A Defense of Abortion Rights: The Spectrum Argument

Today is the 40th anniversary of the landmark Supreme Court case, Roe v. Wade. In honor of this important support for fundamental rights, here is a reposting of my primary pro-choice argument.

abortion and the spectrum of personhoodThe pro-life position is often stated this way: (1) human life begins at conception; (2) it is murder to take a human life; therefore (3) abortion is murder and should be considered immoral.

We’ll return to that idea shortly, but first let’s look more closely at human life. I argue that there is a spectrum of personhood during gestation.

Consider a continuous spectrum from blue to green. Where’s the dividing line? Where does blue end and green begin? We can argue about this, but we agree that blue is not green. The two ends are very different.

What age is the dividing line between child and adult? Twelve years? Eighteen? Twenty-one? It’s a spectrum, and there is no objectively correct line. Again, the line is debatable but no one doubts that a child and an adult are quite different.

An acorn is not a tree, a silkworm is not a dress, a water molecule is not a whirlpool, a piece of hay is not a haystack, and 20 chicken eggs are not a henhouse of chickens. Similarly, a single fertilized human egg cell is very different from a one-trillion-cell newborn baby.

But the vast difference in the number of cells only begins to define the vast difference between the two ends of the spectrum. At one end, we have arms and legs, fingers and fingernails, liver and pancreas, brain and nervous system, heart and circulatory system, stomach and digestive system—in fact, every body part that a healthy person has. And at the other, we have none of this. We have … a single cell. In between is a smooth progression over time, with individual components developing and maturing. That’s the spectrum we’re talking about.

Let’s approach this another way. Consider a brain with 100 billion neurons versus a single neuron. The single neuron doesn’t think 10–11 times as fast. It doesn’t think at all. The differentiation of the cells into different cell types and their interconnections in the newborn may count for even more than the enormous difference in the number of cells.

Note also that the difference between a newborn and an adult is trivial compared to the difference between the cell and the 1,000,000,000,000-cell newborn.

Some pro-life advocates argue that the humans at either end of this spectrum are identical in every meaningful way and use the term “baby” for every point along the spectrum. I’ve raised babies (with help, of course), and that makes me something of an expert in identifying babies. As an expert, let me assure you that a single invisible cell isn’t a baby.

If eager expectant parents want to use the term “baby,” not a problem. It’s when pro-lifers want to impose that term on others to constrain their rights that we have a problem.

This inept attempt to collapse the spectrum by using the term “baby” for both ends is like the slogan used by the animal rights group PETA: “A rat is a pig is a dog is a boy.” In other words, there is no spectrum here: vermin are the same as livestock, which are the same as pets, which are the same as people.

No, a rat is not a boy, blue is not green, and a single cell is not a newborn baby.

A lot revolves around what we call this spectrum. Do we call it Homo sapiens? With this term, there is no spectrum, because the species is the same—the single cell is Homo sapiens, as is the newborn baby.

What about “human”? That seems a good name for the spectrum—that is, we would call the newborn human but not the cell. Or, we might call the cell human but not a human. Keep in mind that live tissue samples are cells with human DNA and they’re not “humans.” Would they suddenly become humans if, through technological magic, they were made totipotent so that they could grow into a fetus? Pro-lifers would likely insist on using “human” for both ends of the spectrum.

All right, can we all agree on “person”? No, I’ve heard pro-lifers reject this as well.

This game where pro-lifers deny names to the spectrum quickly gets tiring. I really don’t care what the spectrum is called—humanity, personhood, human development, like-me-ness, whatever—call it what you want as long as the naming acknowledges the stark difference between the newborn (with arms and legs and a circulatory system and a nervous system and eyes and ears and so on) and the single fertilized human egg cell.

Speaking of games, the pro-life argument does seem a bit like a game, despite the serious consequences. The Slactivist blog and Valerie Tarico’s blog have shown that today’s foaming-at-the-mouth pro-life stance by evangelicals was not held by their predecessors 30 years ago.

