Having a Reasonable Debate About Abortion – A Clarification »« Some Thoughts on Intention and Magic

Having a Reasonable Debate About Abortion

Important note: This post has a different comment policy than the standard one on this blog. Comment policy is at the end of this post.

UPDATE: Clarification added at the end, for some people who seem to have some problems with reading for comprehension.

SECOND, VERY IMPORTANT UPDATE: James Croft has changed his mind on this, and has apologized and offered a retraction. Good for him.

I did not want to get into this. I’m in the very last stages of production on the new book, and I’m exhausted, and I was planning to take a break from controversies and firestorms for a little while. And this one is deeply distressing: it involves people I respect, people I think are doing good work, people I think of as allies and in some cases even consider friends.

But I can’t not talk about this.

Yes. By all means. Let’s have a calm, reasonable debate about abortion.

talk_bubblesLet’s have a calm, reasonable discussion about my basic humanity, and my basic human right to physical autonomy. Let’s have a calm, reasonable discussion about whether I should be forced, by law, and at significant risk to my own health and safety and life, to donate my organs for nine months to an embryo/ fetus.*

Let’s have that discussion again. And again. And again and again and again and again and again. And again. Okay, sure, we’ve been having these debates for decades now. But let’s dredge it up again. Let’s treat the basic bodily autonomy of people with uteruses** as a subject that’s up for discussion, a subject that reasonable people can disagree about. And let’s be calm and reasonable about it.

Let’s discuss the secular arguments against abortion, and talk about how the issue isn’t as clear-cut as issues like school prayer or same-sex marriage — David Silverman. Let’s give space in our blogs to the secular arguments against abortion, with no comment on their complete and utter lack of meritHemant Mehta. Let’s talk about how anti-abortion arguments are so provocative, and how although it may be an unpopular view, it’s very important that we try to discuss questions like abortion in an open way, because these debates are essential for the spirit of inquiry — James Croft. (UPDATE: James Croft has changed his mind on this, and has apologized and offered a retraction.) Let’s talk about how the people in these debates are engaging in freethinking, and how the anger being expressed about the debates is a sign of intellectual timidity — Ed Beck (in comments). Let’s get defensive and pissy about how people who expressing fury about this issue are being reckless, and treat people who supposedly misunderstood our statements as irresponsible, rather than apologizing for our poor communication and the damage caused by it — David Silverman again.

And then, perhaps, we can have another panel at another atheist conference about why there aren’t more women in the atheist movement.

/sarcasm

Yes, I understand that the people quoted above, and most of the other people involved in this firestorm, are themselves pro-choice — at least, in the most basic sense that they personally support abortion being legal. That’s not the point.

sexual inversion book coverSee, 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?

I said above that we were having yet another debate about my basic human right to physical autonomy. Technically, that’s not true: I had a hysterectomy in 2012, and I literally cannot get pregnant now. But this is still about me. The conversation about abortion treats women’s bodily autonomy as a legitimate topic of debate. And that bloody well does affect me. If the right to abortion is up for debate, then my right to have consensual sex with whoever I choose, my right to masturbate, my right to dress as I please, my right to not be raped, are all up for debate as well.

I am enraged about this. And it is incredibly distressing to learn that some of my colleagues, my allies, even my friends, think that my rage is unreasonable. Yes, I understand that these people are themselves pro-choice. That’s not the point. The point is that they are treating women’s right to basic physical autonomy as just another interesting political topic for discussion and debate. The point is that they are showing little to no understanding about why people are so enraged about this, and little to no concern about that rage. The point is that they are showing a whole lot more concern about their hurt feelings over being the target of that rage, or about the hurt feelings of other targets, than they are about the hurt feelings of women getting our basic humanity called into question for the 874,905,836,513th time.

There’s an interesting thing about David Silverman’s comment, the one that sparked this firestorm in the first place. You know the place where he said that there was a secular argument against abortion, and the issue wasn’t as clear-cut as same-sex marriage? That’s just flatly not true. There are secular arguments against same-sex marriage. There are secular arguments against same-sex marriage made by gay people. And these aren’t just pathetic retreads of the Religious Right’s arguments, either, the way that secular arguments against abortion are. There are gay people who oppose the entire institution of marriage, or who think that issues other than marriage equality should be a greater priority for the LGBT movement, or both. I don’t agree with those arguments — but they deserve to be taken a lot more seriously than the craptastic secular arguments against abortion.

So why is abortion different?

Why are arguments against same-sex marriage being dismissed by almost all atheists as preposterous and insulting, while arguments against choice are being treated as issues worthy of sober consideration? Despite the overwhelming support among non-believers for the right to abortion — over 98%, roughly the same as the support among non-believers for same-sex marriage, and in fact slightly higher — why are the spectacularly bad secular arguments for abortion being treated as a special case?

As a queer person, I have come to expect full-throated support from the atheist movement for my right to have sex with whoever I choose — and either an outraged rant or a passionate horse-laugh aimed at any arguments against that right. I had assumed — despite the demoralizing debates about sexism and feminism that have been raging in the movement — that I could expect equally full-throated support, and equal rage and ridicule, for my right to not be forced to give birth.

It is incredibly distressing to learn otherwise.

Why Are You Atheists So Angry?Oh, and finally: If you ever cheered me on when I ranted righteously about the power of atheist anger, and are now saying that pro-choice advocates need to calm down and not get so worked up about abortion? Please go fuck yourself. Thank you.

*****

Comment policy for this post: I am not willing to host a debate about abortion in this blog. I am willing to host a meta-debate about the controversy this issue has stirred in the atheist community, and the things various people in the community have said about it. But I am not going to host a debate about the basic right to abortion — any more than I would host a debate about whether gay people should be locked up in prisons or mental institutions for being gay. There are plenty of places on the Internet where you can debate the question of whether people with working uteruses have the basic right of bodily autonomy. This is not one of them. Violators will be put into comment moderation (or banned, if their comments are sufficiently vile), and their comments will be disemvoweled. Thank you.

*(Go read Judith Jarvis Thomson on this, if you haven’t already. Even if you concede, purely for the sake of argument, that an embryo or a fetus is a complete human being, people are still under no moral obligation to donate our organs to these purported people for close to a year, at considerable risk of our safety. The question of abortion is, at its core, a question of our fundamental right to bodily autonomy.)

**Abortion is an interesting and tricky issue when it comes to gender — it obviously affects women disproportionately, and the arguments against it are deeply rooted in sexism and misogyny. But the right to abortion also affects trans men who have not had bottom surgery; and it doesn’t have the same affect on trans women or other women without uteruses (except in that it affects all issues of bodily autonomy, as noted above). I’m trying to use “people with uteruses” when I’m talking about the specific right to abortion, and “women” when I’m talking about how sexism and misogyny play into it. My apologies if I’m getting that wrong.

*****

CLARIFICATION: I thought this was pretty clear in the original post, and most people seem to have gotten it. But I’m going to spell it out more blatantly for those who seem to be having trouble with reading for comprehension.

I did not say anywhere in this post that no pro-choice advocates should ever debate abortion anywhere. What I am saying is this:

1) I want pro-choice advocates to respond to anti-choice arguments (when they choose to do so) with the same level of outrage, ridicule, and moral revulsion they would treat arguments for imprisoning gay people, enslaving black people, marital rape, and other violations of bodily autonomy. We debate and discuss morally repulsive positions that violate people’s bodily autonomy differently than we do positions we disagree with but can see the value of (or just don’t see as morally repulsive). When it comes to arguing against anti-choice arguments, I want us to do the latter.

1a) Related to this. I do not want pro-choice advocates (in this case, Hemant Mehta) to give a platform to anti-choice arguments, with no comment whatsoever, as if they were just another interesting political topic for discussion and debate — as opposed to the grotesque violation of the right to bodily autonomy that they are.

2) I want pro-choice advocates to quit telling women and people with uteruses to be more polite, kinder, and less angry when their basic right to bodily autonomy is debated, or when people handle the issue in a piss-poor way.

3) I do not want to host that debate in my own blog. In this post, I am willing to have a meta-debate about the controversy in the community, and in fact created a space for it — but I am not willing to host a debate about my right to not be forced to be an organ donor for nine months.

Any problems with any of that?

Comments

  1. CerealDave says

    There are so many articles all around the internet that try to make a case for being pro-choice, but I’ve only seen 3 that actually mention organ donation, and the implications that organ donation and abortion have on each other. I was already leaning towards the pro-choice side anyway, but knowing that making abortion illegal would essentially mean having to make organ and blood donation compulsory sealed the deal for me. It explained to me what this thing called “bodily-autonomy” actually meant. All too often, pro-choice articles assume that the average reader knows what bodily-autonomy is, and they don’t. But I think using organ donation as a reference point that most people understand would really help people understand why what at first looks like “killing an unborn child”, isn’t actually morally wrong if the pregnant person initiates it.

  2. Thomas Hobbes says

    I am sorry but this sounds a lot like “shut up, that’s why” to me. Isn’t freethought about debating everything? Yes, we may debate your bodily autonomy, and you may debate mine. How could I ever be convinced when your sole argument is that I have to take things for granted?

  3. says

    I guess the part I wonder at the most is what David Silverman was trying to do with his initial comments. He says that there are secular arguments that can be made against abortion, that it wasn’t a clear cut issue for the atheist movement like same sex marriage was, end of life decisions, and prayer in school.

    Does that mean implicitly that Silverman is not interested in reaching out to conservative CPAC attendees who oppose marriage equality? There’s no room in atheism for people who oppose end-of-life decisionmaking? There’s no room in atheism for those who support prayer in schools (if we could imagine that they’re conjuring some sort of arcane, secular basis for supporting prayer in school)?

    But he wants to reach out to conservative atheists who oppose abortion? I don’t get it. Homophobic conservatives as having no place in organized atheism, but misogynistic ones do?

    I’m thinking he may not have thought this one through.

  4. CerealDave says

    Because there is so little talk of it outside legal circles. People know that organ and blood donation aren’t compulsory, but they don’t really know why. That certain people who do understand this concept continue to deny abortion rights says something. It is likely in the anti-choice movement’s interest that the masses don’t know what bodily autonomy means.

  5. says

    I’m thinking he may not have thought this one through.

    And that’s what’s so bloody disturbing. His default is to assume that:

    — Marriage Equality should be default, and that there are no reasonable godless arguments to the contrary

    — Right to die should be default, and that there are no reasonable godless arguments to the contrary

    — Abortion rights, and therefore women’s bodily autonomy are not necessarily default and can be debated “for the good of the organisation”.

  6. logicpriest says

    @Thomas Hobbes #3

    I don’t think that word means what you think it does. Freethought does NOT mean “pretend every idea ever formed has merit” rather it is, as many of the bloggers on this site have explained before, a specific school of thought with basic premises such as “people have rights” that aren’t up for debate.

  7. Ariel says

    If the right to abortion is up for debate, then my right to have consensual sex with whoever I choose, my right to masturbate, my right to dress as I please, my right to not be raped, are all up for debate as well.
    I am enraged about this.

    I’m not sure if I understand what you are saying. What do you mean by something (abortion or whatever) not being “up for debate”? Some possibilities:

    1. Opponents of the right to abortion shouldn’t be debated at all. When talking to them, rage is the only proper reaction.
    2. Opponents of the right to abortion shouldn’t be given space to present their standpoint by the pro-choice people (unlike in 1, the meaning is: public debate still may be possible, but not at our places, please!)
    3. The only morally permissible way of dealing with an anti-abortion argument (unlike in 1 and 2, we are talking now about arguments, not people) consists in taking a moral high ground and adopting an enraged/accusatory tone. It’s not morally acceptable to do anything else!

    Are you enraged about some (maybe all) of the above? About something else? I really don’t get it.

    Why are arguments against same-sex marriage being dismissed by almost all atheists as preposterous and insulting, while arguments against choice are being treated as issues worthy of sober consideration?

    I have nothing more than guesses here. Here is my guess: some atheists (Silverman?) think that the anti-choice side has stronger arguments than the anti-same-sex marriage people. (Whether they are right or not is a different issue – perhaps for a discussion. Or would such a discussion be also morally preposterous?) Anyway, assuming that this is so – i.e. assuming that this is really their opinion – what should they do to avoid provoking rage? Shut the fuck up and keep silent about their opinion – is this the demand? Something else? Or perhaps:

    4. The very act of seeing a particular anti-abortion argument as strong is morally reprehensible

    and they are a bunch of immoral people simply because some anti-abortion arguments are giving them a pause?

    Sorry, I’m completely confused about this whole topic. I don’t know what your claims are – I guess it’s clearly visible from what I wrote.

  8. says

    @Ariel

    How would you view a guest blog post hosted uncritically by a popular atheist blogger that set out — in all seriousness — godless arguments for how black people were, in fact, inferior to white people and needed special laws to keep them in line and prevent them from hurting themselves?

  9. sqlrob says

    I’m not so sure it’s only abortion. See the various responses to the sexual assault / rape issues that have happened relatively recently. It’s a general misogyny, where this is a damn big consequence of it. “Women are people with the full rights thereof” seems incredibly hard for some people to grasp.

