Are There Non-Religious Reasons to Oppose Abortion? June 19, 2012

Are There Non-Religious Reasons to Oppose Abortion?

That was the topic on the Ask An Atheist podcast this past weekend:

A few months ago we put our an open call to our listeners to provide us with non-religious reasons to oppose abortion rights. While some listeners responded with a few arguments they’d encountered, we heard very few atheist abortion opponents.

The majority of arguments against abortion are religiously motivated and not based on science. Science says nothing about souls, about any god giving the breath of life or dreaming us into the wombs of our mothers. Because of these deeply held beliefs, religious folks then attempt to make all sorts of reasons why abortion is bad, including but not limited to misinformation that abortion is dangerous, or that it leads to murder or infanticide being legalized, or any number of spurious arguments.

You can check out the conversation here.

I listened to most of the episode in the car yesterday and I thought the hosts did a really nice job of taking the objections people had for why abortion was wrong — and calmly, rationally discussing why those objections made little sense. I would’ve loved to see a pro-life atheist included in the discussion just to make things interesting, but I’m sure if there are objections they didn’t address, they’ll answer them on their site over the course of the next week.

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  • Well, depending on how you define ‘abortion rights’ – I’d guess the conversation was more about some of the more restrictive (and clearly sexist) constraints states have been putting on it.

    Previous legal arguments have all been based around the viability of the fetus outside of the womb (i.e., that’s when the fetus becomes legally a ‘person’). I think you can make a pretty strong case that a fetus should be defined as a person when it’s developmentally reached sentience. That would probably end up with more or less the same restrictions (e.g., the cutoff line would be somewhere early second trimester), but based on rational reasoning…

  • Well, I think anyone with a black-and-white view very likely isn’t thinking rationally and is unlikely to be an atheist.

    But I am cautiously anti-abortion. I think it is better avoided. I don’t think it is a decision to be made lightly. I think that, regardless of the rationality of this, there is a possibility of the mother feeling guilt later on that needs to be considered. I would strongly discourage abortions for frivolous reasons (such as gender), although I suspect those are uncommon and are simply a pro-life scare tactic. I don’t think that all life is sacred, exactly, but I wouldn’t want to see an attitude of “I’ll just get an abortion, no big deal.”

    But to be honest, I would expect the majority of pro-choicers to feel the same as me. That’s not being pro-life; it’s just sensible.

  • AxeGrrl

    But to be honest, I would expect the majority of pro-choicers to feel the same as me. That’s not being pro-life; it’s just sensible.


    Which is why the “pro-abortion” label (used by many pro-lifers) is so egregiously dishonest.

  • There are a few Facebook groups for atheists against abortion. In fact look up the Facebook page “Atheists Against Abortion.” I remember arguing with those guys a lot about this. I am sure they’d be glad to argue with you, too. 

  • WhatPaleBlueDot

    I don’t think that all life is sacred, exactly, but I wouldn’t want to see an attitude of “I’ll just get an abortion, no big deal.”

    That is exactly the attitude I want to see.  It is the only attitude that will ensure that no woman feels shamed enough to attempt an at-home or herbal abortion because the people around her think she should have thought harder about her decision.  Why can’t we just trust women to be capable of sufficient levels of cognition to make decisions without expecting them to really think about it, like they haven’t.

    You should read more of the literature on the matter.  The “possibility of the mother feeling guilt later on that needs to be considered” is unfounded.  The women who feel guilty are those who are shamed by others and the women who experience mental health issues following are generally those who have had them previously.  Also, when a pregnancy ends–regardless of birth or termination or loss–PPD is always a possibility.  That’s not something special about termination.

  • I say that I’m pro-life, but when I explain what that means people who are pro-lifers usually bristle.  I’m pro-life for the people who are acutally alive right now.   Women who choose abortion usually haven’t taken that decision lightly.  There is typically some reason, other than using it as birth-control, that a woman chooses abortion.  I don’t know how much an abortion costs, but I’d expect it’s more expensive than a pill.  Especially since most states, mine in particular, will provide the pill at little or no cost. 

    I used to be the other kind of pro-life.  Anti-abortion.  At least I thought I was.  Abortion was wrong for any reason.  That was until my fiance started posing hypothetical situations to me.  And just when I thought I’d won on a point he asked me if I was willing to feed the child and take care of it’s family once it was born.  He wanted to know how people could try to talk a woman into having a baby who wasn’t prepared for a baby.  “Sure you talk her into baring a child and then you tell her it’s her problem how to feed it and raise it.”  So now I’m really pro-life.  It’s your life.  You get to choose what you do with it.

  • I find this topic very troublesome because I am not of a decided mind on it. On one hand, I reject religious arguments against abortion. On the other, when I look at my (mostly) humanist principal that affirms the inherent worth and dignity of all human life, I’m forced to ask “when does that life begin?” On the one hand, I find the idea that a fertilized egg is a human is preposterous. On the other hand, is aborting a fetus a day before its due date acceptable? Hmmm no I’d have to say I don’t think so.

    I think the answer must be somewhere in between fertilized egg and end of the third trimester. For lack of a better opinion I suppose I default to the currently held ideas about viability as the “cut off point” with an exception for the health of the mother, of course. But as I said, I’m not decided on the matter and open to my opinion evolving.

    I think abortion is a difficult moral decision a woman has to make. I won’t go so far as to say abortion is wrong, but I would say that preventing unwanted/unplanned pregnancies in the first place is better. Sometimes when discussing abortion with religious folk I’ll offer facts showing that the best way to prevent abortions is through better education and social and economic welfare for women and girls.

    The religious conservatives rarely seem interested in this argument because to them the fetus has become nothing more than a political football – trying to change abortion law is more important than changing factors that cause women to choose to have an aborting to begin with because it’s what drives the fundies to the voting booths.

  • Nigel Poncewattle

    This is pretty much my belief.  Aborting a one day old fertilized egg, definitely no big deal (sans religious beliefs).   One day from term where the fetus is going to feel pain and probably aware something horrible is going on, definitely wrong.   So yeah, the answer is somewhere in between but no side will support a scientific answer to this and be reasonable.  

    Also, if the guilt trip issues weren’t there, then women would have an easier time making a decision early on in the pregnancy.    

  • Well, it shouldn’t be ‘no big deal.’ It should be ‘what a moron I am for not using birth control,’ assuming it’s not a case of failed birth control.

  • Here’s one I remember from my days over at IIDB (The Secular Web), a true blast from the past, y’all may be interested in ~

  • All the secular anti-choicers that i have encountered provide arguments very similar to religious arguments except they don’t say god or provide support for their belief. At least religious people (think) the bible lends support to their argument. 

    In Canada there are no legal restrictions on abortion. Women can terminate at any time (theoretically) for any reason (theoretically). In reality, 0.4% of abortions occur after 20 weeks. Those abortions are due to fetal abnormalities or risk to the mother and are typically on wanted pregnancies. From a logical perspective, atheists should, but don’t always, accept the fact that a woman with an unwanted pregnancy will risk her life to terminate. Abortion happens whether or not it is legal. That simple fact should be all the evidence an atheist will need to support safe, legal abortion. If they ignore that fact, they are no better than theists. Particularly in the US where abstinence only ‘sex-ed’ is taught, wishing for abortion to be outlawed simply punishes the victim – poorly educated teens – and does not solve the problem. Logic requires atheists to at least accept that abortion be safe.

  • By the way, I once used many of these same arguments from a secular humanistic viewpoint against aborting what is qualified human life.

    Of course, as to the issue of who gets to decide when or whether an abortion is necessary should still always remain with the woman bearing the blastocyst/zygote/fetus.