Now, back to the original pro-life argument: (1) human life begins at conception; (2) it is murder to take a human life; therefore (3) abortion is murder and should be considered immoral. This argument fails because it is oblivious to the spectrum.

Pro-lifers claim to be celebrating life, but equating a newborn baby with a single cell and demanding that everyone else be bound by their beliefs doesn’t celebrate life, it denigrates it.

To be forced to give birth to a child against her will
is a peculiarly personal violation of [a woman’s] freedom.
— Disciples of Christ, 1978

Human life develops on a continuum from conception to birth.
— United Church of Christ, 1978

The fetus is not reckoned as a soul.
— Bruce Waltke, Dallas Theological Seminary, 1968

(source of quotes)

Photo credit: Wikimedia

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About Bob Seidensticker
  • Frank McManus

    Okay, I’m late to this argument, and haven’t read all, or even very many, of the comments. But my first reaction is that basically you’re right; this makes sense. But my background as a pro-lifer is bringing two questions to mind:

    1. Have you explored anti-abortion philosophical literature that addresses these issues? I’m thinking of Francis Beckwith, Patrick Lee, and Christopher Kaczor in particular.

    2. As far as I understand it (which may not be very well), the central point of the anti-abortion position on this question is that the “spectrum” describes the span of life of an individual human being, from conception onward. Whether you call it a “person,” “a human being,” or whatever, is less important than the fact that clearly, at conception, a genetically distinct human individual comes into being. That’s what conception *means*: before conception, no new human; after conception, the start of a new human.

    I’m not saying I agree with the way anti-abortion people use this argument, or even that I think it’s entirely sound. And I certainly don’t think “murder” as a term can be meaningfully applied to abortion. But I wonder if there’s isn’t an element of truth here that you don’t fully account for.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      1. Have you explored anti-abortion philosophical literature that addresses these issues? I’m thinking of Francis Beckwith, Patrick Lee, and Christopher Kaczor in particular.

      I don’t remember reading anything from them. If they have any good responses, I’d welcome a summary from you.

      What I typically find is the point that you also raise: that a distinct human is formed. Yes, granted, but this isn’t interesting. So what? We still start with a single microscope cell. Lots of potential, I’ll grant, but this isn’t a person (or whatever you want to call the spectrum). It may be in 9 months, but it ain’t now.

      Whether you call it a “person,” “a human being,” or whatever, is less important than the fact that clearly, at conception, a genetically distinct human individual comes into being.

      To me, this is intellectual trivia. Yes, it’s true, but from this we’re to ignore the plight of the woman having the baby? Or the situation of the baby itself, brought into the world unloved and unwanted?

      To me, this far, far outweighs the cold intellectual fact that we’ve created a unique piece of DNA.

    • RichardSRussell

      Whether you call it a “person,” “a human being,” or whatever, is less important than the fact that clearly, at conception, a genetically distinct human individual comes into being.

      A genetically distinct plan for a human being comes into being. Some assembly required before you have the real thing.

      As I remark in a sig line I’ve put together on the subject: “The self-proclaimed ‘pro-life’ crowd is entirely too obsessive about the imaginary people they claim to be concerned about. They need to calm down, switch off their circuit diagrams, get out of their blueprints, sit in the shade of their acorns, listen to the pleasant songs of the eggs, and stop to smell the pollen.”

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

        Good point. There is a bit of difference between an acorn and an oak …

  • argent

    The problem with the spectrum argument is that it isn’t an argument. The spectrum ‘argument’ says “Suppose that human-ness exists on a spectrum, from a thought in a couple’s head, to a fetus, to a child, to an adult. Wouldn’t that fit our preconceived notions of what makes someone a worthwhile person a lot better?” And it stops there. It doesn’t actually give any defense for how the qualities that differentiate an embryo from a newborn (size and level of development) justify human rights or the denial thereof.

    I was about to argue that in any other context, anyone would rightly reject size and level of development as a justification for denying anyone human rights, but I realize that’s false. Throughout history, both unborn and born children have been considered the property of their parents, and the law has failed to protect their rights as individuals. The rationale is that parents always have the best interests of their children in mind, and that it’s unfair to restrict parents’ freedom to parent as they choose.

