Monday, September 11, 2006

Abortion

I've been having a long debate about legalized abortion with Mark over at Pseudo-Polymath, spread out over a few posts: one, two, three.

I'd like to sum up my arguments here.

Parameters

Abortion is a complicated subject. In this post, I'm only going to address whether abortion "should," in general, be legal, at least early in the pregnancy. This post is not a discussion of whether abortion is a good thing, Roe v. Wade or any other court decision, states' rights, late-term abortion, so-called "partial birth" abortion, a potential father's rights, age of consent, parental notification, federal or state funding, waiting periods, or anything else not specifically addressed in this post. Please keep comments constrained to the general topic so as not to get bogged down in a million tiny arguments.

Burden of Justification

Mark appears to begin with the assumption that the onus of justification for their position lies on the supporters of legal abortion (SLAs.) He has this backwards. Because opponents of legal abortion (OLAs) wish to criminalize an action, the burden of justification is on them. If I wanted to start a movement criminalizing the practice of eating popcorn in movie theaters, the onus would be on me to justify my position, and not on the popcorn-eaters to justify theirs.

"Abortion is Murder"

There are two problems with the argument that abortion should be criminalized because it is murder:

1) It's circular. "Murder" is by definition an unlawful killing, so this argument is akin to claiming that abortion should be criminalized because it's criminal. "Abortion is murder" is no more meaningful then "killing in self-defense is murder," "the death penalty is murder," or "war is murder."

2) "Murder" refers to the killing of a person. However what constitutes a "person" with respect to murder is exactly what this debate is about. The OLA side of the debate argues that a fetus or embryo is, from the moment of conception, a legal and moral person, while most on the SLA side argue that it's not until later on. The following analogy makes clear that even the majority of the people on the OLA side make a moral distinction between fetuses and post-birth persons:
Suppose there is a fire in a fertility clinic. You are the only adult present, but there is one child and a container with 5,000 embryos in the clinic. You can only save one of them -- which do you choose?

Only the most passionate extremist would save the embryos instead of the child, so clearly, most OLAs make a moral distinction between embryos and post-birth people. Killing embryos is therefore not in the same moral category as killing children, even for them.

"My Religion Opposes Abortion"

This is not sufficient reason for abortion to be criminalized. Your religion no doubt opposes idolatry as well, but nobody remotely reasonable is arguing that idolatry should be illegal.

"Embryos Have Souls"

This is an attempt to rescue the "abortion is murder" argument. If an embryo or fetus has a soul, a majority of people will agree that killing it should be prevented. I won't object to this argument on (non-)religious grounds since even an atheist can see "soul" as a useful metaphor, but there is one insurmountable problem with this argument: there is no consensus opinion for when an embryo or fetus gets a soul. Since a "soul" is undetectable by instruments, there is no empirical way to determine when it enters the body.

Furthermore, religions disagree with each other and, even within religions, opinions vary widely:

1) Orthodox Catholicism believes the soul is imparted by God at fertilization [Edit: skcorefil corrected me] assumes the soul is imparted at fertilization. However, it also forbids (barrier, chemical, or surgical) contraception, so it's obviously out of the American mainstream. Even in Catholicism, the offense is much lesser if abortion is performed before "quickening," which is when movement can be felt for the first time. [Edit: skcorefil points out this is no longer true.]

2) Protestant groups, not having a central authority figure, are hard to speak for. However, many protestants and protestant groups are in favor of at least some form of legal abortion, so it's obvious that either they don't believe the soul is imparted at fertilization, or that the presence of a soul is insufficient to criminalize abortion. A notable except are the Baptists, of which a large majority are against legal abortion.

3) Judaism clearly holds that an early fetus does not have the same status as a person. For example, in the Torah it states that a person who kills a woman's fetus must pay monetary damages (rather than being treated as a murderer.) Furthermore, Jewish law mandates abortion if the mother's life is in danger. Conservative Judaism allows abortion "if a continuation of pregnancy might cause the woman severe physical or psychological harm, or when the fetus is judged by competent medical opinion as severely defective." Reform Judaism, the largest denomination of Judaism in America, holds that "[i]n all circumstances, it should be [the mother's] decision whether or not to terminate a pregnancy, backed up by those whom she trusts (physician, therapist, partner, etc.)"

4) As an atheist who can see "soul" only as a metaphor, I would be hard-pressed to believe that an embryo has a soul before it even has a brain, for example. Therefore I cannot oppose early-stage abortion on that basis.

"Actions Must Have Consequences"

This argument is so weak I wouldn't include it, but Mark devoted a whole post to it. An excerpt:
...God's green earth is not a playground merely for children and consequences are incurred with every action and every choice we make. Sex is a choice. Pregnancy is a possible consequence every time we participate. The argument that do-overs should and can be applied to pregnancy is basically an admission that this (sex) is an activity which is to be encouraged between (post-adolescent presumably) children (of all ages). When we raise our children, if we free them from the consequences of their actions remain childish and never grow up.

This argument fails as justification for criminalizing abortion because we as a society do not criminalize certain activities merely to punish people for engaging in other ones. For example, suppose a 19-year-old girl binge drinks at a college party and suffers from alcohol poisoning. Would anybody argue that it should be illegal for a doctor to pump her stomach because it would be "basically an admission that [binge drinking] is an activity which is to be encouraged [in] (post-adolescent presumably) children (of all ages)?" Of course not. While society has a vested interest in preventing binge drinking among teenaged girls, it cannot criminalize a medical procedure simply because the procedure alleviates one of binge drinking's natural consequences. (Of course, abortion is not comparable to pumping one's stomach in general, but the distinction between them is not relevant to this particular argument.)

"We Must Err on the Side of Caution"

This seems to be Mark's main argument -- that since we can't as a society agree when abortion should be legal, we should accept the most stringent view -- that it should never be legal -- in order to "err on the side of caution." This is obviously not the way we make laws in this country, though. Otherwise, we would never have capital punishment, never go to war, not allow driving until 25 years of age ever, not allow birth control, not allow the prescription of potentially addictive medications, etc. Adopting the most stringent view in all cases is insane.

90 comments:

JDHURF said...

Great post. I am always stunned to find, when arguing with a fervent “anti-abortionist,” that they predominately haven’t the slightest bit of knowledge regarding embryology, developmental psychology, etc. Simply put many of the individuals whom I have argued with claimed that it was indisputable that abortion was murder and should be illegal but were unable to answer several simple questions regarding prenatal development. My point is, if you wish to stake out such an emotionally reactionary position and attempt to enforce it you would do very well to, at the very least, educated yourself regarding the science that is necessarily bound to the subject.
I apologize if this is too peripheral to your post but whenever I discuss abortion it is absolutely pertinent to make sure that any individual engaging in the discussion has at least a workable knowledge regarding the science of embryology and development.

JivinJ said...

I am always stunned to find, when arguing with a fervent “anti-abortionist,” that they predominately haven’t the slightest bit of knowledge regarding embryology,...

Interesting. I often find the exact same thing when arguing with those in favor of legal abortion.

I hope JA will make a better case for why abortion should be legal than simply knocking down rather weak assertions.

For example he could challenge this typical prolife argument.

1. Abortion is the intentionally killing of an innocent human being.

2. Intentionally killing innocent human beings shouldn't be legal.

3. Therefore, abortion should be legal.

I'm surprised JA used the fire in the IVF clinic analogy. This analogy has been ripped apart left and right. The fact that one might save a born human child over a certain number of embryos has no bearing on whether it should be legal to intentionally kill embryos. For example, I could come up with a similar analogy - say a fire breaks out in a nursing home and you have the choice between saving your wife/significant other and 3 elderly people with Parkinson's. Now if you choose to save your wife/significant other, how on earth does that prove it should be legal to intentionally kill people with Parkinson's?

Jewish Atheist said...

I hope JA will make a better case for why abortion should be legal than simply knocking down rather weak assertions.

For example he could challenge this typical prolife argument.

1. Abortion is the intentionally killing of an innocent human being.


I did challenge that argument. "However what constitutes a "person" [i.e. an innocent human being] with respect to murder is exactly what this debate is about. The OLA side of the debate argues that a fetus or embryo is, from the moment of conception, a legal and moral person, while most on the SLA side argue that it's not until later on."

The fact that one might save a born human child over a certain number of embryos has no bearing on whether it should be legal to intentionally kill embryos.

I didn't say it did. However, it does go to show that killing embryos is not morally identical to killing children. In fact one child is apparently "worth" at least 5,000 embryos, so killing a single embryo can hardly be even in the same league as murder.

say a fire breaks out in a nursing home and you have the choice between saving your wife/significant other and 3 elderly people with Parkinson's.

This analogy is flawed because you are related to your wife. Let's change it to choosing between one healthy adult woman and 3 elderly people with Parkinson's. I don't think we would find a near-unanimous agreement on what's proper in this situation as we do in the fertility clinic example. You might find there is a slight bias towards a healthy adult, but not the vast distinction between one child and 5,000 embryos.

skcorefil said...

If you were to grab the jar, most of the embryos would die before you could get it to a -70 C or what ever appropriate freezer anyway.

Jewish Atheist said...

skcorefil:

Assume there's a freezer right next door. Don't dodge the question. :-)

Anonymous said...

Personally the way I see this, is if you take religion and emotion OUT of the equation, then abortion should be illegal.

Any argument that a person who is 1 day old is different than a fetus which is 50 days old is soley an emotional /religious argument. A person who is 90 years old is also utilitarianly the same as a person who is 1 day old or a fetus.

Scientificially they are the same.