    For some reason that is difficult to understand for many folks, mostly fundamentally religious folks, well…mostly men.

  • I find it repulsive that you would even suggest that that a woman would abort a day before her due date. All the evidence shows that when given a choice and access, women will abort as soon as possible. Women can be trusted to make the morally correct decision.

  •  Even tho I am pro-choice I don’t think I could have an abortion.  Maybe it’s the remnants of my past fundamentalist religion still hanging on.  Maybe it’s because I’m nigh on forty and really want children and haven’t had them.  I don’t know why.  But the fact that I feel that way doesn’t give me the right to impose that on anyone else.  The fact that I would feel guilty would cause me to make the choice not to abort.

    The thing is when we’re talking about pro-choice it is exactly that. Each person can choose for themselves.  Pro-lifers don’t want anyone to choose for themselves.

  • Since I’m always signing petitions for free-range hens and other humane treatment of animals, I am concerned about causing pain to a fetus.  

    Of course, that would be a fetus that is 26 weeks old or more, a younger fetus may react to stimulus, but does not have the brain development to be aware of its existence.  Even then, one must weigh brief pain against a lifetime of suffering with a birth defect or the suffering of being raised by a resentful parent.  When people tell me they are pro-life, I always ask them how many children they have adopted.  I ask them if they have ever cooked, cleaned, or provided day care for a pregnant woman who has to work to support herself or her family.  The answer is always silence.  

  • I really wish we had more scientific knowledge for a cutoff point. I wish we knew for sure when the fetus could feel pain or when the fetus becomes aware of itself so that abortion could be a very simple choice. But I cringe when I hear about abortions that are done in the second trimester. I hate it when I hear other feminists say that we need to have abortion completely legal at any point in a woman’s pregnancy. I’d love to believe the best in everyone and believe that a woman who’s far along would only abort if something was medically wrong and not because she found out it was the wrong gender or just changed her mind.
    One of my sister’s friends got pregnant and she kept going back and forth on deciding whether or not to have an abortion (and she kept drinking while she was deciding). By the time she decided on an abortion, it was right at the cutoff point and the fetus was large enough that it had to be removed in pieces. Personally, if I got pregnant, I would get an abortion with the abortion pill around eight or nine weeks. I’m all for the mother’s right to choose, but I think that it makes sense to try and do it as early as possible so the fetus isn’t as far along and less harm is done. I do think it’s important to have a good window of time when a woman can get an abortion, especially for the women in difficult circumstances, but seeing an attitude like my sister’s friend really disgusts me. Legally, I’ll always vote for keeping things available to women, but personally, the sooner it’s done, the better.

  • Carla

    The idea that that group of cells can and probably will become human life makes me a little squemish about abortion. I’m 99.9% certain that I couldn’t personally have an abortion outside of medical need, and only about 50% certain I could do it with medical need. BUT… That doesn’t make my choice right for anyone but me. That, I think, is why you don’t see many atheist “pro-lifers.” We have our own feelings on the matter, but we would never presume to make our feelings into everyone’s law.

  • Just want to add that men use pregnancy as a tool to try to reduce women’s economic power.  Many men   think it’s manly to try to cajole or even trick a woman into having sex, but if she gets pregnant, the child is seen as her punishment for having sex.  It’s my hunch that a large percentage of the men who leave their families and/or don’t pay child support are also anti-abortion.  Since this situation has prevailed for centuries, we can’t say it’s a reaction to fear of having to compete with women for employment.  I just chalk it up to the hell-brew of hormones and religion.

  • I like the way that the Godless Bitches hosts phrased this argument. Essentially, the right to life does not always win out over everything else. They put forth a scenario where a child has a kidney disease and will die without a transplant. If you are the only person within any reasonable distance who can donate a kidney, but you refuse, are you killing that child? No, and furthermore, their right to life does not trump your right to your bodily autonomy and your choice with what to do with your body.

    This simply serves to demonstrate how the right to life does not always trump the rights of another person.

    Let’s take the extreme version of this scenario. This child has affluent, yet corrupt, parents, who find out that only my kidney will save their child. They therefore kidnap me, knock me out, and put me into a machine where his body uses one of my kidneys in lieu of his own. Now, if I am disconnected, it will kill the child. Do I have any right to demand that I be freed, even if it is at the expense at this child’s right? Pro-choicers might argue that because I did not give any consent whatsoever to this procedure, that there is no justification for forcing me to continue to go through with it.

    It is quite similar with abortion. In an overwhelming majority of these cases, the woman does not want to be pregnant, which is essentially a lack of consent on the woman’s part. Yes, she may have had sex, the protection she (or the man) used may have failed, she may have been raped, etc.

    Usually, those who are OK with abortion in cases of rape and incest, but in no other case, are the easiest to argue with. How is one scenario considered murder, while the other is not? How does the rape of the woman nullify the categorization of the abortion as murder?

    Therefore, if you consider abortion to be murder, but are OK with it in certain cases, then that is a pretty hypocritical stance to take. If you are not OK with it in cases of rape, etc., then you’re pretty much a lost cause in terms of morality and compassion.

  • Why isn’t the guy the moron for not using birth control?  Why should women have to shell out $40. a month so that a guy can enjoy impulsive sexual encounters without the brief delay and minor expense of putting on a condom?

  • Bolcm

    I think you’re making a semantic difference. I think Jonny was referencing the “oops I did it again” attitude where the exteremely few women might think of abortion as birth control. Otherwise, I agree with you.

  • Xeon2000

    Hmm. I’ve always supported a woman’s abortion rights, but at the same time, I’ve found abortion distasteful. I’m not sure what my rationale is since I’ve never been in a relationship with someone who had an abortion. The media portrayal however makes abortion into a gutwrenching and emotional ordeal, so I think that colors my vision a bit.

    I’m one of those who wouldn’t want to deal with it personally, but doesn’t think it’s my place to impose restrictions on another’s right to choose.

    Still, I have to admit that like a couple other posters, I worry about the frivolous use of abortion. Perhaps this is because I see it as an emotional ordeal, and I don’t like the idea of trivializing such a decision. Once again, not a scientific opinion but one rooted in emotion from what I’ve seen on tv. Perhaps abortion is rarely used so frivolously in the real world.

    One thing I know little about, so I’ll only briefly mention it? What about genetic screening and aborting a non ideal match?

  • Wim

    “We are going to die, and that makes us the lucky ones. Most people are
    never going to die because they are never going to be born. The
    potential people who could have been here in my place but who will in
    fact never see the light of day outnumber the sand grains of Arabia.
    Certainly those unborn ghosts include greater poets than Keats,
    scientists greater than Newton. We know this because the set of possible
    people allowed by our DNA so massively exceeds the set of actual
    people. In the teeth of these stupefying odds it is you and I, in our
    ordinariness, that are here. ” Richard Dawkins from Unweaving the Rainbow

     If the people who get to live are the lucky ones, what does that make those who didn’t get to live?

  • Ronlawhouston

    When I was young I was 100% pro choice.  Now having had kids I realize there is a line somewhere that must be drawn.  I think viability is the most compelling argument.  The problem is that as a society we can’t seem to have a rational debate to try to draw that line.  

    As much as I distrust government, I do think there is a limited place for regulation of abortion.  However, it seems that those who want to “regulate” abortion in reality want to ban it. 

    Like many things, I see problems on both sides, but don’t have many solutions.

  • Ronlawhouston

     Ditto to what both of you said.  Well stated.