    There are millions of people–myself included–who could explain to you exactly how harmful it is when a person’s rights aren’t protected because of their level of development. Fortunately, I lived, I am recovering, and I have a voice with which I can tell you that such discrimination is wrong.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      Sounds like you’re the staunch defender of human rights and I’m the guy wearing the sheet with the eye holes.

      The spectrum ‘argument’ says “Suppose that human-ness exists on a spectrum, from a thought in a couple’s head, to a fetus, to a child, to an adult.

      The spectrum “argument” says that 99.9% of the spectrum is single cell to newborn. Then it’s a person, and the usual laws and standards applying to persons are in effect.

      justify human rights or the denial thereof.

      When you say “human rights,” what comes to mind for most of us are people that you don’t need a microscope to see. If you want to say that, no, for this issue you extend “human” down to the single cell that has H. sapiens DNA in it, then you’ve redefined “human rights.”

      The rationale is that parents always have the best interests of their children in mind, and that it’s unfair to restrict parents’ freedom to parent as they choose.

      Yes, that’s true. And that’s the assumption when it comes to the mother-to-be. We assume that she (and she alone) sees the big picture and can judge what’s right for her and the embryo/fetus.

      I can tell you that such discrimination is wrong.

      You haven’t defined what “such discrimination” means, but you might well be right.

      But in this conversation, we’re talking about cells. They don’t have much inherent value.

      • argent

        Thanks for your response, I mean it.

        “Extremely small humans do not have much/any inherent worth” is the thing you’re trying to prove. Please don’t beg the question.

        I guess I am trying to redefine human rights? Before the women’s rights movement, people saw ‘human rights’ as belonging to ‘all men’. Preexisting social prejudices are not a justification unless there is some kind of logic to back it up, not just “well everyone knows that” (especially when most people actually disagree!).

        The antecedent of “such discrimination” is “when a person’s rights aren’t protected because of their level of development”. Parents do *not* always have the best interests of their children in mind, and the government *does* need to step in when parents harm their children. It’s wrong to fail to do so just because we’re clinging to old prejudices.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          “Extremely small humans do not have much/any inherent worth” is the thing you’re trying to prove.

          I prefer my formulation from last time: “In this conversation, we’re talking about cells. They don’t have much inherent value.”

          Please don’t beg the question.

          Was there question begging going on here? I missed it. Show me.

          The antecedent of “such discrimination” is “when a person’s rights aren’t protected because of their level of development”

          No, I’m afraid this doesn’t work. You point to the trend from rights given just to white landowners to (now) every adult, regardless of gender, ethnic identity, and so on. And I applaud that trend as well. And now you want to throw in single cells? Hmm … which of these things is not like the other? Are you next going to throw in mosquitoes and rats?

          Parents do *not* always have the best interests of their children in mind

          That’s true. That’s why we have CPS. Still, we give parents the benefit of the doubt and understand that there’s a broad range of acceptable parenting practices.

          And that’s how we approach the abortion question.

        • purr

          I just love how he ignored the science and went straight to ‘you want to kill microscopic babies’ argument.

        • argent

          I’m a woman and use female pronouns, but you’re doing a great job demonstrating how much basic respect for human beings pro-choicers have!

        • purr

          Human beings are not single celled organisms.

          Human beings are sentient, sapient creatures.

          Human beings can suffer.

          A single celled GENETIC BLUEPRINT cannot.

          but you’re doing a great job demonstrating how much basic respect for human beings pro-choicers have!

          You are the one who doesn’t seem to have respect for ACTUAL living breathing feeling human beings – ie women. Women are people, zygotes are not. And you believe that a woman’s rights should be abrogated in favour of a POTENTIAL person.

          And btw, even IF we pretend that a zygote is a person, no person has the right to use another person’s body without consent.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          As if we start with a teeny weeny microscopic baby sucking its thumb and it just gets bigger.

        • purr

          I got argent confused with Brooks P. Had to paste the science again!

          My bad, I get pro-lifers easily confused with one another. They all use the same arguments!

