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On the topic of Abortion

Many folks argue the abortion controversy based on the idea that the pro-life end of the discussion is rooted in religion.

Such an assumption does not work when applied to debate against me. My stance is rooted in facts which have been presented to me over time, facts used in the determination of other issues regarding life, humanity, and the law.

These are comprised of three sets.

The first establishes the unborn baby as a living organism. The second establishes that the living organism is of the species homo sapiens and not some other species. The third is that the living human organism that is the unborn baby is a separate and distinct organism from the mother, and not just an extension of her bodily tissue.

For those who, for whatever reason, did not take biology and never sat in sex ed while in school, I'll briefly go over my path to my conclusion.

The characteristics of a living organism are clearly defined by the scientific community. These standards are used for many things besides this argument. Application of these standards is the method by which it is determined whether a new discovery is a living organism, a dead organism, or an inanimate object (an object which was not at some point living.) This determination is used to decide everything from how to pursue a course of research related to a new discovery to issues of environmental protection (such as protected species) and whether a discovered environment could support the existence of living organisms.

To exclude the determination of the product of human reproduction from the scientific standard for determining and defining life would place the discussion in the realm of hedging and intellectual compromise for the purpose of excusing an unethical act. It would be moving the goalposts - arbitrarily placing the criteria for a solid standard out of the range of the currently accepted, evidence-supported area. Doing so sets the criteria and places the standard firmly in the realm of the unprovable and unsupportable, so that unethical actions may appear to be acceptable. I reject arguments based on arbitrary, unprovable criteria.

Characteristics used to define a subject as a living organism are met by human offspring following conception in the following ways:

1) Metabolism - it consumes nutrition, and produces & expels waste.

2) Respiration - though the gas exchange is through the umbilical cord, one still takes place.
* reminder for those who want to debunk the respiration argument - a gas exchange through the cell membrane is enough to label bacteria a living organism.

3) Growth - material taken in during metabolism is organized into the organism's body, increasing its mass.

4) Homeostasis - the organism needs to maintain a stable system, or it will die. (Miscarriage)

5) Response to its environment - There is a complex relationship between the body of the mother and the body of the offspring from the very beginning of pregnancy. It is shown in various ways, beginning with the hormonal changes initiated during the process of implantation, continuing after a successful implantation, when the blastocyst secretes the hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (HCG) to maintain an environment conducive to its development. There are other action-response combos like this throughout gestation, right up to labor. The fetus controls the timing of labour by increasing the supply of androgen precursors for estriol production, via activation of the fetal HPA axis.

6) High degree of organization - everything has its place from the time it is just one cell with its various parts to the moment of birth, when the complex human body has all of its limbs and organs. Having vital parts compromised by being misplaced or malformed can severely impact upon the state of the organism, resulting in reduced function, pain and suffering, or even death. The organism has a program (DNA) directing that organization. Abnormal variations in that program can be devastating to the organism's physical form.

7) Reproduction - in this case, cell division at first, and then the formation of sex organs during gestation fulfill this characteristic. It may be of interesting note to expectant mothers that at week 16, the ova form, meaning that when you carry a baby girl, you're also carrying half of the genetic material for the bodies of your possible future grandchildren.

Facts that convince me that an unborn baby is human, and not some other species:

The cells that make up the organization are programed by deoxyribonucleic acid. There are 23 pairs of human chromosomes, that is chromosomes that match the human genome and not that of some other species, in the first cell formed after sperm meets egg. From that moment, the cells are a living human organism, and not some other species. The organism remains homo sapiens throughout its life, at no time having a change of DNA that would define it as anything else.

The fact that convinces me that the unborn baby is an organism which is separate and distinct from the mother is the established fact that the DNA of the organism is not an exact match to the DNA of the mother. Having received half of its DNA from the father, the living human organism growing in the womb is unique and distinct from the mother's body. This creates differences which become more apparent as the body develops, but even from the moment of conception, the code is there. This fact makes the post-conception organism different from the pre-conception organisms from which it formed, in that the sperm and the ovum do not contain genetic code which was not contributed by their respective bodies of origin, and so each individually can be considered to not be independent of the body in which it is contained. This is why I see it as acceptable to use birth control which prevents conception, but not any means of aborting an existing pregnancy.

