Monday, June 18, 2007

E-mail bag - old questions

Francis asks: Possummomma, since you have four kids, I wanted to know what your opinion was on abortion? What is an atheist's view on the subject?

I think you'd be hard pressed to find an "atheist view" on abortion. Atheism only addresses the belief in the existence of a deity. That's all.

My personal feelings? I believe that the decision to have a child should be between a woman, her partner, and her doctor (if necessary). It's none of my business what someone else does with their uterus. I do have four children, so - obviously- I chose to have four children. I can see where some might use that to assume that I was pro-life. I guess I'm prolife to the extent that I never chose abortion. But,... I'm very pro-choice socially and politically. Making the decision to have children was huge (for me). It's not something anyone should take lightly. Having children is a huge responsibility. I would never force that responsibility on anyone.

As far as my feelings, as an atheist, in regard to abortion; I certainly don't think there's any divine punishment for abortion.

Edited to add:
Whenever I discuss abortion with theists, or pro-lifers, they always resort to the argument that "even an embryo is alive and therefore "life"!" I don't disagree. Sperm, ova, embryos, blastocysts, fetuses, are most definitely living organisms/beings. However, so are bacteria. So are viruses and fungi. And, yet... despite the fact that many fungi, and other organisms, have more cells than a blastocyst, I don't see people holding up signs outside of supermarkets that say "Save the mushrooms!" I don't see theists standing outside a pharmacy saying, "Antibiotics are murder." If you're going to say that you value the living unconditionally, to the extent that you value the life of a blastocyst or fetus above the mother, then you can't draw arbitrary lines about what you consider 'valid' life to be. You have to value all organic life and not just life that looks cute in pink and blue onesies at a fully developed stage. KWIM?
I'll be brutally honest. I value human life, in so far as that human can be a happy, independent, functioning being. A fetus before 24 weeks has very little chance of surviving without it's incubator (the mother). It's not warm and fuzzy. It's not a nice concept...but, it's factual. I lost several pregnancies due to my lupus. I was devestated. But, that's life, too!! Loss and imperfection are part of life. Choice is part of life.


Jacob said...

You just described my exact thoughts on the subject (although I don't have kids). How did you get to be so eloquent?

NakedApe said...

Its always interesting when this topic comes up in any discussion and I'm looking forward to the posts. I agree 100% with p-momma, I would never choose to have an abortion, but the decision to do so or not should be in the hands of medical professionals and the person with the uterus. I don't see it as much as an atheist/theist issue, even though people want it to be, its one of policy and whether the government has the right to decide whose life is more important the woman/girl or the 1 month old sea monkey inside her. One of the best arguments I have ever heard on the subject came from a theist, my old roommate (hardcore conservative fundy), who said ::paraphrased:: "Morally I believe abortion is wrong, but practically, women have always been having them and will continue having them legally or not; I'd rather it be done in a safe and clean environment by a doctor than in some back alley with a coat hanger, as unfortunate as either method is. Besides its not the government's place to decide that sort of thing with all the shades of gray involved with rape, incest, health of the mother, etc."

How I love the few that display rational thought...

AlisonM said...

I think your view of abortion depends, sometimes, on whether you or someone you love has been in the position to need one. Paul Hill Day is coming up in Milwaukee, a celebration by super anti-abortionists in which they will "re-enact" Hill's murder of a doctor who provided abortions and his bodyguard. Fun for the whole family! So, I visited a few of these hateful sites, and on Army of God (probably the worst, IMO) they had pictures of fetuses, all of whom had been given biblical names, and all but one of which looked to be fairly late-term. Clearly, this display was designed to be as emotionally charged as possible, because there was no mention of the mothers' situations that led to the abortions. When a child is developed to the point that these were, you know that the abortion was not being used as a contraceptive substitute - there's got to be a heart-wrenching reason that it had to be done. But humanizing the mothers or the doctors runs counter to the cause. More stories from women who made the choice to abort, especially those who had a hard choice to make (or none) should be made public so that this kind of propaganda is answered.

Berlzebub said...

You basically echoed the thoughts in my head, P-Momma. I'm Pro-Choice, but not just pro-abortion. I consider pro-choice being given all the options. Abortion, Plan B, the Pill, condoms, abstinance, adoption, STD prevention,... The list goes on and on, about what people should know.

I'm also rather humbled. I wrote a rather lengthy post, on the suject, and you summed it up much better than I did.

Aerik said...

If you click on some of the links in the latest article on my own blog, you can easily find my thoughts on the subject.

