Thanks for the response. And thanks in advance for taking the time to read my (also very long) response.
The main thing I noticed is that you’ve twisted the argument. You’ve nearly disregarded the “Is it human?” question, while attempting to prove that “Women have the right to control their own bodies” and “abortion is a women’s issue.”
Let me say this: When debating abortion, only one thing matters: Is the unborn a person, or not? Everything rests on this question. Let me explain.
If the unborn is not a person, then:
- There’s nothing wrong with abortion, in any circumstances, because it doesn’t kill a person.
- Abortion is completely a women’s issue, because after all, it’s her body.
- When a zygote fails to implant, a life has not ended.
- Miscarriages don’t end a life.
- The Pill, when used to prevent implantation, is fine.
- Planned Parenthood is not a murderous business.
If you can prove to me that the unborn is not a person, guess what? I’ll concede the whole argument and agree with you!
But if the unborn is a person, then:
There was one thing that really surprised me in your response. I thought for sure you would change your definition of a “person,” but you didn’t! So far, your answer to the question, “When does human life begin?” has been inconsistent. Let me remind you, this is the most important question. If the unborn is a person, then abortion takes the life of an innocent human being and should thus be unthinkable, no matter the circumstances! We’ve discussed it a little, but now it’s time to go a lot deeper.
- Abortion is wrong, because it intentionally kills a human life.
- Starting at the moment of conception, abortion is not a women’s issue, because it’s not her body! It’s the body of someone else within her, someone who deserves all human rights, especially, the right to live and grow and be protected. The womb should be the safest place on earth for this tiny person.
- When a zygote fails to implant, yes, a life has ended, but it’s not the same as abortion! If a life ends by natural causes (as here, 20% of zygotes just don’t implant, for some reason), then of course it’s not murder. I support the dignity of human life from conception to natural death, and clearly, sometimes that “natural death” is before birth. This is always sad, but sometimes there’s just nothing we can do.
- Miscarriages do end a life. However, the death is by a natural cause and not by the intent of the parents. If a natural miscarriage occurs, then of course the parents aren’t murderers. On the other hand, when they consent to an abortion, they directly will the death of their innocent unborn child. So it all comes down to intention. Comparing miscarriage to abortion is like comparing a hunting accident to an assassination.
- The Pill can be abortifacient, which means that it can prevent a new human being from implanting in the mother’s uterus, thereby killing him/her.
- Planned Parenthood is bad news because it actively performs the murder of millions of lives.
From your statements, I can conclude that you think human life begins at the point of viability. Viability is generally accepted to be around 6-7 months (24-28 weeks) after conception. You also gave me a list of what you consider to be a “person.” However, not only does your list fail to apply to all humans, it also extends to non-humans (aka, pre-viable embryos, by your definition) too! Logically, if criteria can’t define all humans, then clearly, it shouldn’t be used to define a “person” at all! Let me discredit your criteria piece by piece. (As I said, I’ve talked about this in a previous response, but you haven’t changed your answer yet—it remains inconsistent. So let me try again.)
Five senses: You’ve done my work for me on this one! You yourself said that people can have “sometimes less” than five senses and still be a human. Helen Keller was both deaf and blind, yet she was still a person. So this criterion does not apply to all humans.
Brain: This is really interesting. By Week 7 of embryonic development, brain waves can be detected. Medically, the presence or absence of brain waves is used as a legal means to determine if someone is dead or alive (heartbeat and respiration aren’t used). Check my facts on http://www.ncrtl.org/LifeLine.htm and the Wikipedia entry on Brain Death. So upon medical examination of a 7+ week pregnant woman, a doctor would find legal evidence for two lives, not one! But you might say something like, “That’s the beginning of a brain, not a complete one.” To which I would respond: By Week 10, the embryo’s brain has the same structure that it has at birth (http://peacepigeon.tripod.com/fetal.html). Sarah, your definition of a “human” then applies to pre-viable embryos! You might want to think this through some more.
Heart: I’ve already mentioned that the heart starts beating at Week 3, with the embryo’s own blood, separate from the mother’s and often a different blood type. You might say, “That’s the beginning of a heart, not a complete heart.” But to pump blood, you need all 4 heart chambers and a complete, closed (though tiny) circulatory system. By Week 14, the heart pumps several quarts of blood a day.
Lungs: The lungs begin to develop at Week 4 and by Week 12 the embryo practices breathing the amniotic fluid. If you say, “That doesn’t count as real lungs, because no air is involved,” then let me remind you that only at birth do you receive your first breath of air. So 10 seconds before birth, are you not a person? Of course not.
Ability to process memory, make decisions, and reason: Babies can’t make decisions or reason for themselves. And my 88-year-old grandma, who has dementia, can’t do any of these things.
I recommend coming up with a new definition of what a person is. You are not consistent between saying “an unborn becomes a human at viability” and the definition I debunked above. Think it through. What makes all humans human? (Their DNA, which makes them a unique person, maybe?)
