Bodily Rights – the Concept

Clinton Wilcox of Life Training Institute was kind enough to read the semi-final draft of this post and provide a brief but insightful critique. This does not mean that he necessarily endorses any of the final contents. However, I wish to take this opportunity to thank him.

 

This post is an excerpt from my previous post, “Dismantling the Bodily-Rights Argument without Using the Responsibility Argument.” It is about one-third the length.

The strongest argument for abortion rights is usually considered to be the bodily-rights argument. Perhaps the most effective variation of it that I have seen appeared in a (negative) comment under Kristine Kruszelnicki’s March 11, 2014 guest post on the Friendly Atheist blog:

They [both mother and unborn child] are entitled to their own bodily rights. So exactly how does a fetus have the right to co-opt another person’s body without consent?

Let’s say for example medical science has progressed to the point of being able to transplant a fetus into another human being. In an accident a pregnant woman is injured to the point of immanent [sic] death, does that fetus have the *right* to be implanted into the next viable candidate without consent?

The commenter was arguing, in other words, “A woman who is a candidate to be made pregnant in that futuristic way would have a right to refuse to let her body be so used – everyone would agree. Therefore, why should a woman who has become pregnant in a more usual way not also have a right to refuse to continue the pregnancy?”

In the context of the abortion debate (and, significantly, in hardly any other context), the term “bodily rights” comes up often. Synonyms still more commonly used are “bodily integrity” and “bodily autonomy,” but I will say “rights” because it is rights that have practical consequences. If anything can help determine the practical outcome “Woman goes through with abortion,” it is a right, not an abstract “integrity” or “autonomy.”

Bodily-rights arguments can be studied from different angles, of which, I think, the angle of psychological and neurological analysis is an important one; but here let us see what use we can make of logic as such in considering them. Logic as such can be applied first by looking at specific analogies and disanalogies per se, and secondly by analyzing bodily rights as an abstract concept.
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Dismantling the Bodily-Rights Argument without Using the Responsibility Argument

Clinton Wilcox of Life Training Institute was kind enough to read the semi-final draft of this post and provide a brief but insightful critique. This does not mean that he necessarily endorses any of the final contents. However, I wish to take this opportunity to thank him.

 

The strongest argument for abortion rights is usually considered to be the bodily-rights argument. Perhaps the most effective variation of it that I have seen appeared in a (negative) comment under Kristine Kruszelnicki’s March 11, 2014 guest post on the Friendly Atheist blog:

They [both mother and unborn child] are entitled to their own bodily rights. So exactly how does a fetus have the right to co-opt another person’s body without consent?

Let’s say for example medical science has progressed to the point of being able to transplant a fetus into another human being. In an accident a pregnant woman is injured to the point of immanent [sic] death, does that fetus have the *right* to be implanted into the next viable candidate without consent?

The commenter was arguing, in other words, “A woman who is a candidate to be made pregnant in that futuristic way would have a right to refuse to let her body be so used – everyone would agree. Therefore, why should a woman who has become pregnant in a more usual way not also have a right to refuse to continue the pregnancy?”

In the context of the abortion debate (and, significantly, in hardly any other context), the term “bodily rights” comes up often. Synonyms still more commonly used are “bodily integrity” and “bodily autonomy,” but I will say “rights” because it is rights that have practical consequences. If anything can help determine the practical outcome “Woman goes through with abortion,” it is a right, not an abstract “integrity” or “autonomy.”

The above fetus-implantation version or any version of the bodily-rights argument could be rebutted by pointing out that most pregnant women voluntarily engaged in a sex act that caused the pregnancy in the first place, and therefore have a responsibility for the child (the “responsibility argument”); but this rebuttal does not work in cases of rape, and is not convincing to some people in any situation – for reasons which I need not discuss here but will refer to in an appendix. Thus the argument remains logically strong. But is it logic alone that makes an argument strong or weak? I would like to approach this from the perspective that an argument is an instrument for changing some of another person’s brain circuitry, and the ideas that correlate with that circuitry, to resemble part of one’s own circuitry and ideas, and that some value-related circuitry and ideas are better for us as individuals and as a species than others. I will contend that though logical rebuttals have an important place in the debate about bodily rights, there is no clear logical resolution to the debate one way or the other; that there are psychological factors at play apart from factors which are purely logical, and that those factors sway us from our normal intuitions; and that those factors can be neutralized by understanding them and by other techniques.

