For a long time I've sort of taken my reproductive rights for granted. While I've never been faced with an unintended pregnancy, I've faced that possibility since puberty, and will continue to face it until menopause. I've always felt assured that I'd be able to get a safe, legal, early-term abortion, if that's what I so choose. Based on the privileges of where I live, my age, and my income, that presumption is sound.
Forty years after Roe v. Wade, Americans remain conflicted about abortion. Anti-abortion activists continue to harass women at clinics, commit horrific acts of violence, and passionately lobby for countless laws that restrict women's access to abortion, regardless of the real life financial, healthcare, and even criminal consequences. If we value reproductive choices and the most sound public health care policies, this is not an issue where we can afford to back down.
There's another thing I've always taken for granted: that the secular movement, which I've been involved with since I was 19, politically stands for women's reproductive rights.
When I say I've "been involved" with the movement for 16 years, this is no casual interest. After being VP and President of the campus freethought club at the third largest university in the USA, I became one of the founding board members of the Secular Student Alliance, and editor of the first publication of the SSA's Group Running Guide. I've been VP of HCCO, one of the largest local chapters of the AHA, and when I moved to Philadelphia I became heavily involved with HAGP, one of the AHA's oldest local chapters. I was twice a camp counselor for Camp Quest. I was a celebrant certified by the Humanist Society, and for 6 years I officiated secular weddings, baby namings, and one memorial service. I have given talks on secular humanism for a class at Penn State. I was the coordinator for the launch of PhillyCoR (the precursor to UnitedCoR). I'm even mentioned by name in Greg Epstein's book Good Without God. At this point the number of volunteer hours that I have put into this movement are incalculable.
On the issues where critical inquiry, scientific evidence, and compassion heavily weigh on one side (vaccination, science education in public schools, government funds for faith-based initiatives, and embryonic stem cell research, for example) our leadership and the most visible representatives of our community take a firm stance.
Three days ago I wrote about David Silverman's statement at CPAC about "secular argument against abortion" and Friendly Atheist Hemant Mehta's giving a platform to two different secular, anti-choice organizations.
Massimo Pigliucci of the long-running and popular blog Rationally Speaking weighed in with David Silverman and the Scope of Atheism.
Pigliucci puts a lot of effort into defending philosophical debates over the morality of abortion. And he repeatedly makes it clear that he thinks this is okay because supposedly we're not talking about anti-choice laws and political activism. He writes (my emphasis in bold):
Of course there are logical, science-based, and rational arguments against abortion. They may turn out to be ultimately unconvincing, or countered by better arguments — as I believe they are — but they certainly exist....
Are these arguments sufficient to justify forceful state interventions on women’s bodily integrity, under any circumstances? Very likely not. But plenty of countries (including the US) do already regulate, for instance, late term abortion, noting the ethical complexity of the issue and of course making room for a number of special circumstances, usually having to do with the health of the mother....
Now, does that mean that we should therefore advocate a restriction of women’s rights as they are currently defined in the US? Of course not, nor do I see any evidence that that’s what Dave meant to suggest.
Look at it from the point of view of a parallel between atheism and gay rights. The gay rights movement has rightly focused on the issues that are closest and most specific to it: the legal rights of gay people.