Does Faith Get a Voice in the Abortion Debate?

I’m going to do something I haven’t done since my very first days of blogging. I’m going to write about abortion. Back in the day, I thought I had expressed everything I needed to say about it. But in recent days, following the debate in Texas on late term abortion, new perspectives and misconceptions on it just keep cropping up.

For instance, here is a Rabbi  Aaron Alexander, whose Huff-post piece “Abortion, Does My Faith Get a Voice?” suggests that the debate about when life begins is a “religious” one:

“You first need to know that I seriously admire your advocacy on behalf of life. To battle for deeply held convictions in this age is no small thing and deserves praise. You possess a (not THE) definition of what constitutes life and you won’t back down from trying to defend it. There is much integrity to that consistency.

But, like all things religious, it is also potentially dangerous.

So this is the part I don’t understand. Your definition of when life begins is not based on scientific fact. It is your religiously held belief. But it isn’t mine.

My religious tradition — which prioritizes life above all else — generally assumes that potential life doesn’t become its own living entity until 40 days into the pregnancy. And, for the entire pregnancy, the mother’s life is always given priority. Right up until birth. (See Mishnah Ohalot, 7:6.) That includes both physical health, and even in certain cases (like rape), emotional health as well.”

What the Rabbi doesn’t understand is that the pro-life position is based on fact. It is also held by all types of people who do not all describe themselves as religious.

Deciding when life is worthy of protection (while for some it has a religious dimension) is not actually a religious decision-it’s an ethical one. Calling it a religious one is a cop-out that prevents reasoned argument based on facts, like the fact that a fetal heartbeat has been present and is detectable as early as 5 1/2 weeks gestation, like the fact that a fetus has its own DNA, it’s own fingerprints, it’s own fundamental “is-ness” or existence that was not present before conception.

There have always been–and still are– religions that have found permissible grounds for the extinguishing of human life. Typically, the state protects the dignity and rights of other individuals to life and liberty where someone else’s religious practice might rob them of the same. So while Jewish tradition might allow abortion until the quickening when some rabbinical authorities believe that the soul becomes present–a secular ethic might actually conclude the opposite, that the proof of a soul is not a requirement for the protection of human life.

Such an ethic would form the grounds for the protection of other “inchoate” human lives as well. In the past, societies have argued the absence of a soul in black people, the mentally and physically disabled, the senile, etc. I consider it a huge societal advance that in almost every life issue, save abortion, apparently, we no longer split that particular hair.

So the short answer to Rabbi Alexander is “No. Your faith does not get a voice.” And neither does mine. On the matter of when life begins, science provides plenty of evidence to inform the discussion.

A better question might be, “Does your religion (whether you practice Judaism, Catholicism, Paganism, Evangelicalism, or the Church of Women’s Health) cause you to ignore scientific fact?”

About Elizabeth Duffy
  • MrRoivas

    In answer to your question, yes, I’ve seen it many times. Many different bloggers on the Catholic section on this site have spread lies about different forms of birth control, abortion of laws restricting abortion. And to pretend that their religion doesn’t come into it, to embrace faux shock at the Rabbi’s framing is dishonest.

    • JoAnna Wahlund

      Ah, irony. Someone lying about lying.

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

    I’m pro-choice on this matter, but I applaud your looking to science and evidence instead of faith for a resolution to the abortion question. And I agree with you that the fetus does develop over time–it doesn’t have a heartbeat and after a certain point it does, it doesn’t have fingerprints and after a certain point it does, and so on.

    It’s this enormous difference between the fetus at conception and at birth that makes the common pro-life argument that it’s a “baby” or “person” or whatever across the entire spectrum look uninformed.

    • Melissa

      And yet, Bob, you were once a fetus, you were once an embryo, you were once a zygote. So, by logical extension of the pro-choice argument, you were once NOT a person, you were once not a human being. Does that seem to be a tenable position to you?

      And if you once were not a person, when did you become one? And what were the differentiating criteria between your non-personhood and your personhood? Why did you become a person at that particular moment (a moment I imagine I would deem arbitrary) and not two days prior or two days after?

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

        by logical extension of the pro-choice argument, you were once NOT a person, you were once not a human being. Does that seem to be a tenable position to you?

        The definitions are always changeable in conversations like this, but I would say, yes, I was once not a person. If we define “human being” = “Homo sapiens,” I’d say that I was always a human being, but there again I’m flexible.

        To answer your question: of course that’s tenable. I’m 55 years old. A century ago, I simply wasn’t—not a fact that causes me to lose any sleep.

        And if you once were not a person, when did you become one?

        Personhood is a spectrum. A single cell is not a person, and a newborn baby is a person. In between those dates, you have an in-between person.

        This is a big topic, of course, and I’ve written more about the spectrum argument here.

        Why did you become a person at that particular moment (a moment I imagine I would deem arbitrary) and not two days prior or two days after?

        Again, it’s a spectrum. We give parents the benefit of the doubt with parenting, and I we do the same thing with the pregnant woman–we also give her the benefit of the doubt. At some point, however, society says that it must take control. That date isn’t arbitrary (like throwing darts at a calendar, for example) but is a hopefully appropriate compromise.

      • Melissa

        That’s a fair response. As for the question at what time should society take control, are you a ‘any abortion is acceptable up until the moment of complete birth pro-choicer, or do you think the line should be drawn earlier? When would YOU draw the line?

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

          I have no strong opinion on where to draw the line. My main interest here is to get reactions to the spectrum argument.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            In other words,you don’t actually believe in the spectrum argument yourself, you just put it forth as a straw man argument.

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

            Was my last comment unclear? Some people want to argue where the line for abortion should be drawn. Not me. My interest is in the spectrum argument. Why would my own argument be a straw man??

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Since your spectrum argument can’t give a line between “person” and “not person”, it’s a worthless argument that you yourself don’t believe, since you obviously believe in “person” and “not person” distinctions. If you were following the spectrum argument to its obvious conclusion, you would have to conclude that life exists throughout the spectrum, and thus, the entire idea of a person/not person distinction becomes as ludicrous as planting an apple seed and expecting to get an elephant.

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

            Consider a spectrum that evenly goes from blue to green. Where’s the line? We can argue about where to draw a line between, but it’s still a spectrum. I look at the progression from single cell to trillion-cell newborn. Sure looks like a spectrum to me.