Meanwhile, you might say, “Being viable or post-viable (and thus physically autonomous if delivered) is the only requirement for being human.” Maybe you’d say this and maybe you wouldn’t, but I’d like to refute it anyway.
First, some history: Roe v. Wade placed viability at 7 months, “permitting states to freely regulate and even ban abortion after the 28th week.” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Viability_(fetal) In Planned Parenthood v. Casey, “viability itself was legally dissociated from the hard line of 28 weeks, leaving the point at which ‘undue burdens’ were permissible variable depending on the technology of the time and the judgment of the state legislatures.”
Now, some medical research: If there’s one thing certain about viability, it’s that viability is not certain! The youngest children to survive premature birth were “just under 20 weeks from fertilization, or a few days past the midpoint of an average full-term pregnancy” (same wiki article). In a nutshell, “There is no sharp limit of development, age, or weight at which a fetus automatically becomes viable.”
How can we define a human as “being viable or post-viable,” when we can’t even define what viability is! Still, suppose that being “physically autonomous if delivered” is what makes you human. We’d need to know the exact point when this occurs, so as to know that the fetus is a non-human beforehand and a human afterwards. And you can’t pick a compromise right in the middle or even at the beginning of the viability range. What’s to say that a baby can’t survive beforehand? More than 90% of babies born before 27 weeks (remember, Roe v. Wade said 28 weeks) survive long-term. As I’ve said over and over again, a matter of life and death is far too important to be guessing on! So what do you say? Isn’t it obvious? If you have no idea when one becomes a person, shouldn’t you error on the side of caution?
(And, for your sake, the above is even assuming that a fetus becomes a person at viability, per your (first) definition. Even if you fail to believe the biological and philosophical evidence—evidence I will present yet again below—that personhood begins at fertilization, you must still answer the above question. You haven’t yet.)
So, I’ve shown that you don’t seem to know what a person is. At this point you’re probably still thinking, “Joe, why do you believe that a zygote is a person, when it clearly isn’t viable, and doesn’t even have the beginnings of the characteristics on my list?” Not to worry! Now I’ll put fourth my reasons.
Within the single cell of a zygote, there are 46 chromosomes with a unique combination of DNA. Every living thing—plant, animal, bacteria—contains DNA. DNA, in turn, resides within the nucleus of the cell, directing the lives of living organisms. The 3 billion pairs of A’s, T’s, G’s, and C’s form a combination that no other human has, has had, or ever will have. Everything is already determined: gender, eye color, hair color, look of the face, etc. When given nutrients, a zygote will develop itself into an embryo, then a baby, then a toddler, and so forth. (This differentiates a zygote from, say, a skin cell that has DNA. When you give a skin cell nutrients, it grows and divides into more skin cells only.) Every single cell of the mother’s body contains her unique DNA, while the cell of the zygote and all future cells of the baby contain its unique DNA. The zygote is not part of the mother’s body! It is a separate being within her.
And the mother? It’s her nutrients that sustain the zygote’s growth. Yes, that’s just how it works, so don’t be bitter. The zygote is a unique human individual, with above all, the RIGHT to life. If you say, “That zygote has no right to steal nutrients from my body,” then you are mistaken. That zygote deserves to live, so it DESERVES the nourishment of the mother. Is this greedy, you ask? No, because the right to life trumps all other rights! To deny this is none other than a crime against humanity. To invade the safety of a mother’s womb and snatch away an unborn being’s life has consequences too. There are millions of children who should be alive today. In our generation, for every 3 kids you look at, there should be a 4th.
A Few More Things
You wrote, “And you claim that abortion causes irreparable harm to the mother, both physically and emotionally. This is opinion.” But I say no, it’s fact:
- Check this website out: http://www.silentnomoreawareness.org/testimonies/index.aspx because it’s truly amazing. Check the boxes you want, hit “search,” scroll down, and click on the titles. These are testimonials by women who have had abortions. I really encourage you to spend some time reading them.
- Emotional: Women who have abortions have a 98 percent increased risk for any mental health disorders compared to women who did not have an abortion. They also have:
- 59 percent increased risk for suicidal thoughts
- 61 percent increased risk for mood disorders
- 61 percent increased risk for social anxiety disorders
- 261 percent increased risk for alcohol abuse
- 280 percent increased risk for any substance use disorder
- Approximately 6 percent of suicidal ideation cases among women nationwide and 25 percent of cases of drug use could be related to abortion
- Physical: Compared to pregnant women who had their babies, pregnant women who aborted are:
- 3.5 times more likely to die in the following year
- 1.6 times more likely to die of natural causes
- 6 times more likely to die of suicide
- 14 times more likely to die from homicide
- 4 times more likely to die of injuries related to accidents
- Also, women who have one, two, or more previous induced abortions are, respectively, 1.89, 2.66, or 2.03 times more likely to have a subsequent pre-term delivery, compared to women who carry to term.
