Monday, March 17, 2014

Debating abortion with other secularists

Last week Pro-Life Humanists' Kristine Kruszelnicki wrote a blog post featured on Hemant Mehta's Friendly Atheist blog ("Yes, There Are Pro-Life Atheists Out There. Here's Why I'm One of Them.")

I was pleased and impressed to see that Hemant posted the piece. In my experience working with Secular Pro-Life, pro-choice secularists tend to be very hostile toward pro-life secularists. They're not just angry that we're pro-life; they're angry we are pro-life and secular. Often times they will imply or outright insist that we are lying about our secularism, that we are secretly religious and we're pretending to be secular to trick people into... something. Listening to us, I guess.

In any case, even if they begrudgingly admit secular pro-lifers exist, they don't believe we should have a voice in secular communities. So since Hemant gave Kristine a platform he's gotten a fair bit of backlash (examples here). (By the way, if you are a pro-life secularist, feel encouraged to contact Hemant and thank him for giving our side a voice.)

But most of the backlash focuses not on Hemant, but on Kristine's piece itself. I'm sure there are a lot of responses to Kristine piece that I haven't read, so I don't expect the following will cover every objection. Still, here's a quick overview of some of the reactions.

1. Libby Anne: 

The Friendly Atheist created quite the brouhaha lately by publishing a guest post by Kristine Kruszelnicki, president of Pro-Life Humanists. This post was titled “Yes, There Are Pro-Life Atheists Out There. Here’s Why I’m One of Them.” My response? Thank you, Captain Obvious. 
No seriously. Are there really people who think that atheists can’t be against abortion?  I do not understand this reasoning. Is there supposed to be a litmus test, that if you’re an atheist you’re automatic and by definition a-okay with abortion?
I mean... apparently. Yes. We've got one set telling us we are only pretending to be secular, that we're secretly religious (or, at minimum, "infected by religious ideas"), and then we've got another set telling us it's so obvious that atheists can be pro-life that it's foolish to bother pointing it out?

Note that you rarely hear people claim Hitchens was "infected" by religion.

Actually, overall I like Libby Anne's piece; of course she and I don't agree on everything, but she makes a lot of good points, talking about how so many issues don't hinge on religion, and how
[Kristine's] "secular" argument against abortion is no different from the arguments I and other evangelical kids like me grew up hearing. In my experience, the only point where God enters the evangelical equation is the idea that we should value all human life, from conception to natural death, because God values all human life. Atheists who believe life is inherently valuable can build this argument the same way.
I'm not sure why she put "secular" in quotes--is she implying Kristine's argument isn't really secular? (Ha ha ha) I thought one of the main points of Libby Anne's post was it's obvious you can be secular and pro-life, so that's a bit confusing.

But anyway, she's right. Many religious people grow up with, and use, the same or very similar arguments to the ones Kristine put forth in her post. Most secular pro-choicers claim the arguments are therefore religious, but that doesn't follow. That's like saying because most Catholics think birth control is morally acceptable, anyone who accepts birth control must be Catholic. (This mistake--thinking if a premise is true, its converse must be true--is actually a very common logical misstep.)

So no, just because a lot of religious people use an argument doesn't mean the argument is inherently religious, and Libby Anne recognizes the distinction. I appreciate that. If more people realized the difference, perhaps Kristine wouldn't need to be so explicit about the fact that she is both an atheist and pro-life. So far, though, that's not the case.

2. Greta Christina: 

This piece is not a response to Kristine's post specifically. It's a response to a larger trend Greta Christina sees in the atheist community--the trend in which people she respects and thinks of as allies (such as Hemant) act as if there's room for reasonable debate among atheists on abortion. You can get an idea for how Christina feels about said trend here:
See, here’s the thing. I don’t see a lot of atheist leaders and bloggers suggesting that we have a calm, reasonable debate about whether homosexuality is a mental illness and gay people should be locked in mental institutions. I don’t see them suggesting that we have a calm, reasonable debate about whether or not black people are human beings or are some other sub-human species who should serve white people. I don’t see them talking with reporters about those arguments, or giving them space in their blogs without comment. I don’t see them saying that because we’re freethinkers, because we support free inquiry and the free exchange of ideas, that therefore we should freely inquire into the issue of whether black people and gay people are fully human with the basic right to bodily autonomy. I don’t see them saying that the “be willing to question anything and everything” spirit of skepticism applies to questions that have dehumanization built into their very core. I see them recognizing these arguments as morally reprehensible on the face of it.
So why is abortion a special case? 
Christina certainly isn't the only one making these points--there were plenty of comments on Kristine's original post along the same lines:

(Click to enlarge.)

So some pro-choicers think being pro-life is as reprehensible as wanting to lock up homosexuals and enslave black people. I'm sure this comes as a surprise to PLAGAL and the 40% of Black non-Hispanics who think abortion should be illegal.

These nasty comparisons make sense... as long as you assume the fetus is irrelevant. If you believe the pregnant woman is the only human worth any moral consideration in the abortion debate, it makes sense to feel bewildered and betrayed by people saying maybe her right to abortion isn't absolute. You don't see why people would acknowledge a controversy because you're omitting one of the most fundamental questions of the entire debate: what is the fetus?

There's no comparison between the abortion debate and these other issues, because freeing the slaves and fighting for gay rights don't require looking the other way while hundreds of thousands of humans (or, depending on your stance, "potential humans") are killed each year. If you ignore this profound moral concern, it makes sense to be confused and angry that other people see a debate worth having.

3. PZ Myers:

So. This guy.

I saved this post for last because I think it's on a whole different level than the other entries. Libby Anne talks about what it means to be an atheist, and Greta Christina works through her anger over what she thinks people think about women. Those are big issues. Complicated issues. Issues that merit serious discussion.

But PZ Myers is not taking on complex social and philosophical issues. He's waffling about simple facts. Kristine pointed out that human organisms--including the zygote, embryo, and fetus--belong to the human species. Based on this point (and a whole lot of twisting of her original post), PZ claims Kristine is "lying" about science.
But what about this claim that science can tell us who among us belongs to the human species?
First question I have is…which species concept are you using? There are a lot of them, you know; I daresay we might be able to find a few, that when inappropriately and too literally applied, would define away my status as a human, which simply wouldn’t do. There are also a lot of non-scientific or pseudo-scientific definitions of what constitutes a human that have been historically abused. Were the Nazis being scientific when they defined sub-species of humans and classed Jews, Gypsies, and Africans as something less than fully human? What, exactly, is Kruszelnicki’s "scientific" definition of human, that she’s using so definitively to declare a fetus as completely human? 
Do you know what you just read, guys? This is what desperation looks like.

If PZ could give a commonly accepted definition of "species" that debunked the idea that human organisms--including zygotes, embryos, and fetuses--are part of the human species, he would. If he could give a commonly accepted definition of "organism" that did not include zygotes, he would. But he doesn't give those definitions. He can't. Because zygotes are organisms, and human organisms are part of the human species. PZ can do a bunch of hand wavy complaining about how he's not sure what Kristine means (and try to assert that his alleged lack of understanding equals her dishonesty), but that's all he's got. There's no substance here.

He's right that there are many ways of thinking about the concept of "species." But Kristine's perspective doesn't rely on some obscure, slippery definition. How about a group of organisms having common characteristics and capable of mating with one another to produce fertile offspring? You can find that description on the lying, anti-woman, secretly religious website: Biology Online.

Kristine claims "science defines a fetus as a biological member of our species." PZ tries to brush off Kristine's perspective as "traditional and colloquial" (as if those attributes, in themselves, make an idea anti-scientific), but in reality Kristine's assertions rely on a very common--and scientific--species concept: the biological species concept. UC Berkeley's "Understanding Evolution" website describes the biological species concept as the concept used "for most purposes and for communication with the general public." How dare Kristine fail to define that for someone like PZ--he only has decades of background in developmental biology. That must have been very confusing for him.

I wonder, does PZ call people liars when they say they are members of the species Homo Sapiens? You know, because they haven't clarified which species concept they're using? Would he think it "dishonest and more than a little annoying" for a pregnant woman to say her fetus is a member of her species? Please.

No amount of swearing or bold, italics, and ALL CAPS will make up for the fact that PZ's indignant objections are utter nonsense--political rantings smothered with enough science-y words to mollify the readers who want him to be right to begin with. (He said "totipotent" and "multicellularity," guys! I guess his blog post must be logical and fact-based.) See Amanda Marcotte, Greta Christina, and Avicenna reference PZ's science "education," or recall when Matt Dillahunty dodged a question by throwing it to PZ.

Thank goodness the pro-choice side has people like PZ Myers to steer them clear of Kristine's "anti-scientific" claims. Otherwise they might get confused and start believing crazy things--like the idea that human organisms belong to the human species.

Bottom line.

These three blog posts are just a sampling of the reactions secular pro-life ideas like Kristine's often get in atheist circles. Yet, despite the inevitable backlash, Kristine continually puts herself and her message out there. My hat goes off to her.


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Clinton said...

"These nasty comparisons make sense... as long as you assume the fetus is irrelevant."

Yes, it's an understandable mistake, but inexcusable. As your own Sam Harris has said, if you can't understand why someone would hold a position, you don't understand that position. These people need to take the time to actually understand why it is pro-life people oppose abortion, rather than just assuming the worst about us, or the worst about secular pro-lifers, specifically.

Pro-life said...