The fact of the matter is, even giving the benefit of the doubt that a fetus is a person, it still doesn't matter. One person's body rights do not override another's, even the right to life.

So, this guy needs a kidney. He can't knock me out and steal mine, because it's my body. Nobody has a right to it, even if their life is at stake. Not the guy in kidney failure, not the emaciated kid who wants a bone marrow transplant, not your dear old grandmother, and not a fetus.

robd said...

In my view abortion should be safe, legal, cheap and rare.
Fortunately, this is pretty much the situation here in the Netherlands.
However, the higher rates of abortions seem to be among....
fundie christians and (muslim) immigrants or their ofspring.
Their high rate of teenage pregnancies follows from their attitude of sex=sin.
Sex is forbidden - but then happens anyway.
If you really wanted to reduce abortions to a minimum: openness and sex-education will work better dan anything.

too late to change my mind said...

When I was young and Christian, I believed abortion to be absolutely immoral.

When I got pregnant at 19, the first thing I decided was not to get an abortion.

I kept the baby. I am raising the child.

I shouldn't have.

I love my child. I was not ready for the child.

I would be better off having had an abortion.

My life would have been better.

Now my life revolves around my child. My dreams are gone. My life is now dedicated to raising the child.

I will never get the chance to be who I could have been if I hadn't gotten pregnant and if I hadn't chosen to keep the baby.

Virginia aka Ginny said...

I'm sorry you were not able to make a better decision "Too Late to Change your mind". I was one of the lucky ones who wasn't mired down in religious b.s. when I was 17 and faced with the same decision. I'm so glad I was able to have an abortion and not once have I regretted it. In fact, I'm proud of myself for having the mental fortitude to know that having a child at my age would have been a terrible life choice and think my decision was very mature.

too late to change my mind said... said...

Do you know what the worst part of it is Ginny?

The guilt that goes with having ever thought that thought about my child. :-(

To know that if I was honest and said "If I had it to do all over again, I'd pick differently."

Then go back to laundry, dishes, feeding, clothing, loving, caring, raising, supporting, the list is endless.

It's a very, very hard position to be in and I'm furious with myself for taking the easy way out. Because it was easy to say no to an abortion.

The hard part is the day to day never ending responsibility that comes with raising a child.

The Music Won't Stop said...

Too Late, I understand where you're coming from. I made the decision to have a raise my first child at a time when I really was not prepared (mentally or financially) for the responsibility. The first three years were hell, I was depressed and resentful, became just a horrible miserable person, and I hate to say things would have been much better if I had just aborted the pregnancy.

Things are much better now. My first has a sister now, and I'm much happier (though still not entirely HAPPY). I would never force a woman to have a raise a child she isn't prepared for.

But don't give up hope! Kids get older and more independent, and it's never too late to go back to your dreams.

aimee said...

Too late,

I too had an abortion, after having 2 sons. I was using an IUD, that is supposed to be good for 10 years unless I had it removed. It slipped out (I didn't know it), I left my husband (who was extremely abusive towards myself and my 2 boys who were 2 yrs old and 9 months when I left)6 weeks later I found out I was pregnant again. I rang in the year 2000 having an abortion. I didn't plan it that way, it just happened. I don't regret having mine. Later that year I met the man that is now my husband and we have a 2 year old daughter together and are going through the process for him to adopt my boys.

I am also currently going to college and have recently turned 30. While things may look bleak right now, you will always have the opportunity to follow your dreams and goals. It just might not happen in the time frame you would have liked. That is just how life goes sometimes though. You gotta role with the punches.

PiGuy said...

All this really goes to show is that there's not one "right" way to view abortion. Unfortunately, the fundamentalists have encouraged many to think that they have a monopoly on on the truth which is why (false dichotomy) people would think that there's an "atheist" position on abortion. BTW, Pmomma - your response is perfect: exactly the right mixture of rational thought, compassion, personal feelings, and trust in your fellow human beings to let them decide their own fates, in the way that is uniquely yours. I admire you and believe that Mr. Pmomma and the Possumettes are lucky to have you in the Possum Hole. (beautiful family, too, I must say)

It is an individual decision and it appears that there's potential for regret both ways. As such, it should never be left in the hands of the government to tell people what to do or think, IMO.

Anonymous said...

too late to change my mind said,

Now my life revolves around my child. My dreams are gone. My life is now dedicated to raising the child.

