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Jen Roth - Atheist Against Abortion
Posted: 17 September 2010 06:42 PM   [ Ignore ]
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In this episode of Point of Inquiry, Robert Price interviews Jen Roth, co-founder of All Our Lives, a secular organization committed to advocating for women’s right to exercise freedom of conscience in making voluntary, nonviolent, sexual and reproductive decisions.

Jen is an atheist who seeks no grounds for human rights in God or religion, but also one who happens to oppose abortion. Not an advocate for outlawing abortion, though, she believes there is much to be done by way of clarifying and defending the sexual autonomy of women.

Jen Roth has written for the Secular Web and the online political magazine Shared Sacrifice. She was formerly on the board of Consistent Life, an organization which opposes war, abortion, and the death penalty. In spring 2010, she co-founded All Our Lives.

http://www.pointofinquiry.org/jen_roth_atheist_against_abortion/

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Posted: 18 September 2010 02:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Even though we are on opposite sides of this issue, Jen is articulate and consistent in her approach to the issue of abortion. I have two comments about her arguments:

1. From an ethical point of view, she told Bob Price that the one argument for abortion rights that she had the hardest time refuting was the one in which a woman should have control of her own body, and so long as the fetus was dependent upon her body, a woman could withdraw permission for it to dwell within her at any point. She likened this to an organ donor who chooses not to donate an organ (e.g., a kidney) and cannot ethically be forced into doing so. The topic in the episode quickly changed directions, and she never really addressed this with any counter arguments. On my own, I find none that are a compelling refutation of the woman’s right to control her own body. I wonder how she would justify denying women the right to make this choice.

2. I wonder if Jen has considered, in the present-day context, the unintended consequences of her alliances with those who seek to end abortions. Many (if not most) of these groups are vehemently opposed not only to abortion, but also to birth control, sexual choices, LGBT rights, and women’s reproductive health (e.g., HPV vaccination). Even if abortion made me ethically uneasy, affiliating with and lending legitimacy to such organizations appears to run in such opposition to her other positions that I fear she hasn’t fully thought through the ramifications of work with them in this endeavor.

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Posted: 18 September 2010 05:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I’m atheist but conservative. I’m not pro-life, I’m anti-abortion. The unborn babies are killed because they are inconvenient and powerless and that’s morally wrong. End of story.
  There is no right to privacy, at least not in the Constitution, and if there was, we should honor it first by getting rid of zoning, not prohibitions on abortion. What’s private about an abortion anyhow unless you do it yourself?
  Most of the blabber about logical consistency, etc. etc. is liberalism as religion substitute lite. The problem is liberalism does not recognize tradition and hasn’t the slightest clue about morality. This is the liberal conceit I keep talking about. You can never work all the contradictions and unintended consequences and injustices out from your inflated impression of your own wisdom. That’s why we have tradition, a cobble that has been tested and works or close enough to it so it isn’t worth the risk to change it especially for a load of half baked baby boomer self exculpation.
  Same reason I’m dead against all the sexual freedom blabber and homosexual excuses. Sex should be extremely tightly linked to responsibility and held extremely private. Same flaw for the opposition. Anything else really messes up people, enough to eventually bring down the whole.

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Posted: 18 September 2010 08:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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That must be the first time I’ve heard an atheist defend the idea of “tradition”. The first thing that came to mind was the Family Guy parody of the Pepperidge Farm commerical: “Remember when women couldn’t vote, and certain folk weren’t allowed on golf courses? Pepperidge Farm remembers.” The mere act of being an atheist is to be against tradition in a big way, and the defense of science and secular philosphy necessitates Socratic questioning of received wisdom (even if we find no fault with it and end up keeping it anyway).

