It all started when David Silverman, president of American Atheists, decided to travel to CPAC, the notorious right-wing conference full of Tea Partiers and extremists. While there, he made some comments to Raw Story, including saying that “there is a secular argument against abortion.” A lot of people were confused, many saying that of course there is, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good argument.
There was some back and forth, and then Hemant Mehta at Friendly Atheist published a guest post written by Kristine Kruszelnicki, the president of Pro-Life Humanists. For some reason, Hemant decided to publish this piece without any criticism, despite the arguments in that piece being appallingly bad. The general consensus (at least among the people I pay attention to) was that we should not give room for people to argue that half the population deserves fewer rights.
Apparently that was a controversial statement. For some reason, people seemed to think that because we’re skeptics, that means we have to honestly debate literally everything anyone proposes, no matter how tired, overdone, or ridiculous the proposal. Because we’re dedicated to rational inquiry, dammit, and that means we’re never allowed to come to conclusions!
I’m bothered that there are a lot of people who honestly seem to believe that there can’t be debates we’ve collectively decided are over. After all, if we can say that the debate is over on whether God exists, why can’t we say that the debate is over on whether people with uteri should have the right to choose?
The people #UpForDebate is directed at seem to think that we should never say the debate is over on any issue, lest someone propose a radical new argument that convinces everyone. While these people may be content to never be certain about anything, the rest of us put a hard limit on how long we’re willing to put up with the other side. For me, I think sixty years (at least) of anti-abortion arguments is enough.
When we say this about religious arguments, nobody bats an eye. When we’ve spent years putting up with awful Christian apologetics, and refuse to even listen to the theologians anymore, that’s considered a rational decision. When everything you’ve eaten tastes like shit, it’s perfectly reasonable to assume everything will continue to taste like shit, and to stop eating.
I also have a problem with Dive Silverman courting the conservative right in an effort to boost AA membership. Dave has a history of ignoring all kinds of unpleasantness from people as long as they’re part of the movement, and I have a history of strongly disagreeing with him on that point.
The purpose of the atheist community isn’t (or at least it shouldn’t be) to make more atheists. The point should be to help people who are suffering under religious oppression. The reason atheists and the Religious Right don’t often work together is because they have opposite goals: the Right seeks to impose theocracy, atheists seek to abolish it.
This is also the reason why atheist groups often work closely with LGBT groups. Almost all of the hatred and discrimination of queer people is religiously motivated, so atheists have a strong interest in fighting that discrimination. This also explains why most atheists are liberal. The Republican Party is the party of conservative Christians, so atheists naturally gravitate toward the Democrats, or the Green Party.
The anti-abortion movement is religiously motivated as well. Most of the anti-choice arguments are religious in nature, which is why Silverman had to explicitly point out the existence of the handful that weren’t. Atheists have a strong incentive to be pro-choice, and to actively fight efforts to restrict reproductive rights. So why don’t we?
The final issue I’m going to address is the fact that I view reproductive access as a non-negotiable position. Just like I view acceptance of queer people as non-negotiable, I also view the right to bodily autonomy as not up for debate. There are no issues to discuss, there is no compromise to be had, and I adamantly refuse to entertain the notion that maybe, just maybe, people with uteri deserve to be second-class citizens.
This is actually a really standard position on a lot of repulsive issues. We don’t debate whether Hitler was right, or whether we should legalize slavery, or if we should just nuke everything and be done with it. That ship has sailed (if there ever was a ship at all). The debate is over, if there ever was one, and we don’t have to keep revisiting it every time someone proposes a new variation on an old argument.
And I guess that’s the problem I have with the whole conversation. There aren’t enough people treating the right to choose as non-negotiable. Plenty of people (mostly people without a uterus, I’ve noticed) seem to be perfectly willing to debate abortion access without considering that maybe we shouldn’t be debating people’s human rights at all. Somehow I thought that more people would be able to come to that (really obvious) conclusion. I guess I’m just bad at skepticking.
Note: Do not debate abortion rights in the comments. That just demonstrates a severe lack of awareness. Plus your comments will be deleted.