One of the ironies of America’s abortion debate is that I always hear about how pro-life people are moronic science deniers, with naught but religious reasons for their position. And yet, whenever I’ve argued the issue with a pro-abortion secularist, without exception, they not only bring up religion before I do, but they talk about it far more. They tell me what God would and wouldn’t want a young woman to be able to do. They tell me about how God would have designed pregnancy to work if He really thought abortion was a sin. They tell me all about souls and how they can’t be detected and thus cannot be used to validate the worth of an unborn child. Without my ever having mentioned God or souls at all, they happily provide their own religious beliefs on the subjects—reliefs which, being disconnected from anything God has actually revealed to us, amount to nothing more than superstitions.
To be sure, there’s no shame in having and acting on religious reasons when it comes to this and other political issues (though one should certainly hope they’re more thought out than the ad hoc pontifications supplied by the pro-choice.) After all, a religion that doesn’t affect one’s public life can hardly be called a religion at all. Nevertheless, as a matter of rhetoric, I don’t talk religion when arguing with the irreligious on issues like this. There’s no need to appeal to religious principles of which they are already skeptical when one can use the parts of the natural law which they already believe whether they realize it or not.
Any case against abortion always starts with a single principle: it’s wrong to intentionally kill an innocent human being. You don’t have to be religious to know this, and most unbelievers will admit it. While Neitzsche might have rejected notions of right & wrong and accepted murder as a legitimate means by which the strong self-actualize at the expense of the weak, today’s atheists and secularists are generally eager to prove how they’re so much more moral than the religious. Accordingly, popular defenses of abortion accept this moral axiom while denying that it applies to the unborn—usually by claiming that the unborn are not actually human beings.
This claim usually leads to a philosophical discussion about when life begins, but such an assertion implicitly raises a far more curious question: where exactly do humans come from? Though children might believe fables about storks, people generally discover the truth about sexual reproduction by the time they reach adulthood. In short, it all goes back to the concept of biogenesis. For around 150 years, science has firmly established that life only comes from other life—specifically, from the same kind of life. Dogs beget dogs, fish beget fish, flies beget flies, and humans beget humans. Biogenesis displaced the very old and (until then venerated) theory of spontaneous generation. Some life, it had been held, simply emerged on its own from non-living matter. Maggots, for example, were believed to be spontaneously generated by rotting meat. Thanks to the work of scientists like Louis Pasteur, we all know better today.
All of us, it would seem, except abortion supporters.
The way they tell the origin of human life has much more in common with spontaneous generation than with biogenesis. Rather than at conception, they claim that human life begins at birth, or at the first quickening, or when sentience is achieved, or at one of a dozen other points in time. But whatever the specifics, there is one thing all these claims have in common: the human reproductive system produces a non-human piece of matter that eventually spontaneously generates a human being just as sand was once thought to spontaneously generate clams and oysters.
But while the pro-choice implicitly rely on beliefs that are as outdated as flat-earth theory, science is solidly on the pro-life side, for conception is the mechanism of human reproduction that first creates a genetically distinct human being. Of course, the moment you mention genetics, Cancer Man shows up. Cancer Man will tell you that carcinogenic tumors also contain human DNA and then point out that we innocently cut them out all the time. He concludes that the unborn are no more genetically human than tumors, and that abortion therefore does not kill a “real” human being. What Cancer Man forgets is what every other adult in the world realizes: tumors are not human beings because cancer is no more a means of human reproduction than the fabled stork is. It’s not as though there are any doctors out there trying to offer cancer as a solution for infertile couples. His argument is simply a red, anti-science herring.
And so, not only do I hear more religious arguments from the pro-choice (and superstitious ones at that) they are also the origin of far more science denial than I’ve ever heard from the pro-life. One hopes that our nation will someday emerge from all of this dark superstition & magical thinking. Perhaps then the light of clear reason will eventually lead us away from our senseless slaughter of the most defenseless among us.