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


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

Tags: abortion, groups, pro-life

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So true.like the guy a friend of mine told me about who was born without an external layer of skin. he lived on a stretcher and was in constant pain as if he had a bad sunburn.
Hi,

I'm the person who founded that group, and I was directed here by someone with whom I was debating the subject in a different forum.

A number of the arguments I would make against abortion have been made in this thread already, so I won't repeat them all. I would say that what it comes down to is this: each and every one of us was once an embryo, a fetus. It's a necessary stage in the human life cycle (first person to say we also used to be sperm gets sent back to Bio 101). The fetus is one of us -- immature and dependent and not fully functioning (by adult standards), true, but the same could be said of a newborn. When my daughter was born, she was less sentient than our cat. If we're going to say that human embryos and fetuses aren't fully human because they lack higher cognitive abilities, then infants don't make the cut either. I don't see many people besides Peter Singer making that argument. I think adults can see themselves in infants and even older fetuses -- people often say of older fetuses that they "look human", though of course a three-week embryo looks exactly like a human at that stage of development. I think it's a much more emotion- and gut-based argument than is generally admitted.

To draw lines through the human community and say, "you count (because you qualify based on criteria set by the powerful, no matter how inconsistently those criteria may be applied) and you don't" is a mistake that's been made time and time again in human history. Have we ever, looking back, thought it was anything but an atrocity? Has hunting for that line, and making sure that the "wrong" humans are kept on the wrong side of it, ever brought out anything but ugliness in humanity? I think future generations will look back and judge us the same way for excluding the youngest humans (and probably for excluding some animals from "personhood" as well, but one argument at a time).

Some argue that even if the fetus is a "person", that abortion is justified because a woman has an absolute right to control her body and cannot be compelled to use it to support even another person. I have a fair amount of sympathy for this argument, particularly when the person making it acknowledges that carrying to term is generally the right thing to do (Judith Jarvis Thompson likens it to being a "Good Samaritan") but that people can't always be compelled to do the right thing. However, I think this argument fails to consider whether and why parents have special obligations to support their children.
Which group?
Sorry about that; the group is called "Pro-Life Nonbelievers".
Found it, although the Search function failed. It is at http://www.atheistnexus.org/group/prolifenonbelievers
It is very hard to search for groups in Atheist Nexus. Could you give us the group’s exact name?

We have discussed the value of fetal life quite a bit in this folder, including recently. I suggest that you read the posts from December 29. The problem is that however you establish the value of human life, the argument is not transferable to the fetus. We have not heard an argument that fetal life has objective, universal value. Rather, its value is subjective, individual, sentimental and lacking in consequential analysis.

Since your points have already been rebutted so recently, I suggest that you respond to the counterarguments provided since December 29.
Sorry about that; the group is called "Pro-Life Nonbelievers".

I haven't really seen the points rebutted; I've seen people state their disagreement, and I've seen people re-state their own positions and assumptions, but I don't think that's quite the same thing.

One argument I thought was interesting was the argument that says one can't make an objective, universal argument that the fetus should be considered a person. I think that's true, but honestly, it sounds like the kind of thing I usually hear from theists who are arguing that there's no such thing as morality without the absolute rules laid down by a god. What's the objective, universal argument for considering a newborn a person? We decide, as a society, to protect that newborn for various reasons which I consider correct; other societies have made different decisions. The lack of an absolute basis doesn't prevent us from making moral judgments and deciding what kind of society we want to be; it just means that it's a process, and that we're always learning and adjusting our judgments based on human experience.
Jen R wrote on January 4 One argument I thought was interesting was the argument that says one can't make an objective, universal argument that the fetus should be considered a person. I think that's true, but honestly, it sounds like the kind of thing I usually hear from theists who are arguing that there's no such thing as morality without the absolute rules laid down by a god. What's the objective, universal argument for considering a newborn a person?

There are several such arguments, from different philosophical positions. The Rationalist argument states that if I devalue the life of a person, by killing or torturing her, for example, then I am admitting, that there are at least certain conditions in which it is acceptable for others to kill or torture me.

There is a practical, consequential argument that on the whole, people are better off if we all accept the value of human life, and the rule that we should not kill each other. This is the reasoning behind the Social Contract. We have a self-interest in recognizing the rights of others against us that is proved not only in our personal welfare, but in the quality of life for the society as a whole.

A conventionalist will find the basis for human rights in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, that is binding on member nations of the United Nations.

Jen R continued We decide, as a society, to protect that newborn for various reasons which I consider correct; other societies have made different decisions. The lack of an absolute basis doesn't prevent us from making moral judgments and deciding what kind of society we want to be; it just means that it's a process, and that we're always learning and adjusting our judgments based on human experience.

If you accept that the value that you find in fetal life is indeed personal and subjective, why would anyone else be interested in your values? More importantly, why would the law, backed by the authority of the state, abolish the rights of some people to enforce the personal, subjective rights of others?

