Posted by: Jim | January 23, 2009

An Atheist on Abortion

Recently I saw the facebook status of another atheist blogger, who said,

I’d like a world where abortion was legal and nobody needed or wanted to get one.”

I was fairly surprised by this statement, since earlier the same day I was thinking … exactly … the … same … thing. The problem with this issue is that it is so heated that very few people look at it with a cool head, and consider both sides of the argument.


As an atheist, my stance on all the “issues” is to take the position that is best for the well-being of people, based on a scientific viewpoint. I’ve agonized over the definition of “life,” and my conclusion is that a fetus becomes a life the moment after conception when the DNA strands split, and a new one comes together and start replicating. Even still, there is a “gray area” of morality between a single cell being terminated and a full-term fetus being terminated. Most of us recoil at the thought of aborting a late- or full-term fetus, while the thought of scraping a few cells off the wall of a uterus is not too horrible. Another moral quandary arrives at the point when a fetus achieves consciousness.


But at the other side of the coin is the rights that a woman has over her own body. I can only imagine that from a woman’s perspective her right to remove an unwanted “growth” from her own body should be incontrovertible.


A compassionate person who considers both sides should run into is a big ass conflict. Babies should have the right to live. Women should have the right to control their own bodies. A bifurcated stance seems the only acceptable one.


What happens when abortion is illegal? We vaunt the rights of the helpless over the rights of the powerful. This might make sense, except it results in even greater human suffering. History has taught us that women in crisis will get an abortion whether it is legal or not. And when it is illegal, they end up getting illegal abortions. Illegal abortions result in far more fatalities and grievous injury to the mother. This concept is beautifully illustrated in “The Cider House Rules” by John Irving.  


My conclusion is that abortion should be legal, but prevented as much as possible.


  1. Birth control should be taught and made available in schools.
  2. Early detection tools should be available. 
  3. Early decision-making should be fervently encouraged.
  4. Adoption should be shown and offered as an honorable option (thank you to the makers of “Juno.”)
  5. The “abstinence only” people should be sent to a tiny deserted island with lots of porn and lube, and should stay away from actual youths.
  6. Doctors should be given the option to not perform an abortion if they feel it’s not right.
  7. Doctors should have the option of referring an underage woman to a state-sponsored, licensed counselor, who will determine if the child’s parents should be notified or not.

OK … fire away people. I know I’m going to get some debate on this one.



  1. Very thoughtful and well reasoned post. I say, Amen, brother.

  2. My position is that abortion should remain legal, for the same reason that contraception should remain legal and freely available. To give individuals power over their sex life and their reproductive choices.

    My variations:

    Can’t agree with #1, as there should be no schools (somewhat radical position)

    Disagree with #3, unless it’s on medical grounds that you make this case, rather than it being morally less defensible to abort a slightly older foetus, etc, or is there some kind of infusion of life’s sacredness going on during pregnancy?

    #4 Also show the consequences for a mother giving up a child as being a lifetime of guilt and fruitless hiring of private detectives to find the missing child, etc, to be balanced

    #5 “Abstinence only” should be classified correctly as a Christian cult and be circumscribed in its activities appropriate to that status. It should not be permitted any grounds to compete as an equal of modern medicine, nor to disseminate anti-abortion propaganda as ‘educational’ materials, etc. ie: Like other cults, they should not be permitted into public schools etc.

    Not sure what #6 really caters for. The doctors who would perform an abortion should stand, surely, at the end of the process, when an abortion has been confirmed as required and should simply carry out the procedure. Or do you have another scenario in mind?

    Also, #7, what would inform the exercising or not of this option? If you introduce discretion, you necessarily introduce discrepancy. Why should parents be notified in some circumstances and not in others? Should the police also be notified in these cases?

  3. Have you seen this?

  4. We’re the lucky few who have won the lottery of birth. People often say, “What if Einstein had been aborted?” But certainly, there are many Einsteins who were never born simply because their parents used proper birth control. Few would argue that birth control should be banned.

    But what to do when an actual unwanted pregnancy occurs? This is inevitable, through irresponsibility, crime, or just the bad luck of imperfect birth control. Aborting something that has been conceived is certainly “worse” than having simply prevented conception. But is it bad enough to ban the procedure? In the first trimester, I think not.

    However, as the pregnancy progresses we move beyond “some cells,” in as much as we ourselves are more than just some cells. It seems that by the third trimester, there’s one of us, winning the lottery of birth, and I find few convincing arguments that the decision to abort should occur only at this late stage. Why not sooner, or not at all?

    After 14 billion years, after the combining of DNA, and after months of development. After a level of consciousness is achieved, it seems immoral to rip the lottery ticket from the tiny hand, and say, “Not you. Not now. Not ever.” At this point, one has to look more to adoption, or other child rearing arrangements.

  5. Sammy, I love your last paragraph. Abortion is probably the most vicious and violent act that we humans have come up with, certainly in my generation, and probably throughout history.

    They are innocent and don’t have a voice except for some of us that are trying to fight for them and their rights to live. People fight for the right to marry, but in the same breath ignore that there are thousands of people without a voice that deserve a right to experience life itself.

  6. Jim, Thanks for your thoughtful contemplation on this. You are a good man.

  7. […] is now a well-known anti-abortion advocate. I myself am technically against abortion. So Scott and I are in agreement on some things, but some elements his argument made me […]

  8. Hi Jim,

    I followed a link here from Scott’s blog. I’m also an ex-Christian atheist who’s against abortion, so it’s incredibly refreshing to find your blog. I agree with a lot of this post. Not all of it — I don’t think the “abortions are legal but nobody gets one” framework is quite right, though I think it’s vastly better than “abortions are illegal but hundreds of thousands of women get them anyway.” I think that it’s unjust to consider the the unborn human being a legal “non-person”, but I also don’t think that putting the right wing in power so that they’ll ban abortions is the answer (for just one reason, see my latest post). I’ll be putting your blog on my daily reading list.

  9. Hi Jen R … sounds like you and I have a lot in common. Who knew that there were all these Pro-Life atheists running about?

  10. The church position against abortion and contraceptives is related to the fact that orphans form the working backbone of the church. Orphan children are easy to brainwash, indoctrinate and to use as lifelong unpaid slave robots, and they are found free.

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