  10. says

    Here’s a proposal for a reasonable debate about abortion:

    1.) Let’s talk about sex ed. Let’s talk about how we ensure that all kids learn good, science based things about sex, their reproductive systems and contraception.

    2.) Let’s talk about contraception. Let’s talk about how we make contraception and the necessary medical care affordable and accessible for everybody.

    3.) Let’s talk about welfare, daycare, school lunsches, schools, workplaces and all the things that make people who would like to have children choose an abortion instead.

    4.) Let’s talk about abrtion access. Let’s talk about how to make abortion cheap/free and accessible for all women and people with uteri again.


    Wait, that was not the debate about abortion you wanted to have?
    You wanted to have the debate about finding the case in which you can decide about my body, in which it is reasonable to take away my agency and bodily autonomy because of pwecious fetus? Sorry, not actually interested in that abortion debate. Your bad

  11. Maureen Brian says

    No, Thomas Hobbes @ 3,

    You can debate with a kangaroo whether she is human or not. The answer, by the way, will probably be no.

    You cannot debate with a fellow human whether she is human or not and expect to be taken seriously or to be shown much patience.

    If there are good, rational arguments against abortion then let us hear them but let us not be subjected to recycled religious arguments with the direct mention of any god left out, pseudoscience, endless repetition of what was already said and attempts at emotional blackmail. In this discussion those techniques count as dirty tricks and will, believe me, be spotted for what they are.

  12. cswella says

    I am sorry but this sounds a lot like “shut up, that’s why” to me. Isn’t freethought about debating everything? Yes, we may debate your bodily autonomy, and you may debate mine. How could I ever be convinced when your sole argument is that I have to take things for granted?

    So what would your response be if someone who is perceived as the ‘leader’ of your beliefs by the majority of people made the claim, “I will admit there is a secular argument for slavery, you can’t deny that it’s there, and it’s maybe not as clean cut as school prayer, right to die, and gay marriage.”? Or if someone who has inserted themselves as a diplomat between your beliefs and your opposition, allows a member of the kkk to write an article about the arguments for white supremacy on his blog.

    Yes, I’m sure that there are people who would like to discuss the positives of slavery, but it’s a discussion that is pointless meandering, and certainly doesn’t warrant any national stage.

    Have all the discussion you want in your house or on whatever forum you want. But if you put yourself in the position of influence / representation, even if you don’t support it, making noises giving forced birthers a toehold in the discussion only makes things worse.

  13. Thomas Hobbes says

    @logicpriest #8

    There is a distinction between “having merit” and “should or should not be debated”. Of course people have rights. Sometimes these rights conflict. Sometimes it is obvious which right should prevail, sometimes it isn’t, and even if it is, it does not help pointing out the obviousness.

    I can understand Greta Christina getting agitated. But translating that agitation into “shut up, we shouldn’t have to debate this in the first place” is exactly what she is criticizing her opponents for.

    Atheism and the “Shut Up, That’s Why” Arguments

  14. says

    There is a distinction between “having merit” and “should or should not be debated”. Of course people have rights. Sometimes these rights conflict. Sometimes it is obvious which right should prevail, sometimes it isn’t, and even if it is, it does not help pointing out the obviousness.

    And some rights take precedence over others. Freethought is predicated on certain rights taking precedence over others.

    Bodily autonomy is not up for debate except when it comes to women. Why is that?

  15. Onamission5 says

    Yes. Dogdammit, I am so tired of having these toxic arguments repeatedly held up as if they have merit, by people who purport to be pro-choice allies, no less, over and over and over again. Thank you for your outrage.

  16. Thomas Hobbes says

    @Nathaniel Frein #17

    Two answers: 1. because people are sexist and 2. it involves another human being.

    You may dismiss number 1 but number 2 should be debated, even if you think the womans right prevails unconditionally.

  17. says

    Thomas Hobbes

    I can understand Greta Christina getting agitated. But translating that agitation into “shut up, we shouldn’t have to debate this in the first place” is exactly what she is criticizing her opponents for.

    You know, I easily lose track of time, but I’ve been active in these online circles for 4 years at a maximum. And if I had a buck for every time I participated in a discussion about my basic human right to bodily integrity (aka abortion discussion) I’d go on a vacation and pay with just that money.
    If that’s “shut up that’s why” then we’re doing it wrong.
    Now, let’s imagine you have a child. And that child asks you for a cookie. And you say no and explain that dinner is ready in half an hour and that they can have a cookie after dinner. And then that child asks you for a cookie again. And again. AND AGAIN. At least once a minute. How often are you willing to explain calmly about dinner and when will you say “stop it, you can’t have a cookie NOW!”?
    Only that these people aren’t asking for a cookie but my status as a human being…

  18. says

    but number 2 should be debated, even if you think the womans right prevails unconditionally.

    Why? Do we debate that 1+1=2? It has been debated. Women’s rights have prevailed unconditionally. Nothing new has been added to the opposing argument?

    Why should we continue to debate this when that very continued debate is used as leverage for legislation that restricts said bodily autonomy?

  19. Maureen Brian says

    It is not a matter of “we should not have this debate” but a matter of “we have already had it and no-one has said anything new or original for years.”

    Greta Christina has the same right as the rest of us to butt out of endless, boring repetition of the same half-baked ideas.

    Or don’t you recognise that right either, Thomas Hobbes?

  20. cswella says

    @Thomas Hobbes #18:

    See, someday somebody may have a good and secular argument against abortion, and you’re dismissing it beforehand.

    Where did you pull from PZ’s post that we should allow open discussion because “Someday someone might have a good argument”?

    I read his post as an attempt to negate the harm done by Hemant doing what he did, and that the discussion on abortion is finished, despite idiots continually spouting nonsense.

  21. John Horstman says

    I’m trying to use “people with uteruses” when I’m talking about the specific right to abortion, and “women” when I’m talking about how sexism and misogyny play into it. My apologies if I’m getting that wrong.

    I applaud this effort. I’ve been training myself to use the awkwardly-long-but-accurate “people/persons capable of becoming pregnant”, as there are people with uteruses whom are not directly affected by restrictions on abortion rights as well (e.g. postmenopausal cis women). Actually, I just realized “people/persons capable of pregnancy” can form the acronym PCOP, which can be pretty easily pronounced “P-cop”, so I may switch to that.

    @cswella #2: Because there are a LOT of people who really truly believe they should be able to violate others’ bodily autonomies. The entirety of the neo-Confederate cohort (“Tea Party” as well as other segments of the Republican party), any rape apologist, all practitioners of infant/juvenile genital cutting (including a disturbing number of atheists, especially with regard to genital cutting of infants with penises or genital configurations that don’t lie sufficiently toward one of the binary extremes i.e. “intersex” infants), many capitalists, and a disturbing number of parents (“Give your aunt a kiss [even if you don’t want to do so],” anyone?). These groups constitute a large portion of the US population (and an even larger portion of the population in plenty of other countries). Some people don’t ‘get’ bodily autonomy becasue lots of people are imperious assholes, even unintentionally (or “unintentionally” – see Greta’s previous post).

  22. Thomas Hobbes says

    @Maureen Brian #14

    That’s a straw man. Nobody is debating whether a woman is human.

  23. Thomas Hobbes says

    @cswella #24

    Are you saying that we should not allow open discussion, because our side already won? From who or what would you ever accept such an assertion?

  24. Thomas Hobbes says

    @Maureen Brian #23

    Now that one is uncalled for. What right did I not recognize “either”?

  25. =8)-DX says

    Another odd aspect of David Silverman’s distinction between abortion and other social justice issues is that it is arguably one of the issues of greatest government invasion into people’s privacy! Abortion restrictions are literally the government policing what is going on in women’s uteruses, and imposing one group’s religion and morality on others.

    Also thank you for writing blogposts like this – it was people getting angry about abortion that made me look into the bodily autonomy issues (back in the day as a pro-life RC I had actually never heard of the concept!) There is no longer any abortion discussion or debate, essentially it’s a case of educating oneself about the facts of life and then proceding to mind one’s own business.

  26. Arren ›‹ neverbound says

    The insufferably named Hobbes:

    Isn’t freethought about debating everything? Yes, we may debate your bodily autonomy, and you may debate mine. How could I ever be convinced when your sole argument is that I have to take things for granted?

    Sole argument? …..From the fucking post you’re ostensibly commenting on:

    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 […] whether or not black people are human beings […]. I see them recognizing these arguments as morally reprehensible on the face of it.
    So why is abortion a special case?

    This is the crux of the argument. Do you, “Hobbes”, personally believe that freethought is about debating the humanity of people of color, or of people who aren’t hetero? If not, what makes the humanity of women any different?

    Recognizing that debate on these subjects has been effectively exhausted — that calm, reasonable arguments against the autonomy of any human being are both banal and abhorrent — doesn’t require taking things for granted. That brings us to the second argument you seem to have missed: that these chimerical arguments have already been addressed, debunked, refuted, and dismissed….. time and again and anon.

    When creationists dredge up hoary old nonsense, oblivious to its intellectual bankruptcy, the whole atheoskeptisphere has no difficulty universally recognizing it and dismissing it out of hand. Yet, ever so mystifyingly, forced-birthers can bring their same old happy horseshit to every picnic and lay it out, all calm and reasonable, to cover the blanket.

  27. logicpriest says

    @Thomas Hobbes

    You are missing the point, namely that if something has no merit there is no point in discussing it. Anti-abortion arguments, secular or otherwise, rely on a different set of premises than “Freethought” or even the majority of progressive thought. “Pro-life” arguments rely on the idea that women can’t make their own decisions rationally and as such have less than complete right to bodily autonomy. If someone disagrees with this basic premise, they are not worth arguing with, especially within our own spaces.

    Also, please see multiple comments on “Freethought” and exercise your google skills.

  28. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Thomas Hobbes, you’re not any part of “our side” that makes any meaningful to sense to people who believe women are fully human and that there’s no more place for debating their bodily autonomy. You may be on a side, but it’s definitely not my side. Or Greta Christina’s side, I suspect.

  29. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    And men who style themselves as Name of Sage Philosopher. Gross. And pedestrian.

  30. says

    Thank you so much for this! My rage on being expected to calmly debate my basic human rights really knows no bounds right now. You’ve created a blog post that perfectly captures my angry tweets and thoughts!

  31. John Horstman says

    @bad-faith troll Ariel #10: You know, it often helps to actually read the original post before commenting. For example, this bit answers at least one of your questions:

    The point is that they are treating women’s right to basic physical autonomy as just another interesting political topic for discussion and debate. The point is that they are showing little to no understanding about why people are so enraged about this, and little to no concern about that rage. The point is that they are showing a whole lot more concern about their hurt feelings over being the target of that rage, or about the hurt feelings of other targets, than they are about the hurt feelings of women getting our basic humanity called into question for the 874,905,836,513th time.

    Emphasis markup mine, though that line is already emphasized with structure and grammar. I thought I’d make it even more clear for you, since it apparently wasn’t clear enough as is.

  32. cswella says

    @thomas hobbes #27:

    Are you saying that we should not allow open discussion, because our side already won? From who or what would you ever accept such an assertion?

    Way to oversimplify my position, but sure, I guess.

    Do you think it’s valid, for example, for Obama to host an open discussion on how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

  33. Wylann says

    Let’s treat the basic bodily autonomy of people with uteruses**

    Whoah, now. We can’t be referring to bodies that have a uterus as people now. First, we need to have a lengthy discussion of when, how, and if a body with a uterus can ever really truly become human. I think for now, we can just shorten the phrase to ‘incubator’.

    (I know, there ain’t a snark tag big enough…..)

  34. machintelligence says

    Let’s treat the basic bodily autonomy of people with uteruses** as a subject that’s up for discussion, a subject that reasonable people can disagree about.

    Subjects that reasonable people* disagree about should not be open to legislation.
    *So now we have to argue about what constitutes a reasonable person.

  35. Maureen Brian says

    Don’t be silly, Thomas Hobbes. That’s not a straw man.

    Any discussion of whether abortion can be refused a woman who wants one is a discussion of whether and in what circumstances her status a human with full bodily autonomy can be set aside. So it’s a discussion of whether or not she is fully human.

    Would you host a discussion on whether you were fully human. No? Thought not!!

  36. cortex says

    I think a Marxist perspective explains why this issue continues to be an issue with Atheists (and mainly the capitalist ones).

    The heteronormative nuclear family can be understood as a microcosm of an industry – the man is the property owner, the woman is the labor, and the children are the product. From this perspective, the abortion ‘debate’ is a struggle over who should possess control over the means of reproduction. This explains rather neatly why anti-abortion views correlate so highly with disapproval of socialized means of childcare that would partially liberate women from the all-consuming labor of childcare after they give birth (they’re very pro-breastfeeding too, I believe for the same reasons).

    And just as pro-capitalist arguments often center around the theme of voluntarism, in which workers freely enter into an agreement with their employer and no one is oppressed, anti-choice arguments have a similar theme and argue that women are fully free to decide whether or not to have sex, and so it is fair that they live with the consequences. Of course, honest empirical investigation of either of these claims finds that they are unrealistic. Workers often work to avoid starvation. Likewise, women’s decisions to have sex with men are often subject to economic, social, and physical pressures.