        • purr

          http://scm-l3.technorati.com/11/10/27/55025/zygote.jpg?t=20111027092220

          This is not an ‘extremely small human’. The homunculus theory has already been disproven, dipshit. It is nothing more than a genetic blueprint.

          I suggest you actually try to read, and then comprehend, the science I presented you with.

        • argent

          http://www.abort73.com/abortion/medical_testimony/

          An embryo is a new human being; this is an indisputable scientific fact.

          If it is merely a blueprint, what is it that’s using the blueprint to create a new human being? What does a new human being look like if not a single cell?

          Again, you can accept the scientific facts and still argue that some humans aren’t “worthwhile” human beings. But if you want to argue that a human being requires something other than simply being alive to be worthwhile, you must 1) decide on what that “other thing” is, and 2) make a case for it.

        • purr

          An embryo is a new human being; this is an indisputable scientific fact.

          An embryo is human. It is not a human BEING. Human BEINGS are sentient, sapient creatures. Human beings are not single celled genetic blueprints – as I have demonstrated. Human beings are not 1/2 placenta. Now are they?

          If it is merely a blueprint, what is it that’s using the blueprint to create a new human being? What does a new human being look like if not a single cell?

          I have already explained. In great depth. Do try to keep up.

          Again, you can accept the scientific facts and still argue that some humans aren’t “worthwhile” human beings

          As I keep having to explain to you, human DNA does not a human being make.

          A zygote, and a pre-viability fetus has as much sentience as clinically braindead corpse.

          Are you willfully ignorant or are you just that uneducated about fetal development ? Either way, you need to educate yourself before you take the liberty to make decisions for others based on false, or just flat out misleading statements from pro-life PROPAGANDA websites.

          A brain-dead person with a functioning heart/lungs/brain stem will still show electrical activity in the brain, but they won’t show the particular “brainwaves” that are characteristic of the higher cortical functions of cognition. So the whole EEG isn’t “flat”, just the part of the EEG profile that shows a thinking person is using that brain tissue.

          (A better description would be the more scientific exactitude of “clinical significant electrical brain activity” to avoid confusion.)

          At this point no “person” with sentience or awareness is present in the body, and it is legal to discontinue life support, and harvest organs for transplant, as without a functioning brain the body is just a collection of tissue.

          People who are diagnosed as clinically brain dead are routinely disconnected from life support and used to provide the organs for transplantations (no murder charges have ever been filled for this and none ever will be) A fetus does not have the bilaterally synchronous electroencephalographic patterns in the cortical area of the brain to be considered alive until 26-30 weeks of gestation, exactly like those who are diagnosed as clinically brain dead by physicians.

          People who are considered clinically brain-dead, have brainwaves (and sometimes even a beating heart), just not in the part of the brain that means that they are still alive. At this point doctors can start organ harvesting or turn off life support, no murder charges have ever, or will ever be been filed.

          A fetus younger then 26-30 weeks does not have all the brain structure (cortex) or the synapse, neurons etc in place to show more brain activity then a person who is clinically brain dead, as measured with the same machine (EEG) The heart might beat, but nobody is home.

          No embryo or fetus has ever been found to have “brain
          waves,” before 26-30 weeks gestation, although extensive EEG studies have been done on premature babies.

          In fact a fetus does not have a functional cortex before
          20-24 weeks gestation, no neurons, dendrites, and axons, with synapses between them are physically present. (Pretty hard to show activity in a structure that is not even present yet)

          Since these requirements are not present in the human cortex before 20-24 weeks of gestation, it is not possible to record the clinical significant electrical brain activity indicative of any form sentience and awareness prior to 20-24 weeks. (at that point the cerebral cortex can display some small intermittent non synchronous activity (“stutter”) This is not surprising since it is pretty hard to show activity in a brain structure that is not even present yet.

          Functional maturity of the cerebral cortex is suggested by fetal and neonatal electroencephalographic patterns, bilaterally synchronous eeg are ONLY seen at a minimum of 26 to 29 weeks gestation.

