In legal usage in the English-speaking world, an act of God is a natural hazard outside human control, such as an earthquake or tsunami, for which no person can be held responsible. An act of God may amount to an exception to liability in contracts (as under the Hague–Visby Rules) or it may be an “insured peril” in an insurance policy. (wikipedia, “Act of God”)
Abortion is the termination of a pregnancy by removal or expulsion of an embryo or fetus. An abortion that occurs without intervention is known as a miscarriage or “spontaneous abortion” and occurs in approximately 30% to 40% of pregnancies
(wikipedia, citing “How many people are affected by or at risk for pregnancy loss or miscarriage?” www.nichd.nih.gov. July 15, 2013)
By definition, then, “an abortion that occurs without intervention,” that is, intervention by human action, unquestionably qualifies as “a natural hazard outside human control,” making miscarriages/spontaneous abortions “acts of god.” The entity god is clearly the abortion provider responsible for the termination of 30%-40% of all pregnancies.
So let’s do some rough math. Globally, there were about 140 million actual births in 2020 (ourworldindata.org/grapher/births-and-deaths-projected-to-2100), so if 30% to 40% of pregnancies end in miscarriage/spontaneous abortion, then that 140 million actual births would be 60% to 70% of all pregnancies in 2020. Let’s go with 65%, middle of that range. If 140 million is 65% of the total number of pregnancies, then the total number of pregnancies would be over 215 million. And, again going with the middle of the range, 35% of that total would work out to about 75 million spontaneous, or god-induced/acts-of-god abortions. According to WHO, about 73 million intentional abortions take place each year (www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/abortion).
That gives us the current scores of god: 75 million, humans: 73 million. But then, one could reasonably argue, if god is indeed omnipotent and omniscient (as the anti-abortion zealots seem to profess), maybe it’s actually god: 148 million, humans: zero, since an omniscient god would know about all of them, and apparently chose to let them proceed? It does raise the question:
What makes miscarriage/spontaneous abortion by act of god more moral than abortion by human act?
Those who are anti-abortion are working hard for a total ban on all intentional abortion. Why let god off so easy? With a slight change of law, the “exception for liability” that goes with the legal definition of “acts of god” could be removed as well but that’s a job for Texas legislators and their bounty-hunters. Hypothetically, by banning all abortions, both human and acts of god, we could increase the number of actual births by about 150 million embryos every year! That increase would actually give us more extra children than are currently actually born in a year. Shutting down all abortion providers, including the Acts of God Clinic and Planned Parenthood, could just about double the annual number of children actually born to about 290 million. Think of the marketing potential! Think of the endless supply of cheap labor!
However, there are some additional, serious problems.
Problem 1. Over 15,000 already-born children die worldwide every day (ourworldindata.org/child-mortality). That’s 5.5 million deaths of children in a year, and they are dying mostly of preventable causes: poverty, disease, malnutrition, war - human acts, not acts of god. If we double the number of births, we’ll likely also double the number of deaths of children to over 10 million/year because there does not seem to be much commitment to banning poverty, disease, malnutrition and war. It does raise another question:
What makes the preventable post-natal termination of children’s lives by poverty, disease, malnutrition, and war a more moral choice than abortion? Because poverty, disease, malnutrition and war are all intentional choices that humanity is making every day, at the current cost of the lives of 5.5 million already-born children per year.
Problem 2. The World Health Organization reports that “maternal mortality is unacceptably high. About 295 000 women died during and following pregnancy and childbirth in 2017. The vast majority of these deaths (94%) occurred in low-resource settings, and most could have been prevented” (www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/maternal-mortality).
Another name for “low-resource settings” is “poverty” and poverty is definitely preventable since economies are human constructs and not “acts of god.” But anti-abortion, forced-birth zealots would intentionally push women, most of whom already live in “low resource settings,” deeper into the poverty that is, in reality, already killing them and their children. Some further questions:
What makes post-natal death through systemically-imposed poverty, predominantly affecting women and children, more moral than abortion? What makes the sacrifices of these women and children living in poverty on the altar of anti-abortion zealotry more moral than abortion?
Problem 3. An often-cited 1996 research project looking at the incidence of rape in the United States found that the rape-related pregnancy rate was 5.0% in their sample of victims of reproductive age - aged 12 to 45“ (NIH; Rape-related pregnancy: estimates and descriptive characteristics from a national sample of women; pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8765248/).