I like your statement that “we're always learning and adjusting our judgments based on human experience.” But how can we decide that one person’s values are better than anothers’ if there is no objective standard?

I believe that the answer must be consequential. I am a Utilitarian, so I view the moral action or policy to be the one that results in the greatest good for the greatest number. In most cases, we just have to decide who is benefitted by a policy, and by how much, and then who is harmed by that policy, and by how much. We then put them on a scale, and select the policy that tilts the scale most sharply to the side of benefit.

But on the issue of abortion, the question is rather whose interest we must include in this calculation. If we decide at some time that the fetus is a person, then we must include its welfare, and to abort it would be murder. We cannot justify small benefits, even widely distributed, against existential harm to anyone. But this just restates the question. How do we decide when we should assign moral value to the fetus, and include it in the moral calculus?

I generally see people tackle this question in an unsound way. It seems intuitively to many people that a fertilized ovum, that has just begun cell division, is not of any moral value, but that a viable fetus, whose right would be recognized if it were outside the mother, is. But this leads them to try to find some “magic moment” at which the fetus becomes a person and acquires human right. It is a naturalistic fallacy, confusing medical facts with an act of evaluation.

The correct resolution, I believe, is that the value of the fetus cannot be determined by intrinsic attributes, but consequentially. If we adopt a policy to assign human rights to fetus at conception or responsiveness or brain activity or viability, would that policy benefit society as a whole? I think that the answer might be quite different in societies at different stages of development. We must consider the interests of the woman, her partner, her circle of support, and even the likely consequences to society when the child is in its teens and twenties. Most significant of all, we should consider the quality of life of that future child.

I think that in the United States, the person in the best position to make the abortion decision correctly is the woman, not the state.
I don't see how your rationalist or consequentialist arguments in the first few paragraphs make an absolute and universal case for considering a newborn a person. They don't seem to address *who* is a person at all -- just how we should treat those who are.

Ultimately, I just don't agree that there is (or has to be) an absolute objective basis for morality. I think we keep learning and adjusting our ideas of morality so that we get the kind of society we want to live in.

Why should a person decide to accept my view that embryos and fetuses should be considered persons? For a start, most of the arguments against it undermine personhood for newborns and the developmentally disabled, and most people's morality considers them persons.
I took a look at this group but was disappointed that it did not include any arguments for its stated position: only statements and assertions. There were several links but only one of them worked. I followed it and found a very lengthy discussion of the topic. However the presiding person, and most of the participants, were clearly in the pro-choice camp. So this was hardly an objective case for the other side.

Although there were a smattering of objectors to the stated pro-choice position, I could find no viable objective arguments there, even from those few who appeared to be sane, female and polite.

The most valid of the points made, in my opinion, was that it is a personal decision about when human life begins for the purposes of awarding it person-hood and full "rights". The major flaw with that line of thinking is that it then demands that every other person be forced (by law or some other kind of pressure) to conform to the dicates and implications of this subjective personal opinion.

George, and others, have already pointed out the logical problems with this.

The site to which I was referred had posters who claimed that all anti-choice people were frustrated male misogynists with vagina envy who wanted to suppress and hurt women. This sounded extreme and unlikely, although I have to admit that my experience suggests that these types do seem to be rather prominant among on-line supporters of anti-choice and forced pregnancies.

I would imagine that if there were to be some kind of rational and non-religiously based argument for forced pregnancy continuation in every and all situations then it could be found on a site like this one. So far, however, I have not seen one mentioned that did not reduce to absurdity, crassness or cruelty.
If you're referring to the Pro-Life Nonbelievers group here on AN: you didn't find arguments there because it's not meant as a debate group; it's for like-minded people to find each other, which we have a very hard time with.

I'm sorry that you had trouble with the links. As far as I saw when I checked just now, all of the links (there aren't many) work except that I apparently screwed up the link to the Newsweek article. (My response to it, which I didn't post on the forum, is here.)

It sounds like the link you followed was to Amanda Marcotte's blog entry. I wouldn't expect to find rational argument there; her posting style attracts trolls and flamers. I'd be a little dismayed if anyone came away with the impression that the respondents there were the best representations available of pro-life atheist thought (or, you know, any other kind of thought).
Wiseguy1970, there are questions that have been addressed to you that need a response to justify the position that the authority of the state should be used to prohibit abortion. How do you justify the value that you place on fetal life? The fact that it is a developing human life does not imply that it must be included in the value of human life, as the arguments for human life break down when they are extended to potential humans. So, do you have an independent argument to establish that they have universal, objective value, or is it merely your personal value? If it is your personal, subjective moral taste, why should government respect it more than the equally valid moral preferences of others?

Another question is why the child produced by any particular egg should be valued more highly than the child that would be produced by any other egg. An abortion can contribute to later circumstances in which a child could be born to a materially and emotionally more supportive home.

You seem to prefer to address questions people are not asking.

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