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An Atheist against Abortion

Hey everyone, I have just recently decided to delve into a subject I have been purposely avoiding since the day I became attracted to the Libertarian movement, which is abortion. This will be rather long, I included an introduction to my reasoning but the post became far too long to include.

Okay, lets get down to why I am against abortion, I will begin my argument with a question:

What is the difference between an embryo and an 80 year old man?

A lot of things, you might say. They look nothing alike, the spinal cord and muscles have formed, the respiratory system has been fully realised in the developed man, the man is conscious, he has the ability to think about his life etc. But the strange thing is that, they are the same life form. Exactly the same. At no point has this embryo in its development became another life form; it has simply grew to another stage in its existence. They may look nothing alike, inside or out, but they are the same.

I would like to bring forth an analogy here to show this point clearer; the fossil record.

Let us take the evolutionary timeline of one species alive today. It doesn't matter what it is, because every species alive to day has ancient ancestors dating back hundreds of thousands of years at least (if you believe the earth is only 6-10,000 years old, take this as a hypothetical, and then do some science). Lets say we put each individual species in the monolithic timeline, from one point hundreds of thousands of years ago to present day, side by side.
When we move up the line from the beginning one by one, we hardly notice a difference. There's a slight change here and there, but there's hardly a difference to see. Now if you were to look at the beginning species and then run to the middle of the line, you would hardly recognise them both as being part of the same ancestry, but they undoubtedly are. They may look nothing alike, but they are attached to the same development timeline.

Now lets go back to the human timeline. What is the difference here between the evolutionary timeline of a modern species and the timeline of a human? The evolutionary timeline deals with multiple species, and the human timeline deals with one. Just one. That's it, and that's all there is. Foetus to child to young adult to elderly man. It's the exact same life form the entire timeline.

A common (sarcastic) counter I've heard when this sort of argument is brought up is "Well if you're gonna go as far back as that and still call it human, why stop there and simply begin at sperm?".
I'm sure you've heard this, you may have even used this argument yourself at some point. And my rebuttal is the fundamental concept to my entire argument. If someone can defeat this part of my argument, it collapses in its entirety.
I have concocted a phrase that I believe perfectly describes this piece of my argument, as well as defeats both the "Life begins at sperm" argument and the "Women's right" argument, and also the "Life begins at conception" argument of which the religious right is accustomed to. The nature of the phrase is of when I believe the life form growing in the mother becomes human. Here it is:

"Once a life form in its existing condition can grow into a fully developed human, should nature take its inevitable course, it is human.".

Life form - the being created through the fusion of the sperm and the egg
Existing condition - The being's present state
"Can grow" - The stage in development at which the being begins to grow into a human (the most important part of the phrase, I will go into detail soon)
"Should nature take its inevitable course" - Should everything happen the way it is supposed to.

Once I created this phrase, I went and familiarised myself the timeline of pregnancy. Fortunately for me, there is a stage in the development of human beings in the womb that clearly and unequivocally details the point at which the life form begins to grow into a human; Implantation.

For those who don't know, Implantation begins within the first 6-12 days of pregnancy. It is the stage in which the blastocyst (the zygote after compaction occurs) attaches itself to the uterus wall and begins to receive nutrients and food from its mother.

Now this is the most fundamental part of this entire argument: If the blastocyst does NOT attach to the uterus wall, it will NOT receive the nutrients and food it needs to grow; It will not grow into a human being. This renders the "Life begins at sperm/conception" arguments dead, as these are both points before implantation; these are both stages that precede the point in which the life form can grow into a human.
This renders the "Women's right" argument dead as at this exact moment, the embryo will begin it's inevitable journey into being born. At this moment, only two things will ever happen should nature take its course: The embryo will die at some point in its development, or it will be born.

The inevitability of the fate of this life form at this moment is what has lead me to become anti-abortion. At that moment, it will either die or become human. Aborting this life form is denying it its inevitable path to become exactly like us. It can't become like us before it is attached to the uterus wall (so far is my understanding), it needs implantation to occur before nature takes its course and it eventually and inevitably is birthed.

And there you have it. This is how an Atheist reasons his way into the stance of anti-abortion. I cannot reason myself out of this position (like how I reasoned myself out of my women's body; women's right position), so I think I've done as much as my breadth of knowledge and reasoning ability is capable of.

As a bit extra, I've decided to include an argument I heard in debate with someone who came at if from a legal context. If you understand the law, it seems to me to be a very silly argument, so naive I feel like I'm not understanding it correctly. So if anyone shares this view and would like to enlighten me, go ahead. Here it is:

"The baby has no rights until it is born, as it is not protected by its government until it is born. Therefore, it's moral and legal to abort it.".

Well this seems to be immediately conflicted with the declaration of independence, no?
There is also the problem of abortion survivors. If one can be unnaturally removed from the womb, before nature intended (labour-induced birth), then that means a baby in the womb is capable of exiting the womb and growing up to be a normal human being before natural birth. So I believe this argument is now technically saying you have no rights simply because of your position in the womb, even though you share all the same characteristics of a baby outwith the womb.
So is that it? You have no rights until you exit the womb naturally or unnaturally?
Well lets look at The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, created by the United Nations.

