Metro State Atheists

Promoting Science, Reason, and Secular Values

Pro-Choice+Pro Life=Common Goal?

Abortion is one of the most controversial issues of our time.  Like most controversies, there exist two main sides that seem diametrically opposed to each other.  However, I believe that in this conflict there is a way for both sides to work together towards a common goal that will benefit both human life and society for the long term.  Before continuing it is important to clarify where each side stands.  Those on the “pro-life” side assert that abortion is morally wrong.  This is usually, but not always, based on the assertion that God (usually the Christian god) has a purpose for all human beings and that the soul enters the zygote at the moment of conception.  If one holds these assertions as truth it isn’t difficult to feel some sympathy to for their position.  For those who stand on the side of being “pro-choice”, abortion is seen as primarily a medical procedure.  Further, most “pro-choicers” would say that it should be a last resort only after all other options and factors such as personal socioeconomic situation and health have been carefully considered.  This is because abortion, by its very nature, is intrusive, can lead to irreparable damage to the reproductive abilities of the woman and can have severe emotional side-effects (similar to those of women who have miscarried, ie. natural abortion).  Therefore, they see abortion as a choice but one that should be used sparingly.

One side feels it is absolutely wrong while the other sees it as treatment and thus not completely wrong. Most of the “pro-choice” and “pro-life” individuals I have known through the years would generally agree with this summary of their general views on the subject. However, there are extremists on both sides. Carl Sagan[i] said of them, “doubtful arguments are trotted out as certitudes”. Thus, it would appear that there is little possibility of reconciliation between the sides. One side feels it is absolutely wrong while the other sees it as treatment and thus not completely wrong.  How then could they be convinced to work together?  To what common goal could they possibly work towards? To begin, I point out that both sides can agree that abortion is at minimum, undesirable.  With this minor agreement as a foundation let us consider other procedures past and present that have either been eradicated from medical practice or are presently being phased out due to current medical therapies/treatments/advances.

For simplicity, let us consider another undesirable medical practice that is less controversial, at least ethically; amputation.  Surgical amputations “date back at least to the time of Hippocrates (c.460-375 B.C.), amputating limbs to save lives did not become widespread until the sixteenth century.”(Source)  Obviously, amputations “were performed mainly to remove tissue that was already dead. The reason for this limitation is that early surgical techniques could not control the blood loss.” (Source)  Advances were made in surgical practices to prevent this hemorrhaging such as tying off the arteries. (Source)  Amputation is an extreme medical practice which, over time given medical advances, decreases in use relative to the population.  In a 1998 article in the journal “Diabetes Care”, Andrew D. Morris, MD et.al.[1] found that “rates in the U.S. Amputation rates appear to have decreased significantly since 1980–1982.”(Source)  The reason given for the decrease was education about diabetes and advances in care.  Another study found that “[t]he frequency of major amputations in the country in 1986-87 of 40.9 per 100,000 per year declined by 25% to 30.9 per 100,000 per year in 1989-90.”(Source), stating further that “vascular surgery reduces the number of major lower limb amputations.”(Source)  Given these and many other examples, it is clear that medical advances both in practice and education are responsible for a great deal of the reduction in the use of such an invasive, life-altering, and extreme medical procedure.

How does this relate to abortion?  Not only is abortion undesirable, it is also invasive, life-altering and extreme.  Thus, just as with the case of amputation; where instead of targeting the practice itself the causes were targeted, we should strive to eliminate the causes of abortions as much as possible.  Abortion is obviously necessary in certain cases such as fallopian-tube babies, that if left to go to term, would kill the mother.  Furthermore, just as education about diabetes helped in the reduction of amputations, so too can better sex education and the elimination of “abstinence-only” education reduce the need for abortions among ignorant or accident-prone young people. The following quote from Carl Sagani drives this point home: “Shouldn’t opponents of abortion be handing out contraceptives and teaching school children how to use them? That would be an effective way to reduce the number of abortions.”  Though it is true that you can’t prevent or solve all amputations, so too will we not be able to end all abortions. That is where technology and research is vital.  However, we can, if we work together instead of fighting about who believes what, we can end most abortions by using sound judgment and trusted preventative practices to treat the causes rather than the treatment.

