Question from Rabbit:
I was online looking up Roe v Wade and came across a pro-life website called abortionfacts.com.
My question is are any of these facts trustworthy?
Which ones are true or false?
Answer by SmartLX:
It’s worth considering why this question would even be directed at someone whose chosen subject is atheism. The big clue is in that website; if you click the “Manifesto” link on the first page you’ll see Jesus invoked by the third paragraph. All large-scale campaigns to outlaw and otherwise prevent abortions are helmed and funded by religious organisations. (Secular Pro-Life does exist, for one counter-example, but it’s relatively tiny.) When politicians work conspicuously against women’s access to legal abortion services, they may or may not be following their own faith but they are certainly courting the religious vote.
Religiously motivated opponents of legal abortion have learned that to serve their cause in secular nations they must present arguments which are at least superficially secular, if not to convince those outside their faith then at least to provide a cover. It is of course possible to be non-religious and still anti-abortion, but that’s not where abortionfacts.com is coming from; this is an unashamedly Christian entity trying to speak everyone else’s language.
I won’t go through the front page list item by item because there are 20 “facts” on the front page and other websites repeating them all for discussion purposes is exactly what the author wants to see. But there are a few general things to pick up on.
- #1 and #7 use “kind” as a pseudo-scientific categorisation, and many of the expanded arguments do the same. #1 even names the “Law of Biogenesis”. This is a misunderstood claim by Louis Pasteur (who did not call it a law) which forms the basis of a later creationist argument, and we’ve tackled it at length here. This is what I meant by a “superficially secular” argument: the purely faith-based material is hiding in plain view.
- #2, #3, #5, #7, #10, #13, #14, #16 and #17 are aimed squarely at establishing the unborn as a human/person, capable of being murdered and deserving of independent rights. (#4 and #6 assume this is already established.) They do this mostly by claiming that it is. The classification is arbitrary because it is entirely subjective; we decide what constitutes these things, and we already disagree on it at the stages of development being discussed here. (I should mention that human tissue, which the unborn certainly is, is not the same as a human being. Here’s an article about teratomas, cysts that may develop anything from hair to teeth to a whole foot.)
- #18 says minorities are disproportionately “targeted” for abortion. This may simply be because minorities have access to less sex education, contraception and family planning. Regardless, the word “targeted” helps reinforce the idea of abortion as murder.
- #20 is strictly correct in that abortion laws affect abortion rates, but apparently in the opposite way to what the site would prefer: abortion rates are higher when the laws are stricter, and vice versa.
Personally, I am not an authority on abortion (hardly anyone in the debate really is), but I am pro-choice because I think that at the very least there is a choice to be made in each case. Often the decision is made not to abort, but that’s still a choice.