By Monica Snyder, Executive Director, Secular Pro-Life
“Don’t like abortion? Don’t get one.” This talking point is simultaneously one of the most recurrent and least persuasive pro-choice arguments.
First and foremost, pro-lifers view abortion as a human rights violation, and it makes no sense to tell people concerned about human rights violations to mind their own business.
[See the related TikTok – “If abortion is legal, it is not illegal for you to refrain from getting an abortion.”]
Even if a particular abortion has no material direct affect on a particular anti-abortion person, all people have standing to oppose human rights violations. Unless the pro-choice side first persuades us that abortion is not a human rights violation, demanding we mind our own business won’t be remotely compelling.
But even if it were true that only people directly affected by abortion have standing to object to abortion, the “Don’t like abortion? Don’t get one” argument would still be weak. A lot of people are impacted by abortions besides the women obtaining them.
First and most obviously, abortion affects the embryos and fetuses it kills. Abortion destroys living human beings and deprives them of all future experiences, of having a life at all. Particularly from an atheist perspective, this is a grievous deprivation.
Even if the pro-choice person believes embryos and early fetuses are not people, and therefore not morally relevant, later abortion (including abortion in the second half of pregnancy, after viability, and even into the third trimester) is legal for any reason in multiple places in the United States. At least several thousand viable fetuses are killed in abortion every year, and evidence suggests these abortions are usually not for any medical emergency.
Some pro-abortion people don’t care about embryos or fetuses at any stage in pregnancy. Even so, abortion also affects other born people.
The men who father these children can be profoundly affected mentally, emotionally, psychologically, and socially by abortion. The same can be said for grandparents and siblings. If you recognize that people can deeply grieve miscarriage, you can understand that people can likewise deeply grieve abortion.
[Read more – Our cultural gaslighting of women who miscarry before 20 weeks]
Pro-choice people may believe these effects of abortion are insufficient to legally restrict it, but that’s a different argument than claiming the effects don’t exist.
And apart from individual abortions affecting individual people, abortion affects us on a societal level.
Disability-selective abortion is a great example of this. The abortion rates for prenatally detectable disabilities are incredibly high, including rates for life-compatible disabilities like Down syndrome and spina bifida. High rates for abortion for disability affect the people who have those disabilities, the people who love them, and our society as a whole. It affects societal awareness and understanding of these disabilities and affects the community resources available to people in these situations.
[See the related TikTok – Women with Down’s syndrome loses abortion law appeal]
Additionally, broadly accessible destigmatized abortion affects every woman who can get pregnant, and not only women who may want abortions but also women who may not. Trying to remake abortion as a morally neutral choice increases the cultural pressure for women to abort when we conceive in less-than-perfect circumstances. Teenagers who get pregnant, women in abusive relationships or poverty, or women who conceive children with disabilities are encouraged to “just take care of it.”
Many women who conceive in difficult circumstances want to birth, raise, and love their children, but destigmatized abortion means society is less likely to help and more likely to encourage them to make the “responsible” choice.
People also look the other way when permissive abortion laws aid sex traffickers, clinics fail to report child abusers, or clinics fail health inspections. (Consider the particularly infamous example of Kermit Gosnell.)
[See the related TikTok – “How did this go on so long?”]
You have to miss so much to believe abortion only affects the women getting them.