Abortion and the Idol of Self

Let’s imagine for a moment that you find yourself in a difficult position — one that has led to abject panic about your future career, the fate of a valued relationship, or whether you’ll even be able to make ends meet. Let’s also stipulate that your difficulty is largely your fault. You made some short-sighted, bad decisions that precipitated the crisis, but questions of responsibility are moot now — all that exists is the crisis, the stress that has overtaken your life. To be sure, there’s a way forward, a way out of the crisis, but even the most attractive options will require considerable commitment for most of a year — with potential for prolonged heartache.

Then, one evening you’re offered a way out. Your most recent troubles can go away, for the cost of a few hundred dollars and most of an afternoon. The catch? Someone has to die.

Oh, it’s not anyone you know or will ever know. They don’t have family that knows them, they don’t have spouses or children, and they’ll be so thoroughly unmourned that no one will even have to pay for a funeral. Decide now, and they might not even feel pain. Wait longer, and they’ll feel pain — but only for a little while.

You don’t have to see the body. You won’t know the person’s name. No one will have to know what you did. Indeed, the law strictly protects your confidentiality. An anonymous kill . . . then you’re free.

Ask the vast majority of rational people if they’d kill another person to change their own circumstances for the better, and they’d quickly answer no. Put them in the actual situation, and we know that millions answer yes. We know because of abortion.

For quite some time we’ve conducted the abortion debate as if people weren’t fallen, as if mankind’s nature weren’t inherently sinful. So we convince ourselves that if only mothers and their pressuring families or boyfriends knew that the child was a child and not just a “clump of cells,” then they’d make different choices. We’re heartened in this belief by some improvements on the margins, by slight changes in polling numbers — changes that coincide not just with patient pro-life advocacy, but also in astounding leaps forward in medical science, leaps that allow us to see inside the womb, to understand undeniable medical facts (that Kevin Williamson articulates) of the unborn child’s separate genetic identity from his or her mother, and to even watch a tiny child reach from the womb to cling to a doctor’s finger.

Yet abortions still happen, on a massive scale.

Why? Because people love themselves so much that they’re willing to kill another person to keep a boyfriend, to maintain a standard of living, or for many, many other reasons — none of which would ever justify killing another person outside the womb.

The fight for life of course has a critical political component. No just society allows one person to kill another for convenience. But this debate long ago veered from rationality and into the darkest part of the heart, to the most base and primal desire for self-interest. When people “Stand With Wendy,” they – as Charles C.W. Cooke so eloquently put it — “stand with death.” And here’s the worst part: They know it.

The pundit looks at abortion and sees the need for persuasion. The pastor looks and sees the futility of persuasion absent repentence.

The precursor for abortion is the idol of the self. Mandatory sonograms and other measures can impact the softer hearts among us — and are thus valuable for that reason alone — but abortion won’t end until the idol is destroyed.

And for that, good pastors are far more necessary than even the best pundits or politicians.

This post first appeared on National Review here, where it has generated a great number of comments.

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

    Is a single cell a person? I don’t think so. I think that the fetus gains personhood as develops.

    You’ve made a bold assumption by equating fetus with person at every stage. I disagree with that assumption.

    • http://zaireadams.blogspot.com/ zai

      Question: are we not technically “clumps of cells” our entire lives?

      Fetus is a term from Latin that means “little one,” if the fetus is not a human person, not a little human, then what is it? If it is a human fetus, it necessarily must be a human. That’s not only logical, it is kind and sensible. Conception is the start of development for every human, how is it that a developing human is less than human because it is at an earlier stage of development? Does a dolphin or pig fetus develop “dolphinanity” or “pigness” and cannot be rightly called a baby dolphin or pig until a certain stage of development? If it is not already a dolphin, a pig or a human (whatever type of creature we are talking about) what is it?

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

        Yes, the single cell and the blastocyst that follows are humans. I’m asking what it’s not.

        There’s a huge difference between a single cell at one end of the spectrum and the trillion-cell newborn. The newborn has arms and legs, eyes and ears, a brain and nervous system, a stomach and digestive system, a heart and circulatory system, skin, liver, and on and on. The single cell has none of these things.

        There’s a spectrum here: single cell on one end and newborn on the other. What do we call the spectrum? What is the property that the newborn has that the single cell doesn’t. Obviously “human” applies to both ends, so that doesn’t help us here. I say that it’s not a person as a single cell but that it is as a newborn. Propose a different word if you’d like, but don’t pretend the spectrum doesn’t exist.

        • http://zaireadams.blogspot.com/ zai

          About 20 weeks in most of that is present (nerves have developed and there is a brain etc). So, at the very least, the unborn child is a child then, if we are going by your definition.

          In any case, when we are discussing abortion, we are rarely discussing the destruction of a single cell. That may be the case for abortifacent drugs etc. but it isn’t the norm for the actual act of a physical abortion.

          Furthermore, you could argue that all those things are present from the very beginning. After all, DNA contains all of that information, technically speaking every aspect of that person’s physical being is contained in its initial conception. There are epigenetic changes that can occur or odd turns in the development of the developing human throughout their life, inutero and out. However, the fact that the organs themselves have not appeared in full form yet does not negate the fact that it is already written on the DNA, the distinct DNA that combines the DNA of the mother and father. I am unsure as to how chromosomes develop during this time but I would venture to say that the chromosomes denoting gender, among other things, is already present. The person is all contained with the DNA, the sort of person they will become is the more interesting question.

          That said, you sound like an ancient Greek when you try to make a distinction between our humanness and our personhood. As a black man, I can say that I cannot rightly see any such distinction. My people were looked at as less than human for a long time though our genetics and form have always denied this conception. If it is human, how is it not a person? Personhood seems to be a made up conception to me, because all are persons, no matter what.

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

            About 20 weeks in most of that is present (nerves have developed and there is a brain etc). So, at the very least, the unborn child is a child then, if we are going by your definition.

            And how about your definition? Do you say that it’s a baby at 20 weeks and not-a-baby at conception?

            In any case, when we are discussing abortion, we are rarely discussing the destruction of a single cell.

            I’m way back at square one. I’m simply trying to figure out what we’re talking about.

            Yes, I agree that killing an innocent person is murder (the point the pro-lifer continually makes) … but it’s not a person at the single-cell end of the spectrum (the point that the pro-lifer ignores or dismisses).

            Furthermore, you could argue that all those things are present from the very beginning. After all, DNA contains all of that information

            How far do you want to take this “potentiality” argument? Yes, a single cell has the potential to make a baby. So does that lustful idea that pops into a guy’s head.

            Getting even sillier, why condemn a murderer for just the single murder? Why not say that he’s also murdered the potential babies that that person would produce, and his offspring would produce, and so on?

            My suggestion: let’s apply “person” or “baby” only where appropriate. A “potential baby” isn’t a baby.

            That said, you sound like an ancient Greek when you try to make a distinction between our humanness and our personhood. As a black man, I can say that I cannot rightly see any such distinction.