            Yes, life exists throughout the spectrum. I guess that means that “spectrum of life” would be a poor title for it.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            The spectrum that evenly goes from blue to green, and in fact, from infrared to ultraviolet, is the spectrum of visible light.

            It’s all the same stuff. It is all light.

            Likewise, the progression from a single cell to a multi-trillion cell adult is a spectrum indeed- but what that indicates is that the individual is the *same individual* throughout that spectrum. Thus, the conclusion must be, despite all other appearances, that the single cell contains the blueprint of the multi-trillion cell adult; and that we must grant personhood to everything on that spectrum.

            To argue otherwise is to claim that light isn’t light when you put a filter in front of it.

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

            Read the argument. You’re simply determined to misunderstand.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I’ve read the argument, several times. Your argument is claiming that light is sometimes not light, that persons are sometimes not persons. Since the spectrum can’t give a definitive line, this is a ridiculous argument on its face, and is highly irrational and not worthy of any intellectual to continue to debate it. You don’t believe it yourself, or else you’d come to a different conclusion, thus it is just an elaborate straw man.

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

            You’re kind of a waste of time, aren’t you? Ya gotta understand the argument to critique it. You don’t.

            No, I don’t claim that light is sometimes not light. I claim that blue is not green—how about you? And I claim that a single cell that you need a microscope to see is not a person. (And if we disagree on the definition of “person,” I’m flexible. Give me a better term that describes what the newborn is and the single cell isn’t. That’s what the spectrum is of, with hash marks going from 0% to 100%.)

            Since the spectrum can’t give a definitive line, this is a ridiculous argument on its face

            Is there a spectrum of personhood? That’s how I’d describe the progression from 1 cell to 1,000,000,000,000. If there is, where’s the ridiculousness?

            You don’t believe it yourself, or else you’d come to a different conclusion

            Wrong again.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            “You’re kind of a waste of time, aren’t you? Ya gotta understand the argument to critique it. ”

            I understand it. It is irrational.

            Blue contains green. Your body contains stem cells no different from that blastocyst.

            Your conclusion is irrational and does not follow from the evidence. Try again.

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

            Or, you could just ignore the points that I make. Sure, that’s another way to respond.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            When you make a rational point, I shall respond to it.

          • Edwin Woodruff Tait

            Let’s approach is this way: why are you so sure that a newborn is a person? Peter Singer thinks not. Why do you disagree?

    • AnsonEddy

      And there is an enormous difference between a person at birth and a person at adulthood, but we don’t wring our hands at whether they are ontologically different from each other.

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

        I disagree. There’s a trivial difference between a person at birth and a person at adulthood, at least in the context of what we’re talking about here.

        What does the adult body have? Eyes, ears, brain and nervous system, stomach and digestive system, heart and circulatory system, arms and legs, liver and pancreas, and on and on. And the newborn? Same thing.

        What about the single cell? Nothing. It’s a cell. That’s it.

        Given the scale we’re talking about (one cell vs. a trillion-cell newborn), the newborn and adult are almost identical.

        • AnsonEddy

          From a biological perspective there is at least one HUGE difference between a person at birth and a person at adulthood: reproductive capability. Since a baby is incapable of reproduction and an organism is only biologically successful if it is reproductively capable, why not draw the line for personhood at puberty? That is far more scientifically valid than worrying about the presence/absence of eyes or ears, right?

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

            Yes, that is a difference, but if that is “huge,” I can’t imagine what we label all the other features that adults and babies share but are not present in the single cell.

            The commonality between single cell and the trillion-cell newborn is the DNA. Sure, that allows you to call it “homo sapiens” at both ends of the spectrum, and call it “human” if you want. But the DNA really isn’t that big a deal when you think about what it is that the new parents of a baby delight in.

          • AnsonEddy

            Not a biologist by training are you, Bob? Yes, from a biological (read: scientific) perspective reproductive capability is pretty “huge”. But now you’re left with arbitrary, sentimental (read: unscientific) arguments about human life such as having those qualities in which a new parent delights. Not sure where to put that one on the ‘scientific scale’.

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

            I mixed a few ideas there. Try to keep up, OK?

            From a scientific standpoint, I’m happy to accept that the reproductive maturity that an adult has is huge. But then let’s properly describe the far huger gulf between newborn baby and single cell.

            From an emotional standpoint, let’s remind ourselves what “baby” means. Giggles and smiles come from newborns, not single cells. The excited parents-to-be can call their child-to-be whatever they want. Doesn’t bother me if they call it a baby from day one. The problem is when someone wants to impose on all of us, by law, the idea that it’s a baby when it’s just a single cell and that the differences from one end of the spectrum to the other end, 9 months later, are meaningless.

          • AnsonEddy

            Sentimentalism does not equal science. A baby’s personhood does not hinge on how delightful Bob does or does not find it.

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

            I was approaching this from two angles, but fine, let’s stick to science.

            If you’re interested in understanding my spectrum argument better, I’ve discussed it in more detail here.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Your entire spectrum argument is a straw man that you don’t believe yourself. It can readily be discounted as NOT SCIENCE.

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

            Do you want to actually make an argument? This isn’t one.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            The argument is since your conclusion doesn’t follow from your premise, your version of the spectrum argument is not science, and is instead as much faith as a polynesian cargo cultist worshiping a bamboo model of an airplane.

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

            It seems to make sense to me. I’d ask you what the problem is, but I doubt I’ll get much more than “I don’t like this argument!” as a subtext.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Worshiping a bamboo model of an airplane makes sense to a polynesian cargo cultist as well.

            It isn’t that I don’t like the argument. It is that the argument is irrational. Like and dislike don’t come into it; the argument fails on its own merits, not mine.

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

            Oh? List the points of this irrational argument to me. I thought I understood it pretty well (it’s my argument, after all), but perhaps you’ve seen flaws that I’ve missed.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            The fact that it is YOUR argument means you’ll always be blind to the flaws (just as I had to leave Catholicism to see why my cradle cafeteria catholicism was flawed) in your faith.

            Your main point is that because the single cell doesn’t look like a human being, means that it isn’t a person.

            Your secondary point is that because we slough off dead skin cells of identical DNA to the rest of the DNA in our body, we can’t call a single cell an organism.

            But what you are missing is that the blastocyst is UNIQUE. And has exactly the same DNA as every healthy cell in the adult human decades later.

