Well played, Phil

My friend Phil Ferguson of Skeptic Money has an exhibitor table set up at the American Atheist conference…right next to a secular pro-life group. Yeah, apparently they exist. They’re claiming life begins at conception and showing a little box full of babies while asking for money. And what was Phil’s response?

To put out a box taking donations for Planned Parenthood:

Photo by Surly Amy

Well played, Phil. Well played.


  1. mcbender says


    I don’t understand how it’s possible to be secular and anti-choice. Actually, I should clarify that: I understand it well in one sense, because I was like that as a teenager (because I never thought about it and swallowed the “ending potential lives/killing babies” rhetoric), so what I should say is that I don’t understand is how it’s possible to be secular, anti-choice, and have any sense of morals or ethics whatsoever.

  2. Jim says

    @mcbender – it’s possible to be secular and anti-choice if one is ignorant of (or misunderstands) the details of developmental biology. After all it’s merely a contingent fact of biology that newly-fertilized eggs are not yet persons, and won’t be for some time afterwards. If human reproduction worked differently, such that that interval of non-personhood were smaller or absent entirely, the situation would be much different.

  3. jfigdor says

    I’m always surprised to find an Atheist who doesn’t believe in a woman’s right to choose.

  4. says

    According to their website, http://secularprolife.org/,

    “If you are pro-life because abortion violates the Constitutional right to life, science shows that human life begins at conception, abortion hurts women, or for any other non-religious reason: make yourself at home!”

    They claim to be pro-science but don’t seem to believe in any of the science surrounding the issue.

  5. Svlad Cjelli says

    ^ Science shows that life begins rarely, and to our knowledge hasn’t begun in a very long time on this planet.

  6. confuseddave says

    I disagree, and I have a PhD in developmental biology. Personhood is a philosophical concept, and you can apply it more or less whenever and however you like. You can argue, for example, that a statue has personhood, and that it’s murder to destroy it. The question over whether that’s a valid, meaningful, or rational definition of personhood has more to do with your understanding of what it means to be a person than your understanding of masonry.

    For the record, I do think considering a blastocyst to have full personhood and equivalent rights to an adult to be absurd and (taken to it’s logical conclusions in anti-choice policy) morally outrageous, but I can see how secular people could reach that conclusion. I think the conclusion is invalid, but I don’t think it’s ignorance that’s pushing them in that direction.

  7. Ed Haines says

    It is entirely possible to believe that human life commences at conception but not support laws proscribing abortion. One’s individual concept of life and when it becomes of sufficient value to protect and not deliberately endanger or terminate is one’s own business. I have no more right to inflict upon my relatives, friends, neighbors, and fellow citizens my concept of fetal rights than I do to inflict upon them my belief that the universe is flat and began with the “big bang.” It is fine that I support my views with discussion and even debate. It is not allowable for me to initiate laws restricting anyone else to my views and concepts.
    So as to make myself clear, I would never consider recommending an abortion. I will NEVER support any politician advocating laws against abortion. Such a politician is unethical and does not comprehend the freedoms protected by our Constitution.

  8. SallyStrange: bottom-feeding, work-shy peasant says

    “If you are pro-life because abortion violates the Constitutional right to life, science shows that human life begins at conception, abortion hurts women, or for any other non-religious reason: make yourself at home!”

    In other words, they are secular and they are anti-choice, but they aren’t skeptics. Either they are lying or they are too stupid to realize they’ve been lied to. Abortion doesn’t violate the “Constitutional right to life” (no such thing–the Constitution refers to citizens as persons born within the United States). Human life does not begin at conception; human life is a continuum from living sperm and egg cell to blastocyst to embryo to fetus to infant, etc. Abortion most definitely does not hurt women; of all the claims they make here, this one is the easiest to refute. Data from societies around the globe consistently show that legalized abortion, when paired with effective sex education and access to birth control, always correlates with lower maternal death rates, higher rates of education, and increased economic opportunity.

    They may not attribute their beliefs to any supernatural beings, but they certainly aren’t based in reality.

  9. says

    Also, teenagers and young women may not have thought about people in other situations than theirs. One young woman in a place where I worked in the 80s announced that she was against abortion. She was immediately surrounded by other women: “What if she already has four children?” “What if it endangers her health?” “What if…? “What if…?” She changed her mind very quickly, realizing that she couldn’t judge others without being in their shoes.

  10. Francisco Bacopa says

    About a year ago there was a “come out about your HPV” day online. I came out. Most people don;t think of this, but Planned Parenthood has MALE patients. I had no insurance at the time so my only choices were Planned Parenthood and Mexican cash doctors. I had been to the cash doctors, and while I do think they provide an important service, I was not impressed with the results in my case. So I tried PP which was a little more expensive for the initial visit, but cheaper on the follow-ups.

    I had a great experience with PP. They gave me little worksheets with diagrams of vulvae and penises with instructions to mark where the problem was. Fortunately the problem was right around the condom line, so the acid treatment wasn’t that painful. I pity the guys with problems further out. That’s gotta hurt. Got good info that if I pretty much took care of myself I would likely never have another visible lesion and was told that I might still be a moderate risk to future partners and that I might want to talk about this.

    $80 for initial visit and treatment, $20 for follow up. What a deal! Mexican cash doctor would have been sixty bucks a pop.

    Of course, better still would be that 80% of girls and at least a quarter of the boys got Guardisil. I have voted against Rick Perry in every election I have voted in. I think I might have abstained back when he was running for Ag Commissioner. I hoped like hell that Kay Bailey Hutchison would knock him out in the primaries and campaigned for hurricane-fighting Bill White to beat him in the last election. How the hell did Bill White do so badly? Dude managed the Katrina refugee crisis and turned the Rita debacle into pure win during hurricane Ike.

    But what do I know about Texas? I live in the largest city in the world that has or has ever had a gay mayor. Houston, like Austin, is an exception to the rule.

    I hate Rick Perry, but I think he at one point had not lost all contact with reality. Perry was pushing Guardisil for a few months before he caved to pressure from the fundies. Somewhere deep inside Rick Perry is a real human being who thinks and has ideas. He tries to suppress that part of himself.

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  12. jfey says

    Okay, as a pro-choice, pro-Planned Parenthood secularist, I do have a few comments in support of these people. As SallyStrange wisely said above, “human life is a continuum from living sperm and egg cell to blastocyst to embryo to fetus to infant, etc.” Meaning that we can all decide on our own when life begins, because there is no clear-cut moment. So these people have the right to think that life begins at conception if they want to, even if we disagree.

    But more than that, I think putting a Planned Parenthood donations box out as a response is somewhat counter-productive. It just propagates the idea that PP only provides abortion services, as a counter to the pro-life movement. But PP is about family planning, women’s health, etc. Which are probably concepts that our neighbors at the secular pro-life table agree with.

  13. says

    Yes, they can decide when human life begins on their own, however they are pushing that SCIENCE says that human life begins at conception, and therefore abortion is wrong.

    That is where we disagree. They’re using philosophy, not science – and they’re not being honest about it either.

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