Thank you for you this article. I tried ones supporting Secular Pro-Life, in fact I was so excited when I found you and posted you on my Facebook page.
The BACKLASH I got was JAW-Dropping, I got it from an atheist...the whole time I was not sure if she was offended that there was a group who were Secular and Pro-Life or because there are people who are pro-life (or anti-choice as she likes to call them)

SPLfan said...

Kudos for standing up for what you understand to be true and right, even in the face of internet atheist hostility.

You "often" get this kind of reaction in atheist circles because atheist circles are often this incompetent in engaging ideas and people with whom they disagree. The problem isn't just about how atheist circles typically (don't) think about abortion; it's about how atheist circles often think about anything that goes against currently accepted dogma. You're on the receiving end of your own kind, who, suddenly, don't appear so rational and scientific ('He said "totipotent" and "multicellularity," guys! I guess his blog post must be logical and fact-based').

You see how incompetent they are responding to the abortion issue; what makes you think this is the exception and not the rule?

Acyutananda said...

"Many religious people grow up with, and use, the same or very similar arguments to the ones Kristine put forth in her post. Most secular pro-choicers claim the arguments are therefore religious, but that doesn't follow."

That claim of secular pro-choicers is based partly on the fact that religious people were using the arguments before secular pro-lifers were; or at least the usage by the religious was well-known before the usage by the secular. So the claim involves a post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy.

An important example: Some religions believe that ensoulment takes place at conception. Kristine thinks that personhood begins at conception. So did Kristine adopt the religious view in all but words? The resemblance could be explained in a different way:

1. Most religions are man-made. Or let's say human-made.

2. The humans who invented some religions had an intuition that conception marked the beginning of a seamless process of a human life. They also had a belief that humans have souls; so they expressed their intuition about conception by saying, "Ensoulment occurs at conception."

3. Some secular humans, who may have had in their lives almost no exposure to religious thinking, or at least have remained uninfluenced by it, have an intuition that conception marks the beginning of a seamless process of a human life. They express their intuition about conception by saying, "Personhood begins at conception."

Humans are prone to a certain intuition. Some who have that intuition state it in terms of one belief system, and some state it in terms of another belief system. The two statements of intuition naturally come out sounding eerily reminiscent of each other. But that doesn't mean that one belief system is the heir of the other.

What stands out is that humans are prone to a certain intuition. I think that intuition should be taken seriously. I would even say that those humans who are most in tune with their own deeper nature are especially prone to that intuition.

m17l6s85 said...

What are you trying to imply, exactly? Are you trying to use this blog post as a jumping off point to talk about how atheism itself doesn't make sense?

"what makes you think this is the exception and not the rule?"

Who said it was the exception *or* the rule? This wasn't addressed one way or the other.

JDC said...

"No amount of swearing or bold, italics, and ALL CAPS will make up for the fact that PZ's indignant objections are utter nonsense"

Oh come on. Everyone on the internet knows that ALL CAPS automatically make points true. It's a FACT.

KB said...

That's a great quote Clinton. I think it needs to get some circulation among the atheist community a little more.

Nate Sheets said...

Ah, Greta. I enjoyed her blog for a few months once, but I eventually took it off my RSS feed when it became clear that she simply shut down her rationality and critical thinking skills when it came to certain issues she was passionate about. Literally, if someone--no matter how gently--tried to ask her to clarify or bring up an opposing point, she wrote each person the same, sad sentence verbatim--something along the lines of "Get off of my blog and out of my life".

As an atheist who is into science, I love having my ideas challenged. It is apparently true that not everyone thinks like this. People still want things to be black and white--which is going to be difficult when it comes to an issue like abortion.

Nate Sheets said...

Well let's not get carried away. I understand why atheists get so defensive on the issue of abortion. There are several things at risk for them, including the most-important issue of bodily integrity--something that the pro-life movement as a whole has not adequately addressed, in my opinion.

On the other hand, we have the pro-life movement who is made up of a lot of people who think they understand science, but simply don't. So it's hard for such people to make a case that they are "right on science" when it comes to the abortion issue if they are wrong on science in so many other instances. So it may be hard for atheists to even CONSIDER what we have to say about science. I'm not saying that they are excused--they should definitely make the effort--but you have to pick and choose who you're going to take the time to take seriously.

People like PZ thrive from their echo chamber. If you could sit him down one-on-one and have him explain his position, he may give you something to think about. Sadly, he's taken the tone and tactic because he doesn't want to have to do so, nor do his readers have any interest in doing so.

m17l6s85 said...

If he had a decent counterargument, why would he leave it out and do the hand-wavy thing instead? I'm dubious.

Tim Schubert said...

"what makes you think this is the exception and not the rule?"

The fact that you're engaging in a strawman fallacy? The fact that "you often get kind same reaction in" Christian abortionist circles? The "your own kind" comment, as if you can be distinct from SPL yet have the username "SPLfan"?

sara said...

"... the most-important issue of bodily integrity--something that the pro-life movement as a whole has not adequately addressed..."

This is interesting. I am a pro-life agnostic atheist and I share the same view. It took me a while to figure out what I thought about this issue because pregnancy is a significant compromise on one's bodily integrity.

The way I've approached it is maybe there is no black and white solution. I define myself as pro-life because I reference the fetus, and not just the woman. If collectively society humanized the fetus now, then maybe future generations will outlaw abortion as a utilitarian measure, and women won't see it as an option in the first place.
The second thing is that the pro-life community can target abortion by making sure all of them are performed by inducing labor. The viable fetuses (I know viability is not set in stone, but for the sake of argument...) must be transferred to the NICU as a strict regulation.

The third thing that I've come to grips with recently, is that I'm probably not a proprietarian, and that ownership is an abstract concept. Perhaps bodily rights are not so much rights, but "bodily heuristics", and can be compromised from time to time. Who gets to decide what? Honestly, I'm not sure yet.

Jafafa Hots said...

The only person who has any say over a pregnancy is the woman who is pregnant.

If you are "pro-life" regarding any fetus besides the one inside you personally, you are anti-autonomy for that woman.

If you say the choice is hers but demand that she feel what you expect her to feel over her choice, you are against her autonomy.

If you are "pro-life" regarding any fetus not inside YOU, you are placing the value of that fetus above the value of that woman's autonomy, her health, her right to choose, her personal values, and her personal experience of what she's going through.

That is the reason this "secular" position is compared with the religious argument. They are identical.
The fetus trumps the woman. Even if you "permit" abortions but just demand the woman feel bad about it.

Avoid that fact all you want, rationalize all you want, excuse all you want, that is a fact you cannot change.

Valuing the fetus of a woman you don't know is an unscientific position, an irrational position, and a dehumanizing position.

Maybe it's not explicitly "religious..." but if it sounds like a pope and quacks like a pope...

Zinnia Jones said...

You dismiss your critics as simply "[assuming] the fetus is irrelevant", as if they've neglected to engage you on this point. If anything, this is the very area in which your group has refused to make anything resembling a serious argument, with your founder resorting to claims that amount to nothing more than "what about sleeping people?" Really - who's doing the assuming here?

You've also failed to address the far more empirically well-founded arguments for the ethical acceptability of infanticide, put forth by Peter Singer, myself and others. While this is admittedly not strictly limited to the question of abortion, it does encompass the issue, and is a rather direct rebuttal to most of your claims, which quickly fall apart in light of the evidence that a fetus or newborn should indeed be considered "irrelevant" for ethical purposes.

Chris Pederson said...

Well I simply dislike SPL because you completely disregard my bodily autonomy. I am more than a uterus.

magicthighs said...

"How about a group of organisms having common characteristics and capable of mating with one another to produce fertile offspring?"

What characteristics dmdoes a zygote have in common with me? Since when can a zygote produce offspring?

argent said...

See, comments like this are why when I say that the pro-abortion side is rooted in bigotry against all non-adults, I'm not kidding.

magicthighs said...

You might want to try addressing my point, the definition of species provided here excludes zygotes. I'm not the one who offered it.

Tullia_Ciceronis said...

yes, but it also excludes all children prior to reaching puberty.

argent said...

If you take capability to be "immediate" rather than "inherent", yes it includes zygotes. And all children prior to puberty. So using "immediate capacity to reproduce" as your criterion is, in fact, incredibly ageist.

m17l6s85 said...

Species definitions mean to include the organisms they're discussing throughout the organisms' entire development. For example, if one definition of our species is "bipedal primates characterized by a brain capacity averaging 1400 cc (85 cu. in.) and by dependence upon language and the creation and utilization of complex tools," no one suggest that newborns (pre-verbal) or children (much physically smaller brains) are excluded from the definition. It's about a group of organisms' overall traits during the course of their development, not about their present capacities.

What's the alternative? I would be surprised if you could find a single scientific source that says an organism can be one species during one part of its development and then a different species during another part of its development. Can you?

argent said...

Ah, Libby Anne and the "people don't really say that ... do they?" argument. I remember using it a lot in my younger and more bigoted days.

argent said...

If the increasing presence of people who are pro-unborn in secular circles makes people uncomfortable, good. Human rights advances always make established gatekeepers angry.

magicthighs said...

My criterion? This definition was offered by the author of this piece, not me. Pretty much proving PZ's point, which they mocked, by the way.

m17l6s85 said...

No, you're implying *immediate* ability to reproduce. The post implies *inherent* ability to reproduce. Those are different criteria.

Ben said...

The point you are missing is that your "bodily autonomy" applies to your body alone, not that of a developing fetus. Even scarier I guess is if you do acknowledge that a fetus is a human being but believe that your autonomy carries more weight

Chandler Klebs said...