          Studies used are;
          -Hamlin,H. (1964), “Life or Death by EEG,”Journal of the American Medical Association, October 12,113 -J. Goldenring, “Development of the Fetal Brain,” New England Jour. of Med., Aug. 26, 1982, p. 564 -K.J.S. Anand, a leading researcher on pain in newborns, and P.R. Hickey, published in NEJM

          So until the fetus has the same level of clinical brain activity (first seen at 26-29 weeks gestation, well after abortion becomes unavailable) as the woman in question, it is very dishonest (to say the least) to award the fetus more human rights than the woman.

        • purr

          Here, some actual science from some actual biologists:

          1)Biologist Johnathan M Sullivan MD PhD writes: You and I contain much, much more information, both genetic and otherwise, than a blastocyst. That’s why I can write this column and you can read it, whereas a blastocyst just.. .sits there. Indeed, that is the exactly the point of stem cell research: the stem cells in the blastocyst have not yet
          acquired the molecular programming required for differentiation, and so they remain pluripotent, awaiting the necessary molecular signals (the information) that will tell them whether to become nerve or muscle, skin or bone.

          Blastocysts are nothing more than a little clump of cells, each of them a snippet of DNA surrounded by cytoplasm. But that DNA was later transcribed into RNA, and that RNA was translated into proteins. And some of those proteins were transcription factors that told other cells
          in the blastocyst what to do, when to divide, where to migrate. Transcription factors regulated the expression of still other transcription factors. Genes were turned on and off with clockwork precision. Some genes were methylated, so they could never be turned on again.

          In other words, the genome and the proteome of the blastocyst were changed as the embryo accumulated molecular information that the blastocyst did not have.

          The embryo became a fetus, with complex orientations of
          tissues–loaded with spatial, genetic, biochemical and mechanical information that simply did not exist in the embryo.

          The fetus became a child with a nervous system, and that nervous system sucked up information about the world, hard-wiring pathways for vision and movement, learning to make subtle distinctions between this and that, accumulating information that simply did not exist in the
          fetus.

          In other words, the blastocyst launched a genetic program that both extracted and acquired information. It didn’t start out as a human being. It became a human being, with a personality, feelings, attitudes and memories, by accumulating information that was not there before.

          Equating a blastocyst with a human being is like equating a brand new copy of an inexpensive spreadsheet program with the priceless databases that you’ll eventually build up with that program. It’s no less
          ridiculous than saying that a blueprint has the same value as a skyscraper–that it is the skycraper.

          No. They are not the same.

          2) Biologist Scott Gilbert writes:

          Genetics

          This view states that a genetically unique person begins at conception – a fertilized egg now hosts a complete genome, making it distinct from the sex cells that came before it. This definition has the advantage of saying that a new individual has been created that can be distinct from its parents, but is still limited by the fact that this embryo is still in an early stage of development and far from viable as an individual.

          This view also causes a funny paradox in the case of monozygotic (identical) twins: each twin does not exist as an individual when “its life begins” – that is, when it is conceived as the embryo doesn’t split into two parts until later. This paradox could possibly be resolved by
          considering the pre-twinning embryo as a disparate entity
          from either of the resulting embryos. This is why viewing the formation of life as a continuous process rather than a single event is beneficial.

          Instructions for Development and Heredity are NOT all in the Fertilised egg. The view that we are genetically determined by the combination of parental DNA has been shown to fall far short of the complete story. How the DNA is interpreted can vary greatly affected by things such as the maternal diet. Similarly some development requires

          certain bacteria to be present. Thirdly, and most surprisingly, the level of maternal care can determine which areas of DNA are ‘methylated’ which radically alters how they are interpreted. As such the view that we are ‘complete but unformed’ at conception is far from accurate.

          The Embryo is NOT Safe Within the Womb. Modern research shows that 30% or fewer fertilised eggs will go on to become foetuses. Many of these early miscarriages
          are because of abnormal numbers of chromosomes. The view that every fertilised egg is a potential human being is wrong in around 70% of cases.

