedy. I don’t think adding more people to the world is going to help this problem. As I see it until we help the people already here we are just adding to the problem. My point yesterday was the overpopulation boom in Africa is from women being raped and that spreads disease and makes babies.

  • Polly

    @Jen, Claire & Miko,
    Ha! Yeah, it sucks. Thanks for the honest responses. I thought I might have missed something in the equation.

    @Mercredi
    Thanks for clarifying my lazy post. RU-486 is what I had in mind but for some reason had a mental block in typing it.

  • Polly

    @TXatheist,

    I don’t think abortion will stem the tide of population growth by a siginificant proportion. I think fundmental changes to those 3rd world cultures are needed. Specifically the ones I mentioned before: greater education including sex-ed, greater women’s rights, expanded investment and economic opportunity for both men and women, and modernization.

    I specifiy 3rd world only because populations are declining in Europe, Canada, the USA and Japan. I think this has everything to do with economic prosperity and women’s rights, opportunities, and education levels.

    In some traditional cultures males are preferred over females. If resources are slim or there’s a restriction on # of children, the females get aborted. So, there are fewer women. Gender based genocide seems to me to be the most counter-feminist result imaginable. I don’t know how prevalant this is, tho, and it’s possible I’m blowing it out of proportion.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    Mike,
    I know you are split so you may not be the ideal person to ask but how does someone on the pro-life side decide they know what is the best action for a pregnant woman to take?

    I think most pro-life people would simply say that as soon as another human being is involved (and they would agree with macht that a human embryo or fetus is fully a human being) the dynamics change. They would say that they are not telling the woman what to do with her body so much as telling her what she is not allowed to do to the body of another human being. They would not agree with Claire’s belief that an embryo or fetus is just another part of the mother’s body until it is developed enough to survive on its own. They believe that it is already a unique, living human being from the moment of conception.

    I’m not telling you what I think, mind you (frankly I’m not sure what I think). I’m just doing my best to let you know what more hard-core pro-lifers might say.

  • TXatheist

    Thanks Mike.

    Polly,
    I agree with the goals for 3rd world countries but we are not helping when our President pushes for abstince only funding to be distributed in Africa. Heck, it ain’t much better in Texas.

  • Richard Wade

    Mike,

    Richard, that’s not a fair accusation. I know many pro-life people who are doing exactly these things – adopting children, supporting single-mothers through their pregnancies, etc.

    I’m glad to hear it. That’s why my comment asked, “how many” rather than saying “none of them.” Still I’m concerned with both the sheer numbers and with the quality of life for many of them. According to Children’s Data Bank more than 513,000 children in the U.S. are in foster care. Only 4% are in “pre-adoptive” homes, meaning the foster parents intend to adopt them. Another 24% are fostered by relatives, while 46% are in non-relative foster homes, 8% in group homes, 10% are in institutions, and the remaining 7% are in something designated as “other.” So only 28% are being raised by people who are either related to them or intend to become related by adoption.

    My question still stands Mike, since I was asking about the not whole, not healthy babies, the babies for which there were much more compelling reasons to consider aborting them than simply inconvenience for the mother. How many of those families you know of took on the difficult, expensive, heart-breaking ones?

    On your other comment about how both sides of this issue talk past each other, I agree and I’m glad you pointed out that it’s counter-productive to demonize each other’s motives and over-simplify each other’s positions.

    However, I’m talking about a third issue here, besides the concern for the baby’s right to life and the concern for the mother’s right to choice. I’m talking about the quality of life for these children who will suffer every day far more than the baseline level of suffering in life that we have grown to accept.

    Life at any price is sometimes a price too high to pay. It’s easy to overlook the price that others who are not whole or healthy have to pay.

  • TXatheist

    I went to a foster agency meeting 6 months ago, 7 foster placement centers had reps there, and 4000 of the 30000 Texas foster kids do not have any kind of foster home and are just in a state institution. My wife and I’d will look into foster care later but we have decided when or for certain.

  • http://emergingpensees.com Mike C

    According to Children’s Data Bank more than 513,000 children in the U.S. are in foster care. Only 4% are in “pre-adoptive” homes, meaning the foster parents intend to adopt them. Another 24% are fostered by relatives, while 46% are in non-relative foster homes, 8% in group homes, 10% are in institutions, and the remaining 7% are in something designated as “other.” So only 28% are being raised by people who are either related to them or intend to become related by adoption.

    I don’t know for sure, but I doubt that most of those foster children are babies that would have been aborted. A very large number of foster kids are in the system because they come from abusive homes and were removed by DCFS for their own safety, health, etc. Many of these kids are older children and even teenagers that aren’t realistic candidates for adoption in the first place. (Quite a few of my friends in high school were these kind of foster kids.) While their situation is certainly important too, it really doesn’t have much to do with the abortion issue and whether there are people willing to take unwanted babies.

    From my (admittedly anecdotal) experience, infants to be adopted are far more rare. Several of my friends have adopted through ECFA, and they had to wait several years before they were able to get a baby from a couple who would have aborted otherwise. The waiting list for adoption was just too long.

    My question still stands Mike, since I was asking about the not whole, not healthy babies, the babies for which there were much more compelling reasons to consider aborting them than simply inconvenience for the mother. How many of those families you know of took on the difficult, expensive, heart-breaking ones?

    Well, I only know three families personally who adopted through ECFA (it was a small church – only about 150 people), but at least two of them took children with various degrees of physical disabilities. One of those families ended up adopting four children and serving as foster parents to dozens more, and at least a few of them had “issues” – nothing extremely severe as far as I know, but they weren’t adverse to it if the opportunity and need had arisen.