At this point I anticipate some resistance from those extreme pro-lifers who view contraception as evil and won’t have anything to do with it citing that it is God’s will that we end abortion.  This argument seems fraught with logical problems.  1) If God chooses when we are born and when we die, then why couldn’t abortion be a tool of God? 2) If it’s God’s will that abortions end then shouldn’t he be offering a solution to us without us asking? 3) If it’s God’s will that we end abortion, could it be that his will includes research as described above and through His divine grace provide us an answer via data collected in such studies?  In any case, it would seem to be in the best interest of even the most hardcore pro-lifer to work together with pro-choicers and to utilize sound and moral science to reduce the number of abortions. Instead of killing abortion doctors why not try putting them out of business in a more constructive and less violent way, and donate to an organization or research project that is attacking one of the many causes of abortions.  That will accomplish far more than squabbling amongst each other about who’s right and who’s wrong.  The truth is, neither group is right by themselves, they are only right together.

In summary, my hope is that I’ve made it clear to pro-choicers that pro-lifers are not all a bunch of scripture-spouting nut-bars that are out to turn the country into a theocracy.  Also, pro-lifers are truly concerned about human life, just as much as any pro-choicer. The problem lies in the question of when “human” life begins. This question is not as clear-cut as both sides would like it to be, therefore the concerns of the pro-lifers about ending human life is a painful decision that is not completely baseless from a scientific point of view.  Also, I’ve hope I’ve made it clear to pro-lifers that not all pro-choicers are malicious baby killers that care only for the reproductive rights of women and care nothing of potential human beings.  There isn’t a single person that is truly for abortion, but one way to rid ourselves of it as much as possible is embracing science and giving medical research a chance to find the cure for the causes of abortion in an effort to greatly reduce the practice.­


[1] ANDREW D. MORRIS, MD; RITCHIE MCALPINE, BSC; DOUGLAS STEINKE, BSC; DOUGLAS I.R. BOYLE, BSC; ABDUL-RAHIM EBRAHIM; NAVEEN VASUDEV; COLIN P.U. STEWART, MD; ROLAND T. JUNG, MD; GRAHAM P. LEESE, MD; THOMAS M. MACDONALD, MD ; RAY W. NEWTON, FRCP.


[i] In an article that first appeared in Parade magazine on April 22, 1990 entitled “The Question of Abortion: A Search for Answers”, quoted here from his book Billions and Billions: Thoughts on Life and Death the Brink of the Millennium (1997). The article appears as Chapter 15 entitled “Abortion: Is it Possible to be both Pro-Life and Pro-Choice?

April 23, 2009 - Posted by | atheism, Bible, biology, Christianity, creationism, Epistemology, evolution, First Century, god, Jesus, Jesus Christ, Jesus is Lord, Metro State Atheists, Morality, New Testament, Old Testament, Pseudomedicine, Pseudoscience, religion, science, The Holy Bible, Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

29 Comments »

  1. You have made some excellent points. The volatility of this issue seem to arise from the extreme viewpoints on either end. Each side insisting that their fundamental cause (life vs. choice) is panamount and ultimately weightier than the other.
    On one hand, the pro-life extreme would seek to limit things like stem cell research despite it’s obvious benefits to science and ultimately to human existence. On the other hand, the pro-choice extreme would allow things like partial-birth abortions if it was the expressed will of the mother, despite the cruel nature of the procedure.
    I’m not sure that pursuing a change in education is the best solution. It might indeed limit the need for abortion, but I doubt it would do much to calm the controversies surrounding it.
    Instead I would propose a new focus for both sides. The missions of life and choice could both be replaced by the pursuit of what is best for humanity.
    Both morality and liberty are important, but humanity, I believe, is even a greater purpose.
    I would propose that 1st trimester abortions be completely legal and that stem cell research be fully pursued in the name of humanity.
    I would also propose that in the event that abortions must be performed after the 1st trimester that we pursue technologies and implement humane procedures for performing them.
    In the end, humanity is best served.

    Comment by joey | April 23, 2009

  2. Did Hitler not think that a purer human race would be good for humanity?

    Experimental medical testing on unconsenting children would not also be good for humanity?

    Is unwanted pregnancy not the cause of abortion and sex not the cause of pregnancy?

    Comment by student | April 26, 2009

  3. “Did Hitler not think that a purer human race would be good for humanity?”

    Well, good for a specific fraction of indo-European humanity. Good is a relative term, though. What was good for humanity from AT’s perspective what pretty counter productive to the betterment of the Jewish people. Humanity can be redefined by the nationalist dictator seeking power of the desperate masses to exclude any scapegoat it deems fit.