  • HA2

     It would be a lot easier to stomach bans or restrictions on late-term abortions if early-term abortions were accepted and okay. But given the religious pressure, the myriad of barriers to getting abortions – at this point in our country, “I wanted to get an abortion earlier but couldn’t or was scared to” is, unfortunately, a reason that may be true up to any point in the pregnancy.

  • ortcutt

    A fertilized egg is certainly human.  It’s got the genetic makeup of a member of our species.  But so what?  Human is a biological category, not a moral one.  There is no reason why a human blastocyst is morally significant in virtue of its membership in our species while an intelligent, feeling non-human animal or android would lack moral significance.  Maybe that alleged “humanist principle” that all human life has intrinsic worth is just wrong.  It seems that way to me.

  • I’ll correct it: the couple are morons for not using birth control. If a woman is not on some form of birth control, and has voluntary sex without insisting that the guy wear a condom, she’s a moron. Point being only that a ‘no big deal’ attitude treats abortion as essentially no different than other forms of birth control, when it isn’t (i.e., it’s an invasive procedure as opposed to a pill or a condom).

  • Lusy

    The majority of women who go in for second abortions are using birth control. They’re also more likely to be in abusive relationships, so even if the pregnancy is because they’re not using birth control correctly, there’s a very good chance that she’s not actually in complete control of her reproduction when she does fall pregnant.

  • As tasty as the sandwich I didn’t make for lunch? That quote always bugged me with its essential meaninglessness.

  • Rwlawoffice

    Once you start to decide what human life has the moral right to live you are in dangerous territory and that is what pro abortion supporters are doing. Recognizing that the fertilized egg to the fetus is indeed a distinct human life, those that support abortion then make the decision that this life for various reasons does not have the right to continue to live.

  • LifeInTraffice

     It doesn’t make them anything. If a thing doesn’t come into existence, if it doesn’t come into sentience, then there’s no tragedy inherent in that. If “I” was the egg that didn’t get fertilized, if “I” was aborted (naturally or medically) before sentience, “I” would be exactly the same as I’d been for millions of years prior to that moment.*

    *”I” is in quotes because it implies individuality and sentience, which don’t exist in this case.

  • Thorny264

    What I reckon is any preganancy up to 24 weeks can be terminated for whatever reason the mother wants after all it’s her body and she can do what she wants with it.

    Anything after 24 weeks can only be aborted for a medical reason (to save the mothers life) but let’s be honest no one gets to 30 weeks and changes their mind, most abortions happen before 12 weeks I believe.

    Now something both sides of the argument should focus on is better sex education, no abstinence only crap and freely available birth control. Just because we are pro choice doesn’t mean we want people to get abortions just that they have the choice to do what they want with their own bodies and we’ld prefer it if most abortions could be prevented through sex education.

  • The Other Weirdo

     That is one fucked up view of men and relationships, even casual ones, especially since condoms are sold in every pharmacy in every civilized country on the planet.

  • LifeInTraffice

     Frivolous use of abortion is, of course, up for debate only because people can decide what “they” think of frivolous. Very few abortions are done because a woman just “can’t be bothered” to use birth control, which is what I’d consider frivolous (though I still think she should have the right to one). Others consider “frivolous” everything except life of the mother being in danger, and others consider any abortion frivolous.

    But, the anti-abortion adherents use words like “frivolous” to make it sound as though most abortions are done “willy-nilly” by women who have lots of unprotected sex and go to the clinic every few weeks to have an abortion because they’re too lazy to use birth control and prefer to have an abortion. This is just plain false. Abortions are expensive, for starters. Surgical abortions mean no sex for 6 weeks, and often heavy bleeding and general discomfort (in the case of one of my friends, a lot of outright pain for several days after she had to be have an abortion due to a fetal anomaly). She required several days off work. Chemical abortions are no easier on the body.  Women don’t just walk into a clinic pregnant, walk out not pregnant, and resume life as normal immediately.

  • ortcutt

    The problem for people who ascribe moral significance to human
    blastocysts is that it is obviously wrong, which is something that  non-religious-brainwashed people recognize.  We don’t think that discarding human blastocysts in fertility clinics is wrong.  Is that really dangerous territory? 

    What happens when we build intelligent, sentient androids?  Are we supposed to tell them that they can’t have any of the rights that sentient, adult humans have because they happen to not have 23 pairs of human chromosomes, and Rwlawoffice decided by fiat that thinking about the question of moral significance is on “dangerous territory”? 

  • Volunteer

    I’m a clinic escort for planned parenthood and have heard every argument under the sun. Almost all of them rely on a ‘soul’ or, at best, anthropomorphization. My own viewpoint echos those of some of the comments here, that early abortions are acceptable and late term are not. That isn’t to say you can just outright ban late-term abortions because they are medically necessary.

    For myself, I value intelligence and the mind. The moment a fetus gains self-control and situational awareness is the crucial line for value to be placed on it’s life. As far as I have been able to learn, this moment is impossible before 8 weeks due to brain development, and unlikely before 10 weeks. Before that point, it is just a body preparing for the emergence of the mind. Stoping the process before emergence causes no injustice as the human being hasn’t come into the world. After emergence, I think the number of reasons which are morally acceptable to seek an abortion drops off significantly.

    Now, what is morally acceptable is difficult to translate into law when having to legislate for millions of individual scenarios. I’ve approached it as recognizing women to have self-autonomy over their bodies and providing them with as much support and information as possible so help them in their descision.

  • It’s not uncommon for abusers to deliberately sabotage their partners’ birth control.

  • ortcutt

     What if the fetus is given a sedative and dies in its sleep?  It would have no idea what was happening.  Do you really think that a fetus is capable of conceptualizing either its life or its death at nine-months, before it’s acquired any language?  Maybe the point at which a human acquires moral significance is actually after birth.  There’s no reason to think it’s necessarily in the first nine months of its development.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    If the people who get to live are the lucky ones, what does that make those who didn’t get to live?

    Is the lottery prize I didn’t win unlucky?

  • ortcutt

     Non-people who never existed. 

    This has been another episode in the series Simple Answers to Stupid Questions.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    However, it seems that those who want to “regulate” abortion in reality want to ban it.

    And a notable percentage of them want to ban contraceptives of all kinds!

  • Glasofruix

    The guy is an idiot if he sticks his dick around without protection.

  • The commonly-used argument “my body – my choice” is frivolous on its face.  The fetus is -not- your body, it has its own distinct DNA, its own organs, even the placenta is a fetal organ, not the mother’s.  Contrast this to removing a tumor; that tumor has the same DNA as its host.  I’m an atheist and I oppose abortion except for medical necessity or shortly after conception.  For me it really does come down to respect for human life, because that just seems the right thing, regardless of religion.

  • If the people who get to live are the lucky ones, what does that make those who didn’t get to live?”

    As an extension of that line of thinking, do we have a responsibility to try to bring as many of those non-existent people into existence? No.

  •  Please see TerranRich’s post above to see why “my body, my choice” is not frivolous at all.  The right to life is not the right to use another person’s body to stay alive.

    You’re also wrong about tumors.  They do have DNA that is distinct from their hosts.

  • pete084

    Never having found myself in the position of having to make that choice I don’t feel I then have the right to decide for someone who is facing issues that I cannot begin to comprehend, I do however feel that abortion as a form of contraception is wrong, but those finding themselves in that situation do so as a result of having contraception denied them on the same grounds as those put forward for the anti-abortion argument, namely religious grounds!

    Make contraception easily and widely available, and the abortion argument will die of natural causes! I don’t have the statistics but unwanted pregnancies are higher in US states that do not offer contraception, than in those that do, and comparing the USA with countries like Norway clearly show that openness towards sexual health, and a lack of body shame, result in fewer abortions.