I would like to see people question where their convictions come from, because I think that the more they examine where they come from, the more they will move toward better convictions.

I would like to proceed according to the following outline:

1. Morality and moral principles, including our moral principles about when morality should be backed by legislation and when it should not, derive ultimately from intuition.

2. The intuitions of many people, particularly of most pro-lifers, say that the unborn children of pregnant women should be legally protected against abortion in some (not all) situations.

3. The intuitions of most pro-choicers differ from ours in the first place and say that the unborn children of pregnant women should not be afforded any legal protection.

4. There are some people who are, in terms of moral intuitions, “on the fence,” undecided.

5. Some people’s moral intuitions are better than those of others; in this particular area of moral investigation, the intuitions of pro-lifers are better. (Keep reading!)

6. Though the intuitions of most pro-lifers say that unborn children should in many cases be legally protected against abortion, the intuitions of many pro-lifers also agree with pro-choicers (as do the intuitions of many undecideds) that a woman who is not pregnant (as in the above thought experiment) should not be legally subject to the forcible implantation in her of a child she did not conceive, even to save the child’s life. (And our intuitions also usually say that a violinist to whom we are hooked up should not be given legal protection from unhooking; and our intuitions also agree with various other pro-choice thought experiments designed to reject, in certain situations, legislative enforcement of a broad right to life.)

7. Human logical powers are limited, and therefore a particular situation, situation A, may seem parallel to another situation, situation B, in all the important morally-relevant ways that the human mind can think of, without the two situations necessarily being morally equivalent.

8a. The situation depicted by a thought experiment always includes some imagery of greater or lesser vividness, and some emotional content. If to our logical minds (momentarily or over a longer term) some outrageous situation, A, depicted by a pro-choice thought experiment, does seem parallel to situation B – a legal prohibition on abortion in a normal pregnancy – then the imagery and emotions of situation A get temporarily transferred to situation B. Let’s call this a process of “outrage transfer.” (Below I will touch on how I think this outrage transfer works neurologically.)

b. Moreover, if we are subject to an over-fascination with logic, which many people are, then our consciences/intuitions will work with wrong information (the belief that logic can completely prove or disprove the moral equivalence of two situations) and may tell us that if there seem to be strong parallels between the situation of a pro-choice thought experiment that militates against legal protection of some living being, and the situation of pregnancy, then we should discard legal protection of the unborn in pregnancy – in spite of our earlier intuition supporting such legal protection.

9a. The effects of outrage transfer will fade over time. Moreover, the outrage transfer of a pro-choice thought experiment can be offset or more than offset by pro-life thought experiments such as those involving the separation of conjoined twins, or the “Cabin in the Blizzard” thought experiment of Stephen Wagner, et. al. (It can be “more than offset” if only because our minds are impressionable and are always most strongly affected by the imagery and emotional triggers that stimulated them most recently.)

b. Though human logical powers are not sufficient to tell us conclusively about the moral equivalence or otherwise of two situations (as mentioned in 7 above), they are sufficient to convince us of said insufficiency, and thereby to free us from an over-fascination with logic and restore our original trust in our intuition that the unborn deserve legal protection.

 

Someone will say that I am discarding logic and that moreover I am saying that a pro-life position can only be defended by discarding logic. But that is not what I am doing. We should always apply logic to the fullest extent possible, and there are good logical rebuttals to the forcible-implantation and other pro-choice thought experiments, and I will discuss them in brief; but we should not think that logic, even on a base of intuition, can give us final answers to all moral questions, specifically the question of whether a right to life overrides bodily rights in the case of pregnancy.
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Abortion as Problem-Solving through Might Makes Right

Let’s look at abortion in terms of problem-solving.

What is the problem? Unwanted pregnancies. (Unwanted by someone – the pregnant woman often, but not always, being one of those persons.)

Next we have to ask, why is unwanted pregnancy a problem? The answer varies greatly, but depending on circumstances it may be a threat to the health, economic well-being, education, career opportunities, reputations, activity levels, and ability to acquit interpersonal responsibilities of different persons. The threat to health in a few cases will entail a near-certainty of death for the woman. “Ability to acquit interpersonal responsibilities” includes threats to the ability of poor parents to parent their other children. At the less serious end of the spectrum, the unwanted pregnancy may be a threat to the woman’s social life, and cause other problems including some that could be considered trivial.