Each is dependant on other for survival, is not self sustaining and is a burden to those who do not want them, thus giving them a less loving life.


It is only when you bring religion and emotion INTO the argument that you can start having a debate that it might be legal. (Such as the Jewish argument)

Anonymous said...

As for the 5,000 embryo question, and the natural process of abortion, there is a world of difference from active action, and passive allowance.

Ideally, fertility clinics that deal with thousands of embryos wold not discard any of them, but would attempt to make each of them a child eventually.

Jewish Atheist said...

anonymous:

You're also trying to dodge the question.

Let's say you had to (actively) break a window with the vial containing the embryos, killing them all, in order to save the child. Would you?

Jewish Atheist said...

Any argument that a person who is 1 day old is different than a fetus which is 50 days old is soley an emotional /religious argument. A person who is 90 years old is also utilitarianly the same as a person who is 1 day old or a fetus.

Scientificially they are the same.


A clump of cells 2 days after fertilization has no brain, heart, awareness, ability to feel pain, or personality. It's a completely different thing than a child, regardless of emotions or religion.

Anonymous said...

>A clump of cells 2 days after fertilization has no brain, heart, awareness, ability to feel pain, or personality. It's a completely different thing than a child, regardless of emotions or religion.

A clump of cells 2 days after fertilization not not realistically be aborted. You won't even know its there for atleast 2 weeks.


Lets ask your question in a few different ways.

1. If there were 10 preganant women, and you had to abort the women to save 1 person, would you?

2. If there were 10 people in jail with life terms, and there was a warden, would you kill the 10 inmates to save the life of the warden.


The problem with asking about embryos in a jar, is that you don't even know if those embryos will implant properly into the person who wants to give birth to them. So its not the same question as Abortion, where you know the baby will come out, and you are going to prevent that.

Jewish Atheist said...

A clump of cells 2 days after fertilization not not realistically be aborted. You won't even know its there for atleast 2 weeks.

According to wikipedia, brain wave activity begins at about the 6th week. So there's still plenty of time to abort before then. Again, this post is not about exactly when to draw the line.

1. If there were 10 preganant women, and you had to abort the women to save 1 person, would you?

Assuming the women wanted to have abortions? Sure.

If there were 10 people in jail with life terms, and there was a warden, would you kill the 10 inmates to save the life of the warden.

Not unless the inmates were the ones threatening the warden. There's no question that they retain the right to life. (However if they are scheduled for imminent execution, I'd be more willing, not that I favor the death penalty.)

The problem with asking about embryos in a jar, is that you don't even know if those embryos will implant properly into the person who wants to give birth to them.

But we're analogizing from abortion, where we know the mother does not want to give birth. So this part is a fair analogy. We can also modify the analogy to specify that all embryos are scheduled to be implanted and it's safe to say that at least 500 or so would successfully reach birth.

skcorefil said...

By taking the jar, you aren't saving the embryos. They are still in a precarious position. The rescuer does not have the means to save the embryos. He has the means to save the child.

If he saves the 5,000 embryos, no more of the world population of embryos will live. Those who would implant the embryos, giving them the means to survive would just go down the interstate to use the surplus embryos of another fertility clinic, saving an equal number of those embryos that the rescuer was unable to save. The same is not true for the child. This doesn't make the child's life anymore valuable. It just makes saving the life of the child more practical.

Jewish Atheist said...

skcorefil,

By taking the jar, you aren't saving the embryos. They are still in a precarious position. The rescuer does not have the means to save the embryos. He has the means to save the child.

Still dodging. Assume the rescuer is an expert who works next door with all the facilities to easily save them.

Those who would implant the embryos, giving them the means to survive would just go down the interstate to use the surplus embryos of another fertility clinic, saving an equal number of those embryos that the rescuer was unable to save.

Assume that there wasn't a huge surplus of embryos.

skcorefil said...

Then I'd have to say, grab the jar. Although I dont' see why you couldn't take both the child and the jar.

JDHURF said...

jivinj
Interesting. I often find the exact same thing when arguing with those in favor of legal abortion.

I do not doubt that for a second, I have argued the abortion topic on various websites and in person and have witnessed mass ignorance from both sides. However, it has been my experience that the “pro-life, anti-abortionists” far surpass in ignorance their antagonists.

Anonymous:
Any argument that a person who is 1 day old is different than a fetus which is 50 days old is soley an emotional /religious argument. A person who is 90 years old is also utilitarianly the same as a person who is 1 day old or a fetus. Scientificially they are the same.

It seems abundantly clear that you haven’t any idea what you’re talking about. To claim that a ninety year old individual is, in a “utilitarian” sense, scientifically indistinguishable from a fetus is utter nonsense.

Each is dependant on other for survival, is not self sustaining and is a burden to those who do not want them, thus giving them a less loving life.

Which does not make the two absolutely parallel, most especially, scientifically speaking, this should go without saying.

It is only when you bring religion and emotion INTO the argument that you can start having a debate that it might be legal. (Such as the Jewish argument)

Would you care to evidence this claim? To me this blanked assertion seems to be nothing more than a vacuous platitude offered to us by an individual that is clearly confused and retains little to no valid information regarding this issue and its scientific basis.

Anonymous said...

Whats the difference between a parasite and a fetus?

Anonymous said...

parasites tend not to be human.

Orthoprax said...

JA,

The murder issue clouds the point. Embryos as potential human lives should not be treated casually. Exploitation of the human body is dangerous to human dignity.

The question then lies in whether specific instances justify their manipulation or destruction.

"Adopting the most stringent view in all cases is insane."

A chumrah, one might say. ;-)

Anonymous said...

http://www.l4l.org/library/notparas.html

Mark said...

JA,
I'd like to point out that I haven't really at this time been addressing the legal aspects of abortion, but that so far I've been trying to explore reasons that people have abortions and whether or not they stand "muster" against the evident harm that they do to the pre-natal nascent life. So far in our discussions, only abortion to end life in the case of rape/incest and possibly plan "B" have been held much water. If I might stretch your popcorn/theater analogy to instead of eating popcorn to playing a saxaphone. Might there be reason to make the playing of the sax illegal during the playing of a movie in a public theater. I would say yes, because of two reasons. The first is that it does harm (many of the of the patrons the theater might be understandable annoyed) and there are very few good reasons you might muster why that might be a good idea. Abortion inarguably does harm the fetus. In the absence of good reasons for abortions there is therefore not necessarily a good reason for it's legality. If there are few good reasons, then there might be cause for some judicial review/investigation as to what reasons are sought in particular cases to insure those reasons are not specious.

The problem with your "onus is on them" assumption is that, as we argued earlier in our discussions, that you would not have held that the onus was on the Jew in Nazi held Poland to demonstrate to the German people that he was not in some mystical way inferior.

Your fire/saving girl or embryo example has issues, mainly being that if we value the girl more it doesn't mean we don't also value the embryo. If you had to choose between saving that 5 y/o girl or 3 90 y/o men you would choose the girl (most likely). But that does not mean you would not independantly give great value (or defend) the life of elderly men in general.

As of your last comment on the last post (consequences), I understand the distinction you are making now ... and I'm going to think about it.

Stephen (aka Q) said...

JA:

(1) You are in danger of prejudicing the argument from the outset, by telling us all the aspects of the issue that are not up for discussion. If you eliminate all the instances that could possibly counter your preferred view, you have predetermined the outcome. (But I don't want to get hung up on this point: my main argument follows below.)

(2) You successfully argue that, in life-and-death circumstances, we might prioritize one life (that of a child) over another (embryos). But I hope you understand, this does not prove that the embryos are not human. The example of elderly people with Parkinsons illustrates that point quite eloquently. They are still human, even if we choose to save the next person's life ahead of theirs. (Further rationale below, point 5.)

(3) You write: "But we're analogizing from abortion, where we know the mother does not want to give birth."

Thank you for making that clear. The issue is, the mother does not want to give birth. We are not (in most cases) talking about the likely death of the mother. Thus your embryo example is irrelevant, because you are asking us to choose life for one person, knowing that the other will die as a consequence of our choice. We do not have the option of keeping both parties alive: whereas we do have that option in the case of abortion. You need to come up with a different analogy — one that's relevant to the issue at hand.

(4) This is why Mark is right, the onus of justification is on supporters of legal abortion. They want to end a (human? potentially human, certainly) life for the sake of the mother's preference not to gestate and give birth to a baby. If the mother's life were in danger, then I would argue that the onus had shifted to the opponents of legal abortion to prove their case. But if you want someone else's life to end for the sake of your preference? — you'd better believe it, the onus is on you to justify that decision.

(5) Is the conceptus human? — you haven't addressed that possibility. By some measures, s/he is demonstrably human (e.g., human DNA). By other measures, s/he is only potentially human (if, for example, the brain has not formed — though I'm not sure any abortions are carried out that early into a pregnancy). For this reason, we might rationally develop a hierarchy where one life takes priority over the other: but only if one party or the other is doomed to die.

But that isn't the situation you raise for our consideration. If it's only a matter of the woman's preferences? — with respect, you haven't even begun to make your case.

Flippy said...

Sex isn't always a choice. Should women have to bear the children of abusers? Should 9 year olds who are raped be forced to give birth?

Random said...

Essentially agree with what Q has said - my eyebrows raised somewhat when JA proceeded to rule whole areas of discussion out of bounds, though in fairness many of them are either only of historical interest or relate more to the question of how abortion should be regulated rather than whether it is legal. Though I do wish that, in the interests of fairness, he had also ruled out discussion of rape and incest which are just as much side issues but are ones that might weight the discussion on the "pro" side.

