One should never forbid what one lacks the power to prevent.
~ Napoléon Bonaparte (1769-08-15 1821-05-05 age:51)
I am opposed to abortions. However, like John Kerry, I am also against forcing other people to go along with my religious beliefs. To me the choice is not between abortion and no abortion. It is between legal abortion and illegal abortion. The lives destroyed by illegal abortion probably outweigh the lives destroyed by legal abortion. The only way out of this loggerhead is perfect contraception, to make abortion all but irrelevant.
|Pro Life Position||Crime|
|Pro Choice Position||Conclusion|
|The Standoff||Religious Imposition|
|When Does Life Start||Links|
|Life Starts Gradually|
There is no issue more polarised in the USA that abortion. My goal is to look for some sort of compromise to break the logjam. My own view is I want as few abortions as possible, but I don’t think making them illegal will do any good.
Gagging on Gnats
A three-day-old human embryo is a collection of 150 cells called a blastocyst. There are, for the sake of comparison, more than 100,000 cells in the brain of a fly. The human embryos that are destroyed in stem-cell research do not have brains, or even neurons.~ Sam Harris (1967-01-01 age:51)
We North Americans all agree that a sperm cell and egg should have no more rights that a blood cell. We all agree that a newborn baby should have full protection from murder, the same as an adult. Not all other societies agree on even that much.
Abortion Cuts Crime
When crime started to drop in the 1990s, everyone puzzled why until statistician Steven Levitt showed that half the cause was relaxed abortion law. With fewer unwanted kids born, with fewer kids born into poverty, there were, 20 years later, fewer young criminals, but just as many older ones. Every child deserves a home that can support it and where it is wanted.~ Roedy (1948-02-04 age:70)
What we North Americans disagree on is how quickly those rights should be acquired. Some say at conception. Some say at birth. The Irish government says it is when the heartbeat can first be detected. Some say at quickening (when the mother can first feel the fetus moving). Some say gradually, proportional to development, weight, number of cells etc.
The problem is when and how do you assign human rights? Clearly 0 for separate sperm and egg and full legal protection from murder after birth. But what about the period in between? I think they should be assigned gradually, in proportion to mass, but I recognise that is arbitrary and many would insist on all or nothing. There are lots of plausible ways to do it.
The question can’t be answered by science. It is a social or legal question, similar to, but more serious than, at what age should you acquire the right to drive, leave home, give consent to sex, enter into contracts or vote.
There is no way to satisfy everyone. Since most people decide the abortion issue on purely religious grounds, there is no hope of compromise or logic persuading others.
I see only one way out and unfortunately most Christians want to block this solution, namely perfected birth control. The only solution to the abortion conflict is to make abortion all but unnecessary.
The Catholic Church teaches that life begins at conception.
Yet both the egg and sperm are already alive. New life is not spontaneously generated at conception. All that happens is a new DNA (Deoxyribonucleic Acid) combination comes into being. Both parts of it were alive to start.
The Bible has nothing to say on the matter of the joining of egg and sperm since its authors believed the male fertilised the female much as a farmer fertilizes and seeds a field. They had no knowledge of the rôle of the egg, or of the joining or sperm and egg which is the big controversy now. Traditionally, the church took the beginning of life to be quickening — when the baby could be first felt in the womb kicking.
Some Pro-Lifers feel so strongly about their view that they are willing to adopt vigilante justice and bomb abortion clinics killing patients, fetuses and doctors. Oddly these same people have no opinion about the murders going on in Iraq done in their name. It is only the murder of fetuses that matter. They seem to suffer from moral inconsistency.
The pro-life people like to suggest that the bible supports the life begins at conception and therefore all abortion should be illegal. The bible could not very well say this because the microscope had not been invented then. They knew nothing of sperm or egg cells, the joining to form a zygote, or the fetus’s development. The big event was quickening, when the mother could first feel the baby kick. They would, however, know about fetuses large enough to see from butchering domestic animals. They might guess that humans were similar, but they considered themselves quite different from animals, so the did not necessarily understand even the visible fetus. This notion of life begins at conception is a biblical reconstruction, what modern day Christians think people living 3000 years ago would have thought had we taught them about cells and DNA.