    Calm, reasonable discussion will never force the powerful to relinquish their control over others. That’s why they love it so, and that’s why they want you to waste your time and energy on it.

  37. Sarah Duehr says

    1. As I haven’t yet read the other comments, I’m sorry if this has already been brought up.
    2. I’m also sorry if this strays to close to a debate over abortion.

    I don’t think enough people realize that the abortion debate is really a debate on two different things. 1) should abortion be legal and easily accessible and 2) is abortion moral. The first is clear cut, the second is far from it.

    Don’t mistake people debating whether an abortion is the right thing to do in such-n-such hypothetical situation for people debating weather a woman has the right to choose if an abortion is right for her actual situation.

  38. sqlrob says

    Hobbes @26

    That’s a straw man. Nobody is debating whether a woman is human.

    Really? We’re debating whether or not women should have the full gamut of human rights. Why does a human not have human rights?

    So yeah, you’re debating whether or not a woman is human.

  39. cswella says

    @Sarah Duehr #41:

    So what discussion on “is abortion moral” is not going to delve into bodily autonomy? A person doesn’t want to be pregnant, so abort it. Full Stop.

    There hasn’t, as far as I know, been any discussion on the morality of abortion where both sides respected bodily autonomy.

  40. Pierce R. Butler says

    … an embryo/ fetus.

    Back in the (pre-Web) day at the Women’s Forum on Compuserve, we used to refer to the purported subject of antis’ concerns as the “zef” – short for zygote/embryo/fetus. Time to revive that term?

    Congratulations to “Thomas Hobbes” on one of the most successful derails in FtB history. You will be remembered in the JAQing off Hall of Fame.

    Speaking of a meta-discussion, I think not enough attention has been paid to Silverman’s bizarre “Democrats are too far to the left” throwaway line. This betokens a mindset of far-right-unto-wingnutness ideology &/or gross ignorance/delusion of Fox Noise fanboy proportions. I have no idea what Silverman has said regarding other underdog groups such as the hungry, homeless, un(der)educated or un(der(insured, but now I have reason to suspect he may see them as in effect similarly subhuman as he does women.

    The upside: all of us who have never given a penny to American Atheists, despite their intermittent good works, may now relax with zero regrets.

  41. Thomas Hobbes says

    @Several people

    When discussing human rights, we must acknowledge that they sometimes are conflicting.

    In the case of same-sex marriage, there is no conflict of human rights. There is no such thing as the right to disallow other people to marry.

    In the case of abortion, there is. The womans right to bodily autonomy and the baby’s right to life are conflicting rights.

    So abortion and same-sex marriage are not a fair comparison. Not to mention ridiculous things like angels on pins.

    Now asserting that the womans bodily autonomy should prevail and the case is settled, is just as stupid as asserting that the baby’s right to life should prevail.

    In cases like these there are no conclusive arguments. Remember we’re not discussing facts here, we’re discussing opinions.

    Discussing opinions may be a bit harder but not impossible. For example, you may defend abortion by Thomsons “The Violinist” thought experiment (see @logicpriest, I do Google).

    Well, I think there are some flaws in the comparison, like there are flaws in the comparison between abortion and same-sex marriage. However, some people here seem to think that I should not be pointing these flaws out, because the case has already been settled.

    @Maureen Brian and @sqlrob accuse me of calling women not fully human, because I’m discussing their rights. That’s bullshit. I fully acknowledge the womans rights. Otherwise there wouldn’t be a conflict, would there?

    No, the case is not settled. And it never will be if you pretend that it is.

  42. Sarah Duehr says

    Do you’ll realize that “the right to choose” does not just mean the right to an abortion, but sometimes the right to NOT to have an abortion for moral/emotional reasons? Everyone seems to focus on the women (or if you insist “people who can get pregnant”) who choose to have an abortion — mostly, and rightly, because their right to make that choice has so often been taken from them. However, do not scoff at the right to choose to remain pregnant for nonreligious moral reasons.

    I admit that no-one has actually said that women don’t have the right to choose to remain pregnant when they would prefer not to — it’s just the general vibe I got when reading the comments above.

    Does that get too close to the abortion debate? I didn’t think so…

  43. says

    In the case of abortion, there is. The womans right to bodily autonomy and the baby’s right to life are conflicting rights.

    If I need a kidney to live, and you are the only available match, would you say my right to life is in conflict with your right to bodily autonomy?

    If not, why does a fetus have a greater “right to life” than an adult?

  44. sarah00 says

    The problem with all these debates about the morality of abortions seem to miss one vital aspect. Women who need them will get abortions. Once it stops being a theoretical debate over the rights of the foetus against the rights of the mother and becomes ‘oh shit, I’m pregnant and I’m not in a position to be able to raise a child right now’, the highfaluting moral and ethical considerations largely go out the window. If abortions are illegal then women will seek out illegal abortions which puts their life at risk. The fact that women are willing to do that should be some indication of the lengths we will go to in order to exercise our bodily autonomy.

    It really feels like the debate is focusing on the wrong thing. It increasingly reminds me of the climate change debate which has got bogged down in debating whether or not climate change is happening (yes) and whether man’s responsible (yes, but even if we weren’t it wouldn’t change the fact it’s happening) instead of debating what we can do to mitigate the worst of its effects. Abortion has got bogged down in debating whether it’s a moral thing to do which completely ignores the fact that even if it was decided it wasn’t a moral thing to do, women would still do it. The debate should be on how best to reduce the number of abortions (if that’s what’s decided needs to be done) without criminalising a perfectly reasonable response to an unwanted situation (and a response that has been used by women throughout history to greater or lesser success).

  45. Beth says

    “So why is abortion a special case?”

    This question has such an obvious answer that I find it disingenuous. Because abortion involves another human being. That’s the response you will get from every individual who argues against abortion, including those who are pro-choice for the first and perhaps the second trimester but support limitations imposed on late-term pregnancy terminations. Conflicts between different rights happen all the time in our society. The right to life of the unborn versus the right to bodily autonomy of the pregnant woman is one of those conflicts.

    “If the right to abortion is up for debate, then my right to have consensual sex with whoever I choose, my right to masturbate, my right to dress as I please, my right to not be raped, are all up for debate as well.”

    Yes, these can all be debated although most are not currently popular subjects. We live in a society in which you and I can exercise any and all of those rights*. With the exception of masturbation (I don’t think that has been illegal in the US), these are all relatively recent victories for women in our society. Even the right of women to vote has been the law of our land for less than a century and could be lost if a concerted effort were made to revoke it.
    Just as women in the 20th century were able to work together to convince our society that changes to our laws were for the best, those who disagree have the same rights that you do to publicly discuss their opinions and the changes they want to see in our society. Just because something is currently legal doesn’t mean it will always be legal. If you think about that for a minute, I’m sure you will agree that it is important for a free society to allow all people to debate, discuss and protest what they consider to be bad laws.

    Let’s treat the basic bodily autonomy of people with uteruses** as a subject that’s up for discussion, a subject that reasonable people can disagree about. And let’s be calm and reasonable about it.

    You don’t have to participate or even listen to their arguments. You can reject them as poor justification for the laws they advocate. But in a free society, such as ours, all rights are up for debate at all times. When enough citizens are convinced that either more restrictions or more freedom is a better choice, laws can be changed. Only if you want to participate in the societal debate about those laws do you need to be calm and reasonable. Actually, calm and reasonable is not a requirement for participation, only for effectiveness in persuading those who disagree to your point of view.

    The point is that they are treating women’s right to basic physical autonomy as just another interesting political topic for discussion and debate. The point is that they are showing little to no understanding about why people are so enraged about this, and little to no concern about that rage.

    You are right that your rage is not a concern to them. I’m not sure why you think it should be for anyone that isn’t a personal friend of yours. But I think your rage is really about the fact that there still exists a sizable portion of our society – including some atheists – who feel that abortion is morally wrong and are workgin to limit it or ban it altogether. Your rage seems to be about the fact that so many people in our society do not agree with you that the woman’s right to bodily autonomy supersedes the unborn’s right to life at all stages of pregnancy that supporters of abortion rights must also remain active and work to keep them from succeeding despite having won the legal battle some decades ago.

    women getting our basic humanity called into question for the 874,905,836,513th time

    I see this argument a lot. I have a problem with the equivocation between the right to a safe legal abortion and women’s basic humanity. Advocating for limits on legal abortion doesn’t imply anything about the humanity of women any more than arguments for minimum age limits on sexual consent, voting, or anything else are implying they don’t think children are fully human. This kind of spurious argument paints those who disagree with you as monsters who think of women as less than human. It’s not a convincing argument but it is an effective silencing tactic.

    *actually, there are currently laws against public nudity, so your right to dress as you please is still constrained a bit in our society albeit not as much as in other societies or in our recent past.

  46. says

    I’d like to get meta-meta, because what really pisses me off is that American Atheists felt the need to go to CPAC at all. The fact that reaching out to a bunch of angry conservatives is their idea of expanding the movement says to me that the disturbing attitudes in David Silverman’s quote go a lot deeper than just this one area.

    Think about this: of all the things they could have done with AA’s money and time, they decided to prioritize going to a room full of rich right-wingers in the name of “reaching out.” I can guarantee you that this was not a trivial effort either in terms of time or money. Those same resources could have been used instead to build up AA’s support in black or Latino communities, or to expand presence in queer or working class communities, but out of all of those options, they decided that it would be best if AA tried to pick up a few stray members from the right wing.

    That’s really disturbing to me, and says that AA has issues that need to be addressed above and beyond Silverman’s attitudes towards abortion.

  47. says

    The right to life of the unborn versus the right to bodily autonomy of the pregnant woman is one of those conflicts.

    And yet you don’t actually state why this is the only conflict between autonomy and life that people take seriously.

  48. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Beth, arguing that women should have anything but unfettered freedom to decide whether to remain pregant *is* monstrous. It is. There’s no need to worry about people being painted as “monsters;” ordinary people all the time advocate for monstrous ideas even though they’re not themselves “monsters,” whatever that is.

    So, yes, it’s monstrous to deny women the right to abort under any circumstances. It’s horrible. And it does horrible, awful violence in the real world. You’re exacerbating that problem.

  49. Josh, Official SpokesGay says

    Fetuses don’t have a right to life. They don’t have rights at all. They don’t have interests, either.

  50. sqlrob says

    “So why is abortion a special case?”

    This question has such an obvious answer that I find it disingenuous. Because abortion involves another human being.

    Forcing organ donation could save another human being. Why is abortion a special case?

    The only thing disingenuous about it is you thinking it’s disingenuous.

  51. cswella says

    @Sarah Duehr #48:

    The right to have a baby is not the same discussion as the right to not have a baby. Stop making noises about x when we’re discussing y.

  52. says

    Sarah Duehr

    However, do not scoff at the right to choose to remain pregnant for nonreligious moral reasons.

    I admit that no-one has actually said that women don’t have the right to choose to remain pregnant when they would prefer not to — it’s just the general vibe I got when reading the comments above.

    You admit nobody said it. That’s a good start. But where the hell are you getting that vibe from? It’s got to be your imagination, because it’s patently absurd. Nobody is saying that being pro-choice means you have to get an abortion, for fuck’s sake. Because that would be ridiculous. Pro-choice means it’s her choice. This shouldn’t even have to be stated, it’s so obvious.

  53. Thomas Hobbes says

    @Arren ›‹ neverbound #47

    No it’s not. It is a convention, “Arren”.

    You may want to argue about a fetus not being human, however, that’s what some want not to be debated.

    @Josh, Official SpokesGay #50

    I’m not sure know what you mean by “making words at people” but I have the feeling that some people are making words at me, not the other way around.

    @Nathaniel Frein #54

    Because the world is sexist. We know that. But that’s no reason not to take this conflict seriously.

    @Beth #52

    Thank you, you said it much clearer than I did.

  54. cswella says

    @Hobbes

    In the case of abortion, there is. The womans right to bodily autonomy and the baby’s right to life are conflicting rights.

    So abortion and same-sex marriage are not a fair comparison. Not to mention ridiculous things like angels on pins.

    The ‘baby’ has the same rights over the woman as straight married couples have over gay couples marriage.

    None. There is no conflict, other than your mistaken assertion that a fetus has the same rights as a fully developed human being.

  55. says

    Because the world is sexist. We know that. But that’s no reason not to take this conflict seriously.

    Actually, yes it is. If the only reason for people to take a conflict seriously is sexism, then that reason is not compelling, and is justification for dismissing that reason.

    This is no different from dismissing godless arguments for slavery because they’re rooted it racism.

  56. cswella says

    @Greta:

    Sorry for the above post, I’m not going to get sucked into a debate on abortion.

  57. Thomas Hobbes says

    This shouldn’t even have to be stated, it’s so obvious.

    You know what? Please point out what is so obvious about it, instead of just stating that it is, then we can indeed close the debate.

  58. =8)-DX says

    A note on meta:

    I’ve lately shied out of visiting my RC parents, because I let out that I was pro-choice (and a leftie pro-gay-marriage feminist) and my Dad wrote me an e-mail saying we needed to sit down and *discuss my views*. I’m torn between the moral responsibility of expressing the pro-choice view for them to perhaps understand (although it will probably have no influence) and the horrible experience “debating” things with my parents will be.

