Just Wondering

 I was stopped in my web-surfing tracks recently by this blog title: “I’m a Pro-life Atheist, but the Pro-Life Movement is Shutting Me Out.”

After reading this post, I wanted to know if there were others like Sarah Terzo, the author of this post. A little research confirmed that, indeed, there are many atheists who actively oppose abortion. In fact, there are pro-life organizations whose membership is entirely atheist, or at least non-religious.

My survey of several posts and websites confirmed something that is disturbing. Since it manifests itself in several different ways, I am left with some questions I cannot answer. The core of the disturbance is this: Christian pro-life activists and non-Christian pro-life activists do not work well together, and the available information suggests that it is the Christians who put up the barriers. The reports of non-cooperation come from secular reporters, and I didn’t immediately find any such reports from Christian pro-life bloggers.

Here are the ways secular pro-lifers are shut out of cooperation with Christian pro-lifers:

  • When secular pro-lifers volunteer to work in rescue sites where pregnant mothers receive counsel regarding the decision to keep their babies, the secular volunteers are rejected. They are rejected even if they volunteer to do clerical work where they would have no contact with the mothers.
  • When secular pro-lifers try to coordinate demonstrations or publicity for the pro-life agenda, the Christian activists refuse to include them.
  • When a secular mother engages in counseling about the decision to keep her baby, there may not be any literature for her to read that focuses on the right to life without including Christian religious teaching.
  • When Christian pro-life advocates begin planning events or major activism, they never make any attempt to contact or coordinate with secular activists who hold the same view.

It is possible that these allegations could be refuted if a Christian activist were interviewed, but Christians have not, in the material I could find quickly, commented about even the existence of atheist pro-life organizations.

I have both Christian and secular readers, so I would really like to hear from any who care to comment. Are you aware that the pro-life movement is a big umbrella that includes both a variety of religions and completely secular groups? From your perspective, secular or religious, is there any reason all the groups cannot work together on this issue without compromising their positions on the existence or non-existence of any god? Who gains if any group advocating the right to life is shut out of the work it takes to reduce the pressure of the pro-choice advocates? I fervently desire to hear from Christians, atheists or any other group. What is your experience? What do you observe? What do you think?

I am a Christian, and I am fervently pro-life. I believe that a zygote is a human being as surely as a newborn baby or an old grandmother. My convictions are built on a combined foundation of science and faith, but I would have a hard time rejecting the help of an atheist who wanted to end the scourge of convenience abortions. I earnestly solicit your comments. What’s wrong with this picture?

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10 thoughts on “Just Wondering”

  1. In Corinthians 6: the Bible says, “14 Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?”

    In John 17: the Bible says, “14 “I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.”

    When our school board was about to choose the state AIDS prevention curriculum, which was written by a homosexual who was dying of AIDS, and included teaching how to use dental dams for oral sex, I contacted a Christian state senator for help. She encouraged us to call for a public hearing. I prayed and then I contacted all the Christian parents and then decided to contact the Mormon parents. The Christians worked with the Mormons and we had a huge turn out at the meeting. So we were not yoked, I would say, because after the hearing we all went our separate ways.

    Then when I was in ill health and could no longer be the Republican Party caucus chairman for our neighborhood and Mormon offered to serve. I was concerned. I prayed about it and suddenly the Mormon was transferred out of the neighborhood.

    So I would say pray about each thing and if the atheist pro life person wants to be involved in the pro-life movement give it to the Lord in prayer.

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    1. I must agree that the first thing any Christian must do is to give every problem to God in prayer. The more I explore this situation, the more I believe that we must add to that prayer our attentive study of Jesus’ behavior toward people he disagreed with. I think there is a lot to learn about his expectations and his way of working in people’s hearts and minds if we read without assuming we already know what he would do.
      Thank you for your instructive comment.

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  2. Well, I’m an atheist and I’m pro choice. But I also think that the fewer abortions the better and have been engaging in some very polite debates with pro lifers online. Generally, we can all agree that the fewer abortions the better. But when real world solutions are raised, particularly contraception and sex education, which actually work to lower the rates of both unwanted pregnancies and abortions, the door is shut. Abstinence before marriage is the only thing countenanced. The clear international evidence that abstinence is a washout compared to frank sex education and contraception access just doesn’t matter.