Clearly it is murder to kill a newborn child. Nearly all Pro-Choicers would consider it murder to kill a child in the process of birth. Many would consider it murder to kill a child that could have survived had it been given a C-Section and modern medical care.
Then there is a that big gray area is between. It is less desirable to kill a child at 6 months term than 1 second after fertilization. If abortion is to be done, it should be done as soon as possible. But how can one be perfectly ok and the other murder? How can you logically have a sharp dividing line on a continuous process? The only logical place for a sharp line is conception, but even that is arbitrary in the total development cycle.
Pro-Lifers often like to characterise Pro-Choice as Pro-Abortion. This is not necessarily so. A Pro-Choicer may abhor abortion and refrain from it under almost all circumstances, but feels he or she has no right to tell others how to deal with this morally ambiguous decision.
Pro-Lifers make no bones that their stand on abortion is determined not by logic, science or reason. It is based on faith. They think this gives them the right to impose their purely religious beliefs on others. Law has to be based on reason, even if is energised by religion-based morality. A purely religious argument rightly has no place in law, though, of course, people are free to lobby for whatever laws they want motivated by whatever religious beliefs charge them.
There were periods in US and Canadian history when abortions were illegal. The problem is it did almost nothing to stop abortions. It just pushed them underground. Instead of just the fetus dying, often both mother and fetus died from abortions performed is septic conditions by amateurs. Some Pro-Lifers rejoice in this and want to return to these days when the punishment for terminating a pregnancy was a hideously painful death.
It is a balance, the additional adult lives lost from illegal abortions vs the fetal lives lost from legal abortion. It is hard to get objective statistics on the matter, especially when abortion is illegal, since doctors are not likely to honestly report the mayhem of an illegal abortion caused by a criminal activity. The social stigma is too great, even when it causes death.
Children who are unwanted live a hell undreamt of by those who grew up in loving families. Every child should have the right to be born into a natural or adopted family who wants and loves them. If we force women to carry children to term who don’t want them, we must protect those children from abuse from those mothers.
It seems so often the Pro-Lifers only care about the fetus until it is born, then suddenly lose interest in his or her welfare. Two thirds of women who have an abortion site the reason — the inability to afford a child. Women can’t raise kids without jobs or income. If you are seriously pro-life, you have to see to it mothers have access to the resources to raise kids. Yet usually pro-lifers are Republican who actively campaign to let the jobless starve to death and to let industry lay off at will.
The anti-abortion people are not at all shy about admitting their objection to abortion is completely bible based. They are thus admitting they are attempting to force their religious beliefs on others. Constitutional freedom of religion forbids that. They have no more right to do that than force people to drink Jesus’s magic blood. Of course they have as much right as anyone else to lobby for making abortion illegal on non-religious grounds. The same is true for their opposition to gay marriage.
~ Roedy (1948-02-04 age:70)
In 2004-08 who groups of demonstrators met head to head on a bridge in New York, each heading in the opposite direction. What a perfect symbolic loggerhead!
Life Does Not Literally BeginStephen Woodworth MP (Member of Parliament) with the Conservative Party of Canada wants to debate when life begins and expressed a hope science could provide a definitive answer. This shows a woeful lack of understanding of how human reproduction works. To science, the question is meaningless because it is a metaphysical question. Contrary to religious teaching, life does not begin with each new child! For life to begin, non-living ingredients would have to spring to life. This does not happen. Reproduction is a dance of already living cells splitting and recombining. The cells themselves are as old as life itself. A new human gradually comes into being, is born and continues development outside the womb.