            All of the “programming” already exists. Therefore personhood already exists, regardless of what the faith known as the law claims.

            And that’s why your conclusion (that spectrum arguments allow us to separate persons and not persons) is irrational in and of itself. The conclusion doesn’t follow from the premise. If the spectrum exists, so does the person the spectrum applies to.

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

            The fact that it is YOUR argument means you’ll always be blind to the flaws

            And that’s what we call a non sequitur, boys and girls!

            Your main point is that because the single cell doesn’t look like a human being, means that it isn’t a person.

            Wrong again. I’m happy to call a single cell a human being.

            But what you are missing is that the blastocyst is UNIQUE.

            How can I be missing that when I agree with it?

            And has exactly the same DNA as every healthy cell in the adult human decades later.

            Oh, so your argument is an argument of potential. “It ain’t much now, but it has the potential to become a person.” Is that it?

            All of the “programming” already exists.

            “It’s all DNA, people! Forget personality and morality and babies and adults. It’s all DNA!”

            Therefore personhood already exists, regardless of what the faith known as the law claims.

            (Ever notice that people have a hard time staying patient around you? It’s not them, it’s you.)

            Gee, I guess we differ on the definition of “personhood.” OK, good to know. Give me a better term then that describes what the newborn has and the single cell doesn’t. There’s a pretty huge difference; there’s gotta be some word to describe this.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Hmm- identification of blind faith is now a non sequitur? I’ll have to remember that the next time you try to talk about prayer at all.

            If you are happy to call a single cell a human being, then it is a person.

            I’m saying it isn’t just potential. I’m saying that the DNA snippet for an arm must make an arm and not a tentacle.

            There isn’t a better term- because that single cell already contains everything that the newborn has. Anything else is a matter of faith, not science.

          • Edwin Woodruff Tait

            Greater maturity–the same thing that adult has that the newborn hasn’t. What’s totally lacking in your argument is any account of why birth should be the “magic moment,” the end of the spectrum. The spectrum extends not from conception to birth, but from conception to death, or at least from conception to physical and mental maturity.

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

            I don’t argue that birth is the magic moment. I’ve made no argument (and don’t have much of an opinion on) where the dividing line should be.

            Sure, we can see the spectrum extending from conception through death, but once we get to the newborn stage, all other developments are pretty tiny by comparison to what came before.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Emotional standpoint counts for no more than faith counts for. If you eliminate faith, I can eliminate emotion.

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

            It’s when you want to impose whatever your position is (I can’t figure it out) on everyone else that it may become a problem.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Emotion is as forbidden as faith in law and politics. Thus arguments from emotion are as much to be discounted as arguments from faith.

        • Melissa

          Okay, but if you are going to use that reasoning, then there is only a trivial difference between an 8-week fetus, which also has eyes, ears, brain, nervous system, heart, circ system, digestive system, and so on. The difference between an 8-week fetus and a newborn is trivial as well, when you compare the fetus with a single-celled zygote.

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

            So you buy the spectrum argument? You reject, as I do, the idea that it’s a baby (or person) at both ends of the spectrum?

          • Melissa

            I responded to this under the post, as these lines are getting smaller and smaller…

          • Edwin Woodruff Tait

            Melissa’s argument is a powerful objection against your spectrum argument, not an agreement with it. You need to answer her.

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

            I don’t see anything that I’ve not responded to. Please point out any omission.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          Now that we know what DNA does, there is a trivial difference between a single cell blastocyst and an 80-year-old being of whatever species you want that will live to 80.

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

            You’ve lost me. All I can get from this is that you don’t like what I’m saying. If there’s substance here, you’ll have to be clearer.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Since we know that all of the physical attributes of the life form exist in the DNA to begin with, the distinction between the single cell blastocyst and the end result is preordained, and thus, trivial, to use your own word.

            You would have to have faith, and acknowledge the existence of a soul, to say differently.

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

            The difference between single cell and newborn is enormous. By comparison, the difference between newborn and toddler, say, is trivial–no new body parts, not that much bigger, and so on.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            No, actually, it isn’t enormous, it’s very very tiny, and very very trivial.

            ALL of the body parts are already in existence in those 23 pairs of Chromosomes (well, other than human beings with chromosomal difference, who might have 24, 25, 26, 27 pairs or even as few as 20, but unless you’re willing to be the type of bigot who denies personhood to Downs Syndrome children, I wouldn’t quibble). The programming is done, running the program takes a lifetime, but the original programming is already done.

            What does the number of cell divisions have to do with it? Absolutely nothing. The science itself says that life begins at conception. Anything else is faith.

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

            Yes, life begins at conception. We’re not talking about that.

            Here we have the atheist celebrating newborns (my wife and I have raised two kids), with arms and legs and smiles and giggles. And the Christian is saying, “Nope—that isn’t the point. The point is just DNA. Yep, just DNA. Just chemicals. That’s all that matters.”

            Wow. Isn’t this kind of embarrassing? It should be.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I reject your irrational conclusion based entirely on emotion and rejecting science.

            You aren’t even an atheist. You have made up your own new irrational religion- Bob Seidenstickerism.

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

            My argument wilts in the face of such an onslaught.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            It isn’t an argument, it is a faith.

    • Laura P

      The problem is, abortions don’t occur when a human being is a single cell. All direct induced abortions occur when the heart is already beating and there’s already much complexity in the developing human. Women typically don’t even know they’re pregnant until a great deal of development has already taken place.

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

        True, but this just sidesteps my point. Is there a difference between the single cell at one end of the spectrum and the newborn at the other? That’s what I’m talking about.

        If we agree that personhood increases along with development and that an early abortion is better than a late one, let’s push for early pregnancy tests. Let’s make them available. If an abortion is to happen, let’s make it early rather than late.

    • Heather

      This is assuming having a heart constitutes the beginning of life. On the contrary, a being is alive when it as dividing cells with unique DNA that will accompany it through it’s life within and without the womb. It has all the potential of born babies and is complete in its development at the stage it is in. It is genetically identifiable as a human being. Therefore it IS a person. If you leave a week old infant to fend for itself, it will die. Does that dependence exclude that infant from personhood? That is the slippery slope being explored.

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

        Is “alive” all that meaningful? Mosquitoes are alive, and I kill them with pleasure. A cancer cell is alive.