    Is this kind of “debate” with fundamentalist family members important? They’re not in any position to decide on abortions which are legal in my country and they’ve devoted their lives to the pro-life cause so I’ll probably not even rattle their cage.

  59. Sarah Duehr says

    Erülóra Maikalambe said “Nobody is saying that being pro-choice means you have to get an abortion, for fuck’s sake. Because that would be ridiculous. Pro-choice means it’s her choice. This shouldn’t even have to be stated, it’s so obvious.”

    I wasn’t exactly saying that being pro-choice meant thinking a woman had to get an abortion. Just that some pro-choice people think a woman /should/ get an abortion if she didn’t want to be pregnant. I think we should respect a woman’s decision to remain pregnant, even if she doesn’t entirely want to be.

    Erg, didn’t want to get into a debate, just clarifying what I meant.

  60. says

    @65 =8)-DX:

    I don’t think your mental health is worth an experience that, on balance, won’t change your parent’s views in any significant way.

    (as an aside: if you don’t mind, what’s the proper way to orient the emoji you’re using for a nym?)

  61. Thomas Hobbes says

    @cswella #61

    “None. There is no conflict, other than your mistaken assertion that a fetus has the same rights as a fully developed human being.”

    I didn’t assert that. In fact it is not even my opinion. However, to establish when someone, born or unborn, does have rights, we need to debate. The anti-choice movement thinks it’s from conception. Most of us agree that there are no good arguments for that. But then, from when is it? From birth? We should be able to debate that.

  62. Arren ›‹ neverbound says

    OK, Pierce was on the money in #44 — I apologize for contributing to the derail.

    Greta:

    But I am not going to host a debate about the basic right to abortion — any more than I would host a debate about whether gay people should be locked up in prisons or mental institutions for being gay.

    Hobbes: if you wish to continue pursuing this topic on FtB, please do so here.

  63. Arren ›‹ neverbound says

    ::sigh:: Sorry about that.

    Hobbes: if you wish to continue pursuing this topic on FtB, please do so here.

  64. Thomas Hobbes says

    @Nathaniel Frein #62

    I agree with you if the only reason for people to take a conflict seriously is sexism. But you can’t claim a reason to be sexist beforehand without falling into circular reasoning.

  65. Thomas Hobbes says

    “Arren” I am not debating the right to abortion. I am debating the right to debate.

  66. says

    I agree with you if the only reason for people to take a conflict seriously is sexism. But you can’t claim a reason to be sexist beforehand without falling into circular reasoning.

    Um, sorry, what? The debate is being dismissed because it has already been held, and because it has been found to be sexist.

    There is nothing new to this debate that hasn’t been said ten, twenty, thirty, forty, or more years ago. Dismissing this isn’t circular logic. It’s just referring to notes already taken rather than reinventing first principles.

  67. Arren ›‹ neverbound says

    Sarah Duehr.

    I guess I should offer a disclaimer that the link is to Pharyngula, a different blog on FtB. Specifically, it’s to the “Thunderdome”, where Jefferson’s ridicule runs amok.

    Proceed at your own risk, be warned, there be dragons, etc.

  68. Beth says

    @54 – I don’t think this is the only conflict between autonomy and life that people take seriously – there is the right to die as well. It’s the only one that involves two humans with conflicting rights so I suspect that’s why it’s generates the most attention.
    @55 – I can only say that I disagree regarding that people who argue for abortions having legal limitation are monsters. They are just people with a different point of view and moral values.
    @56 – I think this is straying into an actual argument about abortion rather than a discussion about arguing about abortion.
    @57 –Are you familiar with fat man trolley problem (n.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trolley_problem#The_fat_man)? I think it’s the same instinct that leads people to conclude that pulling a train switch that kills one innocent man and saves five others is morally different from pushing a fat man off a bridge to save five people.

  69. cswella says

    @Thomas Hobbes #68:

    I didn’t assert that. In fact it is not even my opinion. However, to establish when someone, born or unborn, does have rights, we need to debate. The anti-choice movement thinks it’s from conception. Most of us agree that there are no good arguments for that. But then, from when is it? From birth? We should be able to debate that.

    Without that assertion, there is no discussion. As long as you accept the fact that everyone has total bodily autonomy, what is there to discuss? The fetus only has a right to live once it has left the womb. Push the timetable back a little bit, and you infringe on bodily autonomy. Clear and decisive.

  70. says

    I don’t think this is the only conflict between autonomy and life that people take seriously – there is the right to die as well. It’s the only one that involves two humans with conflicting rights so I suspect that’s why it’s generates the most attention.

    Abortion is not the only situation that involves two humans with conflicting rights. It’s simply the only one where people challenge the supremacy of autonomy. We don’t argue that blood donations should be mandatory. We don’t argue that organ donations can be compelled. Why is the only time where autonomy is challenged the one where only people with a uterus are at stake?

  71. Thomas Hobbes says

    @cswella #77
    “Without that assertion, there is no discussion.”

    Well, here are two assertions:

    @Josh, Official SpokesGay #56
    “Fetuses don’t have a right to life. They don’t have rights at all. They don’t have interests, either.”

    @sqlrob #57
    “Forcing organ donation could save another human being. Why is abortion a special case?”

    These are exactly the things Greta doesn’t want us to debate. I’d love to reply but I’m not allowed to. That’s okay as far as her own blog is concerned, but some seem to think we shouldn’t debate it at all.

  72. Onamission5 says

    Do you’ll realize that “the right to choose” does not just mean the right to an abortion, but sometimes the right to NOT to have an abortion for moral/emotional reasons?

    I am having a “no shit, Sherlock” moment. NO SHIT, SHERLOCK. I have seriously not even once seen anyone on this blog network who comments remotely thoughtfully on abortion or reproduction (and people who don’t, generally do not last long) say that people who can become pregnant *ought* to have abortions. Do you have any idea how many of us are parents ourselves? I’ve got four kids. That’s why I am pro-choice. It was my right to choose to remain pregnant and it needs to be other people’s choice to do so or not at their discretion.

    But sure, have fun tilting at that imaginary straw windmill.

  73. Onamission5 says

    In other words, “should be able to if they want” =/= “have to even if they don’t want,” whether we’re talking about having abortions, adoptions, or becoming a parent. That’s what the word choice is all about.

  74. cswella says

    @Hobbes 79:

    So what? You’re talking about debating abortion, what do you think needs to be debated? The only way to have a debate about abortion is for one side to disregard autonomy. Where is the discussion otherwise?

    The assertion that the fetus would have the right to live already implies that the womb is theirs, since their survival depends on it.

    So you want to have a debate? Find something to actually debate that doesn’t infringe on bodily autonomy, and we can do that. Until then, any debate on abortion is a discussion on how women don’t have rights when they’re pregnant.

  75. Beth says

    Abortion is not the only situation that involves two humans with conflicting rights. It’s simply the only one where people challenge the supremacy of autonomy. We don’t argue that blood donations should be mandatory. We don’t argue that organ donations can be compelled. Why is the only time where autonomy is challenged the one where only people with a uterus are at stake?

    I said it was the only conflict between autonomy and life involving two people. However, I stand corrected. Mandatory organ or blood donations would fit that description. They aren’t currently being debated in our society because too few people are interested in doing so. I think the reason has to do with the fat man trolley problem I cited above. It’s certainly possible that someday such ‘donations’ could be mandated. Some interesting science fiction has been written about that theme.

    The right to life is generally considered to be the more important right and it’s only overridden in certain circumstances which are constantly under debate and evolving. Consider the ‘stand your ground’ laws for example – a relatively recent and controversial law that places the right of a citizen to ‘hold their ground’ in a public space over the right to life of a suspected attacker.

  76. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    “Yes, we may debate your bodily autonomy, and you may debate mine.”

    And yet, we conveniently NEVER have cause to debate your bodily autonomy, just mine. Funny how that works, huh. We could totally talk about your bodily autonomy. Let’s talk about how everyone takes YOURS for GRANTED. Let’s talk about how YOURS will never be under attack. Let’s talk about how mine always are, and how people who will never be threatened in that wat are always trying to convince me that’s okay because “fweetought!”

    How can I take seriously the constant assertion that a woman should have less rights than a fucking corpse because it’s not nice to not talk about it.

    Disgusting.

  77. says

    They aren’t currently being debated in our society because too few people are interested in doing so.

    I know, right? Our society seems to think that the answer to whether or not right to life gives the state the right to appropriate an organ is obvious in those cases. And yet they don’t think the answer is obvious when the organ being appropriated only belongs to half of society (give or take).

    I think the reason has to do with the fat man trolley problem I cited above.

    Sexism seems like the more obvious answer to me.

  78. says

    Hobbes

    You know what? Please point out what is so obvious about it, instead of just stating that it is, then we can indeed close the debate.

    Because we’re advocating CHOICE. Try not to sound like a numbskull.

    Sarah

    I wasn’t exactly saying that being pro-choice meant thinking a woman had to get an abortion. Just that some pro-choice people think a woman /should/ get an abortion if she didn’t want to be pregnant. I think we should respect a woman’s decision to remain pregnant, even if she doesn’t entirely want to be.

    Some people this. Some people that. Drop the Fox News act. Show me one example in this thread of somebody coming close to implying that a pregnant person should have an abortion whether they want one or not. Otherwise you are putting words in people’s mouths and derailing a conversation about the right to choose to have an abortion over an imaginary notion that pro-choicers are actually anti-choice.

  79. says

    The right to life is generally considered to be the more important right and it’s only overridden in certain circumstances which are constantly under debate and evolving. Consider the ‘stand your ground’ laws for example – a relatively recent and controversial law that places the right of a citizen to ‘hold their ground’ in a public space over the right to life of a suspected attacker.

    Not a good example. Not a good example at all. If anything it proves the opposite of what you think it does.

    Stand Your Ground (and Castle Doctrine) is nominally predicated on right to autonomy, not right to life. The idea is that my bodily autonomy (hell, my property rights) is (are) so important that I can abrogate the right to life of any person who attacks me.

    I fully realize that the ways in which SYG laws are applied always wind up mired (and based) in racism. But they do prove that our society in it’s rhetoric holds autonomy greater (sometimes far greater) than life.

    Except in one situation.

    When the organ in question is a uterus.

  80. cswella says

    Try to imagine the feeling of getting together a racially-mixed group of people, and telling them that the discussion on concentration camps should be debated for the sake of an open discussion, because we’re all freethinkers. Sure, I can probably think of a few ‘good’ reasons to have the camps, but in reality, they’re all bad reasons.

    But that feeling of telling a group of people that should be discussed would make me feel disgusting and embarrassed. Why doing the same here doesn’t make Hobbes or Sarah embarrassed, I don’t know.

  81. Parse says

    Illuminata @ 85
    “And yet, we conveniently NEVER have cause to debate your bodily autonomy, just mine.”
    I think that sentence is what the entire argument boils down to. It’s funny (as in ‘this milk smells funny’) that the people who insist that everything should be up for debate, they insist on only debating this issue, and on the anti-abortion side. If they disagree with abortion, they should at least have the courage of their convictions to say that the topic and their opinion is important. Instead, they try to disguise their interest by pretending this is just another question up for debate, like who was the best Monkee or what’s the best flavor of Skittle.

  82. says

    Do you’ll realize that “the right to choose” does not just mean the right to an abortion, but sometimes the right to NOT to have an abortion for moral/emotional reasons?

    Do you realize that there are modes of thinking besides prescriptive authoritarianism?

  83. Beth says

    @88: You are mistaken about what I think it shows. I agree that it is an instance of the right to autonomy as overriding the right to life. I think it shows that our societal judgment about when a conflict arises between these rights, the appropriate resolution of that conflict is not constant over time. When the right to personal autonomy trumps someone else’s right to life can change. Human rights are basically a human construct and the only ‘obvious’ resolutions are those that our society has near 100% agreement on. Abortion is NOT one of those, which is why I don’t have a problem with debate on the issue continuing.

  84. says

    I think it shows that our societal judgment about when a conflict arises between these rights, the appropriate resolution of that conflict is not constant over time.

    Name one situation where life has been allowed to trump bodily autonomy that isn’t pregnancy.

  85. says

    I’d like to draw your attention to a great blog post that my friend Ania Onion put up, highlighting a number of other issues that we should be debating, if our commitment to freethought is as thorough as people like Hobbes think it should be.

    #UpForDebate

    So since so many in the rationalist skeptic community insist that the only reasonable thing is to have debates in which both sides of the issue with regards to human rights, I think I’ve decided to jump on the bandwagon. They’re right. We do need to start discussing these issues. So with that in mind:

    Do you think we can trust men to make their own medical decisions? I think that so many of them have made irresponsible choices so I think it is time we started legislating who has access to viagra, condoms, and so forth.