Q however has nailed the key question - are there any circumstances in which it is acceptable to kill an innocent human being other than to avert a direct and immediate threat to the life of another equally innocent person? I agree with Q, in a civilised society the onus is surely on the advocates of such a remarkable position to prove their case.

JA to be fair has attempted to address this this issue with the discussion of whether or not a foetus can meaningfully be regarded as a human being. However, I don't think he has managed to make a compelling case that it should not so be regarded. A key issue for me, and the one where the tank of embryos versus a small child analogy falls down, is the role of human intervention in the process. Barring medical problems, in the absence of human intervention a foetus will always develop into a child that we would all recognise is a fully human being. On the other hand, in the absence of intervention a frozen embryo never will. Failing to actively intervene to bring a life into being is not morally equivalent to actively intervening to prevent one from coming into being.

Oh, and Jdhurf, in my experience it is much more common for pro-abortionists to be uninterested in what goes on in the womb and how a foetus develops - they really do not want to learn anything that might shake their worldview that a foetus is nothing more than a random bunch of cells with no more right to remain in the body than a ruptured appendix. There was a very good example of this in the UK recently, when the BBC broadcast some unprecedently detailed scans (a new scanning technology had been developed, don't ask me for details) showing signs of movement and awareness in foetuses as young as IIRC 12 weeks old (and perhaps more importantly for the propaganda aspect of the debate, showing them look like babies), anti-abortion activists generally welcomed the research whereas pro-abortion activists were very hostile and criticised the BBC and other news media for running the images.

Jewish Atheist said...

skcorefil,

Then I'd have to say, grab the jar. Although I dont' see why you couldn't take both the child and the jar.

It seems for you that embryos really are morally equivalent to children. I can't believe that this is a common view -- it seems more like that woman from PETA who, when asked which she would save first, a drowning dog or a child, she said, "whichever is closer."


Orthoprax:
The murder issue clouds the point.

I wouldn't have brought it up on my own, but it's a common OLA argument.

Embryos as potential human lives should not be treated casually. Exploitation of the human body is dangerous to human dignity.

Talk about clouding the point. :-) Nobody said embryos should be treated casually. Nor is anybody talking about exploiting a human body.


Mark:

I'd like to point out that I haven't really at this time been addressing the legal aspects of abortion, but that so far I've been trying to explore reasons that people have abortions and whether or not they stand "muster" against the evident harm that they do to the pre-natal nascent life.

Point taken.

If I might stretch your popcorn/theater analogy to instead of eating popcorn to playing a saxaphone. Might there be reason to make the playing of the sax illegal during the playing of a movie in a public theater.

Exactly. The point is there are reasons to ban the sax in a theater. Once you've met your burden of explaining what they are (pretty easy in this case) the burden shifts to those who want to defend the practice.

I take your point that harming a fetus is seen by most as in itself a bad thing, so perhaps it is a little like the sax example. However, the question is, *how* bad a thing is abortion, and is it as bad as forcing a woman to remain pregnant against her will? I don't think you've met the burden of demonstrating that the bad of abortion outweighs the good.

you would not have held that the onus was on the Jew in Nazi held Poland to demonstrate to the German people that he was not in some mystical way inferior.

Killing an innocent adult is agreed by almost everybody to be much more immoral than having an abortion.

Your fire/saving girl or embryo example has issues, mainly being that if we value the girl more it doesn't mean we don't also value the embryo.

This is of course true. However since there are 5,000 embryos and only one girl, it gives us a crude indication of how much more we value the girl. Would I choose a girl over 5,000 90-year-old men? I doubt it.


Q: You are in danger of prejudicing the argument from the outset, by telling us all the aspects of the issue that are not up for discussion.

To be fair I was simply trying to eliminate distractions, not limit the arguments allowed for whether abortion should ever be legal. If there's a particular limitation I made which is prejudicial, let me know.

You successfully argue that, in life-and-death circumstances, we might prioritize one life (that of a child) over another (embryos). But I hope you understand, this does not prove that the embryos are not human.

Embryos are of course "human" in that they are not fish embryos or something. They aren't "human" in the sense that a "human" is a person with a brain or possibly a soul. However, what's relevant to this discussion is that their continued life is vastly less valuable (5,000:1) to us than is the life of a child.

We do not have the option of keeping both parties alive: whereas we do have that option in the case of abortion. You need to come up with a different analogy — one that's relevant to the issue at hand.

The fertility clinic analogy is only to demonstrate the relative value we place on an embryo as compared to a child. It's not intended to be otherwise parallel to the abortion question. I haven't found a good analogy for the abortion question -- the violinist's argument that Mark writes about in one of his posts might be close except that it's assuming an embryo has the same value as an adult, which is pretty much assuming the conclusion of the OLA argument.

But if you want someone else's life to end for the sake of your preference? — you'd better believe it, the onus is on you to justify that decision.

Perhaps you and Mark are right about the onus. However, I personally think it's silly to refer to an early embryo as "someone else." If I believed the fetus has the same moral status as a child or adult than I'd agree that abortion could only be used in the most extreme of circumstances. I think the fertility clinic example is enough to demonstrate that (although not explain why) a fetus has much less value than a child or adult.

Is the conceptus human? — you haven't addressed that possibility. By some measures, s/he is demonstrably human (e.g., human DNA). By other measures, s/he is only potentially human (if, for example, the brain has not formed — though I'm not sure any abortions are carried out that early into a pregnancy).

This is the crux of the matter. Which measures of humanity are relevant. I don't think DNA is relevant at all because why would a nucleic acid confer moral status? We don't consider a cheek cell to be "human" in that sense even though it has a full set of human DNA. As far as I'm concerned, before the brain is formed (at about six weeks, apparently) it's a no-brainer (ha) that the embryo is not "human" in the sense of "human" that's relevant to this discussion. I would further argue that even once the brain forms, the fetus is not "human" in the moral sense at least until it can feel some sort of pain and have some meaningful (non-random) brain-wave activity. But again, this post is not about where to draw the line, but rather about whether we can ever draw the line.


Random:

are there any circumstances in which it is acceptable to kill an innocent human being other than to avert a direct and immediate threat to the life of another equally innocent person? I agree with Q, in a civilised society the onus is surely on the advocates of such a remarkable position to prove their case.

And I agree with both of you -- except that I'm questioning whether an embryo is equivalent to "an innocent human being" in the sense of "human being" that you are using. If the embryo doesn't have a brain, personality, or soul, the only way it's a "human being" is in the biological sense, which isn't necessarily relevant to this discussion.

Orthoprax said...

JA,

"Nobody said embryos should be treated casually. Nor is anybody talking about exploiting a human body."

Well, like I said, it doesn't so much depend on the act itself without context, but the reasons behind the act. Just like there are legitimate and illegitimate forms of killing people there are legitimate and illegitimate forms of killing embryonal or fetal life.

For example, I believe those women who use abortion as a primary means of birth control and visit the abortionist more often then they visit the dentist are being casual with fetal life and are therefore being immoral.

Juggling Mother said...

Abortions always have and always will take place. Where they are illegal women still have them, and many die or are left permently damaged (example).

Making them legal, with safeguards, ensures that women who are already alive & contributing members of society get to stay that way.

I do not believe there are many women who use abortion as their "primary means of contraception" It is never an easy thing to go through, even when it is an easy choice to make (age/rape/incest etc).

With each of my pregnancies I knew I was pregnant within 48 hours max.

As an aside, "murder" is a legal term that means the killing of a human individual, and therefore can not be applied to a foetus.

Juggling Mother said...

Of course, an interesting argument on legalising abortions is that it actually ensures less happen:

"where abortion is legal--such Europe and North America--the percentage of abortions performed has actually gone down" (source as above)

JivinJ said...

JA,
did challenge that argument. "However what constitutes a "person" [i.e. an innocent human being] with respect to murder is exactly what this debate is about.

This shows that you didn't challenge the argument at all. You've provided no evidence that the unborn aren't human beings. It's a scientific fact that the unborn are human beings but you've attempted to avoid this fact by simply asserting that the law currently doesn't recognize them as "persons."

That's like someone arguing that slaves weren't legal persons therefore it wasn't wrong to kill them.

However, it does go to show that killing embryos is not morally identical to killing children.

It does no such thing. You're equating a preference to save one over the other and then asserting that it has to do with intentional killing. This is apples and oranges to the extreme. And my Parkinson's example shows why. Is killing 3 patients with Parkinson's less morally wrong than killing a 5 year old child?

The use of my wife shows that someone's personal preference to save one human being over others can be influenced by various factors including emotions, etc. and these personal preferences don't prove it should be legal to kill those you don't necessarily prefer.

Second, even if it did prove they weren't "morally identical," that doesn't mean that killing embryos should be legal. Just because some might think that killing a doctor who is about to discover a cure to cancer isn't morally identical to killing a homeless, drug-addicted felon doesn't mean it should be legal to kill the homeless, drug-addicted felon.

Your example clearly doesn't come anywhere near proving what you'd like it prove.

Jewish Atheist said...

JivinJ,

You've provided no evidence that the unborn aren't human beings. It's a scientific fact that the unborn are human beings but you've attempted to avoid this fact by simply asserting that the law currently doesn't recognize them as "persons."

I was assuming you were not making this argument although skcorefil tried to convince me you were. I think this argument is disingenous because it's merely playing word-games. Whether the embryo is a legal or moral "person" is exactly the question at hand. Whether they are "scientifically" (whatever that means) "human beings" (whatever that means) is just a word game. If you want to define the phrase "human beings" to include embryos then you still need to justify why "no killing" applies to ALL "human beings" rather than just post-birth (or post-viability or post-brain-development or whatever) "human beings." Trying to confer the moral status of post-birth "human beings" to embryos by putting them under the umbrella of a single phrase is not an argument.

