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Miscellaneous meanderings and philosophical ramblings. The title from a spiral notebook I used to jot down my thoughts on religion and other matters some years ago. I like to write, think and express my views on various issues. Robust discussion is welcome.

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"Lan astaslem."
I will not submit. I will not surrender.
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Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Theocracy - Abortion

As stated in my last article, Theocracy - an introduction, I plan to examine various issues that are commonly referred to as examples of religion being forced on others. Over the years, I have discussed and debated abortion and have frequently heard the comment “don’t force your religion on me”, or some variation thereof. I believe it can be shown; quite conclusively that such a statement is based on a falsehood. While doing this, I hope that I can also help some on the pro-choice side who may, in my opinion, shrink back to that position out of a fear that if they opposed abortion; they would be forcing an entirely religious belief on others.

I dealt with some misconceptions in the previous article, such as, focusing solely on motive or how some present an issue, rather than on the actual matter or law being proposed. I briefly mentioned that atheists and agnostics oppose abortion. This may surprise some, but the argument against abortion need not reference the Bible or other religious documents. There is also no need to bring in the issue of when the soul enters the body. In my experience, the only one to refuse giving up on that as an argument was an individual arguing for the pro-choice side. Perhaps this was intentional, as the issue of when ensoulment occurs is very much a religious and/or personal belief. In trying to limit the pro-life argument to this framework, one could then say it is impossible to know or it is an entirely personal view and therefore the default position is pro-choice.

But, we have medical science and biology to guide us. We do not need to artificially limit ourselves to something as vague and controversial as ensoulment. We have better tools at our ready and such an important issue demands that we use them.

Besides my personal experience in using a secular argument against abortion and seeing several atheists and agnostics do the same, there are others who are not theists, yet oppose abortion in various degrees. A small website that can serve as an example is the Atheist and Agnostic Pro-Life League. Their member list includes their non-theist position as well as what exceptions they would allow.

Atheist and Agnostic Pro-Life League Member List

Perhaps, some may now be willing to drop the erroneous view that only a religious person can be pro-life, or that it is only a religious issue. Still, some may yet feel that as a liberal or libertarian they must not support major restrictions on abortion. However, an argument against that was made at the website LeftOut – A Haven for Progressive Pro-lifers before that site was retired in 2003.

As they say in “The Basics of Pro-Life Progressivism”:

That's all. Fetal rights + parental responsibility = a pro-life stand. No need to pass any ideological, religious, sexual, racial, or economic litmus tests.

Since that site was created in 1997, others, ranging from personal websites, blogs and organizations have sprung up, bringing more witness to the fact that being pro-life does not mean forcing religion on others. A few searches with Google will lead one to a variety of political, religious and non-religious people who are pro-life. This may contrast sharply with what one sees typically on the news. Before the reader dismisses the notion that there is media bias on abortion, they should read a 1990 Los Angeles Times study on the matter.

”Although reporters (and editors) insist they don't let that happen, abortion opponents are equally insistent that media bias manifests itself, in print and on the air, almost daily.”

“A comprehensive Times study of major newspaper, television and newsmagazine coverage over the last 18 months, including more than 100 interviews with journalists and with activists on both sides of the abortion debate, confirms that this bias often exists.”

Also from that study:

”Responsible journalists do try to be fair, and many charges of bias in abortion coverage are not valid. But careful examination of stories published and broadcast reveals scores of examples, large and small, that can only be characterized as unfair to the opponents of abortion, either in content, tone, choice of language or prominence of play…”

Some may be tempted to dismiss a 15-year-old study. I would have no problem with that if a recent one has shown clearly different results. The problem, however, is that even if that bias is a relic of the past, it has still become part of the socio-political landscape and culture and the effect on people's beliefs linger on.

To tie all this together, we have a Jewish, atheist, civil libertarian, left-wing individual who also happens to be pro-life. Nat Hentoff would certainly not be described as a right wing, Pat Robertson acolyte, and Neocon high priest. For those interested in his views on abortion there are a number of his articles located here.

Perhaps now, we can fully dispense with the notion that only right wing Christians are pro-life, or that restrictions on abortion are merely religion being forced on others and therefore, violating the 1st amendment. As we have seen, atheists, agnostics, pagans, leftists and others can embrace the pro-life position, without contradiction. While some may be intentionally pushing laws to institute purely religious matters and others may be doing so unintentionally, though with the best of intentions, abortion is not one of those issues.

Previous pro-life posts:

Knee Jerk Arguments
Interesting contrast
Fundamental Issues
Abortion - no consequences?
Stem cell research
Another interesting contrast
I see - pro-life people :-) part I
I see - pro-life people :-) part II
Do Unto Others...
What Kool-Aid do GOP Senators drink?
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