I think that the point of Atheism is to think independently of the opinions of religious people and their gods but also to be free from the dogma of other atheists. I know that not all atheists are pro-life but for me it was a primary motivator for getting over religion. I don't think other people have the right to discount my choice of finding a new way to be pro-life.

Sounder said...

I see what you're saying, but I don't think bodily autonomy is sufficient to justify abortion. Is requiring a parent to provide nourishment and shelter to his or her child a violation of bodily autonomy? Should parents be allowed to abandon their children, even if it means death?

That an unborn child is in the womb is immaterial; whether the mother is using her uterus or her arms or legs or breasts or whatever, it's still all her body. Can she claim that no one, even her child, has any right to it at all?

For instance, if no one else is around to feed a newborn, and for whatever reason circumstances arise where the only way to care for it is by the mother breastfeeding it, would it be justifiable for her to say "my body, my choice" and let the newborn starve?

Kristin said...

Bodily autonomy is on the unborn as it's body is the one being killed and dismembered. Women don't get aborted, their offspring do. No one would care if you were getting a hysterectomy, but the body inside your body is not your body. Yes we are all more than uteri, but you would never say something like that to someone who is anti-infanticide, because obviously it's not about saying we are only our uteri.

Sounder said...

To be clear, if newborns are irrelevant for ethical purposes, do you believe that infanticide ought to be legally permissible in all situations that, before birth, would have justified abortion? For instance, if Down Syndrome is not diagnosed until after birth, may the parents kill the newborn? If the parents lose their jobs just after birth and no longer feel they have the means to support the child, and do not like the idea of giving it to someone else to raise, may they kill the newborn?

Fetuses and newborns, as well as certain adult individuals such as those in temporary comas, or perhaps those with certain severe mental illnesses, do lack many abilities which older humans have, and many of these abilities are considered morally relevant in determining what organisms qualify as persons. For instance, self awareness and rationality.

But we also need to consider WHY certain individuals lack those abilities, and what distinguishes them from non-human organisms that also lack those traits.

So consider a human embryo. An embryo cannot think. Consider a flea. A flea also cannot think.

But why can't the flea think? Because it doesn't have a brain capable of thought. Why doesn't it have a brain capable of thought? Because it is a flea. Simple.

Now why can't the human embryo think? because she doesn't have a brain capable of thought....yet. And why is that? Because she hasn't had enough time to develop one. Why is that? Because she is too young.

In other words, a flea cannot think because of what it is, whereas a human embryo cannot think simply because of how old she is.

But she DOES inherently possess the ability to think. Thinking is a part of her nature as a human being, encoded in her DNA from the moment of conception. Thinking couldn't spontaneously arise out of nowhere if it weren't in some manner possessed by her when she came into existence. So can we kill her based on her age? Can we kill her because she isn't yet capable of displaying all of her own inherently possessed characteristics?

The same principle applies to newborns. They are not rational, and not-self aware, but unlike many non-human organisms, that is not because of what they are, it is because of how old they are. Self-awareness and rationality are, however, a part of their nature.

A pretty good analogy is Polaroid photographs. Say that you used an old Polaroid camera to snap a once-in-a-lifetime, amazing photograph. You're really excited about it. The photo pops out, but, before it has fully developed, someone else snatches it from you, glances at it, and then tears it in two and throws it away.

Would you be angry? Why? Everything about the image you snapped a picture of is captured in an instant, and it is inherently contained within the photograph, even if the photo hasn't had enough time to fully develop those valuable characteristics.

Is that a reasonable justification for destroying it? Would it make sense to say that it is irrelevant because it's "only a potential picture?" After all, it's just brown smudges.

Sounder said...

Is requiring a parent to provide nourishment and shelter to their child a violation of their bodily autonomy rights?

oolon said...

My that's a bad argument, a mother cannot be forced to breast feed her child. Feed it in any way, or look after it. They can refuse and have the child taken into care. They certainly have no obligation to donate their organs to a child, they can legally leave the child to die even if their blood/organs would save it. One of the most compelling arguments against the forced birth position as children have less rights than they want to give to a fetus!

In fact abandoned children will be a much more common occurrence if the forced-birth position wins out and rape victims and women who don't want children are made to carry them to term. There will be more women not wanting to contribute to the welfare of the offspring forced onto them.

Simon Jm said...

Chris I'm neither PL or PC and try to apply moral precepts most people would agree with in real life but won't apply abortion.

If we grant a fetus has full morale value, it need not trump the rights of the woman. But she -&the man- has still put it in a situation of existential dependency - for it's life- and can be argued be owed bodily compensation. Say a drunk driver caused a crash and your son or daughter -if you had one- needed their kidney to survive. In principle because they caused the dependency they owe the kidney.

But unlike others I wouldn't force them or pregnant women to have their body used against their will. Rather I'd give all cases of bodily compensation an option of a custodial sentence -similar to child destruction laws in pregnancy- or pay the compensation.

So I'm not disregarding bodily autonomy, but like the drunk driver, nor would I let people who put other humans in existential dependency do so, without them being held responsible for the moral harm they have caused.

Simon Jm said...

See me above reply to Chris.

Simon Jm said...

Oolon what if we place other parents in a similar situation to a woman where there is no option of other care givers?

A woman unbeknown to herself is pregnant and goes to a remote island for a year of ecology research. Her communication equipment gets damaged but she has plenty of supplies.

One day she has cramps and has the baby, what are her moral obligations to this non person human ?

She has no formula so must breast feed and looking after the child will wreck a one in a life time study opportunity. Is she expected to use he body against her will to sustain this life ?Its another 9months before then next ship comes in.

Unlike cancer and illness we cannot say a disease caused the child to need care.

BTW if a parent caused their child to need their kidney through actions willingly taken do they have any obligation to give the kidney?

Aurora said...

As a secular Pro life woman, thank you for representing our voice, as many of us are often too afraid to speak because of the hatred and possible social consequences we will receive from other woman telling us how we should feel. Secularism is a cold and unwelcoming place for us

bbg said...

I will be cold to you as long as you think that YOU have the right to make MY parenting decisions. There is no room for you at my secular table. Your position is horrific. You and the people on this page have personified other women's fetuses and are trying to strip women of any right to determine when and how she becomes a mother. Shame on you and all of your anti-choice friends. We secularists who value women's lives and women's choices will be cold to you as long as you think that I am less important than the contents of my uterus. I'm glad you keep your mouth shut, because your position is reprehensible.

Jerry A said...

The fact that you have to bring up a bizarre hypothetical "what if? desert island" argument shows you have no real case.

Most humans live in a society. Besides, if the woman on a desert island wanted to terminate, or go through birth alone (dangerous) and bring up a baby, that would be her choice. Neither you, nor I, nor society, nor any laws would have any influence. I think it should be her choice. You do not want to allow that bodily autonomy, and wish to have laws enforce your will on other people.

Jerry A said...

A big problem is that the "pro-life" side humanizes the fetus over and above the woman bearing it, and also dehumanizes the child after birth. In many cases, the same person who is "pro-life" (forced birth) is also anti-life with respect to funding food for dependent children, school lunches, tuition, and pro-death penalty. It is not an ethically consistent position.

Joe Agnost said...

@bbg: I wish I could "like" your comment a million times!

m17l6s85 said...

It squares with saying a zygote is a human organism, and therefore a part of the human species.

Does your response imply you can't provide a single scientific source to the contrary?

Jay said...

Most of us do not tell you how to feel, we just tell you not to tell us how to feel. You are free not to abort.

Simon Jm said...

Hypotheticals and thought experiments are commonly used in philosophy to get at the underlying principles and assist comprehension and debate. If you aren't up to it fine.

BTW nice sidestep, sure she has the option of raising the child but by the logic of many PC's she would also be within her rights to kill the child or allow it to starve. So you are OK with that?

She is allowed her bodily autonomy to not breast feed the baby and anyone that objects is just arbitrarily enforcing their will?

Like the late term abortion debate, even for PC's bodily autonomy isn't always so clear cut. So you are fine with a women having an abortion a day before delivery? Some PC's are and if not, aren't you also denying them their bodily autonomy and arbitrarily forcing them to do what you want?

magicthighs said...

You are again completely ignoring what you pretend to be replying to, so I'll just repeat the question.

How does saying a zygote is "fully human" make sense when a zygote doesn't actually have most of the characteristics we use to describe members of the human species yet, using the definition you provided? Wouldn't "potential human" be more accurate?

Simon Jm said...

Don't worry there are moderates on both sides who are interested in the underlying reasoning and are open to civil debate. But the sad point is that many atheists and humanists can be just as ignorant and bigoted as the worst bible thumper. If they cannot be civil they are a troll and not worth the trouble.

Jerry A said...

Your thought experiment was so extreme that it denied the fact that we even have a society to impose your choice on the woman on your island. It was not a useful thought experiment.

No, I am not okay with someone killing a child. However, a fetus is not a baby nor a child. It's a bad comparison. We make ethical and legal distinctions between adults, children, infants, and yes (most of us), fetus and zygote. Besides, any woman who decides to bring a child to full term is not then likely to not feed the child, whether by bottle or otherwise.
Late term abortion is also a red herring. They account for less than 2% of all abortions. Most are due to fetal abnormalities or fetal death or the high risk of maternal death. Most women do not opt for late term abortions by desire, but by dire medical necessity. Similarly, almost no doctors will perform them except by dire medical necessity. Outlawing late term abortions is callous. Your "abortion day before birth" is an insulting and repugnant scenario. Doctors do not perform abortions in those cases- they *induce labor*. Given your increasingly absurd and insulting scenarios, I can tell you are not honestly interested in having a discussion.

