Amanda Marcotte has a great post up at Pandagon: Theocratic or pro-choice: Not much middle ground between them

Basically, a blogger called The Raving Antiabortionst Atheist recently converted to Christianity (as Marcotte predicted 2 years ago, though perhaps he did this as a prank) after years of trying to find secular justification for his anti-abortion arguments. Amanda makes some great points about how there really is no rational secular argument against legal abortion.

Check it out!

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Marcotte's piece is full of sweeping generalizations and hateful statements, as is usual when she deals with people who oppose abortion.

I am a feminist, a nonbeliever, and a pro-lifer. I've been all of those things for many years. Contrary to what Marcotte would have you believe, it's not impossible. It's not even all that hard, at least not from a rational POV. (Emotionally, it kind of sucks, what with people being assholes at you from all sides.) There is a pro-life nonbelievers groups here on AN if anyone is interested.
Well, people who oppose legal abortion ARE advocating forced pregnancy and childbirth. You understand that, right? Telling women that they have no right to control their fate or their own body, that the right of a non-sentient fetus to be born outweighs their right as a concious human being to freedom, tend to make them just a liiiittle bit testy.

Frankly, I think you've got some explaining to do. Exactly what rational, secular argument is there against legal abortion? Why should the rights of a non-sentient fetus outweigh the rights of a thinking, feeling human being? If abortion were to be illegalized, what punishment do you suggest women should receive if they have one anyway?

You cannot say that you support female equality or ampowerment while simultaneously saying that they are incompetent to make their own medical and moral decisions. A woman or a supposed feminist saying "I know better than you." or "It's for your own good." is no different from the sexists who have been using these excuses to take away women's decision-making rights all this time.
Frankly, I think you've got some explaining to do.

You say this as though you're the arbiter of feminism and I had better answer to you. All that does is make me inclined to write an angry response, so I will leave this for now and come back later.
No, I meant that you owe me an explanation. By saying that you're pro-life you mean that you support illegalizing or heavily restricting abortion, right? This means that if I were pregnant I would have absolutely no say in making a decision. I would be legally forced to remain pregnant and give birth against my will. This decision will affect my health, my body, my future, my life, my very being, and that is a tremendous thing to take away from me. I think that anyone who wants to take this decision away from me owes me an explanation.

I also think that they owe all other women this explanation, so yes, it is a broader question as well. I don't mean to be "the feminist police" who says that someone can't be a feminist because of something minor like makeup or being a stay-at-home-mom. I say that someone cannot be a feminist and pro-life because the two are directly opposed to one another. I don't understand how someone can believe that denying women the right to control their own body and forcing them to remain pregnant against their will promotes female equality or empowerment.
I'm not out there campaigning for Roe v. Wade to be overturned or anything like that. I think that we are, at best, a generation away from being able to intelligently and humanely use the law to balance the needs of mother and child. The people who are currently campaigning for outlawing abortion are going about it in a way that I think is both harmful and morally wrong.

This is the point in the conversation where people often say, "Well, if you're not trying to outlaw abortion, you're pro-choice!" Nope. To be pro-choice, you have to accept either that a) the unborn child is not a human being or b) even if they are, we have no obligations to them due to the fact that they live within our bodies. I think both of these premises are wrong. Here is a debate I participated in some time ago, and I explain my views more fully there (it was several years ago, so there are some things I would change, but the basics are the same).
We're actually having a debate right now in the Ethics and Morals forum: Atheist Nexus Discussion | Are there any Pro-life atheists out there? My posts are on the last few pages (probably around 8-10 right now). If you'd like, we can move this discussion there.

Questions and Comments About Part 1
I don't understand how the fact that a z/e/f has the ability to become a person means that it should be treated as a person. I have the ability and potential to become a senior citizen so should I be able to collect social security now?

I brought up this PZ Meyers quote in the forum:
"His 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."
How would you respond?

Questions and Comments About Part 2
How is consent to sex consent to pregnancy?

Why is a woman obligated to carry a pregnancy to term? What is the source of this obligation?

You defend and explain your use of the word "child" very well, but I can't help but feel that it muddles the argument. A child is a person, a sentient human being. Parents are obligated to their children because they created them, but also because their children are human beings. Why should woman be obligated to a living thing that cannot think, feel, or act in the same way that she is obligated to a child?

You seem to have walked right around the issue of rape exceptions. Do you or do you not accept them? Do you think that the termination of a pregnancy conceived through rape is any less wrong than the termination of a pregnancy conceived through consensual sex?

Much of your argument in this section is based on the naturalistic fallacy. You seem to be saying that it is acceptable to force a woman to endure pregnancy because pregnancy is natural. Pregnancy is natural, but so is disease. This doesn't mean that either of those things shouldn't be ended or altered by medical intervention.

Questions and Comments About Part 3
Strawman, plain and simple. Abortion-rights advocates are avid supporters of comprehensive sex education and access to birth control. I have yet to see a single major pro-life organization that supports such efforts to reduce unwanted pregnancy and I have seen a great deal that are explicitly opposed.