    Also, unless they have a life threatening condition, all men should be required to donate plasma, bone marrow, and organs to those who need them. After all, we are talking about saving a human life! Since we can’t trust them to make the right decision when it comes to maintaining life we have to make it for them. From now on, any man who doesn’t want to donate an organ has to have dinner with the organ recipient so that they can really understand the life they are taking away by making that sort of medical decision…

    The point, of course, is, just like the complete lack of conversation about mandatory blood/plasma/bone marrow donation, the lack of debate on subject such as these reveals the absurdity of insisting that the continued interest in finding justifications for condemning, if not imprisoning, women who get abortions, is not based in high-minded commitment to open inquiry, but simple sexism. And propositions grounded in irrational thought systems such as sexism do not need to be debated, they need to be dismissed.

  86. oneMerlin says

    It’s only two and a half hours since the original post, and it’s already too many posts for me to read all of them, so I hope this isn’t redundant. But I did want to speak to the original question:

    Why is abortion different?

    And the direct answer is: Death. It’s literally a question of death for the fetus; regardless of whether you feel that life begins at fertilization, heartbeat, viability, or birth, the result of an abortion is a lack of life for the fetus. And the irrevocable nature of death gives it a weight that other issues don’t carry.

    As it happens, I agree with the pro-choice view that abortions should be safe, legal, and as rare as possible. Contraception should be widely and easily available, and next-day contraception should be as well; anyone who denies contraception is anti-sex rather than pro-life.

    But even on that basis, I have to acknowledge that abortion means absolute termination, and that has a ethical weight that same-sex marriage doesn’t usually carry. And that weight is what informs the debate and makes the issues so intractable.

  87. Greta Christina says

    Thomas Hobbes: Please note that I did not say anywhere in this post that no pro-choice advocates should ever debate abortion anywhere. However:

    1) I want pro-choice advocates to respond to anti-choice arguments (when they choose to do so) with the same level of outrage, ridicule, and moral revulsion they would treat arguments for imprisoning gay people, enslaving black people, marital rape, and other violations of bodily autonomy.

    2) I want pro-choice advocates to quit telling women and people with uteruses to be more polite, kinder, and less angry when their basic right to bodily autonomy is debated, or when people handle the issue in a piss-poor way.

    3) I do not want to host that debate in my own blog.

    How difficult is that? Do you have any objections to any of that?

  88. Greta Christina says

    Do you’ll realize that “the right to choose” does not just mean the right to an abortion, but sometimes the right to NOT to have an abortion for moral/emotional reasons? Everyone seems to focus on the women (or if you insist “people who can get pregnant”) who choose to have an abortion — mostly, and rightly, because their right to make that choice has so often been taken from them. However, do not scoff at the right to choose to remain pregnant for nonreligious moral reasons.

    Sarah Duehr @ #48: Have you ever seen a pro-choice advocate argue for forced abortion? In the United States, this isn’t nearly as common an issue as forced pregnancy. When it does come up, though (as it does with the population laws in China, which involve forced abortion), have you ever seen a pro-choice advocate speak of this with anything other than revulsion?

    Just that some pro-choice people think a woman /should/ get an abortion if she didn’t want to be pregnant.

    Sarah Duehr @ #66: Citation seriously needed. Who thinks that? Name me one pro-choice advocate who thinks women “should” do anything with their pregnancies other than what they themselves choose to do.

    Please do not derail. Thank you.

  89. Greta Christina says

    Just because something is currently legal doesn’t mean it will always be legal. If you think about that for a minute, I’m sure you will agree that it is important for a free society to allow all people to debate, discuss and protest what they consider to be bad laws.

    Beth @ #52: Please note my reply to Thomas Hobbes in #98 above. I’m not saying “don’t debate.” I’m saying “don’t treat the anti-choice arguments as having any moral reasonableness; don’t tone-troll women/ people with uteruses who are expressing rage about restrictions on their basic bodily autonomy; don’t have that debate in my blog. You are treading very close to violating crossing #3: continue to do so, and you will be banned.

    Only if you want to participate in the societal debate about those laws do you need to be calm and reasonable. Actually, calm and reasonable is not a requirement for participation, only for effectiveness in persuading those who disagree to your point of view.

    Do you think arguments against imprisoning gay people or enslaving black people should always be engaged in calmly and reasonably? Do you not recognize any persuasive value in rage? Please go read “Why Are You Atheists So Angry?” before continuing in this vein. Thank you.

    The right to life is generally considered to be the more important right and it’s only overridden in certain circumstances which are constantly under debate and evolving.

    Beth @ #84: And you just crossed the line from a meta-debate about this controversy into debating against abortion itself — i.e., debating people’s right to bodily autonomy, and our right to not be forced into donating our organs for nine months. This is a violation of the clearly stated comment policy. You have been put into comment moderation. Future comments will have to be approved by me before they are posted here.

  90. BMcHell says

    Nathaniel Frein @95,

    Name one situation where life has been allowed to trump bodily autonomy that isn’t pregnancy.

    How about in the case of conjoined twins, specifically wherein separation would endanger the life or well-being of one or both persons?

  91. stakkalee says

    @oneMerlin, nonsense. As has been shown repeatedly in this thread there are several other areas where a person’s right to bodily autonomy trumps the right of another individual to continue living, most notably in the cases of organ and plasma donation. Your objections have been previously considered and found to be irrelevant. What’s the value of continuing to have a ‘debate’ that was settled 40 years ago?

  92. says

    Just an observation: I’ve nothing against the idea of “reasonable debate”, per se. But, for some reason, whenever the phrase comes up in the atheosphere, particularly when discussing issues related to human rights and social justice, I get suspicious about the advocates of said “reasonable debate”.

    I mean, sure, it’s important to make sure that your arguments are based in sound logic and good evidence, and sure, it’s always good to be open to new ideas and new information…but why is it that this “reasonable debate” standard only gets waved around when it comes to respecting minority rights?

    Hell, as Greta pointed out in the OP, even some minority rights issues get less of the “hey, what about reasonable debate?” thrown at them than abortion does. Now, why might that be?

  93. says

    How about in the case of conjoined twins, specifically wherein separation would endanger the life or well-being of one or both persons?

    Unfortunately, I think my best response to that would cross the line in discourse that Greta has set. I will say that I have to snicker (well, lolsob is more like it) that you had to go so far outside normal life to dredge an example that is ethically muddy, and that I think that it is, in fact, so uncommon as to not be germane to the discussion. Abortion is an issue that directly impacts half the population.

  94. cswella says

    @oneMerlin #97:

    And the direct answer is: Death. It’s literally a question of death for the fetus; regardless of whether you feel that life begins at fertilization, heartbeat, viability, or birth, the result of an abortion is a lack of life for the fetus. And the irrevocable nature of death gives it a weight that other issues don’t carry.

    But even on that basis, I have to acknowledge that abortion means absolute termination, and that has a ethical weight that same-sex marriage doesn’t usually carry. And that weight is what informs the debate and makes the issues so intractable.

    I don’t see how this justifies a debate or modifies the bodily autonomy issue.

  95. smhll says

    I said it was the only conflict between autonomy and life involving two people. However, I stand corrected. Mandatory organ or blood donations would fit that description. They aren’t currently being debated in our society because too few people are interested in doing so. I think the reason has to do with the fat man trolley problem I cited above. It’s certainly possible that someday such ‘donations’ could be mandated. Some interesting science fiction has been written about that theme.

    My unsupported personal opinion is that quite a lot of people (mostly men) who are not at risk of pregnancy would switch sides on the “no bodily autonomy for you, you need to be the cradle of that life” (imaginary quote) if we were talking about mandating that they donate bone marrow. I don’t think we would see 100% flip-flopping, but I imagine there would be a lot of diving for loopholes.

  96. mhboc says

    Hobbes, I thought you were the smart one in the duo. Or are you really just a stuffed tiger?

    In your insistence that Greta debate her right to control her own body on her own blog you’re not being any different than the bigots who want to argue their bigotry (homo, racial, whatever). And beat us over the head with it.

    Yes, it’s true, there’s no debate!

    The underlying assumption here is that Greta (and all women) has/have the right to bodily autonomy. Just as homosexuals and non-whites have the right to equality.

    1) A fetus is not a person, so it doesn’t have equal rights.
    2) Even if we let you give that fetus person status, the fetus, like all people, does not have the right to force anyone else to donate organs or incubate even to save the fetus life.

    If you disagree, why insist she must engage? Why not go debate somewhere else – where white supremacists and homobigots are welcome to bring up irrelevant bullshit with political motives?

    When you come up with evidence to render her assumptions moot, maybe she’ll debate you. Until then, you’re no different than the bigots.

    You’re happy to dismiss the racists who think some humans are less human than whites. And yet here you are getting bent out of shape because we’re doing the same thing to the misogynists who want to treat women as less human than men.

    Perhaps you just hate women more than LBGT and non-whites? Or should you only be able to go to women to get the kidney, heart or liver you need to live?

  97. BMcHell says

    Nathaniel Frein @ 104,
    Perhaps your question was malformed, since you seem not to appreciate the answer. Also, what does the rarity of conjoined twins have to do with the price of tea in china?

  98. Beth says

    Greta @100

    I’m sorry you felt my comment crossed your line. I will not participate here any further .

  99. stakkalee says

    Interestingly enough, there’s legal precedent in Britain in the case of “Jodie” and “Mary” that conjoined twins CAN be separated even if it will result in the death of the weaker twin. So there’s another objection to abortion that’s already been considered and discarded.

  100. Greta Christina says

    How about in the case of conjoined twins, specifically wherein separation would endanger the life or well-being of one or both persons?

    BMcHell @ #101: What part of “I am not willing to host a debate about abortion in this blog” did you not understand?

    You have been put into comment moderation. Any future comments by you will have to be approved before they are posted. Please re-read the comment policy for this post (or read it for the first time, in case you ignored it earlier) before attempting to comment again. Thank you.

  101. Greta Christina says

    Why is abortion different?

    And the direct answer is: Death. It’s literally a question of death for the fetus; regardless of whether you feel that life begins at fertilization, heartbeat, viability, or birth, the result of an abortion is a lack of life for the fetus. And the irrevocable nature of death gives it a weight that other issues don’t carry.

    oneMerlin @ #97: What part of “I am not willing to host a debate about abortion in this blog” did you not understand?

    You have been put into comment moderation. Any future comments by you will have to be approved before they are posted. Please re-read the comment policy for this post (or read it for the first time, in case you ignored it earlier) before attempting to comment again. Thank you.

  102. DysgraphicProgrammer says

    While a generally agree with Greta I would like to propose ‘settled’ as replacement concept for “Not up for debate”.

    It’s not that we hate debate on the topic, so much as that we have already HAD a debate. People more qualified than you or me, with better access to the relevant data, debated this N years ago. They reached a conclusion. If you are not aware of the state of the issue, we will gladly point out places where you can catch yourself up. If you have a NEW argument, we might be willing to hear it, but you vastly underestimate the range of argument already fielded. Likewise, if you have new data, we’d like to see it. But we have a huge mountain of data already, so yours will have to be especially compelling to justify re-opening the issue. And you really haven’t considered all the ramifications of your argument.

    But if you want to barge in and shout the the same old debunked arguments, and the same data we have already dealt with, then you are just creating a nuisance. In a perfect world, we would redirect such nuisances to places where they can self-educate. But you have to understand that we get dozens of them a day. And when we kick them out, some of them put on a different hat and come back again. So we will ignore you. Forgive us if you are innocently uninformed, but it is hard to tell you from the trolls.

    This fits how I feel about a wide range of topics. Abortion, Contraception, Evolution, etc.

  103. says

    “That’s a straw man. Nobody is debating whether a woman is human.”

    No. It’s not a straw man. This is exactly what you don’t seem to understand. By treating this topic alone as if it’s reasonably debatable you are explicitly defining people capable of pregnancy, who are mainly women, as a different, special kind of human. And a ‘special kind’ of human isn’t really human.

    Whether you wish to acknowledge it or not, you have made the argument that “women” are a special subset of “human,” with a special status that is subject to public debate.

  104. Thomas Hobbes says

    @Greta Christina #112

    That’s not fair. If @oneMerlin is not allowed to answer, then why are people allowed to bring up the question? A comment policy should work both ways.

  105. Thomas Hobbes says

    @mhboc #107

    Fuck you. You know Greta’s comment policy disallows me to answer your questions. Easy for you to call me a woman hater.

  106. cswella says

    @ Hobbes 115:

    Discussing the actual abortion question is different than discussing why people should/shouldn’t discuss the abortion question. Also, discussing the people who do want to discuss the abortion question as sexist, isn’t discussing the abortion question.

    @hobbes 116:

    How can’t you respond to that? Nothing in that forces you to discuss abortion explicitly.

  107. Greta Christina says

    That’s not fair. If @oneMerlin is not allowed to answer, then why are people allowed to bring up the question? A comment policy should work both ways.

    Thomas Hobbes @ #112: Allow me to clarify. My comment policy for this post prohibits people from arguing — in my home, in my space — that I am morally required, and/or should be legally forced, to donate my organs to a zygote/ embryo/ fetus for nine months, and that my basic human right to bodily autonomy is less important than this supposed moral requirement. I will allow some very limited defenses of the right to abortion, in the context of making the meta-case explaining the repugnance of this position. I will, however, shut down pro-choice advocates if they persist in debating the actual abortion question when I’ve asked them not to.

