As I discussed in my last article, the pro-life movement is most commonly associated with religious people. This is because most pro-lifers maintain their position on abortion in part based on their religious convictions about the nature of sexuality and the human person.
However, not all who support life are religious. To get a sense of who holds these nonreligious pro-life positions, let’s explore just a couple of these groups.
There is a growing number of secular pro-life groups, including Secular Pro-Life. SPL’s website states, “Part of our mission is to create a space for nonreligious pro-lifers to gather and discuss our perspective on abortion within the context of our secularism.”
Many well-known secularists support life. Notable secular pro-lifers include the late Christopher Hitchens. Many know of Hitchens as the outspoken anti-religionist who wrote the book God Is Not Great. However, few know that he was also outspoken against abortion. He once said in a debate with a Christian apologist:
I do, as a humanist, believe that the concept “unborn child” is a real one and I think the concept is underlined by all the recent findings of embryology about the early viability of a well conceived human baby, one that isn’t going to be critically deformed (or even some that are) will be able to survive outside the womb earlier and earlier, and earlier and I see that date only being pushed back. I feel the responsibility to consider the occupant of the womb as a candidate member of society in the future, and thus to say that it cannot be only the responsibility of the woman to decide upon it, that it’s a social question and an ethical and a moral one. And I say this as someone who has no supernatural belief.
Libertarianism and Abortion
Many Libertarians, who consider themselves the champions of freedom, are pro-choice on abortion. Notable advocates include the 2016 Libertarian candidate for President, Gary Johnson. It is their general position that the government ought to have no involvement, in prohibitive legislation or otherwise, regarding abortion; that it is the prerogative of the mother and family.
Part of this position appeases many pro-lifers, because it also decries government sanction or support of abortion in terms of funding with taxpayer dollars. In the former way, it may appear that the pro-choice position is the only one philosophically defensible, considering the Libertarian maxim, “Do as you wish, as long as it harms nobody else.”
However, it apparently is possible to be a Libertarian, while maintaining a pro-life position. Austin Petersen, a former Libertarian party candidate for President and an agnostic, outspokenly promotes life. (You read that right: a Libertarian agnostic supports the pro-life movement.)
Petersen’s founds his position in the belief that human flourishing is the ultimate good and end of human life. Peterson argues that abortion opposes human flourishing: “I take a pro-life stance, as a secular humanist, because I believe that life in itself is a good, and so that which advances human life should be encouraged and that which detracts from it should be shunned.” Elsewhere, Petersen states that the “choice” comes when a couple decides to have intercourse.