            You tell me then: what property does a newborn have that a single cell doesn’t? I call it “personhood,” but tell me what you’d prefer we call it. Saying, “Uh, yeah, but it’s a human at both ends of the spectrum” would be to simply turn your back on the argument.

          • http://zaireadams.blogspot.com/ zai

            The 20 weeks thing is my saying, if we were going by your definition of personhood, which appears to need functioning brain and nerve tissue etc., then it is at least a person at 20 weeks. That would justify a ban on abortions at or after that point, but that is just using your definition of a person.

            When I referred to the destruction of a single cell I am talking about how that is not when most abortions occur. It has gone beyond that point, catching it when it is still just a single cell is incredibly difficult.

            I argue that the “clump of cells” is human, and thereby a person, from the outset. It cannot be anything else, it is just developing;the fact that stuff can go wrong (miscarriage etc.) does not negate the fact that it is a human child at a certain stage of development. Mothers who have had miscarried children grieve deeply because they know that they have lost a child, a new human life.

            Your pushing the argument I made further than it need be pushed. There are plenty of reasons you punish a murderer for just the murder as the murder snuffs out the potential of another’s life (good or bad). This is the same thing that is done during an abortion. The human state of being is both static and paradoxically fluid. We both are and are becoming at every moment (so it seems to me, but I digress).

            Further, how is it that a single cell has the potential to make a baby? Is it not a cell that is created under certain conditions that has that potential? The cell that we all start as is still us, do we not become us until we are outside of the womb? My point was that all human development starts the same and moves on its own. As soon as the egg and sperm combine a process is started, a little luck and the process can continue; but, if everything is working as it should, the child should become fully formed within the womb. It is not like there is a potential for a dolphin or some other creature to become formed in that womb. It’s a human from the start, the DNA dictates it. That it has not fully developed is beside the point.

            (note: if a murderer, like Scott Peterson, kills a mother with child then he (as shown in the case) commits a double murder. Does that only apply because she was extremely far along? I would think it does not. If he had killed her before she ever became pregnant, he clearly would have just killed her and not a child as well.

            It is a fact that, upon conception, the DNA is completely distinct from both parents. It is clearly a new life and the line you draw is arbitrary. When do you magically become a person? What makes a person a person? I use human and person interchangeably because they are interchangeable (essentially). A necessary part of being a human is being a person. So, to you, what is a person?

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

            I argue that the “clump of cells” is human, and thereby a person, from the outset. It cannot be anything else, it is just developing

            Address the issue, please. Name the property that the newborn has and the single cell doesn’t. You say it’s not personhood? OK, then what is it? It’s not like there’s just a vague, subtle difference between these two beings. A single cell is really, really different from a trillion-cell newborn.

            Mothers who have had miscarried children grieve deeply because they know that they have lost a child, a new human life.

            For some women, being told that they’re pregnant is one of the happiest days of their lives. For other women, it’s one of the most terrible. The first will thing of her fetus as a baby, as a blessing. The second will think of her fetus as a curse. Let’s not conflate the two.

            Your pushing the argument I made further than it need be pushed.

            To make the point that a potential something isn’t that something.

            It’s a human from the start, the DNA dictates it.

            Yeah, I got it. I got it the first time. And I repeat: so what? It’s a human cell, so what?

            It is a fact that, upon conception, the DNA is completely distinct from both parents.

            You keep hammering on the fact that the single cell is a human and that it’s a life. You keep returning to this safe haven (and I agree with these points) because you can’t face squarely the points that I’m making.

            It is clearly a new life and the line you draw is arbitrary.

            Arbitrary like throwing darts at numbers on a wall? Legislatures throughout the world have wrestled with this question of where it’s OK to abort and where it’s not. This is an answerable question. That doesn’t make it easy, but don’t pretend that there isn’t much justification for why the dates are where they are.

            When do you magically become a person?

            It’s a spectrum. On the spectrum between blue and green, where is it green? I dunno—we could argue different places. But let’s first agree that it’s a spectrum.

          • http://zaireadams.blogspot.com/ zai

            Sir, you still need to explain what your EXACT definition of a person is. That will help things make more sense in general and there will be less misunderstanding.

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

            Sounds like busy work. Yet more tasks for me to fail at, right?

            I have a better idea: you’ve already got plenty to comment on. Give me your reaction to the spectrum argument.

          • http://zaireadams.blogspot.com/ zai

            In short: I think the spectrum argument is ridiculous, but I cannot fully comment on it without you defining what a person is to you. That ties directly into you viewing personhood as a spectrum (apparently exclusive to growth in the womb). Do invalids lose their personhood? Is a person with down syndrome not a person? What is it that makes a person?

          • Jim

            So, now that you’ve finally figured out Bob’s question, why don’t you answer it?

          • http://zaireadams.blogspot.com/ zai

            I don’t believe that a spectrum called personhood exists. There is a spectrum of development in terms of physical, mental, sensory organs and abilities, but the personhood is something granted by virtue of being a human, at whatever stage of development. You dig?

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

            Zai: it’s not possible for me to be more accommodating than I am. You don’t like the word “personhood” for the spectrum? Not a problem.

            I’ve challenged you how many times now? If you have a better term for the property that a newborn has and a single cell doesn’t, let’s hear it. I’ll accept anything reasonable.

            I’m sure that you see precisely the differences that I do between newborn and single cell, and I also imagine that we agree that the difference between these two is substantial. I encourage you to stop with the stalling tactics and address the issues.

          • Jakeithus

            I answered it in my post below, but I might as well answer it here. The difference between embryo and newborn is age and complexity, the exact same difference between newborn and adult. Those are the only properties of difference that I can observe, so the only conclusion that I can draw is that to you, personhood is a combination of the 2.

            If that is not what you mean by personhood, you will have to provide a better description of the property in question. I’ll accept anything reasonable.

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

            Who cares how I define personhood? Like “child,” you’ll disagree, and we’ll go back and forth for a dozen comments. If we don’t share a definition, that’s good to know. Let’s avoid that detour.

            You’re rigid in your definitions, but luckily I’m not. I need the property that the that the single cell doesn’t have that the newborn does. A single cell already has the properties of age and complexity, just not as much as the newborn. You and I agree that the spectrum exists. It has 0% on the left and 100% on the right. Now we just have to figure out what that property is.

          • Jakeithus

            I don’t think we agree that the spectrum exists, as long as the spectrum in question is explaining personhood. This is due to our disagreement about the definition of person.

            I wouldn’t say I’m rigid in my definitions, I am more than happy to change if I can be given solid reasons why the definitions I use are incorrect, you just haven’t provided any. Both a newborn and an embryo are worthy of value, given that they are a distinct human life that will continue to grow and develop if left to their own devices. That’s what we all have in common.

            What you are avoiding is explaining what is different about a newborn from an embryo, beyond it’s age. You say a newborn is a person and an embryo is not, but because you refuse to explain what you mean by person, or the specific process by which one attains personhood, I can only assume that for you something magical happens in the birth canal to grant it.

            What you should simply say is that personhood is a legal classification society gives to human beings after birth. It might not help explain why birth is the cutoff point, but it’s better than pretending that personhood to you is anything more than an arbitrary legal classification.