The above facts, combined, convince me that from the moment of conception, the unborn baby is a living human organism. As such, I believe it should be afforded the same rights as any living human organism, and therefore that life cannot rightfully be ended for any reason which would not be considered to be a valid reason for ending the life of a living human organism after the birth has occurred.

Therefore, in order to convince me and my voting stylus to accept a pro-choice argument, that argument must either
1) Disprove the facts that lead to the conclusions explained above, (prove to me that the organism is not a living organism, not genetically human, or not genetically distinct from the mother)
2) Offer a logical, reasonable explanation which proves that the reason being given for the abortion would be accepted as a legally valid reason to end the life of a grown man or woman.

If you cannot do one of those 2 things, then your argument is bogus and therefore unpersuasive, as it advocates the killing of a living human being for unjustified reasons, and therefore a violation of the most basic human right.

I must note (because I hear the slogan shouted often enough) that there are no rosaries (or any other religious doctrine) included in this argument. My conclusions are not based on religion, so arguing against a religious outlook on the subject is futile. Neither are my conclusions drawn on any belief regarding the timing of the arrival of the soul, the timing of specific development such as a heartbeat or brain waves, or the existence of any disabling condition. My belief on the subject is based merely in whether or not we are dealing with a distinct, living human organism, and the question of whether any given argument in favor of abortion would be accepted at any other stage of human existence, such as during adulthood.

In all other circumstances, the legal standard in the U.S. for not considering it to be a criminal act for one citizen to deliberately end the life of another human being is in defense of human life against the one being terminated. There are variations on this, including self-defense, and the execution of a convicted murderer. Even accidentally ending the life of another human can lead to criminal conviction if it is determined that the death occurred due to negligence on the part of the killer, or due to an assault.

I contend that as human beings, we do not have the right to split hairs and make excuses when deciding whether or not to set and maintain a standard by which we can measure the right of any living human organism to take the life of another, and we certainly cannot apply standards to some living human organisms while denying them to others without first supporting that decision with unarguable certainty. All humans have equal right to life, regardless of age, race, sex, religion, or any other characteristic.

Therefore, my conclusion is that it is heinously immoral to offer the protection of societal and legal recognition of one's inalienable right to life for humans who have finished gestating and been born, but deny it to those who have not. Only in circumstances when the continued gestation of the pregnancy directly endangers the life of the mother due to her physical health conditions is the use of abortion to terminate a pregnancy justified on the basis of existing legal and constitutional reasoning. All other reasons are invalid, and the procedure should be illegal to perform without that justification.

Understanding the formation of sex cellsMeiosis in Humans

Quick edit:

I have a few different email accounts leaving the same set of strawman arguments in reply to this, so I'm going to take a moment and address them.

The first strawman is a reply to only one, not all of the criteria I laid out, as if justifying a kill by stating reasons why one of the criteria alone does not by itself make killing unjust would justify killing an organism which meets all of the criteria together.

The fallacy in that argument is that it simply doesn't address the point. The debater is unable to provide anything which differentiates living human organisms he or she wants to justify killing from living human organisms he or she does not want to justify killing. The argument only draws some similarity between the targeted living human organism separate from the mother, and human tissue which is not an organism or separate from the body from which it originates, and other organisms which are not human.

The paragraph which starts, "The above facts, combined, convince me..." excludes all arguments which do not conclusively disprove the distinction between an organism which meets all of those criteria and an organism which does not.

The second is an argument against imposing artificial life support on a dying human.
Pregnancy is not artificial life support. A dying human will die without outside interference, and non-interference is the argument I've made here. An argument against artificially terminating a pregnancy is not an argument to impose artificial life support, and there is nothing in my argument which leads to yours. Further, it does not justify the 99% of abortions done strictly for the convenience of the mother, not due to any handicap or other gestational issue.

While I am addressing fallacious arguments against this one, I'll also hit another frequently posted reply to it that hasn't shown up here yet.
Numerous individuals have attempted to use cancer as an example of a similarly distinct living organism that it's acceptable to kill.
There's only one problem with that: Cancer is not a distinct, living human organism. It's an overzealously reproducing bad copy of organ tissue. While the product of human conception is distinct from the mother because half of his or her genetic material comes from the father, cancer is simply a diseased part of the host's own body with no foreign DNA. While the product of human conception is biologically organized for functional purposes to grow through a full life-cycle and, under normal circumstances, reproduce in adulthood, cancer has no such function and if left to develop in its predetermined course will grow out of control until it kills the host.
So cancer is neither truly distinct from the host, nor a complete organism. The validity of cancer treatment does not justify abortion.
It's a nice try at an argument, but it's not as well thought out as those using it believe.