Bestowing upon a fetus the status as a human being is an arbitrary legal or religious rite, like being assigned a SIN (Social Insurance Number) number, a bar mitzvah or attaining the right to vote. Different cultures celebrate attaining human status ranging from the date of the mother’s last period to the child’s 21st birthday. For Conservatives, it marks the date when contraception/abortion/infanticide is no longer legal. What the Conservatives are doing is like asking when the continuous cycle of seasons truly begins. It is a meaningless question. The cycle does not begin. You can assign an arbitrary point, like Jan 1, in the cycle, but you could just as well pick any other day.
My own way of looking at it is this. Becoming human is not a single definite event. It is something that gradually evolves over decades. As this process progresses we accord more and more privilege to the being. The exact dates when we provide protection from abortion, allow the vote, parental emancipation, the right to consent to sex, the right to marry, the right to drive, etc. are all just approximations to what the consensus feels they should be.
As to the particular question about when contraception/abortion is permissible I am more liberal than most. To me, considering a blastula holy is like considering a facial mole (which is much bigger) holy. They are both just tiny masses of cells. Neither can think or react as if feeling pain. It is much more primitive than a jellyfish at that stage. It does not even have any nerve cells. Treating these microscopic blobs of cells as equivalent in importance and privilege to full grown humans is a crazy religious idea, dependent on the belief in souls and as such should not be imposed on non-believers. It is as silly as worshiping clams.
I think a practical dividing line that even pro-choice people would find acceptable would be Could this fetus/infant survive outside the womb? If it can, it deserves protection. As technology develops, the protection would be extended to younger and younger infants.~ Roedy (1948-02-04 age:70)
The conception of a human might be likened to the merger of two companies. Both companies are alive both before and after the moment of merger. The same people are involved. The same office buildings. There is no interruption in the flow of activity. Yet something novel emerges and the old separate identities pass away though it takes a while to see anything much different.
So all science can tell us is that the abortion issue is not a scientific question. Life does not begin. It is a continuous process. All that begins is a new DNA pattern.
The Catholics are the most spirited opponents of abortion, contraception and euthanasia. They use all manner of arguments, but when you squeeze them, you find out what provides their motivational spark. It is primarily religious superstitions.
A freshly fertilised egg is obvious not an adult human. It is absurd to claim it is. It is considerably more primitive than a pig, nay than a frog, nay than a flea, nay than a rotifer (pond scum). It is on par in complexity with other single cell creatures such as yeasts and bacteria. This is obvious to anyone who has ever looked through a microscope. Why then do Catholics make this fool assertion? It is because they believe in ghosts. They call them souls. According to Catholics, souls are invisible disembodied consciousnesses that possess fertilised eggs, similar to demonic possession which Catholics also assert is real. The ghost in the machine was a primitive attempt to explain human consciousness. When you die, according to Catholics, the souls leave the body and go to another dimension called heaven/hell for the rest of eternity to listen to harp music or be eternally tortured with fire and brimstone (both sound like torture to me). There is not a scrap of evidence for the existence of souls, heaven or hell. Souls have never been detected or weighed. But Catholics assert that soul possession is what makes the fertilised egg fully human and deserving of the full rights of an adult human. This the core of their objection to abortion.
In other words, the Catholics are trying to force their religious superstitions (ghost stories) as scientific truth on everyone else. The constitution of the USA and Canada guarantees freedom of religion, which includes freedom to reject the Catholic religion. Yet somehow the Catholics have managed to get their superstitions embedded in the laws of the land. The problem is other non-Catholic Christians have aided and abetted this breaching of the constitution.
The motivation to oppose contraception is more Machiavellian. The income of the Catholic church depends on how many members it has. It does not get many new members by conversion. It gets most of them by being born into families with Catholic parents who indoctrinate the children into the faith. It is thus important that Catholic families have as many babies as possible. However, However, Catholicism does permit contraception by the unmarried so long as they use only abstinence. This creates extreme sexual frustration. The church then guilts them over it, not even permitting masturbation. They then use the guilt to manipulate the young to do its bidding.
Up until 1917 the Catholic church approved of abortion if performed within 40 days of conception. The bible itself does not forbid abortion.
|6 weeks||2nd trimester||3rd trimester|
What are the reasons every coupling does not result in a baby?
