Recently, while browsing through the groups, I came across a Pro-life group. It has only one member-it's founder, and that got me to thinking...Are there any pro-life atheists out there? And being that most, if not all arguments I've heard against abortions are usually religious in nature, what would be the atheists argument(s) against abortion?

Personally, I am pro-choice. I fully support every womans right to choose.

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Another way to describe a person who believes in the right of a woman to decide whether or not she has an abortion is to refer to her as a person who is "pro quality of life".
While I agree with you entirely... I think it's better in debat to call people what they'd like to be called. Pro-choice and pro-life are the accepted terms, even though they may not be entirely accurate.

I've heard "pro-birth" and tha seems to fit as well as anti-choice. So does "pro-forced-birth" and "pro-fetus"... among other things...
The problem with that approach is that it buys into a value-laden framework which pre-judges the issues.
I have heard some great arguments for being pro-life from the atheist perspective. I am generally conflicted on the issue, but fall on the side of choice.

Some of the arguments I have heard take into account the fragility and value of human life. If we place value on our own lives, why would we not do the same for the life of a fetus? Is it not a human being(loaded question)? "... because life is all there is and all that matters, and
abortion destroys the life of an innocent human being."

Another argument I have seen deals with the methods of abortion. They are considered cruel, inhumane and painful to the fetus. If you are going to kill the fetus, do it in a humane fashion or don't do it at all.

I would recommend going to for a non-theistic explanation. I am filtering some of the arguments I have heard, and in doing so, may not convey the full breadth of the arguments. A letter on that site mentions, "A woman should have the right to do with her own body what she wishes, but when she does what she wants to do, and as a result becomes pregnant, she has done what she wanted to do with her own body. However when she goes for an abortion, she is doing something to someone else's body."

The question comes down to the value you place on human life, and when you feel human life actually begins. It's a problem that is not easily resolved. I hope I give you something to consider though!

The anti-abortionists start with the faulty premise that all life with human genetic code both is and should be considered to be equivalent.

In medical triage situations it is acknowledged that all life with a human genetic code in it somewhere is NOT equal. There are a range of factors which are taken into account. Level of potential and actual sentience and consciousness is only one of them. There is absolutely no doubt that it is a horrid gut-wrenching task to decide where an entity fits on the hierarchy for the purposes of determining who is to live and who is to die.

The point is that this type of decision is made quite routinely by medical personnel dealing with accident victims and pregnancy complications. These people are in the business of saving lives, not of devaluing and torturing fully sentient creatures because they are deemed to be sub-human, worthless, "animals" or "enemies of the USA".
An easy way to avoid methods of fetal evacuation which are "painful to the fetus" is to encourage abortions to be done as early in the process as possible - well before the fetus is capable of feeling any significant level of pain. Those who try to make it difficult to have abortions are causing what they are complaining of here.

In considering the problem of fetal pain it is important to recall that none of us has any memory whatsoever of any pain we experienced before the age of (fill in the date of your first memory). Nor is there any indication that the body "remembers" the pain in some way prior to birth, or even during birth itself. How much pain does a baby feel as it is forced out of the vagina? How much distress does it feel before it takes its first breath - and cries. Does it cry in pain?

A better way to avoid the problem all together is to provide compulsary sex education in schools and easy access to effective methods of artificial birth control. Anti-abortiionists usually shoot themselves in the foot on this one, too.
BB wrote on December 30 I have heard some great arguments for being pro-life from the atheist perspective. I am generally conflicted on the issue, but fall on the side of choice.

Some of the arguments I have heard take into account the fragility and value of human life. If we place value on our own lives, why would we not do the same for the life of a fetus? Is it not a human being(loaded question)?"... because life is all there is and all that matters, and abortion destroys the life of an innocent human being."

Calling a fetus a human life is linguistic slight-of-hand. A fetus is not a human, but rather a potential human only. It is a familiar argument that we should value human life according to a principle of reciprocity. If I deny the value of another person’s life by killing him, then I am affirming that under certain circumstances, it would be acceptable for another person to kill me. But we cannot extend this rationalist justification for human life to fetal life, because there can be no reciprocity. The fetus is not a moral agent.

There was a participant on these boards a few months ago who claimed that the argument could indeed be extended to a fetus. I didn’t understand until a others pointed it out some while later that he was saying that if I abort a fetus, then it would have been morally acceptable for someone else to abort me, thinking that I would find this to be unacceptable. But it no more troubles me that I might have been aborted than it does that I might have been conceived by a different sperm, or a different month’s egg. Indeed, a child is very often much better off because the woman has an abortion when she is too young to afford or care for it, and gives birth instead years later when she has completed her education and can provide material, social and emotional security.

