Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Friendly Atheist Gives a Platform to Anti-Choice Atheists

Hemant Mehta, of the popular blog Friendly Atheist has twice in one month given a platform to anti-choice activists who act under the banner of freethought. This comes at the same time as President of American Atheists David Silverman's statement:
I will admit there is a secular argument against abortion. You can’t deny that it’s there, and it’s maybe not as clean cut as school prayer, right to die, and gay marriage.
As a humanist and feminist (I used to think I could just say "humanist" and that then "feminist" would then be assumed. Now I'm starting to wonder), I am deeply disturbed by this, and dearly hope it is not reflective of a shift in the tide regarding abortion rights.

Back to the Friendly Atheist. February 17th Mehta criticized those who vandalized posters advertising a talk by Kelsey Hazzard of Secular Pro-Life. He then went on to post the video of Hazzard's entire talk, commenting:

Without getting into her actual arguments and whether they’re fair or flawed, I’m amazed that I haven’t seen a presentation like this at any of the atheist conferences I’ve ever been to. (At least I can’t remember seeing one like it.) If conference organizers are trying to reach out to a broader spectrum of people, Kelsey seems like a natural choice for a poised speaker who has a very different perspective to bring to the secular table. Even if you think she’s way off base, she represents not-an-insignificant portion of our community. It’d at least be interesting to see the two sides of this argument hash things out in front of a crowd.

Of course there haven't been presentations like this at any freethought conferences; their arguments are irrational, emotionally manipulative, and anti-women's-rights.

Ok. You're an extremist.
Whether performance enhancing drugs should be allowed use in professional sports is an interesting debate. Continuing a debate over a women's rights issue that should have been considered settled 40 years ago is unsettling, even alarming.

Secular White Supremacists such as the Creativity Movement have a very different perspective to bring to the secular table. Should we invite them to our conferences and help disseminate their video propaganda online, too?

Finally, "poised speaker"? Who the hell cares how poised the speaker is when she's spouting ignorance such as that abortion is a "quick and easy solution" and that part of How You Can Help is "Don't become pregnant before you are ready." It's like listening to fiscal conservatives characterize living on social assistance as luxurious and that the solution to poverty is for poor people to stop being poor.

Then on March 11th, Mehta did something even worse. He featured a guest post by Kristine Kruszelnicki, President of Pro-Life Humanists: Yes, There Are Pro-Life Atheists Out There. Here's Why I'm One of Them. 

Kruszelnicki opens up with the argument that since polls show that there's a lot of anti-choice atheists, they deserve a seat at the table of this movement. No, they don't. There is no magical percentage at which their arguments become any more rational or humane. If 19% of atheists were white supremacists, they still wouldn't deserve a seat at the table, and neither do anti-choice atheists. That is unless the secular movement wants to sink itself into a sandpit of mediocrity.

After admitting that the scientific evidence shows embryos and fetuses to be non-sentient, Kruszelnicki presents a weak and purely philosophical argument as to why we should bestow even a 2 week old embryo with rights equal to that of the woman.

Kruszelnicki pretends to address the issue of body autonomy, but she really doesn't. At one point she compares the responsibility the pregnant woman has to the embryo/fetus to the responsibility anyone has to an abandoned infant they discover on their front porch. As if 9 months of pregnancy and birth could even be compared to making a call to child services.

Kruszelnicki essentially argues that while a woman is pregnant, she and the embryo/fetus share her body, and thus have equal rights to that body. But physiologically this is not accurate. The facts are that the woman and embryo/fetus are two separate entities, connected by the latter's dependence on the former's body for survival, and in a situation which poses certain risks to the health of the woman.

A much better analogy than the baby on the porch would be a brother who needs a kidney to live, and his sister as a healthy, perfect candidate for organ donation. Do we legally compel people to donate their organs? No. Not even in death.

I'm bothered by Mehta wanting to have this debate within the secular movement because by even engaging in a debate with anti-choicers (opposed to mocking and dismissing them) we give legitimacy to their arguments.

But I'm more disturbed by the fact that Mehta put this out there without actually engaging in the debate himself. It seems that to Mehta that raising the visibility of anti-choice atheists is more important than defending women's reproductive rights.

The Friendly Atheist has no excuse, because as he knows from his own previous posts on abortion, equating abortion with baby killing sends us down a frightening path.

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