Some other posts on Abortion:

Oversight and Abortion: The skeleton in Feminism's closet
If feminism's take on abortion is really about protecting women from dangerous "back-alley" medical practices, why do feminists defend front-door "back-alley" abortion?

Feminism, your hypocrisy is showing.
Feminists defending women's right to bodily autonomy are nowhere to be seen when that right butts up against the abortion industry.

Where are you, NOW?

How much influence has feminism had on today's youth? 
This is kinda scary.

Planned Parenthood faces lawsuit for performing abortion on 13 year old and returning her to abuser following abortion.
This is what feminists don't tell you: The abortion industry is just set of another corporate entities feeding off of its consumer base and its workers. Do not be fooled into believing there is anything benevolent about it.

Planned Parenthood defector says loophole lets clinics profit from fetal organ sales

Planned Parenthood uses partial birth abortions to sell body parts.

Second Planned Parenthood Senior Executive Haggles Over Baby Parts Prices, Changes Abortion Methods


Tyciol said...

K so your three arguments against abortion are based on...

1. establishes the unborn baby as a living organism.

2. establishes that the living organism is of the species homo sapiens and not some other species.

3. the living human organism that is the unborn baby is a separate and distinct organism from the mother

Seems inadequate for me. Vegetables are also distinct living human organisms, but we allow people to pull the plug on them because we think there's a mind lacking.

That's basically the generalization made about a foetus which leads us to prioritize parental welfare. Not many memes in a fetusbrain.

Gloria Sass said...

You're making a false comparison between an act of human interference which causes death, and the cessation of human interference which has been prolonging death. What you refer to as a vegetable is an individual whose mental processes have been altered from a healthy continuation to a condition of unhealth in a manner which would be terminal if not for human interference. Pulling the plug isn't human interference to cause a death, but the removal of human interference which has been staving death off. Abortion is human interference which causes a death where it is not immediately impending. The distinction is clear and vital.

In attempting to justify killing by claiming that it's no different than allowing the dying to die, you offer wrongful justification for the murder of anyone whose mental processes fall below an arbitrary standard; the human assessment of sentience. This, in turn, may be used to justify euthanizing (actively killing) some among the mentally retarded, stroke survivors and others with non-fatal brain injuries, and some among the mentally ill.

Making mental function a standard for assessment of the value of human life is amoral, discriminatory, and dangerous.

Songthe said...

Even if there is no biological distinction between an unborn fetus and a fully actualized human in your opinion, last I checked, a person is still legally not allowed to occupy the body of another person without express consent, nor is anybody legally required to give their consent to have their person occupied, nor are they legally obliged to accommodate an occupying body against their will. In many nations, you are allowed to defend to the death your personal property, space, and bodily integrity.

Gloria Sass said...

@ Songthe

Aside from laws related to one individual forcibly imposing him or herself on another from the outside, no... and laws against outside force do not address the circumstances of pregnancy, since the unborn baby did not forcibly invade the mother, but was conceived as a result of her own actions.

In reality, your argument can easily be turned around on you - abortion is the act of invading and assaulting the body of the unborn baby without his or her consent. By your standards, were he or she not helpless and unable, it would be the right of an unborn baby at any stage of existence to violently resist attempts to abort. The fact that they cannot simply makes the action of the mother and her physician all the more reprehensible.

RD said...

In the 1950s, 60s and 70s, many young American women, especially young women who went on to join the American chattering class, became pregnant out of wedlock and underwent an abortion, often an illegal one. In my experience, this generation of women simply cannot let Roe v Wade go. These women are numerous at the polls, and make up a fair fraction of our judges, state legislators, and House and Senate members.

A major problem in the Bad Old Days was young women refusing to protect themselves against premarital pregnancy, because they felt that doing so proved that their sexual experiences were premeditated, and therefore immoral. It was common in those days to rationalise premarital sex away with "I got carried away". In recent years, I have never encountered any hint of this rationalisation in social media. Younger women generally accept full responsibility for their sexual activity.