We have heard recently, on the large number of Atheist Nexus fora on this topic, that people don’t consider a fertilized cell to have any rights. Others have stated an equally obvious moral intuition that a conceptus has a right to life when it reaches a certain stage of physical development. So they say that there should be no abortions after brain activity begins, or responsiveness to pain, or viability. But I have pointed out on several of these discussions that this mistakes a condition of medical fact for an act of valuation. Personhood, which creates an entitlement to human rights, is not established by a physical exam. It is that time when society decides to designate it a person, and invests it with human rights. At some “magic moment,” the fetus acquires human rights. But since conditions of fact do not translate into values, the value attributed to the fetus is not an objective or universal fact. Instead it is each person’s individual, subjective moral taste.

The only objective basis for fetal value is to show that at some point, it benefits society to recognize it as person. Failing such a demonstration, no person’s rights should be constrained by the subjective moral tastes of others.
NIce explanation.

You know, I have never had any difficulty telling the difference between a recently fertilized chicken egg (my aunt used to separate them out from those which sent to the Australian Egg Board) and a chicken. (One scrambles well while the other roasts better.)

I don't have any difficulty telling the difference between a recently fertilized human egg (saw lots of them in the Med Museum during my neuro-psych training years) and a recently born baby. Very different.

Nor did I have any difficulty telling the difference between the 11 week fetus I saw throbbing on the first ultra-sound of what was to become my son, and the baby who was delivered many weeks later. Mind you, there isn't much similarity between that funny looking premie and the taller-than-me young man he is now. Both were/are sentient and I wouldn't want to kill either of them.

OTOH if I had discovered that my potential child had a genetic defect which would prevent him living a normal life then I would have had little difficulty electing to terminate the growth of the fetus in order to prevent that outcome. The knowledge does not scare my son any more than the thought that he would not be in existence if another of his dad's sperm had reached the egg instead.

But if my freshly born son had died, as he nearly did, I would never have got over it. Even if he had been grossly malformed I would have had enormous difficulty deciding to let him die. The difference was that he was clearly sentient by then.

On a related note, I recall the time I elected to have my beloved cat put down. Although I believe it was the right and moral decision this did not stop me from spending the rest of the day in tears or from spending the rest of my life mourning my cat (as she used to be before her acquired brain damage). I am just grateful that I was not accosted outside the clinic by a group of right-to-animal-lifers who would have worsened the trauma for me by telling me that my decision to end my cat's distress was "murder". I can empathize with women who meet a similar fate outside an abortion clinic.
And the last paragraph is a good point. Because I am sympathetic to animals, but if an animal was in great pain or mystery, should we force it to live. This is something I wish we had more flexible options for humans.
I believe it is sad that animals, presumably because they are not believed to have "souls", are often treated more humanely at this point of their existence than humans.
"... because life is all there is and all that matters, and
abortion destroys the life of an innocent human being."

"Innocent" is a word that people opposed to abortion use a lot. I don't understand why. A fetus is only "innocent" because it is incapable of intentionally acting. As George explained, a fetus is not a moral agent. It's innocent in the same way that a tree or a rock is innocent.

Another strange thing about the use of "innocent" is that it seems to imply that the woman is not innocent. As the Pandagon post I linked earlier said:

"Most anti-choicers really do quietly believe that embryonic life does have more value than adult female life, because embryos are “innocent” and pregnant women clearly are not, because they’ve touched a penis and we have proof."

She's being silly about it, but it's true. There's something my pro-choice friends and I like to call a "pro-punishment" stance: people who don't really care about fetal life so much as they care about making women 'learn their lesson' or 'accept the consequences'. Sometimes it's as blunt as "slut" and "should have kept your legs closed", but it's usually more subtle. People who support rape exceptions, for instance. They'll go on about how abortion is wrong and unacceptable, that pregnancy is just an "inconvenience", and they'll sometimes equate it to murder. It's strange that they can say this and then say that there should be exceptions for rape. There is absolutely no difference between a fetus conceived through rape and a fetus conceived through consensual sex. The only difference is that they don't feel like the woman deserved it because she didn't go out and have sex. This shows that it's not really about fetuses, but about controlling female sexuality.

"A letter on that site mentions, "A woman should have the right to do with her own body what she wishes, but when she does what she wants to do, and as a result becomes pregnant, she has done what she wanted to do with her own body. However when she goes for an abortion, she is doing something to someone else's body."