  • ortcutt

    Why should all human life be respected?  What makes a human blastocyst morally significant in a way that a fish blastocyst isn’t?  Membership in a species isn’t a morally significant characteristic in-and-of-itself. 

  • David McNerney

    I think I can be against abortion and yet still be in favour of abortion rights.  In the same way that I can be in favour of the availability of cosmetic surgery and still think that you are an idiot for wanting it (the hollywood stuff, not the reconstructive stuff).

    My objection to abortion would be on the ground that my kids are precious to me, even the ones that never made it past a blue line on a stick.  The big word there though is ‘my’.

    As far as I’m concerned, a person is a person as soon as someone sees it as a person, in a real and personal sense – and if something is never seen as a person, then it’s not.  But I would reserve the right to object to the idea that just because you think X is just a zygote or blastocyst or fetus, doesn’t preclude me from thinking that exactly the same thing – that is personal to me – is a baby or a person.

  • So there are plenty of bioethicists that both defend and oppose abortion rights on different grounds, and do so on secular grounds. There are a couple that I know of, including Tooley, and Marquis and Thomson. The arguments usually circle around whether an fetus has a “moral right to life,” or “moral standing,” or “potentiality.” I talk about them at length here:

  • I find abortion squicky, and if asked my opinion, I’d say I’m generally against the concept. No fact-based reason… it just bothers me.

    That said, that’s just my opinion, and I will absolutely vote against any measure that tries to force that opinion on anyone else. It should not be banned simply because I don’t like it.

  • It’s simply a matter of the way in which an individual values life… particularly genetically unique life. We could rephrase this: are there non-religious reasons to be vegetarian? Opposing abortion while choosing to eat meat demonstrates a very human-centric viewpoint; there is no doubt that a cow or pig going to slaughter is more sentient than a human fetus in the first or second trimester (and probably more so than a newborn baby).

    I value life. I regret spraying a weed, I regret stepping on a bug, I regret that an animal had to die to feed me. But I place these things in balance with all my other views, and with my needs. By my code, killing an animal for sport is morally wrong; killing one for food is not. Killing a person for financial gain is wrong; killing one for self-defense is not. We all draw these lines, and you don’t need to be religious to draw the line for where it’s okay to kill a human at any particular point- or at no point at all.

    Just as a Buddhist who walks carefully around bugs would not consider somebody who doesn’t to be a sinner, and just as a vegetarian would (usually) not consider somebody who eats meat to be a murderer, there are ethical decisions that have to remain with the individual. Thus, a person who values the life of a fetus to such a degree that they consider themselves opposed to abortion should not have an abortion. Neither should they see those who feel otherwise as wrong and they should not seek to impose their personal values on others by the force of law.

  • Kristen White

    I get very tired of the black and white arguments about this. Of course 99% of those come from theists and the “pro-life” (haha) crowd. A few, however, come from people who insist that up until the day it is born, a fetus is a complete nonentity and should not be considered the least bit valuable, and that anybody who thinks otherwise is falling back on religion or fuzzy feelings about cute babies.  Morally, there is very little difference between a fetus one day before birth (dependent on another human’s body for life) and a fetus one day after birth (*still* dependent on another human’s body for life, although the invention of infant formula has lessened this link).  If you accept that a one day old baby ought to be shown moral consideration, I don’t see any logical reason why a 9 month old fetus ought not be shown at least some consideration.  Atheists often consider the relative values of different forms of life, both animal and human. Different forms and stages of life come with different levels of value based on their neurology, simple or complex emotion, and their capacity for thought.  Abortion does not have to be murder for it to be morally questionable.

    That’s not traitorious, it’s not anti-feminist, and it’s not irrational. Balancing the rights of the mother with an inherent value of life and sentience is a rational position and is consistent with most atheist value systems.  Please note that I am in no way trying to imply that women get abortions frivolously, or that abortion is shameful. I trust women. I believe women ought to legally be able to choose up until the day of birth because nobody has a more legitimate right to make the moral considerations required than the woman carrying the fetus. I just think that one needn’t insist that the morality is black and white in order to insist that the legality should be. 

    I often hear the argument that only that black and white morality will ever lead to a society where women aren’t shamed for abortion. Sorry, I don’t buy it. That’s not a moral argument, it’s a practical one, and to be practical, there is absolutely no way anything but a small minority of people will accept that argument that the birth process somehow transforms the same being, in one moment, from something with no value to something with the ultimate value.    

  • Flora The Red Menace

    It all comes down to not trusting women. The whole idea of abortion as contraception is a non-starter. It happens about as often as the mythical welfare-queen-driving-a-cadillac.
    Of course, if you think women are mostly dumb sluts, it makes sense. (And please — “pro-life atheist ” is a repulsive phrase. The “pro-life” contingent is really “forced pregnancy”.)

  • Kristen White

    By this logic, there’s also no reason to be morally against infanticide as long as the infant dies with no pain. I know this is a tired argument, but I’ve never heard a good answer. I’m also not arguing about the legality, just the morality. Why is the birth process (a simple change in location and severing of a piece of tissue) a more morally significant change than (for example) the development of the brain or simple emotions or the ability to feel pain?

  • T-Rex

    “Just want to add that men use pregnancy as a tool to try to reduce women’s economic power.  Many men   think it’s manly to try to cajole or even trick a woman into having sex, but if she gets pregnant, the child is seen as her punishment for having sex. ”

    WTF? Nazani14 you obviously have some serious issues to work through with a statement like that. Wow! I mean, Wow! Just mind boggling. Conspiracy theory much?

  • ortcutt

    Birth isn’t a morally significant event.  It’s just a convenient and practical dividing line.  On the Michael Tooley argument, infants acquire moral significance sometime after birth.  There’s no particular harm to the mother or anyone else in according legal protections to the infant after its born even if it doesn’t yet have moral significance.

  • Kristen White

    The same arguments apply after birth as before birth. Maybe even more so. An infant is a greater economic and practical burden than a fetus. Also, I’m really curious about the moral arguments, not the practical ones. Do you consider infanticide immoral? If so, why?

  • Carolyn

     I’ve had an abortion.

  • The problem for people who ascribe moral significance to human blastocysts is that it is obviously wrong, which is something that  non-religious-brainwashed people recognize.

    No, it is not obviously wrong. It is wrong to see this as a universal truth, for sure. But most examples of “right” or “wrong” are not aspects of any universal ethos (things that virtually all people would accept as such), but matters of personal viewpoint. Whether a human blastocyst has “moral significance” is a matter of personal moral beliefs.

    RW has every right to consider a blastocyst a human that should not be killed. It’s a view consistent with his moral code, and there’s nothing wrong with it. We could argue that he’s factually wrong, based on historical evidence, to suggest that allowing abortion somehow puts us on a slippery slope. And we could argue that he’s wrong on universal moral grounds to seek the imposition of his own morals on others. But he’s not wrong in his personal view that abortion is wrong.

  • When you ask about “atheists opposing abortion”, I’m taking that to indicate a collective position to form the basis of law, and not simply a personal position against it. Abortion is legal in the USA, after all, but that does not imply any obligation to undergo an abortion. Anyone, atheist or not, is free to be against abortion and refuse to support it in any way, even if they can’t justify that position rationally. So  I see no reason for atheists, collectively, to oppose abortion, since it’s a matter of  personal liberty, not something that should be the subject of law at all.