Opinion polls reveal that young adult daughters are more pro-life than their mothers, and that this has been slowly growing over time. This suggests to me that the USA will move on from abortion on demand when baby boomers cease being a factor at the polls and in elected bodies. This will happen around 2040-50.

I warmly salute the very courageous women who underwent abortions, and who have gone public with their subsequent guilt and sorrow. It is my understanding that one of those women is Roe herself:

Mark Postgate said...

The article does what it says on the tin and presents a non-religious moral argument against abortion. However, I would argue the foetus isn't at the beginning of the pregnancy either a sentient or sapient being. By the end of the pregnancy it certainly is. For this reason I find extreme pro-choice that is happy for abortion to occur at any time during the pregnancy, and extreme anti-abortion that views all abortions as akin to murder to be two equally absurd extremes. It becomes human when it can perceive, feel and think - now unfortunately we don't know when that is. Certainly a foetus can survive outside the womb for the third trimester, so I think an abortion during the third trimester would be tantamount to infanticide. An abortion in the first couple of weeks of pregnancy (a morning after pill) would be no worse than taking anti-biotics to kill an infection. But the spectrum of morality between these two extremes is unknowable - I wouldn't want it on my conscience nor would I want to lay guilt on someone who makes a different choice to me. I'm not anti-abortion at all; I've been complicit in it at one point; but I don't think the pro-choicer should portray it as a choice to be flippant about, and sadly that is often how their message comes across. That most people seem to derive their opinions from conformity rather than free thought is evidenced by how many vegan pro-choicers there are - "Hold on", I want to say to them "if you think organic life is sacred when it's a pig or a cow, why don't you extend that to a potential human being? Admittedly the potential human being is not having any complex ideas, and lives purely off instinct at this stage in his development, but... well back to those cows and pigs... what a weird distinction you're making!"

So I don't know. I wish both campaigners would pipe down and let people assess the gravity of the situation on their own, with impartial counselling.

cnshht said...

An attempt to base opposition to (legally permitted elective) abortion on science rather than
religious tenets is interesting. I see a fatal flaw immediately, in the first category of analysis (defining a subject as a living organism.) It is important to consider this together with the species identity, however. Bacteria living within your gut and dependent upon that environment to survive are certainly living organisms with their own metabolism, growth and homeostasis. They respire by gas exchange across their cell membranes, similarly nutrition is absorbed and waste... leaves. However, that a human embryo/fetus is completely dependent for survival upon the body of a member of it's own species during most of it's development, is quite an important difference.
The umbilicus is an amazing thing. When I first saw one, I was really impressed that it's outward form was so similar to a (70s-era) phone-handset cord: coiled and elastic, to minimize tangles and permit movement, stretching and recoiling as needed, all the while constantly carrying vital content (phone cords lacking that last bit.) Never during my nursing education had there been a description and acknowledgment of this characteristic of the umbilical cord. There just wasn't much discussion of this temporary, disposable part of human anatomy beyond its function of carrying oxygen and nutrition, and... well the fact that despite it's evolved form, it can still strangle a fetus to death within the womb.
It's important to discuss the term “strangle.” We usually think of strangulation as squeezing a person's neck so as to compress the airway and prevent respiration, thereby causing asphyxiation. In a fetus strangled by the umbilicus, it is not airway occlusion that causes death, but blood vessel occlusion (by compression from without.) While a fetus does not normally share blood cells with the mother, while it's own heart circulates its own separate blood, it is during a large part of its development fully dependent upon the lungs of the mother, for its survival. While certainly cellular respiration is constant and ongoing before and after conception, a fetus' lungs are not even theoretically functional until after the threshold of viability referenced in Roe v. Wade. And of course, while the cellularly respiring bacteria in the mother's gut are essential to her health, the fetus most certainly is not, and rather, often represents life-threatening risks to her health. Fortunately, it can also represent for her a great health-boosting hope and source of happiness and sense of purpose in life. (Just not always and for all.)
So when you write:
“2) Respiration - though the gas exchange is through the umbilical cord, one still takes place.”