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Posted: 18 September 2010 09:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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rg21, and I’ll bet you are a man. In the past month, we have had one woman die after delivering and two ended up in the ICU lucky to be alive right after delivery. Looking at my own family, I can see the tragic results of lack of access to birth control causing my mother to give birth to an additional five children she did not want. My parents were married, but my mother became extremely depressed and suicidal, looking for solace in alcohol for 20 years, depriving my younger siblings of the vibrant intelligent mother the oldest children had. Am I pro-choice? Hell yes! There is a HUGE difference in the success and lives of the last children who had no mother and the oldest who did—and the difficulties continue onto the second and third generations. If my mother had access to birth control or abortion, I would not have had my ‘mother’ taken from me as a teen and young adults. Perhaps she would have chosen to have one more, but she would have been able to be a mother to that child if she’d had the choice.

Women have had abortions throughout history and prehistory. The difference now is that they do not have to desperately risk their lives an fertility. You need to talk to women my age who have lost a mother to a botched abortion. Whether or not abortion is legal, will never affect the rich and well to do, it affects the poor and middle class workers. Those who can afford them, will ALWAYS find a place to get one. It is effectively, a tax on those who can least afford it. mad

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Posted: 18 September 2010 10:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Its interesting that she points to inconsistencies among “pro-choicers.”  There are some obvious inconsistencies in her perspective.  If she thinks that fetus are all human, then how could she not be interested in making it illegal?  Is the right to privacy more important than the life of a fellow human being (since this appears to be her view)?  I certainly would not put a person’s right to privacy over a murder. (this is not my view, but is a logical extension of her view… unless she views abortion as a special case and not murder)

Also I would be intersted in her response to the following (simplified) thought experierment:  There is a fire and she only has time to save either one 4 year old child or two fertilized embryos ready for implantation.  Which would she choose?  If she views them all as “humans” you see the conundrum.  It appears to me that being anti-abortion poses more consistency challenges.

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Posted: 18 September 2010 10:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Don’t get me wrong though… I think that the approach that Jen Roth is taking to reduce abortions is largely the right approach.  I think abortions should be legal… I don’t know that there is a reasonable alternative to this, but reducing the number of abortions is an important thing to strive for.  I just felt that her comment on logical inconsistencies went unchallenged when there are obvious logical inconsistencies (or odd conclusions that could be further challenged) that result from viewing embryos as full human beings.

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Posted: 19 September 2010 04:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Being an atheist simply means you don’t think there is a god. It doesn’t mean you have to think you and your friends are wiser than the accumulated wisdom of civilization, not just in general, but in each and every case. Logan obviously knows only liberals. He needs a better class of friends. Asanta is guilty of the most classic sin skepticism attacks, selective vision. I’m not saying the old ways were perfect, not even good, just better than the new. Asanta is blind to the evils - intended and unintended - that sear my nostrils daily since the late 60’s, not to mention the broken, wasted, and diminished lives.

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Posted: 19 September 2010 04:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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And I’m fine with the Socratic method. But it doesn’t mean that you and your friends always come up with the right answer, much less that you have a god given (pardon me) obligation to impose it on the rest of us.

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Posted: 19 September 2010 05:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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@rg21-

I think you have an overly romantic view of the past.  I see this in many people who are conservative with a populist slant.  I do not really identify with the term ‘liberal’ that you throw around in derogatory ways, but it appears to me that the world is place that is improving for humans as time goes on from many perspectives, particularly the moral and social perspectives that you reference.  There are many measures that you could look to to validate this, but ultimately it is a matter of perspective.

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Posted: 19 September 2010 08:50 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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rg21 - 19 September 2010 04:27 AM

Being an atheist simply means you don’t think there is a god. It doesn’t mean you have to think you and your friends are wiser than the accumulated wisdom of civilization, not just in general, but in each and every case. Logan obviously knows only liberals. He needs a better class of friends. Asanta is guilty of the most classic sin skepticism attacks, selective vision. I’m not saying the old ways were perfect, not even good, just better than the new. Asanta is blind to the evils - intended and unintended - that sear my nostrils daily since the late 60’s, not to mention the broken, wasted, and diminished lives.