  • digitalatheist

    Personally, I’m against abortion, just as a means of birth control. However, that is the decision of the woman. If she makes it, so be it. On the other hand there are people out there who want to outlaw ALL abortions. I have a niece and an aunt who are alive today because both had pregnancies that went really bad and were only saved by terminating their pregnancy. In one case it was only a couple months in, in the other it was way late but needed anyway.

    Despite my personal squeamishness  as far as just birth control (not related to rape/incest), again, it is the female’s perogative.

  • ortcutt

    After birth, the infant can be given up for adoption and the mother need not bear the infant any longer in her uterus. 

    I don’t consider painless infanticide to be immoral, because the infant cannot yet conceptualize its own life and thus is not deprived of the ability to pursue its chosen form of life.  It’s the same reason that I don’t consider a painless death of non-conceptual non-human animals to be immoral.

  • Carolyn

    Crap, there was more to that comment, stupid enter key. Anyhow, I had it early enough that it was actually earlier than my later miscarriage of a wanted pregnancy. I vaguely consider it from time to time, but I don’t regret it. I mostly felt relief. I mostly was angry that I had to make the decision at the time.

    I’ve met one or two women with mixed feelings about their past abortions. But it’s been on the level of regrets about marrying someone, or choosing an educational path. It’s normal to occasionally wonder about choices that would have put you in an entirely different life.

    But the main thing is – here in Canada, with absolutely no regulation about abortion, in a private clinic, the staff were very good about asking about feelings and if as patients we wanted to talk more with someone either before or possibly instead of going into the procedure. There was absolutely no pressure to go through with the anything. This is why I don’t understand these exact regulations about counseling and going back – who would go into being an abortion provider without having some sympathy for women making these decisions? 

    Anyhow, I think if someone thinks an early abortion is no big deal, I am OK with that. Nobody will be getting an abortion at 32 weeks unless there’s extreme complications of some kind, and I don’t want to get between a woman and her decision in those cases.

  • ortcutt

    Just because he believes a particular personal moral code to be true doesn’t make that moral code true.  He’s not entitled to a personal view that Lyon is the capital of France, because he would be wrong about that.   You have done nothing to show that moral significance isn’t like other non-indexical facts.   I suggest you read this short piece by Paul Boghossian before deciding that it makes sense for each person to have an idiosyncratic standard of moral significance.

  • Carolyn

     Carolyn again – and I think it’s in the wrong spot. God, I fail commenting today.

  • There is probably no rational reason that a person should be morally opposed to infanticide. But there are morals that are nearly universal, and there are those that vary widely. The idea that an infant is a person and has a “right” to life is nearly universal- you would not find many people who disagree. So this rises to an example of a culture-wide moral viewpoint, and our laws are based upon it.

    Many ethical positions have no rational basis, but reflect the consensus of society. This is one example. At other times, and in other societies, infanticide has been morally acceptable.

  • noyourgod

    Resources, and danger to the woman, sort of…

    Using abortion as a *primary* method of birth control wastes a tremendous amount of resources vs. using the pill or other birth control methods.  An invasive operation is much more dangerous to the woman’s life than most (if not all) of the other methods.

    Just as I am against the idea of using the emergency room as their *primary* health provider, I am against somebody using abortion as their *primary* birth control method.  However, I’ll be damned if I would ever demand somebody be removed from an emergency room because their situation has forced them (or they choose) to use the emergency room for primary health care, and I’ll be damned if I would ever prevent a woman from having an abortion.

  • Believing that Lyon is the capital of France represents a factual error. It is always possible to be factually wrong. It is not so easy to be morally wrong. We all have a personal moral code, and things that we personally find right or wrong are at odds with what others find right or wrong. It is presumptuous to tell somebody that their moral beliefs are “wrong”. Indeed, it is factually wrong to do so, except perhaps in the case of the small number of universally accepted moral beliefs (and even that is arguable).

    If you are prepared to tell RW he is wrong for placing the moral significance he does on a blastocyst, then you have to be open to his telling you that you are wrong for not believing that. And I know of no way to say which of you has the better case.

    The solution here is not to judge most ethical opinion as “right” or “wrong”, but to recognize these as thing we “agree” or “disagree” on, and to attempt to change the opinions of others by logic and rational discourse.

    If somebody tells me that I’m “wrong” because of some deeply held moral viewpoint, I’m not likely to take them seriously, or listen closely to their arguments.

  • BREAKING: nine pro-choicers talk about it for a while and decide there are no good arguments against abortion.

  • Cincinatheist

    Um, genetic mutations cause cancer. Genes are part of DNA. Therefore, cancer DNA is vastly different from the hosts DNA. That’s kinda how cancer works, and why it makes you sick or kills you.

    Edited to add that enuma already stated this an hour ago. Carry on. 😉

  • ortcutt

     Do you think it’s “presumptuous” to say that Female Genital Mutilation is wrong?  Do you think it’s “presumptuous” to say that the Holocaust was wrong?  Or do you think that the people who disagree with those claims are entitled to their own personal moral code?  I’m sure the people who believe that FGM is right hold that belief quite deeply, but they are wrong.  They’re free to think that I’m wrong about that as well, but they’re wrong about that too.

  •  “Thus, a person who values the life of a fetus to such a degree that they
    consider themselves opposed to abortion should not have an abortion.
    Neither should they see those who feel otherwise as wrong and they
    should not seek to impose their personal values on others by the force
    of law.”

    Does this principle apply to infanticide? If not, why not?

    I would say the best non-religious reason to make abortion illegal is simply consistency with making other forms of killing humans illegal. Of course it depends on WHY we make killing humans illegal, but a number of common and secular reasons about human dignity or human rights would preclude killing at least some types of unborn humans.

    Unfortunately, there’s a widespread attitude among atheists secular reasoning doesn’t matter when it comes to abortion.

  •  Should be “attitude among atheists THAT secular reasoning doesn’t matter when it comes to abortion.”

  • Kristen White

    So it appears that you believe in moral universalism. From whence does that morality spring? Since you’re an atheist (I’m assuming, but you are on this website), you don’t believe it comes from God. Is there some sort of moral code hard-wired into the universe? If not, I don’t see where you get off telling people that their moral beliefs are wrong. You can argue that what they are doing is bad, and other people who also believe harming humans is bad will believe you and possibly use their power to prevent the behavior, but you can’t argue that they are wrong unless you think there is such a thing as universal morality.

  • rickflick

    Christopher Hitchens had some quazi-antiabortion opinions.
    One of his arguments is that since medical science has been saving fetuses earlier in gestation, this justifies all fetuses as an “unborn child” and perhaps worthy of social protection.  I’m not sure if this is rational argument, since viability doesn’t address the reasons one might want to terminating a pregnancy.  Also, if viability was strictly limited to the last month of pregnancy for some technical reason, would that imply that therefor an 7  1/2 month child could be lightly discarded?

  • I would not tell a person who finds infanticide morally acceptable that they are wrong, even though I might disagree with their view.

    Infanticide is something that is (currently) seen as morally wrong by an overwhelming majority of people, so it is perfectly rational for society to define it as murder and punish those who practice it. A society cannot function without defining common standards of behavior.

    Abortion is certainly not seen as morally right or wrong by any consensus, so in my view it is best left as a personal choice, not a matter of legislation.

    There is no consistency in our views on killing humans. We make lots of exceptions for legal killing of humans- adult, sentient, self-aware humans. So the killing of non-sentient humans for what many consider good cause is not unreasonable.

  • Dezcrawford

    I fully support abortion rights but I do think a decision should be made before the fetus is viable outside the womb.  Note that I do not think that should be the law.  Nearly all abortions take place at that point in time anyway.  

