Can You Be a Pro-Life Atheist?

I know a handful of atheists who are vehemently pro-life, who say there are plenty of non-religious arguments to be made against abortion.

prolife2.jpg

Is that a contradiction?

(picture courtesy of cbrinfo)


[tags]atheist, atheism, abortion[/tags]

  • http://gaytheist.wordpress.com Reed Braden

    Yes, it is perfectly normal for Atheists to have morons among them, although I like to think we have fewer morons by percentage than rival groups. This person just reinforces the statement that you can be an Atheist and still be a moron.

  • MrOrange

    There’s no mention of abortion in the Bible and indeed there have been varying positions on it over time. It wasn’t until recently that it was fervently taken up by the religious.

    Of course you can be anti-abortion rights and also anti-abortion without religion. As an atheist, I used to be both anti-abortion and anti-abortion rights, with what seemed like good reasons. Just recently, though, (as in within a month) I have become both pro-abortion rights AND pro-abortion.

    In my former stance and current stance, both were not rooted in any way in religion. I think a non-religious stance for anti-abortion rights is merely rooted in flawed logic and misinformation.

  • http://berto-meister.blogspot.com/ Berto

    Philosopher Don Marquis provides interesting secular arguments that attempt to show that abortion is wrong (see “Why Abortion is Immoral,” The Journal of Philosophy, 1989).

    I don’t happen to buy his arguments, and I don’t know whether he is an atheist or not, but it is certainly possible for an atheist to be pro-life. Why wouldn’t it?

  • MercuryBlue

    Atheists can be sexist. Atheists can also place the welfare of an unborn child before the welfare of its mother while being fully aware of the damage that does to individual women and to women as a whole, and wishing it were otherwise but life just sucks that way. Just like religious people can be feminist, and religious people can place the welfare of a pregnant woman before the welfare of her fetus while being fully aware of the damage that does to individual future people, and wishing it were otherwise but life just sucks that way.

  • http://atheistblogger.com Adrian Hayter

    The one example I find not many people try to argue against is the scenario where a woman is raped and finds that she is pregnant with the offender’s child. Are we really supposed to turn to a woman who has just been through an extremely traumatic experience and tell her “buck up, for the next 9 months you’ll be carrying his child”. 9 months of a constant reminder, then birth, and assuming she doesn’t give it away she will have to answer questions about the child’s father at a later date.

    If she does give it away of course, there is no reason years later it might look for it’s real parents, and the memories come flooding back.

    Sometimes abortion can be inhumane, and sometimes it can be the most humane thing you can do. At the end of the day, the mother is the one who is already conscious and has feelings, the fetus isn’t.

  • dave

    Well, i’m a pro-choice atheist, but i certainly think an athieist could be anti-abortion, and i don’t think it’s necessary to label them a moron for being so. However, if they’re bombing abortion clinics for it…

  • MercuryBlue

    I don’t like to bring up rape in abortion discussions at all. The woman is pregnant. It should not matter how she got to be pregnant. And sentencing unlucky women to pregnancy for having consensual sex is just as appalling as sentencing unlucky women to pregnancy for being raped. Except in cultures with sex taboos designed to prevent any sex that doesn’t have a possibility of conception, and infant mortality’s plenty low enough that we don’t need those taboos anymore. (Not that we really ever did.)

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    I don’t get it. What is wrong is being pro-life? Should we be anti-life? I never really understood that. I can understand pro-choice, and I am all for pro-choice regarding all issues across the board.

    I believe you can be pro-choice and pro-life at the same time.

    Now… about walking around wearing a sign… I want to to ask why? Going off on a tangent here… I always struggle to understand why people find it necessary to wear signs and/or labels, such as the word “atheist” or the letter “A”, for example. I know we’ve discussed this before. Christians are also notorious for all kinds of ways of labeling themselves. I can think of many other labels we put on ourselves as if we can’t remember who we are without them. (I am also guilty of doing some of that, come to think of it…) Can’t we just let our actions speak for themselves?

    Oops! I’m rambling again… :+

  • MrOrange

    “I don’t get it. What is wrong is being pro-life? Should we be anti-life? I never really understood that. I can understand pro-choice, and I am all for pro-choice regarding all issues across the board.

    I believe you can be pro-choice and pro-life at the same time. ”

    I think we need to take care and capitalize these ridiculous sloganized terms properly as Pro-Life and Pro-Choice. When you do not capitalize them, it leads to trouble. If you have a dog named Kitty, you shouldn’t refer to it as “kitty.”

    We’re of course all (generally) pro-life and all pro-choice, just as we are all (generally) republicans and democrats. Being a republican, though, has nothing to do with being a Republican; just as being pro-life has nothing to do with being Pro-Life.

  • http://www.blakeclan.org/jon/greenoasis/ Jonathan Blake

    And let’s dispense with the false dichotomy between Pro-life and Pro-choice. A large portion of us fall somewhere in between the extremes of “absolutely never kill a fertilized egg ever” and “abortions a wonderful idea for whatever reason right up to the second before birth”.

  • Brendon

    I don’t see why anyone with an open mind couldn’t be pro-life.

    If you aren’t convinced about whether a fetus should be considered human, I think the overwhelmingly negative effects on pregnant women who have abortions speak pretty loudly..

  • TheDeadEye

    Being a republican, though, has nothing to do with being a Republican

    What is the difference between a ‘republican’ and a ‘Republican’? How about an ‘atheist’ and an ‘Atheist’?

  • David D.G.

    Of course you can be anti-abortion rights and also anti-abortion without religion. As an atheist, I used to be both anti-abortion and anti-abortion rights, with what seemed like good reasons. Just recently, though, (as in within a month) I have become both pro-abortion rights AND pro-abortion.

    MrOrange, I hope that what you meant at the end of this paragraph was that you are pro-choice, rather than pro-abortion. The misleading label “pro-abortion” is a heinous strawman frequently used by some fanatical pro-birth advocates to vilify pro-choicers.

    While atheists seemingly seldom support the pro-birth position, it is by no means intrinsically inconsistent with atheism — but neither is it the least bit shaped by atheism, whereas the pro-birth philosophy of most people who hold it is most often shaped by their religious convictions (and/or by the religious leaders who dictate to them what their religious convictions supposedly are).

    ~David D.G.

  • Spork

    First comment is an ad-hominem. Nice.

    MrOrange, I’ve struggled with this question for a long time. Personally, I lean more toward the anti-abortion side of the argument, but I’m not fully convinced. What changed your mind completely?

    Adrian, the vast majority of rape does NOT result in a pregnancy. Your argument is an emotional ploy, and not really an argument at all, but an attempt at gross manipulation based on feelings of fear and guilt. Use a different one. It isn’t the fault of the fetus where it came from, is it?

    Jonathan, it’s not a false dichotomy at all, and you’re being willfully ignorant. The examples he used, (Kitty, kitty) were just that. Examples. For you to trot out atheists vs. Atheists just shows that either you are, indeed, being willfully ignorant, or, you didn’t understand the usefulness of the examples.

    If you really need it explained, I would wager that MrOrange meant that a ‘republican’ is one who thinks that a republic as a form of government is a good idea while a ‘Republican’ is a member of the political party known as The Republicans. It’s the difference between names and labels.

  • MrOrange

    What is the difference between a ‘republican’ and a ‘Republican’? How about an ‘atheist’ and an ‘Atheist’?

    A small “r” republican is who who favors republicanism as the best form of government. A big “r” Republican is one who belongs to the Republican Party. Going to my example, if I have a dog named Cat, it is still a dog regardless of the name. It is not a small “c” cat as it is a canine, but it is a big “c” Cat as it is its name.

    The same goes with Pro-Life/Pro-Choice. Being Pro-Choice isn’t one who advocates choice (perhaps on this one single issue), it is one who is pro-abortion rights.

    As for atheism/Atheism, I am not aware of anything which Atheism is. A Christian faith could call their branch of Christianity “Atheism.” Just because they’re called Atheists does not make them atheists.

    MrOrange, I hope that what you meant at the end of this paragraph was that you are pro-choice, rather than pro-abortion. The misleading label “pro-abortion” is a heinous strawman frequently used by some fanatical pro-birth advocates to vilify pro-choicers.

    I’m of course pro-choice on everything that one has the right to choose on, just as I am pro-life on most things (and pro-life rights on all things). On this case, I do mean that I am pro-abortion. It does not mean that I am pro-mandated abortion or anything along those lines, I am pro-abortion in the sense that I would advocate that the woman obtain an abortion rather than give birth. Some who are pro-abortion rights are also anti-abortion (meaning that abhor abortion or prefer adoption over it). I disagree with them, now.

  • Milena

    I don’t see why anyone with an open mind couldn’t be pro-life.

    If you aren’t convinced about whether a fetus should be considered human, I think the overwhelmingly negative effects on pregnant women who have abortions speak pretty loudly..

    First, you need to provide some proof that abortions have worse effects on women who have them, than do unwanted pregnancies where the woman is forced to carry the baby to term. Secondly, it is not up to any of us to decide what’s best for any given woman. One may be absolutely horrified by the idea of aborting her foetus where another is horrified by the thought of becoming an unwilling mother. Either way, all women have different feelings on the matter and live in different contexts.

  • Aj

    Religious people use the same arguments as secular people against abortion. The difference is when religious people say “human life”, “life begins” etc… they mean souls. Secular people who are anti-abortion don’t believe in souls, so they’re really advocating life rights for cells with human DNA, for a human organism regardless what that consists of. I view them as similar to the animal rights advocates that equate the meat industry with the holocaust, many of them are also atheists. It’s just a very bizarre value system, it’s unusual for such horrible values to be gained unaided by religion.

  • Herb

    If you aren’t convinced about whether a fetus should be considered human, I think the overwhelmingly negative effects on pregnant women who have abortions speak pretty loudly..

    Suppose I agree with this… therefore what? We as a society should make this very serious decision FOR women? Abortion should be illegal because it’s bad for you women and WE know better? Milena, c’mon! Don’t you find that patronizing?

    Remember folks, “pro-life” means you want to outlaw abortions and “pro-choice” means keep them legal. Clearly one can be pro-choice and still wish to reduce the number of abortions. You can even be pro-choice and think that abortions are sad!

    I don’t see any inherent contradiction between atheism and being pro-life, but I can’t imagine what rational argument the pro-life stance would be based on. “Life” begins at conception? Says who? How do you justify that statement without faith?

  • Ashes

    I consider myself “grudgingly pro-choice”, and it took a bit of soul-searching (if you’ll humour me using the word “soul”) to come to a conclusion on the matter that satisfied my conscience. I can certainly understand how other people fall into a wide spectrum of opinions on the subject.

    I don’t presume that disbelief in a god should imply any particular opinion on abortion. What I presume is that an atheist could at least sit down and have a rational dialogue about why s/he feels one way or the other.

    So perhaps when atheists “say there are plenty of non-religious arguments to be made against abortion”, we should hear them out and think about their arguments before we start wondering if these people are contradictory. We don’t all have to agree, but we should be able to have a civil discourse based in reason.

  • http://www.thegookins.net don

    First, I think that the pro-life/pro-choice distinction is a false dichotomy. There are many points in between and many of us fall somewhere in that spectrum.

    We atheists are often quick to point out that morality is not dependent upon religion. It is generally accepted among atheists and theists alike that it is morally wrong to take human life. However, most of us agree that there may be exceptions to that under certain circumstances. That is essentially my view on abortion. I believe that a fetus is human life and that in general it is morally wrong to terminate it. But in some circumstances it may be the morally correct thing to do. Even within this view, there is a lot of elasticity – at what point in a pregnancy does it become wrong to abort? Certainly getting rid of a zygote is not the same as getting rid of an 8-month gestational fetus. I don’t have an answer to that.

    That being said, I don’t think that abortion should be illegal. A government that has the power to outlaw abortion also has the power to mandate abortion and I don’t want our government to be able to do either. I think the answer is in prevention of unwanted pregnancy. We’ve come a long way with contraception, but there is still more that can be done.

    Sorry, no easy answers to this question.