    “Experimental medical testing on unconsenting children would not also be good for humanity?”

    But would granting any authority the power to conduct research on individual without consent be better for humanity which, as I use it, is an inclusive term that does not exclude children. If only benefits humanity if you exclude from the definition of humanity those individuals which you are taking advantage of. Excluding children is no different than excluding Jews. Utilitarianism depends on the subjective conclusions of those who have the power to enforce them. It is in the best interest of every human being to prevent such power from being granted to any authority because, no matter what cultural, ethnic, or religious niche your preside in, there is someone other memeber of humanity driven by principle to believe that killing you is awesome and good.
    If your comfortable with granting that kind of power, well, maybe you’ve just found yourself in the most convenient Naz…I mean niche.

    “Is unwanted pregnancy not the cause of abortion and sex not the cause of pregnancy?”

    Unprotected sex is the cause of unwanted pregnancy. Contraceptives rendered this particular ethical dilemma totally obsolete some time ago.

    Comment by Metro State Atheists | April 27, 2009

  4. Can society acceptably remove the prenatal from humanity?

    Comment by student | April 27, 2009

  5. I would say yes
    – Chalmer

    Comment by Metro State Atheists | April 28, 2009

  6. Is the prenatal not part of humanity because of the good to humanity removal provides or because the prenatal is truly not part of humanity?

    Comment by student | April 28, 2009

  7. “Is the prenatal not part of humanity because of the good to humanity removal provides or because the prenatal is truly not part of humanity?”

    You may get a different answer from Joel than you do from me, as we disagree on this subject. I do believe that the prenatal deserves all the same rights and privileges as fully developed human beings, as they lack all manner of sentient will, including the will to acknowledge, understand, or practice their rights. It is a lump of cells, genetically and potentially human, but lacking all other qualities which we value in the human being.

    Comment by Metro State Atheists | April 29, 2009

  8. Can society terminate people who lack the valued (by society) qualities like “the will to acknowledge, understand, or practice their rights” as society desires?

    Comment by student | April 30, 2009

  9. Not necessarily. It depends on the context.

    Comment by Metro State Atheists | April 30, 2009

  10. Can “context” include one who may or may not survive a comma?

    Comment by student | May 1, 2009

  11. Persisting in reviving someone from a coma does not impinge upon anyone elses freedom over their own body.

    Comment by Metro State Atheists | May 1, 2009

  12. Opposite to persisting on reviving, can we terminate the comatose?

    Comment by student | May 3, 2009

  13. If their chances are bleak, their family agrees, and they expressed such action be taken in such an event.

    Comment by Metro State Atheists | May 4, 2009

  14. The argument appeared to sway way off track, in the comments section, if you don’t mind my saying. The point was:

    “There isn’t a single person that is truly for abortion, but one way to rid ourselves of it as much as possible is embracing science and giving medical research a chance to find the cure for the causes of abortion in an effort to greatly reduce the practice.­” (see blog)

    also I add the statement,”I point out that both sides can agree that abortion is at minimum, undesirable.” (See blog)

    Aside from the extremists i think that we can all agree as rational human beings that abrotion is, in most cases, unnecessary as well as risky. However, that shouldn’t take away from the fact that it is still necessary in extreme cases (Rape, fallopian babies, and any pregnancy that might pose a severe-risk to the mother).

    I feel that the points being made are valid and that a measure of education should be implemented as well as enforced.I feel that this is what we should address…

    It’s an off the wall thought, but due to the riskiness of teen pregnancy, teens should have easy and confidential access to birth control as well as contraceptives. The Planned Parenthoods are good but, I’ve had the personal experience that without insurance the costs can be steep for an unemployed student. Especially, one that is trying to remain anonymous from their own parents.

    The problem is now that births are happening more and more early. According to the CDC:

    “Nationally, the U.S. teen rate increased for the first time in 15 years in 2006, from 40.5 births per 1,000 women aged 15-19 in 2005 to 41.9 in 2006. This increase was first documented in a preliminary report released in December 2007” See: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/pressroom/09newsreleases/teenbirth.htm.

    It’s a matter of misuse of contraceptives and, the the lack of access. It’s a taboo subject in many households causing a teen to make rash and uninformed decisions, because they are concerned about the parent’s reactions.