Now that we’ve defined some of the problems, let’s brainstorm solutions. There is a wide range of solutions, or, if not solutions, compensatory possibilities for all these problems. For example, one problem is the burden of raising the child, if the delivery option is to be implemented. As possible solutions, this burden can be assigned to the mother, or to society, or to some segment of society.

Why is abortion so often the chosen solution? What stands out is this: of all the range of solutions to all the problems, abortion has one completely irresistible appeal: it solves all the problems at the expense of the only person involved who has no friends and is guaranteed not to fight back, scream, or complain to Amnesty International (which would sell them out if they did).

Essentially, abortion on demand is the most perfect example that has ever been seen of might makes right. It institutionalizes take-advantage-of-the-smallest, when perhaps the first justification for society’s having institutions at all is to protect against violence those who need protecting.

I don’t mean to say that aborting parents are sadistic bullies. There is perhaps no class of people in the world as desperate and scared as many pregnant women, and no class as resourceless except their unborn babies themselves. All involved may be victims of the situation. But no matter how justified the parents are, they and the abortionist always take advantage of the baby’s helplessness. That is simply part of the equation. Even in some of the justified cases, it’s a simple fact that if the baby could jump up, let loose a few good karate kicks, overturn the operating table, etc., when the abortion staff approached with their vacuum-aspiration catheter, that would change the equation. It would be the procedure itself that would be aborted.

This does not mean that no abortions should be performed. But if parents and doctors were to do a self-image check beforehand, seeing it from the baby’s point of view, there might be many cases where they would reflect that the abortion was not really necessary.

© 2014

 

You may leave a reply, if you wish, without giving your name or email address. If you do give your email address, it will not be published.

Some future posts:

Life Panels

Evolution, and the Humanizing and Uplifting Effect on Society of a Commitment to the Unborn

A Trade-Off of a Sensitive Nature

Unborn Child-Protection Legislation, the Moral Health of Society, and the Role of the American Democratic Party

The Motivations of Aborting Parents

Why Remorse Comes too Late

The Kitchen-Ingredients Week-After Pill

Unwanted Babies and Overpopulation

The Woman as Slave?

Abortion and the Map of the World

Personhood

If we are to pinpoint the moment of beginning of personhood that has the best scientific grounding, out of all the moments that are candidates, that will certainly be the beginning of the single-cell stage. A minute before, there were two spatially-separated haploid cells, each with insufficient genetic information ever to become anything resembing a full-grown person; a minute after, there is a single definable organism with the exact genetic information that it will carry throughout life, at 1 month of gestation, at 4 years, at 60 years.

Here –

http://www.thepublicdiscourse.com/2012/12/7300/

– Dr. Maureen L. Condic writes –

Structures capable of new functions are formed throughout embryogenesis. For example, grasping becomes possible once hands have formed. But the fundamental process of development proceeds continuously, both prior to and after hand formation, and the onset of this function reflects an ongoing developmental process. Given the continuous nature of development, to argue that embryos and fetuses become humans once some anatomical or functional landmark such as “consciousness” has been achieved is to assert some kind of magical transformation; i.e., that at some ill-defined point, a non-human entity spontaneously transmogrifies into a human being, without any change whatsoever in its behavior, its molecular composition, or any other observable feature.

I reject this argument. For something actually to transform into a different kind of thing, a change must take place in its composition or in its pattern of biological activity. For example, sperm and egg are two specific human cell types that fuse to produce a distinct cell (the zygote) with unique molecular composition and with a pattern of organismal behavior that is distinct from the behavior of either sperm or egg. A clear, non-magical, scientifically observable transformation from one kind of entity (two human cells) to another kind of entity (a distinct human organism) has occurred. . . .

Building the complex architecture of the brain is a continuous process that is initiated at sperm-egg fusion and proceeds through orderly steps under the direction of a ‘builder,’ that is, a human organism that is present from the beginning. The presence of an agent capable of constructing the mature body, including the brain, is the only sustainable definition of a human being. This agency should not be misconstrued as some kind of mystical or spiritual element that is merely attributed to an embryo or fetus based on personal or religious belief. The fact that the embryo acts as an agent is entirely a matter of empirical observation; embryos construct themselves. . . .