    What I would truly love to see as an atheist community project is a halfway house for pregnant teens and indigent women who do choose to keep their baby, a place where they could get a GED, job training, and some assistance with job placement.  Everyone who chooses to continue an unplanned pregnancy has a different reason for doing so, but the “Christian” community and the right wing simply do not care about what happens to mother and child if she chooses to have the baby.  

    I would love to see a religion-free environment in which women with crisis pregnancies could have a SECULAR place to stay, a place to get their life in order and ultimately to support themselves.  I would like to see places like this all over the country: secular yet supporting the choice of women who do choose to continue an unplanned pregnancies.  We would stand head and shoulders above the “pro-life” crowd if we had something like that going:  supporting a woman’s choice, no matter what it is, and helping her start a productive life if she chooses to continue the pregnancy.  

  • I do not think that female genital mutilation is morally wrong in societies that accept it as moral and normal. I think there are rational reasons to argue that it should not be performed.

    The Holocaust was at odds with the morals of nearly every human, including those who created it. Very few of those involved considered what they were doing to be “right”. But again, if somebody feels that killing Jews is the ethical thing to do, I will not tell them they are wrong. But that won’t stop me from seeing them as dangerous to our society, and doing everything I can to stop them.

  • So if a large majority of people in some society consider abortion morally wrong, then you would consider it “perfectly rational” for that society to make abortion illegal?

  • Kristen White

    This is why I believe respect for human life ought to be an almost universal part of morality. I’m a moral relativist, but from a practical standpoint, I believe each person individually has a better chance of surviving and being treated with dignity when respect for human (and nonhuman life) is broadened, rather than weakened. Using complex cognitive arguments to justify killing an infant makes it a pretty short step to justify killing the mentally handicapped, toddlers, etc. I think that’s why many people, even non-religious ones, see a problem with late-term abortion. Let’s keep that line beyond which a person can be killed as far away from ourselves as possible. 

  • Proudmama083

    I completely agree with you! I was just in a relationship where his whole family treated independant women like shit and tryed to beat me mentally into submisiion. I absolutely refusd. I ended up getting pregnant and tryed to discuss options with him including abortion. He straight up refused abortion as an option and left me a couple weeks later refusing to take responsibility…he’s insisting she’s not his and ABSOLUTELY REFUSES to take a paternity test.

  • Absolutely.

  • Ok, that’s consistent.

    On the other hand, cultural relativism is in tension with popular, secular notions that human rights can differ from a given society’s attitudes.

  • Marco Conti

    I am an atheist and I was never religious to begin with. I have always been pro-choice but if I could eliminate the need for all abortions tomorrow I would. 

    That doesn’t mean that I feel compelled to tell other people what to do with their bodies and their lives. 

    My wife had to have an abortion shortly before we married, during our cohabitation. She had to because of a health issue so there was really no choice. Yet, I still wonder what this son or daughter of mine would have been like. 
    Today, if my daughter or my wife decided to have an abortion, I would probably try to find a way to keep the baby if at all possible. If it as once again a health issue, that would be that, but if it was an issue of feeling unprepared or not being able to afford it, then I would offer my help and at least let them know that I would be prepared to offer an extra sacrifice on behalf of the unborn.

    But I would leave the decision to the one carrying the pregnancy.

  • ortcutt

     What do you think about infants born with fatal and painful congenital diseases?  Do you still think that infanticide is wrong in that case?  Do you think that it is moral to keep an infant alive in pain for the six months of its life?

  • Dea

    At least you acknowledge that this is for an extremely few women who think of abortion as birth control – why do we need to bring a few women into the dicussion? And calling someone a moron is shaming. It’s none of you business why a woman gets an abortion – that is between her and her doctor – end of story.

  • Dea

    Exactly – pro choice is prochoice not necessarily pro-aboration – respecting people enough to make the decision that is best for them is the right way to deal with such a personal decision.

  • I had to comment because of the myth being promoted on here.  Abortion is not used as birth control!!  Yes there are a few cases of women that do this, but it is rare.  Abortions are expensive, time consuming, and physically uncomfortable.  Who has the money and time to have multiple abortions?  Otherwise how I feel about abortion really does not matter, though I am strongly pro-choice.  Each individual person knows what is best for their lives.  I trust women to know whether she wants to remain pregnant or not.  She should be treated with respect like anyone else making a medical decision.

  • Jason Goertzen

    The problem with the abortion debate is that most people (myself included!) want to simultaneously believe that (A) Abortion is morally acceptable. (B) Infanticide is morally abhorrent, and (C) Killing animals for food is morally acceptable.The problem with this is that it seems that there’s no consistent use of definitions and categories that legitimates all three positions simultaneously.  Is ‘personhood’ the important factor?   The problem is defining it in such a way that it includes infants, but not fetuses.  Perhaps it’s sentience that makes the difference.  There, the problem is defining it in such a way as to include infants, but exclude animals.  I’m genuinely stumped by this problem.  Ultimately, it feels like ‘being human’ has to be inserted as an arbitrary variable to make it work.

  • Indeed, condoms are widely available.  However, ask around among women you know well enough to discuss sex with.  See how many of their male sex partners actually offered to (or could be persuaded to) use condoms.

  • This has nothing to do with my personal experience, other than observing prevalent attitudes in society and reading about sociology.  I live in Virginia.

  • Baby_Raptor

    I was anti-abortion until I had my son. I was considered a “high risk” pregnancy, so I had weekly visits from the word go, and frequent ultrasounds. 

    That’s what made me change my mind. Seeing twice monthly pictures of how the fetus developed, hearing how dependent it was on me, and how many little things I could do that could seriously harm it…It made me question the idea of life starting at conception.

    The final straw was when I went into preterm labor at 27 weeks, and was told that, even that late on, it could still die if they didn’t stop the labor. 

    I now hold the belief that life starts when the fetus has a 100% chance of living if it’s delivered. 

    I’ve since then had to consider abortion…Birth control failed, my fiance is still in school and lives half way across the country. I ended up miscarrying, but I had no qualms about having one. My concern was more for my fiance, whose views on the matter are still very much undecided. 

  • Baby_Raptor

    It’s morally significant because after birth, you’re no longer talking about the bodily autonomy of the mother. Once the baby is born, there’s no longer the threat of the many bodily harms pregnancy can cause. 

    Yes, that only applies to a certain set of abortions, not all of them, but it still answers your question. 

    I don’t advocate third trimester abortions unless the fetus is non-viable or there’s risk to the mother. So..I agree that infanticide is wrong. But I prioritize the mother over the fetus in cases where the choice HAS to be made. 

  • I recognize that not everyone agrees with me in my pro-choice stance.  That’s why I’m willing to compromise.  The compromise is called “Roe v. Wade,” and I’m not giving in an inch further.

  • Kristen White

    Alive – yes. In pain – no. There is such a thing as sedation. I support ending life support but not inducing death. I recognize that the line is very fuzzy and morally ambiguous, but like I said above, I believe it is important to draw the line on killing human beings as conservatively as possible because of the (inho) dangerous moral implications of trying to create exceptions to the rule against killing human beings.  

  • Kristen White

    I agree with this. My argument isn’t that 3rd trimester abortions are necessarily immoral. It’s that the further along in the pregnancy, the greater moral justification should be required to terminate. I’m also not talking about legal restrictions–I think the law should be completely, 100% pro-choice.  I’m arguing that morally, it’s illogical to take one moment in time (birth) and say a fetus goes from being a meaningless, value-less collection of cells to a human being. If there is moral value in the week after birth, I don’t see how there is no moral value in the week before.

  • ortcutt

     Should we abandon IVF clinics then?  Human beings are regularly killed there when more embryos are created than are implanted.  Do you want to be the one that tells the infertile couple that they can’t have children because of your irrational hangups?

  • Have you talked to a social worker or lawyer? They might be able to help you.

  • I disagree. Throw out the relatively small percentage of abortions due to rape, incest, medical risk, or failure of properly used birth control, and most are simply unplanned pregnancies, that should never have occurred in the first place- and wouldn’t have given better judgment or better education. Abortion is used as birth control, in the same way that visits to emergency rooms for tooth abscesses are used as dental care.

    I don’t think this fact changes the morality or legality of abortions, but it’s unfortunate that so many resources and so much discomfort (and even some risk) are incurred by something that could so easily be avoided. Of course, it is the attitudes of many of those opposed to abortion that are primary factors in creating the environment that turns them into the last resort birth control method in the first place.

  • Baby_Raptor

    People who didn’t live. Sperm that never made it to an egg. An egg that didn’t get fertilized. 

    There’s no real tragedy when something doesn’t exist. 

  • Baby_Raptor

    The “my body-my choice” argument does’t claim that the fetus is part of the woman’s body. 

    It’s based off the fact that the fetus uses the woman’s body, all her fluids, everything she eats, everything she drinks, ETC. The woman is an all-purpose incubator. 

    And yes, whether there is a life there or not, the woman should have the ultimate say in whether or not she wants to be basically a slave to the fetus inside her. *Especially* if she didn’t want it there in the first place.

  • Nazani14 is in fact correct. Antis always say the child is punishment for sex and there are way more incidences of men sabatoging birth control than the other way around. Domestic violence is worse against pregnant women, in fact a woman is more likely to be murdered if she is pregnant, Abusers use pregnancy as a means to control and trap their victims. These are all very well known statistics i google it.

  • There is an important distinction to be made here. You will be hard pressed to find a pro-choicer who denies an embryo is human. We deny that it is a *person*. It is*people* who have rights, not humans. “human” can mean a great many things – my cells are human, we have human history and culture. Person is more narrow and descriptive. I deny that an embryo is a person and thus deny that it has rights typically ascribed to people.

  • I will confirm what Nazani14 has said.  I have had more than one man, in the early-to-mid stages of online flirting, brag that he was extremely fertile and was positive he would, “put a baby in me,” as one person charmingly put it.

    Being childfree, I laughed and replied, “That’s what birth control is for.”  He said he was no longer interested in being with me.

    The man who was most adamant about it was a retired military person on partial disability, unable to work and on SSDI, and supporting two children from a previous relationship.  If I had wanted children, I would have had serious second (and third) thoughts about conceiving one with him, considering his inability to help me parent and support them.  But he saw his fecundity as proof of his masculinity and saw me, to some extent, as an incubator.

  • I see abortion as a waste more than anything else.

    Because contraception isn’t fully reliable and comprehensive sex education isn’t mandatory, and because we as a society treat sex like sport instead of being willing to make intelligent and considered decisions about who we have sex with and when, women get pregnant who don’t intend to.  And then they have to deal with the consequences.  Rape culture and domestic violence and abuse of children, and teens thinking it’s cool when a 14 year old has a 19 year old boyfriend.  I don’t know the modern statistics, but when I was a clinic volunteer 20 years ago, over half of “teen pregnancies” were the product of a teenaged mother and her 18+ year old boyfriend.  A study in North Carolina about a decade ago is instructive:  Look at the table on the top of page 2. Of the fourteen pregnancies in girls aged 12, the father’s age, if known, ranged from 17 to 20.  That’s not a relationship; it’s statutory rape.

    People say it’s shocking that in the US 1/3 of all pregnancies end in abortion.  That’s a nasty statistic, but here’s a worse one: over half of all pregnancies are unintended.  

    How many of the intended pregnancies do you think end in abortion?  My guess is that the ones that do are the ones you’d have no qualms about ending in the first place.  The ones where the fetus has abnormalities incompatible with life.  The ones where the mother is on the bring of death.  In the 1989 classic Abortion for Survival, one woman tells her tale.  In the middle of her third trimester, she was literally dying, and the only solution was to terminate her pregnancy.  Because she lived in a state where third trimester abortions were illegal, she was flown in a helicopter ambulance to a state that did.  During the flight her heart stopped, twice.  She was revived both times.  She landed at a hospital that had a helipad, but she could not have her abortion there; it was a Catholic hospital.  They stabilized her, loaded her into an ambulance, and she was delivered to a clinic that performed third trimester abortions, where the fetus was removed.  She survived, despite all the roadblocks thrown at her.  Why do those roadblocks exist?  Why would a hospital refuse to remove the fetus of a woman whose heart has stopped twice because of her pregnancy?  Why would a state make abortion in that situation illegal?  What sick, twisted mind thinks this is OK?

  • Lusy

    She might be a moron, or she might be in an abusive relationship where every sexual encounter involves some level of coercion and could turn violent if she tries to insist on a condom. Now, maybe you might not class sex in an abusive relationship as ‘voluntary’, but it does occupy a grey area where the woman has difficulty assigning it as completely involuntary, due to the threat of force being an extension of day to day control rather than being an isolated attempt to force the abused party into sex, but it does occupy a large proportion of repeat abortions.

    And if a woman in an abusive relationship is on the pill, trust me, it’s hard to remember to take it regularly when you spend a lot of mental effort worrying about whether your partner is going to be nice today, or whether he’s going to threaten you with a knife and call you a whore, or if he’s going to go completely nuts at you because you put 50ml more milk in his cereal than was absolutely ideal…

  • Rdavidgoin

    As An atheist moderate liberat, I am conflicted. We mostly agree that an abortion 10 minutes before a natural delivery is morally objectionable. Why? What about 10 days? Why or why not? What about 10 weeks? At what point are we convinced that we are not committing a moral wrong, and how does that balance with a woman’s right to control her own body? I don’t know, but I can see how one could argue that where there is doubt, the law ought to err on the side of protecting life.

  • I take the view that abortion should be legal up to viability. (and I know when viability is a debated matter) after viability no abortion should be permitted unless the mother’s life is at stake or birth defects are so severe that life outside the womb is impossible. ( and I have a 22 yr old daughter with Down Syndrome)

    That said, the vast, vast, vast majority of abortions take place in the first trimester, well before viability. Our focus should be on making birth control widely available rendering the need for abortion rare.

    And yes, I am an atheist, though I don’t consider my atheism when deciding what I think on this matter.

  • Blanc_Slate

     though I don’t consider my atheism when deciding what I think on this matter.”
     What does this mean? I.e. If you had to, how would you go about considering your ‘no-god belief’  when taking a position on abortion? 

  • So basically, Abortion should be safe, legal, and rare?

  • It means that atheism is the Rejection of the belief in the existence of deities and my atheism does not affect how I decide the abortion issue. What does affect my view is my beliefs concerning morality and how the availability of abortion and all it’s attendant nuances affects the society I live in.

  • Parse

     FYI, I liked your comment, not because of any “Yay for every abortion evar! Abort all the babies!” feelings, but in support of you being willing to share your story.

  • Blanc_Slate

    Ok, that’s what I thought you’d say. Why then would you say your lack of belief doesn’t interfere when there is no way it could? That’s what I wanted to shed light on. Personally, I can’t think of how my “atheism” would affect my beliefs about abortion if I were to examine the issue rationally (that is, looking at the facts involved and coming up with a sensible/logical response). In other words, Atheism or Theism for that matter wouldn’t factor in, if rationalism is the basis for judgement, so bringing up atheism doesn’t make much sense. Now if you substituted “theism” for “atheism,” then I might have left it at that since with that belief system comes a whole load of baggage, if you will, entailing certain ways to act in certain situations and issues (abortion included). Atheism has no such baggage. 

