Sunday at the American Atheists’ National Convention those of us paying attention heard of a new group: Secular ProLife, who tag themselves as “Pro-life for a reason.” They may be religious people in secularists’ clothing, trying to tap in to what they see as an anti-woman market for their ideas in the secular community. They may also be genuinely secular people who want to share their message with their fellow atheists. In either case I’m disgusted, angry, and disappointed. What I am not is shocked or surprised. There are many examples of anti-abortion atheists, and how many are surprised that the late Christopher Hitchens wasn’t entirely on board with a woman’s right to choose? The fact is that there are anti-abortionists in our ranks and they have been for some time.
In her 2010 interview with Robert Price on Point of Inquiry, Jen Roth of All Our Lives (another secular anti-abortion group) said that the hardest pro-choice argument for her to refute was one of consent. That is, even if you argue that a fetus is a person a woman has control of her body and should be allowed to withdraw or dent consent for her body to carry it to term. In her own words she said this was similar to a potential organ donors not being forced to donate an organ in order to save a dying person’s life.
Looking over the PDF brochure from Secular ProLife I see a whole bunch of specious arguments. They point out that since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 “over 300 women have died from legal abortion."& According to the anti-abortion Pro-Life& Action League there have been 50 million abortions performed since 1973. This number is backed up by the Guttmacher Institute, which is pro-choice. In 2007 the maternal death rate in the US was 12.7 per 100,000 – more than twenty-one times the death rate from complications of abortion.
Secular ProLife tries to cherry pick and correlate maternal death rates in various countries with their governmental policies on abortion. Their intent is obviously to suggest there is some link, where legal access to abortion somehow makes mothers die in childbirth. It’s a ridiculous, nonsensical claim and they have to obscure some rather telling facts to make even that weak case. For example, according to the pamphlet, Mauritius is pro-life and has a maternal death rate that is “the lowest in Africa,” while Ethiopia is “pro-choice” and has a maternal death rate “48 times that of Mauritius.” Want to know what they left out? The fact that the per capita GDP of Mauritius is $13,670 vs. Ethiopia’s of $365. I’ll let you figure out which is more likely responsible for any difference in mortality rates: money available to spend on health care or a magically life-preserving effect that is only activated when you outlaw abortion.
Here’s the deal. They are stuck using bullshit arguments because they can’t answer the single most compelling argument: Women are autonomous human beings and need to have that bodily autonomy defended. They need to lie because they know that saying “women can’t have control of their bodies” is not something any decent human being will stand for.