          There is NOT a Moment of Fertilisation when the passive egg receives the active sperm.Again recent research has shown that the previous commonly held view that the fastest sperm races towards the egg and, bingo, we’re up and running is wrong on many levels. Fertilisation is a
          process taking up to four days. As such there is no magic moment, rather there is a process. There is NO consensus amongst scientists that life begins
          at conception.There isn’t even consensus amongst scientists as to whether there’s consensus. There is no consensus amongst embryologists, let alone scientists.

          Neurology

          Just as death is usually defined by the cessation of brain activity, so the start of life can be defined as the start of a recognisable Electroencephalography[wp] (EEG) pattern from the fetus. This is usually twenty four to twenty seven weeks after conception.

          The point of using neurological factors rather than other signs such as a heartbeat is that this is a much more useful indicator from the point of view of science. A heart beats using mostly involuntary muscle movements so is really little different from any other spontaneous
          motion or metabolic processes. A heartbeat means relatively little in real terms, although it is more dramatic from an emotive point of view.

          By your logic, every sperm and egg should be protected too, as they are all potential ‘babies’. In fact, with current technology, every skin cell and most of the cells in your body can become babies. This is how Dolly the sheep was created. So, all of those potential babies must also
          be protected.

          And by your argument that potential = actuality then we can give children driver’s licenses at age 5, because they will be able to drive someday, therefore, we should give them those rights NOW. And you know what, you will be dead someday. Since in your idiotic logic, potential =
          actual, we should treat you like a corpse and harvest your organs RIGHT NOW. Idiot.

          No, moron. Because they are not infringing on anyone’s bodily autonomy. They are also INDIVIDUALS not microscopic cells. A baby can SUFFER. A zygote cannot.

          http://www.amazon.com/Developmental-Biology-Looseleaf-Tenth-Edition/dp/160535192X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1384195273&sr=8-1&keywords=scott+gilbert

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          An embryo is a new human being; this is an indisputable scientific fact.

          And if we define “human being” as “having Homo sapiens DNA,” then I agree.

          So what?

          Again, you can accept the scientific facts and still argue that some humans aren’t “worthwhile” human beings.

          And by using “human beings,” you get to bounce between two definitions. One is of a single cell that you need a microscope to see, and the other are children and adults. These two groups are really, really different.

          Have you read the spectrum argument? Maybe if you responded directly to the challenges there, we could make progress.

          But if you want to argue that a human being requires something other than simply being alive to be worthwhile, you must 1) decide on what that “other thing” is, and 2) make a case for it.

        • argent

          I’m using one single definition of a human being, which is a scientifically well-defined concept. Something that is human and is also a complete living being is a human being; this is a biological fact that we can all point to and agree on, right?

          I reread the argument, and the premise seems to be “embryos, particularly those very early in the embryonic stage, are very different from adults, and attain ‘adult-like’ qualities on a spectrum of development”.

          The conclusion seems to be “therefore they attain personhood and human rights on a similar spectrum, and so the personhood and rights of an embryo are very different from the personhood and rights of an adult.”

          Is that accurate? If so, where do you get from the premise to the conclusion?

          Edit: also, I probably won’t continue to respond if you can’t take care of your friend. I came here for a rational debate, not childish insults. Not trying to flake out on you, just looking after myself.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

          We could have loads of fun haggling over definitions, but I’d rather not. My only caution to you is to avoid conflating “human being” meaning (1) babies, children, and adults with (2) anything with human DNA.

          We share great concern for the first set. The second set is a mixed bag, and I see no inherent value at the single-cell end of the spectrum.

          I reread the argument

          Thank you. And what do you think of the PETA attempt to collapse the spectrum. Do you reject it as I do?

          Is that accurate?

          Pretty much.

          If so, where do you get from the premise to the conclusion?

          I don’t know how to explain it any more simply. Do I need to explain to you that a mosquito isn’t as important as you are? If we’re on the same page there, I don’t know how you can equate a single cell with a trillion-cell newborn.

          Yes, they share the same DNA. So what? Are you seriously telling me that your eyes mist up when you think of how fabulous human DNA is, but you don’t much care for rat or snail or banana DNA?