You also imply that we don't care about women who do choose to become mothers, which is untrue. Nobody is denying that mothers need more support in our society.

It's not as simple as women not having the resources to carry pregnancies to term or care for children, it's about much more. I've seen abortion opponents who try to appeal to women say again and again that it's just a conflict of resources, but this argument makes the arrogant assumption that every woman wants to carry every pregnancy to term. Some women never wish to have children. Others would like to have children only at times when they feel it is right for them.

Frankly, I don't see anything new here. You may be well-intentioned but your assertions are still insulting to women. You're still essentially trying to say that you know better or you know best. Your argument has all the exact same holes as any other anti-abortion argument I've ever seen.
Most of your objections are either to things that aren't true of what I wrote (that I fall for the naturalistic fallacy, that I don't address pregnancy resulting from rape) or to my not accepting your assumptions (such as what constitutes a child -- you say, flat out "A child is a person, a sentient human being" as though we have all accepted that current sentience is the necessary qualifier for being a child, and therefore I'm wrong. Argument doesn't work that way.)

Out of curiosity, is there any possible argument for abortion that you would not think is insulting to women? I just don't think there's a lot of room for debate here. I will check out the other thread, though.
Perhaps you didn't make the naturalistic fallacy, but your argument does seem to assume that women should cope with pregnancy just because they are physiologically capable of it.

I never said you ignored the pregnancy from rape issue, just that you tiptoed around it. You mentioned that it happened and you made a distinction between pregnancies resulting from rape and consensual sex. You said that a pregnancy from consensual sex was the result of voluntary actions but that a pregnancy from rape was not. You didn't go any further than that. You didn't say whether or not you thought a rape victim should be able to have an abortion. Kind of like how you didn't answer any of my questions from the last post.

As for anti-abortion arguments that aren't misogynist: I've yet to hear a full one. There are segments that are not, but every argument I've seen against legal abortion contains at least some negative assumptions about women.
"Well, people who oppose legal abortion ARE advocating forced pregnancy and childbirth. You understand that, right?"

You're making it sound as if people who oppose legal abortion are forcing women to become pregnant in the first place. You can't force a woman to become pregnant without allowing rape.
You're assuming that contraceptive methods haven't failed (condoms have been known to break when used improperly), and that the social and economic factors in that person's life haven't changed recently; they could have suddenly lost their job (and being pregnant could wreak all sorts of havoc with a jobsearch and, thereafter, attempting to raise the kid becomes another economic drain), or perhaps the significant other is no longer there (and the person therefore lacks support during the pregnancy).

Anecdotally, one of my sister's friends suffered the broken condom problem during HS, and had a very strict mother (no father); even talking to the mother about the situation would have resulted in her being kicked out of the house, so she got an abortion (and, thanks to her friends, one from a clean facility).
By saying that I am assuming that contraceptive methods haven't failed, or that the social and economic factors in that person's life haven't changed, you misjudge me by presenting claims which were not expressed in my post. Regardless of such risks, the most responsible behavior is to either accept the risks involved with sexual intercourse, or not to have sexual intercourse at all. Belittling the consequences of sexual intercourse by termination of pregnancy is the source of a false impression that sexual intercourse is no big deal. The only problem with this false impression is that it affects the behaviour of those who are not more than children, lowering their threshold for choosing to have sexual intercourse.

For a mother to kick her daughter out of the house for being pregnant, as in the anecdote, would not be entirely unjustified behavior. Unjustified behavior would however be that a mother would approve of an abortion more than she would approve of an unwanted pregnancy.
You're right, I misread you the first time around. You argued, "You can't force a woman to become pregnant without allowing rape.". I responded to "You can't force a woman to be pregnant without allowing rape."
(underlines mine). I apologize for my error.

For your first current argument, then: why is it only responsible to accept the risks involved with sex? It is a single action; and the effects can be limited or negated. Even within the realm of sex, there are similar scenarios; one could catch an STD. How is that different from catching pregnancy, and should those with AIDs not take drugs because of it? Both are a risk associated with sex, after all - should we not accept them?

If you decide to apply the logic of 'responsibility', you must be consistent with it. You've argued that, responsibly, the consequences should be accepted without being abated or eliminated entirely. I see two problems with this - the first is that it would be impossible to act responsibly after first making a decision, since acting would alter the consequences of the previous act; the second (and lesser) is a question of definition, since your argument could be read to state that responsibility does not involve cleaning up after one's mess. I disagree heartily with your use of the word in regards to this argument.

To your second argument, that belittling the consequences will make sex seem a minor thing: if sex is a Big Thing, then pregnancy is not the only consequence. If sex is not a Big Thing then, like marriage after divorce, it will become a lesser thing than it once was. I agree that sex is a Big Thing; but the emotional consequences, rather than the outdated physical ones related to a chauvinistic system of 'purity' that denies the possibility of self-reliant women, should instead be emphasized. Will the age threshold for choosing to have sex be lowered in the long run? Possibly. But, like marriages ending before death, that's not necessarily a Bad Thing.


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