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Magical Thinking at the American Atheists Convention

It was Surly Amy who brought the news:

Oh goodie, a secular anti abortion booth near my table. Wtf.

Then provided the picture.

The “embryo” from the textbook, by the way? About 16 weeks, according to a reverse image search. That makes it technically a fetus, not an embryo. Also, women do abort fetuses at 16 weeks and beyond, but about 95% of abortions are done before this point. For some reason, groups that want to make abortion illegal don’t ever seem to post pictures of embryos around week nine, when abortions much more typically happen.

Image via Wikimedia Commons.

But fetal development and the cute factor aren’t what this post is about. See, the group behind that booth has a blog, and they posted their account of their first day of the convention yesterday. It’s an odd mash of martyrdom (“People didn’t like us!”) and self-congratulation (“Some people said they were impressed that we didn’t bring up religion!”) along with a telling account of an interview with Rebecca Watson.

All was fine at first– the usual debate about hypothetical scenarios– but went downhill toward the end. The interviewer said that she had been accosted by some anti-abortion activists (who called her a whore) while she was getting her birth control, and essentially wanted us to apologize for the actions of these strangers. I told her that I found the protesters’ behavior unacceptable, and Michael replied in no uncertain terms that “Calling you a whore is wrong,” but she just would not let up.  She shut of the recorder and informed me that I’m a horrible person.  I’m sure there’s a heavily edited version out on the internet somewhere.

Rebecca found it very interesting that they decided she’s been at Planned Parenthood for birth control when she told them she’d been there “to receive basic medical care“. (Also, her take on the “horrible person” comment.)

There’s also a hilarious exchange that exposes the shallowness of the thinking involved here.

He left me almost as dumbfounded as the woman who insisted that “religion ought to be kept out of my panties.”  I smiled and asked her whether it was okay to put science in her panties.

The quick answer? Uh, yeah, if she wants it there. Science “in my panties” has saved my life. The problem with religion isn’t that it mentions unmentionables. It’s that it’s proscriptive about what I do with them. Science, aside from the dude’s interpretation of his embryology textbook in the picture above, is not.

But this–this is the crux of the problem with this group:

One elderly woman looked me in the eye and said “I don’t understand how women could be so hateful to other women.”  I was upset by the attack, but calmly responded: “I do not hate women.  No woman wants to have an abortion.  No woman wakes up and says, ‘I’m going to have unprotected sex today, so that I can get pregnant and have some doctor put sharp objects up my privates.’  No one wants that.  And we want to make sure women don’t end up in that situation.”

It was so mind-bogglingly oblivious that I had to comment.

“And we want to make sure women don’t end up in that situation.”

You can’t. That’s not in your control. Nothing you can do can make sure that women never get pregnant when they don’t want to. It’s not even in their control.

The question is what happens then. That’s when the test comes of how you feel about women. And if you insist that they have to surrender their bodies, their health, and sometimes their lives because you personally in all your smug “wisdom” think they shouldn’t be allowed to safely and legally do what humans have always done (and what many other species do automatically), then yes, saying that you hate women is not a stretch.

Claiming you don’t hate women doesn’t make it so any more than wanting women to never get pregnant when they don’t want to will stop rape or make birth control 100% effective. That’s just magical thinking.

Just like religion. These idiots want to make abortion illegal based on this magical thinking. They think we shouldn’t stop them because they have precious good intentions. The funny thing here is that even a Dark Ages holy man who thought that reason couldn’t reliably resolve anything knew better than that.

You’d think a bunch of atheists would get it right.

By they way: If you’re at the convention, consider stopping by the Phil’s table next to this one. He’s collecting for Planned Parenthood in “honor” of his unexpected neighbor.

Comments

  1. says

    Odd that secular opponents of abortion would accept the essentially religious label “pro-life”…

    This bit from the blog is rich –

    Kristine: A particularly productive conversation resulted after I helped one couple recognize that abortion is in fact ageism and discrimination. After all, why draw an arbitrary line that says that we will only grant person [sic] to beings who have achived a certain point of function and development?

    Well it’s not just function and development; it’s also not living inside another person.

  2. Steve says

    If you don’t want women to have unprotected sex and have unwanted pregnancies, then it makes A LOT more sense to campaign for sex education and contraceptives. Campaigning against abortions is a huge leap from there

  3. Gregory in Seattle says

    Anti-abortion groups have always struck me as a complete waste of resources. If you want to reduce the number of abortions, wouldn’t the better course of action be to increase the availability and affordability of contraception, and push for public education to make sure that contraception is being used properly and consistently?

    Instead of trying to recriminalize abortion, work to make sure that every pregancy is a wanted pregancy. This will automatically reduce the number of abortions, would be significantly less expensive for both activists and women, and everyone ends up happier. (Except for the womb-controlling theocrats, and I don’t give a snake’s fart about their happiness.)