        Yes, that first single cell is alive. So what? Your argument is one of potential, and I agree that, given time, that single cell might develop into a newborn. Again: so what? It isn’t there yet.

        You want to assign another name to my spectrum than “personhood”? Not a problem. Find a different term that a newborn has an a single cell doesn’t.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          Couldn’t you just have said “human life doesn’t matter to me” and leave it at that?

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

            Human life that’s a single cell isn’t very meaningful in an absolute sense. If someone else (like its mother) finds it meaningful, great.

            Human life that’s a newborn, by contrast, is so meaningful to society that we have laws to protect them.

            Big difference.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I wasn’t talking about society, I was talking about Bob Seidensticker. YOU don’t seem to value human life very much at all.

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

            And society and I both see things the same way.

            I’ve made clear why “human life” = single cell isn’t inherently important while “human life” = newborn is. It’s not hard to see that enormous distinction.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            That you see society as a mirror of yourself is just a symptom of your own narcissistic tendencies.

            The wish to make that distinction, means that you put a *finite* value on human life, rather than an *infinite* value on human life.

            Which means that no, you don’t respect human life, any more than any other genocidal maniac does. You have separated human life into that which has value and that which doesn’t, just replace “single cell”, “blastocyst”, or “fetus” with Jew.

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

            That you see society as a mirror of yourself is just a symptom of your own narcissistic tendencies.

            How fortunate of me to get free psychological counseling.

            No narcissism here, I’m afraid. Roe v. Wade is the law, and most Americans are OK with it.

            The wish to make that distinction, means that you put a *finite* value on human life

            The value of a single human life is infinite to you?

            you don’t respect human life, any more than any other genocidal maniac does

            Golly, I’m being won over by love!

            You have separated human life into that which has value and that which doesn’t, just replace “single cell”, “blastocyst”, or “fetus” with Jew.

            Why? Why not replace it with “slug”?

            Don’t assert that a single cell is equivalent in every meaningful way to a newborn without evidence. (Or is simply making assertions all you care to do?)

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I’m not talking about Roe V. Wade at all. I’m talking about YOUR argument that changes the value of human life to be less than say, the money spent to keep that human being alive.

            Yes, the value of a single human life is infinite to me. Even one like bin Laden or Hitler or Bob Seidensticker. I would gladly give up all other freedom, all liberty, and the capitalist economic system, in return for a guaranteed right to not have other human beings cause death.

            Your idea that a human life isn’t valuable merely because it hasn’t yet developed is just as ridiculous as the illogic of any other genocidal maniac.

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

            I’m not talking about Roe V. Wade at all.

            And I was. Let’s recap: I said, “And society and I both see things the same way.” And then you tell me that I’m a narcissistic anti-Semite.

            How that follows I don’t know. But perhaps you’ve left reasoned arguments behind.

            I’m talking about YOUR argument that changes the value of human life to be less than say, the money spent to keep that human being alive.

            Where did money come into the discussion?

            Yes, the value of a single human life is infinite to me.

            So if spending a trillion dollars would save one life then we should do that?

            If the value of a single human cell is infinite to you, that’s fine. It’s when you want to impose your opinion on the rest of society by law that we have a problem.

            Even one like bin Laden or Hitler or Bob Seidensticker.

            It just keeps gettin’ better. What’s your worldview again? Sounds like fun.

            Your idea that a human life isn’t valuable merely because it hasn’t yet developed is just as ridiculous as the illogic of any other genocidal maniac.

            You’ve said that before (though calling me a genocidal maniac is new), but you haven’t explained why. Just a gut feeling? Or is there some logic that equates a single microscopic cell to a newborn?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            What I said was that like any other genocidal maniac, you’ve decided to value human beings as less than infinite- and seem to be valuing them based on their ability to produce (thoughts at first, then physical goods) that can be sold.

            Money is mythical- an invention of mankind. Spend a trillion dollars to save a single human life, not a problem.

            All three of you *devalued certain people* for no other reason than you wanted to classify them as not human.

            Such classification is illogical and wrong in and of itself, and I’ll oppose you no matter how many armies you bring, no matter how many Gosnell clinics you open, no matter what laws you make up out of thin air that have no bearing on reality.

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

            like any other genocidal maniac, you’ve decided to value human beings as less than infinite

            Yep, me and all my genocidal maniac buddies don’t value humans as infinite. I suspect I have company in billions of more reasonable people as well.

            If this is your view, that’s fine. Just don’t impose your opinion by law on the rest of society.

            All three of you *devalued certain people* for no other reason than you wanted to classify them as not human.

            Gee … that sounds really bad except when you consider how unlike we are. Hitler didn’t like Jews. In contrast, I want to give a pregnant woman the option to value what happens in her life more than a single microscopic cell.

            Such classification is illogical and wrong in and of itself

            Once again, an assertion. Yes, I understand that this is your view. Do you want to give any evidence that this is the correct view or will you just continue to shake your little fists and stamp your little feet?

            no matter how many Gosnell clinics you open

            You don’t like Gosnell’s clinic? Me neither. But then I’m surprised that you’re eager to see that in America’s future. That’s the kind of illegal clinic will be available to women after you overturn Roe.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I can’t call you and your minions reasonable by any means.

            Hitler liked Germans. He blamed Jews for the plight of the German people. You like women. You blame the fetus for the plight of the woman. In both cases an innocent being is being blamed for something that isn’t their fault.

            And yes, that classification is illogical and wrong in and of itself. Don’t pretend you didn’t like Gosnell’s clinic and a million others just like it (Gosnell’s was LEGAL, by the way, licensed by the State to do what he did, it was only because he got caught that he was punished- they should have sentenced the previous governor and all pro-choicers right along with him). After all, you keep asking for it, because people aren’t people unless YOU say they are.

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

            Yeah, see, where I come from, we give evidence and reasons. Shaking your fist, invoking Godwin’s Law, and simply repeating your position in a more shrill voice isn’t how we discuss things.

            I suspect that you don’t give an actual argument is because you don’t have one. I guess I’ll never find out.

            Bye.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            “evidence and reasons.”

            You haven’t given EITHER yet, just bigotry that you don’t like some human beings because they *might* cause you problems in the future.

  • Melissa

    Hmmm.