. . . science does not dictate that citizens have a right to equal protection under the law, but. . . . science has clearly determined when human life commences, and this determination legitimately dictates that equal protection under the law must extend to human beings at embryonic and fetal stages of development.

For more scientific sources attesting to the personhood of the zygote, see Appendix 1.

Though the beginning of the single-cell stage has the best scientific grounding among all the moments that are candidates for the beginning of personhood, some will debate against defining “personhood” in this way. And “personhood” or “person” is not the only word that can be debated. While some will maintain that a zygote is “a human being, but not a person,” others, since they can’t deny that it belongs to the species Homo sapiens, will insist, with an equally straight face, that it is “human, but not a human being.”
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Too Young for Rights?

A couple of months ago, a pro-choicer named TF wrote to me in a public online forum:

“. . . women are individual human beings who have inalienable rights, and the POTENTIAL, NON-INDIVIDUAL developing embryos are not and do not.

“It is an argument between what IS, and what MAY BE.”

(I have no idea what she meant by “non-individual,” but I could understand what she was attempting to say about “potential.”)

More recently, on a YouTube page titled “My Abortive Testimony and Conversion,” a pro-choice commenter named DoneWithDogma at first made a similar assertion, that an early fetus is not a person (“does not have the characteristics of a person [mainly being cognition]“). DoneWithDogma later agreed with me that personhood is a matter of definition, but then asserted that a being who has not yet developed cognition or whose pain receptors are not functioning, regardless of what we call that being, does not have the same rights as a fully-developed human being (and later said that it has no right even to live).

TF’s argument about personhood was ultimately aimed at denying rights, so we can analyze all such arguments together in terms of the word “rights.”
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The Reasons Better Be Good

Despite the extreme vulnerability of unborn babies and the relative ease of killing them when technologically well-equipped adults make a choice to do so, occasionally an attempt to kill one fails. As Gianna Jessen says, “And to everyone’s great shock and surprise, I didn’t arrive dead, but alive . . . in a Los Angeles County abortion clinic.”

Gianna Jessen and Melissa Ohden are two women, now in their 30′s, who survived attempts to abort them. From the information I can gather, both of their stories are authentic (though really the point these two women make could stand even if their stories were just fictional). Shaped by their experiences, both became ardent pro-life advocates. Both also attribute their religious belief to their survival against steep odds and what they see as evil designs. Jessen’s public activities seem to be motivated as much by religious evangelism as by her pro-life convictions; this might make her less effective as a pro-life advocate than she might otherwise be, with some audiences.

I am not myself a Christian, and my purpose is not to weigh in one way or the other on the validity of Christian doctrine. I would like to point out, however, that pro-choice forces often try to dismiss the pro-life feeling of Christians by saying that their feelings derive only from an abstract and debatable religious doctrine. Yet in the cases of these two survivors of the front lines of the “silent holocaust” (Gianna Jessen’s phrase), the converse seems to have happened: these two seem to have been driven toward doctrine by their highly-understandable revulsion against abortion.

I recommend watching both the following videos (10 minutes and 8 minutes) in their entirety. Here are the links and a few words from each of the women:

Melissa Ohden: Aborted At Birth

“I couldn’t understand at the age of fourteen how any parent could make that decision — to end their child’s life. . . . I felt like I deserved to know — you know, why is it my life was just a choice for someone . . .”

Gianna Jessen Abortion Survivor in Australia Part 1

(She is American, but speaking in Australia.)

“. . . if abortion is just about women’s rights, ladies and gentlemen, then what were mine? There was not a radical feminist standing up and yelling about how my rights were being violated that day, and in fact my life was being snuffed out in the name of women’s rights.”

The disproportionate importance of these rare cases is this: These cases, where the intended victim has grown up and become loud and visible, make most obvious what is always the simple truth — that even if you kill someone when they are quiet and invisible and preborn, you are killing a person.

What could any abortion-rights advocate say if face to face with such a survivor? To be consistent, they would have to say, “Your mother’s choice was not properly honored. Those bungling doctors let us all down. They should have upheld the Constitution of the United States (or wherever) and finished you off.” But would anyone have the guts to say that? No.