    Similarly, I don’t allow homophobic bigotry in my space, but I still I allow people to point out just how unacceptable homophobic bigotry is — within reason, and with the understanding that people will back off from debates if I ask them to. I see no reason why I am morally required, in my home and in my space, to host bigotry against me. I do not see how this interferes with the spirit of free inquiry.

  108. Greta Christina says

    Note to everyone, on all sides of this debate: Please review my comment policy. In particular, please note my policy on aiming personal insults at other commenters (as opposed to insults aimed at ideas). Please respect this policy. Thank you.

  109. Al Dente says

    When I first read David Silverman’s “secular arguments against abortion” comment I was surprised. I understand that Silverman is attempting to reach out to conservatives and abortion is a hot item for many of them. But I saw the statement as Silverman throwing all women and many men under the bus. Many atheists, particularly most of the vocal ones, are liberals and pro-choice. Then Silverman whined about people having the gall to disagree with him. JT Eberhard leaped to Silverman’s defense: “How dare you plebs criticize Silverman?”

    If organized atheism, as exemplified by Silverman and Eberhard, can’t stand criticism then I don’t want to be part of it.

  110. felixw says

    Our society tolerates, even mandates, violations of bodily autonomy in countless ways, not just in relation to abortion. Just like any other right, the right to bodily autonomy competes with other rights in relative importance and in how it applies to specific situations. I think the meta issue here is that bodily autonomy, which I think has historically been a fairly weak right, is moving up in the rights hierarchy and that causes a lot turmoil as people hold different and changing positions on how it balances against other considerations. And debates about it are going to come up again and again precisely because it’s not a settled issue.

    I’m a bit puzzled by the link to the Thomson article, which I though was extremely good. Perhaps we are reading this differently but I see Thomson as saying: 1) bodily autonomy is an important and powerful argument against anti-abortion positions, 2) that right is limited, and 3) here are some considerations to include in the debate over when bodily autonomy trumps abortion restrictions and when it doesn’t.

    Isn’t her essay exactly the debate that you (Greta) are angry about? She is certainly not arguing that bodily autonomy is of such primacy that any argument for abortion restrictions can be dismissed out of hand.

  111. says

    Our society tolerates, even mandates, violations of bodily autonomy in countless ways, not just in relation to abortion.

    By all means, please cite them.

  112. says

    I suggest that before we discuss the secular pro-life arguments, all the pro-life atheists should travel to Iran and have a nice discussion with the authorities there about what rights atheists are entitled to. The ones that make it back in one piece can then join the discussion about abortion.

    See, it’s easy to discuss something when it’s all abstract and you know it’s never actually going to affect you in any real way. Under those circumstances, you can discuss anything, because it’s just another intellectual exercise.

    However, when you’re in a situation where the discussion might actually have consequences for you, and those consequences might include you dying or going through horrible physical pain, suddenly it’s not so funny to discuss it anymore.

    Discussing abortion isn’t innocuous because it’s a very real concern for people. It’s not just a chance for you to stretch your intellectual muscles; people are dying over this. If pro-lifers gave half as much thought to women as they do to fetuses, I think the debate would look very different indeed.

  113. Greta Christina says

    Our society tolerates, even mandates, violations of bodily autonomy in countless ways, not just in relation to abortion.

    By all means, please cite them.

    felixw @ #122: Please do not cite them. Nathaniel Frein @ #123: Please don’t encourage felixw to cite them. felixw is already veering dangerously close to the “no debates about the actual issues of abortion here” limit. Please don’t encourage him to cross it. Thanks.

  114. says

    Greta, you know I have enormous respect for you, and I have learned so much from reading your work over the years. But you are just wrong on this. For one, you have seriously misrepresented the secular pro-life argument, and if you take the time to go back and read it with a cool head, I know you are smart enough to see that.

    More to the point, the problem here, the problem that I believe Hemant and Dave and others are trying to combat, is that the secular community is outright hostile to atheists openly advocating a pro-life position. Just look at how Rebecca Watson and crew responded to the representatives of Secular Pro-Life who tabled at the 2012 American Atheists convention. That is not how our community should treat fellow nonbelievers. Even nonbelievers who are wrong about an issue of fundamental human rights. There is no special treatment of abortion here. If there were atheists who were genuinely anti-gay-marriage, but who never the less treated any gay person they met with the same respect that my pro-life friends treat me with, and those atheists were accused of being liars and a spies for the religious right simply for walking into an atheist space and opening his mouth on gay marriage, I would be just as appalled as I am by how the secular community has treated pro-lifers. And I would see an equal need for people like Hemant and Dave to reach out and show that the entire atheist community is not dogmatic and hateful of our political opponents.

  115. Illuminata, Genie in the Beer Bottle says

    Shorter Frank: Greta, you’re just an emotional GURL. Emotional gurls should shut up, sit down and be nice to those that actively try to take away their rights. For the Movement!

  116. mhboc says

    @felixw#122 please explain how our society tolerates, even mandates violations of bodily autonomy in countless ways other than law enforcement. The state does rape. But even at that, other than the institutional racism and wealth privilege built into the system, how are those violations aimed at specific groups in the population?

    @hobbes #116 well, no, fuck YOU unless that violates the comment policy. I don’t see how you can’t respond. My post had 19 lines, and you’re saying you can’t respond because 1/2 of one of those lines included “Perhaps you just hate women more than LBGT and non-whites?” Did you answer and was the response killed by the moderator? If so, my apologies, if not, fuck you – again, if it’s not against policy.

    I have a friend who’s a tenther. Keep the feds out, states rights, states can make these laws but the feds can’t intervene etc. I tell him that he hates Blacks because that means we’d still have segregation, if not slavery, based on his tentherism in the extreme. It pisses him off to no end, but he does admit that’s at least one part of his tentherism that disturbs him.

    It sounds like you don’t even necessarily want women to be incubators, but you want the shitheads to be able to troll it on Greta’s blog. In defending that despite her explicit statements, you’re also trolling. I say tenthers hate Blacks because of the extraordinarily negative effects tenthers views have on Blacks. I say forced birthers hate women because of the extraordinarily negative effects their views have on women.

    If they didn’t think it was OK to fuck with Blacks/women simply because of who they are, they wouldn’t hold those views. And that’s hatin’ – so why talk about how it’s OK to hate? An exception would be in the political sphere where the shitheads need to be slapped down to prevent their views from becoming policy. But that’s not this blog, now is it?

  117. felixw says

    @Nathaniel 113 Seriously? Off the top of my head. Prisons, almost anything about the criminal justice system – dna tests, strip searches, fingerprinting, pictures, mental institutions, community service, mandated drug rehab, prostitution laws, drug laws, education, quarantine, school vaccinations, airport screening, do not fly lists, tax codes, child neglect laws, vast swatches of allowable parental practices, seatbelt laws, age restrictions of various sorts, building codes. And, unfortunately, abortion restrictions.

    All of those impose some limitations on bodily autonomy. Most are considered pretty acceptable. At least using a definition of bodily autonomy somewhat along the lines of: a right to control how my body is used and what it is used for.

  118. mhboc says

    @felix #122 don’t respond!

    @Frank Bellamy #127 are you OK with the secular community being outright hostile to white supremacists? If not, I can certainly see why you’d be upset with the treatment of the forced birthers.

    Greta has made it clear she views the forced birthers, homobigots and white supremacists the same. The other bloggers who want to work with forced birthers are free to in their environments, but that doesn’t mean this blog must because they do.

    I’m aOK with forced birthers being shunned just like the white supremacists and homobigots.

    Wonder why there’s so much discussion about the treatment of women in your secular community? Look in the mirror. If you have a misogynist friend, now is the time for that friendship to end. http://ow.ly/uzmPf

  119. Al Dente says

    Frank Bellemy @128

    the problem that I believe Hemant and Dave and others are trying to combat, is that the secular community is outright hostile to atheists openly advocating a pro-life position. Just look at how Rebecca Watson and crew responded to the representatives of Secular Pro-Life who tabled at the 2012 American Atheists convention.

    When a group, for whatever reason seems good to them, deny the humanity of half the world’s population, it seems reasonable to me that this group be told where to get off. Despite what Silverman et al may claim, there is no secular argument against abortion. All the “secular” arguments are religious arguments with the theist serial numbers filed off.

    I just thought of a secular argument, but “abortion icks me out” is not an argument worth the breath spend to say it.

  120. says

    Frank Bellamy:

    That is not how our community should treat fellow nonbelievers.

    Just because someone is a nonbeliever doesn’t mean they’re my fellows in any sense of the word. We may agree on the atheism bit, but that’s just one subject and by no means the most important one.

  121. says

    Frank:

    For one, you have seriously misrepresented the secular pro-life argument, and if you take the time to go back and read it with a cool head, I know you are smart enough to see that.

    For someone you claim to respect, this is condescending as all get out. There is no level of cool headedness that makes discussing someone’s bodily autonomy when they don’t want to discuss it okay. I think she nails it right in her own post:

    2) I want pro-choice advocates to quit telling women and people with uteruses to be more polite, kinder, and less angry when their basic right to bodily autonomy is debated, or when people handle the issue in a piss-poor way.

  122. Greta Christina says

    Greta, you know I have enormous respect for you

    Frank Bellamy @ #127: Actually, I don’t know anything of the kind. You seem to think that the question of whether or not I should be forced to donate my organs to a zygote/ embryo/ fetus for nine months is a matter that’s up for reasonable debate. That’s a funny definition of “respect.”

    For one, you have seriously misrepresented the secular pro-life argument

    No, I haven’t. But to get into that would be getting into the actual debate about abortion, and I’m not willing to do that here. Shame on you for trying to sneak it in the back door.

    More to the point, the problem here, the problem that I believe Hemant and Dave and others are trying to combat, is that the secular community is outright hostile to atheists openly advocating a pro-life position.

    You see this as a problem?

    Yes, the secular movement is hostile to atheists openly advocating an anti-choice position. (Do not call it “pro-life” — that lends it respectability.) It is also hostile to atheists openly opposing gay rights, openly opposing vaccination, and some other issues. I don’t have a problem with that. As I have written before: There is no way for organized atheism to be welcoming to all atheists. There is no way to welcome women, and also to welcome misogynists; to welcome black people, and also to welcome racists; etc. I only wish we were more hostile to the open advocacy of the anti-choice position — the degree to which atheists seem to consider this an open question makes my blood run cold.

    If there were atheists who were genuinely anti-gay-marriage, but who never the less treated any gay person they met with the same respect that my pro-life friends treat me with…

    Stop right there. In what world should people who are genuinely anti-same-sex-marriage be considered to be treating gay people with respect? (Not counting the internal debates in the LGBT movement.) Does the fact that they don’t spit in gay people’s faces or scream at them about how they’re going to hell somehow mitigate their fundamental lack of respect?

    This prioritization of pleasantness and civility over actual respect for people’s humanity is bullshit. If you expect me to be nice and respectful and welcoming to people who want to take away my basic humanity and right to bodily autonomy, you have not been reading my work as carefully as you claim.

  123. Greta Christina says

    @felixw#122 please explain how our society tolerates, even mandates violations of bodily autonomy in countless ways other than law enforcement.

    @felixw#122: Please don’t. mhboc @ #129: Please don’t ask others to engage in the actual debate about abortion here. And yes, telling other commenters “fuck you” is a violation of my comment policy. It’s pretty much a textbook example of it. Please don’t do it.

  124. oneMerlin says

    I regret that I was obviously not clear in my earlier statement. I say I was not clear, not as an apology, but because I saw three people (including, very regrettably, Greta herself) respond to a position I was not attempting to take. This would make my failure obvious even to an idiot, and I claim not to be an idiot. A fool, quite possibly, considering that I’m about to take a second bite out of this apple, but not an idiot.

    The thing I was attempting to address was not an attempt to make an argument about abortion itself. I was attempting to address the mindset of the people whose reactions make this disagreement more virulent and more intractable than any other. It was an attempt to answer the explicit question “So why is abortion different?”

    Abortion involves, by definition, the termination of a fetus. No matter what your position, that is what happens. And if one’s belief system defines that as murder, then that leads to a depth of opposition that is found on no other issue that I can think of. The two sides are literally making an argument of “murder” vs. “slavery”, and both positions are justified from their relative sides. This is why we can’t “have a calm, reasonable debate about abortion”. There is no middle ground, no compromise that is acceptable to both sides.

    While most anti-abortion advocates come to the position that abortion is murder from a religious point of view, it’s possible to get there with no belief in god whatsoever. All it takes is an extreme position on the definition of the beginning of life. And among the wide range of beliefs in the big tent of atheism, there are some that hold that position. They exist, and have a right to exist, regardless if I agree with them.

    I happen to be on Greta’s side in this, and will gladly go to the barricades to stop people from trying to take over your body on behalf of something that may eventually become an independent life. That’s not relevant to what I’m saying. Anyone that expects a reasonable debate about this topic is living in a dream world – it’s an existential struggle for both sides. If you’re so lost on either side that you can’t see that the other is equally sincere, you exemplify the problem that society as a whole is in. And those of us who have enough empathy to see both sides get crap from both, regardless of our actual positions.