  • http://www.blakeclan.org/jon/greenoasis/ Jonathan Blake

    I don’t see any inherent contradiction between atheism and pro-life, but I can’t imagine what rational argument the pro-life stance would be based on. “Life” begins at conception? Says who? Certainly not biologists.

    How about being willing to acknowledge that we don’t know exactly when life (whatever that means) begins or when the fetus reaches a stage of development when it can suffer because of the abortion? I don’t know and you don’t know.

    Personally, I’m glad that other people acknowledge my right to live despite the lack of a precise definition of life. I’m happy that there are laws to protect my right. I’m also happy to protect others’ right to live. No one has an absolute right to life (there are limits), but I hope that we aren’t cavalier about the destruction of life, especially those who are the most vulnerable.

  • http://darwinsdagger.blogspot.com Darwin’s Dagger

    The writings of Carl Sagan (and for the moment I do not have access to the specific passages) seemed to indicate that he was a pro-life atheist, at least to a degree. I believe his compromise to the question of when human life began was measurable brain activity, which strikes me as an entirely reasonable stance.

  • http://anexerciseinfutility.blogspot.com Tommy

    I can certainly understand how an atheist might also be against abortion.

    But when you get right down to it, I don’t see why this issue should be a societal concern at all. It should be between a woman and her physician and that’s it. If forcing pregnant women and teenage girls to carry pregnancies to term is your number one issue, then you really need to get your priorities in order.

  • Shane

    I once read a secular abortion debate between Richard Carrier and Jennifer Roth. So there are people who argue the anti-abortion case from a secular perspective. I don’t remember all the exact arguments but it’s still up on infidels.org if anyone wants to read it. The main disagreement, as I recall, was the definition of personhood and when someone becomes a “person” and are given rights as such. Carrier’s position, which I largely agree with, was once the fetus had sufficient neural structure to support a unique, individual personality.

    I also agree with someone earlier who said the rape scenario was irrelevant. It is more an issue of personhood–once the fetus has the rights of a person then it cannot be morally aborted. Before that it is the woman’s choice. The woman’s situation has no bearing on this at least from the perspective of the baby and its rights.

  • Herb

    How about being willing to acknowledge that we don’t know exactly when life (whatever that means) begins or when the fetus reaches a stage of development when it can suffer because of the abortion? I don’t know and you don’t know.

    This sounds an awful lot like “I believe in God because no one can prove He doesn’t exist.” You’re right – the child may or may not be “alive” and I don’t know for sure 100%. Meanwhile, we have a mother who absolutely IS alive and is being stripped of her options because “you can’t prove a negative.” Maybe this is a satisfying argument for some people but it should not satisfy atheists.

    I’m totally down with Carl Sagan’s compromise.

  • Shane

    I don’t see why this issue should be a societal concern at all.

    It is an issue because human rights is an issue. And we can all agree that at some point during conception to birth the fetus becomes human and deserves human rights. And it is our responsibility as a society to recognize and protect those rights. The grey area is when exactly this happens, but like most things in life there are no hard lines.

  • Milena

    Milena, c’mon! Don’t you find that patronizing?

    I’m not certain what you mean, since what I said was basically in line with what you posted. Maybe you got me confused with Brendon, who actually posted the text you quoted. =/

  • Herb

    Oh and when I say that the mother “absolutely is alive”, I mean that any reasonable definition of life (what we’re worried about protecting here) must apply to a pregnant woman who is making decisions. Re-defining life to the point where we’re not even sure if the people having this discussion are “alive” misses the point I think.

    @Milena – Whoops! Yeah I was quoting something you quoted.

  • http://www.otmatheist.com/ hoverFrog

    I don’t see a dichotomy. Pro-lifers are against abortion. Atheists don’t believe in gods. Unless someone were proposing terminating the pregnancy of the next virgin Mary I just don’t see a cross over in opinion at all. Honestly it’s equivalent to claiming to be a Christian vegetarian.

  • http://www.blakeclan.org/jon/greenoasis/ Jonathan Blake

    This sounds an awful lot like “I believe in God because no one can prove He doesn’t exist.” You’re right – the child may or may not be “alive” and I don’t know for sure 100%. Meanwhile, we have a mother who absolutely IS alive and is being stripped of her options because “you can’t prove a negative.” Maybe this is a satisfying argument for some people but it should not satisfy atheists.

    The abortion question is more important, in some ways, than the question of whether or not God exists. I don’t really care all that much whether or not there’s a God.

    Abortion involves real flesh and blood. I hope we aren’t flippantly disregarding the possible rights of the unborn because it makes the abortion question easier for us to answer to ourselves. It’s hard to balance the rights of two people (if that’s indeed what they are). In the end, I think the rights of the mother should weigh more heavily than the unborn because she is more obviously alive. I hope we don’t allow ourselves to become so callous that we aren’t distressed a little when an abortion becomes necessary.

  • Herb

    I hope we don’t allow ourselves to become so callous that we aren’t distressed a little when an abortion becomes necessary.

    Yes – well said. But the original point was that I was asking how an atheist could possibly justify outlawing abortion. Your answer was roughly “because no one knows when life begins, or even what ‘life’ means.” And my point is that if the atheist values reason (and life!), then this is a terrible argument to make. Sure the topic may be more important than whether there’s a god, but this argument is still as weak as similar arguments for god, and it should be rejected for the same reasons. Maybe there is a secular argument to be made for outlawing abortion, but this isn’t it.

  • Aj

    Jonathan Blake,

    How about being willing to acknowledge that we don’t know exactly when life (whatever that means) begins…

    How about not using meaningless words in sentences? At a minimum you should know what you mean, but here we are, with you writing about something without knowledge of its meaning. How can we know that we don’t know when it begins, when we both don’t know what you mean when you write it?

  • wwyoud

    Of course an atheist can be pro-life! The questions seems to assume that atheists think strictly from a logic/science-based framework. There are atheists who don’t believe in a god, but don’t know or care much about science and all the high-brow brainiac shenanigans that go along with “that type”. :) So deciding issues from an emotional or moral basis is perfectly valid.
    Seriously, I support pro-choice policies, but personally have become very pro-life, because a pregnancy is a potential human and should not be wasted simply because it’s inconvenient to a woman or to society. BUT, that view leads me to be much more concerned about preventing pregnancy to begin with, and improving the opportunities for those most likely to get pregnant and abort – the poor and uneducated – rather than worry about someone choosing to abort. I realize that many, if not most, women have abortions for very valid reasons; yet, they became pregnant while aware of these obstacles. Lack of health care and contraceptives, and ignorance, are what should be changed, not access to abortions.

  • http://www.blakeclan.org/jon/greenoasis/ Jonathan Blake

    Herb, I think we started of with a misunderstanding. I didn’t mean to argue that abortion should be outlawed because we don’t know when life starts. I said that we should be cautious because we don’t know. In other words, if those of us who want to restrict abortions can’t argue based on the assumption that life begins at conception (I think we both agree that this is inappropriate), then those who want to promote abortion rights can’t argue that life begins at birth or whenever. We just don’t know. So we shouldn’t be so ready to dismiss the potential rights of the unborn.

  • http://www.blakeclan.org/jon/greenoasis/ Jonathan Blake

    How about not using meaningless words in sentences? At a minimum you should know what you mean, but here we are, with you writing about something without knowledge of its meaning. How can we know that we don’t know when it begins, when we both don’t know what you mean when you write it?

    Huh? ;)

  • http://www.blakeclan.org/jon/greenoasis/ Jonathan Blake

    wwyoud,

    Spot on.

  • Xeonicus

    In my personal life, I’m pro-life… in a strict public sense, I’m pro-choice. I don’t expect to hold society to the same level of responsibility I hold myself. Plus, I’m a guy, so it’s not really my choice either way, is it? I guess it’d be more accurate to say that I’m “pro-supporting whatever her decision is, but I’d prefer to avoid an abortion if possible”.

    Kinda off-topic, but guys who ditch girls after getting them pregnant are the lowest form of life on earth. I know a few…

  • Herb

    Johnathan – OK I think I’m with you now.

  • http://www.blakeclan.org/jon/greenoasis/ Jonathan Blake

    Jonathan, it’s not a false dichotomy at all, and you’re being willfully ignorant. The examples he used, (Kitty, kitty) were just that. Examples. For you to trot out atheists vs. Atheists just shows that either you are, indeed, being willfully ignorant, or, you didn’t understand the usefulness of the examples.

    Did I miss something?

    So you’re saying that Pro-life and Pro-choice is a true dichotomy (i.e. you can either be on or the other, there is nothing in between). Interesting. Please explain.

    edit: I think you’ve got me confused with someone else.

  • Samuel Skinner

    RRS aren’t morons- they are just annoying. You know, like an alarm clock. Of course, if you ignore the clock, than you are late for work and fired.

  • Aj

    wwyoud,

    …because a pregnancy is a potential human and should not be wasted simply because it’s inconvenient to a woman or to society. BUT, that view leads me to be much more concerned about preventing pregnancy to begin with…

    That doesn’t make sense to me. Contraception stops a potential “human” (person?), it wastes the opportunity of a person as well. Both result in not having a baby.

    …because it’s inconvenient to a woman or to society… I realize that many, if not most, women have abortions for very valid reasons; yet, they became pregnant while aware of these obstacles.

    Yes, it’s their fault they became pregnant, they should be pregnant and later give birth as a punishment for their carelessness. Abortions should only be allowed for women who have “valid” reasons for getting pregnant. Women shouldn’t have abortions unless it’s unreasonable to expect a woman to prevent pregnancy, like being raped.

    If someone accidently cuts their finger off, and it was their fault, we shouldn’t reattach it, it should be left off, so that they will be more careful next time. When someone smokes, we don’t treat their cancer. When someone gets HIV, we don’t give them medicine, if they had unprotected sex with a stranger they deserve what they get.

  • Spork

    What I’m finding to be most interesting about this discussion, and perhaps I’m assuming the vast majority of us here are atheists, is the immediate jump to conclusions, and overtly hostile/emotional replies. Particularly the few comments containing ad-hominems and broad generalizations.

    Why is it assumed that if an atheist is anti-abortion, he or she would be pro-law about restricting abortion? This is definitely the type of question where the conclusion may not lead to the action so many are jumping on straight away. Plenty of things are morally wrong, but not illegal. It’s morally wrong to cheat on one’s spouse, but it’s not illegal, for example.

    Wouldn’t it be far more reasonable to conclude that if abortion is to be considered morally wrong, at any degree, wwyoud’s proposed solution of greater education and availability of contraception be a far more reasoned, and effective, response?

    Just eat the thing one bite at at time, okay?

  • Jonas

    I am personally very anti-abortion, and I think that anyone who considers a person a moron simply for that reason seriously needs to get his or her head checked. That certainly isn’t very rational thinking, seeing as how people’s morals and ethics can, believe it or not, differ. For instance, I feel that it is very wrong that stupid kids can make very stupid choices and not face their due consequences, but instead passing those consequences on to another human, while someone else might feel that a fetus is not human and therefore abortion is, while not good, the only choice for someone who made a mistake. I am convinced that a fetus is human because it has a heartbeat, legs, arms, brain, torso, reproductive organs, et cetera, very early on. And while there is nothing different from a baby two seconds after being born and a week before birth, there is a very strong difference between a sperm/egg and a one week old fetus.
    Reed Braden, I would like an apology. I am not a moron.

  • MercuryBlue

    During the first twelve weeks, it’s an embryo. It’s only after that that it’s a fetus. /pedant

  • EKM

    Shane said,

    I also agree with someone earlier who said the rape scenario was irrelevant.

    Whoever said that was probably a man. Who does not have a sister.

    My mom is 65, and has had a hysterectomy. Yet she will never vote for a politician who is “pro-life”. Maybe this is presumptuous, but I think for a lot of women, abortion is like the camel’s nose in the tent. To a lot of women, the issue of reproductive rights is used by a lot of men as a way to control women. Sometimes that looks like exactly what is going on. A lot of “pro-life” people will fight tooth and nail for an unborn child, but refuse to lift a finger for that child once it is born. That is a pretty narrow definition of “pro-life”.

