Atheism and Abortion

I keep getting e-mails asking me what I, as a godless heathen, think about abortion. It’s one of those inflammatory topics that is guaranteed to get people angry, which I think is why I keep getting questions about it. So here we go… the godless response to the abortion issue:

Religious folks tend to frame the question of abortion around the idea of God’s Will and the slaughter of the innocents. Pro-Choice folks tend to center the issue around a woman’s right to choose what to do with her own body. However, as I seem to lack both a god and woman’s body, I’m kinda stuck trying to figure it out based on the world I actually live in. You might assume that as a godless heathen I would side with those killing innocents, but (aside from the annoying brat that sat next to me at Denny’s last week) I do not condone killing children.

Ah, but then there’s that next big question… when is it a child? For the religious this is a deep and mysterious truth… life begins at conception. For the pro-choice, the answer is (usually) life begins at birth. From a heathen’s point of view I disagree with both. Follow me here… it has to do with a bus.

Pretend I was walking down the street and a bus came out of nowhere and splattered me across the pavement. An ambulance shows up and carts me off to the hospital where underpaid and overworked doctors stitch me up and put me on a variety of beeping and blinking machines. Eventually, a decision has to be made about life support.

In every province and state in every Western nation the decision on when to pull the plug on me is made based on brainwave activity. If I am brain dead [I mean for real] then I am dead. Pull the plug, call the coroner… I’m cold meat. Good Christians and heathens alike across the country agree that when there is absolutely zero brain wave activity then the person is kaput.

When it comes to abortion I basically go with this accepted medical definition of life: brainwave activity. If the woman is in the early part of her first trimester before the brain develops in the embryo, then by all medical standards you are not dealing with a human life. It may be POTENTIAL human life, but it is not in fact a living “being” by the definition used by palliative care physicians and Christian grief councilors.

Once you do have brainwave activity then it becomes an issue of two persons, the mother and the child. That gets all messy and concerned and frankly I am glad to let the courts and councilors debate the value of mother versus child’s wellbeing. But until that point, when there is no brain wave activity, there is no human life. So say the doctors.

You can fight about late-term abortions and rights, but for the definition of “what is life”, I think the precedent is already well established. According to accepted medical practice a life exists where you can show brain wave activity. If there are no brainwaves, there is no human life.

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2 Responses to “Atheism and Abortion”

  1. Atheism and Abortion | jdTVu Says:

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  2. Andy Kapp Says:

    I like your view on this. I used to be of the opinion that if we do have a soul, that soul comes into being at the moment of conception. But, leaving aside the “soul” question, I agree with your approach of considering brain activity as the marker for deciding whether abortion or death of a human being is a moral question. I don’t think the question is so much “what is life”. Life is life, and there is more to defining life than brain activity..plants are part of life, as are insects, and birds etc.

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