I'm an atheist. I believe in reproductive rights for women. I believe a woman should be able to abort a pregnancy no questions asked. Why should I have to also believe the nonsense that "life begins at birth"? It seems to me that a human being is created as soon as a sperm fertilizes an egg. The DNA of a human being exists from that point onward. Are we so under the thumbs of the religious right that we can't say, "Yeah, life begins at conception. So what? The woman still has control."?

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It's a case of incorrect terminology here. A foetus is alive, there is absolutely no question of that. Denying that a foetus is alive is like denying that the night is dark.
The question under discussion here is about at what point the foetus becomes viable. A foetus capable of survival, even with medical intervention, outside of the womb is viable and should never ever be aborted.
The most despicable practice I've ever seen is the partial birth abortion which takes advantage of a loophole in the law. The baby is delivered in breach to the point where the skull is still in the birth canal. It is then murdered by severing the spinal cord at the base of the neck...and delivered as a non-viable foetus.

Partial birth abortions are also illegal in the United States, though there are loopholes.  At any rate, late term abortions are an insignificant portion of all abortions performed.


Viability is a poor place holder, also.  With advances in neo-natal care, viability is being pushed back to younger and younger gestational ages.  How can we say that at point X, this fetus is not a person, but in 5 years when technology makes point X a viable point, it now is? 

I am a particularly liberal atheist and a feminist but I do have some concerns about the woman having all the control,mostly from personal experience. When we found out that we were expecting our daughter my husband and I both felt this love and commitment to her almost at once. We know that both mothers and fathers can feel terribly bereaved after a miscarriage. My husband's ex girlfriend aborted his baby after telling him she was pregnant and he still remembers the due date and how old his first child would be now - he was devastated and would have supported her through the pregnancy and then been a single parent and asked her for nothing if she had gone through with it. She may not have agreed to that but she didn't even think it concerned him.


If we hold men responsible for the financial support of a child conceived accidently, should he not have some say in an abortion? I do not mean that his wishes should exceed hers but could there not be some system of negotiation? Should the man not be given a chance to offer alternative solutions before the woman makes her decision? I know that my husband felt as much love for our just conceived child as i did and having had two miscarriages I know what it feels like to have that taken away against your will.

I disagree.  I think it is her choice and her choice alone, in the eyes of the law.  I think that the rules of a relationship would be that it would be the right thing to consult the father, but no man or person should ever hold legal or moral sway over a woman's reproductive rights.


That a man has no ultimate recourse in her decision and may be financially liable for a child is the male burden to carry.


I tend to agree with you.  I have known a couple of guys who have had girlfriends in the past have abortions, and it haunted them.  If it was me in that position, I would definitely talk to the father, unless he was a complete bastard, like abusive or something.  But I do think that men should at least have some rights in making the decision.

I think that it is admirable to discuss it with the other person, if the situation is amenable to that discussion.  I felt hurt and betrayed when I was not consulted about an abortion years ago.  I never felt I had the right to be consulted, however.  I much later discovered that it was very likely not even mine in the first place. I've been more haunted by the betrayal of trust on many levels than the actual abortion.

@Reggie Just because the point of viability is mutable does not make it a poor measure. Each case should be judged entirely on its own merits within limits set by law. There is no cookie cutter solution to this argument, it is a very subjective issue.

I'm not sure how it is a subjective matter outside of the realm of personal opinions.  It is a complex and oft debated matter, but not a subjective one.  One person's legal abortion can't be another person's murder in a legal construct. That the issue is to apply an objective point to the issue does make viability a poor marker because we know it to be variable.  Whatever limits are set by the law must, by necessity, have an objective nature about it. If viability is pushed back to conception, will we charge fertility services with mass murder? Perhaps retroactively if the technology advances faster than statute of limitations run out?

Limits set by law?  ummmm...christian lawmakers or secular or both?

Yes "life" begins at conception. But there are two points that anti-choicers are in denial about 1. The medical establishment considers that life to be a pregnancy only when it has implanted in the uterus. 2. The life of a blastocyst is real but its life is on the same level as a bacterium. Is it biologically human? Yes it is. Is it a person? No it isn't ... at least it isn't a full person yet. It has no cognitive functioning, no awareness and none of the higher order processes to be considered for personhood. We are our brains. Personhood depends upon higher order brain functioning of emotions, the ability to think, form relationships, make basic decisions, interpret ones environment, and most importantly possess an individual personality. Without our brains we have none of this. Blastocysts don't have brains. Case closed. A better case could be made for giving personhood to a guinea pig than a blastocyst.
I stand by my point but perhaps it warrants further explanation...
By subjective I mean that each subject should be judged on its own merits. If you take for example a woman in her mid 50s who is unintentionally pregnant and whose foetus shows very early signs of Downs Syndrome against the foetus of a healthy athletic 25 year old who wants an abortion because a child would ruin her lifestyle: at 20 weeks into their pregnancy, the rules for viability are not the same. Whilst the healthy foetus might have a chance at survival at 20 weeks, the Downs foetus would likely have only a very slim chance of survival at 24 weeks, never mind 20.

What I'm trying to say (and not very successfully!!!) is that there is no objective method when it comes to abortions. There should be guidelines and limits yes...but a cookie cutter methodology or a defined point at which ALL pregnancies must carry to term is not a realistic expectation. Every human is different, every pregnancy is different...every abortion should be treated in such a context.

I think I get what you are saying.  That there are myriad circumstances that would lead to a woman considering an abortion and they are not all created equal.  I agree with that.  But, my point is that this is all moot when it comes to the reproductive rights of women.  Rights are not granted selectively based on a case by case basis. Rights are not bestowed based on mitigating criteria; you have the right or you don't.


It is not much different than free speech rights.  We don't grant that to some people because we have estimated their words to be worthy while denying others on a case by case basis.  It doesn't matter what the words are or whether we find value in them or not.  Freedom of speech is a right all enjoy regardless of how those words are judged.  Similarly, it doesn't matter what reason a woman has for aborting a pregnancy.  She has that right and as long as she does, it doesn't matter if I, you, or anyone else think her reasons are not worthy.


In your example, does it matter if the older woman became pregnant intentionally or not?  You frame one woman's need as being justified because she is some innocent victim while the other woman's need is unjustified because she is young and selfish.  What if it were the other way around?  What if the older woman had a healthy fetus but didn't want to ruin her lifestyle?  Does her age even matter at this point? And what if the 25 year old was the innocent victim by "unintentionally" becoming pregnant? And what really is the difference between a woman who doesn't want a kid because of the inconvenience and a woman who doesn't want a DS child? Downs kids are great and loving children.  Will it be too much of an inconvenience? And if it doesn't survive in the womb, why is the abortion even necessary, let alone justified?


Point is, with the law there needs to be logical standards.  Because once you start applying that law, if it isn't logically consistent, unfairness (and sometimes absurdity) will result when situations arise that fall outside of the perfect scenarios that were contrived to validate the law in the first place.


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