        • purr

          I’m using one single definition of a human being, which is a scientifically well-defined concept. Something that is human and is also a complete living being is a human being; this is a biological fact that we can all point to and agree on, right?

          The word “being” has a number of definitions, one of which relates to “existence”. So, in that sense, because an unborn human exists, it would qualify as a “human being”. However, likewise so would a radish plant qualify as a “radish being”. But since that latter phrase is not
          normally used in casual conversations, it logically follows that in those conversations, which so frequently include the phrase “human being”, the word “being” refers to something other than “existence”. The actual relevant definition can be inferred from other phrases that are
          used from time to time: “intelligent being”, extraterrestrial being”, “alien being”. The word “being” is simply a synonym for “person”.

          Since a radish plant is not a person, that is why the phrase “radish being” does not get used in ordinary conversations. The propaganda is now obvious; abortion opponents are claiming that an unborn human qualifies as a person, without offering any evidence other than the
          label “being”. Note that because ordinary animals are also nonpersons, we don’t use phrases like “rabbit being” in typical conversations, either. And, measurably animal-level are the minds that unborn humans do
          have! (How often do you encounter the phrase “fetus being”?)

          Meanwhile, True Artificial Intelligences, when they eventually begin to exist, will qualify as “machine beings”, even though their offspring, won’t qualify as persons until after many months of acquiring parts.

          By your logic, according to biology, the amoeba offspring is a living organism of any of the microscopic unicellular protozoans of the rhizopodan order Amoebida, and therefore an AMOEBA BEING.

          Oh, and a zygote/embryo/fetus is NOT a complete human being. It is incomplete and partially formed.

    • purr

      An undifferentiated mass of tissue smaller than the period at the end of this sentence is not a ‘child’ let alone a ‘person’ you ignoramus.

  • purr

    As others have said in the past, your freedom of action stops when your fist encroaches on my personal space

    The woman’s body is her personal space and the fetus has no right to it.

    And considering the fact that women are actual PEOPLE, and microscopic embryos are only potential people, it is cruel and unjust to subjugate a woman to the contents of her uterus.

  • purr

    Citation needed.

  • purr

    Liar.

  • GeorgiaPeach23

    As one of 12 children of neglect and abuse, I also stand for the right of a child to be wanted. The needs of existing children should be privileged to the extent that conceiving additional children is an immoral act if it will result in depriving the existing children of necessary resources.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined Bob Seidensticker

      GP: Nicely stated. It baffles me how pro-lifers can be so closed minded to ignore the issues of the mother, her family, and the life that the unborn will be thrust into. They wipe their hands–once they’ve convinced a girl to avoid an abortion, their job is done (and the job is about to begin for the mother to be).

  • asmondius

    As I said before, your ‘spectrum’ only works with static subjects, whereas human beings would be in constant motion across the spectrum. You’re trying to use a ruler to divide the ocean.

    The Nazis had a ‘spectrum’ as well – Aryan on the right, Jewish on the left. Depending on where you were, maybe you just faced discrimantion, or maybe you were sent off to the camps. This is a very flawed idea, Bob. You’re trying to equivocate a moral issue.

    What really made me sad was your attempt to equate a tissue sample to a zygote. Certainly you must know the difference . This looks like the absolute bottom of the barrel as far as arguments go.

    I also don’t buy into your concept of ‘potential life’. The science you sometimes use as a pseudoreligion certainly doesn’t support that concept.

    Then, as I scroll down, I see you blithely blogging away as the person you are conversing with is being called an ‘ignoramus’ and ‘dipshit’ by one of your minions. Is this the type of person you want to be a hero for, Bob? Is this what you really want to do with what remains of life?

    • MNb

      If you said something before it’s likely completely wrong.

      “your ‘spectrum’ only works with static subjects”
      Yup, total nonsense. If you move from A to B the space between A and B is a spectrum, still you’re not static by definition.