I will never get the chance to be who I could have been if I hadn't gotten pregnant and if I hadn't chosen to keep the baby.

Too late to change your mind about having an abortion? Yes. Too late to pursue your dreams? No Way In Hell!

Don't abandon hope of following a dream.

A friend of our family got pregnant 18 years ago and, like you, chose to have the baby: for her it was the only choice - psychologically abusive influence of Catholicism. But, giving up her dreams of studying computer science at Michigan State University was not an option either. How, you might ask, could she possibly reconcile the seemingly exclusive demands of child rearing and university scholarship? What she did was rally the troops, circle the wagons, and call for back up. She laid out her plan to pursue her education and left it to those of us with deep concern for her to decide if we would help in some way. And guess what: we did. All of us did. Friends, family, neighbors, acquaintances and a few others who barely knew her but who just wanted to be part of making a dream come true, we all pitched in.

All told, it took her more than six years to get her BS in Computer Science from Michigan State University and through it all I'm proud to say we played small but significant roles. We were able to give her more study time by taking her son for a few hours on weekends. We babysat during finals and other special exams. When he got older we picked him up and dropped him off at daycare. Sometimes we prepared meals for the two of them, cleaned her house, did her shopping or laundry, or took her car in for a repair or oil change. We love her and her son, but we were also part of a dream we could see unfolding before us.

Our friend had no idea so many of us would help, but if she hadn't asked, we would not have known; we could not have helped. I am so glad she asked.

We hosted her graduation open house in our home and were honored to do so. It was a day filled with persons who like my wife and me were willing participants in the fulfillment of a dream. Today, more than ten years after her graduation, she is a computing systems entrepreneur. Her son will be a freshman at Michigan State University in the fall.

By sharing her dream, others were allowed to be a part of it. I like to think that her dream expanded to fill the hearts that knew of it. By letting the rest of us be a part of it, she gave us a gift we will cherish our entire lives.

too late to change my mind - please don't loosen your grip on your dreams: share them, let them expand to others, and, you will, at the same time, give a great gift.

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...

Very nicely done, Possum Mama.

And just as there is no atheistic monolithic stance on abortion, there is also no theistic monolithic stance on it. Even though certain Christians would have people believe there is.

By the way, like you, I have lost pregnancies due to Lupus. As a result, my second husband and I have no children from our marriage. However,like you, that does not mean that I think other women should be forced to maintain pregnancies that are problematic for them.

As my bubbie (grandma) once said: Life is not meant to be easy, life is meant to be life."

too late to change my mind said...

Thank you one and all for your very supportive comments.

I've saved this webpage and will come back to it every now and again when I feel discouraged.

You are right, of course, Russ that a person should never give up on their dreams.

I have never heard stories from the other side of abortion. People who were glad that they made the decision not to have a child until they were ready. Thank you for sharing them with me.

It's actually good to know.

Thank you again!

Jayne said...

While, as you say, there isn't a single "atheist view" on abortion, there are atheistic pro-life arguments, i.e. those that do not assume a belief in the supernatural. Anyone interested in seeing a collection of these can look at:
I especially like "Feminist, Prolife and Atheist" at:
because it captures the complexity of the issue.

I completely agree with the comment that one's position on abortion has nothing to do with whether one is atheist or theist. I have encountered atheistic and feminist arguments against abortion and fundamentalist Christian ("the Bible makes no explicit statement condemning abortion")and Roman Catholic (there is a group called "Catholics for Choice") arguments for the pro-choice position. I even know someone who argues for abortion based on her belief in reincarnation. She says that souls choose to become incarnated as fetuses that are arborted in order to fulfill their karma and that we should not interfere.
Speaking of bad arguments, I was surprised to read that you encounter the argument that "even an embryo is alive and therefore "life"!" with such regularity. It is not a common pro-life argument in my experience, at least not on its own. I have usually heard it used as part of a chain of reasoning that establishes both that the embryo, fetus, etc. is a living organism and also that is human (for example arguing that it has human DNA with 46 chromosomes). It is therefore a human life.
This seems to me to be a coherent argument. It is a fairly basic concept of biology that beings do not change species when they change developmental stage. There is no more biological basis to deny that a human embryo is a member of the species Homo sapiens than there is to deny that the pupa or larva stages of Solenopsis invicta are members of that species.
In my experience, biologically based arguments for the pro-choice position tend to be weak,illogical and betray a poor grasp of biology.
The better pro-choice arguments that I have seen, concede that the fetus is a human life and approach the issue as a question of competing rights.