The most difficult and crucial step where most failures occur is (2). So you might make an argument that is when life really starts. Only about one in four eggs implants and avoids spontaneous abortion.
60-80% of fertilized eggs fail to implant and then another 15-20% of the fertilized eggs that do implant spontaneously abort. That gives us a 16-34% survival rate for fertilized eggs. A religiously minded person might say God condemns 66-84% of all babies to death in the time between conception and the start of pregnancy. Give his happens more often than not, calling for the public hanging of doctors who encourage this process, seems a bit overblown.
~ Roedy (1948-02-04 age:70)
For chickens, we have a different answer. Life starts when the egg hatches, equivalent to birth. Very few people think of themselves as eaters of live chickens who eat eggs.
Brain activity begins around week 26. This would be scientifically-justifiable limit for permitting abortion.The Jewish tradition grants full personhood only 30 days after birth. This was because infanticide prior to that point was common. This is quite different from the view modern day Christians claim their god holds.
Personally, given nothing better to go on, I would interpolate linearly, drawing straight line, so that killing a fetus at the half way point, at 4.5 months should count as a crime 50% a serious as killing a newborn. Here is how you might graph my position. Months of pregnancy term run along the bottom as the x-axis. Percentage of severity of a murder runs along the left on the y-axis. This is still just another arbitrary position.
Pope Ratzinger considers any form of pregnancy termination at any stage as murder. You could graph his position like this:
A typical pro-choice civil libertarian advocate might have a graph like this:
There are an infinite number of ways of filling in the intermediates. People will never agree on how serious killing various ages of the unborn is because it is arbitrary and determined mostly by infinitely stubborn, irrational, arbitrary religious belief. There is no way rational argument will ever solve this. The only way out of this logjam that I can think of is to make abortion obsolete by developing near perfect birth control. The big problem with that solution is most religious people are also opposed to any form of birth control. Their religions evolved in times quite different from today. Today overpopulation threatens us far more than lack of fertility.
Deciding how to treat abortion is not all that different from deciding how kind you should be to livestock. Most people feel no guilt at all about literally torturing chickens to produce eggs. If it is inconvenient to be kind, most humans can’t be bothered. If it is convenient, they are happy to be. So it seems to me the way out of the abortion controversy is to make it as convenient as possible to be kind to fetuses, namely fool-proof birth control, smoothing the way for all unwanted babies to discreetly find loving homes, universal health care for fetuses, whether the mother can afford it or not and pre-pregnancy screening for genetic defects.
Emboldened by their success in imposing their religious superstitions about souls, spirits and spirit possession of single cells and/or blastulas on others to block abortion, Catholics and other religious fundamentalists are now trying to block people from using contraception. This makes absolutely no sense:
Researchers noticed a peculiar pattern. When an individual state or the country as a whole relaxed abortion laws, 16 years later there was a drastic drop in crime in 16 year olds, but not those older. Why would this be? When you force a single mother to bear a child she does not want and whom she cannot afford to raise, that child gets an inferior upbringing is a lower class neighbourhood. If she is permitted to abort that child and later when she had husband and financial security, she could afford to bring a child up in a better neighbourhood with better schools give it more attention. The reason crime drops is that the kids that would most likely become criminals are simply not born. They don’t exist to commit crimes. The movie Freakonomics documents this.
An anti-abortion group OptionsBC.com even went so far as to place TV ads lying to the public by suggesting it would be safer to take a fetus to term than to have an abortion. I filed complaints with the TV station, the CRTC (Canadian Radio and Television Commission) and the Advertising Standards Council. They responded with smarmy dissembling pretending they did not understand my objection. This issue brings out the worst in people. They get so morally indignant they feel justified in all manner of cheating, twisting, lying and even murdering.
You would think those who dislike abortion would seek a practical solution to actually reduce it — namely near perfect contraception. But ironically, those who claim to be most opposed to abortion, block the only practical solution.