    Do you really think that the different faiths ought not to have a voice in the abortion debate? I disagree. I think that the various different faiths all have something to contribute to this discussion, and if we disallow any or all faiths from taking part in the discussion because they present a religious perspective excludes an important aspect of this debate.

    I think that the questions that are important to ask are these:
    1. When does a particular human life begin? I think for the most part science has settled this one: life begins at conception.
    2. When does human life matter? This is kind of the ensoulment question, and there ARE different takes on this among the different faiths. I’m Catholic too, and I agree with our faith here: the soul is present from the very beginning, and human life always matters.
    3. Does there exist a ‘just war’-type argument for abortion? In what scenarios (if any) is it permissible to terminate a pregnancy in order to improve or protect the mother’s life or health, even if doing so would kill the baby? There aren’t very many Catholics, for example, who would argue against terminating an ectopic pregnancy, so it is reasonable to say that even Catholics find abortion permissible in VERY limited circumstances.

    Now let’s take what seems to be the Rabbi’s position. I’m inferring from the bits you quoted here, but it seems he would find abortion on demand permissible for the first six weeks to two months of the pregnancy, and abortion permissible in cases of rape or to preserve the life/health of the mother thereafter. That is a compromise position, but if that position were the law of the land, I don’t think I would be fighting to change the law.

    See, I believe strongly in the prolife position, but I also believe in the principles of democracy, and that the law of the land ought to follow the will of the people. And although I might wish it otherwise, currently the majority of people don’t believe that elective abortion should not be available. However, the majority of people aren’t comfortable with the current no-holds-barred position that the law takes. Most are in the mushy middle. I think the Rabbi’s position is a valid option that ought to be presented for consideration and a vote. It is a position that I think would have more support than what is currently held in law.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/duffy/ Elizabeth Duffy

      No, I don’t think people of faith should be disallowed from taking part in the discussion. Then Bob would make all the decisions! What a nightmare (heh). Fortunately, most religions are founded on reason and take into account the natural law, and so a secular case can be made for many issues, teachings, philosophies, etc. that are also religious. This is the common ground that people of faith should seek in the public square.

      I agree with your points 1, 2, and 3. I also believe in the principles of democracy, but in some circumstances when the “will of the people” impinges on the rights of certain weaker individuals to exist for instance, the state should protect the rights of the individual.

      • Melissa

        I’m with you, but it is pretty hard to get the state to protect the weak individual, when the will of the people don’t believe that individual has rights worth protecting, and there isn’t any law protecting him.

      • Edwin Woodruff Tait

        I disagree with your argument that the prolife position is just scientific and is not influenced by religious presuppositions. If you think that personhood is a matter of function, then there’s nothing about the scientific evidence that will convince you that an embryo is a human person. That’s a religious/philosophical issue, not a scientific one, though science isn’t irrelevant.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      Based on what I now know of advancing science with respect to ectopic pregnancy, I now disagree with the use of abortion to cure it.

      It is dangerous to be sure, but there have now been 5 children born from ectopic pregnancy- two without prenatal care as the mother herself was unaware of the pregnancy (since ectopic pregnancy takes place outside of the uterus, quite often normal periods continue during it). The oldest one is older than my own child!

  • Melissa

    Bob Seidensticker said:
    “So you buy the spectrum argument? You reject, as I do, the idea that it’s a baby (or person) at both ends of the spectrum?”

    Nope. A human being is a human being from the time that he is conceived; every human being is intrinsically valuable, and every human being has the right to life. I’m not going to play the game where we split hairs and say that this human being has a right to his life because he has reached some arbitrary milestone, but it is acceptable to kill that human being who is a couple of days or a week younger.

    That being said, I think we do need to draw lines in the sand as to what is and what is not acceptable, and, given that there isn’t a clear majority who would outlaw abortion from conception, I would be willing to compromise and say that abortion may be allowed up until the time when a heartbeat can be detected, and restricted thereafter. What about you? Are you among the pro-choicers who think abortion is acceptable up until the moment of complete birth, or would you draw the line earlier?

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

      Yes, it’s a human at both ends of the spectrum. The spectrum goes from 0% to 100%, but it’s not a spectrum of human-ness. I propose that it’s a spectrum of personhood, but you may disagree with that word as well. I don’t much care as long as we agree on and appreciate the vast difference between the single undifferentiated cell at one end and the trillion-cell baby, with each cell differentiated and fitting a precise role.

      As I said before, I have no interest in arguing about when abortion should be declared illegal. I leave that to others. I’m simply saying that collapsing the spectrum down by saying, “Eh–it’s a human at both ends” doesn’t work.

      • Melissa

        On the other hand, what you are saying here, in essence, is simply that some human beings don’t matter, that the lives of some humans are expendable.

        It should be obvious by now that the two of us aren’t going to agree. But you need to stop being disingenuous. No one aborts a single-celled zygote. No one aborts a blastocyst, for that matter. The heart starts to beat at 18 days after conception: it is incontrovertibly true that abortion stops a beating heart. A huge, huge number of abortions kill babies that actually look like babies, babies with all their internal systems in place, babies that are responding to stimuli. It is perfectly acceptable, under law, for a doctor to rip apart a baby piece by piece in utero at 23 weeks, but Dr. Kermit Gosnell is currently serving a life sentence for severing a 24-week newborn’s spinal cord. Why is one acceptable but not the other? Are you okay with the fact that, in the same hospital, a baby is being killed in utero on one floor, and, on another floor, all stops are out trying to save a baby of the same age? I would suggest that most people aren’t okay with this.

        But kudos to you for venturing over here and putting forth your views. I tip my hat to you, sir.

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

          Thank you for the welcome.

          what you are saying here, in essence, is simply that some human beings don’t matter, that the lives of some humans are
          expendable.

          Of course! You’ve broadened the definition of “human being” to include single cells. We can certainly move forward with that definition, but just realize what it entails.

          But you need to stop being disingenuous. No one aborts a single-celled zygote.

          Well, they can take Plan B, but then we’d argue about whether that’s an “abortion” or not.

          I’m simply trying to do what most pro-lifers do, figure out what we’re talking about. What is this life that we’re killing? If it’s a mosquito, who cares? And if it’s a single cell, I’m happy to leave the decision up to the mother.

          It’s not a person as a single cell (or, if you’d prefer to offer another word for what a single cell isn’t but a newborn is, that’s fine), but it is as a newborn. That’s my sole argument here.