    If you actually read all of this word-wall, congratulations. I expect to get more random responses from people who can’t be bothered.

    Feel free to tell me this is all obvious. If so, congratulations on your clarity of perception. Feel free to tell me to shut up, though I’ll feel equally free to ignore you (any of you except Greta, since it’s her yard). Feel free to tell me it’s not relevant. If it’s Greta, I’ll go back to work on my reading comprehension; if it’s not, then all I can say is that it isn’t relevant to your point, but it’s the crux of mine. But if you tell me I’m wrong, and that people don’t feel that way, or that you can have a rational discussion between murder and slavery, I’m gonna have to laugh at you.

  125. says

    Abortion involves, by definition, the termination of a fetus.

    Incorrect. Abortion involves, by definition, the removal of a zygote/embryo/fetus (zef) from the body of its non-consenting host. For most of a pregnancy this entails the death of the zef. In late term pregnancy the fetus sometimes survives.

    I don’t see why anyone should give the time of day to someone who wants to debate abortion, but isn’t even clear on what abortion is.

    That’s all.

  126. says

    OMG, the “death” argument is so dishonest*
    We kill things every day. We cannot exist without killing. Whatever your last meal was, animals died for it, even if you are vegan. If you have ever taken any medication, animals died for it. Right now, real actual people are dying because of a lack of an organ donor because corpses get burried with organs that could have been used to safe those people. People are running around with two healthy kidneys even though the risks of a life kidney donation are roughly the same as those of a pregnancy.
    If you still think that’s asking too much, here’s the ultimate example: bone marrow donation. Chances of finding a donor are roughly one in a million which means that for every person needing a donor there are roughly 300 potential donors running around in the USA. Even if half of them don’t qualify there would be no need for anybody to die waiting for a donor if everybody was required to register and get tested (a cotton swab) and donate (taking some medication, having the marrow cells filtered out of your blood. Biggest risk: Getting hit by lightning on your way to the hospital).
    Still, it is totally acceptable that people with leukemia die.
    And here’s another thing that’s been driving my blood pressure up and I will bold the beginning so that people READ THIS:
    I have been pregnant three times which resulted in two kids. My first pregnancy turned Wahoonie-shaped around week ten and I needed an abortion (which is never counted as an abortion-abortion, but as a reasonable medical intervention because reasons. Probably because I suffered enough since I actually wanted to be pregnant very much). I had two wonderful kids afterwards.
    To act as if the death of that embryo was somewhat comparable to one of my children, actual people with personalities, characters, wishes, likes, dislikes, a central nervous system, even breaking a bone, let alone dying is so deeply fucked-up and beyond belief offensive that I hardly have words for it.

    *Read the next bestseller. After “Death of the Author” the sequel “Death of the Fetus”

  127. says

    And then, perhaps, we can have another panel at another atheist conference about why there aren’t more women in the atheist movement.

    Oh, oh! And can we also have a panel examining the paradox of women being more religious than men, despite how anti-woman religions seem to be?

    That’s sarcasm as well, but, yeah… I’ve seen people men make “points’ like that, totally ignoring the problem that non-religious communities haven’t been offering a better alternative.

  128. Stephen Frug says

    Greta, I was hoping you might be willing to clarify your position.

    In your post you state that anti-abortion views are “morally reprehensible on the face of it,” just as pro-slavery or pro-imprisoning gay/lesbian people views are, and you said that they should only be debated in the way one debates such morally reprehensible views, i.e. differently than one debates others.

    I find this statement in one respect ambiguous because of the broad range of views that are included in American political discourse under the rubric of “pro-choice”. Specifically, there are many restrictions on abortion that people who describe themselves (rightly or wrongly) as pro-choice accept, in particular limitations on late abortions — third trimester, or post-viability; there’s a range of opinions, obviously. (This is, of course, in line with US case law, which allows restrictions of late abortions).

    What I would like clarification on is whether you regard those views as well as ones that are “morally reprehensible on the face of it”, to be debated only in the way (with, e.g., the anger) that such views warrant. Or are those positions, in your view, open to other sorts of debate?

    In other words, to speak of anti-abortion/pro-choice as a two-pronged choice is incorrect. Between the maximum anti-abortion view (calling all abortion murder, prosecuting it as such, (falsely) including in the category of abortion various types of contraception, etc) and the maximum pro-choice view (no restrictions whatever up until time of birth, under any circumstances, even late in the third trimester) are a host of other views, differing in many different respects. (It’s not even a linear spectrum: it’s more complex than that.) Most of the American public holds a view other than one of the two maximalist positions, even those who consider themselves strongly anti-abortion or pro-choice.

    Is your argument that all positions aside from what I described as the maximalist pro-choice view are “morally reprehensible on the face of it,” and ought only to be debated in those terms?

    And if not, where would you draw the line? What if any restrictions on abortion are, in your view, fair grounds for other sorts of debate?

  129. carlie says

    Anyone that expects a reasonable debate about this topic is living in a dream world – it’s an existential struggle for both sides. If you’re so lost on either side that you can’t see that the other is equally sincere, you exemplify the problem that society as a whole is in.

    And some of us believe that the answer to that is to cut through all of the vague wishy-washy half-considered beliefs at the base of it and force it down to the main issue, which is bodily autonomy, and to force all of the people in the middle to realize what position they’re actually taking. For a lot of people, that’s what it takes to get them to really examine their beliefs. And one way to force them to realize what that position is is to treat it as the serious violation it actually is, not allow them to ponder thought experiments on just when and under what hypothetical conditions they might be able to violate it while still feeling good about themselves.

  130. says

    And if not, where would you draw the line? What if any restrictions on abortion are, in your view, fair grounds for other sorts of debate?

    Canada has no criminal restrictions on abortion. They were declared unconstitutional in 1988. They have an overall lower abortion rate than the US and the rate of late term abortions is about the same as ours, a tiny percentage and mostly for medical reasons. Oddly enough, the lack of a ban there has not caused masses of Canadian women to rush out to abort perfectly healthy late term pregnancies.

    And as someone who lives in Arizona, I’m completely uninterested in having debates on “where to draw the line!” while anti-choicers unleash their sadistic agenda here. I really can’t think of a bigger expression of privilege than having a sad over imaginary 6 month fetuses butchered by heartless prom queens while actual poor and vulnerable women are being denied abortion care and contraception.

  131. says

    Oh, and I had a dudebro give me the “both sides are using abortion as a distraction from Important Economic Issues™” earlier today. Because unplanned babies are but a minor physical inconvenience with no economic impact on women or their communities at all.

  132. says

    When creationists dredge up hoary old nonsense, oblivious to its intellectual bankruptcy, the whole atheoskeptisphere has no difficulty universally recognizing it and dismissing it out of hand. Yet, ever so mystifyingly, forced-birthers can bring their same old happy horseshit to every picnic and lay it out, all calm and reasonable, to cover the blanket.

    Because at it’s heart this is about female sexuality and we all know how “problematic” that is. Anti-choicers get away so much shit because they operate in a larger culture full of slut shaming and purity myth bullshit and a general distrust of women. Our own pro-choice President expressed ambivalence about emergency contraception being available over the counter to all ages “as the father of young daughters” worried that it would be “next to bubble gum” as if that meant something.

  133. Stephen Frug says

    Canada has no criminal restrictions on abortion. They were declared unconstitutional in 1988. They have an overall lower abortion rate than the US and the rate of late term abortions is about the same as ours, a tiny percentage and mostly for medical reasons. Oddly enough, the lack of a ban there has not caused masses of Canadian women to rush out to abort perfectly healthy late term pregnancies.

    Donnagratehouse, I was not asking where one draws the line on abortion; that would be debating abortion, which Greta Christina asked us not to do. The above paragraph strikes me as an invitation to debate the issue of abortion restrictions, but that’s not allowed in this space.

    All I was asking Greta Christina was where she draws the line about the debate. She described anti-abortion views as “morally reprehensible on the face of it”, and suggested that those views only be debated the way one would debate facially morally reprehensible views. All I was asking was if she applied this to any restrictions on abortion whatsoever (including those accepted by a great many people who would self-describe as “pro choice”). But I was not trying to debate the issue, as you seemed to suggest. The question was strictly on the meta-issue of how one ought to debate people with certain views.

  134. Gen, Uppity Ingrate and Ilk says

    Stephen, Greta already answered that in this very post, in an update and a follow up post.

    What specifically is your issue with this?

  135. Stephen Frug says

    Gen, Uppity Ingrate and Ilk, I don’t have any “issue” with this; I requested a clarification. I don’t see that Greta already answered my question. (If I missed it, perhaps you could quote the relevant passage.) Certain things she said implied one answer; but certain things she said implied another. Hence, I thought the post was ambiguous; hence, I requested a clarification.

    Again, to repeat the basic quarry: Greta described some views as “morally reprehensible on [their] face”; I want to know how far that goes. At times she writes as if the division between the facially morally reprehensible views and those that are plausible candidates for “positions we disagree with but can see the value of (or just don’t see as morally repulsive)” (to quote a later post) tracks the pro-choice/anti-abortion lines in contemporary American politics (i.e. those terms as used in practice); at other times she writes as if any restrictions whatsoever fall in the facially morally reprehensible category. Since these views do not, in actual politics, divide into two categories (pro-choice/anti-abortion), but into a spectrum (and not a two-dimensional one, as i noted), I’m curious where she draws the line. That’s all.

    An example of what I mean by ambiguity. In her most recent post, she describes anti-abortion views as the view that people with working uteruses should be “forced by law to lend their organs to a zygote/ embryo/ fetus for nine months”; the “nine month” figure implies that she would put any restriction on abortion at any stage in the category of facially morally reprehensible. In the same post, however, she quotes a survey saying that more than 98% of atheists support abortion rights; but the link shows that that 98% figure combines those who think “Abortion should be legal without any restrictions beyond those applied to any other medical procedure” (55.4%) and those who think “Abortion should be legal but with reasonable restrictions on gestational stage” (43%). Would she describe the latter set of people as pro-choice, and as holding views that are not facially morally reprehensible — views that one might “disagree with but… see the value of (or just don’t see as morally repulsive)”? Or are the later views also facially morally reprehensible? If the latter — if, for Greta, supporting abortion rights means supporting them without qualification at every stage — then, based on the evidence she cites, it’s not true that more than 98% of atheists agree with her; rather, only 55.3% do. If the former, then people whose views she would describe as ones she might “disagree with but… see the value of (or just don’t see as morally repulsive)” include people who would restrict abortion at some stages.

    So: I don’t see that she clarified this issue, specifically. I’m curious about her views, so I’d love a clarification, if she is willing to provide one. If you think she does answer this specifically, please quote the relevant passage, since obviously I missed it.

  136. Greta Christina says

    Stephen Frug: A response, and then a meta-response.

    The response to the question, which you have now asked (if I’m counting correctly) three times:

    I find it very telling just how much of the debate and discussion about abortion ends up centering on late-term abortions. As others in this thread have pointed out: Even in countries where they’re legal and there are no special restrictions on them, late-term abortions are extremely rare, and they pretty much only ever happen when something has gone seriously wrong with the pregnancy: either with the woman, the fetus, or both. The degree to which the debates and discussions about abortion end up centering on that third trimester is wildly out of proportion. Most of the time, it’s a red herring.

    As it happens: No I don’t think the “abortions are fine until the third trimester, at which point women should be forced to carry to term and give birth” position is a morally acceptable one. As a practical matter, however, the people who hold that position are generally more persuadable than people who are entirely anti-choice. They have often come to their pro-choice position without thinking carefully about the bodily autonomy question. In my experience, once they understand that, they tend to come over to the side of “no restrictions based on trimester.” It often helps once they understand how rare late-term abortions are, and the circumstances under which they happen — the moral repugnance of forcing a women to carry to term a fetus that’s going to die, or forcing a woman to carry to term when it’s seriously endangering her health, makes the bodily autonomy issue much more clear.

    The meta-response: I do not appreciate being hectored. I have twelve hours of work to do for every spare hour of time that I have, and at the moment I am even more overloaded than usual: I am on a speaking tour, *and* I’m in the final stages of production on a new book, *and* I’m having to keep a close watch on this heavily-loaded discussion on two fronts (my blog and Facebook), with more moderating interventions than usual. And I do not owe a response to every person who asks me a question in my blog. I enjoy getting into discussions with readers in my blog comments, and I do it when I can: but I can’t always do it, and even when I do, I can’t get into every single conversation that’s happening here. If someone asks me a question in the blog (or in email or on Facebook), and I don’t respond, I do not appreciate being asked it again and again. You are not entitled to my time.

  137. Stephen Frug says

    Greta,

    Thank you very much for your response.

    I apologize if I hectored you. I only meant to write my question once. I was then responded to by others, both of whom I thought misunderstood me; I rephrased my question trying to explain to *them* what I meant (each rephrasing was addressed to another commentator specifically). These were not directed at you; I should have made that clearer. If, in the process, I did something which was hectoring, then I apologize. I am, of course, well aware you are under no obligation to answer my question, nor do I have any right to demand your time. Thank you for answering the question anyway.