    Education is a must! And not the scare tactics i experienced in health class. A serious breakdown of child birth, monetary damages, as well as what it takes mentally. with a curriculum for perhaps a semester or two of high school or maybe even middle school.

    So to the point. That is a great idea. We should make it a measure to educate and prevent abortions before they happen. To prevent an unnecessary strain on our society as a whole.

    Comment by Joe | May 5, 2009

  15. Is the “qualities which we value in the human being” measured (for the comatose) in “[i]f their chances are bleak” or potentially recoverable?

    Comment by student | May 6, 2009

  16. No

    Comment by Metro State Atheists | May 6, 2009

  17. Can education rid society of abortion?

    Comment by student | May 7, 2009

  18. I don’t believe that it can, but it could certainly reduce it.
    – Chalmer

    Comment by Metro State Atheists | May 7, 2009

  19. Student,

    I don’t think you really read through my blog. I think you’re a the kind of ideological pro-lifer that I describe in my blog as precisely the problem is issue has. I’m a pro-choicer but I am sympathetic to some of the vies pro-lifers. I think this compromise, meeting half-way at science and improving the treatment of the major causes of abortions plus concurrently educating young people about sex and pregnancy prevention will, in the long run, reduce the number of abortions so significantly as to nearly eliminate the debate and the issue as a whole. As I said, both sides should be able to agree that abortion, at minimum, is undesirable. So, we can at least agree on something, and using that foundation come together to solve a major problem.

    Joel

    Comment by Metro State Atheists | May 8, 2009

  20. Your assessment is probably (only because “ideological” can have ambiguous meanings) correct (except I am too much of a sinner to spout off Bible passages). Additionally, you are generally correct that both pro choice and life views value a minimalist abortion approach.

    If pro choice and life meet at science half way, should the question to science be when does a unique human life begin or when has the life progressed enough that society is no longer allowed to kill the life?

    Comment by student | May 9, 2009

  21. The problem is, most nut cases pro-lifers vehemently refuse to support contraception, almost as much as abortion.

    You’ll never find a happy median, because the only thing these guys will promote is abstinence. Because they’re imbeciles.

    Comment by Katie | May 21, 2009

  22. “Did Hitler not think that a purer human race would be good for humanity?

    Experimental medical testing on unconsenting children would not also be good for humanity?

    Is unwanted pregnancy not the cause of abortion and sex not the cause of pregnancy?”

    Holy crap! People like you still exist? Must we go over the fundamentals of stem cell research? Needless to say, you can ask an embryonic stem cell anything you like – you can even ask its permission! I can guarantee you what it’s answer will be.

    Nothing. BECAUSE STEM CELLS AREN’T PEOPLE. THEY’RE STEM CELLS.

    Comment by Katie | May 21, 2009

  23. Is prenatal life irrelevant to the abortion debate?

    Comment by student | June 22, 2009

  24. If you mean sperm and eggs? Then, yes. Unless you plan to argue that masturbation and periods should be outlawed, which would be unbelieveably moronic.

    Joel

    Comment by Metro State Atheists | June 22, 2009

  25. Can prenatal life mean more than sperm and eggs?

    Comment by student | June 28, 2009

  26. Yes. Like all the life that has predated the sperm and egg for the past 3.5 billion years.

    Comment by Metro State Atheists | June 29, 2009

  27. So prenatal (i.e. post conception to pre birth) is or is not relevant to the abortion debate?

    Comment by student | July 3, 2009

  28. You obviously need to more precisely define your term “prenatal”. Please use an authoritative source such as a renound medical dictionary, the Oxford English Dictionary or Merriam-Webster. Then we can talk. All you’re doing now is asking random question. Please make a point.

    Comment by Metro State Atheists | July 7, 2009

  29. If people are willing to accept and encourage science-generated knowledge in order to show the status of fetal “humanity,” then I think it would be in everyone’s best interest to apply that same thinking to this whole process.

    Based on current, reputable studies, abstinence-only education is highly correlated with higher teen pregnancy rates and ironically, higher abortion rates. It may not fit perfectly with some people’s view of morality, but it is a clear indication that we need to look at how pregnancy occurs in our society and how to prevent it effectively.

    Each side in this debate will have to be a bit braver in their thinking in order for this to move forward into good public policy. Thanks, Joel!

    Comment by Jamie F | December 14, 2009


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: