Abortion is a contentious topic of conversation between theists and atheists.
Margaret Sanger (1879-1966), was an American birth control activist who advocated for the right of women to have control over their own reproduction. She coined the term “birth control.” She left the US because of their obscenity laws that forbade the discussion of reproductive matters outside of a person’s private dwelling.
She had one “basic principle” that “every child should be a wanted child,” and because she believed that women prefer to choose the children they have, and with whom they have them, she was labelled as being in favour of “eugenics.”
With birth control in mind, and because most atheists encourage this philosophy, the idea that someone might be “pro-choice,” the words the theist hears is “pro-abortion.”
This is simply not true. Most atheists who are pro-choice are also against the death penalty. “Pro-life” should mean “for all life,” including that of the worst serial killers, and despots. Unfortunately this is not the case. The majority of people who shout about how abortion “kills babies” are usually also be the the ones waiting outside prisons where a serial killer is about to be murdered by the state, claiming “justice.” What if the justice is being meted out to someone who was protected against abortion previously when they were picketing outside abortion clinics?
What does “pro-choice” mean? It is, very simply put, giving a woman the right to decide for herself, what to do with her own body. This right of choice includes being able to make the decision without input from the father who may or may not want the potential child.
That sounds a little harsh but it is ultimately her body. She should make the decision about whether or not she wants to harbour another person in her body and spend the next two decades taking care of someone she may not want in her life.
What does being “pro-abortion” mean? This is an aspect of being pro-choice but with the added element of being in favour of abortion in all circumstances where the question may come up.
Being pro-choice does not imply that the outsider who is looking on, and who is not personally involved in situation feels that they have a right to tell the pregnant woman what to do. This is the stance of the anti-abortion group.
Anti-abortionists believe that what other people do with their bodies is the business of the person who may even be on the other side of the world, and may not even know the potential mother personally. These people imagine they have the right to demand that every woman give birth, no matter what the circumstances of the conception, the health of the foetus, or the situation of the family. People like the late Mother Teresa, and Mahatma Gandhi, and the Vatican.
The two people mentioned above, Mother Teresa and Mahatma Gandhi, were both more than aware of the problem of over-population in India. Their solution to the problem: abstinence, and putting unwanted children into orphanages. Both are held up as role models to society, and hailed as “saints.” They were “saints” who denied that sex was a natural drive in humans, as much as it is in all animals, and also that over-population was a problem easily solved by birth control.
There is really no need to elaborate on the position of the Catholic Church on both abortion and birth control. It is generally-known that all popes, since birth control was freely available, have opposed it, and advised abstinence instead.
This is also the position of fundamentalist religions everywhere. They deny that sex is pleasurable simply because if it wasn’t we wouldn’t do it, but that it’s something to be ashamed of and to be held back unless the desire is to “make a baby.”
Despite all their protestations about how “sinful” pleasurable sex is, their adherents continue to procreate in vast numbers, leading to the problems we now face with too many people and not enough food.
Is there a case for abortion? There may be a case for abortion that even those who are pro-choice for others, but not for themselves may consider having an abortion. These may be in the case of rape, or incest, or severe problem with the foetus. For example if the foetus is developing normally but will die shortly after birth due to brain or other insufficiency, someone who may otherwise not choose abortion, may consider aborting the foetus rather than to go through the trauma of birth and milk production when the chances of the child living through its first day are slim. The point is that this should be the choice of the individual involved. It should not be decided by governments or outsiders picketing a clinic.
My personal opinion on abortion is not important. I cannot make choices for other people. I don’t set myself up as the decider of what other people should do with their lives. However to say that I am “in favour” of abortion in a fallacy. I’ve never had to make that choice for myself. I hope that if I had had to to so, my choice would have been in the best interests of my own life, and those of any any other children I might have had.
However, having said that, as an atheist and a vegan, I believe that all life has value, including the unborn, and that young life has more value than life already lived.
Since life is of supreme value (if anything has value), life comes first. To deny this argument you have to argue that a very specific biomass (weight of biological cells) does or does not have moral value; or; you have to argue, as I often do, that nothing in fact has moral value. Whether anything does in fact have moral value is a separate argument. John Ostrowick.
Where a pregnancy was caused by incest; excessive maternal age (Downs); in association with thalidomide; foetal alcohol syndrome; other major drug abuses, which would cause retardation or physical deformity, I believe there is still an argument to be made for all life having value.
David Benatar, a Professor, at the University of Cape Town, is an atheist and thinks that abortion is mandatory and always ought to be performed in all cases since life is mostly suffering and therefore giving birth is to impose a life of suffering on a creature which did not ask to be born. His view is called anti-natalism and it is articulated in his book Better Never to Have Been: The Harm of Coming into Existence.
As I said earlier, as a humanist, and a vegan, I disagree with Benatar’s thesis. I do believe that abortion should only be performed in the most extreme cases where there is no hope whatsoever for the child to have a fully-actualised life. I repeat what I said earlier, what other people choose to do with their lives, is not my business.
John Ostrowick, referred to earlier, says:
On whether a woman should have an abortion if pregnant as a result of rape, future issues come up, e.g. that a woman might emotionally or physically abuse a baby born to a rapist on the grounds that she didn’t want it and therefore resents its inconvenient existence. In such a case, I feel that she is in the wrong and is an abuser, no better than her rapist. Convenience DOES NOT outweigh moral value of life, it is completely unacceptable, and rather than having abortions, women should opt for sterilisation or implanted contraceptives (“the loop”) instead.
I recognise that abortion as a social control measure (statistically, epidemiologically) allows for lower birth rates in low-income and low-education groups. And that this results in fewer future criminals being born, since most criminals come from poor families. However, I find this sinister, Macchiavellian, and downright eugenicist; it’s basically eugenics against the poor. I think that the solution is prevention: that is, not abstention, but education, upliftment, etc. The reason we have criminals is poverty, not childbirth.
John Ostrowick is not only pro-life in all cases, but he is also an atheist.
Thus it may be seen that while I support the right to choose, I definitely do not support the idea of abortion as a method of birth control. Just as I do not support the death penalty for felons, I believe that life is valuable, to be treasured, and people should be able to live in such a way that they may achieve fulfilment from this, the only life they will have.
However, I fully support the decision an individual woman makes about her own body. I do not believe that anyone, other than the people immediately involved in the decision, should be allowed to influence that decision, and that the medical profession should allow for the person making the decision to be able to carry out her decision with the best possible medical care.