And what could any parent (barring those motivated to abort by the most extreme circumstances) say if they later came face to face with a child they had tried to kill? Could they say, “The abortion was a good idea in principle. And in the end they heard you cry and fished you out of that garbage pail. So everything worked out for the best” — ? They would not have the guts to say that. They would normally have to admit that they could have sacrificed a little more. And the fact that they would not have the guts shows that it was never a good idea in the first place. Yet somehow it takes rare cases such as this to reveal what a bad idea abortion so routinely is.

The potential value, for our social discourse, of such cases coming to light from time to time, is not to prove to anyone “I told you so” about the past. Their value lies in their potential impact on the minds of mothers and fathers and doctors contemplating abortion in the present. Any adult who contemplates aborting an unborn baby knows that the chances of ever having to actually face the grown-up target of their intentions, are extremely small. But if they have once or twice had a chance to meet an abortion survivor, as we all have had in the above videos, they will know that at any moment in their consciences, if not in external reality, they may be reminded of a fact — they may be reminded that the unborn baby whose life they took when it was tiny, helpless and perhaps shapeless, was a person destined one day not to be tiny, helpless and shapeless. They will know that in their consciences they will have to look that person in the eye one day and explain their reasons for what they did. And they will understand that their reasons had better be good.

Thus it would not matter if the stories of Melissa Ohden and Gianna Jessen were untrue. Their real value lies not in demonstrating a statistical possibility, but in their impact on our consciences and imaginations.

Anyone should be able to figure out that what is now small is in the process of growing up, and will do so if allowed to. But somehow we fail to see that except in those rare cases where our technology has failed us.

You may leave a reply, if you wish, without giving your name or email address. If you do give your email address, it will not be published.

Some future posts:

Life Panels

Evolution, and the Humanizing and Uplifting Effect on Society of a Commitment to the Unborn

A Trade-Off of a Sensitive Nature

Unborn Child-Protection Legislation, the Moral Health of Society, and the Role of the American Democratic Party

Abortion and Problem-Solving

The Motivations of Aborting Parents

Why Remorse Comes Too Late

The Kitchen-Ingredients Week-After Pill

Unwanted Babies and Overpopulation

The Woman as Slave?

Abortion and the Map of the World

Education and Art to Change Perceptions about the Unborn

Once when I was about eight, my younger brother did something, perhaps involving physical pain for me, for which I felt that retaliation was fully justified. As I ran after him, I was intercepted by our mother. I was outraged that she would so unfairly interfere. She in turn was shocked by the desperate fight that I put up, and finally resorted to lying down on top of me, as the only way to keep me from breaking free. I can still remember my impotent rage. I hated it.

No one likes to be restrained from doing what they want, even when what they want is to harm another person. So though unborn child-protection legislation may be unavoidable if we are to save all the lives that can be saved, it will always be problematic. It will never be completely successful. (Among other things, what we could call a “kitchen-ingredients week-after pill” might be just around the corner.) And such legislation will have bad side effects.

Parents who decide to kill their unborn kids may rarely if ever be motivated by anger as I was at the age of eight. Even when the abortion is unjustified, their motivations are normally more thoughtful, and sometimes offset by hesitation and guilt. Some factors may make them less resentful of restraining authority than I was, some even more resentful. But in any case, clearly a deeper solution is needed than mere legislation.

If we can unlock the love and protectiveness for the unborn that already lies within us as part of our deepest nature, this will not only shield the unborn better than any legislation, but will represent the biggest breakthrough yet in the slow process of unfolding our own humanity.

As we begin the process of facilitating in society an appreciation for the unborn, one of the foundations of that process should be a non-technical but thorough course in embryology — “Getting to Know Our Unseen Neighbors,” we might call it — for all children at the fifth- or sixth-grade level. The emphasis in such courses should be on the wonder of the life that is transforming itself, reinventing itself, hour by hour, deep within the body of a somewhat senior and more-developed member of our human family.