    If you have time, and if you choose, I would ask if this is a reasonable paraphrase of your position: you think that people who believe in third-trimester abortion restrictions are wrong, but not so facially morally repulsive that their views should only be answered in the way that one would answer pro-slavery or pro-imprisoning gay/lesbian people, as you said one should do in the above post to people with broader anti-abortion views? I ask only to be sure I understand you. Again, of course, I recognize that I have no right to your time; I am only asking; I am grateful if you choose to answer, but will not post again if you do not.

    Once again, apologies if my intended clarifications for other people turned out to be hectoring you. It was an unintentional error, but an error. I’m sorry.

  138. says

    Abortion is different because not only two consenting adults are involved, but also the embryo. Of course, if you don’t accept the embryo as a person with rights, you have no problem. However, even if one does not believe that the embryo is a person with rights, one has to accept the fact that the other side has this view. One does not have to agree with it, but one must realize that casting the debate in terms of the rights of adults misses the point from their point of view. In other words, the only strategy the “pro choice” faction can hope will convince the “pro life” faction is to convince them that the embryo is not a person. Of course, this won’t help with the “God said it, I believe it, that settles it crowd” (even if God didn’t say it), but it might conceivable help with others.

    In general, even if one disagree’s with the opponent’s position, one has to accept it for the purposes of debate and attack it, not raise another point (“adults can do what they want, say”) which the opponent might not necessarily disagree with.

    A consequence of this is that one should not see “pro life” people who disagree with abortion even in the cases of rape and incest as more evil than their more “liberal” counterparts. Rather, one should see them as sticking to what they believe. Logically, there are two possibilities: the embryo is a person with rights, and thus incest and rape are irrelevant and abortion is never allowed (except perhaps if the life of the mother is in danger, since here one has the rights of one person against another) or the embryo is not a person thus abortion should be allowed. Logically, disallowing it in general but allowing it in the cases of rape and incest does not make sense from any point of view.

    I think that not realizing this is one reason why there has been little progress on this front. In the last 30 years, LGBTP issues, say, have become more accepted in most parts of the world. Other “liberal” issues have also become consensus, but not this one. I think this is due to the fact that most “pro choice” people simply present their own opinion, rather than attacking the premise of the opponent’s position.

    Again, I am not saying that “pro choice” people should accept the idea that any embryo is a person with rights. Neither am I saying that all “pro life” people can be convinced otherwise. However, showing that the basic “pro life” tenant is false is much more likely to succeed than merely restating one’s own position and not addressing (not accepting, except for the purpose of argument) the main claim of the other side.

  139. says

    Phillip Helbig:

    Of course, if you don’t accept the embryo as a person with rights, you have no problem.

    In other words, the only strategy the “pro choice” faction can hope will convince the “pro life” faction is to convince them that the embryo is not a person.

    Not true. Even if you do accept the embryo as a person, with all the same rights as a full grown human being, abortion should still be legal, since no human being has the right to use the body of another person without their consent.

    This is the bodily rights argument. It has been gone over a thousand times, yet you don’t address it with a word.

    In general, even if one disagree’s with the opponent’s position, one has to accept it for the purposes of debate and attack it, not raise another point

    Yes! So why don’t you? Maybe you ought to take a bit of your own advice.

    Of course, Greta has specifically asked that such a debate not take place here. I suggest you go here and read what has already been written on the subject. If you, after having read the whole thread (note, it’s multiple pages), have anything to add, feel free.

  140. says

    Frank Bellamy #127:

    That is not how our community should treat fellow nonbelievers. Even nonbelievers who are wrong about an issue of fundamental human rights.

    This statement is exactly why (barring certain rather awesome organizations like Secular Woman) I dissociated myself from the atheist and skeptical movements.

    Y’all have your decency check priorities completely out of fucking order. You value atheism over almost everything else, except maybe being a convicted serial killer.

    My social justice checks do not serve as mere “ideological tests”, as many ignorant privilege-defending atheists love to call them. These checks tell me if the other person has values that would predispose them to treating me well. Because I recognize that dualism is false, I recognize that everything we are as people is inside our head: all of our thoughts, ideas, and actions come from the brain, and all of our experiences affect the way our brain processes things.

    I came to this conclusion as a result of the evidence provided by the atheist and skeptical communities, yet these communities apparently insist on a dualist view of values and ideology where those two things lie in some separate compartment of the brain that does not affect and is not affected by the parts of the brain that determine our behaviour. Essentially, we have one brain that dictates how we behave, and another that dictates how we approach ideological debates; more specifically, it dictates how we approach political debates, since it apparently does not affect our stances on such settled issues as Bigfoot or evolution or the moon landing.

    These much-ballyhooed “ideological tests” give me valuable information on such things as how the other person might treat members of marginalized groups or people who speak up for such groups; as a trans woman, this might save my life, as without this information I might accidentally out myself to a violent bigot. The person’s behaviour in such discussions, furthermore, gives me valuable information on the other person’s receptiveness to criticism in general, and their willingness to re-evaluate their actions and seek a better course of action should their current course hurt someone else.

    TL;DR, what you see as meaningless, theoretical debates, help me determine first whether continued interaction might bring harm to me, and second whether said interaction is at all worth the time and effort.

    Another belief I learned from the atheist community is that at its core religion is just a silly belief, a hobby perhaps. People simply got their hands on it and added their prejudices to it. Those people have a lot of power, but there exist equally decent people with decent values who fight the good fight even if they use their belief in a deity as justification for it.

    As such, checking someone’s belief in a deity does not give me any information on a person’s decency, any more than checking to see if they like Magic: The Gathering or are interested in model railroading would.

    I have to check their social justice beliefs. I have to use “ideological tests”. And I exclude people who fail too many because, if they won’t actively hurt me, interacting with them will be a net drain.

    As a result, I now have a wonderful girlfriend. She is a neo-pagan and makes me absurdly happy just by being next to me. And I wonder how many atheists miss out on such wonderful relationships and friendships because their primary interest is being “more atheist” than me by prioritizing atheism over all of the qualities that actually make someone a good person.

  141. says

    “This is the bodily rights argument. It has been gone over a thousand times”

    Just because it has been gone over a thousand times does not prove that it is right. Obviously, pro-life arguments have been gone over a thousand times and that does not matter to you one bit.

    Just to be clear, for want of a better term I would describe myself as “pro choice” and, as an atheist, I certainly have no respect for the religious arguments of most “pro-life” people. However, the “pro choice” community, if it really wants to achieve something, should refrain from painting itself as its own caricature.

  142. says

    In general, even if one disagree’s with the opponent’s position, one has to accept it for the purposes of debate and attack it…

    I don’t hear you giving the same lecture to anyone on the other side in this particular debate. Are we the only ones who have to follow your rules?

  143. Wylann says

    On the subject of debating bodily autonomy and whether it should even be up for debate, I offer the MRA movement as an example.

    MRAs started, primarily (based on my limited experience with reading their BS) as mostly a pushback to being ‘forced’ to pay for children when they didn’t have any say in whether the child was kept or aborted.

    Now, look at that as a point in comparison. It caused a huge backlash against women asserting that it was their decision because it was their fucking body, and all it really did to inconvenience the poor menz was cost them money. So, in their view, their financial autonomy trumped women’s bodily autonomy.

    Now tell me who has the fucked up view, and which should really be #UpForDebate.

  144. says

    Just because it has been gone over a thousand times does not prove that it is right

    No, but it does mean that it might be a good idea for you to address it, or even to show the tiniest sign that you’re even aware of its existence. After all, the existence of the bodily rights argument means that statements like this:

    In other words, the only strategy the “pro choice” faction can hope will convince the “pro life” faction is to convince them that the embryo is not a person.

    Simply aren’t true.

    The bodily rights argument fundamentally undermines the point you were making and you apparently didn’t even notice. Your entire post was predicated on the divide between the fetus as human vs. not human; the fetus having rights vs. not having rights. The bodily rights argument constitutes a third option, which you don’t address with a word.

  145. says

    Just to be clear, for want of a better term I would describe myself as “pro choice” and, as an atheist, I certainly have no respect for the religious arguments of most “pro-life” people. However, the “pro choice” community, if it really wants to achieve something, should refrain from painting itself as its own caricature.

    No. You’re not pro-choice. You’re an idle stander-by to the battle wherein people like me are actively fighting against people who would make me a slave to my biology. You’re not actively FOR choice. It’s just an abstract preference to you.

    By coming here to hector us about how we’re doing it wrong, in your opinion, instead of, say, donating to the National Abortion Access Bowl-A-Thon, which is going on right now, or volunteering as a clinic escort, you’re making yourself an obstacle on my path to equality.

    Weakly preferring that the government not throw me in prison for getting an abortion, but doing nothing to fight for that principle when it is actively under attack, as it is now, is not enough. If you can’t manage any of those active things, then the best thing you can do is shut up.

  146. says

    Not a single one of these “I’m pro-choice BUT have you considered the very interesting arguments of the Forced Birth Brigade” dudebros has given any indication of donating so much as a dollar to Planned Parenthood.

    I see you, dudebros. You’re not on my side.

  147. says

    Abortion is different because not only two consenting adults are involved, but also the embryo. Of course, if you don’t accept the embryo as a person with rights, you have no problem. However, even if one does not believe that the embryo is a person with rights, one has to accept the fact that the other side has this view. One does not have to agree with it, but one must realize that casting the debate in terms of the rights of adults misses the point from their point of view

    Except that most of the energized anti-abortion movement also opposes contraception. If they were all “fuck yeah, birth control!” I might believe they were motivated mainly by “life” and not a burning desire to punish women for sex but, no, they’re not. I’m not denying that they truly believe abortion snuffs out a human being – they’ve been exposed to 40 years of hardcore propaganda characterizing abortion as murder – but they’re pretty consistent about picking “punish sluts” over “prevent abortions” when presented with that choice.

    A consequence of this is that one should not see “pro life” people who disagree with abortion even in the cases of rape and incest as more evil than their more “liberal” counterparts. Rather, one should see them as sticking to what they believe. Logically, there are two possibilities: the embryo is a person with rights, and thus incest and rape are irrelevant and abortion is never allowed (except perhaps if the life of the mother is in danger, since here one has the rights of one person against another) or the embryo is not a person thus abortion should be allowed. Logically, disallowing it in general but allowing it in the cases of rape and incest does not make sense from any point of view.

    LOL. I love how you think we pro-choicers have never thought of this. Yes, Phillip, it is true that anti-choicers who support no exceptions are more consistent! They’re also more awful, for one thing, since most of them still oppose contraception, even as they demand that women who have been raped or incested carry the pregnancy to term. Monsters. But people who oppose abortion in general but would magnanimously allow exceptions for rape are also being awful, since they’re arguing that pregnancy should be used to punish women for sex.

  148. says

    Not a single one of these “I’m pro-choice BUT have you considered the very interesting arguments of the Forced Birth Brigade” dudebros has given any indication of donating so much as a dollar to Planned Parenthood.

    I see you, dudebros. You’re not on my side.

    So obviously not on our side. And I see them too.

  149. says

    I found my way to this blog via a very round-about path. As an Atheist, Freethinking, Pro-choice father-with-a-daughter, who has personal moral trepidation about abortion, I was prepared to be offended. It makes me angry when I am informed that I am not allowed to hold certain views or argue certain points, or advocate for my own personal “shades of gray” stances on all things political and moral.

    Early in the article I found places where the hair on the back of my neck stood on end a bit. However, that is beside the point. I think this entire article is actually best summed up by the “CLARIFICATION” (so no, I do not think all the points were particularly clear in the original post, reading comprehension derision aside).

    Here is what I think is the most important take-away for *all* pro-choice advocates:

    1) I want pro-choice advocates to respond to anti-choice arguments (when they choose to do so) with the same level of outrage, ridicule, and moral revulsion they would treat arguments for imprisoning gay people, enslaving black people, marital rape, and other violations of bodily autonomy…

    Moral outrage is good. Moral outrage is *not* the property of (nor even, IMO on the side of) the “Pro-Life” movement. We in fact need to seize the moral high-ground… even if we are uterus-les lesbian atheists. Even if we are straight white males. We have to believe enough, and be passionate enough about women’s rights, that we don’t fall into “the life-of-the-mother-vs-the-life-of-the-child” argument trap. And frequently, this means some good old fashion “righteous indignation” of our own.

  150. diana1 says

    I am all about bodily autonomy and pretty much everything Greta has stated.

    As an aside, I take great issue with these phrases: “rape and incest” and “rape or incest.” For the purpose of this discussion (Greta’s article and comments on it) it seems fair to say we’re talking about a rapist who is a relative of his victim and not two adults who have had consensual sex. In this context then, the phrase “rape and/or incest” is either redundant or it categorizes the two as somehow different or less victimized (?) for no other reason than because she was raped by a relative.

    I have no idea what terms one would use to search the Internet for percentages of incest that are also rape without having to slog through all the porn so I don’t claim to know the numbers. I think the categorization of someone as being the victim of “rape and/or incest” suggests one is the victim of one, but not the other – and that simply isn’t true. Rape is rape, is it not?

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