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Atheism halfway between pro-choice and pro-life?
April 9th, 2007 under Uncategorized. [ Comments: none ]

I know this is a touchy subject so I’m going to be as diplomatic as possible in the interest of (hopefully) promoting discussion. To be honest, I’m still new to this being an atheist thing and I find that I’m still changing viewpoints that I have long since held because I’ve reinterpreted them in terms of being an atheist. One of these stances is the abortion issue.

For a long time, I thought if i was atheist, I would have to be pro-choice. To me, the pro-life movement was obviously associated with religious arguments and since they held no sway with me, the pro-choice stance was natural.

Lately, I’ve been contemplating the overwhelming dread I have that there is no life after this one. Think about it. If you’re an atheist, this is the only time you will ever be alive and sentient. This is it. Nothing to come after this. As if you’re asleep and never dream. For me, that is stupendously scary shit. For me, it has put a lot of things in perspective. I get the impression that for religious people, this is the point they say atheists go off the rails. They start asking themselves, “what’s the point of going on/of it all”, etc. and jump off a cliff. For me, it feels like I’ve gone in the opposite direction and I’ve realised how precious life really is. Things like giving your life for someone else, or for a cause. Or taking someone else’s.

This has led me to revisit my stance on abortion. I don’t believe life begins at conception. I believe it happens at sentience which for me, means that brain activity can be measured. If brain activity is a good measure of whether a person is alive or not at the end of his/her life, it seems natural that it should be a good indicator at the beginning. There is fundamentally no difference between removing a group of inanimate reproductive cells from the body and removing a group of harmful cancer cells from the body (Incidentally, I guess that makes me pro-stem cell research). That would make me pro-choice up until the end of the 1st trimester.

Once there is brain activity, to me that means that the fetus is alive. I long thought that a women’s right to her body should be absolute. I now think that there is one universal human right to life. I think you should be responsible for the life you create. From the end of the first trimester onwards, the mother’s life must be considered in addition to the fetus’s life. Triage must be performed under consideration for both lives. Arguments such as being born into poverty or born with disabilities are moot. Given the choice of life or death at age 5, I’m supremely confident that the child’s answer would be life. This would make me pro-life after the end of the 1st trimester.

If you looked at this from an atheist’s viewpoint, does this seem reasonable?

EDITED: Now this is why I should reference the stuff I write I came across an article by Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan on abortion where they say fetal brain activity only starts between the 24th and 27th month. This seems to be confirmed by wikipedia.