Is there a secular argument against abortion?
Yesterday, an article was published about atheists at CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference). Featured prominently in the article was Dave Silverman, president of American Atheists. In it, Dave was quoted as saying, “I will admit there is a secular argument against abortion. You can’t deny that it’s there, and it’s maybe not as clean cut as school prayer, right to die, and gay marriage.” Is that so?
If by “secular argument,” you mean “a belief based on personal feelings,” then, sure, there’s a secular argument against abortion. There could be a “secular” argument against puppies, in that case. If you’re using “secular” to mean “a logical, science-based, or rational” belief, then no, there is no “secular argument” against abortion. The supposed “secular arguments” against abortion are rooted in misogyny, a lack of understanding of science, and religious overtones.
Consider this scenario: Jane is dying because her kidneys are failing. The only way she will survive is if she can get another kidney. Bob has two healthy kidneys and is a match. Can anyone– be it a doctor, a family member, or the government– force Bob to undergo a dangerous surgery and give up one of his kidneys? The answer, of course, is no, because Bob has bodily autonomy. This was even determined by the US Supreme Court in 1978 in McFall v. Shrimp.
Given that it has been deemed illegal (and unethical, by almost everyone) to take away someone’s bodily autonomy even if that will save someone else’s life, why would forcing someone who doesn’t want to be pregnant to remain pregnant be ethical or legal? Obviously, it isn’t, as was determined by the Supreme Court in 1973 in the landmark decision, Roe v. Wade.
An argument often touted by anti-choice and anti-abortion activists is the idea of “fetal pain,” that unborn fetuses experience pain, which they say makes abortion unethical. This “science” has been debunked, and many scientists have said their work has been misrepresented by anti-abortion activists. However, even IF fetuses could feel pain as early as anti-choicers suggest, why does the potential pain of the fetus trump the undeniable pain of the mother?
There’s also the argument that if someone has sex, they should be willing to “deal with the consequences.” I feel that this is so ridiculous that it doesn’t even need to be debunked, but I will mention this: what exactly are you saying about children and parenthood if you think a child is a punishment?
If Dave Silverman wants to pal around with the kind of people who are trying to take away the fundamental rights of other human beings, then that’s his prerogative. Personally, I’d rather work with people who agree with me on important issues (like reproductive justice) regardless of whether we agree if god is real or not, instead of prioritizing atheism over issues that affect people every single day. The arguments I often hear about why atheist activism is important is that religion is the root of inequality in our society, and if we tackle religion, then our society will be equal. Dave Silverman is proving that this is not the case, and atheism is not the panacea for equality.
I don’t want to live in a world where being pregnant or having children is forced upon anyone, whether as a punishment, due to lack of funds, or for any other reason. That’s why I’m participating in the National Network of Abortion Funds 2014 bowl-a-thon. If you agree, please consider finding an event in your area and joining (or creating) a team, or donating to someone who is bowling. If you support reproductive justice but don’t like me, please consider donating to someone else’s page, or just donating in general (my friend, Adam Lee of Daylight Atheism, is also fundraising). If you’re fundraising, please feel free to share a link to your page in the comments.
Anyway, happy International Women’s Day!