Article 1 (first sentence only) "All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights". Well, it seems actually to suggest that only once you are born, are you free and equal in dignity and rights. But where this is contradicted, is Article 3 of the same declaration.

Article 3 "Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person."

Who is everyone? Human beings. When do you become a human being? It can't be when you exit the womb, because you can be in the womb and still share all the same characteristics of a birthed baby. Is it really the case that all it takes to make you human is to be outside of your mother and not attached by an umbilical cord? That does not sound like a reasonable position.

So I would suggest the point in which you become human is the point in the development timeline of a human where you begin your inevitable growth to all other stages of human life (foetus to child to teen to young adult to adult to middle-aged to elderly); Implantation.

And if this is the point in time you become human, this logically follows onto abortion being the absolute murder of a human being.

Let me be clear, the position I have developed is technically not against abortion, just against current methods. If abortion clinics can develop the technology to not only identify pregnancy within the first 6-12 days before implantation officially occurs, but also abort it THAT early, then I would be perfectly fine with aborting the life form, as at that stage it cannot grow into a human being until it attaches to the wall of the uterus.

Any point before then, and it is impossible. Any point after, and it is inevitable.

So there you have it. I apologise I could not condense this post but you must understand this is an incredibly controversial issue, and it is already a controversial view to hold to be against abortion, let alone being a (Libertarian) Atheist against it, so I wanted to make sure that my points and arguments came across as clearly as possible.
I do welcome debate on this subject. I have no fear in being proven wrong, and to be honest I relish the opportunity to further my knowledge at every possible moment, and so should you. I really hope I have contributed something worthwhile to this debate, and perhaps something new.
This is the first time I've given my view to others on this subject (I did only realise it a few days ago, but I am only 20 and therefore have very few friends who are interested in this stuff. The life of a young adult in a vacuous generation, eh?).

So I leave it to you, DP, what's right, and what's wrong?

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Pro Life derives from "Taking Responsibility for your Actions"

The libertarian philosophy embodies the principles of Individual Sovereignty, Individual Rights to Life, Liberty & Property (justly acquired of course), the NonAggression Principle NAP, the right-to-Self Defense (defense force should be in an amount that is reasonable to stop the aggressive force), and going along with all of the above is the principle of "Taking Responsibility for Your Actions". ---- Because of the above principles found within the libertarian philosophy, I believe that YET AGAIN, libertarians do not fall so easily either on the LEFT or the RIGHT of this abortion issue. It follows from the principles above, particularly taking responsibility for one's actions, that if one is raped it is therefore against one's will, thus abortion could be an option. Now this does not satisfy many people who are Pro-Life. But the Pro-Life crowd can and should generally expect the libertarian to be sportive of the Pro-Life position, with many exceptions as the example above shows.

Yes, please BUY this wonderful libertarian BOOK! We all must know the History of Freedom! Buy it today!

"The System of Liberty: Themes in the History of Classical Liberalism" ...by author George Smith --
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thank you! This was informative and well reasoned

from any perspective.

"Hence, naturally enough, my symbol for Hell is something like the bureaucracy of a police state or the office of a thoroughly nasty business concern." ~~C.S. Lewis
Love won! Deliverance from Tyranny is on the way! Col. 2:13-15

I had recently become

I had recently become familiar with Hitchens' view on abortion, which was one of the many reasons I decided that I needed to have a serious think about it.

There is also a great (Civil) Libertarian Atheist who is against abortion by the name of Nat Hentoff (I typed "Atheist against abortion" into YouTube after I came to my anti-abortion position, and the only two people that appeared were Hentoff and Hitchens).

I would urge everyone to look him up. He's well into his 80s now, and is a wellspring of knowledge.

tasmlab's picture

Good read and nice analysis

I enjoyed your post.

Personally, I've yet to read an argument for or against that has brought me to any certain conclusion i.e., an argument that finally made me feel like I landed on the perfect moral truth about abortion. I simply don't know and I don't have great confidence that I ever will.

I remain cautiously early-term pro-choice, with just a subjective and common-sensy appearance that a blastocyst/zygote doesn't seem human, that the mother is not a passive stand-bye in the equation, and that it may be utilitarian to end a pregnancy in the first handful of weeks.

But as I said, I really don't know. So even that conclusion may be enough to side with caution.

The case elegantly grows to be in favor of the baby over time. I'd be horrified of an abortion in the late term.

I'm hoping that technology and abundance will eventually bypass the necessity for a moral argument. If we had the technology to transfer the zygote to a woman willing to carry it (even if compensated) than perhaps we wouldn't have to even discuss abortion.

(Sorry about making my response all about ME)

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Love won! Deliverance from Tyranny is on the way! Col. 2:13-15

Good Argument

You have some good reasoning, but I'd leave out the Constitution. The reason for that is because 'person' or 'people' as defined by the Constitution is a legal word and it actually means 'elector'. Anyone who is not eligible to vote is not a 'person' according to the Constitution's "We the People".