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

            I don’t think we agree that the spectrum exists

            So: I don’t like your argument, so I choose to dismiss it. Is that it?

            You can’t meet me halfway? You’re just going to look the other way because my argument is inconvenient?

            I’ve explained the gulf many times: one cell on the left; a trillion on the right. One cell on the left; a newborn baby that smiles and cries and has arms and legs and eyes and ears. You see the gulf as well as I do. You don’t want to call it a spectrum of personhood—OK, I invite you to tell me what it is a spectrum of. You don’t want to even call it a spectrum—OK, what do you call it? You dismiss all this as insignificant, leaving you only the common DNA between the single cell and the newborn. That’s quite a turnabout when the atheist is arguing the meaning and beauty of a newborn while you dismiss it all and say that DNA is all that matters!

            Hey—if you have your views about the sanctity of human DNA, that’s fine. Just don’t impose it on everyone else by law.

            What you are avoiding is explaining what is different about a newborn from an embryo, beyond it’s age.

            Wrong again. I’ve described it over and over. Perhaps you’re just forgetful?

            The difference between a newborn and an embryo is simply every single trait that a new parent sees when they hold their new baby for the first time.

            You say a newborn is a person and an embryo is not

            Don’t use the p-word again, OK?

            something magical happens in the birth canal to grant it.

            Ah, so you haven’t read what I’ve written then! I thought as much.

            Wrong yet again. The birth canal isn’t the point. It’s a 9-month spectrum, remember? The extra 30 minutes to travel down the birth canal (or whatever it is) really isn’t the point.

          • http://zaireadams.blogspot.com/ zai

            Sir, I don’t say I dislike personhood as a term for the spectrum, I deny that that spectrum exists in the first place. There can be a spectrum of physical development, but not of “personhood.” I believe that from conception (and implantation) the developing human organism is a person by virtue of being a human organism. It’s just like the brain development that we undergo throughout our lives. Things aren’t quite settled until (I think, if I remember correctly) your mid-20s. The differences you see in the development of personhood I see as differences in physical development. I am not stalling, I am seeking out your definition of personhood because that will explain why you think it can be measured on a spectrum and why that spectrum only applies to development in the womb (which is what you seem to be saying) and not other parts of life. Saying that the difference between a newborn and a grown person is trivial is not answering the question. Why is it, in your opinion, trivial when compared to the stages in the womb?
            So, I guess the answer to your question is: the spectrum is a spectrum of physical development and perfecting and has nothing to do with whether or not they are a person from the start. You appear to be indicating that you become more of a person as you get older, is that not true?

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

            I deny that that spectrum exists in the first place.

            So a single cell is no different in any meaningful way than a newborn 9 months older with 1,000,000,000,000 cells, each precisely hooked up to make a baby?

            There can be a spectrum of physical development, but not of “personhood.”

            Then don’t call it “personhood”! If you don’t like my definition (for the umpteenth time), that’s fine. I’m not going to get into a protracted debate about how this word should be defined. You tell me then what property the newborn has that the single cell doesn’t. They are so vastly, incredibly different that surely a word needs to be found to describe.

            Let’s imagine a billion-cell brain. Contrast that with a single brain cell. Does the single cell think, just one-billionth as fast? No! It doesn’t think at all. Thinking and consciousness and mind are emergent properties. The brain isn’t just more of what you had before like a gallon of milk is more than a quart of milk. It’s something very, very different.

            Same for the development from single cell to baby. The baby is more than just lots of cell.

            Meta question: are you saying that you’re anti-abortion for yourself? Or do you want to impose this view on the rest of society?

            Why is it, in your opinion, trivial when compared to the stages in the womb?

            Does it have legs? Yes for adult, yes for newborn, are you kidding?? for single cell.
            Does it have arms? Ditto.
            Does it have a brain and nervous system? Ditto.
            Stomach and digestive system? Ditto.
            Heart and circulatory system? Ditto.
            Liver, pancreas, eyes, ears, skin, hands, feet? Ditto.

          • http://zaireadams.blogspot.com/ zai

            What, pray tell, is the crime in murder? Is it not wrongly eliminating the life of another person? If that is the case, then the definition of a person greatly matters, does it not? When you brought up the spectrum you said it was one of personhood, if that is the case, then really early abortions are just fine, which is something I would disagree with. I think that a person is at stake and must be given the chance at life.
            For me, those physical characteristics are only a part of personhood and are aspects that can change. You may not always have arms, something terrible could happen. You can be born blind, etc. I don’t think it is the physical form that gives someone the right to live and develop.
            I have never stated that the single cell is capable of what developed humans are, just that it has yet to develop those abilities and that this, in no way, means that they are yet to be a person. They are created as a person and then go through various stages of development that bring personality etc. into the mix.
            For the record, this point is moot because, even if you are correct, and I can’t rightly call the developing zygote a human life, most of the abortions that happen are not at this time. Sometimes the cell doesn’t make it because it fails to implant and whatnot, but doctors are not usually just sucking a cell out of the woman’s uterus.
            So, even if I concede that point: that’s not when the act of abortion is occurring the most often. If it is occurring later, once the differences have significantly lessened (i.e. brain activity, pain reception etc) then it is clearly a murder.
            Now, your argument is not as extreme as Mary Ann Warren’s who was mentioned in the link I posted earlier. But, your point on potentiality not being the same as actuality is the same. I would say that that is true, but it runs into a lot of problems. Again, that’s all on the site that I posted. https://bearspace.baylor.edu/Alexander_Pruss/www/1308/abort2.html
            The second part I think has the most bearing on what we’ve been discussing here. Dr. Pruss also explains it a bit better than I do on internet boards, I do better when I’m writing articles than here.

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

            Surely, by now, you could write my answers as well as I can.

            Is it not wrongly eliminating the life of another person?

            Kinda depends on how you define “person,” isn’t it? The colloquial definition is that people are those beings you see walking around in society around you. If you want to say, “Hey—come on over and take a look; I’ve found another person” and you point to a single cell seen through a microscope, that’s fine, but don’t pretend that everyone sees things the same way.

            You do your best to find words that ignore the spectrum, but the challenge we have in front of us is to acknowledge the spectrum and see what it tells us. If you say that it’s wrong to kill the human even at the single cell end of the spectrum, that’s fine, but don’t pretend that the spectrum doesn’t exist or that it isn’t vast.

            If that is the case, then the definition of a person greatly matters, does it not?

            You can’t seriously be saying that we should go back and forth on how a particular English word should be defined, are you? If the dictionary doesn’t help us, let’s move on to more fruitful territory.

            Can we avoid use of the p-word from now on?

            I have never stated that the single cell is capable of what develop ed humans are, just that it has yet to develop those abilities and that this, in no way, means that they are yet to be a person.

            So your argument is one of potential. The single cell has the potential to be a whatever (whatever a newborn is and a single cell isn’t). The single cell, if left to develop, will actualize that potential. And I agree. But it hasn’t gotten there yet—that’s the point.