  • Some atheists load atheism with baggage. They think certain political and cultural beliefs are part of what it means to be an atheist. Yes, I suppose many atheists are liberal politically but I have met Republican ,libertarian, and socialist atheists. The diversity among atheists is great.

    You are right about theism. When I was a Christian and a pastor I brought a lot of baggage into the abortion discussion. God said, the Bible says, etc.

  • Blanc_Slate

    It’s a shame then that some atheists do in fact make presumptions like that. I don’t think I’ve met one who has though, but then again, I’ve only met a handful of atheists. What that does is to treat atheism as its own belief system instead of a response to theism. I guess that explains why some religious people wanna group atheists like they do themselves, and even on surveys where they ask for ‘religious affiliation’ and “atheism” is one of the choices. Lol, atheism – a religion, as if.

  • amycas

     I think we need to define what people mean by “birth control.” Technically, every abortion is birth control, in that it controls whether or not a woman gives birth. But I think the definition most people here are using is that women get abortion in lieu of birth control (as in there are a huge number of women who just don’t use birth control at all because “hey I can just get an abortion”)—that is what is false. Most abortions happen because birth control failed, not because there was no birth control used.

  • B12

    “Neither should they see those who feel otherwise as wrong and they should not seek to impose their personal values on others by the force of law.”

    Why? The basis of society involves imposing our values on others. We impose our values about human life on serial killers when we make murder illegal, for example. Do you think this is wrong?

  • B12

    It doesn’t seem unreasonable to me to think that a fetus is a person.

  • ReadsInTrees

    This, to me, is what the abortion debate comes down to. It’s not about when a zygote becomes a “person”, it’s about us valuing a living, breathing, sentient, thinking woman over a non-sentient maybe-person. The “personhood” debate is easy to solve. Simply give this scenario; you’re in an IVF clinic standing next to a freezer full of a hundred frozen embryos and a 4-year-old child. Suddenly there’s a fire, and you find yourself in the position to save either the child or the freezer of embryos. Which do you choose? If the pro-lifers are correct, and every fertilized egg is a “person”, then surely you should save a hundred people over the one child, right?

    Anyway, the mental and physical well-being of a woman is worth more than that of her fetus. Even if her life isn’t in danger (though, of course, pregnancy is a life-threatening condition), her general comfort and well-being trump that of the fetus any day. People moan about choosing one life over another as if it’s something new. It’s not. We choose comforts over human lives every day. If pro-lifers TRULY valued all human life as equally valuable, they’d sell their homes, cars, and other possessions to live in squalor while they send the money to third world countries in order to save even just one life of a child starving to death somewhere.  Think of how many lives someone could save by forgoing the $20,000 new car and instead buying much needed medical supplies for a poverty stricken area. That’s not even choosing one life over another; that’s just choosing comfort and convenience over other lives. But, you don’t see any pro-life mega churches selling their multi-million dollar facilities in order to save starving children, do you? Nope, and that’s because we all make decisions every day that value our own comfort over other human lives.  Is it a nice thought? No, but that’s how it is, and pro-lifers should just get over it when a woman decides that her career/family/mind/health is more important than a little clump of cells.

  • The IVF clinic example is perhaps the best argument I have ever heard for the pro-choice side.

  • Murder is illegal by definition. I think you mean that values are imposed when we classify certain kinds of killing as murder.

    As I’ve noted elsewhere in this discussion, the key point is whether a value is shared by most of the members of a society. Those are the values that are rightly codified by law. Almost everybody believes that killing another person under most (but not all) circumstances is morally wrong, so we define that behavior as illegal. The tiny percentage who feel otherwise must accept this behavior, or risk being removed from society.

    However, when societies impose as law beliefs that don’t reflect the consensus, they damage themselves, and risk collapse. A law against abortion would fall in this category.

    I believe it is morally wrong to seek the imposition of my beliefs on others by force of law. The proper thing to do is to attempt to persuade others to think as I do. If I, and others who think as I do, are successful, there will be a new societal consensus, and law will follow naturally (but that law will hardly be needed… just as any good law is hardly needed).

  • From what I’ve read, a small majority or a large minority of abortions result because no birth control was used. In this country, that could be considered a failure of birth control, of course.

    I agree that virtually no woman makes an active choice to not use birth control because she can “just get an abortion”. Perhaps the best way to express that is to say that nobody uses abortion as a primary birth control method. But far too many use it as a secondary form of birth control, and that’s because of bad education, bad information, bad advice, and poor access to medical care and birth control tools.

    Most developed countries have much lower abortion rates than the U.S., and it isn’t because women (and young women in particular) are having any less sex. It’s because more use birth control, or use it more effectively.

  • ReadsInTrees

    So all it takes to make a new “person” is unique DNA? Does that mean that identical twins are NOT individual people? Can one kill the other because they have the same DNA, and so it’s just like removing an unneeded birth defect?

  • QuEverything

    Apparently it doesn’t seem unreasonable to some presidential candidates to think that a corporation is a person, either.

    Anyway, even if you think that a fetus (whatever stage of development) is a person, do you get the right to impose that belief on others, who may not share your thought?

  • QuEverything

    Why should the law err on protecting life, instead of letting teachings do so?  I think we should err on the side of allowing maximum flexibility when it comes to decisions such as abortion (and discontinuing chemotherapy for cancer patients, and so on), while providing maximum information about those decisions.  That way, we let the individuals decide “should I do this”, not have the law say “you cannot do this, no matter what you think”.

  • sam

    As there are overwhelming environmental, public health, and human rights problems with meat production, I’m afraid the analogy is not really on target.  One doesn’t have to value animals’ lives to avoid meat; one simply must value a clean environment, a cool planet, clear arteries, and a world where water and grain are not diverted to fattening livestock for the rich while human beings are left to starve to death.  (Admittedly, that last reason is ethical.  Each individual must decide how much value to place on these lives vs. satisfying their flavor preferences.)  

  • sam

    Sabotage of women’s birth control is a fairly common method of domestic abuse.  Just ask the people who staff abuse hotlines.

  • sam

    I meant to reply to T-Rex.

  • Earl G.

    Rephrasing (C) more accurately as “Killing animals for food when it is unnecessary to do so is morally acceptable” might help elucidate which of these viewpoints doesn’t match the others.

  • “I’m pro-life for the people who are actually alive right now.”
    And THIS is why pro-science people, atheists included, are pro-life.  Unborn human beings are unquestionably alive from conception.  The pro-choice insistence otherwise demonstrates complete intellectual dishonesty.

  •  My comment had nothing whatsoever to do with when life begins.  I don’t intend to wade into that argument.  My statement had no such insistence. 

  • JK

    I think you need to be either evil or stupid to believe that abortion is a legitimate form of birth control. Firstly life begins at coneception and at implantation into the endometrium it is wrong to interfere with this especially if the main reason is that you can’t accept the consequences of your sexual actions. 2 the idea that some people have less than others because of personhood as espoused by Peter Singer is very hard to argue with but I think it leaves open all kinds of situation where one can argue that our current generation have no obligation to future generations and therefore we can pollute as we wish. Also it makes it difficult to argue against paedophiles, as the rights of an adult human are greater than the rights of quai humans. 

  • JK

    same should apply to murder then?? Idiot

  • JK

    moral hypocrisy, Im sure you believe we should ban smoking in public places and drunk driving  think for once in your life think

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