My application of it as an

My application of it as an argument was simply the "All men are created equal" part. I can admit I have no definition of "men" in my understanding of it, so if its the same definition, I'll retract it.

Being British, it's a heretical document and I have no inclination to care about what it states ;)


The whole legal system in the USA has its roots in English common law, including the US Constitution. One of the brightest and most influential writers at the time of the revolution / war for independence was Thomas Paine, who was born and raised in Britain. John Locke was also British and his ideas played a large role in revolutionary thinking.

The ideas all began in Britain. The unique climate created by foreign (Norman) invaders who spoke a foreign tongue attempting to rule over Anglo Saxons. English common law arose as a way to deal with this particular historic circumstance and great thinking grew from this root.

In a sense, it was easier to implement some of these ideas on the fertile soil of the Americas. It would take longer for them to gain further traction in their birthplace of England.

After 200 years, the real question is whether the entire Anglo world is going to enjoy a rebirth of enlightenment ideas and return to a common law framework or whether everything that is 'British' will disappear, even from Britain itself, and be replaced with the type of systems seen in continental Europe. If that happens, it represents a total and complete counter-revolution.

"Whats the difference between an embryo and an 80 year old man?

A lot of things, you might say"

you could also argue that at no other point in a persons life are they more like a fetus than when they're 80 :)

the easiest way to get something done isnt to change the behavior; its to change the meaning of existing behavior. like a cut isnt a cut, torture isnt torture, its enhanced interrogation. war isnt war, its kinetic military action. declaring war now appare

For the record

I only make a big deal out of being an Atheist against abortion because the majority of the "New Age Atheist" movement is pro-abortion. I went into detail in my introduction where I explained why I believe they are, and why I was pro-abortion (and attracted to the women's body; women's right argument). I could go into detail if anyone wishes.

You make some really good

You make some really good points. Unfortunatlly I dont have as much time as I would like to go through everything you said in more detail. But I did want to bring up one point. It highlights my view on why I am pro-choice

The difference between and embryo and an 80yr old man is that the man can sustain his own life (assuming he is still in good health) without relying on another.
And it is because of this that I believe it is the woman's choice and hers alone weather or not she wants to carry the embryo to term. Not the father or anyone else. Think of it as a parasite, although the term is though of as harsh, it is essentially the relationship a mother and the embryo have.

Now if there is the means to remove the embryo/fetus from the mother, without harming her, and it still have a chance to survive (artificial machines or on its own, then these steps should be taken. But most of the time that is not the case.

Now because of some of the points you have made and what I have stated, I do agree with the limits of no abortions after a certain time unless it poses risk to the mother. This allows the mother time to determine if she wishes to carry it through or not.

I'm not so sure it's as clear

I'm not so sure it's as clear cut as that. Technically premature babies are not self-sustainable and rely on an incubator to help them develop into self-sustainment.

Perhaps if incubation technology can be highly developed to the point where the foetus can leave the womb at a very early stage in its development and grow in the incubator, then that could be the moral option to abortion.

Agreed, sorry sometimes It's

Agreed, sorry sometimes It's not so clear in writing as it is in my head.

If we have the technology to remove the embryo/fetus at a stage the woman decided to abort then that would be the moral choice. But I don't think it is moral to allow a being, no matter the species, to be a parasite to another if they do not wish it. So if there is no other way to sustain it I see an abortion as moral.

Again this is up to a certain point early in the development where the mother has had time to make the choice and before the fetus could ever survive outside the womb even on incubators.

I would have agreed with you

I would have agreed with you had it been last week and I had no intention of taking this 'right' away from a woman, but it just seems to me that this argument forgets that there are consequences to sexual intercourse. If you wilfully engage in sexual intercourse, then you must accept the risk of childbirth should contraception fail.

I am still undecided as to abortion of a foetus conceived by pregnancy through events such as rape, where there was no consent to sexual intercourse. I still believe it is a human, but you are perfectly correct here to state that it is a parasite and not only is it unwanted, but (this is where I can't help but feel distanced from my own argument) it was conceived without consent.

Of course there is no consent from the woman in either case to become host to a parasite, but I have to say, in the consent to sexual intercourse, you are also consenting to the unwanted consequence of it. This just leaves cases of pregnancy through rape in my eyes debatable.

As for the incubator comment, wouldn't this timeframe simply become smaller and smaller if incubation technology continuously strengthened? It seems as though you're fine with the killing of these lives simply because the technology of a certain strength does not exist to have them develop at a certain time in the lives' developments outwith the womb (which, if the technology strengthens, would decrease the timeframe).

Agreed it is decreasing the

Agreed it is decreasing the time frame, yet nothing about the fetus has changed. But it is still a parasite to the mother who does not want it. The only difference is instead of an abortion the fetud/embryo is removed without harming her. From this point on what is done with it is no longer up to the mother.
If the technology and resources are there to save it and bring it to term, as long as someone is willing to pay for it then that is fine. But it is no longer acting as a parasite at this point.
There are a lot of points to make on this and a lot are grey no matter how you look at it.