That's like someone arguing that slaves weren't legal persons therefore it wasn't wrong to kill them.

I agree that lacking the legal status of "person" is not enough. Fetuses/embryos must also lack the moral status of "person." It is whether they do in fact lack that moral status which this debate hinges upon.

Is killing 3 patients with Parkinson's less morally wrong than killing a 5 year old child?

One can at least argue about it. But if you're willing to kill 5,000 embryos rather than a single child, it's implicit that you think killing 5,000 embryos is less morally wrong than killing a single child. Therefore, it's implicit that you think killing a single embryo is WAY less morally wrong than killing a child.

The use of my wife shows that someone's personal preference to save one human being over others can be influenced by various factors including emotions, etc. and these personal preferences don't prove it should be legal to kill those you don't necessarily prefer.

I never disagree with this.

Second, even if it did prove they weren't "morally identical," that doesn't mean that killing embryos should be legal.

Agreed. It just disposes of the "abortion is murder" argument, which is the only thing I used the analogy for. You're acting like I used the analogy all by itself to allow abortion.

Stephen (aka Q) said...

JA:

If there's a particular limitation I made which is prejudicial, let me know.

I think there are two extremes that someone might want to drag into this debate. On the "oppose" side, people want to talk about late term or partial birth abortions. Once they get you to agree that those are immoral, they'll try to back you up to an earlier stage in the pregnancy.

On the "support" side, the extreme is the one that you have been using throughout your argument: a fertilized ovum, before implantation — indeed, frozen before any cell division or other development can occur.

You have instructed us not to bring in our extreme, while predicating your argument on the opposite extreme. I'd say that's prejudicial.

Women do not show up in abortion clinics with an embryo in a test tube and ask for it to be killed. They carry ova which are not merely fertilized, but implanted, and already gestated for weeks or months.

I don't think DNA is relevant at all because why would a nucleic acid confer moral status? We don't consider a cheek cell to be "human" in that sense even though it has a full set of human DNA.

Now you're the one ducking the issue. A fertilized ovum is not equivalent to a cheek cell, and you know it. A fertilized ovum contains the complete instructions for cells to differentiate and develop into an adult human being. And that process is already well underway when abortions are carried out.

If I believed the fetus has the same moral status as a child or adult than I'd agree that abortion could only be used in the most extreme of circumstances.

Here's where I differ from most pro-life people. I do not assume that the fetus has the same moral status as a child or adult. This leaves room for some abortions to be justified, but it does not permit the woman to abort at will, as if the fetus has no moral rights whatsoever.

I have already explained that I think the fetus is demonstrably human based on DNA. I think that's a rational, objective, science-based position.

On the other hand, I think there are other ways in which a fetus is arguably less than fully human, depending on the stage of pregnancy. Your personal preference is to emphasize brain activity because, in your opinion, brain activity is what defines us as humans.

It's been a long time since I looked at the data, but I believe very few abortions happen before the woman is several months into the pregnancy. By the time the fetus is aborted, measurable brain activity has begun. But of course you should correct me if I'm wrong.

But again, this post is not about where to draw the line, but rather about whether we can ever draw the line.

Again, you're trying to control the debate; this is prejudicial.

You need to declare yourself on this point, JA. At what point does the fetus cross the line so that it possesses some moral value, even if his or her moral value is less than that of the mother?

This is crucial because of the point I made earlier. Women are permitted to abort on demand — without providing any justification for the decision. The assumption is that the fetus has no moral rights which must be balanced against the mother's rights: even if the pregnancy is eight months along, for example.

You accord no moral value to a fertilized ovum. But women don't show up at abortion clinics within hours of fertlization.

You emphasize brain activity. So don't duck the issue: at what point is there sufficient brain development that the fetus begins to possess moral rights? And what would you do about requests for abortion after measurable brain activity begins? Because I suspect virtually all abortions fall into that category.

Here's my suspicion: I think you would permit the woman to have an abortion anyways, based on no more compelling reason than her preference not to carry a baby to term. If that's so, then all these arguments you're raising are red herrings — you aren't really basing your conclusions on them, you just throw them out to justify a decision that you've already taken on other, completely subjective grounds.

Jewish Atheist said...

Q:

You have instructed us not to bring in our extreme, while predicating your argument on the opposite extreme. I'd say that's prejudicial. Women do not show up in abortion clinics with an embryo in a test tube and ask for it to be killed.

That's sort of a fair point. However, I'm not attempting to extrapolate far from "my" extreme; I'm just trying to get people to at least agree to very early abortion.

Now you're the one ducking the issue. A fertilized ovum is not equivalent to a cheek cell, and you know it. A fertilized ovum contains the complete instructions for cells to differentiate and develop into an adult human being. And that process is already well underway when abortions are carried out.

I'm not ducking; I'm forcing you to be precise. When you elaborate, it becomes clear that the important criterion is not that it has human DNA (which was my objection) but that it's on it's way to becoming a complete person. That's a separate argument which you did not originally make. Separate arguments must be addressed separately or we'll never figure anything out. :-)

I have already explained that I think the fetus is demonstrably human based on DNA. I think that's a rational, objective, science-based position.

"Human" in the biological sense is not a priori identical to "human" in the moral sense. As I wrote to JivinJ, I think this argument is disingenuous.

It's been a long time since I looked at the data, but I believe very few abortions happen before the woman is several months into the pregnancy.

That may be true, but this argument is limited to very early abortion. :-) We can have that debate some other time.

You need to declare yourself on this point, JA. At what point does the fetus cross the line so that it possesses some moral value, even if his or her moral value is less than that of the mother?

Why start with the most divisive issue rather than trying to find common ground? It's obvious that where I draw the line will be farther than where almost anyone else here will, so I don't see what benefit can come from arguing about that.

You emphasize brain activity. So don't duck the issue: at what point is there sufficient brain development that the fetus begins to possess moral rights? And what would you do about requests for abortion after measurable brain activity begins? Because I suspect virtually all abortions fall into that category.

I would allow them pretty late because even once brain activity starts, it's not like the fetus is capable of intelligent (or unintelligent!) thought. I think the key as fair as brain-development goes is self-awareness and I'm not sure even an infant is self-aware. However, due to the ickiness of killing infants, I personally would draw the line at viability (unlike e.g. Peter Singer.)

HYou emphasize brain activity. So don't duck the issue: at what point is there sufficient brain development that the fetus begins to possess moral rights? And what would you do about requests for abortion after measurable brain activity begins? Because I suspect virtually all abortions fall into that category.

I'm not making arguments in favor of abortion in this post, merely discarding arguments against. Discarding those against is a necessary but not sufficient step.

Mark said...

JA,
If we alter the "fire" question to ask you which you would save; between a woman or a woman who is pregnant, which would you choose? Would you flip a coin if by "pregnant" it meant the strip turned blue but you would prejudice toward the pregnant woman only if it "was starting to show"?

You also write I personally would draw the line at viability. So, in two decades if the line at viability is conception that is, we can bring a infant "to term" entirely in vitro where then does that leave you. "viability" is a point heavily dependent on medical technology.

Jewish Atheist said...

Mark:

If we alter the "fire" question to ask you which you would save; between a woman or a woman who is pregnant, which would you choose? Would you flip a coin if by "pregnant" it meant the strip turned blue but you would prejudice toward the pregnant woman only if it "was starting to show"?

I don't think I would make a distinction unless the woman was very obviously pregnant.

So, in two decades if the line at viability is conception that is, we can bring a infant "to term" entirely in vitro where then does that leave you. "viability" is a point heavily dependent on medical technology.

That's a very good point. Not only that, but if the technology existed to bring an infant to term completely outside of the woman as an alternative to abortion, most of the arguments in favor of abortion would be nullified. If the woman isn't being forced to remain pregant, it's easier to say that it's not her decision what happens to the embryo after it's removed.

Irviner Chasid said...

If you are starting to argue "Semantics" then I would just like to make this list of "people" for you to actually discuss, in no particular order.

1. embryo(no organs)
2. fetus(has organs)
3. Newborn on ICU
4. Newborn living at home
5. Mentally retarded newborn
6. child
7. adult
8. Old person-(in second half of thier life)
9. Brain dead child who the parents want alive
10. Brain dead child which the parents want to die.
11. Person on life support, but not braindead
12. Physcially handicaped person
13. Mentally handicaped person
14. Fetus which is shown that it will be Mentally or physically hanicaped.
15. Person who is working as a slave.
16. Person who is legally a slave, or property of the government.
17. Person about to commit murder
18. Person about to do bodily harm but not murder
19. Person who is just a menace


Of these 19 people, (I'm sure you could come up with more deliniations).. which ones would you say its ok to kill them because they are doing things to me which I don't like.

Jewish Atheist said...

1, maybe 2, 10, maybe 14, 17, 18 depending on severity of harm, 19 in rare circumstances. How about you?

Stephen (aka Q) said...

JA:
I'm satisfied with your answer, insofar as I've shifted you away from your reliance on the embryo analogy. I regard the analogy as a counterproductive diversion from the real issue.

When you elaborate, it becomes clear that the important criterion is not that it has human DNA (which was my objection) but that it's on it's way to becoming a complete person.

To clarify: my position is that a fetus should have a right to some moral consideration from the moment of fertilization. I am emphasizing his or her possession of human DNA, but I'm not knowledgable enough about the science to make myself entirely clear.