Joe Agnost said...

How is disagreeing with your position considered UNcivil?

You guys seem to have a problem with the fact that many of us find your reasoning to be irrational and rather cruel to women. How should we proceed so that your feeling aren't hurt?

You posit horrible reasons for being anti-choice, those reasons are torn apart for the garbage that they are on internet blogs, and you cry that we are bigoted. Unbelievable.

Either put up better reasons for being anti-choice or get used to having your reasoning torn apart.

m17l6s85 said...

A zygote is "fully human" in the biological sense--the sense that it is a biological member of the human species. In terms of species, it isn't "part" human and "part" something else. It isn't species-less and waiting to transform into the human species. It is a human organism, and part of the human species. Given your original questions and quote were addressing the blog post talking about species definitions, I don't see how I'm ignoring anything by addressing biology. If you want to talk about something other than biology, it's you who should clarify.

If you mean "fully human" in a non-scientific sense--like an emotional or social sense, maybe?--then I agree: a zygote hasn't developed to the level where most of us connect with other humans in a deeper way. But I don't think anyone made that claim.

Meanwhile (speaking of dodging questions), can you show me any source--any scientific source at all--that says *any* organism is not a member of its species until it hits a certain developmental milestone? (Note: PZ Myers rants don't actually count as a scientific source.) Implying that one of the most common definitions of "species" doesn't include zygotes (or fetuses) is simply, flatly incorrect.

Simon Jm said...

Did I say you are anyone in particular here in this thread was being uncivil?
Well until now lol.

Like Aurora I've come up against hostility from atheists and humanists who don't like it when other secularists won't toe what they think should be the party line. Often by people who haven't got a clue about the underlying philosophical arguments.

I actually studied the topic at university level and corresponded with some of the leading Pro-Choice philosophers like David Boonin, who have no problem with validity of the sort of arguments being presented here. I know many of the arguments that are considered valid by many PC philosophers even if they aren't convinced by them. In fact the bodily compensation argument originally came from Boonin.

The fact that you are so dismissive without providing the slightest substantive rebuttal shows you to be and ignorant troll who would be laughed out of any abortion 101 class.

Have you ever even bothered to read the philosophical literature of either side?

But I suppose when you probably suffer from the Dunning Kruger Effect you cannot help yourself.

You are only embarrassing yourself by showing your ignorance and incompetence.

Jay said...

I would really like to see the secular argument for why a human life is more valuable that all other animal (sentient) life.

Simon Jm said...

Is that human life or human person?

magicthighs said...

"A zygote is "fully human" in the biological sense--the sense that it is a biological member of the human species"

Please show me any relevant peer reviewed publications where the term "fully human" is used in this sense when referring to a zygote.

"Meanwhile (speaking of dodging questions), can you show me any source--any scientific source at all--that says *any* organism is not a member of its species until it hits a certain developmental milestone?"

The onus is on you, not me.

"Implying that one of the most common definitions of "species" doesn't include zygotes (or fetuses) is simply, flatly incorrect"

The definition provided in the article above excludes zygotes, foetuses, any human not able to procreate.

Again, don't blame me, blame the author for providing that specific definition.

Using the word "fully human" to describe a collection of cells with the potential to grow into something that would fit the definition provided is nonsensical. "Fully" implies actualised, not potential.

Sally Strange said...

Wait, are you saying there AREN'T secular arguments in favor of slavery, white supremacy, and against women's suffrage?

For shame! Bad skeptics. We should be open to discussing any and all ideas in a free and open way, right?

Simon Jm said...

If you have an argument you should be able to clearly state it and the common counter agruments, you have yet to do that.

& BTW you don't have to go to university so much of the lit and argumentation is on the web that you can self teach if you ever thought being informed about a particular subject was worth your time.

You can state a thing to the cows come home but that isn't an argument.

What grounds bodily autonomy? How and when there is a conflict of interest concerning bodily autonomy should one party outweigh another? Can one do anything with ones body? Sell organs have late term abortions etc. Not hard if your open to civil debate.

Instead you just want to come here and vent your spleen which makes you a troll.

Simon Jm said...

For what it's worth I disagree with many thing Kristine and other PL's
say. In fact I'm in a discussion with a biologist about why a human
zygote shouldn't be considered a Homo Sapiens right now. I take the time
to look into these sorts of things not turn up on a blog and just shoot
off my mouth about things I haven't taken the time to look into.

& I'll look into more of PZ 's stuff but if this is the quality of his thoughts

"There is no particular reason abortion should be difficult; it’s certainly less fraught than pregnancy"

well we can dismiss all the lit and arguments by hundreds of
professional philosophers even well respected PC philosophers because a
biologist has slam dunked it lets go home.

ThePrussian said...

Don't bother with PZ. He's fleabait. All he's ever wanted to do is make reason, science and skepticism subservient to his weird brand of American 'liberalism'.

Like your work by the way; here's my take on the subject:

Simon Jm said...

Want to have a shot at the spontaneous abortions he raises?

Sure it happens like cancer in postpartum human our existence is fraught with diseases that kill us.

Should PL's be concerned about and mourn/regret these lost live YES.

But we also live in a world of limited resources and practicalities.

It a triage situation. What is easiest and best way to save lives with the limited resources we have?

Many spontaneous abortions are because of health defects and the life would never of survived.

Should we take funds from say cancer or malaria research where we have good prospects of cures to saves lives that are likely to be lost anyway?

Personally I support euthanasia for similar reasons for humans that would likely die anyway or severely degraded quality of life.

This in no way undermines see human life as having moral value.

Simon Jm said...

Lack of civility debating a subject often indicates a lack of intellectual credibility or knowledge on that subject.

m17l6s85 said...

You were the one who used the phrase "fully human," not me, and not the blog post about species. It's an ambiguous phrase, and I'm not sure what you're trying to imply with it, which is why I made a distinction between biology and social and emotional implications.

"The definition provided in the article above excludes zygotes, foetuses, any human not able to procreate."

Only if you continue to ignore that species definitions are for organisms at all their stages of development, which I pointed out in my very first comment to you. The capabilities referenced in the blog post are *inherent* capabilities, not the *immediate* ones you keep trying to insist are necessary. Or do you think the *most common* definition of "species" includes all children because none of them can reproduce? Man, how did biologists miss that one?

Do you genuinely believe that species definitions are meant to apply to only adult organisms?

Simon Jm said...

Oh shes isolated on an island out of touch with alternative caregivers and that is extreme? Again you lack the ability to understand what a thought experiment is designed to do.

Like pregnancy if you want equivalency you need situations where the parent doesn't have other options and then see how they or you would act. So you wouldn't allow her to kill it? But its her body her choice and BTW she took precautions so it not her responsibility. Nor is the baby a person.

So btw what grounds full moral worth after all a baby isn't a moral person either if you ground it on psychological capacities.

& whether she is unlikely to or health worries isn't the point.If its her body her choice then that shouldn't matter. & There is actually a Pro-Choice talk on youtube where choicers argue over this very point. Maybe you should take that with your fellow choicers.

The point remains many choicers base their arguments on bodily autonomy and lack of personhood. Even in late term abortions this still stands as on the island. So justify why you would stop this woman form exercising her rights over what she does with her body when it concerns underdeveloped non person human.

Run back to PZ's cheer squad and put that to him.

ThePrussian said...

There's always one, isn't there. What staggers me is the inability, given the gravity of the issue, for 'pro-choice' people to consider the arguments against their own position.

Simon Jm said...

To be fair some do. Same occurs for many PL's

magicthighs said...

"You were the one who used the phrase "fully human," not me"

Actually, it's a phrase used regularly on this blog, and by other "secular pro-life" advocates. Here are some examples:

"The capabilities referenced in the blog post are *inherent* capabilities, not the *immediate* ones you keep trying to insist are necessary"

No, they're potential, not inherent.
I'm not insisting on anything, I'm pointing out that giving rights to a blob of cells just because it has the potential to become a baby is nonsensical. If you remove the blob of cells, the potentials simply won't be actualised. No babies are killed, they'll just never exist.

King Rat said...

Breast feeding is minimally decent Samaritan. Use of your body's organs is an extra ordinary burden.

ThePrussian said...

Well, fair enough; I haven't encountered it the other way, but that's to be expected I guess.

Jerry A said...

I said that I would not be okay with it, which is a direct reply to what you asked. Unlike you, however, my personal opinion about not being "okay" with it is not the same as not "allowing" a woman to make her own decision. I consider women adults and capable of making rational decisions about their own bodies and their own medical care, unlike the forced birth crowd.
Opinions aside, I supposedly live in a society where that is the current law as well. Women can have an abortion in the first trimester, but there are limitations after the fetus becomes viable. Unlike you, I am not advocating taking away a woman's right to make any more choices about her own


As far as the rest of what you wrote, while I have excellent reading comprehension, I cannot make heads or tails out of your disjointed ranting. That is not an invitation for you to rant any more.

Jay said...

Either or both please.

Simon Jm said...

Ok so bodily autonomy isn't the slam dunk many choicer's think it is.

Also not there is still a high cost to the woman in my example.

& not to ignore we don't as a society enforce even minimally decent Samaritan laws.

So it would still seem she is under no obligation to do so.