...there is a mission-critical flaw, there. A fetus is not engaging in respiration at all, the way a human must, for every minute of it's life* following birth. Gas exchange with fetal blood occurs across membranes in the placenta, another bit of temporary, disposable anatomy.
In Roe v. Wade, the U.S. government limited it's own legal reach into a woman's body. As soon as any fetus, in the course of normal, general development, statistically stands a chance of living without mom's lungs, mom's rights take a huge hit in favor of recognizing a right to life in the fetus as a separate organism. But before that, it is legally considered part of mom; it's existence is absolutely dependent upon hers. I think this also means that it is not rightly considered a separate organism.

cnshht said...

Hannah, I got here by listening to Honey Badger Radio. As far as I can tell, you are a courageous, intelligent and honest thinker. I admire what you do (pursue righteousness and truth, live free of religion, superstition and myth.) I don't think I am trying to do anything better. I agree with you most of the time. I don't like (the current state of) feminism. I don't like abortion. I wish no woman ever regretted becoming pregnant. I wish there were no such thing as anencephaly. If you read the wiki, ( en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anencephaly ), do you feel that these partial humans are organisms? Does keeping them alive for a year or more make them seem more human? Does it make the caregivers seem more... caring, than if they'd withheld support?
But back to fetuses that could theoretically mature into nice people (or Hitler.) The idea of Roe v Wade being overturned in favor of fetal rights, and the tentacles of government reaching into women's bodies and setting up fetal rights, to conflict with the rights of mature, adult agents, seems very wrong. Of course it's not a fetus' fault if a woman was raped and impregnated against her will. A fetus has no responsibility for anything. It does not offend me at all to suppose that as a consequence, it also has no rights. I feel that Roe v Wade actually went too far in assigning any rights at all to a fetus, living only and entirely within the body of a person who also has rights. I'm not even sure that society should prosecute women who get baby blues, or get into a panic, and cause the death of their own infants *after* live birth. It boggles my mind to hear people say things like "aren't you glad your mom didn't abort you?" Huh? Like, so that I could survive to say things like "I'm glad my mom didn't abort me...?" What I'm glad for is that my mom wanted to have children and was able to do it without dying in the process. I am glad to be alive, but am not at all glad my mom didn't abort me. Thinking otherwise simply seems senseless.
When I was a kid, there was a boy in the neighborhood who had scars all over his belly. His dad explained that it was because he was born with his intestines outside of his body. He'd needed extensive surgery upon birth, to survive. He was a nice kid. Good thing it wasn't his brain that got developmentally translocated. Although they usually spontaneously abort, something that looks like a human be born, with a beating heart, and no brain.
Let's say it's proposed that in certain cases, a fetus can benefit from having surgery while in the womb. The amniotic sac is carefully incised and entered, (and closed, afterward.) With endoscopic instruments, various surgeries are performed that might enhance it's health and chances for survival. But... uh-oh! The procedures carry a risk to the pregnancy and to the life of the mother. The fetus has rights equal to mom, so now the government and the medical establishment tells mom (and, well, dad, too) that this has to happen, it's not her choice to impose risks upon the fetus by avoiding these procedures....
Hooray! A noble victory for human rights, and a brave new field for litigation, with fetal-rights advocates battling it out with selfish, egotistical pulmonary-matures!
(Sound good? Sound right?)

*I exaggerate. Actually lots of people spend amazing amounts of time not breathing, and then continue to live, many quite happily. By using heart/lung machines, like during open heart surgery, or in other cases, using ECMO, they don't even need a beating heart! (Don't ask how long a person could survive that way. Don't ask why we don't all have a right to have this technology quickly and easily available to every one of us who rolls into the ER while receiving CPR... It just leads toward seeing a human life as an economic entity that could be limited in value. And, well... thinking that way might be a sin.)

Hannah Wallen said...

@ cnshht

Your arguments don't really address what I've written above, but I've added some comments below it to address some of your points.

Regarding litigation, under what other circumstances do we permit one living human organism to kill another for the purpose of avoiding potential litigation? How about for the purpose of avoiding responsibility for the impact of one's actions? Can I shoot my neighbor to avoid having to pay for his car if I dent it?

Can I shoot him to avoid having to pay his medical bills if I accidentally cause him injury?

Can my insurance company shoot me to avoid paying my medical bills?

Do you understand the flaws in your argument?

Hannah Wallen said...

@ Mark
You're attempting to use the "personhood" argument without using the word person.

It doesn't work.
After all, if the fetus is not human, what other species do you suppose it is?

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