I understand that the cheek cell possesses DNA, but it is already a specialized cell. A fertilized ovum, even before it divides for the first time, is different — the potential for every other type of cell is in the it. The difference is not unrelated to its DNA … but my knowledge of science fails me at that point.

Irviner Chasid said...

For the reason of "they are doing something I don't like"

Only 17 and 18.

Jewish Atheist said...

Q:

So it seems for you the relevant criterion is potential to become an infant. I can understand that, but I don't see why anybody else (including the law) should have to agree with you. It's also not clear to me why you couldn't outlaw contraception with an identical or at least very similar argument.


IC:

So you opposed the Iraq war and the death penalty (#19?) You would disagree what I understand to be the halakhically permissable practice of withholding treatment from #10? What if #14 was going to be so severely handicapped that it would live for one or two days in nothing but pain?

Irviner Chasid said...

>So you opposed the Iraq war and the death penalty (#19?) You would disagree what I understand to be the halakhically permissable practice of withholding treatment from #10? What if #14 was going to be so severely handicapped that it would live for one or two days in nothing but pain?

WHA!???

None of those cases you described are cases where the reason for doing the killing is just "they did something I do not like"

Perhaps I need to even define that phrase more.

The only people I think you can kill are 17 and 18, when your sole reasoning is "The person I want to kill is going to cause me finacial, emotional or physical pain"

As skeptic as you may be, that is not the reason for the Iraq war.

Witholding treatment is NOT the same as actively killing.

And for #14.. No I don't think its ok to kill in that situation, just as I don't think its ok to kill a person who is 15 and depressed with the reasoning that, They are going to die in 80 years anyways, and its all going to be painfull.

Irviner Chasid said...

>It's also not clear to me why you couldn't outlaw contraception with an identical or at least very similar argument.

Many contraceptions do not actively kill fertalized eggs. Infact, I'm not sure any do that now a days.

Jewish Atheist said...

None of those cases you described are cases where the reason for doing the killing is just "they did something I do not like"

Perhaps I need to even define that phrase more.


I guess you do. I'm not sure how a brain-dead person could do something you don't like.

As skeptic as you may be, that is not the reason for the Iraq war.

We weren't getting rid of someone who was just a menace? What were we doing?

Many contraceptions do not actively kill fertalized eggs. Infact, I'm not sure any do that now a days.

My point was, a slightly modified version of his argument could be used to forbid preventing fertilization.

Stephen (aka Q) said...

So it seems for you the relevant criterion is potential to become an infant.

Try a little harder to understand my position, JA. I think you're bright enough to do it.

I can understand that, but I don't see why anybody else (including the law) should have to agree with you.

Whereas your position, that the fertilized ovum is not human in any sense whatsoever, and therefore has no right to any consideration whatsoever, is not just your opinion, but objectively and demonstrably true: and therefore the law should respect it.

Huh?

It's also not clear to me why you couldn't outlaw contraception with an identical or at least very similar argument.

Again, huh? Haven't I been talking about a fertilized ovum at every step of my argument?

You're being willfully perverse here. You shouldn't invite dialogue if your only intention is to mock other people's views.

Kyaroko said...

I don't know of a single ceremony, rite, or funeral custom in the Christian tradition to commemoate the soul of a miscarried fetus.

Orthoprax said...

Q,

"A fertilized ovum, even before it divides for the first time, is different — the potential for every other type of cell is in the it. The difference is not unrelated to its DNA … but my knowledge of science fails me at that point."

This isn't necessarily directed at you, but just for general knowledge.

The difference lies in the chemical cues the cells get. The chemical cues determine how the genes in the cell will be read, what proteins will be transcribed and eventually what kind of cell type it will turn into.

If you inject human stem cells into a developing mouse's brain, they will turn into mouse brain cells.

When stem cells are grown in vitro, they don't get any of the normal chemical cues they would get while in the uterus - so they just produce more stem cells more or less indefinitely.

From one zygote, you can produce millions of equally totipotent stem cells. Each of which can potentially turn into a whole human being if properly implanted inside a uterus.

With proper artificially generated chemical cues, the cells can be used to make any cell type - hence the huge promise of stem cell research.

Stem cells can even give rise to new eggs cells in vitro.

You can replace the DNA of one stem cell, or ovum, with the DNA of an entirely different cell from a separate individual, say your cheek cell, and use it to clone an entirely new person.

It is also fully conceivable, once given the technological means, to build whole new genetic codes artificially - with genetic data that come from no person. It may even be possible to build artificial ova and artificial wombs to house them as they grow.

Although our moral sense would love to find strict boundaries, the truth is that nature can be surprisingly flexible in how human cells become human beings.

Stephen (aka Q) said...

Thanks, Orthoprax. Not that the information you provide helps my case … but that's OK. I am always open to new data.

I need to think on it a while, and try to sift through the implications.

Axinar said...

Actually we have an interesting "control" in western culture to try to determine where, culturally, life begins - it's called an early-term miscarriage.

Near as I can tell, based on overall behavior, an early-term misscarriage can be source of great stress and anguish, particularly if the couple has been trying very hard to have a child, but the event is NOT treated like a death.

Usually no name is given to the pregnancy, and the tissue lost is not buried or cremated.

A very late term miscarriage or a stillbirth is treated in an entirely different manner usually.

Yes, it would appear that, taken as a cultural whole, life begins somewhere between conception and birth.

It's REALLY hard to tell EXACTLY where, but it's definitely somewhere in between.

Jewish Atheist said...

Q:

Try a little harder to understand my position, JA. I think you're bright enough to do it.

It's not like you to condescend, Q.

Whereas your position, that the fertilized ovum is not human in any sense whatsoever, and therefore has no right to any consideration whatsoever, is not just your opinion, but objectively and demonstrably true: and therefore the law should respect it.

I never said that. I specifically am trying to lay out a case where the majority of the people agree that an early-stage embryo may be aborted. I never said it "has no right to any consideration whatsoever," nor that it was "objectively and demonstrably true."

I obviously pissed you off somewhere, but you're putting words into my mouth.

Again, huh? Haven't I been talking about a fertilized ovum at every step of my argument?

You have. My point is that based on the criterion you gave for considering the fertilized ovum a moral person -- namely that it will grow into an infant -- one could easily conclude that contraception is immoral as well. After all, without contraception, a given egg and at least one of millions of sperm has a decent chance at becoming an infant as well. Why is it immoral to prevent an ovum from developing but not to prevent sperm and egg from becoming an ovum?

You're being willfully perverse here. You shouldn't invite dialogue if your only intention is to mock other people's views.

I'm not mocking; I'm trying to determine specifically what criteria you use to determine moral personhood and how you justify those beliefs. Only then can we really understand each other's perspectives, I think.


Orthoprax:

Thanks for providing the technical
background. It seems to support my argument that an ovum is not in itself special except that it's in a place where it could, left undisturbed, develop into an infant. I think this amplifies my question to Q about contraception.


Kyaroko and Axinar:

I don't know of a single ceremony, rite, or funeral custom in the Christian tradition to commemoate the soul of a miscarried fetus.

Actually we have an interesting "control" in western culture to try to determine where, culturally, life begins - it's called an early-term miscarriage...

Great points. This is better evidence than the fertility clinic hypothetical that the majority of people in our society do not think of early embryos as moral persons. I will add that the same is true in Judaism -- one doesn't sit shiva for a miscarriage.

Orthoprax said...

JA,

I would further question Q's perspective on normal sexual relations and natural conception.

It's estimated that about 50% of all fertilized eggs are spontaneously aborted for one reason or another. Meaning, by naturally fertilizing any egg you may very well have a statistical 2:1 shot of dooming this "person" to death.

Few actions are morally acceptable if you have a 50/50 shot of killing someone.

David said...

Interesting post. Fwiw, I think that criminalizing abortion is not qualitatively different from criminalizing male masturbation, or criminalizing birth control, or criminalizing the failure of males to impregnate as many females as possible. It's all potential life, nothing more.

And a soul? That's a word. What does it mean? What is it? Where is it? Point to it. Show me. It obviously has absolutely no place in the public policy of a government which supposedly supports a separation of state and church. Egad. Is it 2008 yet?

Random said...

Kyaroko, Axinar and JA:

"I don't know of a single ceremony, rite, or funeral custom in the Christian tradition to commemoate the soul of a miscarried fetus.

Actually we have an interesting "control" in western culture to try to determine where, culturally, life begins - it's called an early-term miscarriage...

Great points. This is better evidence than the fertility clinic hypothetical that the majority of people in our society do not think of early embryos as moral persons."

I'm assuming you all accept that the Roman Catholic Church is a significant part of the Christian tradition, in which case:

"The corpses of human embryos and fetuses, whether they have been deliberately aborted or not, must be respected just as the remains of other human beings." From the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith's statement "Donum Vitae" published in 1987 and quoted here. Or in other words, the only reason there is no specific rite for a miscarried or aborted foetus is because such a foetus is entitled to exactly the same funeral rites as a child or adult human. I haven't yet found equivalent statements from other Christian denominations, but I've no evidence at all that their teaching is significantly different on this issue. As I understand it, funeral services for miscarried foetuses are actually fairly common (and are indeed recommended as a valuable way of helping the family to come to terms with the loss), for fairly obvious reasons however funeral services for aborted foetuses are much rarer.

I can't speak for other faith groups, but I trust this adequately refutes the point.

aus blog said...