- Women who have one, two, or more induced abortions are, respectively, 1.89, 2.61, and 2.23 times more likely to have a post-term delivery (over 42 weeks).
- Immediate complications — About 10% suffer immediate complications; one-fifth of these are life-threatening
- I think we both agree that this is bad, really bad. Abortion is, in reality, anti-woman!
I know what you’re probably thinking: “The solution is not to reduce abortions, but to reduce unwanted pregnancies.” In fact, you wrote, “…instead of doing all you can to support women facing difficult pregnancies, you should be doing all you can to make sure these unwanted pregnancies DON'T HAPPEN. Educate. Make contraception available.”
First of all, I’m very surprised that you apparently don’t want me to support women facing difficult pregnancies. Why not help them through a difficult time in their life?
Next, realize that to focus only on “making sure these unwanted pregnancies don’t happen” is a separate entity from what we’re debating, and it’s irrelevant to making abortion right or wrong. The fact is, unwanted pregnancies do occur, and we need to decide whether abortion is a solution or not. That, in turn, depends on what a person is.
Education is very important. But here’s what society needs to be educated about. “Educate the public that abortion is harmful emotionally, physically and spiritually to women, men and families, so that it becomes unacceptable for anyone to recommend abortion as a 'fix' for a problem pregnancy.” (http://www.silentnomoreawareness.org/)
You think contraception’s the solution? Here’s an interesting fact, from none other than Planned Parenthood’s own research arm: Fifty-four percent of women who have abortions had used a contraceptive method (usually the condom or the pill) during the month they became pregnant. (http://www.guttmacher.org/) So, the majority of so-called “unwanted pregnancies” could not be avoided through contraception use.
You specifically asked me, “Would you make the Pill illegal, then? Even though it's able to help women and girls like me with a whole variety of different medical issues? This is a matter of women's health. Denying it would be a matter of women's rights.”
Yes, I would make the Pill illegal. Please don’t faint! Remember, this is separate from our discussion—we’re debating the morality of abortion. The morality of contraception has no bearing on the morality of abortion. However, I’d be happy to start another blog to debate contraception. Aside from being abortifacient, the Pill wreaks havoc on the environment. Its high estrogen content creates pollution in our water and causes serious deformations to aquatic wildlife. As for the “variety of different medical issues” you speak of, there are other, natural ways to treat such problems.
Here are a couple more things I wanted to respond to:
You wrote, “[Margaret Sanger’s] racism, however, does not make abortion wrong.” But that wasn’t my point. I was instead responding to your earlier comment that “unlike slavery [abortion is] not about racism.” I was just trying to point out that initially, yes, abortion was about racism. And even today, race plays a large factor in abortion—abortion rates are much higher in minority communities, and PP specifically targets them.
You wrote, “If you believe that "the killing of innocent human life is ALWAYS evil," you should be as vocal about ending the war as you are about ending abortion. You should be on street corners, you should write to your congress people, you should post about it on Facebook.” The truth is that there are many evils in the world. Is it wrong to focus on one area? I’m much more likely to make an impact when I specialize in one area, not if I devote a little time to each and every one of the world’s problems. My goal is not to simply reduce abortions. It isn’t to only overturn Roe v. Wade. It’s to change hearts, to create a mentality that would make abortion utterly unthinkable, because it fatally disregards a person’s intrinsic human dignity. It may take time, but I know there will be one day when this class of citizens once again regains its civil rights. The unborn cannot speak to defend themselves, so I will have to be their voice. Is there something dishonorable in this?
I’ve tried to stay focused on facts, but for just a moment I’ll diverge to emotional appeal, similar to your arguments. You wrote, “Kids are huge burdens to their parents. Just not in the same physical way that a fetus is a burden on its mother.” I’d just like to remind you that children are a gift! When I ask my mom about her pregnancy with me, and all her difficulties, she never fails to say that “it’s worth it!” I’m a guy, so I may be wrong, but it seems to me that the ability to have children, to give life to another, truly elevates all of womanhood. What dignity! To think that women—and women alone—carry the next generation, the future of humanity, within them is truly humbling! (at least for a guy…)
I once heard someone say that if men had to give birth, there’d be no humans because men couldn’t handle it. As much as it’s a blow to my man card to admit it, I agree. If you want to argue who’s tougher--men or women--I seriously doubt if I can win.
Before I finish (finally, I know!), I’d like to repeat my challenge to you. If you can prove to me that the unborn is not a person, I’ll concede the whole argument and agree with you! However, if you can’t, don’t be afraid to just say something along the lines of “Yes, abortion kills an innocent human life, but I really just don’t care.” Doing so is, in my opinion, far more honorable than continuing to deny the humanity of the unborn. I have confidence in you, Sarah, and I know you will think it through and not beat around the bush.