I have always been somewhat on the fence of the abortion issue. I can appreciate both points of view, but I have just realised that one side is being deceptive. The anti-abortion people have not been honest about the motive for their opposition. It is not a moral question as they pretend. It is a question of religious dogma. Christians believe in souls and that souls inhabit fertilised eggs or fetuses. Given there is no way to detect a soul and given souls are almost certainly fictitious, there is no way to determine how soon after conception souls seize possession of a human body. So what this abortion debate is really about is forcing non-Christians to accept this loony tunes soul theory complete with possession timetable. Souls are why Christians give blastulas exalted status, not because they are potential humans, not because life is sacred. Anti-abortion fervor is really about Christians imposing their idiotic religious dogma on others.
Any woman who does not give birth to as many children as she is capable is guilty of murder.
~ St. Augustine, Augustine of Hippo (354-11-13 AD 430-08-28 AD age:75)
The anti-abortion argument boils down to this. Single celled-animals and multicelled animals roughly as developed as sponges should have equal legal rights with adult humans.
~ Roedy (1948-02-04 age:70)
I now tend to see the anti-abortionists as fanatics attempts to cram their religious beliefs down others’s throats. Their arguments are purely religious, not merely kooky. The constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion should protect non-relievers from the religious wackos.
The strict anti-abortion argument is not only favoured by the religious, it is a purely religious argument. It depends on belief in the soul. Unfortunately, movies have made the soul seem real. There is no way you can claim a blastula is a full human being unless you imagine a little homunculus soul living inside it. It is not even as advanced as a rotifer in pond scum. I don’t think the average person has any idea how tiny a blastula is whose murder supposedly requires vigilante action.
The ancient Greeks believed that the soul entered the forming body at 40 days (male embryos) or 90 days (female embryos). Others believed in occurred at quickening (when you could first feel the baby moving). Muslims believe ensoulment occurs anywhere between 40 and 120 days after conception. There is no evidence for the existence of the soul or for ensoulment, so it makes no sense to base secular law on something just made up.
I don’t think the public realises how infrequently blastulas carry on to become babies. Perhaps Christians should put the mother on the rack for murder every time one fails to develop. In their anti-abortion propaganda Christians show babies just prior to birth, to persuade people to ban even the morning after pill. We need to show them what a fertilised egg or blastula looks like. The images to the right of a fertilised egg and a blastula (bigger next stage of development) are what all the fuss is about. You need a microscope to see them. They have none of the characteristics of babies, no pulse, no nerves, no limbs, no eyes, no mouth… They are all but indistinguishable from the eggs and blastulas of fish. This is what anti-abortionists are killing doctors over. It is as silly as putting women in jail for expelling unfertilised eggs in their monthly periods on the grounds they too are potential life or putting teenage boys in jail on the same grounds for spilling their seed. This is religious hogwash.
Even though the Christian pro-life view contents that abortion is murder, their own bible disagrees.
In the USA, the Catholic cheurch owns the majority of hospitals. They enforce Catholic superstitions on all the doctors and patients, even when the patients are not Catholic, even when the goverment is paying the bills.
What has to happen is a non-Catholic routed to a Catholic hospital whose wife what murdered to save no one, should sue the hospital and charge all the hospital staff involved with murder.
I was struck by the dishonestly and lack of good faith in the pro-life camp. Then it dawned on my that the pro-life position was actually based solely on some rather silly religious dogma, namely that souls possess fertilised eggs at conception. This is what gave single cells their exalted status as fully equivalent to adult humans. There is no evidence whatsoever for these souls. Yet Catholics are willing to kill doctors, mothers and fetuses to force that religious beliefs on others. That sort of nuttiness should not be indulged. Catholics are improperly trying to force their religious superstitions on non-believers. Canada and the USA have freedom of religion, which should include freedom from having Catholics forcing their superstitions on others on abortion, birth control and end-of-life decisions. If the supreme court had some integrity they would issue restraining orders against the Catholics.Aron Ra on Talmudic acceptance of abortion George Carlin on abortion Bible on abortion. Many unexpected things. Aron Ra on bible, abortion and marriage
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