    As has been stated, “pro-choice” people do not go around trying to get pregnant just so they can have an abortion. That is “pro-life” propaganda. It is easy to take a black and white view of an issue when it is not your life. Look at Bob Barr (who said his wife getting an abortion was a private matter) or Jeb Bush (who said his daughter’s drug problems were a private matter while a lot of people are rotting in Florida jails for doing what the then-governor’s daughter did). That does not make abortion okay, but it is a reason to be skeptical of the extremist view that a lot of people take about other people’s lives.

    I also agree with what wwyoud said at June 24, 2008 at 6:14 pm.

  • Herb

    Spork – I think we’re all using different definitions of a few key words, and the result = confusion.

    For instance, I was under the impression that being “pro-life” is a political term meaning you want to give rights to fetuses/embryos (or outlaw most/all abortions which is equivalent I think). And I thought pro-choice was the negation of being pro-life. But I see people using the terms differently, so perhaps a lot of us actually agree with each other.

  • http://www.cogspace.com/ Katie

    Can an atheist be Pro-Life? Absolutely. While many of the Pro-Life arguments are religious in nature, there are plenty which are simply based on emotions and opinions derived more from cultural norms and taboos than anything else.

    Then of course there are the bad “scientific” reasons, which tend to point out that, yes, there can be some negative health effects due to abortions, without considering the particular method or drug, let alone facilities and doctors involved, the general health of the patient having the abortion, etc… and this is before whether or not these trumped-up problems even compare to the complications arising from actually bearing children is so much as considered.

    I am one of many women who would probably never want to have an abortion, but I have nothing against the practice. I think people need to focus n being responsible and not letting this become a problem in the first place, but if it does, I would not fault someone for it. Accidents happen.

    The most important part of it is that where you draw the line is not necessarily where someone else draws the line. The very fact that there is a debate speaks to the notion that people need to choose what course of action they want to take in their own lives, rather than set up laws to decide what is best for everyone.

    Nothing is best for everyone.

  • Aj

    Jonas,

    For instance, I feel that it is very wrong that stupid kids can make very stupid choices and not face their due consequences, but instead passing those consequences on to another human, while someone else might feel that a fetus is not human and therefore abortion is, while not good, the only choice for someone who made a mistake. I am convinced that a fetus is human because it has a heartbeat, legs, arms, brain, torso, reproductive organs, et cetera, very early on.

    I don’t know what you mean by human. What do you mean by human? Most mammals have the things you list. I haven’t heard any abortion rights supporter use the terms “human” or “not human” to support their arguments. Further, I don’t see why having a brain or legs should matter to the right to life.

    And while there is nothing different from a baby two seconds after being born and a week before birth, there is a very strong difference between a sperm/egg and a one week old fetus.

    Biologically a fetus can be more developed than a baby. There’s a difference between a zygote and a blastocyst, a big difference between a blastocyst and a 4 week old embryo, an embryo to a fetus. Is any of this relevant to why you’re anti-abortion, and why is that?

  • Larry Huffman

    I think the answer is yes…but I must clarify that a bit.

    Of course there are those who are atheist and not necessarily so because of a grasp of ethics, science or other principles which could greatly affect such a view…idiots and morons who, regardless of what ideology they claim, have very little knowledge of what it is they are espousing…but, those types aside, yes.

    The problem is really that the abortion battles have been drawn around incongruent lines. Look at the oppositions: life or choice. Quite frankly I am pro-life and pro-choice. I greatly value life…far more, I believe, than someone who believe this life is a temporary stop on the way to heaven and eternity. Since I believe (and know of no evidence to the contrary) that this is our only shot at existence…then of course I am pro-life.

    Further, I personally do not think I would choose abortion over other options, but I am the first to admit that without being in a specific situation I cannot know for certain. I feel my decision is more based on personal responsibility and my own views in that area. I do not for one minute presume to tell others what their choices should be. And, I do not view this as life or death…I do not count a fetus as a human life…it is a potential human and nothing more.

    I am also pro-choice, because I am not everyone…I am me…and I cannot speak for, nor know what is best for everyone. I believe firmly that everyone should have this choice, and I am quite confident that it is the correct choice for many people. So no…I would never carry a sign to influence others on this very personal decision.

    Yes…atheists can be pro-life. Truthfully…as has been pointed out over and over…the only thing an atheist cannot be is a theist…by definition. Atheists come from wildly diverse backgrounds and are so for many reasons…tibetan buddhists are aslo, technically, atheist. I am quite sure that there are some buddhists who would oppose abortion, for decidedly different reasons than a christian…(and I can assure you that they will not resort to blowing up clinics). There are quite possibly atheists who would say they are pro-life simply because ‘babies are so darn cute’.

    The real battle-line is pro-/anti-abortion. I am very much pro-abortion…in that it should be available to those who choose it. As I said, it is not something I can see myself choosing, but I am also the first to admit that I have not been in the situations so many find themselves in. And…I do not want to make everyone believe as I do, so let the choice rest on each individual.

    On a side note: I find it very revealing that so many who believe that each person is accountable to a personal god feel they still need to try to shape what others do. It is not even logical within their own fuzzy christian logic considering that their diety has spent a large amount of time and effort according to the believers, preparing the punishment of the wrongdoers.

  • MercuryBlue

    I also agree with someone earlier who said the rape scenario was irrelevant.

    Whoever said that was probably a man. Who does not have a sister.

    That was me, and last I looked I’m female and I have three sisters. Relevance? And I stand by my assertion, by the way. A woman who finds herself pregnant and who does not desire to remain pregnant another however many months should not be compelled to remain pregnant; the circumstances leading to her finding herself pregnant are irrelevant.

    (ETA: what’s wrong with using nested blockquotes?)

  • EKM

    MercuryBlue said,

    That was me, and last I looked I’m female and I have three sisters. Relevance? And I stand by my assertion, by the way. A woman who finds herself pregnant and who does not desire to remain pregnant another however many months should not be compelled to remain pregnant; the circumstances leading to her finding herself pregnant are irrelevant.

    Define what you mean by “the circumstances leading to her finding herself pregnant“. If a woman does not become pregnant due to sexual assault, then a woman becomes pregnant due to her own actions. To “find oneself pregnant” sounds random, or perhaps a way of trying to evade responsibility. If you really don’t want to “find yourself pregnant”, you can either take pills for that, keep your legs together, or be more careful about the men you choose.

  • MercuryBlue

    Would ‘discovering that she is pregnant’ be a better way to phrase it?

  • http://blog.iamlabboy.com MikeG

    Unlurking…

    I’m late to the discussion, and a first time poster, but I must chime in. Abortion always brings everyone out, don’t it?

    Anyway, as for the discussion re: capitalization of phrases, I think it’s an important distinction. I am Pro-Choice (note caps), I am also pro-life (note lack of caps). I have accepted that some pregnancies are not wanted, or are an undue burden for whatever reason. As long as there is a rational place to put the limit on timing, such as the Sagan argument above, I think on-demand abortion should be freely legal. Past that, medical necessity or strong extenuating circumstances (sorry for the vagueness) should be allowed as valid reasons for exception. That’s the Pro-Choice part.

    The pro-life part is that I would rather that the potential human developing in the womb have a chance at life. I would rather a potential baby have the chance to see this cool ass world.

    Now back to Hemant’s original question, I think it could be a somewhat rational position (I’m substituting “rational” for “atheist”, as I think that’s the more interesting question), granted that initial premise that human life begins at conception. There isn’t enough information about the guy’s stance to say if he takes the premise to its logical conclusion. If abortion is murder, there are several things that must follow. In cases of rape, as brought up above, would that be prosecutable as aggravated (secondary) manslaughter (murder? IANAL)? Same question in regard to incest. Those are two of the main allowances grudgingly granted by the religious community that wouldn’t apply to a rational application of that first premise.

    The argument from the first premise could be carried farther, though. Is miscarriage negligent manslaughter? If it’s caused by, say, drug use, is it worse?

    Is a drug using mother responsible for her choices regarding sex? Would she, at the time of self induced drug haze be a victim of rape, being unable to give real consent?

    I submit that it is not possible to sustain a rational Pro-Life (caps) position without severe legal repercussions. I am not willing to accept those repercussions.

    I’ll try not to lurk without comment so much, but I’m a n00b to the blog thing and a bit nervous to lay it all out like that. Sorry for the long comment.

  • Pseudonym

    I’d like to add myself to the chorus of people who find the “pro-life/pro-choice” dichotomy wrong. And I’d also like to open up the idea that the phrase “pro-choice” and the idea of basing it on an artificial “right” is inaccurate and unhelpful.

    I think that the reason why that term is used is that Americans of both sides don’t understand that pregnancy, and how to manage it, is a public health issue, and cannot be separated from other public health related issues, such as sex education and public awareness campaigns about contraception.

    Roe v. Wade did not find or create any right of “choice”. It based its decision on the issue of medical privacy. How about rather than talking about a non-existent right of “choice”, we talk about the real, serious human right that is medical privacy? That’s an issue that everyone can get behind, no?

  • http://johnmoeller.wordpress.com/ John Moeller

    Because I’m a materialist and I’d like to see an egalitarian and altruistic society, my opinion is:

    1. The health and safety of the mother are more important than the child’s.
    2. If, after being born, the child would not live without considerable life support attempts, or would live in considerable pain, it’s acceptable to terminate.
    3. There is such a thing as “too late” to allow for abortion under any circumstances of conception.
    4. There is such a thing as “early enough” to allow for abortion under any circumstances of conception.

    Because of 3 and 4, I believe that abortions past 26 weeks are unacceptable and that abortions before 12 weeks are probably acceptable. The area in between is too gray and should be left to qualified people (such as ethicists and the medical community) to consider. Ultimately, I think that conception and birth are terrible markers to consider the abortion issue.

  • http://blog.lib.umn.edu/fole0091/epistaxis Epistaxis

    The obvious way to answer this question is to find an atheist who opposes abortion rights. It only takes one black swan. And he’s in your photo, so that’s that. Of course atheists can have opposing views on any ethical question – that’s the unique thing about atheism.

    A more difficult question is “should you be a pro-life atheist?” That seems to break down into several secularly difficult questions: 1) What is the status of a fetus? 2) What status must it have to earn a right to life? 3) How does a fetus’ right to life (if any) weigh against the mother’s right to choose what lives in her uterus? 4) Should government enforce these conclusions? Some religions offer clear answers to the first couple, and maybe even the third, though they can’t go far into the fourth without violating the conditions of their tax exemption. Certainly, the vast majority of opposition to abortion rights is due to religion, but informed atheists can still disagree about all these points.

    An even more difficult question is “should atheist organizations take a position on abortion rights?”

  • JohnB

    I don’t see a contradiction in this at all. It wouldn’t be my position, necessarily, but I would tend to respect that atheist’s position on abortion more than I would a religious person’s, and not simply because he’s an atheist but because it is contrary to what you would expect his position to be.

    My suspicion is that he had given more thought to his position than someone who is against abortion because it’s part of the package of being religious. Given the fact that he’s atheist, he has reasons other than because a “human soul” is being terminated, and they may be perfectly valid reasons consistent, in his mind, with his rejection of anything supernatural.

  • http://religiouscomics.net Jeff

    My kids are 5 years apart. We were going to have one in-between them but my wife miscarriaged after about 1 month of pregnancy. From the religious perspective, the miscarriage was an act of God. So logically, from the pro-life perspective, I would want to arrest God for murder and have God serve time…. maybe even get the death penalty. God should also be arrested to prevent all future miscarriages. This might be a justifiable deicide.

  • sam

    it isn’t a contradiction, its just an unnecessary label.

  • Spork

    EKM said,

    Whoever said that was probably a man. Who does not have a sister.

    What a sexist, irrelevant, and silly thing to say. Opinions are only valid when accompanied by the correct set of genitals or proper sibling configuration?

    Argue the point based on logic and not genitalia. Unless, of course, you’re trying to control the discussion (manipulation) due to gender issues (subjugation for “incorrect” gender posession) and dominate the other party through bullying and not through peaceful discourse. But, you wouldn’t be doing that at all, would you?