One of many sources to give us a hint of how prosaic science can tug at the heart in the right way is this one: http://www.birth.com.au/pregnancy/

To make vivid to children that a human life is a seamless process, students could be given thought experiments such as: “Pretend that Mary the embryo can speak and tell the world about her hopes and dreams — how she longs to begin to beat her heart, to pump her lungs, to touch from the outside, for the first time, the skin of the mother who has nurtured her inside . . . to learn to stand up, to learn to throw a ball . . . What would Mary say to the world, if she could?”

What we’re up against: We may have to admit that the default viewpoint, the mental starting point, for many people, likely is that the unborn are of little significance. “Out of sight, out of mind.” Many people may not be able to see the humanity and personhood of the unborn without going through a process of mental development. But if education can to a great extent create a salutary aversion to the limited destructiveness of smoking, can’t it create a salutary aversion to the extreme destructiveness of killing unborn babies?

Little girls, in particular, should hear as they grow up some viewpoints, and perceptions of the unborn, that all too often go unheard, such as this dialogue between the president of Feminists for Life and one of her correspondents.

Serrin Foster: “Women aren’t stupid. We know it’s a baby that is growing just like we did in our mother’s wombs. . . . For years, abortion advocates have been pitting women against their unborn children, dehumanizing the growing child with misleading phrases like ‘blobs of cells’ and ‘products of conception.’ . . .”

Michelle Stewart: “I am a prolife feminist. Abortion before 20 weeks is equally wrong. The founding feminists understood this truth. Women are strongest when they engage as warriors to protect the most vulnerable. What is more vulnerable than an unviable human being in development?”

Children are likely to start hearing at an early age the view that women should be free to kill their unborn babies. In a small example of the effectiveness of art, Neil Young once satirized almost this same kind of “free world”:

That’s one more kid that’ll never go to school
Never get to fall in love, never get to be cool
Keep on rockin’ in the free world . . .

As children grow up, they will hear all the messages that different groups want to bombard them with. We cannot and need not, and even should not, prevent this. But if children first come to understand the realities that lie deeper than the messages, they will be able to discriminate. Certainly children as they grow should learn to understand the heart-rending plight of many pregnant women, and to consider deeply all the possible solutions. But the plight of the unborn is a plight that is easier to overlook than any other, and that therefore requires a more proactive education. The prevailing positional disadvantages of the unborn can be summarized very well by three old proverbs: “Out of sight, out of mind” (already mentioned), “Might makes right,” and “The squeaky wheel gets the oil.”

And for adults: Just as Uncle Tom’s Cabin made vivid, to people unable to see it before, the human yearnings of slaves, a blockbuster book or movie could make vivid the yearnings of the unborn to live and realize their potentials. Some of those yearnings are very undeveloped or unconscious, but they exist (they are in the genes), and could be portrayed imaginatively by art. We need a suspenseful movie portraying an unborn baby imminently threatened by abortion.

To conclude, let’s elaborate a little on “the slow process of unfolding our own humanity,” mentioned above. It humanized us (those of us who are white) to come to see other races as persons; it humanized us (those of us who are men) to come to see women as persons; it humanized some of those of us who are Americans to come to see the Vietnamese as persons; and it will humanize us to come to see the unborn as persons. That step, crossing that last civil-rights frontier, will humanize us more than any other, because of the subtlety of thought involved. But that may only be possible through education and art.

© 2013

 

You may leave a reply, if you wish, without giving your name or email address. If you do give your email address, it will not be published.

Some future posts:

Life Panels

Evolution, and the Humanizing and Uplifting Effect on Society of a Commitment to the Unborn

A Trade-Off of a Sensitive Nature

Unborn Child-Protection Legislation, the Moral Health of Society, and the Role of the American Democratic Party

The Motivations of Aborting Parents

Why Remorse Comes Too Late

The Kitchen-Ingredients Week-After Pill

Only a Potential Person?

Unwanted Babies and Overpopulation

The Woman as Slave?

Abortion and the Map of the World

Some Comments on “Personhood and Citizenship”

(Recently on another website I had some discussion about “Personhood and Citizenship” with a reader named “My turn.” I will reproduce here the more probing parts of that reader’s critique, and my replies. -Acyutananda)

My turn:

A fetus has potential to be a person, but is not one yet, and it is not guaranteed by nature.

No Termination without Representation (Acyutananda):

“A fetus has potential to be a person, but is not one yet . . .”

