Christopher Hitchens on Abortion

Christopher Hitchens’ views on abortion have been well documented throughout his career and, though his views are fairly consistent, his opinions on the subject have been modified as societal opinion has changed. We’ll go through some of his most famous quotes over time and provide further context along the way.

Hitchens’ Early Opinions on Abortion

We’ll pick this up in 1989 where, in the Minority Report (his column for the Nation) he wrote a fairly long piece specifically about the question of abortion. The young Hitchens wrote “I have always been convinced that the term ‘unborn child’ is a genuine description of material reality. Obviously, the fetus is alive, so that disputation about whether or not it counts as ‘a life’ is casuaistry. The same applies, from a materialist point of view, to the question of whether or not it counts as ‘a life’ is casuistry. The same applies, from a  materialist point of view, to the question of whether or not this ‘life’ is ‘human.’ What other kind could it be? As for ‘dependent,’ this has never struck me as a very radical criticism of any agglomeration of human cells in whatever state. Children are ‘dependent’ too.”

The following year, he would continue along the same lines by arguing “I can’ think of a single circumstance in which I’d favor emptying a woman’s uterus.” This quote coming curatesy of Don Kowet who wrote a piece on him in the Washington Times on January 2nd, 1990.

Christopher’s Abortion Opinions Evolve

Let’s fast forward to 2007 where, in his best seller God is Not Great he wrote “Just as no human being of average moral capacity could be indifferent to the sight of a woman being kicked in the stomach, so nobody could fail to be far more outraged if the woman in question were pregnant. Embryology confirms morality.” This quote appears on page 221 and some context here is important. Here Christopher is talking about how humans have an internal sense of morality that we’re born with (and is not attributable to religion).

Now, still in the same book, Hitchens statements show the development of his views and how they correspond to changing sentiment in the United States regarding abortion. It is important to remember that even though it may seem that abortion has become more normalized in the United States over the last couple of decades, public opinion has constantly varied. In fact, as Pew has noted, in 1995 the percentage of people who thought abortion should be “legal in all or most cases” was 60%. The following year, it was 57%. The approval rate of abortion would stay below 60% for the next two decades until a 2019 poll where 61% of respondents said that abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

“There may be many circumstances in which it is not desirable to carry a fetus to full term. Either nature or god appears to appreciate this, since a very large number of pregnancies are ‘aborted,’ so to speak, because of malformations, and are politely known as ‘miscarriages.’ Sad though this is, it is probably less miserable an outcome than the vast number of deformed or idiot children who would otherwise have been born, or stillborn, or whose brief lives would have been a torment to themselves and others.”

First it’s important to note that Hitchens is talking about how ‘nature’ naturally aborts children and, it’s possible, that more fertilized eggs do not come to term than those that do. Second, when these comments are being made by Hitchens it was 2007 which coincided with a 52% acceptance rate of people said abortion should be legal in all or most cases.

Hitchens on the Fetal Potential Argument

Also in the 2007 bestseller, Hitchens takes on the argument from fetal potential which is arguably the most commonly used argument for the prohibition of abortion. Hitchens states “The only proposition that is completely useless, either morally or practically, is the wild statement that sperms and eggs are all potential lives that must not be prevented from fusing and that, when united however briefly, have souls and must be protected by law (God Is Not Great, 222).

For more arguments on abortion checkout our abortion arguments page which we update regularly with new arguments and rebuttals on the consistently relevant issue (at least, in the United States).

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