            I can’t rightly call the developing zygote a human life

            Of course it’s a human life. It’s both human and alive. But surely there is a word that captures the enormous amount of difference between the single cell and the newborn.

            most of the abortions that happen are not at this time.

            I’m talking about the step before the abortion: what is this think we’re killing?

            But to your point: what I hear you saying is that, if you’re going to have an abortion, it’s better to have it early than late. If that’s true, I propose we make tests accurate early and widely available. Then, give women with unwanted pregnancies clear and truthful information. If they choose abortion, let’s get that done ASAP—not roadblocks or other shenanigans.

            I haven’t read that article, but I appreciate your providing it.

          • http://zaireadams.blogspot.com/ zai

            “Kinda depends on how you define “person,” isn’t it? The colloquial definition is that people are those beings you see walking around in society around you. If you want to say, “Hey—come on over and take a look; I’ve found another person” and you point to a single cell seen through a microscope, that’s fine, but don’t pretend that everyone sees things the same way.”

            This is my point, our point of disagreement starts at the definition of a person. You would say abortion is wrong after a certain point because of your definition of a person. As my definition says that personhood is inherent to being a human being, to being of our species, I cannot justify abortion at ANY point (and that it is a tragedy when it must be done to save the mother or some other such emergency). You think it is ok early on, it seems, but there is a point in the womb where it is say 56% developed and has crossed the threshold into being a person. We are quibbling about a word because definitions are important to a coherent argument. My view of abortion logically follows because I believe we are persons from the moment of conception. You believe in this spectrum where, after a certain point, it is no longer permissible to terminate the pregnancy. Your line is further back than mine because we have different definitions of what a person is. I just want a clear definition from you, most of what I am getting from your argument is from inference.
            That said, I have not claimed–at any point–that everyone has the same view as me.

            “So your argument is one of potential. The single cell has the potential to be a whatever (whatever a newborn is and a single cell isn’t). The single cell, if left to develop, will actualize that potential. And I agree. But it hasn’t gotten there yet—that’s the point.”

            My argument is not one of potential, my argument is one of inherent qualities. Whatever the stage of development we are dealing with a human person, though it may be a stage where that isn’t as readily recognizable in a physical sense. If you are human, a homo sapiens, then you are a person by virtue of that. Since that is true, you have the right to live. You disagree here, but don’t mischaracterize my argument. I don’t think that the zygote might become a person, I believe that the zygote is the person at it’s earliest stage of development. The only potential I would say is there is for the zygote to develop without any hiccups and thus no disabilities once outside of the womb (and the potential to carve out a life of its own in this world). I don’t think it a potential person, I believe it a person with the potential for further development like the rest of us. So, maybe I should say that every person, no matter their stage of life, is full of potential. We never become fully realized in this life, we are always developing. That being the case, as in you agreeing with that point, an abortion would be wrong at all times because it denies the person any possible future, which is the reason that infanticide or killing an adult would be wrong.

            “But to your point: what I hear you saying is that, if you’re going to have an abortion, it’s better to have it early than late. If that’s true, I propose we make tests accurate early and widely available. Then, give women with unwanted pregnancies clear and truthful information. If they choose abortion, let’s get that done ASAP—not roadblocks or other shenanigans.”

            I would say that abortion would be allowable at really, really early stages if I were to accept your definition of personhood developing along a spectrum, but since I think it innate, I would say it is wrong (or a tragedy at least) across the board. Now, if what you’re saying is true then all that you said in that paragraph follows. If I agreed that we start as non-persons and become persons, that would make sense. Murder is the unlawful killing of a person, so the stage at which we are non-persons is the only permissable point for an abortion. Anything crossing that line would be wrong.
            So, now we seem to understand each other: what you call a spectrum of a potential person actualizing it’s personhood, I call a person developing the physical, mental etc. aspects which it will engage its inherent personhood with. There is actualization but we think it of a different kind. I don’t think it becomes more of a person, I think it is already a person and that persons go through different stages of development or deterioration without losing (or gaining for that matter) their status as a person. For me, they are always a person because they are already human (which you appear to agree with, that they are human, I mean).

            “Of course it’s a human life. It’s both human and alive. But surely there is a word that captures the enormous amount of difference between the single cell and the newborn.”
            I want to close with this because this is our point of agreement: we both say that it is a human life. We disagree on what the difference between a further developed fetus or newborn entails. You say that they are such different states that, logically speaking, we cannot say the zygote is a person in the same way. This is a bit contradictory. You are saying that there is a difference in kind where I would say there is but a difference in stage and appearance. For you, just being a human life is not enough to protect your existence, you must also be a person, which is similar to Ms. Warren in that article (but hers, again, it more extreme. your definition appears to be more subtle). It is wrong to take the life of a person, but the single cell is not a person, so that abortion would be permissible. Does that feel clearer?

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

            there is a point in the womb where it is say 56% developed and has crossed the threshold into being a person.

            Right. At some point in the development process, society steps in and says that this person is finally too important to let the mother decide. Society must draw the line: no abortions beyond this point. And that’s the way the law works in the US today.

            My view of abortion logically follows because I believe we are persons from the moment of conception.

            What’s so good about persons? If a person can be a single cell, who cares if we kill that kind of person?

            If you say, “You agree that we shouldn’t kill an innocent person, right?” the person you’re talking to will imagine a person like you—with arms, legs, and every other body part. But that isn’t at all your definition of “person,” so don’t imagine that your axiom will ring true for everyone.

            I have not claimed–at any point–that everyone has the same view as me.

            No, but I don’t think you’ve answered my related question: do you want to impose your views on the rest of society?

            my argument is one of inherent qualities.

            The thing that is constant across the spectrum—the reason we can say that it’s a human at both ends—is the composition of its DNA. If you want to get choked up thinking about how fabulous DNA is, that’s fine, but I don’t share that attitude. I scratch off skin cells with human DNA and don’t give it a second thought.

            I don’t think that the zygote might become a person

            No: you think that the zygote might develop the physical characteristics that a parent will recognize as those in a baby—y’know, the kind of baby that you can wrap in a blanket and walk around with. The kind of baby that can smile and cry. The kind of baby that someone might say, “Oh, he has his father’s eyes!” or “Isn’t she cute!”

            I believe that the zygote is the person at it’s earliest stage of development.

            Given that definition of person, we should drop the word. Not helpful.

            maybe I should say that every person, no matter their stage of life, is full of potential.

            Not what I would say. A person like you has pretty much developed his potential. Sure, there’s more to tap, but that’s trivial. But a single frikkin’ cell?! It’s at the starting gate. It has nothing to brag about. Give it 9 months, and that’s another story, but it ain’t there yet.

            You are saying that there is a difference in kind

            Yep. And if you simply say that it’s a difference in degree, then I don’t know where to go from here.

            On one side, a single cell. On the other side, a newborn with a trillion cells. But of course, that just begins to make clear the vast difference. The newborn has all the body parts—arms, legs, eyes, ears, internal organs, skin, etc.—that makes a baby.

            The single cell doesn’t process food or light or sound a trillionth as well as the newborn does; it doesn’t do that at all. We have a myriad of emergent properties. It’s clearly not just more of the same, an undifferentiated pile of cells. It’s a baby.

