Sunday, February 17, 2013

Thoughts of A Pro-Life Atheist

It may seem strange, as an atheist, to identify myself as "pro-life." Of course, nowadays, it is common to stereotype atheists as pro-choice; but there is always room for anomalies.

My reasoning for my stance against abortion is one that is does not involve the notion of
the sanctity of life. Beings come into existence, live their lives, and then cease to exist. This is the cycle which is life, and there is not any special significance about the idea of it. However, it seems to be the case that any sort of potential for existence is a completely different aspect, and one that I hold paramount in my stance about abortion. In this sense, it is misleading for me to designate myself as "pro-life." Perhaps a more appropriate title of my stance could be pro-potential.

By potential of life, I mean that fertilized egg, in the exact moment of conception, has a certain capacity that will lead to consciousness (given that the fetus is not exposed to medical complications that result in its death). Many people that hold the pro-choice stance will claim that a damaged or deformed fetus (and even ones without complications) are in the jurisdiction of the mother's choice. I must admit that, unless the woman is raped or the birth of the baby will lead to her death, any decision to abort this potential for life is a rights violation. Of course, if this action is a human rights violation is another matter entirely, for it could be argued that the fetus is not a human.

Pro-lifers usually object to the claim that human life starts at conception. I do not hold this view, for there is a lack of evidence that suggests that the fetus, before a certain stage in its development, experiences any neurological functioning. However, the potential for life is firmly established by fertilization; this cannot be refuted by any scientist or philosopher. Perhaps the next objection from the pro-lifers would be something like, "Well, in that case, the moment when your mother is born could be a potential for life, since her life inevitably leads to your own." This objection seems ad hoc, and totally misses the basis of my assertion. It is obtuse to say that the potential starts before fertilization.

As mentioned earlier, abortion is a rights violation. By giving the mother the right to infringe upon the fetus' potential for life, the point is made clear. When viewing this from a rights perspective, the potential for the fetus to develop into a rationalizing human being, whether his/her life is full of conflict or flourishing, is something that cannot be ignored. Many people of the pro-choice opinion are bound to say, "The child will not live a fulfilled life if they are exposed to a life full of hardships or given away to adoption. Why put the child through this? We should, instead, abort the fetus so that the child will not experience a horrible quality of life." To this, I ask: "Who are we to decide that another being cannot eventually overcome even the most destructive obstacles?" Adoption, in cases not mentioned previously, truly is the morally superior alternative to destroying another being's potential to experience the beauty of life. If indeed, the child grows up and realizes that his/her life is so miserable in his situation, he always has the right to commit suicide. This point may seem unavoidably poignant on first glance, but at least it leaves the ultimate decision to life up to the human subject, and not some outside source.

Just some thoughts... maybe an outline for a bigger exposition in the future.


  1. Serious question:

    What exactly do you mean by "Potential of life"?
    An embryo isn't going to just magically, of its own accord, develop into a fully fledged human being. All that extra mass comes from other chemicals (nutrition) that must be added over a nine month period of time under very controlled circumstances (that is, a functioning uterus) and will result in something that is completely different from the fetus you are defending.

    You would never be tempted to call the nutrition in question a potential human being. Even in the exact right amounts and proportions you would never. Even if we added it to a uterus over a period of nine months would you not be tempted to call it a potential human being. Why put so much significance on the potential of a fertilized egg?

    1. Hey Nils, thanks for taking time to read my ramblings.

      By "potential for life" I mean that the fetus, once it becomes fertilized, sets life in motion so to speak. It is the beginning of any concept of maturation.

      It is true that it takes 9 months to fully develop, and you are right in saying that it is completely different at the end of this period than from the beginning. From the way I see it, before fertilization, you just have a completely dormant egg. Once it becomes fertilized, the clockwork has begun.