Of course it would be argued supererogatory to do so, but not obligatory to the point of punishment by the logic of bodily autonomy and non person-hood.

But if you cause an existential dependency should you 'hide' behind bodily autonomy?

Use David Boonin's Toxic Waste analogy. A tenant stores toxic waste in his landlady's home causing her son to have kidney failure and he just happens to be the only match.
Shouldn't he owe the bodily compensation even if we are reluctant to enforce it?

Or a Drunk driver casing a crash victim to need his kidney?

King Rat said...

No. Because however morally repugnant it might be to let the offender get away with both his kidneys, the alternative is slavery - treating people as commodities.

I think that was the reasoning behind Mcfall vs Shimp.

Chris P said...

Why do you people think you have any say over what my wife does to her own body? Why do you think you should be telling her how many children she has?
Stop poking your nose in where it doesn't belong. Go and worry about the anti-vaxxers who are likely to cause other people real their actions.

Simon Jm said...

Not so hard to read; its being able to think and use thought experiments is what is beyond you. You would fail abortion 101.

magicthighs said...

Reposting my comment, either it disappeared or never got posted.

"You were the one who used the phrase "fully human,""

Actually, it's a phrase regularly used on this blog, and by other "secular pro-life" advocates.


"The capabilities referenced in the blog post are *inherent* capabilities"

No, they're potential in this case, not inherent.

"not the *immediate* ones you keep trying to insist are necessary"

I'm not insisting anything, I'm saying that calling a zygote "fully human" because it has the potential to become a baby is nonsensical.

If you abort the blob of cells the zygote is those potentials will simply never be actualised. No babies are being killed, they'll simply never exist.

magicthighs said...

Lack of civility? You mean like posting stuff like this?

"The fact that you are so dismissive without providing the slightest substantive rebuttal shows you to be an

ignorant troll who would be laughed out of any abortion 101 class.

Have you ever even bothered to read the philosophical literature of either side?

But I suppose when you probably suffer from the Dunning Kruger Effect you cannot help yourself.

You are only embarrassing yourself by showing your ignorance and incompetence."

Oh wait, you posted that, didn't you, Simon Jm?

Simon Jm said...

My stance wouldn't be to force them;either I would give them the option of paying bodily compensation or a custodial sentence. I'm not PL.

King Rat said...

If I recall, even in the bronze age, eye for an eye was rarely enforced. It was a threat - and the offender was strongly encouraged to pay up instead. Society can't really function, I don't think, if it is removing body parts and organs from people. At least, a society that is not sociopathic.

And I will discuss thought experiments with you any time Simon. I love all manner of arguments. Which is why I read SPL.

TooManyJens said...

I'm pretty unhappy about the implication in a couple of responses to Kristine's post that being willing to discuss abortion will keep women from feeling welcome in secular circles. It will keep women who feel that abortion is not to be discussed from feeling welcome, but that's not all women! I mean, if we're talking about abortion as an ethical issue rather than a legal one (and some have made it clear that they consider even discussing the ethics of abortion abhorrent), there are plenty of self-described pro-choicers who are uncomfortable with abortion from an ethical point of view; they just don't think a legal ban is the right answer. But no, the people who declare with 100% certainty that there is no ethical question and that the only reason to think there is one is that you hate women are holding themselves out as representatives of all secular women, while telling secular women who disagree with them to shut up. Fuck that.

Simon Jm said...

Nice one KR the feeling is mutual.

What I think both sides tend do is look at the particular circumstances and not at the underlying principles.

As I see it.

If any action X -willingly taken- causes or is highly likely to cause, one full moral agent to make another full moral being, existentially dependent on their body. They are morally responsible for said dependency/harm and can be argued -through precedent and moral reasoning- to owe compensation.

Since the only relevant compensation is that bodily compensation that keeps the victim alive, that is what is owed.

But due to the point this would be treating a full moral being as a commodity -thus undermining their moral value- that compensation isn't enforceable and instead is an option to avoid or lessen a custodial sentence, if the compensation isn't paid.

This should be applied whether it is toxic waste, a mugger, a drunk driver or a non rape pregnancy or any situation that causes one being with full moral value to be dependent on the body or organ of another full moral worth being. The underlying principles are still the same.

King Rat said...

Nicely put. I agree wholeheartedly.

BenjCano said...

"These nasty comparisons make sense... as long as you assume the fetus is irrelevant."

From the point of view of a person's bodily autonomy, yes, a fetus is irrelevant. No one has a right to hook me up to another human being against my will to pump his blood through my veins, his air through my lungs, have m kidneys filter his bodily toxins, and subsist on my food. Even if that person would surely die if I disconnected him, my right to bodily autonomy trumps any supposed "right to life."

It's the same reason that we don't have mandatory blood drives. It’s because each of us has a sovereign right to bodily autonomy that no one else has the right to violate, even if it might mean saving someone else’s life.

berniebacon said...

Did someone compare the pro-life position to pro-slavery? Hmmm. I bet slaves only wish they could go to an agency and say "find someone else to do this job."

LN said...

"Why do you people think you have any say over what my wife does to her own body?"

Because she choose to act in a way that risks creating a new human being that is bodily dependent on her and her alone, and therefore she's liable if the risk occurs, and liability means you cannot relinquish responsibility at the cost of that very life you created by your actions.

"Why do you think you should be telling her how many children she has?"

I don't. She has a say in whether or not to procreate. It's called the choice to have sex.

"Stop poking your nose in where it doesn't belong."

What I hear when you say this is "it's not your business whether or not my wife kills other human beings" -- not the most convincing command.

sara said...

I don't humanize it over the woman, I just consider it's life alongside a woman's bodily autonomy. And I am anti-death penalty, pro-redistribution of wealth, and anti-war. Don't just assume a pro-lifer is a neoconservative. Also, calling a pro-life person anti-choice or pro-forced birth is as stupid as calling a pro-choice person pro-abortion. Silly phrases do nothing but misrepresent your opposition because you find it enjoyable to do so.

LN said...

There may well be, but they're probably not good ones. I'm not going to sit here and say, "If I disagree *strongly* enough with something, it MUST be religiously based!" That doesn't follow at all.

LN said...

Aurora, I'm a pro-life atheist and I fully encourage you to speak out on behalf of preborn human beings. I'm glad you found this page and I hope it inspires you :)

King Rat said...

An aspect of antebellum slavery was forced pregnancy and birth. Female slaves were traded like livestock.

LN said...

You supported this comment:

"I will be cold to you as long as you think that YOU have the right to make MY parenting decisions. There is no room for you at my secular table. Your position is horrific. You and the people on this page have personified other women's fetuses and are trying to strip women of any right to determine when and how she becomes a mother. Shame on you and all of your anti-choice friends. We secularists who value women's lives and women's choices will be cold to you as long as you think that I am less important than the contents of my uterus. I'm glad you keep your mouth shut, because your position is reprehensible."

Don't tell me you're too dense to understand how that is uncivil. Being *really indignant* about someone's stance doesn't mean you can say anything you want and it's automatically civil. This was a pathetic jab, there was no argument/reasoning/evidence, just raw anger and a command to keep her mouth shut. Yes, totally civil!

LN said...

Look, if you insist that the definition of species excludes a fetus, then it also excludes newborns. Is that really the angle you are going for? You think newborns aren't part of our species?

Or they are, and so are the preborn. It's one or the other.

" "Fully" implies actualised, not potential."

I disagree -- this would mean newborns are not "fully human". Is that what you think?

Seems to me if someone were arguing against infanticide and said that newborns are "human beings" just like us, no one would bat an eye. Is that not your position?

LN said...

I notice every time someone brings this up on this blog, they're not actually responding to someone who said they hold these stances. It's always a "man a lot of pro-lifers are hypocrites" -- ok? Is there one here? Or are you just stereotyping everyone and assuming we all object to welfare? Presumptuous.

magicthighs said...

"There may well be, but they're probably not good ones"

BINGO! Same goes for your secular pro-life arguments.

sara said...

There aren't any good secular arguments for being pro-choice.

Oh you disagree? Well you're wrong because obviously I'm right.

^ That's how you people sound

Check out other articles on this blog. If you genuinely think that there aren't good arguments on the SPL blog, then you're a dishonest individual. So many accusations and false ideas get trotted out by pro-choicers that all have been covered on SPL.
Masturbation, bodily autonomy, brain-alive definitions, organ donation analogies, plan B, abortion exceptions...
There's a little search bar on the side, you can start there. If you're not interested to actually learn about real pro-life arguments, that's your problem not ours.

magicthighs said...

"Look, if you insist that the definition of species exclused a foetus, then it also excludes newborns"

No, the definition provided *in this articleII* excludes zygotes, foetuses, infertile people, etc. Your definition, not mine. As PZ pointed out, defining species is a tricky business.

"I disagree --- this would mean newborns are not "fully human""

Wrong. I'm not disputing the genetic heritage of zygotes. I'm saying it's meaningless to make that the topic of discussion. What I'm saying is that just something has a potential doesn't mean there's a moral imperative for that potential to be actuated. If you abort a zygote you prevent a baby from existing. There's nothing, and I repeat, nothing wrong with that, in my opinion.

If my mother had decided to abort me when I was a zygote, there would have been no harm done in my opinion. I simply would not exist. Non-existence isn't a punishment. I would not know that I don't exist. Nobody (except my mother and people who knew she was pregnant) would miss me. I would not be here to mourn that fact.

sara said...

Articles that deal with that issue: (this one has the forced blood analogy)

magicthighs said...

I've been reading this blog for a couple of months now. I've been aware of secular pro-life arguments for years now. And no, there are no valid secular pro-life arguments. Most use spooky languange or thomist arguments to claim that even zygotes have inherent value. I simply disagree with that on philosophical grounds.

My personal stance on abortion is pragmatic. Women will have abortions regardless of legislation (or people harrassing them on the sidewalk. Oh sorry, you call that counseling, don't you? great example of orwellian speach imo). Best thing to do is to make it safe, therefore legal. That way you prevent a lot of cases where mother and foetus die in a botched abortion.
Some people don't seem to remember pro-Roe vs. Wade days in the US. You really don't want to go back to back alley abortion days.

magicthighs said...

that should read pre-Roe vs. Wade

BenjCano said...

I read it, and I'm not convinced by the author's unwillingness to explain how the forced blood/pregnancy by rape validates the anti-choice position.

magicthighs said...

"Look, if you insist that the definition of species excludes a fetus, then it also excludes newborns. Is that really the angle you are going for? You think newborns aren't part of our species? Or they are, and so are the preborn. It's one or the other."

I'm saying that *the definition provided in this article* excludes zygotes, foetuses, the infirtile, and the sexually immature. Which just means the definition is inadequate.
I also think that the "member of our species", "fully human", or whatever argument is irrelevant. Just because a blob of cells has the potential to grow into a baby doesn't mean it has the same standing as an actual person.

"I disagree -- this would mean newborns are not "fully human""

Again, I think the term "fully human" is nonsensical. My fingernails are "fully human". So are the skin cells I shed every day. Just because something is "fully human" doesn't mean it had certain rights.

I'm reposting this, btw, because again my comment has either disappeared or wasn't posted (even though I was able to see it as being posted for almost an hour).

If my mother had decided to abort me when I was a zygote or a foetus, there would be no harm done in my opinion . Nobody but her and people in on the knowledge that she was pregnant would miss me. I would simply not be. There's no punishment in non-existance. I didn't exist before I was born, I and I don't experience any negative side effects of that. I wouldn't be here to mourn the fact of my non-existance.

King Rat said...

Me too!

I especially enjoy the special pleading for prenates, and the assertion that a zygote has all of the attributes of an adult, you just can't see them yet.

argent said...

Okay at this point can we ignore the guy trying to argue that being at a pre- or post-reproductive stage of development makes you a different species?

magicthighs said...

At this point can we please ignore the pro-life people who are arguing against straw men?

sara said...

"Good argument" doesn't mean one you agree with.
If you want a bad argument, look no further than "People are going to do it anyways so it might as well be legal"

And even if abortion remained legal, would you support extra measures to reduce the number of abortions in the case of unplanned pregnancies? Because pregnancy help is something barely talked about by pro-choicers.

And what is this about us saying that harassing women is counseling? Another lie.

Making abortion illegal can decrease the number of abortions if it is implemented correctly. It depends on a variety of factors. Pre-Roe v. Wade America isn't the only example of abortion being illegal. How many back alley abortions happen in Ireland or Malta?

sara said...

What a coincidence, you're "not convinced".

BenjCano said...

What does me not being convinced coincide with?

magicthighs said...

"If you want a bad argument, look no further than "People are going to do it anyways so it might as well be legal"

Oh, so you don't care about the fact that women tend to get killed with back-alley abortions? Well, sorry, don't know how to put this any other way, buy you're simply a horrible person.

"Making abortion illegal can decrease the number of abortions if it is implemented correctly"

Oh, please, share the data on that little gem. History has shown that the opposite is true. Just look at the country I live in, the Netherlands. Abortion is legal here, and abortion statistics are among the lowest in the world.

magicthighs said...

"And what is this about us saying that harassing women is counseling? Another lie."

Counseling tends to be somehing that's requested, not forced on you by people ganging up on you on the way to an abortion clinic. Face it, you're a nuisance, not a "sidewalk counselor". You just use that term to justify protesting at a clinic.

Chris P said...

It's not a human being and its non of your business. You are projecting your views on other people. You think it's cool to force the woman to do something just because you think so - that's control.

Guest said...

Attack of the screechy monkeys


Robert said...

Paging Dr. Dunning? Dr. Krueger for Dr. Dunning? please respond.

Please, you aren't even close to responding to Myer's point. Try to learn some biology first.

ignorance_is_curable said...

I don't care what your philosophy is, whether secular, agnositc, atheistic, nihilistic, or even Nazi. If you are against abortion then you have some FLAWED reason(s) to be against abortion. PERIOD. And my chosen task is to take your reason(s) and expose the flaw(s)!

ignorance_is_curable said...

There is a simpler explanation for Kristine's (and others') notion that personhood begins at conception: The Dictionary. Of course, just because the dictionary RECORDS "common usage" doesn't mean that "common usage" makes logical sense! Think about all the people out there "commonly using" astrology, for example.

Simon Jm said...

Which on the face of it would also mean there is a rape exception because they aren't morally responsible for the pregnancy. But unlike many PL's I would offer financial assistance, compensation and counseling.

Simon Jm said...

Yes and stand by it.

If opponents come to a forum to rant, and dismiss out of hand arguments 'garbage' that are readily accepted as valid by informed professional and well respected Pro-choice philosophers it easily shows their ignorance and trolling agenda.

Likewise saying it is pretty much people just throwing around baseless, arbitrary or irrational personal opinions, without even attempting justify it or civilly discussing the topics shows they are TROLLS and blowing smoke out their ass and gloves can come off.

So don't pull the passive aggressive on me and whine when people won't tolerate trolling.

Simon Jm said...

Zinna could you expand on

"apart in light of the evidence that a fetus or newborn should indeed be considered "irrelevant" for ethical purposes.

I haven't read any of past posts and you seem to have some idea about Peter Singer's work.

Have you also up to speed on David Boonin's work.

Simon Jm said...

Thats something I'm still not clear on but you often find the arguments are tied to why it isn't ok to kill persons or future persons but not other animals.

Peter Singer I think would say if we look at preferences, persons have sophisticated future based desires for continued existence, whereas many animals only have desires to avoid suffering. Therefore if they are killed humanely they aren't morally harmed.

On the other hand Don Marquis' 'Future Like Ours' argues the reason why we are harmed if killed is that we are denied the sort of things we value plans desires sophisticated experiences. Since most fetuses have a future like ours they have moral value whereas he thinks most animals don't share the sort of experiences we value, so don't have a right to life.

I disagree with both positions as stated though the Marquis argument can be expanded to included many other animals.

BenjCano said...

Abortion 101? Is that the training programme that the lion cubs went through in the South Park "Woodlands Critters Christmas?"

BenjCano said...

As a separate issue from bodily autonomy, the idea that a zygote, embryo, or fetus is a person is something I don't think people actually believe. I have to quote George Carlin to explain why:

"Well, if a fetus is a human being, how come the census doesn't count them? If a fetus is a human being, how come when there's a miscarriage they don't have a funeral? If a fetus is a human being, how come people say "we have two children and one on the way" instead of saying "we have three children?" People say life begins at conception, I say life began about a billion years ago and it's a continuous process."

magicthighs said...

I'm not whining, I'm pointing out that you're guilty of something you're accusing other of.

sailor said...

The dumb thing about being an anti-abortion secularist is after the shouting where are you going to go with it? So you are anti-abortion, what do you support as a matter of law? To be in favor of banning abortion is completely non-productive since study after study shows that banning abortions does not stop them, it just makes them unsafe. Countries that have legal abortion, good sex education and contraceptive availability have lower abortion rates than those that ban abortions. So what is the endgame?

Acyutananda said...

"Countries that have legal abortion, good sex education and contraceptive availability have lower abortion rates than those that ban abortions."

These CORRELATIONS might well be true without showing us any CAUSAL link between legal abortion, good sex education and contraceptive availability on the one hand, and lower abortion rates on the other hand.

Nevertheless, it is common sense that good sex education and contraceptive availability would be a cause of lower abortion rates. Since you belatedly introduce those two factors, it would not be surprising if your sentence is correct in causal terms.

But it is not common sense that legal abortion would be a cause of lower abortion rates. Can you document that it is? What would be the mechanism -- how exactly does legal abortion bring about lower abortion rates?

Dolce said...

"As a separate issue from bodily autonomy, the idea that a zygote,
embryo, or fetus is a person is something I don't think people actually

You know, this is not an argument, and it is easily shown to be untrue. Just do a google search. Or, you know, look at all the effort that goes into saving premature babies (like me!) from death (hint: they'd still be classified as fetuses if they had stayed in the womb like they were supposed to!).

And just to note, there are PLENTY of people who say "I'm a mom" when they are carrying an unborn baby, "my baby is 6 months" when their unborn child is approximately six months old, "I have two children on earth and one [who was miscarried] in heaven" when describing their family, "Johnny has a little sister, we can't wait to meet her face-to-face!!" when they still have a baby in the womb, "I'm going to watch my baby die" when they are in the process of miscarrying, and there are people (shocker!!) who have funerals for their miscarried children. Just because you haven't encountered these people, does not mean they don't exist. And you must have tried pretty hard to live in a bubble if you haven't found ANYONE who has said or done any of these things.

Nate Sheets said...

Perhaps. Or they are just really frustrated.

ignorance_is_curable said...

One way: It removes the "lure of the forbidden".

JoAnna Wahlund said...

If banning rape or murder caused rates of rape or murder to rise, would you then support legalizing rape or murder?

JoAnna Wahlund said...

