Freethought NOW!

Abortion and atheism: Where’s the connection?

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dignity and compassion


I have been writing blog posts for the Freedom From Religion Foundation for over three years. I occasionally read about self-described atheists who say that they do not approve of abortion. Additionally, I’ve seen comments on various social media platforms stating that atheism does not necessarily equate with supporting abortion.

It is true that atheism has no dogma; it is not monolithic. And there are individuals who are against abortion not for religious reasons but due to personally held beliefs. (I do feel compelled to share, however, that 98.8 percent of FFRF members affirmed in a survey their support of abortion, the Pew Research Center found that 87 percent of atheists  think abortion should be legal in all or most cases and yet another study found that atheists, followed by agnostics, are the most supportive of abortion.)

Nevertheless, I contend that abortion is an atheist issue, whether we want it to be or not. The reason is because abortion has been co-opted by the Religious Right. And if we are to live in a secular country where religion is not baked into laws, atheists should care about the legality of abortion — whether they personally support it or not.

At its core, abortion is a medical procedure to terminate a pregnancy. However, Christian nationalism has taken charge of the narrative, claiming fetal personhood — that life begins at conception. In addition, it engages in blatant lies and disinformation about abortion procedures. None of this is based in scientific fact; it is all religiously rooted. All freethinkers would quite certainly agree that health care legislation in a secular country should reflect science — not religion. And the only organized opposition to abortion is from Christian nationalists and other theocrats.

My concern has never been over individuals who are anti-abortion, but rather with systems that are anti-abortion. It is perfectly fine to not support abortion on an individual basis. The problem, however, is that it is hardly ever left at that individual basis. Instead, it becomes legislation that strips millions of people of their bodily autonomy. And there is no scientific research or medical evidence that supports abortion bans. Furthermore, access to abortion is a human right. I have yet to hear an anti-abortion proposal that does not hinge on bad science, religion, personal opinion, or disinformation.

So whether or not you personally agree with abortion, we atheists and nonbelievers can agree that legislation should reflect fact — not faith. This includes legislation about abortion. People should be able to decide for themselves to continue a pregnancy or terminate it. I am completely comfortable with  — and respect — people who do not support abortion for themselves. After all, nobody should be forced to undergo (or forego) medical procedures. This is a basic tenet of human rights. But at the same time, to take that away from other people is against human rights and democratic values. And that is precisely why I support the legalization of abortion.

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