    OK, that’s fine, but now a different agenda is being revealed, which is about controlling sexuality. Imposing a specific type of religious morality is what’s really at stake. There is a significant group that says it’s ‘pro life’ when it’s actually ‘pro my particular moralising view of the world’.

    They want an outcome – sexual morality – that’s different from what they claim to want – fewer or no abortions. At which point discussion stops, because I reject their sexual mores.

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    1. Your comment provides a real insight into the problem.
      In the mix of all people who view abortion as undesirable, there is a spectrum that ranges from a view that abortion is not the best method of birth control to a view that abortion is murder. Every person on that spectrum of views has a subsidiary agenda for the best way to reduce the number of abortions.
      You consider yourself pro choice, but even though you would prefer women make a choice that prevents pregnancy from occurring, you don’t consider abstinence a realistic choice.
      You find it difficult to work with people who agree with you that preventing pregnancy is the best idea if they also contend that abstinence is the best way to achieve that goal.
      You don’t want to work with someone who has a different moral agenda from yours. The report that Christians shut atheists out of their pregnancy counseling operations seems to me to be rooted in the same problem: those Christians do not want to work with someone whose moral agenda is different from theirs.
      Abortion is a moral issue. Abstinence is a moral issue. Contraception is a moral issue. And none of these facts even touches on the question of whether the foundation for holding these moral principles lies in science or religious belief.
      Do I understand correctly what you are saying? Is it possible that all the people who want abortion rejected as a fix for unplanned pregnancies cannot work together as a force for the public good, because their moral foundations are different? Is it possible that when the nation confronted slavery, there was the same problem? Is it possible that the problem coming to light here means that the Constitution, which was written to define and limit government, should not be roped into the service of anybody’s moral agenda?
      I think I am finding more questions than answers right now.
      Thank you very much for your informative and thoughtful comment.

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      1. No, I don’t think I would agree with almost any of that and I’m sorry if I came across as that intolerant. In everyday life we have to work with people whose morality is different to ours and get along.

        I suppose for me the central question is: what do people want to achieve?

        Now the pro lifers SAY they want to achieve an end to abortion.

        OK, maybe there’s some common ground there. I’m with the camp that says safe, legal and rare, but I also think anything that can be done to bring down abortion rates is a good thing. So while I would go to the barricades to stop my reproductive choices being taken away from me, there is, nevertheless, the potential for common ground.

        Surely we can agree that it would be better if abortion rates would come down?

        And this is the sticking point. There is very clear, real world evidence about how to do that. Holland set out to bring down the rates of unwanted pregnancy, and they did that very effectively by coordinating healthcare, education and social services. Dutch girls and women get robust sex education, access to contraception, privacy (e.g. from parents) and, if they do carry a child to term, excellent social services. And it works.

        The state of Mississippi has none of the above, and they have an extremely high rate of teenage pregnancy and associated social problems. No doubt wealthier women slip across borders to get the abortions they can’t get in state.

        Abstinence education, often touted as the answer to unwanted pregnancy, has been a manifest failure. An emphatic failure. The evidence is in.

        So if someone genuinely wanted to bring down abortion rates, they’d look at what works and go with that, even if they didn’t like it. In the same way that condoms and needles are handed out in prison – prisoners are not supposed to have sex or do drugs and those things may encourage them to do so. But that is better than having an epidemic of AIDS . The handouts have been successful in bringing down rates of disease, so they’re clearly the lesser of two evils.

        But the pro lifers won’t have that. Nope. They want to control sexuality as well as reproductive choices. Which tells me that their overarching agenda – imposing a particular sexual morality – is a more important goal than the stated goal of saving the unborn.

        In the end, people who want to achieve a common goal don’t have to have a common morality. My morality is not doubt very different from that of my colleagues, but it doesn’t matter when it comes to achieving our stated goals. But here’s the difference – we’re not pretending to have one goal, while actually going after another.

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      2. It does appear to me that those who insist on abstinence as the method for achieving a reduction in abortions have made it clear that they think a working relationship with those who share your views compromises their integrity.
        Do you feel that a working relationship with those who support abstinence compromises your integrity?
        Do you think it would be possible for both groups to find the right words to express their advocacy without compromising their moral convictions?

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      3. To be honest, I think that’s asking the wrong question. The question is: in a world where abortion is legal, what can be done to bring down the rate?