  4. Nepenthe says

    I would pay money to watch the embryology textbook guy be shown a variety of amniote embryos and be asked which he’d like to force human women to carry.

  5. Reginald Selkirk says

    ibis3…: Why is AA giving a platform to people advocating what amounts to slavery of women?

    Maybe because they believe in freedom of speech. It’s a concept you should investigate.

  6. says

    I’ve gotta admit, that 9-week embryo strikes me as cuter than a lot of full term babies. And I say this as someone who *does* want to have kids someday.

  7. says

    It is definitely getting to the point that just about any level of antisocial behavior can be laid at Rebecca Watson’s feet and some people will simply accept it at face value. Sheesh.

  8. Steve says

    Freedom of speech means you won’t get arrested for what you say. It doesn’t mean people have to give a platform for your beliefs

  9. says

    Also, why should Freedom of Speech be more important than my freedom not to be enslaved?

    Question is, are those people simpy naive?
    es, good sex ed, healthcare, contraception heavily reduces the number of unwanted pregnancies.
    But there’s still the condom that breaks, the pill that doesn’t work, the tubal ligation that heals itself.
    There’s the mistake you make, the pill you take late.
    And there’s still idiots who’ll just screw around without protection.*
    Good healthcare, mother and child benefits and childcare can furthermore reduce the number of abortions because it really gives women a choice.
    And then there will still be those who don’t want a baby, and who don’t want to be pregnant for the sake of anybody else.
    And there will be those who actually don’t want an abortion and who need one nevertheless.
    Campaigning at the end of women who have an abortion serves only one thing: to punish women. No magical thinking does it make it different.

    Kristine: A particularly productive conversation resulted after I helped one couple recognize that abortion is in fact ageism and discrimination. After all, why draw an arbitrary line that says that we will only grant person [sic] to beings who have achived a certain point of function and development?

    That’s why I don’t care about their personhood argument at all. They can declare every sperm a person (don’t you dare to mention
    a certain song by a certain British comedy group), it doesn’t matter a bit: No person has any right to access my body without my consent. Not for kidney donation, bone-marrow donation, blood or plasma donation and especially not pregnancy.

    *Actually, would you like those people to have kids? I’d rather not.

  10. Pen says

    For some reason, groups that want to make abortion illegal don’t ever seem to post pictures of embryos around week nine, when abortions much more typically happen.

    Even less do they post pictures of the unmagnified version, about 2.3 cm long.

  11. says

    W. T. F.

    What’s next, the White Power stand?

    And fuck you, Freedom-of-Speech dudebro Reginald. Since you’re so pro freedom, how about I come into your living room and yell obscenities at you?

  12. gwen says

    If they are truly anti-abortion, they would instead, have a table full of information on sex education, and pregnancy prevention, as well as passing out a ton of free condoms. They would be in support of Planned Parenthood and have them there as a partner…because Planned Parenthood is also about abortion prevention, but believes in a woman’s choice should she decide to have one. But THAT would be waaay too easy.

  13. JoeBuddha says

    Claiming you don’t hate women doesn’t make it so any more than wanting women to never get pregnant when they don’t want to will stop rape or make birth control 100% effective. That’s just magical thinking.
    This. I had a set-to with a supporter of the ultrasound law (who is a woman. WTF??), and I wish I was eloquent enough to say something half as awesome as the above. With your permission (and attribution), I’d like to steal it…

  14. Simon says

    I’m re-posting the comment I made over at Skepchick with additional background information on this group. I leave it up to the readers to determine how “secular” this group really is:

    This is what their group’s leader said in the lifesitenews article that was written about their participation at the AA conference (emphasis mine):

    The pro-choice view has become a default for atheists, because nobody is reaching out to them,” the group’s president, Kelsey Hazzard, told LifeSiteNews.com

    The fact that group leader Ms. Hazzard uses the term “them” to refer to atheists would indicate that at the very least she does not identify with non-believers. This is consistent with what we’ve seen from her in previous statement.

    Namely: by her own admission 1) she stated in 2010 that is a Christian who had 2) grown “frustrated” with the situation that “Abortion proponents, not to mention the media, have seized on our pervasive Christian religiosity with delight” and was 3) previously a member of a Catholic student group.

    Update: They’ve now posted two new blog posts in reference to the questions that arise from the above. See below:

    Note from their president in which she claims that she grew up in a Methodist church (no mention of the Catholic group she belonged to) and that she has “stopped caring” about faith: http://blog.secularprolife.org/2012/03/personal-note.html

    Blog post by the group with the title “Atheists don’t believe in us” which once again indicates a lack of identification with atheism by the group: http://blog.secularprolife.org/2012/03/atheists-dont-believe-in-us.html

    In this blog post they also claim to have spent ” a lot of time advocating for secularism in the pro-life movement;”. Mind you, this is the same group who their president had claimed in 2010 that “SecularProLife.org isn’t about Christian-bashing or arguing over church and state issues.”

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