My husband and I had a funeral for the baby we lost to miscarriage. S/he was buried in a cemetery as well (I had a D&C, and we cremated his/her remains once they were released to us).

Also, saying "we have two children and one on the way" still acknowledges that there is another existing child, just one who hasn't yet been born.

JoAnna Wahlund said...

And you think it's cool to rob other human beings of their right to life. That's also control.

JoAnna Wahlund said...

So, you claim that unborn children don't have the capability to develop into adults? Do tell. What scientific evidence supports this assertion?

JoAnna Wahlund said...

Since when is it a "parenting decision" to kill a child? Do you think parents have the right to deny their children sustenance? Because that's exactly what you're advocating.

JoAnna Wahlund said...

You both have human DNA, for one thing.

Chris P said...

A fetus is not a human being. There are far more real arguments for limiting people like the Duggar family from having so many children because it directly affects other people in terms of planet resources.

Just because a fetus happens doesn't mean the mother has to ruin her life.

Chris P said...

It's not a child and the mother's life comes first. If you don't like abortions - don't have one. I'd rather have my wife alive thanks.

Chris P said...

Please stop trying to interfere in other people's lives.

King Rat said...

Work on your reading comprehension.

JoAnna Wahlund said...

A fetus is not an organism of the species homo sapiens? Really? Can you provide scientific evidence to back up your assertion that human beings can gestate organisms that are of a different species?

JoAnna Wahlund said...

"If you don't like slavery, don't own a slave." Would you have accepted that argument back in 1835?

I've been pregnant seven times and have had five live births. I'm still alive to tell the tale, and healthy, too. Why do you assume that pregnancy = death?

JoAnna Wahlund said...

I would suggest that you work on your scientific comprehension.

Chris P said...

Because my wife's pregnancy was leading to her death. Perhaps you could explain the morality of having 5 children? How would the planet survive if everybody did that?

Simon Jm said...

Sometimes, but I would still tend to think if you are frustrated with the arguments you get frustrated at the arguments and not start throwing ad hom's around. & sure one can think an argument is weak and unconvincing but going to a opposing forum and saying they are garbage etc without stating detailed reasons why that is so isn't credible. Lastly if the person is an academic like PZ they should know better and pull their head in.

Chris P said...

The fetus is a human fetus but not a human being. It has the potential in many cases to become one. Insisting that 2 cells have the same rights as a living breathing human with children and a job is ludicrous. Humans prioritize life on a regular basis and all life is not equal.

JoAnna Wahlund said...

What does my religion have to do with anything? This is a human rights issue, not a religious one.

Simon Jm said...

haha no. Any Introductory course on the basic underlying arguments used by both sides in the debate. 30 mins online and you could easily find lecture notes on that and then find Thompson's Violinist argument etc. Simply stating bodily auntomy trumps all without an understanding of issues doesn't make an argument.

JoAnna Wahlund said...

I'm sorry your wife was in that circumstance, but why do you believe that her circumstance holds true for all pregnancies?

I don't need to explain the "morality" of having five children. My body, my choice, right? That goes both ways. As for overpopulation, it's a myth:

Chris P said...

That article does not support your argument. Crop yields are going down. We cannot have a population that doubles every generation. Didn't know that taking more than a fair share of the planet's resources was a positive attribute. Clearly your supposed absolute morality has holes in it.

Chris P said...

Roman Catholicism is a religion invented by a

bunch of old farts to extract money from the gullible.

JoAnna Wahlund said...

How open-minded and tolerant of you. Regardless. it's irrelevant. Abortion is a human rights issue, not a religious issue.

Chris P said...

Then you are lying because the two cells may turn into zero or more human beings so you cannot say it is "A" human being.. Two cells of my skin are not a human being. I never said that a fetus was not an organism of our species.

JoAnna Wahlund said...

So, you support forced abortion and forced contraception? Because that's the only way to make your ZPG ideal happen -- and even then it doesn't always work and can have disastrous consequences (see China).

The article did address your concerns, but if you don't want to read it I can't force you.

If you don't want five children, then don't have five children. Funny how it's only "my body my choice" when it comes to killing children instead of bearing them, in your world.

Chris P said...

Sorry that you are trying to tell the rest of us what our life's priorities should be.

JoAnna Wahlund said...

Skin cells are not organisms. Zygotes, embryos, and fetuses are all organisms of the species homo sapiens. If a zygote splits into two new zygotes, then there are two new organisms of the species homo sapiens.

Yes, you made that claim. You said, "The fetus is a human fetus but not a human being." A fetus is an organism of the species homo sapiens. An organism of the species homo sapiens is a human being. Thus, a fetus is a human being.

Chris P said...

Bullshit. I and many of my friends and relatives can and have made zero population growth happen. Sorry that you are too selfish to care about the planet.

JoAnna Wahlund said...

Like I said... Funny how it's only "my body my choice" when it comes to killing children instead of bearing them, in your world.

I choose to perpetuate the human race, not limit it. I choose to believe that the planet is not overpopulated and that human beings are our greatest natural resource. If you don't believe that, fine, but you can't claim to be pro-choice if you think I should not have the choice to have five kids.

Chris P said...

Yes it is a human rights issue. Your religion based on fiction has no right to tell me or anybody else what to do. Religions have a goal of growing their population at the expense of others. A very selfish goal.

JoAnna Wahlund said...

How, exactly, is my religion telling anyone else what to do at the Secular Pro-Life blog? Again, it's irrelevant. As the people in this organization prove, you don't have to be religious to believe that human beings have the basic right to life.

Chris P said...

I can imagine why a religious person would suck at biology. Skin cells are organisms. I'd suggest learning about your brain and how it dies, clearly demonstrated in Alzheimer's sufferers. As the brain dies they cannot recognize their own relatives. Our brains all end up dying and there is nothing left to recognize angels, Gods or anything else in a magic non-existent heaven. Your religion gives you warped priorities that tend to selfishly trying to achieve a superior position (heaven) instead of the betterment of all in real life.

Chris P said...

There is no basic right to life - that is a human fabrication of a particular society. Your religion uses people's money to fund lawyers to take away people's rights

JoAnna Wahlund said...

Uh... no. Skin cells are somatic cells, which form the body of an organism. They are not organisms in and of themselves. Some information for your edification:

JoAnna Wahlund said...

Interesting. So, if the government passed a law tomorrow retracting your right to life, based on purely arbitrary grounds, you would not fight it?

sara said...

Ah yes, the final resort "don't judge me I can't handle being wrong"

sara said...

Did you even read the title of this blog? It's called *secular* pro-life! I don't believe in God, heaven, angels, or whatever and neither do many on here even though there are theists who comment as well.

Catholic Grammie said...

How is it not a child? Let's go back to the beginning here. I'm trying to figure out your logic.

Chris P said...

Sorry - you cannot rewrite the English language, it has a definition - a human between birth and puberty. You don't know what it is until it is born.

Chris P said...

JoAnna is Catholic.

Chris P said...

Who the hell are you? Didn't know you were in charge of right and wrong. I'm wrong when the mathematics says I'm wrong or you show up with some proof. Otherwise it is just your opinion.

Chris P said...

Thanks for projecting yet again.

Chris P said...

Shame that your knowledge of your how brain works isn't so good then.

Johnny said...

They're trying to stop the deliberate destruction of human lives.

Chris P said...

How you can say this planet is not overpopulated is beyond me. We are short of fresh unpolluted water. Short of fresh air. You cannot buy certain types of fish. The list goes on and on - you are delusional,
Your membership of the Roman Catholic church would have a relative of mine's reproductive system destroyed because Birth Control pills would not be allowed. A Bishop would have overridden our doctors decision and let my wife die. Your religion kidnapped babies from their mothers. You can keep your absolute morality.

Chris P said...

Why - to grow their religion? Satisfy a goal of controlling other people? I would rather empower women's live and not subject them to the whim of others. A friend was raped multiple times by her father as a young teenager - why should she be forced to bear her fathers child and potentially die as a result of childbirth?

There are plenty of people on the planet already.

King Rat said...

JoAnna Wahlund said...

Which is completely irrelevant to this conversation, so I'm baffled as to why you keep harping about it.

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Chris P said...

Because you proclaim a higher morality but belong to an organization that is not exemplary. By the way - some definitions of organism exclude a fetus because it is not an independently functioning set of cells.

Catholic Grammie said...

Actually, as a biologist, I do. I know that it is growing as a human.

Catholic Grammie said...

And, if you really want to be a literalist or play semantics, then let's go with the Oxford dictionary definition of pregnant: Of a woman or female animal) having a child or young developing in the uterus: Apparently, Oxford knew it was a child also.

King Rat said...

Dictionaries do not prescriptively 'define' what words are supposed to mean. Dictionaries record how words are used at any one time. Try an example : the word 'gay'. It is now used as an adjective to mean homosexual. It is now in dictionaries with a meaning of homosexual. The English-speaking population did not one day look up a dictionary, find an entry saying : 'Gay, adj. homosexual', and start using it because that's what the dictionary defined it as. Peope used the word 'gay' to mean homosexual, and after it had become an established meaning, then the dictionaries recorded that. That's what dictionaries do. If you can show a counter-example, where words have only been used after they were defined in a dictionary, that would be good. I suspect it will be impossible.

Catholic Grammie said...