What about the broken lives of the WOMEN? do THEY count for anything. What about the families forced to have far more children than they could care for. What about the people so desperate as to risk an illegal abortion by a probably unqualified practitioner and risk their lives? What do YOU know about the ‘old’ days when men were allowed to beat their wives, and the women who tried to get a divorce were seen as ‘fallen women’ little better than prostitutes AND were usually left destitute as well. What do YOU know about the days when a woman could be fired for becoming pregnant, or put in a mental institution for daring to ask for the right to vote? What do YOU know about the OLD days?? Take OFF your ROSE colored glasses! angry

Until you can tell me that you would save two embryos before you save a little girl/boy from sure death in a burning building, you are a hypocrite. If you WOULD save the embryos before the children, you are immoral. hmmm Smileys

[ Edited: 19 September 2010 08:53 AM by asanta ]
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Posted: 19 September 2010 03:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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It seems to me that no matter what position one takes on the issue, there will be accusations in inconsistency left right and centre.  Human sympathy often extends to the sufferer of the unwanted pregnancy or child.  Doh I just made a very ambiguous statement, unwittingly in fact.  When a woman frames the problem of whether to allow a baby to mature as affecting her own survival severely, she must then kill the life within her, or even worse, submit to the pressure of others.  Who sides with the innocent in such a case will seem a monster to some eyes.

That all said, I wholeheartedly agree with the previous poster on the immorality of eliminating an inconvenient human being when contraception fails or should have but was not undertaken.  TG I’m not a woman, these are very very painful choices either way.

I made no claim for logical consistency in expressing these thoughts.

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Posted: 19 September 2010 04:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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If you think these decisions are easy, obviously you are not a woman. The woman who uses abortion as birthcontrol is a myth, if not a very rare person indeed. It reminds me of the 1980s non-existent ‘caddy owning welfare queen’ paraded by the GOP, which under scrutiny, could not be produced. I have no doubt that somewhere, there is a woman who uses abortion as birth control, but there are far more who risk their infants by abusing drugs and alcohol during and after their pregnancies.

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Posted: 19 September 2010 04:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Also I would be intersted in her response to the following (simplified) thought experierment:  There is a fire and she only has time to save either one 4 year old child or two fertilized embryos ready for implantation.  Which would she choose?  If she views them all as “humans” you see the conundrum.  It appears to me that being anti-abortion poses more consistency challenges.

I’d go even further.
If I’d have to choose between fertilized embryo and a dog, I’d go for a dog.
They are certainly more intelligent and self aware then embryos.

Any thoughts?

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Posted: 19 September 2010 06:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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hamax - 19 September 2010 04:36 PM

If I’d have to choose between fertilized embryo and a dog, I’d go for a dog.
They are certainly more intelligent and self aware then embryos.

Any thoughts?

Ditto. I’m a pro-choice vegan.

rg21: I don’t have any friends (that I am aware of) who are socially conservative. Not that your comments mean anything, since you’re so unfriendly to “liberals” anyway. I imagine being the Uncle Ruckus of atheists is not conducive to liberal friends.

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Posted: 22 September 2010 06:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Was Jen Roth ultimately arguing that personhood is something that a human organism has for its entire lifecycle?  At what starting point?  Conception, implantation, or something else?

I find it completely implausible that an organism at a life stage with no capacity for perception, let alone reason, counts as a person.  Nor that a particular genetic code is either necessary or sufficient for personhood.

I think every point that she made was brought up in a debate I had with a Christian blogger on the topic of abortion, who similarly argued for an equation between personhood and human organism.  I wonder if she has any better rejoinders.  Does she think that IVF and therapeutic cloning are immoral?  IUDs?

http://lippard.blogspot.com/2009/12/vocab-malone-on-abortion-and-personhood.html

[ Edited: 22 September 2010 06:03 PM by Jim Lippard ]
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