          A huge, huge number of abortions kill babies that actually look like babies, babies with all their internal systems in place, babies
          that are responding to stimuli.

          Suggestion: the focus on abortions is just posturing. Do you actually want to make some progress? Then focus on what everyone agrees are bad, unwanted pregnancies. Let’s use education to make sure that teens understand what their new adult bodies can do.

          Dr. Kermit Gosnell is currently serving a life sentence for severing a 24-week newborn’s spinal cord. Why is one acceptable but not the other?

          Is this a trick question? Because the line for abortion is binary. It has to be somewhere. Wherever you put it, you could argue that it should’ve been a week earlier or a week later.

          And if the Gosnell example horrifies you (as it does me), keep in mind that that’s the post-legal-abortion America that many pro-lifers are pushing us toward.

          Are you okay with the fact that, in the same hospital, a baby is being killed in utero on one floor, and, on another floor, all stops are out trying to save a baby of the same age?

          That’s like asking if I’m OK with the fact that you can drown in water. It’s just a fact. Should it be startling or shocking to me?

          When a woman hears for the first time that she’s pregnant, that’s never a casual bit of news. That is either one of the best bits of news she’s heard in her entire life or one of the worst. And that’s why you have two different approaches.

          Again: you’ll make more progress focused on reducing unwanted pregnancies.

          • Melissa

            Bob,

            Much as I’d like it to be otherwise, there really isn’t much common ground at all for us to work from.

            It’s not a person as a single cell (or, if you’d prefer to offer another word for what a single cell isn’t but a newborn is, that’s fine), but it is as a newborn. That’s my sole argument here.

            You keep saying this. I understand that this is your argument. I simply reject your premise.

            Look, if you are going to say that there is a spectrum of personhood ranging from 0% at conception to 100% at birth (and why, by the way, do you say it reaches 100% at birth? Why not at several months, like Peter Singer advocates, or a year, like Julian Savalescu?) then it stands to reason that there exists a point over the gestation period when the baby is 3/5ths a person. So, which baby is 3/5ths a person? Is it him? Or her? Or him? Are there other people that you are willing to designate as untermenschen, or is it just babies in utero?

            Humanity keeps insisting, at regular intervals throughout history, to go down this rabbit hole and designate some people as lesser than others. It never ends well. No. Every one of our lives is valuable, from the time it begins to the time it ends.

            What is this life that we’re killing? If it’s a
            mosquito, who cares? And if it’s a single cell, I’m happy to leave the decision up to the mother.

            Once again, we are not talking about Plan B here. We aren’t talking about aborting a single cell. But we might be able to find some common ground to work from here. While I’m not willing to condone early-term abortions, and I’m certainly not willing to say that a woman has a right to them (as that would imply that a doctor has a duty to kill), I am, however, (and I’m speaking only for myself here, although I do imagine there are others who would agree with me) willing to ignore them, providing the woman undergoing the abortion is an informed and consenting adult.

            Dr. Kermit Gosnell is currently
            serving a life sentence for severing a 24-week newborn’s spinal cord. Why is one acceptable but not the other?

            Is this a trick question? Because the line for abortion is binary. It has to be somewhere. Wherever you put it, you could argue that it should’ve been a week earlier or a week later.

            No. It’s not a trick question. For the life of me, I cannot understand how someone could be horrified at what went on in Gosnell’s clinic on one hand, and be okay with abortion at the same gestational age on the other. Both are so far outside the bounds of human decency that I simply cannot understand how we tolerate them. If you are going to draw a line, you need to draw it within what ordinary people find acceptable, not to appease a tiny minority. (Keep in mind that only a tiny portion of the doctors who perform abortions (who are a tiny portion of doctors in general) are willing to perform abortions past 14 weeks. If doctors aren’t willing to do it, why do we tolerate it?) Take a good look around that “Endowment for Human Development” website, and decide for yourself which of those babies YOU would be willing to kill. And if you wouldn’t be willing to kill those babies, why do you think it is fair to ask a doctor to kill them?

            And if the Gosnell example horrifies you (as it does me), keep in mind that that’s the post-legal-abortion America that many pro-lifers are pushing us toward.

            Okay, you guys have really got to get over the myth that pre-Roe abortion was this nasty, dangerous process. Yeah it was dangerous in the 1920s and 30s, before the advent of antibiotics. But, in the 50s, Alan Guttmacher came out and said that abortion in America was safe, and Mary Calderone (who was medical head of Planned Parenthood) estimated that 90% of abortions were performed by a doctor in America, and, of the remaining 10%, half were performed by persons with medical training. Keep in mind that there are plenty of DIY abortions going on even now, even in places with plentiful access to abortion. Legalization was not what made abortion safer.

            Do you actually want to make some progress? Then focus on what everyone agrees are bad, unwanted pregnancies.

            Good Lord, we don’t even agree here. There was a really bad day in my life, several years ago, when I took a positive pregnancy test. Although I can’t speak for our lovely hostess, I will wager that, if she hasn’t herself experienced a sinking, nasty feeling in her stomach upon looking at a positive pregnancy test, she knows someone who has. Thing is, those unwanted pregnancies, very, very often turn into beloved, cared for, and very-much-wanted children. And I KNOW (believe me, I know) how tempting abortion looks when you are faced with an unwanted pregnancy. And I also know how much I would come to regret that decision, had I made it. There are untold numbers of women who are suffering greatly because of a past decision to abort. Abandoning a woman to abortion is not a respectful thing to do: it is throwing her to the wolves.

            Let’s use education to make sure that teens understand what their new adult bodies can do.

            Here we agree. I would just note that teens tend to think of school in one category, and the rest of their life in another category. How about, let’s use our CULTURE to make sure teens understand what their bodies can do?

            I wish there were more places where we could find common ground, I really do.

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

            You keep saying this. I understand that this is your argument. I simply reject your premise.

            My premise is that there’s an enormous difference between a newborn with a trillion cells (and arms and legs and eyes and ears and all the rest of it) and a single cell. You reject this?!

            why, by the way, do you say it reaches 100% at birth?

            Because the difference between a newborn and a toddler is negligible compared to the difference between that newborn and the single cell.

            it stands to reason that there exists a point over the gestation period when the baby is 3/5ths a person.

            Right. If you’re asking for where 3/5 is (or the related question of when society steps in and say, “We respect the mother’s rights up to a point, but we have to draw a line somewhere, and beyond this point is immoral”), I don’t have an opinion.

