The Secular ProLife Argument is Poop

Some people are upset with Dave Silverman for Saying Some Things. And with Hemant Mehta for Letting Some Things Be Written. I am one of these people, and for many of the reasons that others have posted. If you want to consider more whether “just asking questions” is a good thing, Stephanie Zvan wrote about this. And Greta Christina has a very good piece on who said what and why none of that shit matters and can we please stop telling those who are under the knife here to be “calm and reasonable” about the real threat to our basic human rights and the ability to make our own health decisions without government interference.

And now I’m going to fly in the face those who say that this isn’t a debate that we need to be having, and that we have already established that there are no humanist pro-life arguments worthy of consideration. I’m going to tell you why the secular pro-life argument is without merit because I haven’t really looked at it before now, and I cannot get over how simple it is to refute.

Human poop refutes the primary premise of the secular pro-life argument.

I know that this will annoy those of you who are enjoying the 3000-word, flowery and academic, reasoned and serious writings on the matter, but really…it all comes crumbling down with just a little bit of poop.

According to the Secular ProLife website, their position rests on four points:

1. The fetus is a human being.
2. There is no consistent, objective distinction between “person” and “human being.”
3. Human beings possess human rights.
4. Bodily integrity is not sufficient to justify most abortions.

I’m striking number four from this discussion because it is a moot point if the first three are struck down. Also, there are entirely different (read: fallacious, spurious, misogynistic) arguments used by Secular ProLife on their website to try to justify this premise. Those are for a different blog.

And before I get started, EVERYBODY LISTEN UP: These aren’t new arguments. The religious anti-choice groups have been making these same “secular” arguments since before Roe v. Wade – and we have answered them! The claiming of these arguments by atheists doesn’t make them any more valid now than they have been previously.

But onto the specific wording in the premises put forth by Secular ProLife:

The first two points are an argument to ambiguity. By conflating the terms “human being” and “human in origin” this specious word garble almost sounds like it makes sense.

Number two happens to be something with which many of us could agree; one might use “person” and “human being” interchangeably in certain circumstances. But using “human being”, when what you mean is “human in origin”, is deceptive and so obviously self-serving that it makes me queasy.

If you replace “a human being” with “human in origin” in the premises, you no longer have a convincing argument.

1. The fetus is human in origin.
2. There is no consistent, objective distinction between “person” and “human in origin.”
3. Things that are human in origin possess human rights.

The first sentence is true. Absolutely. No argument here. They got one right.

Do you know what else is human in origin? Sneezes, tumors, poops, excised warts and that clump of hair that collects in the shower drain catch. These “human” things are not granted human rights or personhood.

And oh yes, I know the prolife rebuttal to this argument: Unlike sneezes, tumors, poops, excised warts and that clump of hair that collects in the shower drain catch, an embryo has the potential to become a person. Bahahahaha! Really? This argument has been laughed at since the “abortion wars” began. An embryo has the “potential” to become a person. So what? So do sperm. So do ova. Let’s ban masturbation and menstruation! Don’t talk to me about “potential” – it’s an untenable position that has already been pounded into the dirt.

And the second argument is now patently false, as PZ Myers explains in his recent post on the subject. And this is not an argument to my FtB overlord’s authority, but an argument made by a subject expert in the field of evolutionary and developmental biology. He describes the biologically distinct difference between an undifferentiated embryo and a mature, developed, self-sufficient person. I would even bet that there is a scientific consensus about this difference among EvoDevo scientists (*gasps* she invoked scientific consensus!)

To recap:

  • The first premise, that a fetus is human in origin, is true but meaningless. In other news, fire is hot and water is wet.
  • The second premise is false – there is a difference between a person and an undifferentiated clump of cells.
  • The third premise is false. Because poop.

Now, I’m not naïve about the human stubbornness that will keep anti-choice atheists from going “OMFSM – poop! You’re so right! Why have I been shaming people who get abortions and wasting my life on this anti-abortion cause!? Here Brianne, let me contribute to your Bowl-A-Thon fundraiser for Pro-Choice Resources!” (Ahhhhh – see what I did there?)

But, there it is. Once again. The secular prolife argument has no legs upon which to stand. None. Zero. Their academic posturing hinges on the idea that human embryos are people with inherent rights. They are not. On a related note, Avicenna points out the real danger in attempting to apply academic reasoning to the real-world situations of those who must make reproductive healthcare decisions.

There are no arguments against abortion – secular, religious or otherwise – that justify legislating the healthcare decisions of autonomous individuals, hindering individual access to abortion, or of the ability of professionals to safely provide abortion care.


More on this from around Freethought Blogs (pardon me, my fellow bloggers, if I missed any. When did we get so big???)

Ophelia Benson has several posts on Dave Silverman’s statements at CPAC and on social justice and abortion in a broader context between March 10th and today.

Jason Thibeault writes about why he supports the criticism of Dave Silverman’s off-the-cuff, misleading comments about secular prolifers at CPAC.

Dana Hunter shows off the colorfully summarized secular prolife arguments, as written by Giliell,  professional cynic, and calls out David Silverman for throwing reproductive rights under the bus.

Zinnia Jones writes about the idea of competing arguments, and why some ideas (in this case, abortion) are open to disagreement within the atheist community, while others are not.

Lilandra at Ace of Clades writes about the disagreement within the secular community after Silverman’s CPAC statements and why entertaining anti-choice arguments isn’t good for people with a uterus or for our secular community.

The Secular ProLife Argument is Poop