  • Spork

    Katie said,
    Nothing is best for everyone

    I’m kind of a fan of respiration, myself.

  • http://mygoddlessdrama.blogspot.com/ Stacy

    Im an atheist, and I think abortion is disgusting. I do think its ending a potential life, someone who could have been a writer, a doctor, maybe a president. I hate to see so many of my friends unable to have children, and then hear about garbage pails filled with aborted fetuses. I would much rather these women put them up for adoption. However, I am Pro-choice. Do what ever you want, thats your business, not mine. I have no judgement for others, just know it is not for me, and I find abortion an unfortunate but necessary option that should be safe and legal for every women in the world.

  • http://ecstathy.blogspot.com efrique

    Being an atheist requires only one thing: a lack of belief in gods.

    You can still believe all kinds of other stuff.

    I can’t see any reason why there wouldn’t be pro-life* atheists (I think they’re wrong but that doesn’t stop them from existing.

    *(oh, how I detest that term – the so called “pro-life” position is very often anti-life, and pro-misery)

  • kirk

    My opinion has always been to not have one. I’m a male, I can’t have a child, I should have no say in the matter. So, I guess that technically makes me Pro-Choice.

    That said, I also don’t see any reason that a Pro-Life atheist is a contradiction in terms. If anything, I picture atheists/skeptics to be more aware of what is happening during the various stages of fetal development than “believers”.

  • Darryl

    Yes, one may be an atheist and pro-life.

    I reject extremists, whether pro-choice or pro-life. They’re not willing to discuss the issues involved and that’s stupid.

    The decision to abort is a difficult one for the parents. It’s a sad thing.

    I agree with wwyoud that we should try to avoid unwanted pregnancies.

    Removing the religious component from this question makes it easier to reason it out and to consider the public interest in policies that touch upon abortion.

    I think whenever possible the state should stay the hell out of reproductive decisions. Unless a clear and overriding state interest in the birthing of the unborn can be demonstrated, all such decisions ought to be left to the parents.

    I think whenever we begin to apply legal philosophy to reproduction we get ourselves into a fix. For example, the decision to have children is rarely restricted by law here in the U.S. China has had its one-child-policy, which was purported to be in the public interest. But, we tend to let consenting adults do as they please. Why should we let them procreate without restriction, yet put restrictions on the outcome? If it is unlawful to prevent a birth after conception, how is the public harmed?

    I like the idea of a “right of privacy.” I also like the idea of a “right to life.” Both I think are recognized by our Constitution. But does a right of privacy overrule the right to life when the privacy is that of the parents, or the mother, and the life is that of the unborn If so, when? Always? I don’t like the thought that government, that is law, can compel a couple to have a child based upon the idea of a right to life. What is the public interest in that? I think the whole idea of “right” poses a problem in this regard. We say that the right to life attaches to all persons, and if the developing child is granted the status of a person, then ergo we have our dilemma. Ought we to regard the unborn as persons?

    If a pregnant woman knowingly and willfully endangers her unborn child by using drugs, do we charge her with a crime predicated upon the idea that she is harming her unborn child? But, the unborn need not even be considered a person to be thought worthy of protection, would it? We don’t consider animals persons, yet most of us would probably object to the willful harming of them for personal pleasure, wouldn’t we? If it is illegal to abuse the unborn by using drugs during a pregnancy, why isn’t it illegal to kill the unborn? What is the public interest here? Why does the law step in and charge the mother with a crime? I think a case could be made for a public interest, if the child is birthed. I’d be willing to bet that most of you reading this would have disgust for that woman wouldn’t you? But, would you check your emotions and think “well, it’s her body, and she has a right to do with it as she wills?” If not for this then why for abortion?

    If we are willing to prosecute a murderer for two homicides when he kills a pregnant mother, then we must be granting person-hood to the unborn. But, if the murdered unborn might have been aborted without harm to the public interest, why is it murder?

  • Aj

    Stacy,

    I do think its ending a potential life, someone who could have been a writer, a doctor, maybe a president. I hate to see so many of my friends unable to have children, and then hear about garbage pails filled with aborted fetuses.

    Are you against contraception? The end is the same, no potential writers or doctors. The vast majority of abortions are not on fetuses.

    I would much rather these women put them up for adoption.

    Why would you prefer a woman to carry a child for months and then go through labour?

    MikeG,

    …granted that initial premise that human life begins at conception.

    What’s human life and why does it deserve a “right to life”?

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    We’re of course all (generally) pro-life and all pro-choice, just as we are all (generally) republicans and democrats. Being a republican, though, has nothing to do with being a Republican; just as being pro-life has nothing to do with being Pro-Life.

    MrOrange,

    Got it! So, I guess the answer would be you can be pro-life and an atheist but you cannot be Pro-life and an Atheist? But the sign reads “PRO-LIFE ATHEIST.” He must be trying to mess with us… ;-)

  • Matt

    It does make sense, when you consider Darwinism, which obviously goes hand in hand with Atheism.

    Abortion (and even birth control for that matter) are certainly anti-Darwinist acts.

    I am surprised no one mentioned this yet.

  • cautious

    67 Comments

    Wow, good work folks.

    I’m pro-choice; I say that as a male who is a feminist and who thinks that abortion is a matter that only women have any decent logical input to add to the conversation. My take on it is: people deserve to have equal rights regardless of their sex chromosomes, so if it’s ethical/legal for a male to do whatever he can to prevent pregnancies, it’s also ethical/legal for a female to do whatever she can to prevent pregnancies.

    Where this dialogue crashes into the ground is when pro-choice peeps or moderates attempt to dialogue with pro-life extremists: people who think that a zygote (implanted or not) is a distinct human being who deserves the same rights as a birthed individual human. Such a viewpoint is drastically different than any moral code ever enacted by human society/civilization. If it was somehow enacted, all zygotes would either have to be placed into test tubes to ensure their safety, or the women who carry them would have to be prevented from any activity that could cause any danger to the zygote within them. …I mean, basically, choose your dystopian novel, Brave New World or Handmaiden’s Tale and decide which you like best.

    These people, like religious fundamentalists, are very, very, very difficult to reason with and help cause this conversation to become a lot more odd than it should be, when it should be (as it has been in some cases above) a discussion about when the rights of an individual human emerge.

    So….to answer the original post, yes, an atheist can be pro-life; if that atheist thinks women don’t have the right to control what happens in their uterus. You don’t have to be sexist to be pro-life, but, damn it helps out a lot.

  • Mike Nicholson

    I’m pro-life – anybody that isn’t needs to think carefully about their stance. It certainly doesn’t make you a moron (Reed Braden – try and think a little more carefully before commenting lest you unintentionally reinforce your own point).

    I’m also pro-choice. It should be a woman’s right to choose.

    No, that’s not a contradiction. Just take a look at the rising incidences of abortion being used as a contraceptive. Having an over the counter “abortion pill” doesn’t help either. It means that women (normally young girls) often get pregant needlessly, always thinking in the back of their minds “oh well, if it happens I can always have an abortion”.

    I have 2 young sons. Both of them were “accidental”. The thought that we could have aborted either one of them because we didn’t want to change our lifestyle is abhorrent.

    So yes, I am pro-life, but the bottom line is that the only fair way to do things is to allow the woman to choose. This will be abused like any system but the alternative is far worse.

  • Finn

    Christopher Hitchens certainly provides evidence that you can be an atheist and still be a misogynistic, racist asshole, so I don’t see why it shouldn’t be possible for there to be some pro-life atheists as well.

  • http://veggiedude.com veggiedude

    I’m pro-life and atheist. I’m pro-choice and atheist. Yes, you can be both. What’s wrong with the so-called ‘prolife’ movement is that they are fascists in wanting to dictate their morals to everyone else. I don’t eat animals because I think that is wrong – but am I standing in line to force that belief into law? You can be Pro-life and Pro-Choice when it comes to animal rights as well as abortion issue.

  • http://amiable-atheist.blogspot.com amiable

    I don’t think the two are mutually exclusive. You can still feel that abortion is murder without attributing it to a soul or some religious reason. I haven’t met any pro-life atheists, but I’m sure they exist.

  • Stephanie

    Mike Nicholson:

    First let me say that I’m glad you’re pro-choice. I admire those who are thoughtful enough to separate out their personal feelings of disgust or disapproval about abortion from their sense of fairness and respect for personal liberty. But I do have to quibble with some of what you say in your post.

    You say:

    Just take a look at the rising incidences of abortion being used as a contraceptive.

    A lot of people say this, and no one ever provides evidence of it being true. Abortion is often an emotionally painful choice (though not in every case); it is certainly an uncomfortable, expensive, and serious medical procedure (though it must be said that in all these areas, legal abortion pales in comparison to the much more painful, potentially physically damaging, expensive, and dangerous option of carrying a pregnancy to term). I fail to see how something like that could be a matter of “convenience.” Do you have any evidence to back up your statement that there are “rising incidences of abortion being used as a contraceptive?”

    Having an over the counter “abortion pill” doesn’t help either.

    Here I think you must be confusing RU486, which is used to induce chemical abortion early in a pregnancy (within the first 8 weeks), and Plan B, the morning after pill, which is taken after unprotected sex but before pregnancy actually begins. RU486 is not available over the counter or even from a pharmacy, at least in the US. It must be taken in a doctors office.

    On the other hand, Plan B is available without a prescription, though it is kept behind the counter and one must request it from the pharmacist (and this means that in some areas of the country it is, in practical terms, unavailable, because laws in many states allow pharmacists the right to impose on their customers their completely unscientific “moral” judgments about whether women deserve their legal medication or not, all in the name of religion.) Please note that “unprotected sex” can include contraceptive failure, or even rape, as well as your putative irresponsible young girl.

  • http://darwinsdagger.blogspot.com Darwin’s Dagger

    Abortion (and even birth control for that matter) are certainly anti-Darwinist acts.

    How do you figure that? Parental fitness is as important a part of the evolutionary process (Darwin was a man, not an ism) as individual fitness, and even if it is an act of self-selection, choosing to prevent some of your potential offspring from becoming part the general population may ultimately enhance the parental fitness of that population. More simply, people who choose not to be parents, perhaps because they know they will be substandard, may reduce the number of substandard parents in the general population because they won’t be passing on “bad parenting” genes.

    Of course, to a great degree all of human civilization circumvents the natural evolutionary process. With my eyesight as bad as it is, the natural world probably would have selected me for death years ago, removing my nearsighted trait from gene pool. Eyeglasses, insulin and buildings that keep us from freezing to death in the winter have altered the environmental pressures that drive human evolution. Although sometimes the jungle of thought that we currently inhabit can be as savage as the natural world.

  • TXatheist

    I’m a guy so I don’t think I should have a say in this(though I do wish to have an opinion on it). I wish we didn’t have unwanted pregnancies but since we do I will remain pro-choice since someone women will choose to deliver and others will choose to abort. I’m also a big proponent in the world is full of people so stop having 3 or more kids.

  • Mark Browne

    I believe his compromise to the question of when human life began was measurable brain activity, which strikes me as an entirely reasonable stance.

    Then I assume you’ll not be killing any mosquitoes any time soon? I’m not sure that this definition as to when something becomes human is better than any others that are mentioned here.

  • Steven

    As always, this sort of question has sparked a bonfire of comments. I’m heartened to see the (mostly) civil tone as this is a highly emotional topic. Almost all of us are fortunate in that it is an abstract, theoretical exercise – I can’t even imagine how difficult the choice whether or not to abort would be for a woman.
    As a person, not just an atheist, I recognize the value of human life whether it is only “potential” or sitting across from me on the subway. I think that you can mourn the necessity of ending a pregnancy but recognize that sometimes it is the best choice – a very hard choice indeed.
    I’d also like to see more people taking steps to reduce the possibility that they’ll have to make that choice and that means better sex education and easier access to birth control. If we can rid ourselves of the notions that sex and birth control are “sinful” we’ll be a much healthier species.

  • http://www.bernerbits.com Derek

    1. The health and safety of the mother are more important than the child’s.
    2. If, after being born, the child would not live without considerable life support attempts, or would live in considerable pain, it’s acceptable to terminate.
    3. There is such a thing as “too late” to allow for abortion under any circumstances of conception.
    4. There is such a thing as “early enough” to allow for abortion under any circumstances of conception.

    Because of 3 and 4, I believe that abortions past 26 weeks are unacceptable and that abortions before 12 weeks are probably acceptable.

    Hey John — I’m mostly with you on this assessment. The only issue I have is with #3, since in rare cases it contradicts #1 and #2. A late-term fetus that develops hydrocephalus cannot long survive outside the womb and cannot be birthed normally. The only options in this case are to attempt a live birth and risk killing both mother and child with near-100% certainty, perform a hysterectomy causing infertility, rescuing the child only to require the child to suffer and die outside the womb, or abort the pregnancy with a D&X (the procedure known colloquially as the “partial-birth abortion”).

    The problem with the “too late in any circumstances” argument is that it precludes the option of a straight D&X–and has led to a federal ban by fundamentalist lawmakers on a legitimate procedure (the law actually has language saying “there are no cases where this procedure will protect the mother from harm” — as if Congress has the power to legislate truth!). So, in order to ensure the health of the mother, doctors must do a c-section and let the baby die on its own and risk infection in the mother, or, by way of legal loophole, poison the hydrocephalic fetus dead in-utero before extracting it.

    This rare but lifesaving procedure made pro-life headlines because a few unscrupulous doctors were making D&X’s available as a “routine” abortion option. The fundamentalist spin-doctors then seized on it, gave it a new name to make it sound evil, and inflated the numbers (one publication claims the procedure is done over 25,000 times a year in Virginia alone!) since good fundamentalists never do any fact-checking. The ironic thing is if the bill had just included language explicitly protecting the mother’s life, it might have passed when Bill Clinton was in office!

  • Jen

    I am really tired of all these “I am pro-choice but pro-life at the same time!”. All that really matters is this: are you going to vote for the anti-choice person on the ballot in November? Or, to put it in a more simple way: Are you going to allow the government to create laws about my body, and force me to self-abort if I find myself pregnant? End, full stop, this is all that matters. In the end, the real question is, “Do you want women to abort safely or unsafely?” All the rest is simply passing judgment on women and their life circumstances.

    I will have an abortion if I find myself pregnant. Do you want me dead in an alley? Does it matter then if I was raped or choose to have sex?

    If you really don’t want to “find yourself pregnant”, you can either take pills for that, keep your legs together, or be more careful about the men you choose.

    I know when I meet men, I ask them what their sperm count is. Seriously, you know the pill has a failure rate? And you know that not everyone can use the pill- ask my friend with NF who relies on condoms because she can’t take extra hormones. And your phrase” keep your legs together” is one of those woman-hating answers that indicates abortion rights are, as always, about supporting rules for women rather than worrying about some fetus.

    I do think its ending a potential life, someone who could have been a writer, a doctor, maybe a president. I hate to see so many of my friends unable to have children, and then hear about garbage pails filled with aborted fetuses. I would much rather these women put them up for adoption.

    You are free to breed for your friends. Not everyone wants to carry a baby. Also, you do know that criminals and murders also start out as feti? While we are on the subject, are your friends looking into adopting the children all over the world who already exist? Or are they just interested in tiny white healthy babies? I bet they aren’t going to adopt a special-needs black teenager.

    Just take a look at the rising incidences of abortion being used as a contraceptive.

    Just so we are all clear, abortion is a contraceptive by definition. We attach special reverence, but ultimately, it is no different in the outcome from abstinence, the pill, the ring, the patch, condoms, and all the rest.

  • Spork

    It’s remarkably self-neutering to see how many males think they shouldn’t have an opinion, or say, in the question of abortion. If you help make the baby, you’re responsible for it after it’s born, and if you refused, you’d more than likely be branded a dead-beat dad by most people in this little discussion.

    A discussion, by the way, that has been well-worn many other places. http://richarddawkins.net/forum/viewtopic.php?f=20&t=28580

    There are many legal contradictions when abortion is considered in a legal framework. A girl under 18 has to get permission from her parents to get her ears pierced, but can, in most places, get an abortion. A full-blown medical procedure. If a drunk driver kills a pregnant woman, he’s charged for two deaths, but if that same woman had driven on another road to an abortion clinic, she’d not have been charged anything but a fee.

    This is why I submit that the still-persistent conclusion in this discussion is erroneous. There is no need to make a restrictive law, even if one decides that is an immoral act to abort a fetus.

    There is, however, an even more disturbing tilt to this discussion. It’s the permissive attitudes of the abdication of responsibility. Sex is a risk. You could fall in love with someone you mean to have only a casual fling, and you thereby risk having your heart broken. You risk contracting a disease within the range of annoying (genital herpes) to deadly (HIV/AIDS). But, the risk that has always been present with any and all sexual encounters, is the most logical outcome of a reproductive act. Reproduction.

    A woman abdicating her responsibilities to the life she has created and call it a choice is missing the point of when that choice occurred. If one chooses to have a sexual encounter, one is choosing to accept the risk, no matter how mitigated by the use of sexual contraceptives, of reproducing. To abort the fetus as a matter of eliminating an “inconvenience” that is a pregnancy, is to reduce the importance of the act which resulted in the pregnancy.

    That is part of what I think makes it an immoral act. A woman who terminates a pregnancy without the consent of the man whom she would hold accountable for child support and solely to preserve the convenience of her lifestyle (without children, for example) is committing an immoral act. The contradiction in legal responsibilities and protections of the fetus/child (vehicular manslaughter and child support) combined with the refusal to accept responsibility for the reproductive act really make me question the morality of a general abortion.

    This is part of the issues with which I wrestle when I try to form a firm opinion on the matter. Now that the discussion has moved a bit more to the tone of respectfulness, and away from the initial ad-hominem, can anyone, perhaps you MrOrange, explain why I might be incorrect in my initial conclusions?

  • Brian E

    You gotta admit this guy’s in a fairly unique group. Makes me think of a few others like:

    Irishman for sobriety

    Hip Hop artists for family values

    or the most unbelievable of all…

    Friendly atheists!

  • Jen

    There are many legal contradictions when abortion is considered in a legal framework. A girl under 18 has to get permission from her parents to get her ears pierced, but can, in most places, get an abortion. A full-blown medical procedure. If a drunk driver kills a pregnant woman, he’s charged for two deaths, but if that same woman had driven on another road to an abortion clinic, she’d not have been charged anything but a fee.

    The difference here with the car is that the woman did not have the choice. A drunk takes away the choice, but the woman makes her own choice. Also, legally, the lawyer is probably going to try to get the drunk changed with as many things as possible to increase the sentence. Also, re: the teenager, if it makes you feel better, many states have parental notification laws. I hate them, because a girl knows better than some lawmakers about if it safe to tell her parents. If she is in a bad situation, should she be forced to talk to those parents?

    There is, however, an even more disturbing tilt to this discussion. It’s the permissive attitudes of the abdication of responsibility. Sex is a risk. You could fall in love with someone you mean to have only a casual fling, and you thereby risk having your heart broken. You risk contracting a disease within the range of annoying (genital herpes) to deadly (HIV/AIDS). But, the risk that has always been present with any and all sexual encounters, is the most logical outcome of a reproductive act. Reproduction.

    Blah blah blah, punish the sluts for opening their legs. Oldest argument in the book. You risk a car crash when you drive, so either walk everywhere or don’t get medical assistance when you crash. And lets let the fatties die of heart attacks and the smokers die of lung cancer- they made their choice and you are taking away their punishment- I mean responsibility- by offering them medical assistance.

    To abort the fetus as a matter of eliminating an “inconvenience” that is a pregnancy, is to reduce the importance of the act which resulted in the pregnancy.

    My friend I mentioned with NF? Stands a good chance of dying if she gives birth. Whatever, it’s just an “inconvenience”.

    That is part of what I think makes it an immoral act. A woman who terminates a pregnancy without the consent of the man whom she would hold accountable for child support and solely to preserve the convenience of her lifestyle (without children, for example) is committing an immoral act. The contradiction in legal responsibilities and protections of the fetus/child (vehicular manslaughter and child support) combined with the refusal to accept responsibility for the reproductive act really make me question the morality of a general abortion.

    I am not going to ask for consent from a man. You seem to not understand how medicine works. I don’t need to ask my father’s permission to get medical care. I don’t need to ask a boyfriend, lover, or husband either. I am not going to carry a fetus just because my boyfriend thinks babies are neat. Its not his body that goes through nine months of pregnancy. My mother still- 23 years later- has medical problems that relate to her pregnancy with me. My birth was wanted, and a fairly normal, easy pregnancy, but if it was a difficult pregnancy and an unwanted one, I could see how upsetting that would be for her.

  • Spork

    Jen, I’m asking for a dialog here, not a shouting match. If you can’t take the insulting and deragatory tone out of your replies, I don’t really have anything to say to you.

    You seem to think that I am claiming requiring a teen under 18 to get parental consent for an ear piercing is perfectly fine. I don’t. The example was used solely as an example of the contradictions in the laws. The inherent ambiguity as it pertains to when to get permission, or when a legal responsibility as it pertains to one’s body is what I was illustrating, and I was using it as an example of why I don’t think a law against general abortions is needed even if one may conclude it is an immoral act. If the simple stuff can’t be sorted out logically, why should we trust the state to sort out the more complicated issues?

    As far as permission goes, yes, I think you do need to ask it of the man. After all, if it were carried to term against his wishes, he’d be held legally responsible for the child’s financial support at a minimum. If a woman’s decision to abort trumps a man’s decision not to, then the converse must also be true in that a man’s decision to abort trumps the woman’s choice to hold him responsible.

    Punish the slut? I never stated, nor implied, any such thing. I simply stated that the logical outcome, or risk, of sexual reproduction is reproduction. If you can’t argue that such a conclusion is incorrect, and can only attempt to manipulate the conversation and divert it through insult and intimidation, then I really care not to discuss much of anything with you at all.

    As I stated previously,

    Argue the point based on logic and not genitalia. Unless, of course, you’re trying to control the discussion (manipulation) due to gender issues (subjugation for “incorrect” gender possession) and dominate the other party through bullying and not through peaceful discourse.

    Your cooperation would be most welcome, and you might actually change my mind with a logical argument. I’ve changed my mind before, y’know. I used to believe in god. Logic, respectful argument, and open dialogue helped to change my mind about what was an extremely emotional issue. This isn’t any different.

  • http://hugotheatheist.blogspot.com Hugo

    This is a powerful message that I like to point to why abortions are needed
    http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2007/5/31/22921/8574

    This is what happens when religions butt in:
    http://www.dailykos.com/storyonly/2007/1/22/755/89497/505/293418
    (the images are not there anymore but the message is clear)

    Also, those of the “life begins at conception” persuasion, consider this:
    If you were put to the choice to save a self sustaining container with 1000 fertilized eggs (about 5kg but of such a size that you need both hands to carry it) or a similar weight baby which one would you choose?
    what if there are 10000 eggs and they have multiplied already …

  • Aj

    How is Reed Braden wrong about pro-life being moronic?

    So far we have had the usual, abortion is wrong because “life”, “human”, “potential” meaningless terms that are never defined. They’re never defined because the people who use them don’t know what they mean, they’re just randomly throwing words out.

    Then we have the other angle, “responsibility”. Punishment for women who are stupid enough to get pregnant. People need “consequences”, and people can’t expect to have sex and not accept the responsibility. Abortion shouldn’t be used as a contraceptive because… because… uh…

    Not working? Well I have some pictures of aborted fetuses…

  • Spork

    AJ, no, you’re not helping either.

    Why is it that neither you, nor Jen, can be respectful and present a non-emotional argument? What do you gain, in an argument, by being rude, dismissive, and condescending?

    My personal question isn’t about pro-life or pro-choice. As has been explained by others, the distinctions are meaningless. I’m openly positing that general abortions are immoral acts, and I’m asking for logical counter-arguments, not personal attacks. I’m not attacking anyone, so I’m mystified as to why such is being presented as counters.

  • http://www.otmatheist.com hoverFrog

    There seems to be some argument about when a bundle of cells counts as a human being. If we discard that as secondary to the issue of choice for the woman who is pregnant then the argument is simplified. Even if the foetus is a “life” or a “potential life” what imperative is there for the woman to provide life support and sustenance for it?

    There are people starving all over the world. Do I have an obligation to feed them all? There are people right now bleeding to death who would benefit from a gift of my blood. Am I under an obligation to drain my veins to provide for them? There are many people who require bone marrow for their survival or kidneys or liver transplants. I can spare bone marrow, a kidney or part of my liver. Should I subject myself to a risky medical procedure to save them? They’re alive and will probably die without my assistance. Is it acceptable for me to withhold my support?

    How is that different from a woman who chooses not to provide nutrients and oxygen for another “life” or “potential life”?

  • Aj

    Spork,

    Present a logical argument to why abortion is an immoral act first. If you think you have done so then something has gone very wrong. That doesn’t change that the people talking about “life” don’t seem to have a definition of it, or the people advocating “responsibility” do not apply that standard to anything else, and do so without justification i.e. special pleading. How is that helping? How is that being respectful?

  • http://veggiedude.com veggiedude

    “I am really tired of all these “I am pro-choice but pro-life at the same time!”.”

    So Geraldine Ferraro and many catholics like her who would never have an abortion themselves, but don’t want to dictate that onto others are foolhardy?

    The world is hardly black and white. There are many shades of gray.

  • http://butchbailey.com/ Butch

    I’m an atheist and I guess I’d land in the middle. I do think every person, including women, have the right to control their own bodies. But so do infants. The real question isn’t about choice, it’s about when a fetus becomes a human life. Before that point it’s perfectly fine to do whatever the women damn well pleases. After that it is deserving of the same rights as a newborn, full term infant.

    So for me, first trimester abortions are no big deal, while third term, or late term abortions are unacceptable. I’m not sure we know enough to make a call about that middle area.

  • http://darwinsdagger.blogspot.com Darwin’s Dagger

    Bet you’re sorry you opened up this can of worms, huh, Hemant.

    Here’s what I know (or more accurately what I think I know):
    A cluster of undifferentiated cells attached to a uterus is not a human being.
    A mostly formed fetus within two months or so of birth is a human being.
    Drawing an exact line to determine exactly when what wasn’t human becomes human is an enormously complex task. That’s why, for the most part, I say leave it up to the only certifiably genuine human being who is going to be affected by that decision, the mother.

    Is Carl Sagan’s dividing line between not human and human perfect? Of course not. The person who perfectly determines that will win a Nobel Peace Prize. But as creatures of complex thought, unique in that regard among all of the creatures on Earth, brain activity signals the beginning of something that is genuinely human.

  • http://www.otmatheist.com hoverFrog

    Darwin’s Dagger, even if you could guarantee that the foetus was a living, human being why does that force a woman to provide sustenance for the foetus? Can’t she be allowed to stop if she wants to? A child that has been born can be handed over to another carer if the mother doesn’t want it. As a society we provide this option as a humane alternative to infanticide.

  • http://johnmoeller.wordpress.com/ John Moeller

    Derek Said:

    Hey John — I’m mostly with you on this assessment. The only issue I have is with #3, since in rare cases it contradicts #1 and #2. A late-term fetus that develops hydrocephalus cannot long survive outside the womb and cannot be birthed normally. The only options in this case are to attempt a live birth and risk killing both mother and child with near-100% certainty, perform a hysterectomy causing infertility, rescuing the child only to require the child to suffer and die outside the womb, or abort the pregnancy with a D&X (the procedure known colloquially as the “partial-birth abortion”).

    #1 and #2 were meant to supervene #3. Sorry that I didn’t make that clear. (It was difficult to be brief when I drafted my comment, so I whittled it down a lot.) I would say that the late-term abortion would be the right thing to do in this circumstance.

    Jen said:

    … All that really matters is this: are you going to vote for the anti-choice person on the ballot in November? Or, to put it in a more simple way: Are you going to allow the government to create laws about my body, and force me to self-abort if I find myself pregnant? End, full stop, this is all that matters. In the end, the real question is, “Do you want women to abort safely or unsafely?” All the rest is simply passing judgment on women and their life circumstances.

    No, I won’t vote Republican as long as they support moral conservatism. I want abortion to be a safe option, freely available to those who both need it and want it as a contraceptive option. And I think that to divide the choice based upon reasons for wanting the choice is to create thoughtcrime.

    However, I don’t agree that a woman’s right to self-determination is the only issue under consideration. I think that at some point, a late/full term abortion is just too close to infanticide (barring extenuating circumstances like the mother’s health and safety, or the child’s viability). I’d like the choice to be there, but it should be made before the fetus is too far along.

  • laterose

    I have a feeling this isn’t going to be worthwhile, but here goes…

    Spork:

    As far as permission goes, yes, I think you do need to ask it of the man. After all, if it were carried to term against his wishes, he’d be held legally responsible for the child’s financial support at a minimum. If a woman’s decision to abort trumps a man’s decision not to, then the converse must also be true in that a man’s decision to abort trumps the woman’s choice to hold him responsible.

    It’s not a matter of whoever wants to abort “wins”. It’s whoever’s body is involved gets to make the final decision. Were a man to find himself pregnant he’d have every right to either continue the pregnancy and hold his partner responsible for the child (whether or not the partner wanted the kid) or terminate the pregnancy (once again whether or not the partner wanted the kid).

    But of course typically men are not the ones who find themselves pregnant. Men’s bodies are involved in the intercourse phase only. At that phase the man has every right to use contraceptives available to men, if he doesn’t want a child. He can also refuse consent with contraceptives if he does want a child (but obviously can’t insist on the sex). After that point, his body is not involved in reproduction, and therefore he doesn’t get the final say.

    Mike Nicholson:

    Having an over the counter “abortion pill” doesn’t help either.

    Just for the record, RU-486 can only be taken at a doctor’s office. I assume you’re actually referring to Plan B, which doesn’t cause an abortion anymore then regular hormonal birth control does.

  • http://darwinsdagger.blogspot.com Darwin’s Dagger

    Darwin’s Dagger, even if you could guarantee that the foetus was a living, human being why does that force a woman to provide sustenance for the foetus? Can’t she be allowed to stop if she wants to? A child that has been born can be handed over to another carer if the mother doesn’t want it. As a society we provide this option as a humane alternative to infanticide.

    Is that why we provide it, because it’s a humane alternative? I thought it was because killing babies is immoral. Some where along the way the theist’s demand for personal responsibility has to recognized, not because it is enforced from above by some silly magician, but because it is at the core of the evolved human morality. Story tellers put in the magician for the simple minded. “Why can’t I kill my baby?” “Because God said so.” The rest of us recognize that everything is more complex.

    Unless she is the victim of some individual or group that has prevented her from making her own decisions, most women should be able to decide whether or not to continue with their pregnancy well before the point at which reasonable people would determine the fetus to be human. If she waits too long and allows that fetus to reach that level of development, then she has made her choice through her own inaction and will have to suffer the consequences of sustaining that life for a few more months. It is not a death sentence to her (unless her life is in danger, then by all means abort). As a medically advanced society we have both the capacity and responsibility to provide women with reproductive freedom, but individuals must bear some responsibility for their choices, and if you allow a life to reach a point where its basic humanity is easily recognizable then you must agree that it has been endowed with the same right to existence enjoyed by all human beings.

  • Old Beezle

    There is no moral argument. People decide their own morality and act accordingly. The argument everyone thinks they’re having is actually a question of government controls over individual rights. Does the government have the right to decided what a woman can do with her body? Since we put that to bed with Roe v Wade, all of this continuing debate is just posturing for religious right types to impose their views on the rest of the population.

  • http://metroblog.blogspot.com Metro

    I think an atheist can support an anti-abortion position. I don’t know anyone who thinks it’s a great thing for a woman to have.

    But I don’t feel a rational person can be anti-abortion-rights. It’s her body, her right to choose. The man in the picture has as much right to complain as he would if she were getting a nose job.

    If a man wished to avoid paternity suits and the cocomittent responsibility to a child he fathered, then he’d use birth control.

    If he was determined to have and raise a kid, then presumably he’d have picked someone with the same goal.

  • Joanna

    A Pro-Life position, when applied to reproductive rights for women, does not allow much room for debate. It is absolute. And in that respect, it is a similar to a theological argument. We secular humanists don’t speak in absolutes, do we?! We take circumstances into account.

    Pro Life advocates want abortions outlawed. They have been pecking away at the laws in the U.S., sentence by sentence, word by word in courts around the country. They even claim the U.S. Constitution protects human
    life starting at FERTILIZATION! Plain and simple, isn’t it? Nice and tidy.

    Every step Pro-Lifers successfully make in that direction brings us all closer to the government intruding into our private lives and into our bodies. Into our medical decisions. Into our family planning decisions. And reproductive healthcare policies for women get more and more repressive and retrogressive! A bad sign for all humans involved, regardless of religious affiliation.

    Terminating pregnancies will still take place, even without “evil abortionists” in clinics and hospitals to perform the procedures. The wealthy will still get them performed safely and the rest of us will make due with whatever methods we can find in times of desperation, as we always have. We will be “breaking the law” and risking our health while people fortunate enough to have the “right connections” will continue to have abortions performed safely and in secret.

    Is this what we want in an advanced, democratic, civilized society based on the rule of law? I would love to live in a world where every child is viewed as precious. Where no child would be harmed in any way, shape, or form. That world doesn’t exist…but it could. That’s the idealist in me talking. I always want to think we could be better and do better than we are.

    In my opinion, each of us wants to help the vulnerable and helpless people of the world…but the unborn shouldn’t be our main focus…THE ALREADY BORN should be! Educating people about family planning is essential. Economic sustainability is essential. And contraception is a huge part of the equation. Eventually, clinical abortions should decrease in number as a natural result of education about birth control, rather than the result of outlawing the procedure. Keeping abortions safe and available doesn’t mean that women prefer them to or choose them over other forms of birth control!

    Each of us has to do what we can with the resources we have right now…we need to help feed and support the children and families that are on this planet NOW. Low cost contraception choices lead to better economic lives for women AND men AND children. Less misery and suffering for all…isn’t that the moral compass we should all be guided by? To be humane and show compassion to our fellow humans?

  • Darryl

    If a drunk driver kills a pregnant woman, he’s charged for two deaths, but if that same woman had driven on another road to an abortion clinic, she’d not have been charged anything but a fee.

    Jen said:

    The difference here with the car is that the woman did not have the choice. A drunk takes away the choice, but the woman makes her own choice.

    Doesn’t this idea imply that the woman’s choice decides whether or not the unborn child is a person with the right to life? This is one possible solution to the dilemma of rights: when a mother legally aborts she has decided that her unborn child is not a person, at least not a person with full legal status.
    Jen said:

    I am not going to ask for consent from a man . . . I am not going to carry a fetus just because my boyfriend thinks babies are neat. Its not his body that goes through nine months of pregnancy.

    If you think the father has no say in whether or not to abort then consider this scenario: If a couple chooses to have someone be a birth mother and carry their fertilized egg to term, since the birth mother is carrying the child for 9 months, and the child is in her body, does she have the right to abort? Does the woman who provided the egg have the right to abort, or does she, like the man, lose her right to decide because she did not carry the fetus?

    But I don’t feel a rational person can be anti-abortion-rights. It’s her body, her right to choose. The man in the picture has as much right to complain as he would if she were getting a nose job.

    Come on, what a stupid argument. Another absolutist.

    Present a logical argument to why abortion is an immoral act first.

    If the decision to abort is left to the parents, or the mother, why cannot the morality of the act be determined by them? If you think abortion is immoral, it’s immoral; if you do not think it is, it’s not.

  • http://www.godandscience.org Rich Deem

    Biologically, a fetus is a genetically-distinct, living human being. Contrary to the beliefs of some morons, it isn’t part of the mother’s body. Yes, it is dependent upon the mother for all its needs. But then again, so is baby for a number of years after birth. If we can arbitrarily kill a pre-born human being, why not a baby, if the mother decides she doesn’t want it. After all, it is about CHOICE. And life should be about what I want!

    Sorry, I used to be an atheist.

  • andrew

    Abortion is a very complicated topic, too complicated to tag people’s views on it as “pro life” or “pro choice”. I resent the fact that many atheists cant see how other atheists can be pro life. Name calling is very childish and it does the discussion of the topic no good. Its quite irritating when people cant separate their personal feelings to beliefs and it ruins discussions. Can we discuss this without the name calling please?(*cough first post*!)

    Personally, Abortion is an issue I am still sorting out in my head.

  • wwyoud

    Wow, a lot of responses! Sorry, I haven’t read all of them, but have a few more comments:

    RE: definition of pro-life – as I use it, means that a pregnancy should, in a perfect world, always be allowed to run its natural course. Life should not be wasted.
    Pro-choice – an abortion should always be available as one of several options to a pregnant woman. This sometimes gets taken to an extreme of just another medical procedure without any consequences, which is where I part from it. Yes, the procedure itself should be available without consequence, but the act of aborting has consequences, and may point to a breakdown somewhere that should be addressed to prevent another unwanted pregnancy.
    I believe that the mother’s needs come first while pregnant (if I must take a stand), but I also think that we must be very careful about becoming too callous regarding our young – it just takes one missing generation to cause a lot of problems. Look at the results of birth control policies of China, and the low birth rate of Europe, to see how quickly we pay for being too selfish.

    Aj said, June 24, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    “Yes, it’s their fault they became pregnant, they should be pregnant and later give birth as a punishment for their carelessness. Abortions should only be allowed for women who have “valid” reasons for getting pregnant. Women shouldn’t have abortions unless it’s unreasonable to expect a woman to prevent pregnancy, like being raped.”

    Not sure what got your dander up. My point was that most women who abort don’t do so frivolously, a rebuke to claims of promiscuous “hos” who use it as birth control. I’ve known women who’ve aborted simply because they weren’t ready emotionally to be a mom; because the father was a nice friend-with-benefits, but who’d never be a decent dad; because the father turned out to be a beater who promised to fight the adoption; or because she could barely afford the wine on the night of conception, much less the abortion – knowing these women, I think each made the right choice *for her at that time*. And while accidents do happen (“accident” meaning she was doing something to prevent pregnancy) even while using contraceptives, addressing social issues of healthcare, education and economics can prevent many pregnancies. However, once pregnant, I think the only person who can make the decision to abort is the woman (it wouldn’t hurt if adoption was much more efficient, but that’s another thread).
    Even the most ignorant woman knows that sex makes babies – if you don’t do something to prevent it, a pregnancy is simply probability coming to life. The question for me is – *why* don’t more women take precautions? I can do something about that. EKM’s comment about this issue being the camel’s nose is very relevant; there’s a lot more to these problems.

    Re: The man’s role in all this mess – Men should get involved. The issues around abortion are social issues and affect all of us – these potential humans are part of our future. Do you really want unwanted kids to grow up and work in your grocery store? (yes, I know many of the kids will be fine – it’s an example, folks.) Do you want to pay taxes to support all those families? On the other hand, do you really want to continue paying the costs ($ and other) of current abortions? Personally, how would you really feel about it if your partner got pregnant – would you choose to be a single dad (some do)? You have the right and responsibility to be involved in the discussion.

  • Aj

    Rich Deem,

    Biologically, a fetus is a genetically-distinct, living human being.

    What’s the scientific biological definition of “living human being”?

    If we can arbitrarily kill a pre-born human being, why not a baby, if the mother decides she doesn’t want it.

    Who is arbitrarily killing pre-borns?

    Darryl,

    If the decision to abort is left to the parents, or the mother, why cannot the morality of the act be determined by them? If you think abortion is immoral, it’s immoral; if you do not think it is, it’s not.

    We grant the right to life to persons, I think that right is important. Personhood is consciousness, reason, ability to plan, suffering etc… That’s what’s important.

    wwyoud,

    Even the most ignorant woman knows that sex makes babies – if you don’t do something to prevent it, a pregnancy is simply probability coming to life. The question for me is – *why* don’t more women take precautions?

    Sex doesn’t make babies 100% of the time, and people are infinitely stupid. I don’t see why you think women should give birth instead of aborting if they want to. A potential person is being stopped by condoms as much as by abortion, sperm and eggs are life just as much as an embryo.

  • Jen

    Spork, I have no idea why you think I am shouting and/or using emotional arguments. I will rephrase to cover your points.

    1. A contradiction in laws about how adult teens can be does not mean that we should or should not allow teens to abort. It simply means that law are made at different times by different people and are therefore contradicting. I don’t think lawmakers should make decisions about my body insofar as abortion is concerned.

    2. I absolutely disagree with your logic re: men. If I get pregnant and decide to keep it, my decision overrides the father’s because it is not his right to force to me to abort. If I get pregnant and I don’t want to keep it, my decision overrides the father’s because its not his right to force me to go through a pregnancy. At no point do I require his permission because it is my body. If I decide to carry it to term, he cannot force me to abort so he doesn’t have to pay child support. The court will force him to pay- again, the wallet is not a body- because at that point their is a child and someone needs to pay for its existence.

    3. By saying that sex logically leads to reproduction, and therefore women should be willing to carry to term, means that we should not use medicine to fix the problems our behavior leads to. The logical risk of driving is getting a crash. Should car crash victims avoid medical attention because crashes are the logical outcome of driving? Do we really have an obligation to avoid medical attention if our behavior caused us problems?

    I can’t imagine you find that to be shouting, so please answer my points.

    Doesn’t this idea imply that the woman’s choice decides whether or not the unborn child is a person with the right to life? This is one possible solution to the dilemma of rights: when a mother legally aborts she has decided that her unborn child is not a person, at least not a person with full legal status.

    Sounds good to me. I would be mad if a drunk killed my fetus, but I absolutely think I have the right to have an abortion. If I want to be pregnant, I have an entirely different reaction to the loss of pregnancy verses if the pregnancy is horrifying to me.

    If you think the father has no say in whether or not to abort then consider this scenario: If a couple chooses to have someone be a birth mother and carry their fertilized egg to term, since the birth mother is carrying the child for 9 months, and the child is in her body, does she have the right to abort? Does the woman who provided the egg have the right to abort, or does she, like the man, lose her right to decide because she did not carry the fetus?

    Surrogacy is a sticky issue. For one, my understanding is that contracts are not legal in the US. Also, for the record, many people here seem to be under the misconception that third trimester abortions happen often, then they rarely happen outside of terrible life-threating medical conditions. My feeling about surrogacy is that, again, the pregnant woman’s choice trumps all.

    So Geraldine Ferraro and many catholics like her who would never have an abortion themselves, but don’t want to dictate that onto others are foolhardy?

    I think its great. Everyone here is free to not abort. But for the love of Pete, don’t try to stop me.

  • Pseudonym

    Jen:

    I am really tired of all these “I am pro-choice but pro-life at the same time!”. All that really matters is this: are you going to vote for the anti-choice person on the ballot in November? Or, to put it in a more simple way: Are you going to allow the government to create laws about my body, and force me to self-abort if I find myself pregnant? End, full stop, this is all that matters.

    While I’m also tired of that (and FWIW I won’t be voting in November, given that I live in a different country), I disagree that this is “all that matters”.

    On one hand, yeah, if the law allows for safe, legal (rare) abortion, then in one sense, that is what matters. It’s in principle wrong to deny people medical care just because someone doesn’t like it.

    On the other hand, I also don’t want sex education to be gutted by people who don’t have the best interests of public health in mind. Abortion is only one part of a general public health policy, and the other parts also matter.

    Moreover, I don’t want people to get the idea that the decision to terminate is one that’s made on a whim, or that it is yet another form of contraception, as the phrase “pro choice” suggests. Framing also matters.

  • Jeff Flowers

    I’ve been thinking about this recently and I am now pretty much against abortion, even though I am an athiest. I believe that human life does indeed start at conception and that it is wrong to terminate that life just because the baby would be inconvenient for someone. This point of view is consistent for me, internally, as I am also strongly against the death penalty and anything else that causes the death of humans.

    But unlike some who are against abortion, I do recognize that there are sometimes a real medical need to terminate a pregnancy.

  • http://ohthethinksyoucanthink.blogspot.com Linda

    This point of view is consistent for me, internally, as I am also strongly against the death penalty and anything else that causes the death of humans.

    Me too, Jeff Flowers, me too… I really don’t know what being an atheist or theist has anything to do with how we feel about life. I also don’t know what it has to do with how we feel about choice.

    I don’t really give a damn about Pro-Life or Pro-Choice as groups of people who need to prove themselves right. I only care about life and choice as our rights as human beings… our God-given gifts.

  • http://hugotheatheist.blogspot.com Hugo

    Jeff Flowers: I believe that human life does indeed start at conception

    If you say that at conception there is human life that has to be saved and a mother should be forced to carry it then you are saying that in essence the life at conception is no different than that a at birth if you want to remain consistent then what is your answer to my dilemma?
    Do you save the 1,000 fertilized eggs or the 1 new born baby? (there are many variations possible, what if the baby is from a sworn enemy or is disabled and there are 100,000 eggs…)

    If you do pick the baby, why? What difference does it make that the baby is outside the womb, there are 1,000+ human lives in those test tubes, surely that trumps 1 (defective) life….?
    What if you know a lot of the women that will receive those eggs so you know the eggs will be used, will you actually walk past a crying baby about to be consumed by fire to save the test tubes?
    (I’m not mocking, I honestly would like to know your answer)

  • wwyoud

    AJ:
    I view an abortion as a failure to plan; it usually occurs after an unwanted preganacy. (Who’s failure is another issue; see my earlier posts.) Given full access to healthcare/contraceptives and full understanding of how to use them, if you are having sex, you should automatically include protection. I’m a little old-fashioned; I don’t think free love also means free from responsibility.
    Even if an abortion is performed in the first trimester, it is far more expensive and carries greater risks than preventative contraceptive methods (or the morning-after pill). These expenses and risks rise exponentially over time. Then there’s the difficulty in many places of finding a clinic, and the stigma that often means women will have an abortion without telling anyone, even close friends and the father, either from shame or concern over others’ reactions.
    And there is a difference between sperm/eggs and a fetus (whatever it’s called after fertilization), just as there’s a difference between clipping fingernails and cutting off the tip of a finger; it’s the same material, but a different combination and function makes all the difference in how I feel about it.

  • http://hugotheatheist.blogspot.com Hugo

    And there is a difference between sperm/eggs and a fetus (whatever it’s called after fertilization)

    Well there’s first a zygote then a blastocyst, …
    With IVF the fertilization is done outside the womb (zygote stage if I understand correctly) so my dilemma is a possible scenario.
    But scenario’s with skin cells or fingernails are becoming possible where those cells could be used to produce fertilized eggs so those that about potential for human life must also start to consider those points.

  • wwyoud

    (sorry, edit comment failed)
    AJ – more to your question –

    I don’t see why you think women should give birth instead of aborting if they want to.

    I don’t think a woman should give birth if she doesn’t want to; however, if a woman is unwilling to carry a child to term, then she shouldn’t get pregnant to begin with. The fact that women do get pregnant with unwanted children is the problem. I do think that it would be both easier to prevent a pregnancy, and easier to have children and raise them as solid additions to society, if we could correct the social issues mentioned above. (I’m taking a rational viewpoint more than an ethical/moral one for brevity’s sake; I think there are many more reasons for logical family planning than simple economics and a society’s success.)

  • wwyoud

    Hugo,
    Although I don’t believe that life begins at conception, I’ll take your thought experiment. I would save the crying baby – she has already successfully made the transition from zygote to fetus and survived birth, so she is essentially viable (and carries enough eggs to make up for the 1,000 in the freezer, many of which might not be viable).
    Yes, I’m taking the cold view of what does me/my group the most good. Generally, I do prefer a natural process to reproduction, because it has several checks for viability and, from what I know (correct me if wrong), still results in the highest percentage of healthy babies and healthy moms. I don’t think we should take extraordinary steps to ensure the survival of babies with defects that would prevent them from surviving gestation or birth for several reasons – the child’s quality of life being the biggest, but also the economics of care, the drain on the rest of the family, concerns over introducing higher percentages of genetic defects to the gene pool… And I really do understand why we should take care of and support those handicapped children who survive, so please don’t start flaming me. Again, it comes down to the parents’ choice, not mine.

  • http://blog.crispen.org/ Rev. Bob

    “He who would do good to another must do it in Minute Particulars: general Good is the plea of the scoundrel, hypocrite, and flatterer, for Art and Science cannot exist but in minutely organized Particulars.” William Blake. Pamela

  • http://hugotheatheist.blogspot.com Hugo

    I would save the crying baby – she has already successfully made the transition from zygote to fetus and survived birth, so she is essentially viable (and carries enough eggs to make up for the 1,000 in the freezer, many of which might not be viable).

    Several flaws already, the eggs in the test tubes are fertilized and ready for implantation! The baby has either no eggs (if male) or dependent on the age of the baby it will have less eggs the older it is, egg count decreases from several thousands (hundred thousands) to hundreds at puberty so if that is your criteria then what if there are 2 female babies, one a few days another 1 year old …

    So while you answered that you’d take the baby your rationalization as to why does not really cut it for me, you are not however the person I posed the dilemma for since you do not seem to state that “life begins at conception”

    I pretty much agree with your comment:
    The fact that women do get pregnant with unwanted children is the problem.
    I disagree with what I read between the lines here
    Given full access to healthcare/contraceptives and full understanding of how to use them, if you are having sex, you should automatically include protection. I’m a little old-fashioned; I don’t think free love also means free from responsibility.

    It’s a roundabout way of saying “they had sex so tough luck”
    My position in a nutshell (don’t have time for more now) is education, education, education, easy access to birthcontrol (and education about) and when those fail, easy access to abortion.

  • http://blog.crispen.org/ Rev. Bob

    @BrianE

    “Hip Hop artists for family values

    A better example might be Hip Hop Artists Who Will Never Sell Out. Yeah, it takes a nation of millions, but it only took a couple mill.

  • wwyoud

    Hugo,
    I think it’s the reading between the lines that’s causing the confusion. If one has the education and easy access to BC, then yes, if one has sex, one should have to deal with the results. That doesn’t mean limited access to abortion, though – I see abortion as one of the undesirable consequences, which currently is used much more than it should be because there isn’t “education, education, education, [and] easy access to birthcontrol”. Just as it’s irresponsible to have unprotected sex if you know you have herpes, it’s irresponsible to have sex without preventing conception. There are valid reasons why many women don’t or can’t prevent conception, but it doesn’t change the irresponsibility – it just changes the responsible parties (individual vs. society)

  • http://hugotheatheist.blogspot.com Hugo

    Then I pretty much agree with your position.
    My dilemma was for the “life at conception” crowd.

  • Aj

    wwyoud,

    And there is a difference between sperm/eggs and a fetus (whatever it’s called after fertilization), just as there’s a difference between clipping fingernails and cutting off the tip of a finger; it’s the same material, but a different combination and function makes all the difference in how I feel about it.

    Your other points are noted, and are perfectly sensible, but they don’t really say anything about the morality of your position. This point seems to refer to what is driving your position on the morality of abortion, but I don’t know what you mean by it. Can you tell me what the difference between a sperm and egg before and after fertilization, embryo, initially the zygote stage? Is there something that they lack separately but gain when together? Why do you value that something, and do you apply this view universally?

  • Darryl

    Actually, so much of what we do in this argument is to seek to rationalize our natural evolutionary responses. Who would not be more sympathetic to a baby than a dish of fertilized eggs? We know that the features of the infant are in such proportion as to provoke nurturing responses from adults. It is easier for us to imagine aborting a “fetus” than a “baby. The Pro-choice propaganda latched onto the term “fetus” as one way to distance the unborn from our natural feelings. When it comes down to it a lot of people will simply shut their eyes and pull the handle on a pregnancy because they just want the problem to go away. They try not to dwell on it, and they certainly don’t want to wonder whether they have acted immorally.

    In brief, we’re irrational about this, just like so many other ‘moral’ issues. We act from our gut and justify with our minds.

  • wwyoud

    AJ,
    What Darryl said. :)
    I think I’m unsuccessfully trying to merge my public position with my personal one – public being that I can’t decide if someone else should have a child or not, and don’t think that govt or any other “authority” should either, vs. a personal belief that life is to be valued, treated with wonder and as a gift (no, I’m not getting into where the gift is from). Beyond the scientific definition of life in general, I can’t give you a clear definition of when some bunch of cells is suddenly designated life (it’s kinda like porn – I know it when I see it:)). I don’t have a specific cut-off point for when that fetus becomes a real human rather than a potential; if it is a personal situation, then I might have to decide that, but otherwise it’s just not that important to me. Yet I still value that fetus for its potential, and grieve for its loss, because I find joy in this world and the interaction of life with it, and want others to share this joy as well. Yes, I have an emotional reaction to the child, and it’s at about that point that the purely scientific part of me splits from the rest; it’s not enough to consider just the return-on-investment, if you will. There’s a consideration for what makes us human rather than robots: the ability to act in non-rational, impulsive ways that do nothing to help ourselves – suddenly hugging your significant other for no good reason – agreeing to keep the nephews AGAIN because they make you feel like a giddy kid, too, even though they really did put peanut butter in the DVD player – pulling off the road to stare at a beautiful rainbow… There’s something essential in that which I don’t want lost, and I think being too callous about our fellow creatures contributes to that loss (and yes, I do rather universally apply this viewpoint to other life forms). So I will support a woman’s right to an abortion, but I will never celebrate when an abortion occurs.
    Sorry if it’s getting fuzzy; I’m not versed enough in the old arguments to narrow my reason down much further. It may be as simple as an evolutionary drive to protect our young, but I like to see it as using our human brains to their fullest, warts and all. :)

  • Aj

    Darryl,

    In brief, we’re irrational about this, just like so many other ‘moral’ issues. We act from our gut and justify with our minds.

    That’s clearly what’s happening with all the anti-abortion people commenting, although they’re not doing a good job. They “know” i.e. feel that abortion is wrong but they haven’t been able to form a logical argument without resorting to undefined principles of “human” and “life”.

    Who would not be more sympathetic to a baby than a dish of fertilized eggs? We know that the features of the infant are in such proportion as to provoke nurturing responses from adults.

    Some doctors won’t perform abortions on fetuses because of this response even though they think there is nothing ethically wrong with it. I eat meat but I probably wouldn’t work in a slaughterhouse. I don’t like to perform acts of violence but sometimes it would be necessary. Reasoning people go against their emotional responses all the time. People are able to think through what’s important and do the right think for the right reasons.

    It is easier for us to imagine aborting a “fetus” than a “baby. The Pro-choice propaganda latched onto the term “fetus” as one way to distance the unborn from our natural feelings.

    “Fetus” is the correct term, I don’t think it’s an active propaganda strategy to use the correct terminology. Fetus is the stage after embryo before birth, baby is the stage after birth. You wouldn’t abort a baby because a baby is already out of the womb by definition. Both propaganda campaigns are no doubt interested in which word is used, “baby” certainly does have emotional responses attached to it.

    wwyoud,

    Beyond the scientific definition of life in general, I can’t give you a clear definition of when some bunch of cells is suddenly designated life (it’s kinda like porn – I know it when I see it:)). I don’t have a specific cut-off point for when that fetus becomes a real human rather than a potential; if it is a personal situation, then I might have to decide that, but otherwise it’s just not that important to me.

    Thank you for your effort. No one else that has a problem with abortion would explain what they mean either. Perhaps it’s about the gift giver you’re being coy about. The scientific definitions of life aren’t applicable to the things you have written, and I doubt you worry about the killing of life in that sense, it’s pretty much a constant in our lives and we don’t think about it.

    Yet I still value that fetus for its potential, and grieve for its loss, because I find joy in this world and the interaction of life with it, and want others to share this joy as well.

    Any contraception has this affect, it doesn’t seem to be the potential you’re refering, as the potential for a baby is lost with the use of a condom. Further, any decision not to have sex would be a lost potential baby.

  • wwyoud

    I’m not being coy about the gift giver – I just don’t want to get into THAT discussion. I don’t believe there is anything that gives that gift, but use the word in a looser way to connote the way I feel. I think at some point we are just not speaking the same language, although it looks like it on the page… Thanks for the effort, though.

  • Stephan

    Of course an atheist cannot be pro-life. How can you eat a baby if you don’t kill it first?

  • http://metroblog.blogspot.com Metro

    @Daryl:
    I tend to agree with you that a drunk driver should only be charged with one death if he kills a pregnant woman. Certainly before the twelfth week, anyway.

    Your example with the third-party birth mother seems a bit specious. Firstly, the usual argument between the triad is over whether or not the host mother–who willingly had the child implanted for the specific purpose of giving it up, has parental rights, not whether she should be allowed to abort or not.

    However, I feel that she gives up the right to abort for any reason save serious health concerns once she signs the paperwork saying “Yes, I’ll have this couple’s baby.” It’s a business arrangement. Of course, someone observed above that such contracts may be illegal, thus unenforceable. If it were me, I think I’d insist on C.O.D. rather than paying the birth mother up front.

    I’m not an absolutist. I merely feel that, in the end, the woman who finds herself unwantedly pregnant will do what she will to end it.

    If the father doesn’t know of the pregnancy, what difference does it make to him?

    If he knows, and leaves it in her lap, or ducks responsibility for the decision, then it’s all hers anyway.

    If he knows, and objects to the idea of aborting it, and she has the abortion anyway, what can he do about that?

    In the end, it’s women who have to deal with the major issues, and the woman who has to make the decision. A sperm donor–particularly one who isn’t going to be around and has made that clear–has only superficial rights in the case.

    What part of that did you find “stupid”?

  • http://gwenny.newsvine.com Gwenny

    I am socially pro-choice, personally anti-abortion. I would not have an abortion. I know this because I had the chance almost 20 years ago to terminate an inconvenient pregnancy and chose not to do so . .even though it would have been paid for by the father and spared me a great deal of sufferingl. And even if I knew then he would come back, as he did, when she was two and kidnap her and I would not see her again, I would not terminate the pregnancy.

    And I don’t think that makes me a moron.

  • http://www.blakeclan.org/jon/greenoasis/ Jonathan Blake

    If he knows, and objects to the idea of aborting it, and she has the abortion anyway, what can he do about that?

    In such a case, as long as that particular abortion is legal, I would consider supporting the father’s right to swear off all future parental responsibility at that point.

  • http://www.blakeclan.org/jon/greenoasis/ Jonathan Blake

    Gwenny, that completely sucks.

  • Maseca

    I’m an athiest, and I consider myself to be both pro-choice and anti-abortion.

    I think abortions are morally wrong, to kill a fetus with a beating heart and fingers, etc. just isn’t something I can be okay with. It might be irrational, but after much thought on it, that’s how I feel. My husband and I choose a birth control method that prevents fertilization, not just implantation because we both feel the same way on the subject. It’s not because of some religious reason, it is my understanding of biology and fetal development that keeps me from being comfortable with the idea of abortions.

    Having been a teenaged parent myself, I understand the hard decisions someone with an unwanted pregancy faces. I chose to have my daughter, and my life has been 1000x harder because of that choice. But I would make the same choice again today.

    I think those things make me pro-life.

    That said, I don’t think my opinions should create the rule of law. I understand how personal and difficult the choice is, and therefore feel that the government should stay far, far away from banning these choices. What is the right choice for me and my family may not be the right choice for others. I’m not so pompous as to believe mine is the only correct viewpoint. I follow in what Bill Clinton said about abortion: that it should be safe, legal… and rare.

    That makes me pro-choice.

    I don’t really see how the two things contradict each other.

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