            Humanity keeps insisting, at regular intervals throughout history, to go down this rabbit hole and designate some people as lesser than others.

            You’re not playing the race card, are you? “Black people are not persons” and “A single cell is not a person” don’t seem to me to be analogous.

            Every one of our lives is valuable, from the time it begins to the time it ends.

            If that works for you, that’s great. What I object to is you or anyone else imposing that view on the rest of the country.

            Once again, we are not talking about Plan B here.

            Let’s. Are you OK with Plan B?

            We aren’t talking about aborting a single cell.

            Humor me. As a thought experiment: what would you say about killing a single cell? Is that less bad than killing a newborn? Is that so “less bad” that you’d be willing to give that option to a mother-to-be?

            While I’m not willing to condone early-term abortions… I am … willing to ignore them

            Because there’s a spectrum here? Because the 2-week-old fetus (say) is less of a person than a newborn?

            Both are so far outside the bounds of human decency that I simply cannot understand how we tolerate them.

            Perhaps you can help me understand one facet of this discussion. I haven’t seen a list of the reasons that women have late-term abortions. I’ve read individual stories (a good one by Valerie Tarico is here), but I’ve never seen anything approaching a comprehensive survey. Do you know of such a thing?

            Now that I’ve admitted that I’ve not seen such a summary, let me make a guess: it’s not “No one told me I’d get so fat!” My guess is that the tiny fraction of abortions that are third term are for pretty darn good reasons. The least justifiable, I’m guessing, are the ones that could’ve been done earlier but the woman either had obstacles put in her way or was not encouraged, “If you’re going to get an abortion, get it ASAP.”

            If doctors aren’t willing to do it, why do we tolerate it?

            Sounds like you’re making the spectrum argument, which works for me. Perhaps you’re saying that any abortions should be done as soon as possible, so let’s make counseling and testing available on demand and remove any delaying obstacles to women inquiring about abortions or wanting them.

            decide for yourself which of those babies YOU would be willing to kill.

            Why? Is this relevant to our conversation?

            I’m fat ‘n sassy. I don’t have an unwanted pregnancy. I have friends who’ve tried desperately to get pregnant and, through IVF, are halfway through.

            But suppose that I were a 14yo girl, pregnant, terrified of telling my parents and at how all the plans that my family has made for me might be thrown down the toilet now. My life would be at a crossroads. Ask her which fetus she’d be willing to kill, and I imagine that she’d see every one of them as an enormous obstacle to the life she’d been planning on living.

            Okay, you guys have really got to get over the myth that pre-Roe abortion was this nasty, dangerous process.

            Who cares? I’m just wondering what abortion will look like in post-Roe America. As unpleasant as the pro-lifers are making it, I imagine it’ll get lots worse.

            if she hasn’t herself experienced a sinking, nasty feeling in her stomach upon looking at a positive pregnancy test, she knows someone who has.

            Sounds pretty bad.

            Thing is, those unwanted pregnancies, very, very often turn into beloved, cared for, and very-much-wanted children.

            98% of the premarital pregnancies in the US that are carried to term are not put up for adoption. Does that mean that it would’ve been good advice to back in time a year earlier and say, “Y’know, you really should get pregnant”?

            And I KNOW (believe me, I know) how tempting abortion looks when you are faced with an unwanted pregnancy.

            OK, good to hear that we’re on the same page here. But then why not focus on unwanted pregnancies and education? If reducing abortions really is your goal, wouldn’t you make more progress going with the current than against?

            And I also know how much I would come to regret that decision, had I made it.

            Fair enough. Abortion isn’t a solution for everyone. It’s the imposition of this single approach on everyone that pro-choicers have a problem with.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Your premise does not match your conclusion, is the error.

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

            “Match”? You mean “lead to”?

            Give both premise and conclusion and show me the problem.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Premise: Human beings have a spectrum as they grow from the beginning of life to the end of life.

            Conclusion: We can therefore disregard their human rights at certain points in the spectrum because we think they don’t look human enough.

            I understand how you THINK you get from premise to conclusion, but the conclusion doesn’t fit the premise. It’s an irrational argument, and you’d be as well advised to abandon it as I was well advised to change my “contraception means rape” to “contraception means an innate lack of consent to the natural products of sex”.

          • Edwin Woodruff Tait

            Progress toward what? Since we disagree on basic philosophical and moral issues, isn’t it a bit odd for you to be giving us strategic advice?

  • perpper

    The pertinent political issue is not “when does human life begin?” As you say, science tells us that it begins when the sperm first hits the egg.

    The pertinent political issue is “when does a human being become a person?” Now this is truly and entirely a religious question. None deeper, regarding humanity.

    This is why the pro-abort movement seeks to utterly silence and disenfranchise people of faith. Because the concept of personhood is a religous concept at its root. When one wants to play God, one needs to kill the real God first.

  • Karly Whitaker

    Full disclosure, Elizabeth and I are friends from college (and I sincerely hope we can stay friends, though perhaps friends that don’t talk about this particular issue too much, going forward). And her post was in the context of a facebook discussion on my wall that started out being about legislation that would mandate an ultrasound (sometimes transvaginal ultrasound) before abortion. Here is my response I finally had time to write this morning: “I am trying to remember a lesson taught to us by our rabbi which has to do with how to have an argument “for the sake of heaven” (a topic that was hotly debated in the Talmud) and seem to recall that the winners in such a debate got points for first acknowledging some of the merits of the views of the other side. So regarding your point about other “inchoate” human lives (though I would not have used that term for the disabled, or senile, or mentally ill) I want to let you know that I am very concerned about what seems to be becoming a more common practice of aborting fetuses once it is determined they have Down Syndrome. I saw your post seeking an adoptive family for such a fetus that would be aborted if no home was found, and do hope the priest was able to help make such a connection. I was first made aware of this issue during the film screening for an incredible documentary called “Praying with Lior” about the son of one of Steven’s former co-workers in Philadelphia. Lior loves to pray–he is an ecstatic, joyful davenner (I have had the privilege of praying with him a few times). He also has Down Syndrome, and the film is about the preparation for his bar mitzvah. I distinctly remember his step-mother urging the audience to consider the issue of whether it is right for families to be able to abort fetuses once the diagnosis can be made (I’ll admit I don’t know how early on in the pregnancy that is these days), since it smacks of eugenics, Nazi-style.