          • http://zaireadams.blogspot.com/ zai

            In short: I believe that persons are inherently value and worth keeping alive from birth to natural death. Being prolife doesn’t mean we just worry about the youngest of us. I believe that it is wrong to kill innocent persons (or any person really, unless there is absolutely no other way out). However, most abortions are not done because the life of the mother is in danger anymore (there are exceptions but our medical science has made this a very, very rare occurrence) and those other situations where it might be absolutely necessary are rare. Even the case of rape/incest related abortions are about 2% of the women who receive them. So, I’m against abortion, euthanizing and the death penalty unless it is absolutely necessary and there are no other options. Every time we HAVE to do something of the sort, it is a time of sadness, something terrible is happening, but we have to do the best we can to protect as many lives as we can. We cannot always save them all.
            For me, as stated, a person is a human being, any member of the species homo sapiens. The fact that we have many who cannot see the same thing is irrelevant. Either human life is valuable or it isn’t. We all agree that it is but make unnecessary distinctions that I do not think can be rightly made. The zygote, once implanted, is going to go through an automatic process that, unless halted or disrupted in some way, is going to result in a fully developed infant body, which will later result in a fully developed adult human body. It isn’t like an random single cell in isolation (say a heart or liver cell) it is a cell with the characteristic of being human. We agree that it is human, if we agree that being human is a good and that we have no right to end the life of other humans then the point here is clear. We must protect from conception to natural death. That said, I believe in an essence that is a part of every human and you do not.
            What’s more, I do not believe that enacting laws preventing (or at least greatly reducing the possible instances of abortion) eliminate the woman’s choice, they just make that particular choice much safer and withholds any consequences (before you indicate that I think the woman should be punished, just don’t. The woman is usually being pressured into the situation at all sides and is not as culpable as the doctor carrying out the action. furthermore, the act of an abortion is traumatic for the woman as well, doesn’t make much sense to punish someone in that situation). That may be good or bad, but I think that restricting to the most extreme cases and pushing for adoption in others is the best thing for everyone. It keeps human life as a good (in my opinion: sacred) thing and recognizes that sometimes terrible, unfortunate things are necessary to save the most lives.
            Also, it would appear fairly obvious that I would want to impose these views on society. A society that is doing something that is abhorrent and evil, even if in actual ignorance, is not a healthy one (at least in that respect). The philosophy of said society is what determines the actions that it takes. If the philosophy is wrong in a certain area then it need be corrected. I am just like abortion advocates who pushed for their views to be accepted by society. It is going to be an imposition either way, someone is not going to be happy because something they believe to be a good thing is not legal or something they believe to be a bad thing is being allowed to continue. That’s inescapable.
            You keep indicating that differences between grown people and infants are trivial but I would say there is no difference insofar as they are homo sapiens and deserve the right to life, however it may turn out. The huge gap between a human zygote and an infant is not a gap for me because they share in one thing: their humanity. Just like an elephant, from its conception on, is an elephant the entire time. A lack of distinct physical form is beside the point for me.
            I will close in saying that, your view is perfectly logical if your assumptions (the spectrum etc.) are correct and the only way for those earliest of abortions to happen would be for faster knowledge of a pregnancy like you said. What’s more, you never told me what you think a person is. Should I ask what you think a human is instead? You seem to be frustrated by definitions when definitions are necessary for communication to even occur. If there is no definition of a word, it has no meaning and nothing can be communicated. Our definitions of things, our assumptions and our philosophical approach to the world determine our beliefs. Our starting point is very different, thus our conclusions are very different. That said, morality is a bit like a sum: you may be able to get a lot of different answers but the right one depends on the right steps. I think that yours happen to be wrong and that does not lessen my respect for them. I lament the fact that people in our society can hardly take oppositional thinking when, just two centuries ago the people who were part of the Scopes Trial went out for drinks afterward (may have been coffee). They disagreed but had a great respect for each other.

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

            I believe that persons are inherently value and worth keeping alive from birth to natural death.

            But we’re talking about the part before birth.

            Being prolife doesn’t mean we just worry about the youngest of us.

            Where are you on the issue of capital punishment?

            most abortions are not done because the life of the mother is in danger anymore

            Granted. The mother’s health + rape/incest aren’t the only reasons for an abortion.

            a person is a human being, any member of the species homo sapiens. The fact that we have many who cannot see the same thing is irrelevant.

            Who cares about other citizens? You’ve got it figured out, so let’s just let you impose your will on everyone else. Is that it?

            Either human life is valuable or it isn’t.

            Sorry, Chester. It’s not binary. Human life in a single cell is not inherently valuable. If a mother-to-be wants to assign it value, great. If a mother-to-be thinks that killing it would be a net positive, great. That that’s wrong may be obvious to you, but it’s not to me. Preach your views all you want, but don’t impose your beliefs on everyone else by law.

            The zygote, once implanted, is going to go through an automatic process that, unless halted or disrupted in some way, is going to result in a fully developed infant body

            Quite so. And when that happens, I’ll call killing it “murder.” But that hasn’t happened yet.

            (I think we’re revisiting old arguments again and again.)

            it is a cell with the characteristic of being human.

            I’m going to take out all the portraits hanging on my walls and replace them with DNA sequences. They’re just as profound and endearing.

            We must protect from conception to natural death.

            I don’t think mere repetition will make your case any more compelling.

            I do not believe that enacting laws preventing (or at least greatly reducing the possible instances of abortion) eliminate the woman’s choice

            Eliminating an option reduces a woman’s choice. Kinda by definition, right?

            pushing for adoption

            What fraction of all premarital pregnancies carried to term wind up adopted? Don’t pretend that adoption is the answer until you have the facts.

            Hey—you want to conduct your life this way? Great. Just don’t impose it on everyone else.

            it would appear fairly obvious that I would want to impose these views on society. A society that is doing something that is abhorrent and evil, even if in actual ignorance, is not a healthy one

            You can’t form a coherent argument. You are simply stating (over and over) that you believe that there is no meaningful moral distinction between killing a single cell and killing a newborn. OK, fine. You’re welcome to that belief, but your arguments aren’t convincing. Don’t pretend that you’ve got it all figured out. Don’t impose your beliefs on everyone else.

            I am just like abortion advocates who pushed for their views to be accepted by society.

            Wrong. My position allows choice. Your position eliminates it and demands only one option: forced pregnancy. Don’t pretend that there’s symmetry here.

            It is going to be an imposition either way

            So because you didn’t get your way and you can’t force your beliefs down the throats of the majority of the population, you’re imposed upon? You’ll have to explain the logic behind that one to me.

            The huge gap between a human zygo te and a n infant is not a gap for me because they share in one thing: their humanity.

            Sure, we could distill down everyone into just a strand of DNA. Sounds pretty mechanistic to me. Maybe I’m just the one who sees humanity as a lot more than just our chemicals.

            You answer my argument by ignoring it.

            You seem to be frustrated by definitions when definitions are necessary for communication to even occur.