This was clearly rebutted in the post, so to be convincing you would have to address that rebuttal. Please see the post again.

“. . . and it is not guaranteed by nature”

It is not guaranteed by nature that a 4-year-old will turn 5, but we have no moral right to kill her.

My turn:

[In your post there is] not alot of science (none in fact). . . . It did not rebut anything. The cornerstone of your argument seems to be that because we were all once a fetus, a fetus is therefore a person. This is not logical, as each person was once two haploid cells, and before that genetic code in our parents gonadal cells. You still have not made the case that undeveloped fetuses are any more “people” than the living cell stages before it. Nor have you made a case for giving them rights, especially greater rights than the living enjoy, and at the expense of subjugating the woman.

NTWR:

The cornerstone of my argument, as regards your points, is:

“One can define personhood, or define anything, in any way one likes. But to view any object of the universe, not to mention an unborn child, with disregard of its potential, would be a very abstract and disconnected way of seeing reality. Full human potential exists at the zygote stage.”

This is what rebuts your attempts at definition. [Web pages] such as this one are full of definitions. Objectively speaking, none of the definitions is right or wrong. It is all semantics. I put my definition, rather, on a subjective, psychological basis: if one disregards the potential, one’s view of anything will be very abstract and disconnected. If one disregards the potential of an unborn child, one’s view will be “disconnected from the deepest nature of our species.”

No one can prove this objectively, but look deep enough within yourself and you’ll see it. You appeal to objective science, but in the field of psychology, objective science cannot even presently prove that you are aware of your thoughts, although you know that you are. Science can prove by the outcomes of your thinking that you have thoughts, but cannot prove that you are aware of them. Each of us has to do lonely experiments in our own mental laboratory to test some hypotheses of psychology.

You wrote: “The cornerstone of your argument seems to be that because we were all once a fetus, a fetus is therefore a person. This is not logical, as each person was once two haploid cells, and before that genetic code in our parents gonadal cells.”

At those times the “person” did not have the DNA of a person, i.e., the DNA that it would maintain at 1 month of gestation, at 4 years, at 60 years. I think brother pmsulley [another contributor on that web page] has made the point about the DNA of a zygote.

You wrote: “and at the expense of subjugating the woman.”

This also is addressed in the [post]. I gave an example of a man legally and morally required to sacrifice some of his interests for the sake of a baby. Again, you may have your own definition of “subjugation,” but if this is subjugation, it is highly justifiable subjugation.

[end of dialogue]

My last reply does not mean that women who abort in violation of the unborn child-protection laws of the future should be severely prosecuted, if prosecuted at all. But abortionists who flout the decisions of the future “life panels” set up according to those laws, should be considered to have taken innocent life without justification.

Reflecting further on the dialogue, I would observe that if objective science cannot presently be our exclusive guide on this particular moral issue — abortion — then better not to forcibly contrive an exclusively-scientific formulation, or claim to have successfully arrived at such a formulation, as some do.

Above I said that at the pre-conception stages of haploid cells and their pre-conception genetic code, “the ‘person’ did not have the DNA of a person, i.e., the DNA that it would maintain at 1 month of gestation, at 4 years, at 60 years.” On the question of identification as a member of the human race, objective science is very clear and there are no arguments; on the question of personhood, it is strange that some people divorce it from such identification, but some people do.

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Personhood and Citizenship

(This post, first published August 1, 2013, is an explanation of why there should be no termination without representation.)

The unborn babies of the world today, November 15, 2013, are living their lives just as you and I were living our lives a short time ago, and as each of us may, in the view of many, soon be living our lives again. What you are today is you as you are today, and what you were not long ago was the same you, as the unborn baby that you were then. An unborn baby is a typical person, operating as one would expect a typical person to operate at its age. It should be considered a citizen of its respective nation or nations, or a citizen of the world, with the rights of a citizen. The era in which we treated the unborn, legally and otherwise, as second-class and “other,” will in future be seen like the dark ages.

One can define personhood, or define anything, in any way one likes. But to view any object of the universe, not to mention an unborn child, with disregard of its potential, would be a very reductive and disconnected way of seeing reality. Full human potential exists at the zygote stage.

And yet, an unborn baby is “a citizen who complicates the life of another citizen.” Let’s look at an example of what this means: Continue reading