    Secondly, I want to thank you because this debate has made me go and learn more about the history of Roe v Wade. I learned that the Supreme Court found that: ” State criminal abortion laws that except from criminality only life-saving procedures on the mother’s behalf, and that do not take into consideration the stage of pregnancy and other interests, are unconstitutional for violating the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.
    2.Yes. The Due Process Clause protects the right to privacy, including a woman’s right to terminate her pregnancy, against state action.
    3.Yes. Though a state cannot completely deny a woman the right to terminate her pregnancy, it has legitimate interests in protecting both the pregnant woman’s health and the potentiality of human life at various stages of pregnancy.” I think you are trying to argue that religion does not play a role in this debate (though I really find it hard to believe that you truly think so, and all the evidence of what is going on in Texas, Ohio, Iowa etc suggests that people of faith and non-faith are duking it out in the public sphere, which to me is fine—we can’t truly separate our religious selves from how they inform our public citizen selves–it’s impossible. What the framers of our Constitution insisted on, however, was that our government not make laws that encode the beliefs of only one religious group).

    To me the issue boils down to an ethical dilemma that will be extremely complex and unique to each circumstance such that it is very difficult to frame legislation flexible enough to make the correct ethical determination in each case. And the ethical dilemma is this: the fetus is a “dependent” in a true sense, up until the time when modern science could sustain its life outside the womb environment. The woman who is pregnant is alive, and as autonomous as any of us single organisms think we might be (speaking of science, it seems to be emphasizing lately the interdependence of all life forms on earth…the woman needs to eat other life forms to sustain herself, for instance…so in that sense she is also a “dependent” or at least interdependent. Women throughout all of documented history have had abortions. Women in countries where abortion is not safe or legal die at higher rates than in the developed world.
    I have a friend from Philadelphia, a writer, who shared a powerful, heart-wrenching essay with us about her abortion. She had struggled with infertility issues, and finally got pregnant. But the fetus was not growing properly, and it became clear it would not survive, even to the point of viability. I don’t remember the exact circumstances, but she had what I think was a partial-birth abortion for a fetus that was technically older than 24 weeks in age, though not at the same development stage as a healthy, 24 week fetus. It is cases such as that one that would make me want to resist the Texas bill being debated again today. I trust women to make good decisions. I think it is fine for Catholics or any religious group to try to convince women not to abort, so long as it is not coercive. Some of these laws are coercive, in my opinion.
    I recently read a New Yorker profile on Ruth Bader Ginsburg and was intrigued to learn that she thought the Roe v Wade decision was premature–she would have preferred to let the political climate ripen, for the battle to continue to be fought in state legislatures, until more of a consensus had been reached. Correct me if I’m wrong (and I will try to research this) but a majority of Americans support abortion in the framework established by Roe v Wade, which limits state laws that prohibit it up until the point of fetal viability. And I would be confident to state that a strong majority support its legality in pregnancies due to rape or that threaten the life of the mother. (I followed the case of Beatriz in El Salvador closely, and think her case will lead to an opening up of the inflexible law against abortion under any circumstances there). So trying to argue that science has determined where life begins, and so the argument is over, seems simplistic to me. Most of the people in our country recognize that it is a very, very complicated, fraught ethical dilemma. You had asked earlier if pro-choice people might be able to support some kind of mandatory ultrasound legislation. Like Amy Brodsky, I don’t think we could, but I have been thinking the last few days that maybe biomedical ethicists could be involved in determining, in some cases, whether late term abortions would be allowed. But I feel strongly that that decision should not be made by a politician, which essentially is what will happen in Iowa if the Governor there says he gets to oversee the (very few) cases in his state when Medicaid has to pay for an abortion (instances in which the pregnancy was due to rape, or threatens the life of the mother).

  • TheodoreSeeber

    I’d say back to the Rabbi- this is exactly why Faith Alone can’t be the basis for the beginning of life.

    This instead:
    http://www.columbia.edu/cu/augustine/arch/nathanson.html

    The man who wrote that started NARAL and was the director of the largest abortion clinic in the world. He was 2 years away from a conversion to pro-life, 10 years away from directing the first of two very influential pro-life movies, 20 years away from becoming Christian- and he was an atheist Jew at the time.

    What did he know in 1974 that this Rabbi doesn’t know today?

  • Perry Sona

    I am an American teenage girl and this is my future. Bare with me here as I ask this question:
    Who are you to constitute what is my right to have a choice?
    I understand my freedoms and my voice have limits but I am becoming more and more scared for what may be in store for me once I turn 18. If this is nothing more than a fight on religious views versus the rights of a woman’s body, then we must go back to one of the most important things- keep the church and state separate. I don’t care what your religion is unless it is extreme and violent, I just ask to be tolerant and go at it from the scientific fact as well as the psychological effect that it has afterwards.

    • Edwin Woodruff Tait

      Separation of church and state doesn’t mean that people’s convictions about the meaning of life shouldn’t influence politics. If we ruled out those convictions, we would have nothing but a struggle for power. When do you believe the fetus becomes a human person? Do you think parents should have a right to kill their newborn children? Why not? If not, then what is the fundamental difference between the newborn and the fetus that makes it OK to kill the fetus? These are “religious” questions in the sense that the great religions of the world have things to say about them, and also in the sense that our answers will depend on our fundamental convictions about the nature of human personhood. But they are questions that have to be answered.

    • JoAnna Wahlund

      Your “choice” is whether or not to take away the rights of another human being (the right to life for a unborn child). Human rights, and defending them, is the concern of all people.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      The problem is it has nothing to do with a woman’s right to choose, and everything to do with a baby’s right to live. I can’t tolerate that and be an integral human being.

  • jt

    Spectrum, vectrum, rectum, who cares. The fact is it is life and none of u have the right to end ti before it can born and be the person it was formed to be. Period. End of story.

  • md

    I thought the heart started beating around 18 days not 5.5 week…

    • JoAnna Wahlund

      5.5 weeks gestation = 5.5 weeks from last menstrual period

      18 days = 18 days after fertilization (which usually occurs around two weeks after the last menstrual period)

      So 5.5 weeks gestation is actually about 3 wks after fertilization, give or take. The heart can start beating as early as 5 weeks gestation.


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