            Why define “person” if we can discuss the topic without it? Spending half an hour arguing my definition only to have you say, “Yes, well that’s not how I define it” doesn’t sound like much fun for either of us.

            just two centuries ago the people who were part of the Scopes Trial

            It was less than a century, but your point here is valid.

            Suggestion: you’d make a lot more progress in reducing abortions if you worked on ensuring that people didn’t have unwanted pregnancies in the first place. Is the abortion situation in America a holocaust? If so, give teenagers the education they need to avoid unwanted pregnancies. Whatever we’re doing obviously ain’t working.

          • http://zaireadams.blogspot.com/ zai

            I’ll amend: I believe from conception to natural death all humans should be protected.
            -I believe capital punishment should be essentially abolished and only utilized in cases where it is OBVIOUS that people will remain in danger from the individual in question. I don’t think that it is really obvious in most cases, since I think that people can change (but I’m also for prison reform, not just locking people away but helping them change as well (if they want it)).
            -Similarly, abortion is only allowable in the most extreme cases. I completely agree that the beginning of the cycle must be stopped which means a better sexual education, more self control across the board and more.
            -I will say this again: you are imposing your views (which are shared by others) when you say that abortion should be legal. That said: I’ve said, repeatedly, that something being illegal hardly eliminates your choices. You always have a choice, I just don’t know if it is good to provide people with an option that could be construed as a murder (depending on the philosophical basis). If murder is a bad thing, and I am right in thinking that an abortion ultimately is a murder (however we feel about it), then it makes sense for me to want the law to reflect that. The person being murdered is not the only one affected by the act. It harms many different people. Of course, I could be wrong, but I don’t think so.
            -Eliminating an option that harms someone for the sake of someone (unless it is an extreme case) limits the choice, yes. But, it does not take away one’s will. A person can still go through with it, I just don’t think it a good thing for the law of the land to support such an action. You can keep the child or not, but I think the child should be given the chance to engage the world and live out its life. Since the more extreme cases are so rare, I think it makes more sense to counsel women to make a decision that does less harm (I have a friend who was, like many, forced into aborting her child and it horrifies her (she isn’t even religious)). Carrying the child to term at least gives the child a chance (I know you don’t think we are discussing a child but, from my point of view, we are). Being an orphan is horrible, but at least it is a life (again, I think all life is worth living, whatever your suffering).
            -Look at it this way: if you have a friend who is into a habit or is going to commit an action that you feel to be wrong, are you not going to try and stop them? That is really what is going on here on my end. It isn’t a desire for power or anything like that, I am trying to protect all parties involved because that wrongful act brings harm to a lot of people.
            -If the reason for your pregnancy isn’t something horrific (in which case I could understand getting an abortion), I think it is more or less selfish to get an abortion. The human life growing inside of the womb did not ask for any of this. The best we can do is find a way to protect the innocent one, they deserve a chance at least. The woman usually did not ask for it either (but I think that comes with the contraceptive culture, we tend to think that a baby’s conception is a sign that something went wrong, when it is actually a sign of our bodies doing what they are, in part, made to do. I know this because I use to think that very way) but, since it appears to be a life at stake we must do what we can to encourage that life and not malign the woman.
            -There are plenty of kids who end up not being adopted, I realize this. But, I still think that a life is better than no life. You disagree and that is fine.
            -If what I/the Church believes became law in the United States then it would (most likely) have been because of a general shift in popular belief on the matter. So, the side that is the majority now would likely have become the minority (otherwise I think it would have kept the laws as is). I wouldn’t be forcing my beliefs down the majority’s throat at all, I will have (at that point) convinced a majority of people of the moral in question. (this isn’t full proof: the fact that there are many in France (homosexuals, atheists, religious people alike that opposed legislation that was recently passed regarding same-sex marriage etc. It is an alarming amount of people who protested and the government hurried the resolution through against the wishes of most of the populace)
            -I, in no way, distill humanity into just the DNA. I know we are far more than chemicals. I do not know why you think that I believe otherwise. That’s contrary to Church teaching. That zygote is a human person from the start, and I merely used DNA (which ensures that the creature forming is human in shape etc.) as an easily identifiable commonality. Our DNA determines various aspects of our development, and we all share human DNA, we are all subject to it in some sense. If our DNA were not the same, we would not be of the same species and could not say that we are the same. The zygote and infant also share the split genes from their physical mother and father. For me, it only matters that they are human. Being human is more than DNA certainly, but we all start in the same place and go through the same developments.
            -You assume here that I would have argued down your definition of a person. I would have asked questions for further clarification (if needed) and then did what I have already done: concede that, if your view is the right one, your viewpoint makes the most sense. Then I would have discussed what I believe as I already have. I don’t enter arguments for the sake of winning, I want to understand and, if possible, convince. If I understand and deem it to be more true than my previous belief, I am more than willing to engage it and perhaps even change my own viewpoint. i’m a convert, so I had to overcome various prejudices and judgements against the Church before I found what it said was true. I had to first understand it before I could go anywhere with it. I simply ask for definitions so that there are no misunderstandings, or at least a reference point to clear those up.
            -I already agreed with this last point.

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

            I completely agree that the beginning of the cycle must be stopped which means a better sexual education, more self control across the board and more.

            Seems to me that society can make a much bigger dent in abortions by focusing on the cause (preventing unwanted pregnancy) than the symptom (abortions after the fact).

            you are imposing your views (which are shared by others) when you say that abortion should be legal.

            I absolutely demand that no constraints be put on you in this regard!! I’m not kidding here—I adamant! You must not be constrained!!!

            (That’s an odd kind of imposition.)

            something being illegal hardly eliminates your choices.

            Maybe, but you sure can’t choose that thing that is now illegal!

            So the girl who’s pregnant but doesn’t want to be: what choices does she have in this post-abortion paradise you envision?

            I just don’t know if it is good to provide people with an option that could be construed as a murder

            Some construe it as murder; most don’t. Seems to be a bit of debate on that matter.

            Some consider killing cows for hamburgers to be murder. What do we do with that?

            Of course, I could be wrong, but I don’t think so.

            I demand that you have free speech to speak your views. It’s the imposition of your views by law that’s the problem.

            You can keep the child or not

            Tell me: what fraction of premarital pregnancies taken to term end in adoption? (I know the answer, so you can ask me.)

            I have a friend who was, like many, forced into aborting her child and it horrifies her

            There’d be less of that if we could scale down the rhetoric and see it as just another medical procedure. I can easily see how today’s pro-life frenzy could make such a woman feel guilty.

            I think all life is worth living, whatever your suffering

            And you’re happy to impose that view on everyone else. That’s the problem.

            if you have a friend who is into a habit or is going to commit an action that you feel to be wrong, are you not going to try and stop them?

            Sure, but I’ll use argumentation, not laws.

            I think it is more or less selfish to get an abortion.

            We agree that rape, incest, or the mother’s health are big issues. But what do you think about the reasons that women mostly have abortions? I’m sure that you agree that “Eew—this is making me look fat!” isn’t the primary reason.