It's a subject of much debate, and the debate is hotting up of late with the apparent change in policies of several countries. I am a pro-lifer who has no religious convictions at all . I didn't need the fear of god or anything else to come to my decision, just a good sense of what is right and wrong.
You see we were all once a fetus. Is it beyond the realm of possibilities that when your mother first learned she was carrying you, she may have considered her options? What if she had decided to terminate? Would that have been OK?
You would not exist, if you have children they would not exist, and your (husband or wife) would be married to someone else. You would have been deprived of all your experiences and memories. In this day and age with terminations being so readily available and so many being carried out (can be harder to organise to have a tooth pulled in australia) if you make it to full term
you can consider yourself lucky. Lucky you had a mother that made the choice of life for you.Don't you think they all deserve the same basic human right, LIFE?
I'm all for contraception, prevention is certainly better than termination.
Did you know you can get an implant that lasts for three years? Just think girls not even a show for three years, wouldn't that be great? I think too many people rely too heavily on the last option (abortion), I think if abortions weren't so readily available people would manage their reproductive system far better resulting in a fraction of the number of unwanted pregnancies.
RU-486- Many people describe this as a contraceptive, it is not, it is a termination drug, it doesn't prevent a pregnancy, it is a lethal cocktail for the unsuspecting fetus. In my opinion RU486 might be acceptable if administered within a day or two of conception when all you would have is the basic ingredients of human life. After that it's just wrong. It's a human life.
I am convinced that in the not to distant future,people will look back at many of the practices of today with disbelief and horror.

WHAT DO YOU THINK ?

ausblog

Jewish Atheist said...

Orthoprax:

Few actions are morally acceptable if you have a 50/50 shot of killing someone.

I'm sure Q would differentiate between killing someone and God "taking" someone.


David:

Sounds like we agree on a lot of stuff. :-)


Random:

It may be that Catholicism treats a miscarriage just as the death of a child; I don't know. However it's clear that the majority of Americans make a distinction. Most people don't hold a funeral for a miscarriage but they do for the death of an infant.


aus blog:

You see we were all once a fetus. Is it beyond the realm of possibilities that when your mother first learned she was carrying you, she may have considered her options? What if she had decided to terminate? Would that have been OK?
You would not exist, if you have children they would not exist, and your (husband or wife) would be married to someone else. You would have been deprived of all your experiences and memories.


(Welcome, fellow atheist!)

All of that would be true if my mom wasn't in the mood for sex the night I was conceived. Should it be against the law for a woman to say "No" to her husband? It would also be true if they'd used a condom. Should they be illegal as well?

Random said...

"It may be that Catholicism treats a miscarriage just as the death of a child; I don't know."

With all due respect, but the quote is fairly clear. A statement from the CDF is about as authoritative as you can get short of an ex cathedra pronouncement from the Pope himself - and anybody who thinks Benedict XVI is likely to rule differently is invited to study his CV and see what job he was doing in 1987.

"However it's clear that the majority of Americans make a distinction."

Which may be true, but it is also irrelevant. The original point, which you endorsed and which I set out to refute, was that no Christian denomination treated a miscarried or aborted foetus as possessing all the rights of a human being, and that therefore by implication they were being hypocritical in opposing abortion on this principle.

Random said...

"Few actions are morally acceptable if you have a 50/50 shot of killing someone."

Orthoprax, you're normally smarter than this (and JA so are you - I'm surprised you endorsed this line). If the mere act of conceiving an organism which subsequently dies is sufficient to make someone a killer then, given that humans do not possess immortality, every parent who has ever lived is a killer. Most people would be somewhat more stringent than that, and would expect that to qualify as a killer you have to take an active and positive step that result in the termination of life. Merely conceiving the deceased is usually not regarded as sufficient.

The argument about contraception is similarly absurd - preventing (in practice, given that no form of contraception is 100% effective, reducing the odds of) a life from coming into existence is not morally equivalent to ending that life once it exists. As I said in my first post, the key point in deciding where the moral burden lies is active human agency. If we conduct an abortion, will a life be created? No. If we use a condom, will a life be created? No. If we conduct an abortion, will a life be ended? Yes. If we use a condom, will a life be ended? No. The two asituations are clearly not equivalent.

aus blog said...

Some people just wont get it even though I typed it very slowly.

ausblog

Jewish Atheist said...

Random:

"However it's clear that the majority of Americans make a distinction."

Which may be true, but it is also irrelevant. The original point, which you endorsed and which I set out to refute, was that no Christian denomination treated a miscarried or aborted foetus as possessing all the rights of a human being, and that therefore by implication they were being hypocritical in opposing abortion on this principle.


I'm pretty sure Catholics don't always have a funeral Mass for a miscarriage. Correct me if I'm wrong.

"Few actions are morally acceptable if you have a 50/50 shot of killing someone."

Orthoprax, you're normally smarter than this (and JA so are you - I'm surprised you endorsed this line).


How did I "endorse" it? I specifically said that you wouldn't buy it, basically because of the reasons you state.

The argument about contraception is similarly absurd - preventing (in practice, given that no form of contraception is 100% effective, reducing the odds of) a life from coming into existence is not morally equivalent to ending that life once it exists.

What life is "coming into existence?" Both sperm and egg are already alive.

If we use a condom, will a life be ended?

Yes, the lives of the egg and millions of sperm will be ended.


aus blog:

Some people just wont get it even though I typed it very slowly.

Way to give a reasoned response.

Stephen (aka Q) said...

• JA:
My point is that based on the criterion you gave for considering the fertilized ovum a moral person -- namely that it will grow into an infant -- one could easily conclude that contraception is immoral as well.

I thought you were being deliberately perverse, but you genuinely don't understand my argument: I apologize.

When a sperm penetrates an egg, that event marks the beginning of a new human life.

A sperm by itself is not the beginning. Blocking conception is not the same thing as killing life once it has begun.

A fertilized ovum is clearly not a fully developed human being; but it is self-evidently the beginning of a new human life.

Nor is the beginning of a new human life found sometime later, when brain activity begins, or the child becomes self-aware, or some other arbitrary dividing point.

People always say there is no clear demarcation, but that is disingenuous. There is one and only one clear demarcation: conception. Everything else is a matter of development along a spectrum.

Nor is a cheek cell the beginning of a new human life.

This shouldn't be difficult to understand. That's why I thought you were deliberately dodging my argument — and I still find it hard to believe you're not, except I'm sure you wouldn't lie about it.

Stephen (aka Q) said...

• re miscarriage:

The argument re miscarriage supports the nuanced position I am trying to stake out. On the one hand, parents grieve as if they have lost a child. On the other hand, society does not mark the event in the same way as they mark the death of an infant.

The fetus possesses real value, and its value is explained by the fact that we have here the beginning of a new human life.

But the fetus does not possess a value equivalent to an infant. Here JA and I are in agreement.

Beyond this point, JA and I disagree. He would allow a woman to abort without any consideration of the fetus whatsoever — contradicting the fact that the fetus possesses value and dignity as the beginning of a new human life.

Jewish Atheist said...

I thought you were being deliberately perverse, but you genuinely don't understand my argument: I apologize.

I assure you I'm not being deliberately perverse. :-)

When a sperm penetrates an egg, that event marks the beginning of a new human life.

This is your assertion, but you haven't explained precisely why it's true, particularly in a moral sense, rather than a biological one. Sperm and egg a micron apart from each other are not a human life deserving of protection but the instant the sperm penetrates the egg they are? You can't just assert this; you have to justify it somehow.

Blocking conception is not the same thing as killing life once it has begun.

Both sperm and egg are alive, so "life" began much earlier.

A fertilized ovum is clearly not a fully developed human being; but it is self-evidently the beginning of a new human life.

Again, how is this relevant from a moral standpoint? Once the sperm and egg are combined you have the basic ingredients for a person, but you still need all sorts of hormones and oxygen and glucose etc.

Nor is the beginning of a new human life found sometime later, when brain activity begins, or the child becomes self-aware, or some other arbitrary dividing point.

This is what we're arguing about. You're simply asserting your conclusion.

People always say there is no clear demarcation, but that is disingenuous. There is one and only one clear demarcation: conception. Everything else is a matter of development along a spectrum.

I'll grant you that conception makes a very good demarcation from a pragmatic standpoint. (There is of course still a spectrum even for that -- is it when the sperm touches the egg, begins to burrow, when the zygote is ready to divide, etc., but this isn't relevant to the abortion debate.) However, just because it's easier to determine when conception happens than say the first brain wave activity doesn't necessarily make it a better line to use.

This shouldn't be difficult to understand.

I think you're conflating a biological argument ("conception is the beginning of an organism") with a moral one ("conception is when we need to treat an organism as if it were already a complete person.") It may be that you can justify doing so, but it doesn't seem you've even attempted to do so, except perhaps with your point that conception marks the most clear dividing line. Still, "clear" doesn't necessarily imply "good."

Jewish Atheist said...

The argument re miscarriage supports the nuanced position I am trying to stake out. On the one hand, parents grieve as if they have lost a child.

This is not universally true. I've known people who miscarry and while it may be a very sad event, it's not remotely like losing a child for all of them.

He would allow a woman to abort without any consideration of the fetus whatsoever — contradicting the fact that the fetus possesses value and dignity as the beginning of a new human life.

I didn't say that she shouldn't consider the fetus's value; merely, that the final decision must be up to her.

Stephen (aka Q) said...

• re Orthoprax's information about the fertilized ovum:

I still have a long way to go in thinking through the implications of the information. However, here's my initial response.

It has implications only at a philosophical or theoretical level. It has no implications in terms of the actual practice of abortion.

What I mean is this. According to Orthoprax, the fertilized ovum might develop into a mouse if it were implanted in a different environment, and subjected to different chemical stimuli.