      “The Nazis had a ‘spectrum’ as well – Aryan on the right, Jewish on the left.”
      Well, I already figured out that you’re braindead, so I won’t call you a liar – but a liar you are. A spectrum describes a continuous transition, not a discrete one like the nazi racial theory. But you probably don’t even know what continuous and discrete mean.

      • asmondius

        If there is a ‘continuous transition’, then surely abortion is wrong.

        Desirability based upon a racial theory is no different than desirability based upon stage of development. Both categorize a preferential type of human based upon physical characteristics.

        • MNb

          “If there is a ‘continuous transition’, then surely abortion is wrong.”
          Surely? Why? This looks like a non-sequitur to me. The point is that killing a human being is wrong indeed; killing a non-being is an entirely different matter. Or do you think slicing off a bit of your skin when you have a small wound or removing your appendix when it’s inflamed should be prohibited as well?

          “Desirability based upon a racial theory is no different than desirability based upon stage of development.”
          Then you reject the concept of personhood, of human being. Because a zygote of a few weeks is exactly like that piece of skin or your appendix: a small lump of living cells. Not a person. Not a human being. No consciousness.

        • asmondius

          Let me give you a quick lesson:
          DNA in my skin cell is not unique – it matches the DNA in every other cell of my body. It will also not develop into a new human being.
          A human fertilized egg has DNA which is unique from both mother and father and will most definitely grow into a new person.

        • 90Lew90

          You’re in no position to be dishing out any lessons.

          “A human fertilized egg has DNA which is unique from both mother and father and will most definitely grow into a new person.”

          Will most definitely? Such certitude! In fact, 65% to 80% of fertilised eggs — little cell clumps you like to call people — abort naturally within the first six weeks of a woman’s pregnancy, often without her even knowing. Think about it. All those souls. All down the toilet because according to you, your god wills it.

        • TheNuszAbides

          sadly, that itself must qualify for some as an excuse for keeping women (and anyone else, really) ignorant of inconvenient facts like minute details of reproduction.

        • MNb

          Wrong as always and you being braindead you write it yourself. The fertilized egg has got half of its DNA from the mother and the other half from the father. Nothing unique hear. Plus what Lew writes.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/ Bob Seidensticker

      As I said before, your ‘spectrum’ only works with static subjects, whereas human beings would be in constant motion across the spectrum.

      What is your objection? Yes, the fetus would move across the spectrum.

      The Nazis had a ‘spectrum’ as well

      And … ? Are you saying that all spectrums are evil or something?

      This is a very flawed idea, Bob. You’re trying to equivocate a moral issue.

      It’s how everyone sees human fetal development. You’ll have to explain the flaw.

      What really made me sad was your attempt to equate a tissue sample to a zygote. Certainly you must know the difference .

      A skin cell cloned into a baby vs. a zygote that grows into a baby? No, sorry—I’m missing the difference.

      I guess there’s a difference between an IVF baby and a homemade baby … but not really.

      This looks like the absolute bottom of the barrel as far as arguments go.

      I disappointed you? Golly.

      I also don’t buy into your concept of ‘potential life’.

      Remind me. What is this?

      Is this the type of person you want to be a hero for, Bob?

      I’ve got an idea! Let’s stay on topic.

  • TheNuszAbides

    New Mexico Bill Would Criminalize Abortions …

    i pictured a Yosemite Sam -type figure.
    now i definitely need a nap.

  • TheNuszAbides

    if we’re all totally convinced that people who disagree with us do so out of a perverse intransigence

    i know this is very late to the party, but that is the sort of thing i have nightmares about, see as a huge waste of energy, and never quite put into words. and suspect that it’s not only more common that would be admitted but more common than is easily observed…

  • TheNuszAbides

    i smell a radical transubstantiation fancy in there somewhere…
    are there blogs that explore rumors about Rosicrucian rituals?

  • TheNuszAbides

    that explains the sinister (and i do mean left-handed) appeal of The Great Deceiver – so damned dynamic!

  • TheNuszAbides

    but the question remains: did this wish come true in fact FOR THE LOVE OF GOD?

  • TheNuszAbides

    Hey, everybody–be nice.

    *salutes*
    *goes back to eating brains*


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