            You dismiss these reasons as not particularly important. But, if I may impose, I’d like you to sketch out for me the view from the standpoint of the 14-year-old girl who got pregnant by accident. Tell me why she’d want to have an abortion. Give me her best argument. I wonder if you’ve thought about it from her standpoint.

            The human life growing inside of the womb did not ask for any of this.

            At day 1, it’s just a cell. Who cares? In 5 or 6 days, it’s 100 cells. Who cares?

            If we agree that value increases over time, let’s get women with unwanted pregnancies their abortions (if they want them, of course) ASAP. Let’s make it weeks, not months.

            we tend to think that a baby’s conception is a sign that something went wrong, when it is actually a sign of our bodies doing what they are, in part, made to do

            Having sex is also what they’re made to do. Accept that, make contraception available, and teach teens about their adult bodies, and you’ll see a much bigger drop in abortion than the make-it-illegal approach that you’re taking.

            There are plenty of kids who end up not being adopted, I realize this. But, I still think that a life is better than no life.

            (1) Adoption isn’t the issue. Almost no women carry to term and then opt for adoption. (2) Have you studied the worst conditions of someone going through the foster care system? Do you know what you’re consigning these persons to?

            This cheerful, thoughtless, Pollyanna-ish, “Isn’t life fabulous?!” mindset is unworthy of an adult. Killing a newborn because their life would suck isn’t an answer. We agree there. But we have an opportunity for harm reduction. We can find a better way if we allow ourselves the option of aborting at an early age.

            My wife and I had 2 kids. We could’ve had a dozen, but we didn’t. That’s ten children that, because if my deliberate action, don’t exist today. Does that make me a monster? Of course not. But then you’re saying that it’s infanticide one day later at the single-cell stage? Let me propose a continuum; let me propose a spectrum.

            If what I/the Church believes became law in the United States …

            … then the Kermit Gosnell abortion clinic would be the typical place where women would get their abortions. Not a step forward, IMO.

            I, in no way, distill humanity into just the DNA. I know we are far more than chemicals. I do not know why you think that I believe otherwise.

            Uh … because I take your statements seriously. I show you the vast gulf between single cell at one end and trillion-cell baby that coos and giggles at the other end. You dismiss that and say that it’s Homo sapiens = human = person all the way across. You’re the one focused on the DNA; that and that alone is the commonality that spans the spectrum. That’s the consequence of your position: you distill humanity down to just chemicals. I’m the one trying to brush off this bizarre reductionist view and return some value to humanity.

            If our DNA were not the same, we would not be of the same species and could not say that we are the same. … For me, it only matters that they are human.

            Precisely. DNA is the centerpiece of your argument. And, if I may say so, it’s not a particularly attractive centerpiece. By focusing on “human,” you’ve flushed humanity down the toilet.

            Being human is more than DNA certainly

            Certainly.

          • http://zaireadams.blogspot.com/ zai

            I think we have probably gone as far as we can on this conversation. So, I’ll address what’s said here and leave it at that:
            -We agree mostly that society would do better by improving sex education etc. That does not mean that abortion should be an option. We won’t agree about that. However, something being illegal does not eliminate the choice of committing or procuring that act. It just brings with it certain consequences that would not be present if it was legal.
            -No, it isn’t usually (though I’m sure it has happened) “oh, this is making me fat.” I haven’t indicated that at all. If you read studies on this, the reasons are often:
            -I am being forced to do this by a loved one.
            -It will negatively impact my life to have a child.
            There are more but, I’m trying to be brief. A lot of those issues have an underlying selfishness within them though I would never suggest that all of that selfishness is present in the woman, it can be–but it probably isn’t. It isn’t going to be so in every case.
            -The 14 year old could have a number of reasons for desiring an abortion like keep the fact that she was having sex from her conservative parents, fear of being a teen mother, fear of a lack of support, an actual lack of support, the father skipping out etc. Some of those reasons are noble and some are more selfish. I never said I could not understand the desire, I just said that it was not a good desire nor a good action with my line beginning at conception.
            -I don’t agree that the value increases overtime. I thought I made that fairly clear: the value is inherent in being human.
            -I already agree that better sex education is necessary. I think condoms and birth control can have the added affect of pushing people to be a bit more reckless with their bodies, though.
            -Let me put it like this: even if I were born a slave, subject to the whims of a master, a life not in my own hands, I would still think life is a good thing. Believing that life itself is good is different from thinking that life is all peaches and gravy. I’m not an optimist but I am also not pessimistic. I believe that all life is worth living and, since you know nothing of my background, you are making a lot of assumptions. I could very well be adopted. I’m not, but you see my point. I know very well that the conditions that one of those children end up in may very well be inhumane, we have to work to stop such things from happening. That does not detract from the value of their lives though.
            -Let me also try this: DNA is focused upon because it is…the physical manifestation of metaphysical truths. All the physical aspects and ingredients are within that strange chemical. Humanity is in no way “flushed down the toilet” by my view. Humanity is a metaphysical category and one that I believe is given to every human animal from the start. In my view, humanity is a being that is full of possibilities and I believe we do wrong when we give no chance for those possibilities to emerge. Again, if I thought the cell became something more than physically human, I would agree with you wholeheartedly. I’m also willing to concede that that method (extremely early detection and abortion) might be the best middle ground that we can find.
            -I also maintain that you can give the child up for adoption. The fact that it does not happen often has little to do with it being a better overall option (particularly if your reason for desiring an abortion is the inability to care for said child). It gives people a chance.
            -To close, I enjoyed this discussion for the most part and wish you well. A lot of what you’re saying makes a lot of sense and is a step in the right direction.

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

            It’s good to hear that we agree on some points.

            A lot of those issues have an underlying selfishness within them

            Technically, yes, “My life would change completely if I had a baby” is selfish. That doesn’t mean it’s not a really important concern. Being concerned about oneself doesn’t strike me as problematic, especially given the magnitude of the change.

            The 14 year old could have a number of reasons for desiring an abortion like keep the fact that she was having sex from her conservative parents, fear of being a teen mother, fear of a lack of support, an actual lack of support, the father skipping out etc.

            Poverty, the poor environment the child would grow up in (gangs, drugs, dangerous neighborhood, absent father, etc.), the burden it would impose on the rest of the family, etc. Yeah, there can be some pretty powerful reasons for not wanting a baby.

            Some of those reasons are noble and some are more selfish.

            Not all selfish reasons are meaningless. “I’d better leave this burning car” is selfish, but it’s justified.

            I thought I made that fairly clear: the value is inherent in being human.

            Yes, you did make that clear. It’s all about the DNA.

            even if I were born a slave, subject to the whims of a master, a life not in my own hands, I would still think life is a good thing.

            Possibly (some slaves’ lives can be pretty horrendous, but let’s ignore that). But suicide isn’t what we’re talking about. We’re talking about rewinding the clock and preventing that slave from being born in the first place.

            you know nothing of my background, you are making a lot of assumptions

            Of necessity. Where I make a false assumption, I accept your correction.

            I could very well be adopted. I’m not, but you see my point.

            I am. I was adopted quite young, and my upbringing was great.