But of course, the specific fetus we're talking about is a fetus that is implanted in the uterus of a human female, and being subjected to chemical stimuli that are directing it to develop into a human being.

Practically speaking, then, my argument remains valid: the fetus that is being aborted is human, not a mouse or a cheek cell or anything else.

JA, similarly, would prefer that we think in terms of abortions that happen in the first few weeks after conception (prior to measurable brain activity), but abortions don't actually take place that early.

I insist that we must talk about abortions as they are carried out in practice: we're talking about real-life events, not abstract theoretical constructs.

By naturally fertilizing any egg you may very well have a statistical 2:1 shot of dooming this "person" to death.

I think Random has already refuted that argument. If I naturally fertilize an egg, my intention is to start a new human life. If I abort a fetus, my intention is to end an incipient human life. The moral distinction is grounded in the distinct intentions.

Stephen (aka Q) said...

I think you're conflating a biological argument ("conception is the beginning of an organism") with a moral one ("conception is when we need to treat an organism as if it were already a complete person.")

First, you again show a surprising failure to understand my argument. I don't say that the conceptus should be treated as the moral equivalent of a complete person. I've been very clear on that point, and I don't understand why you persist in misunderstanding me.

As for the substantive part of the comment, you're right. I am grounding my moral argument in the biological event, conception.

The alternative is to make completely arbitrary moral distinctions. In my view, that's equivalent to reaching "scientific" conclusions in the absence of evidence; or even, contrary to the existing evidence.

In this case, the data is biological (human reproduction is, after all, a biological process), and I'm drawing moral conclusions from that biological data.

Evidently you would prefer to ignore the data in order to stake out an arbitrary position. Or is there some other objective, measurable data on which you base your moral conclusions?

Both sperm and egg are alive, so "life" began much earlier.

Your personal existence traces back to the moment of your conception. The sperm did not contain all of the chromosomal information that makes you, you. Neither did the egg. It was only when they came together in conception that you began to exist.

This is self-evidently, objectively true. You just don't like the implications of it.

I don't like the implications of Orthoprax's argument, but I didn't try to dodge it.

Jewish Atheist said...

First, you again show a surprising failure to understand my argument. I don't say that the conceptus should be treated as the moral equivalent of a complete person. I've been very clear on that point, and I don't understand why you persist in misunderstanding me.

You're right. Sorry.

As for the substantive part of the comment, you're right. I am grounding my moral argument in the biological event, conception.

The alternative is to make completely arbitrary moral distinctions. In my view, that's equivalent to reaching "scientific" conclusions in the absence of evidence; or even, contrary to the existing evidence.


I don't see why your distinction is any less arbitrary than mine. Mine (brain development) at least has some reasoning behind it -- namely that without a brain, a person is not a person. You seem to have just picked a convenient place to draw the line rather than one that has a rationale behind it.

In this case, the data is biological (human reproduction is, after all, a biological process), and I'm drawing moral conclusions from that biological data.

My data are also biological.

Your personal existence traces back to the moment of your conception. The sperm did not contain all of the chromosomal information that makes you, you. Neither did the egg. It was only when they came together in conception that you began to exist.

It depends what you mean by "you." In no significant sense (w/r/t morality) did "I" exist before I had a brain. Similarly, all of my chromosomal information existed in the sperm and egg even before they came together.

Look at it this way. If a living person's brain was destroyed in a horrible accident yet technology existed to keep his body alive, would you disallow "killing" that body by removing it from its life support? How is early abortion any different, other than wasted potential? And the fact that you allow contraception seems to get rid of the argument from wasted potential.

It seems to me that looking at chromosomal information as "human life" is a lot more arbitrary than looking at the brain/mind as "human life."

JivinJ said...

I was assuming you were not making this argument although skcorefil tried to convince me you were. I think this argument is disingenous because it's merely playing word-games. Whether the embryo is a legal or moral "person" is exactly the question at hand. Whether they are "scientifically" (whatever that means) "human beings" (whatever that means) is just a word game.

Your argument assumes that "personhood" is what matters without providing a definition or explaining why I should accept your definition over someone who claims another group of human beings aren't persons. Scientifically, human embryos are organisms who are members of the species homo sapiens making them human beings. You need justify while your criteria (whatever it is) to legally discriminate and kill one group of human beings (the unborn) is more valid than any other criteria. Trying to eliminate the moral status of a pre-birth human being by saying the aren't "persons" but then never really defining (or explaining why your definition should be accepted) the term "person" is not an argument.

I agree that lacking the legal status of "person" is not enough. Fetuses/embryos must also lack the moral status of "person." It is whether they do in fact lack that moral status which this debate hinges upon.

This assumes that "personhood" (whatever it is to you) is what endows organisms with moral status.

One can at least argue about it. But if you're willing to kill 5,000 embryos rather than a single child, it's implicit that you think killing 5,000 embryos is less morally wrong than killing a single child. Therefore, it's implicit that you think killing a single embryo is WAY less morally wrong than killing a child.

One can argue about it? What do you think we're doing here?

But you're not killing them. You're saving one over the other. Again apples and oranges. Your example has nothing to do with killing but yet you keep assuming it does.

Agreed. It just disposes of the "abortion is murder" argument, which is the only thing I used the analogy for. You're acting like I used the analogy all by itself to allow abortion.

I'm acting like you think your example proves more than it does - which you do. I think you need to be (or the people you're arguing with at least) need to be more careful about equating "murder" with killing and using those terms as if they were the exact same thing.

Hopefully, we can all agree that abortion kills something.

Jewish Atheist said...

Trying to eliminate the moral status of a pre-birth human being by saying the aren't "persons" but then never really defining (or explaining why your definition should be accepted) the term "person" is not an argument.

I explained that I believe a fetus which does not have a brain (for example) is not for our purposes a person. That's pretty clear, right? Obviously killing said fetus would be "killing" but it wouldn't be "murder." Furthermore, I see no reason to even see it as particularly wrong, particularly if you're okay with contraception.

Juggling Mother said...

I don't know about the US, but in the UK there are not that many late term abortions. It's an emotional argument used by those who can't be bothered to actually look at the facts. I doubt that even the most fervant pro-abortionist would say late term abortions are a "good" thing, or recommend that women go through it.

Although abortions are legal up to 24 weeks, after 14 weeks they become MUCH harder to get & need all sorts of medical & Psych reports to show either life threatening condition of mother or non-viability of baby. In practice, (probably due to free universal healthcare & fairly reasonable sex education programmes) people know they are pregnant within a few weeks max, and can see a dr that day.

i did try to find some hard stats & figures to back this up, but I'm still searching for a definitive site. i'll post it if I find it.

Juggling Mother said...

"people know they are pregnant within a few weeks max, and can see a dr that day"

I should clarify - they can not get an abortion that day. They can see their dr, confirm the pregnancy, dicuss options & be referred onto councelling etc.

Juggling Mother said...

aha! A decade out of date, so i expect it's even better now...

"The majority of abortions are done early; 88% were done under 12 weeks in 1995. Early abortions (up to 12/14 weeks by vacuum aspiration or medical abortion using mifepristone) are safe, simple and quick and have a low complication rate." source

Orthoprax said...

Random,

"If the mere act of conceiving an organism which subsequently dies is sufficient to make someone a killer then, given that humans do not possess immortality, every parent who has ever lived is a killer."

You could make that argument, sure. It is a moral question of how you can dare bring someone into this world who is doomed to death and suffering.

But besides the unrealistic issues of that notion, typically it is the premature death of people which concerns us here.

If the zygote is a person then putting a person at a 50/50 risk of a premature death is a moral burden you are putting on yourself by conceiving this zygote.

If you know that you have some terrible mutation, say Huntington's disease, which leads to an untreatable traumatic death at around middle age then I would say that you would be immoral to conceive a child and "hope for the best." You don't take risks like that with other people's lives.

So, here, if you equate the death of an embryo via spontaneous abortion and the death of a middle aged person from severe genetic abnormality (both are 'natural' events) then you would be equally guilty on a moral basis for creating the situation in the first place.

As we enter the modern age of biology, each of us becomes more responsible for our genes and the potential dangers that lie in them. Ignorance of what we carry or the consequences therein is moral negligence.

There may come a time when conceiving naturally is not just seen as old fashioned but morally delinquent.

Orthoprax said...

Q,

"According to Orthoprax, the fertilized ovum might develop into a mouse if it were implanted in a different environment, and subjected to different chemical stimuli."

I didn't quite say that. A human zygote would in all likelihood not turn into a mouse since the DNA is rather different, though I suppose it is possible. All I said was that when human stem cells were implanted into a developing mouse's brain, they turned into mouse brain cells. That data is based on the results of an actual experiment where they did just that.

"But of course, the specific fetus we're talking about is a fetus that is implanted in the uterus of a human female, and being subjected to chemical stimuli that are directing it to develop into a human being."

So stem cell research is ok with you? Even if it takes cells from embryos that will never be brought to term?

For in vitro fertilization treatments, is the embryo not human until it is implanted into a woman's uterus?

What would you say when we can chemically duplicate the conditions of the womb and bring fetuses to term in complete artificiality? There's nothing that makes that impossible, according to theory.


It's a brave new world out here.

aus blog said...

You know I can't seem to get through to either side of the great divide, my ideas rejected by pro-choicers and pro-lifers alike. No-one seems to see I stand for a comprimise, it would be crazy to think you could have no abortions and no birth control.If governments really want abortions to cease they would be better off providing free to all the best most effective birth control available. Then outlaw abortion.