    Life at any price is sometimes a price too high to pay. It’s easy to overlook the price that others who are not whole or healthy have to pay.

    Richard, I hear what you’re saying, and I understand to some degree, but… well, I’m not sure how to say this because I don’t want to be offensive… that kind of talk scares me. As soon as we start saying “maybe this person or that person is better off not living”, even in the name of compassion, I get nervous. The 20th Century has seen enough regimes that have killed off the handicapped, the infirm, etc. that I’m really leery of going anywhere near that. Don’t worry, I’m not going to call you a “Nazi” or anything; but I do think that this is dangerous ground to tread.

    And personally, and maybe this is too much of a “religious” belief, but I am convinced that handicapped people (whether mentally or physically) are not less valuable or less deserving of a shot at life. Yes, their lives may be far more difficult than that average person’s, but they still can contribute so much to the lives of those around them, and gain so much joy out of life for themselves too. Every life is precious IMHO.

    This is a bit of a personal issue for me too since my wife is physically handicapped from birth, though not severely (she’s missing an arm). Now I know that of course you wouldn’t say that people with her handicap should be aborted, but where does one draw the line? How handicapped does one have to be before their life is not worth living? That’s just not a question I’m comfortable answering. (And I wouldn’t even dare raise it with my wife – understandably she’s even more sensitive to such issues than I am.)

  • Richard Wade

    Mike, thank you for not demonizing me with an oversimplified characterization of what I’m saying, or nazifying me. That would just shut down the dialogue. I just think that the quality of life should not be left out of the dialogue.

    I have no cut and dry answer to such a question either; it’s a terrible dilemma that people have to face every day. Their responses are based on many things such as the context of the culture, the resources available for taking care of the child, the severity of the problem and the prospects for a life of fulfillment and possibility versus a life of pain and frustration, and of course the personal values of the parent or parents. But harsh choices have to be made in a world with diminishing resources and burgeoning populations, and those choices will continue to become harsher as we get more crowded and more hungry. If we don’t get serious about limiting our numbers, what’s happening in Africa will happen everywhere.

    There probably will never be clear cut lines to draw here. I just don’t view life as either on or off, yes or no. I have seen people in states of existence that I wouldn’t wish on the most despicable person. The word “appalling” does not cover it. I would not call those states “life” in any human sense.

    As for the foster child population, you pointed out that many of the children were taken out of their homes long after birth, and for many abortion vs. foster care wasn’t an issue. Perhaps so, but the point remains that the system is already overburdened and if abortion is completely outlawed it will be worse. ( I know you’ve stated that you don’t oppose all abortions.)

    Don’t get me wrong. As others have stated here, I don’t think that abortion is a desirable form of birth control. It’s awful under the best circumstances. But it isn’t going to go away if it is outlawed. It was illegal in most states not too long ago and many thousands of women died having illegal procedures or attempting it themselves.

  • Richard Wade

    Mike C said,
    September 18, 2007 at 11:05 am

    This may be sort of unrelated to what we’ve been talking about here, but one thing I’ve notice about the abortion debate (having been on both sides to some degree) is that both sides seem to be talking past each other. Both sides seem to be imputing opposition to their key issues to the other side.

    So the pro-choice side, whose key concern is women’s rights, accuse the other side of being motivated primarily out of a desire to control and restrict women. And the pro-life side, whose key concern is the life of the child, accuses the other side of being all about abortion-on-demand and devaluing human life in favor of personal convenience. And it seems that anything either side says get interpreted by the other through the lens of these assumptions.

    Of course neither side really matches up to the caricatures painted by their opponents. Pro-life people really are primarily motivated by a deep passion for the life of the child. And pro-choice people really are motivated by a similar passion for the rights of women. And both to me seem like noble motivations, which is why I so often find myself in the middle on these debates and not wanting to identify myself with the poisonous rhetoric of either side.

    I keep coming back and reading this over and over. It’s one of the most intelligent comments I’ve read on this website. Once in a while in other discussions I’ve advocated this kind of respectful awareness of other’s positive motives, but then I get caught up in stating and defending “my side” and start to assume the villainy of the “other side,” dismissing them out of hand as stupid, crazy or evil. When the issues stir up emotions it’s easy for me to forget to see them as just as human as I am, not as caricatures. If only this was the guiding principle in all our debates.

    I’d like to find a nicely phrased quotation about this idea to tape to the top of my monitor as a reminder. Maybe somebody out there has run across one?

  • Claire

    It isn’t a “potential” life, it isn’t a non-human life … it is a new, living, individual, human organism. Go to your local university library and open up any embryology textbook if you don’t believe me. Anybody who has any respect at all for science has to concede that point. It’s a basic scientific fact.

    Sorry, your science is outdated, and that’s not a fact.

    Do you know what a teratoma is? For those that don’t, this description is from wikipedia: “The tissues of a teratoma, although normal in themselves, may be quite different from surrounding tissues, and may be highly inappropriate, even grotesque (hence the monstrous): teratomas have been reported to contain hair, teeth, bone and very rarely more complex organs such as eyeball, torso, and hand.” They are generally removed by surgery or chemotherapy.

    That embryo that some regard as a human life, if left in a laboratory incubator to develop, and sometimes in a human body, will turn into a teratoma. Not a pretty thought, but true.

    That leaves two possible arguments – either it was never a full human life, or its humanity has disappeared. I don’t know how the rest of you feel, but that second one is the scariest concept I’ve come across in a while. How is it possible to be human one week and not human the next? I don’t think it is.


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