Pro-life Christians have an unlikely ally in the fight for the sanctity of life. Pro-life atheists are pushing back against lawsuits alleging that state abortion bans and restrictions violate religious freedom and promote a Christian definition of life, saying that the right to practice one’s faith does not justify abortion that they describe as “human rights violations.”
As several states have moved to ban or restrict abortion following the U.S. Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade last summer, some lawsuits contend those laws promote a sectarian view of when life begins.
Monica Snyder, executive director of Secular Pro-Life, an organization of atheists and agnostics says that the belief that a zygote is the first stage of life for human organisms is not a religious belief.
You don’t need to be religious to recognize biological facts, and you don’t need to be religious to believe all humans are morally valuable.
“It’s a biological fact,” she said. “You don’t need to be religious to recognize biological facts, and you don’t need to be religious to believe all humans are morally valuable.”
In Indiana, five women and the organization Hoosier Jews for Choice argue that the state’s ban passed in August outlawing nearly all abortion violates the 2015 Indiana Religious Freedom Restoration Act signed by former Vice President Mike Pence when he was the state’s governor. In December, a judge issued a preliminary injunction against the law finding that it “substantially burdens” religious exercise.
In another lawsuit in Kentucky, three Jewish women claim that the state’s abortion ban violates their religious freedom and alleges that the legislature “imposed sectarian theology.” The complaint has been removed in federal court as the Kentucky Supreme Court considers other lawsuits challenging the ban. According to the Brennan Center for Center Justice, 34 lawsuits have been filed against abortion bans in 19 states, with 31 pending at trial or appellate levels.
Presenting a hypothetical, the pro-life atheist Snyder questioned whether society would have to allow elective third-trimester abortions in the name of religious freedom if someone’s faith claimed that life doesn’t begin until the first breath.
“Historically, some societies believed neonates aren’t ‘children’ until they’re named, or fed, or baptized,” she said. “Would we have to allow infanticide prior to those rituals in the name of religious freedom? No, of course not. Freedom of religion is important, but it doesn’t justify human rights violations. Abortion violates human rights by killing human beings. Freedom of religion doesn’t justify it.”
The group points out that “pro-choice people argue that it doesn’t matter whether the fetus is morally valuable ‘“person,’ because no person can use another’s body against her will.” The secular organization then points out that they find that the bodily rights argument “is not enough to justify elective abortion.”
The group’s website also states: “In our experience, people may have different ideas about why it’s generally immoral to kill humans, but few if any people sincerely debate whether it’s generally immoral to kill humans. As a matter of policy, we at Secular Pro-Life do not take a stance on the metaphysical questions regarding where morality comes from or why we should care about one another. We simply ask that all people who believe, as a baseline premise, that it’s wrong to kill each other apply that stance consistently and recognize preborn children as part of the human family.”
They then encourage visitors to the website to read The Imago Dei, or “Why should secularists care about human life?”
–Alan Goforth | MV