Juggling Mother said...

Umm, sorry to dissappoint aus blog, but in the UK contraception IS free to everyone. Any type, for anyone. Parents do not need to be consulted for girls under 16 years (although it is at the Dr's discretion, and under 14's need to be passed onto social servs.) Husbands need not know what their wives are taking. The consultations can be with Dr's, health clinics, sexual health centres, family planning clinics & the contraceptive can be of any recognised type. Patients choice.

We still have abortions. Sometimes contraception fails. Sometimes sex was unplanned. Sometimes people just simply change their minds! Often for bloody good reason.

aus blog said...

World wide there are over three thousand terminations carried out every day. Thats well over a million every year. In the US fifty percent of all cases, birth control was used, forty-eight percent used no precaution, and two percent had medical reasons.
That's a stagering ninety-eight percent that could have been prevented had an effective birth control been used. That's sad.
Don't get me wrong, I suspect the figures in Australia would be much the same. Just a whole lot of unnessesary killing.
ausblog

Juggling Mother said...

wow, in 50% of all terminations, contraception was used? Do you have a source for that figure? Most contraception has a 95-98% effectiveness rate when used correctly.

Now I'm going to have to look up figures for other countries! Are Americans just too stupid to use them properly? Or do they lie? Or do they think things like "I told him to withdraw" counts as contraception?

aus blog said...

Obviously many lied. Embarressed about the situation they were in that could have been preventedso easily.

aus blog said...

DID YOU KNOW THAT YOU CAN GET AN IMPLANT THAT IS - SAFE, 99.9% EFFECTIVE AND LASTS FOR THREE YEARS?

Juggling Mother said...

Yes! Great for women in regular, stable sexual relationships - not so great for lots of people

Woman A. 17 years old, a virgin, get carried away with her boyfriend one night & doesn't have any contraception.

OK, she should have said no, but she didn't want to, and she's 17! She thinks "it'll be alright just once" It isn't

Woman B. Single career woman, no intention of having a regular sexual partner or children. Gets drunk at a works do and is date-raped. She can barely rmember what happened the next day & tries hard to forget so doesnt take the morning after pill.

Woman C. Is in an unstable relationship with an abusive boyfriend. Thinks that having a baby will help him settle down/make him love her properly/stop him playing around/etc. When she tells him she's pregnant he leaves her - penniless, homeless & unable to support herself, let alone a child.

Woman D. 46 years old, has three grown up children, and has been menopausal for three years. thinks she's past worrying about prgnancy. She's wrong.

Woman E. Sexually mature, single woman. dates and sleeps with many different men. Very sensibly uses condoms as a barrier to STD's. One day it tears/slips.

I've known all of these women. They all have the choice to have children or not. It's their body & their life.

Chana said...

I have to read through this more carefully, but I think everything you say will be based on this premise-

"Because opponents of legal abortion (OLAs) wish to criminalize an action, the burden of justification is on them. If I wanted to start a movement criminalizing the practice of eating popcorn in movie theaters, the onus would be on me to justify my position, and not on the popcorn-eaters to justify theirs."

I'm curious as to your view into the legal process. For example, taking lives- actual murder, or manslaughter, whatever this may be. You're suggesting some kind of "proof" in murder being wrong is what criminalizes the action. We cannot take other people's lives.

So this gets into the "why" of it. Is that because emotionally we feel it is wrong? Bad answer, because emotional arguments tend to vary. Is it because we're afraid that otherwise there won't be enough people alive in the world/ everyone will die? If so, then what's the problem in a time of overpopulation?

WHY is murder in and of itself wrong?

If we can't use emotional proofs, and logical proofs are not always logical, what really is the basis for such a law?

How does one "prove" abortion to be a criminal action? You're working with the "innocent till proven guilty" motif, which makes sense.

But since abortion is on the stand anyway, CAN you prove it innocent? are you ABLE to work backwards? Is it possible? Because that would be harder, and much more interesting.

aus blog said...

I think that accidents can happen, another might forget to take her tablet, or unwittingly brings it up if she is sick, and yes condoms can burst, surely they would only be used as a secondary precaution to avoid the nasties. I had a thought earlier - No one would log on to the internet without a fire wall and anti-virus would they? the risks are too great. It's a pitty people aren't as cautious about sex.

Jewish Atheist said...

wow, in 50% of all terminations, contraception was used? Do you have a source for that figure? Most contraception has a 95-98% effectiveness rate when used correctly.

The figures I've seen said that for 50% of all terminations, contraception was used at least once in the past month. :-) It can only work if you use it of course.


chana,

I'm curious as to your view into the legal process. For example, taking lives- actual murder, or manslaughter, whatever this may be. You're suggesting some kind of "proof" in murder being wrong is what criminalizes the action. We cannot take other people's lives.

In hindsight, I'm not sure my argument about the burden is a good one. Murder is illegal because we recognize the innate right to life granted to every human being. (Why we recognize this is another question, but there's near-unanimous agreement on the matter, so that's good enough for law.) Abortion's legality, to me, hinges on whether a fetus has the same innate right to life.

But since abortion is on the stand anyway, CAN you prove it innocent? are you ABLE to work backwards? Is it possible? Because that would be harder, and much more interesting.

To me, a fetus without a brain (or brain activity) is no more human than an amputated leg or an unfertilized egg. I guess that means that having a mind (i.e. soul) is the important thing, rather than having human DNA or the potential to have a mind. Since we already allow the termination of brain-dead adults, it doesn't seem like a stretch to allow termination of not-yet-brain-alive fetuses. (Of course, we already do allow this, but you know what I mean.)

Jewish Atheist said...

aus blog:

I had a thought earlier - No one would log on to the internet without a fire wall and anti-virus would they? the risks are too great. It's a pitty people aren't as cautious about sex.

And yet even those of us who take all the precautions get computer viruses from time to time. Sometimes caution ain't enough.

JivinJ said...

JA,
I explained that I believe a fetus which does not have a brain (for example) is not for our purposes a person. That's pretty clear, right? Obviously killing said fetus would be "killing" but it wouldn't be "murder." Furthermore, I see no reason to even see it as particularly wrong, particularly if you're okay with contraception.

Which fetuses don't have brains? By the time the term fetus is used (usually around 8 weeks) he or she has a brain.

Why should I accept your definition of "personhood" and why should I accept that having a brain confers the value of "personhood?"

You don't see a moral difference between killing a human being (abortion) and preventing the creation of a human being (contraception)?

Jewish Atheist said...

Which fetuses don't have brains? By the time the term fetus is used (usually around 8 weeks) he or she has a brain.

Looks like you're right. I didn't know when the term "fetus" applied as compared to when "embryo" is used. According to fox news, 91% of abortions take place in the first trimester (12 weeks.) While the brain has started to develop by then, there is no sustained brain-wave activity until about 22 weeks. (Dig into the claim that brain waves have been recorded at 40 days and you'll find that they're not true.)

Why should I accept your definition of "personhood" and why should I accept that having a brain confers the value of "personhood?"

Our society almost universally agrees that a person is essentially dead when he is brain-dead. Why can't we agree that he is not yet essentially alive until "brain-alive?"

You don't see a moral difference between killing a human being (abortion) and preventing the creation of a human being (contraception)?

Isn't a brain-dead person a "human being?" Why can we "kill" him and not a fetus?

aus blog said...

Over 3,500 terminations per day, 1.3 MILLION per year in the United States alone.
50 or 60 MILLION per year World Wide.

aus blog said...

I am a pro-lifer who has no religious convictions at all . I didn't need the fear of god or anything else to come to my decision, just a good sence of what is right and wrong.
You see we were all once a fetus. Is it beyond the realm of possibilities that when your mother first learned she was carrying you, she may have considered her options? What if she had decided to terminate? Would that have been OK?
You would not exist, if you have children they would not exist, and your (husband or wife) would be married to someone else. You would have been deprived of all your experiences and memories. In this day and age with terminations being so readily available and so many being carried out, if you make it to full term
you can consider yourself lucky. Lucky you had a mother that made the choice of life for you. Don't you think they all deserve the same basic human right, LIFE?
I'm all for contraception, prevention is certainly better than termination.
Did you know you can get an implant that is safe, 99.9% effective, and lasts for three years? Just think girls not even a show for three years, wouldn't that be great? I think too many people rely too heavily on the last option (abortion), I think if abortions weren't so readily available people would manage their reproductive system far better resulting in a fraction of the number of unwanted pregnancies.
World wide there are over 50 MILLION aborted pregnancies each year. In America 3,500 terminations carried out every day, that's over 1.3 million every year, 50% of all cases CLAIMED that birth control had been used, 48% admitted they took no precaution, and 2% had a medical reason. That's a stagering 98% could have been prevented had an effective birth control been used. Don't get me wrong, I suspect the percentages in Australia would be much the same.
Just a lot of unnessessary killing.
I am convinced that in the not too distant future, people will look back at many of the practices of today with disbelief and horror.



ausblog

Jewish Atheist said...

aus blog:

Please stop copying-and-pasting the same damn comment. It's getting tiresome to delete the copies.

aus blog said...

Heart starts to beat at three weeks after conception. First brain waves recorded at six weeks.
Seen sucking thumb at seven weeks after conception.

aus blog said...

At the point of conception is when life began for you.
This was the start of your existance.
Your own personal big bang.

aus blog said...

Have you checked out (abortionclinnicdays)-the reality show.

Juggling Mother said...

"At the point of conception is when life began for you.
This was the start of your existance.
Your own personal big bang"


But I wouldn't have known or cared if had stopped again within a few weeks!