I'll gladly go back to my biology - and speak with that knowledge. I was trying to have Chris be logical instead of attacking JoAnna out of nowhere for religion when that wasn't her point in the beginning. King Rat, it sounds as though you might know that scientists like to define terms - it makes for better discussion points. And Chris just told me that I didn't know the English language - well, i happen to be well-versed in the English language also. I'm trying to get him to stay within a logical discourse.

Chris P said...

There are several definitions apparently. What's your point - are you able to claim that there is a heaven?

Chris P said...

What is? What sort of biologist believes in an afterlife?

Chris P said...

That doesn't say it IS a child. It defines it as a process.

Chris P said...

But you believe in religion? How is religion logical discourse?

MTB said...

Just shows that any group will have it's goosestepping defenders of the faith. Hardly free thinkers at all if to be a member you must adhere to a dogma determined by others.

Clinton said...

Yes, I believe Heaven exists. What does that have to do with whether or not I suck at biology. I don't think there are several definitions. Skin cells are not organisms. They are parts of an organism's body. Left alone, a skin will die. The unborn is an organism because it has its own functional parts and is on a self-directed path of development into a more mature version of itself.

Chalkdust said...

If you don't think bodily autonomy can ever be trumped, that's bull. I
would harvest Dick Cheney's organs any day to save a child.

Maybe you would. But the law wouldn't let you. Cases such as this have been tried in the past, and it's been concluded that Dick Cheney cannot be legally compelled to give up his organs, not even if a child will die without them. We don't harvest dead people's organs without their consent, either; Dick Cheney's organs cannot be legally taken, even if he's already dead.

If you change the law so that abortion is actually not possible to obtain, and make no other changes, then the result would be that men would never be forced to let someone else use their organs, even if someone would die from it, even if they were dead and no longer really using them anymore.

Meanwhile, about 1 in 3 women would, at some point in their lives, be forced to let someone else use their organs. (Specifically, they would be forced to let someone else use their uterus, take their blood on a continuous basis, and inject them with chemicals that suppress their immune systems.)

Anti-abortion laws impose a huge burden on women that they do not impose on men, and that is deeply unjust.

Valerie said...

"...You don't know what it is until IT is born." Sorry but this is the funniest statement I have ever heard. Its a human, your argument is invalid.

tatoo said...

I don't care that you don't use religion as a cause for being pro-life, I care that you don't leave the rest of us to make our own decisions about this very serious matter. If I need an abortion, I'll decide and I don't need people like you trying to stop me. MYOB!!!!!

tatoo said...

That is bull. Aborting a fetus is not the same as allowing people to kill. I had a TaySachs baby. Try it some time. I aborted the next child who would have had the same disease. So keep your nose out of it.

tatoo said...

And if you know that the child will live in pain for a few years only?

Clinton said...

Nothing has been torn apart. Many pro-choice atheists have been crying but haven't said anything of substance. The pro-life position is the correct one, and the vitriol that has been spewed by pro-choice atheists only reinforces it (also, don't call me anti-choice and I won't call you anti-life, deal?)

Here are a couple of very simple arguments for the pro-life position. If you can refute those, then I'll become pro-choice. But you have to engage with them, not just whine that someone disagrees with you. Here goes:

P1: It is immoral and should be illegal to intentionally and unjustly kill an innocent human being.
P2: Abortion intentionally and unjustly kills an innocent human being.
C: Therefore, abortion is immoral and should be illegal.

P1: It is immoral and should be illegal to intentionally and unjustly kill a person.
P2: Abortion kills a person.
C: Therefore, abortion is immoral.

We know from the science of embryology that the unborn are human beings, biologically. This is not debated in the field of embryology, only by pro-choice people who are desperate to find a way to justify abortion.

The unborn are alive because they exhibit the property of living things: they grow through cellular reproduction, they metabolize food for energy, and they respond to stimuli.

They are human because they are the product of human parents and everything reproduces after its own kind. They have human DNA.

They are organisms because they are a whole entity, with its own functional parts, directing itself from within into a more mature version of itself, along the path of human development.

They are persons because they do not differ from old human beings in any morally relevant ways. They are different in size, level of development, environment, and degree of dependency, but none of these factors determine your value as a human being. If adult human beings are persons, then you cannot disqualify the unborn as persons without disqualify some adults who are uncontroversially considered to be persons.

Chris P said...

And you are ignorant. You apparently don't read about how people don't know they are pregnant, have triplets instead of twins, have Siamese twins and any number of happenstances.

Chris P said...

When exactly does the fetus get these "functional" parts? It is not an organism until it is independently functioning. Skin contains DNA so could theoretically be redirected into becoming a human too. Believing in heaven means you don't understand your own biology. An afterlife is not possible.

Jay said...

Why don't you answer the question posed? Where will you go with it?

Clinton said...

The fetus has functional parts right from the beginning, when it has a membrane that surrounds it and the cells it divides. In its genetic code is the information necessary for developing all of its parts, including its arms, legs, head, brain, heart, sperm/eggs, etc.

There is nothing about an organism that requires it be independently functioning, otherwise diabetics on insulin or people in comas would not be organisms. Plus, the unborn *does* function independently of the mother, it just can't survive outside the womb until it's old enough. But it is functioning on its own while it's in there.

Believing in heaven has nothing to do with biology, and an afterlife certainly is possible. Would you mind making a case for that instead of just asserting it? It's not true just because you say so.

Jay said...

"Because she choose to act in a way that risks creating a new human being" still does not give YOU a say with ehat she does with her body.

Jay said...

Homo sapiens are not more special than Bos taurus

Jay said...

I believe a cow is a person too. 1 billion people believe this. Are you going to agitate for their rights not to be slaughtered?

Chris P said...

Take living human - throw in crematorium - ash. No afterlife possible - nothing that can think, recognize or talk left. Alzheimer's sufferers are living proof. Still alive but couldn't recognize their own relatives let along a fictional God.

Jay said...

On a factual basis, abortion is less fraught than a pregnancy.
The rest is his opinion, which I hope will not stop you from reading the substance of his arguments.

Jay said...

So you see this can be a philosophical debate. If we agree that all animal life should be treated equally, which I find hard to argue against from a strictly secular and scientific viewpoint, abortion would have severe consequences for animal husbandry.

sara said...

The point I was trying to make is the idea that bodily autonomy trumps all other rights is morally unfounded. Dick Cheney cannot be legally compelled because the law is binding on all citizens and setting a precedent like making organ donation obligatory can have disastrous consequences, but I wouldn't protest it if it happened.
And the law can tailor to whomever has money or influence - a corporation can pollute the environment, lie to it's consumers, and pay no taxes with the right manipulation of the legal system.
Or we can send people to die and kill under false pretenses.
We don't allow using dead people's organs without their consent - and that is questionable. Those organs could be given to someone who needs them, but instead society values consent over, saving lives. This is a controversial topic in of itself. I'm not alone in thinking this.

Anyways, concerning abortion - I think it should be legal up to 8 - 12 weeks. If you also have a cutoff point (which many pro-choicers do, at the point of viability usually) wouldn't that also be forcing a woman to let the fetus use her body, albeit in a narrower time-frame?
Yes it would, and later the gestation, the more egregious the abortion considering a very important point: a fetus is 100% forced into the environment of the womb by a woman's free will (barring rape of course). even if the pregnancy is unplanned.
There are laws that are or have been imposed on men that haven't been imposed on woman. Currently every legal male from 18 upwards to 26 must sign up for Selective Service. I know we aren't short on voluntary service, but the law does have a track record for imposing different rules based on gender.
With abortion, since men can't get pregnant, it makes sense they won't be affected. Paying child support is then their compensation for creating a child.

Jay said...

"If you can refute those, then I'll become pro-choice."

Lets change your premises slightly to:

P1: It is immoral and should be illegal to intentionally and unjustly kill an innocent being.

P2: Pig farming intentionally and unjustly kills an innocent being.

C: Therefore, pig farming is immoral and should be illegal.

Welcome to the dark side.

Jay said...

What is easiest and best way to save lives with the limited resources we have?

Abortion, pure and simple. The limited resources we have will go toward bettering and saving millions of lives that are already on this planet that are suffering and feeling pain.

Sounder said...

Interesting quote, but it's full of holes.

The census doesn’t count preborn humans because it would be impractical given that women do not always know they are pregnant, do not know how many babies they are carrying, do not know the sex, etc. Additionally, given that the census once considered African American slaves to be, effectively, 3/5 of a person, I don't think the census not counting unborn humans really tells us anything.

Many people do have funerals and/or grieve for their miscarried babies. And some people don’t. Regardless, the emotional attachment of other individuals is not actually a measure of someone’s rights or worth. People can be devastated when they miscarry a baby, or they could have been planning on an abortion but miscarried before that point, and it makes no difference as to whether the unborn human was a person.

Many people speak of having a “child on the way” for no reason other cultural force of habit. It doesn’t actually have any scientific or philosophical bearing on the nature of the unborn human. We have all kinds of absurd sayings that don’t make sense if you think them through. If a person is pregnant they might say that they “have a baby on the way,” but still consider the baby precious and important, and if someone were to harm the mother and kill the baby, they could
be charged with fetal homicide.

And yes, life itself may have begun a billion years ago, but that’s just confusing semantics. Obviously when people say “life began at conception,” they’re talking about an individual life, the life of a new organism. Scientifically, a new individual life begins at that point, and those who consider it a person believe that it is wrong to deny the fundamental rights of an entire group of
human beings on the basis of their age.

I think the issue here is that it is hard for people (pro-choice people particularly) to emotionally think of a fetus or embryo as a person, because we tend to devalue individuals who are different from ourselves.

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