That means that 5% of pregnancies result from a rape, they are forced impregnations that horribly violate a woman’s rights in so many ways. Subsequent studies have suggested that the 5% figure is too low, but let’s go with it for a minute and apply it globally. Of the current 140 million children born globally each year, plus the potentially-rescued 73 million embryos that would result from banning abortion, plus the additional 75 million if we could get god to knock off the miscarriages, would give us about 14,400,000 children forcibly conceived by rape, born of violence, and born into violence. The highest-minded anti-abortion zealots are advocating for ban on all abortions with no exception for rape or incest. Yet more questions
What makes violence against women, the forced impregnation of women from rape and incest, more moral than abortion? What makes the forced birth of children of poverty and violence into more poverty and violence more moral than abortion?
Problem 4. Abortion rights advocates, in which group I count myself, focus on a woman’s right to choose whether or not to continue a pregnancy. Anti-abortion advocates focus on the rights of the “unborn child.” What I’ve tried to press here is this:
What makes the “rights” of the unborn child more important than the rights of women who are pregnant? What makes the “rights” of the unborn child more important than the rights of the already-born child?
Because it sure looks to me like anti-abortion zealots really do not care about children at all, and are quite content to live with what I am calling post-natal abortion: intentionally terminating the life of a living, already-born child through poverty, disease, malnutrition, war or other forms of violence. I am using the term intentional because, in my view, these forms of post-natal abortion are not “acts of god,” they are human acts, and they are preventable.
Oh, and there’s this coming at us. Problem 5:
Approximately 1 billion children – nearly half the world’s 2.2 billion children – live in one of the 33 countries classified as “extremely high-risk”. These children face a deadly combination of exposure to multiple climate and environmental shocks with a high vulnerability due to inadequate essential services, such as water and sanitation, healthcare and education. The findings reflect the number of children impacted today – figures likely to get worse as the impacts of climate change accelerate.
+ UNICEF: The Climate Crisis Is a Child Rights Crisis: Introducing the Children’s Climate Risk Index, August 2021
“High risk” means those children are likely to die (how else to read “facing a deadly combination of exposure...”?) as a result of human-induced climate change. One billion already-born children facing post-natal abortion induced not by medical or surgical means, but by human greed, by ignorance, by a selfish, privileged, wasteful, pig-headed refusal to give up burning fossil fuels and creating forever-toxic-chemicals. It’s apparently too much to ask of us to provide clean water, sanitation, healthcare, adequate nutrition, adequate shelter, education, and oh, a planet with a climate that will actually support the human lives of children after they’re already born.
I have asked a number of unanswered questions above. Here, I have a few questions with answers, intended specifically, and personally, for the anti-abortion zealots:
Q: How are you gonna get god to stop aborting so many embryos? Because right now “acts of god” spontaneous abortions outnumber “human acts” abortions.
A: Ain’t gonna happen. “Acts of god” is just placeholder category for “random, scary, and uncontrollable shit that happens to us,” and we need somebody to blame or we’ll be thrown into the abyss of existential-ontological panic. How do you reconcile an “all-beneficial, omniscient and omnipotent god” with all the horrible so-called “acts” perpetrated by this god that result in so much death and destruction? If nothing else, consider that, guaranteed, 100% of all persons who are born are going to die. What kind of setup is that?
One downside is that blaming “acts of god” for all this suffering and death brings down a metric shit-ton of theological difficulty, but sorting that out will have to be for another day.
Q: How do you reconcile that your ideological stance that “abortion is immoral” will actually result in an increase of “immoral” suffering and death of the very children you profess to care about, as well as their mothers?
A: Not possible. These two moral stances are not reconcilable. You either have to (option #1) accept that abortion can actually be a moral choice, or (option #2:) accept that the consequential suffering and death caused by your anti-abortion zealotry is actually moral. Accepting option #1 would bring you into the land of reason. Accepting option #2 would make you a monster.
Q: How can you live with your apparently unwillingness to provide for the health and well-being of the already-born children whose “rights” to be born you sanctimoniously profess to care about? What kind of lies do you have to tell yourselves?
A: When self-deception is the rule, any lies will suffice. Most will be based on some toxic mix of racism, misogyny, class/gender/ethnic superiority. But, in my view, this degree of self-deception is just insane.
note: I have used lower case “g” in the word “god” in acknowledgement that our understanding of that signifier does not, in my view, deserve an uppercase “G”.