        (Now I know the real agenda will be to make abortion illegal, but I don’t share that, so no compromise is possible.)

        But what can we compromise on?

        If you accept that we all – pro lifers, pro choicers, everybody – would like to see the rates of abortion brought down, then it’s less a question of high horse morality and more a question of what actually works.

        Sure, people can preach abstinence until they’re blue in the face. I wouldn’t stop anyone saying that. And no, how could accepting and appreciating that other people hold different opinions to me possibly compromise my integrity?

        But here’s the problem – moral, immoral, morally neutral – it’s never been proven to be a good way to reduce the rates of unwanted pregnancies or abortions. So why would I get involved with something that doesn’t work? That would be a waste of my time.

        Now if there was an initiative to present a range of options, one of which is abstinence, sure, why not? I wouldn’t object to that.

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      4. I see your point. However, it seems to me that you are as immovable in your convictions as those with whom you differ. That statement is not a judgment; it is an observation.
        They feel absolutely convicted that the best way to prevent pregnancy, and thereby prevent abortions, is abstinence. It is not possible to argue that abstinence does not work; it always does. However, people do not always practice abstinence, even when they are absolutely committed to the righteousness of that choice. Demanding abstinence does not prevent pregnancy; practicing abstinence always prevents pregnancy.
        The failure of abstinence, therefore, is what you regard as a natural consequence of being human.
        You are committed to a position that says it is impossible for human beings to live by a standard of abstinence, even though it can be demonstrated that many people do live by that standard. You are focusing on the worst case outcome of commitment to that standard, while others focus on the best case outcome of that standard. You can prove with irrefutable logic, that it is hard for people to practice abstinence, and you can prove that when they fail, they risk unplanned pregnancy.
        Those who advocate abstinence are mostly, if not entirely, people who believe that God expects them to live according to the standard of abstinence outside marriage. That is the natural consequence of believing that people ought to obey God’s teaching not to commit adultery. These same people believe that if someone is living in relationship with God, God himself will empower and enable the behavior that makes it possible to be abstinent. You may argue that there is plenty of evidence that a lot of people who want to live that way and intend to live that way do not live that way. People who believe that God empowers those who commit to him also believe that God both forgives the failure and redeems the unplanned pregnancy. That means that those who inextricably link abstinence with their rejection of abortion are operating in a frame of reference very different from yours.
        You believe that it is an unfair judgment of a rigid and callous society to expect a woman to carry an unplanned baby to term while they see that unplanned baby as an opportunity for God to redeem several lives, depending on the decision about who rears the baby. You see the baby as a problem for the pregnant woman; they see the baby as an opportunity for God. You believe that it only makes sense to give people the facts and the tools to deal with the natural human proclivity to assume that nothing will go wrong. They believe it is essential to lead people to value the gift of life in a way that empowers them to behave with total respect for life, whether or not it is a life they planned.
        What I see is that there are a lot of good people who want women to avoid abortions. Without regard to my own convictions about abstinence or no abstinence, I would like know if anyone believes that there is a way for the two views on abstinence to find common ground in advocacy that will lead our society as a whole to reduce the incidence of abortions.
        Do you think that is possible?

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      5. Look, no offence,but I think I’ll end the discussion here. You seem to be using my comments to paint me as holding a position I do not, in fact, hold – that I am committed to a particular ideological view and that I will hold that rigidly, which means I can’t work with people who hold opinions different to mine.

        I’m committed to doing what works. What’s been proven to work. There’s been a lot of money thrown at abstinence education in parts of the US and the result is that states that teach it have higher rates of STDs and unwanted pregnancies in teenagers. Why on earth would I think that it’s something worth getting behind, when it produces such a bad outcome?

        Now if the abstinence education had done the opposite, and brought down unwanted pregnancies and STDs etc, then I would be bound in good conscience to support it. But it doesn’t work.

        So if pursuing a specific, rigid, religious based doctrine is more important than getting actual results, then count me out.

        If you want to use that comment to paint me as committed to a particular position that means I can’t work with anybody who doesn’t hold the exact same view as I do, then feel free. But believing something doesn’t make it true.

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      6. I would agree with you that the point has been thoroughly exercised. The discussion we have had makes it clear that when both sides of a particular issue hold non-negotiable positions, the two sides will not be able to stand together on their common ground to promote a different view that both support. I had hoped otherwise.

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