This comes very close to the "pro-punishment" stance that I've just described. A knew a debater who would often ask something like: How is consent to sex an inherent and irrevocable consent to pregnancy? With the exception of rapists, it's pretty much understood that consent is something that can stop at any time. Another thing I don't understand is how consent to one activity can be considered consent to another. Consenting to the risk of something is not the same as consenting to a consequence. Even if it were, abortion is a potential connsequence of having sex and getting pregnant. Again, people seem to think that a woman who gets an abortion is "getting away with" sex.

And can a fetus really be considered "someone else"? While it may have the same DNA, it doesn't have a unique consciousness early on. Frankly, I find the whole "life begins at conception" thing absurd when it comes from atheists. There isn't any magical property of a zygote and I don't know how people can think that without believing in a divine being. As PZ Meyers has said:

"[...] rationalizations for pro-life extremism simply don't make sense: he seems to think something special happens at fertilization that unambiguously and unarbitrarily defines a human being. Diploidy is not the scientific term for ensoulment. Genetic specification is not sufficient to specify an individual. Potential is not a synonym for actuality. Fertilization is not a switch that triggers an ineluctable program towards individuality. The combinatorial uniqueness of an individual's genome is inadequate to define the individual."

If unique DNA were the only thing that made a person, a lot would change. Don't cancers and tumors have different DNA from the person they're on? Are indentical twins only one person? Are people with chimerism or parasitic twins really two people or conjoined twins?
Wiseguy, you appeared to be misnamed.

Being uncomfortable for 9 months or being inconvenienced by a pregnancy is no excuse for the destruction of a human life.

Surely you cannot be serious. I doubt if there are many (or even any) women who would consider medically terminating their developing human life form simply to avoid being “uncomfortable” or “inconvenienced” for 9 months. Using abortion for this purpose would be irresponsible as well as stupid. If a woman and her partner want to avoid this problem then it is achieved far more easily by using reliable contraceptives.

Surely you cannot be so niave. If anyone close to you has been pregnant and given birth then you certainly weren’t paying much attention.

Surely you cannot be so crass. The usual reasons why women (usually with the assistance and support of their partner/husband/ family) seek to terminate a pregnancy are much more profound. You only need to read other postings in this section (did you?) to learn that pregnancy and its consequences are far from the tiring week-at-the-office that you imply. Nor do the problems confine themselves to the 9 months that you mention. The really serious ones are life-long - if you don’t die in the process.

I believe a human embryo or fetus is a human life, and that human embryo or fetus should have equal protection and rights, not more or less, just like those of any man or woman.

You can call a non-sentient human embyro or fetus a “human life” if you like but it makes absolutely no difference to the pivotal moral question of whether THAT form of human life has the same rights as sentient human life. I can think of no objectively valid reason why it should.

In its early stages a fetus does not differ much from a malignant tumor except for its capacity to differentiate cells according to the normal human pattern and then develop consciousness at some later stage. In some cases, even these two differentiating features are absent. Of course, if you call human toe-nails, tonsils or malignant tumors “human life” then is it may make some people feel uncomfortable about destroying them. Wait, didn’t someone just argue that pro-choice people used emotive language to change how they felt about doing something to a temporary part of their body?

On the other hand, anti-abortionists frequently behave as if this pre-sentient form of human life was more rights than those who are already sentient. The ordinary human rights of the mother, the father, the siblings and any person who would have to deal with the consequences of a forced pregnancy are treated as if they were less important because they are not “new” human life forms. How is this value judgment computed?

Even worse, many anti-abortionists also seem to believe that the rights of this pre-sentient life form are extremely restricted. Its “right to life” only extends as far as the definition of “life” these people want to foist on it.

Mistreatment and devaluation of any human being, whether it be through discrimination based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or religious belief (or lack thereof), is patently wrong.

This list falls far short of the list of human rights put forward by international groups. What about the right of sentient human life forms to adequate nutrition, housing, education, nurture, medical care and freedom from preventable pain and mental suffering?

Often the only “right” an anti-abortionist is prepared to give a pre-sentient human life form is the “right” to proceed to sentience. The quality of the life which will then ensue is of no moral importance to them. If the resulting child inexorably proceeds to a horrible and painful life and/or early death, then they consider it no moral concern of theirs. They behave as if the blastoma/embryo/fetus/new born has value only as the receptacle for a “soul” which must be protected until its “natural” death so that “god” can decide what to do with it. It is really a very cruel stance disguised as righteousness by semantic slight of tongue.

This same line of thinking fails to grant quality of life rights to others who might be negatively affected by such a decision - including existing siblings and husbands. In fact, anti-abortionists rarely acknowledge that married woman seek a large percentage of medical abortions. (Forty years ago in Australia this percentage was huge. I presume the figures vary by nation, region and decade. Does anyone have current figures?)



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