By Autumn Reinhardt-Simpson
Autumn Reinhardt-Simpson is an abortion doula and Ph.D. student in religious studies at the University of Alberta. She is the author of the Humanist Ceremonies Handbook (Humanist Press, 2018) and the upcoming The Companion: An Abortion Doula Handbook. You can visit her at her website www.electriceelpond.com. Here she answers a question about the morality of abortion.
“Is there ever a time when you think abortion is wrong?”- Leena
No. I do not think abortion is ever morally wrong.
I believe it is morally wrong to coerce someone or to perform an abortion without a person’s consent. There have unfortunately been a couple of rare cases when partners have slipped harmful medications to a pregnant person. Again, that’s rare. There may also be times when, for instance, someone is persuaded to have an abortion by a parent or partner and, though I do not think the pregnant person has done anything morally wrong by following through with an abortion, I think the act of coercion is itself wrong. So, no, abortion is never wrong to me but is rather a morally neutral act to which we bring a lot of our individual and collective feelings and associations.
But I suspect that this isn’t what you’re asking me. I’m guessing that you’re wondering about situations such as aborting because of the sex of the child or children having abortions, etc. The answer is still no, I don’t ever think abortion is wrong because abortion is a neutral medical procedure, as is euthanasia, or sterilization. I do believe that abortion and other medical procedures can be used for bad intent (think Nazis) and that they can also be a morally positive good (allowing someone to determine their life) but abortion does not itself come packaged as a good or a bad thing. Let’s examine the idea of abortion because of the sex of a child. In China, we know of couples that have aborted fetuses because they were girls and needed a boy in an androcentric society that only allows for one child. In that case it would be tempting to say that the abortion was morally wrong and to thus prohibit abortions that are done because the fetus is female. However, there are also cases in which female fetuses are aborted because the pregnant person knows that girls are treated badly in their society and that person chooses to abort as a form of protection. Now, we may argue about the societal conditions that made such a decision necessary but I do not think we can blame abortion itself or call it morally wrong. Abortion is a tool that pregnant people have been using for centuries to better themselves and their families in the very imperfect circumstances in which they live. That it can be used as a tool in negative circumstances does not, I think, make it ipso facto morally wrong and more than sterilization would be inherently wrong, or allowing someone to die with dignity at the time they choose.
I’ve mentioned before in a lot of my writing that my work is framed in a reproductive justice context. What this means is that I am more holistically concerned with whether a person is able to freely exercise their right to reproductive care as well as whether a person is able to parent the children they want to have. Abortion is simply one tool in the reproductive justice toolkit that can give people self-determination and allow them to have or not have families or to have families in positive circumstances. Therefore, for me, the issue isn’t abortion but rather coercive government policies or unchecked poverty, systemic racism, or many of the other things people take into account when deciding whether to keep a pregnancy. That doesn’t mean I believe that if we adequately provide for everyone that abortion will stop. It won’t. And it shouldn’t. As long as people can become pregnant, abortion will be an important and necessary tool.
Leena, I sincerely hope this explanation isn’t too academic and that, though greatly simplified for lack of space, it will help you to understand my philosophical position a bit better.
Canadian Atheist Associates: Godless Mom, Nice Mangoes, Sandwalk, Brainstorm Podcast, Left at the Valley, Life, the Universe & Everything Else, The Reality Check, Bad Science Watch, British Columbia Humanist Association, Dying With Dignity Canada, Canadian Secular Alliance, Centre for Inquiry Canada, Kelowna Atheists, Skeptics, and Humanists Association.
Other National/Local Resources: Association humaniste du Québec, Atheist Freethinkers, Central Ontario Humanist Association, Comox Valley Humanists, Grey Bruce Humanists, Halton-Peel Humanist Community, Hamilton Humanists, Humanist Association of London, Humanist Association of Ottawa, Humanist Association of Toronto, Humanists, Atheists and Agnostics of Manitoba, Ontario Humanist Society, Secular Connextions Seculaire, Secular Humanists in Calgary, Society of Free Thinkers (Kitchener-Waterloo/Cambridge/Guelph), Thunder Bay Humanists, Toronto Oasis, Victoria Secular Humanist Association.
Other International/Outside Canada Resources: Allianz vun Humanisten, Atheisten an Agnostiker, American Atheists,American Humanist Association, Associação Brasileira de Ateus e AgnósticoséééBrazilian Association of Atheists and Agnostics, Atheist Alliance International, Atheist Alliance of America, Atheist Centre, Atheist Foundation of Australia, The Brights Movement, Center for Inquiry (including Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science), Atheist Ireland, Camp Quest, Inc., Council for Secular Humanism, De Vrije Gedachte, European Humanist Federation, Federation of Indian Rationalist Associations, Foundation Beyond Belief, Freedom From Religion Foundation, Humanist Association of Ireland, Humanist International, Humanist Association of Germany, Humanist Association of Ireland, Humanist Society of Scotland, Humanists UK, Humanisterna/Humanists Sweden, Internet Infidels, International League of Non-Religious and Atheists, James Randi Educational Foundation, League of Militant Atheists, Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers, National Secular Society, Rationalist International, Recovering From Religion, Religion News Service, Secular Coalition for America, Secular Student Alliance, The Clergy Project, The Rational Response Squad, The Satanic Temple, The Sunday Assembly, United Coalition of Reason, Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics.
Image Credit: Autumn Reinhardt-Simpson.