On many modern topics of discussion, I am quite well versed in knowing what the general consensus is amongst atheists and people in general who follow evidence based reasoning. However, when it comes to abortion, I am quite at a loss to know how such people truly view the issue. My understanding, up until yesterday at least, was limited to the following:
- Fundamentalist Christians: "pro-life", all forms of abortion, even the "morning-after" pill are evil.
- Atheists/Rationalists: "pro-choice", abortion of some shape or form is a fundamental human right.
Anyway, I then came across an article by PZ Myers on his excellent Pharyngula blog. The article mocked some of the ridiculous claims made by "anti-choicers", but crucially, once again, I got no feeling as to what the consensus is among the atheist community on when, as PZ put it, "[a] living thing [becomes] a person requiring extensive legal and moral protection". So, I posted the following question in the comments section of that post:
I just can’t figure out what the general consensus among PZ and like-minded people is on when the fetus should acquire legal/scientific status as a human?Some people took the time to reply (ah, Internet, you make me feel important sometimes), and I've gathered the initial replies here:
#109 Rookie: Birth. There, wasn’t that easy?So seven people replied and they ALL replied that birth was the dividing line! Yikes, I really didn't expect that. Was I truly that naive? Apparently yes. So I replied (comment #542), and got some more answers:
#110 @rookieatheist: Birth. For me at least.
#112 @rookieatheist When it is born. Simple as that
#116 You’re either a liar or an idiot: the answer is, of course, at birth.
#118 @rookie In general, I would say when the fetus is viable outside the woman. Baby=capable of independent existence.
#127 rookieatheist: I tend to agree with others about birth, at least as a practical line.
#197 When it is BORN. Seriously, why is this difficult?
User Eris replied with this very interesting argument:
@rookieatheist Assuming the fetus IS viable (it can live outside the uterus), then what would be the problem with inducing early labor? Because I think most of the people here would argue that if the fetus is viable and the woman wants it removed, then removing it in a manner that does not result in the fetus’s death is the best road to go if at all possible.I'll have to think about that one. User "Nerd of Redhead" wondered whether I was an anti-choicer trying to move the goalposts (I'm not).
Inducing early birth only becomes a problem if one assumes the fetus will be harmed if it comes out, but that would indicate the fetus wasn’t REALLY viable.
User "Dr. Audley Z. Darkheart" wrote (attacked?) back at me with the following:
Limiting my rights because you feel squicky? That makes your pretty fucking bad, in my book.
That's a very bad argument from where I'm standing. I also feel "squicky" about many things that I think most atheists abhor: the death penalty, female circumcision, adoration of crucifictions, and so on. Sometimes we feel squimish because we know something to be morally wrong. Of course, that's not always true, but it's not to be dismissed easily either. But maybe she has a point and I should avoid arguing against late term abortion because of the "squicky" factor.
I'll stop there. For my first true blog post I've certainly rambled on for quite some length.