            I’m talking about foster children.

            That does not detract from the value of their lives though.

            Yes, after the fact! We’re not talking about that; we’re asking ourselves: consider the world in which this child’s difficult journey never happened. Would that be a better world?

            If I had one extra child by accident, I would never consider that child a burden. But that doesn’t mean that I today lament the life that never happened.

            DNA is focused upon because it is…the physical manifestation of metaphysical truths. All the physical aspects and ingredients are within that strange chemical.

            Nice try, but you’re still the reductionist in this conversation. You argue that human DNA is better than rat DNA (for example). Not an emotionally powerful argument, if you’ll allow my critique. I’m the one who celebrates the newborn baby being passed among delighted grandparents for the first time. You’re the one who says, “Meh—single cell, newborn baby. Same difference.”

            I believe we do wrong when we give no chance for those possibilities to emerge.

            And me who had 2 kids instead of 12? Am I indeed a monster for not allowing those possibilities to emerge?

            The fact that it does not happen often has little to do with it being a better overall option

            Huh?? It’s obviously not the better option because the 98% of unmarried women who give birth don’t take it! You can scold from the sidelines, but no one cares what you think. It’s the mother’s choice, and she makes it. That is the better option, as chosen by the only person that matters here.

            I enjoyed this discussion for the most part and wish you well.

            I appreciate your civil tone. I don’t find that in every antagonist.

            If you enjoy discussions like this, visit my blog: Cross Examined.

          • http://zaireadams.blogspot.com/ zai

            There is only one pressing thing that I want to address here:

            You say that I equate the zygote and infant in such a manner that it is of no significance when the baby arrives. This couldn’t be further from the truth, my celebration is merely longer than yours. I will celebrate as soon as I am aware that (my future wife) is pregnant with one (or more (yay twins)) of our children. To me, life is more like a journey, and that zygote is simply the starting point. I celebrate the inherent possibilities that a new life bring and I do it from the beginning. I’ll probably pop in on your blog periodically, thanks for the link.

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

            You’re trying to have it both ways. On one hand, life is a journey. You talk about possibilities, about what might happen with time. You reject my characterization of you and acknowledge the significant difference between zygote and newborn.

            And on the other, you dismiss the spectrum. They’re “human” at either end, after all.

            You need to figure out what your one consistent view is and stick with it. If your claim that there’s no meaningful distinction between the two ends of the spectrum is pushing you to ridiculous conclusions, I suggest you drop it.

          • http://zaireadams.blogspot.com/ zai

            sorry that wasn’t short…lulz

          • http://zaireadams.blogspot.com/ zai

            Here is a portion of where it seems we are:

            It looks like you define a person as this:
            (1) Persons are conscious and can feel things, such as pain.
            (2) Persons can reason: they have a “developed capacity to solve new and relatively complex problems”.
            (3) Persons are self-moved: their activity is relatively free of direct external or genetic control.
            (4) Persons can communicate “messages of an indefinite variety of types” (not just, say, “There is danger here” and “There is food here”).
            (5) They have a self-concept and self-awareness, either individually or as a species. (For the last option, Warren is imagining a bunch of aliens that live in a giant colony and have no ideas of themselves as individuals—there are science fiction stories like that.) (source Dr. Pruss)

            I think you would make some changes to that, since we do have points of agreement, but I think placing personhood on a spectrum runs into the same problems as Ms. Warren’s argument. You keep telling me to call it something different, but upon doing that I will be talking about something else. You seem to have a dichotomy between human being and a person. I don’t think that exists and would consider it arbitrary because, if allowed to do what it is programmed to do, a person will be formed completely from that beginning cell. That’s why it makes more sense to me to think that the person is already within the cell, just not in a form that we can readily see. So, personhood could be emergent but the only reason that personhood can exist is because the creature in question is human. Personhood is inherent in one’s humanity and we cannot say that the starting cell is anything less than human. Genetically speaking, all of it is there.

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

            You keep telling me to call it something different, but upon doing that I will be talking about something else.

            The vast difference between the single cell and the newborn must be acknowledged. Seems reasonable to have a term for what the newborn has acquired and the single cell does not have.

            if allowed to do what it is programmed to do, a person will be formed completely from that beginning cell.

            Yes, at the end of the development process, the newborn is a person. I’ve already said that. At the beginning, it’s not. The point is that a single cell might well develop into a newborn, but it hasn’t yet. To say that it will be a newborn is not to say that it is.

          • http://zaireadams.blogspot.com/ zai

            Here are the problems that I, along with Dr. Pruss, would say that placing personhood on a spectrum run into:

            -Are we still persons when we are in a coma and cannot respond to anything?
            -are we a person if we suffer from severe mental retardation?
            -What about being in the state of sleep? (this one is assuming you take the part about agency into account)

            I don’t think you have the exact same criteria that Ms. Warren does because you believe that a baby is a person (100% right?). This is why your definition of a person is important because being able to say a fetus or otherwise is a person is going to depend on if it meets the criteria for personhood. That’s why I keep asking, I cannot engage with your argument properly without it (which is partly why I made an assumption and used Ms. Warren’s criteria, what are the changes you would make? they would have to allow for babies to be considered persons). If you can tell me what you deem as a person then i can imagine better how it would look from your point of view. Mine is obviously that personhood is inherent in one’s humanity. By being a member of the species homos apiens you are a person, even if you have not physically developed all the things that you will need to engage the world with. Your personhood becomes more sophisticated, perhaps, but it is inherent in the nature of being a human. You think something different, so I would need a definition from your point of view.

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

            -Are we still persons when we are in a coma and cannot respond to anything?
            -are we a person if we suffer from severe mental retardation?
            -What about being in the state of sleep? (this one is assuming you take the part about agency into account)

            These persons are all trivially different from you. They are still persons.

            you believe that a baby is a person (100% right?)

            For the purposes of this conversation, yes.

            This is why your definition of a person is important

            You can always say that that doesn’t fit your definition. Haggling over definitions is not my idea of a good time.

            If you can tell me what you deem as a person

            Perhaps this is an honest approach from you, and if so, I appreciate that. However, it seems to me to be simply busy work. If we have to go back and forth a half-dozen more times to haggle out nuances of the term, only to have you say, “Well, I define ‘person’ differently,” then it doesn’t do us much good. Unless you want to accept my challenge and give me an acceptable word for what the newborn has and the baby doesn’t, let’s proceed without labels.

            Mine is obviously that personhood is inherent in one’s humanity.

            So my definition doesn’t matter. You don’t share it. Fine: you give me the vocabulary to describe this immense gulf between single cell and newborn.

          • http://zaireadams.blogspot.com/ zai

            -I do not think these persons are different from me at all, besides certain physical states and accidents. As you say, they are still persons.
            -My believing in a different definition makes your definition no less important. It helps expose the a priori assumptions and the philosophical backing to your views.
            -I don’t have a term for the difference between a newborn and the human zygote beyond not having been developed. if you have a word for that, that’s great–but, that has little to do with whether or not it is a life to be protected. I believe them to be on differing sides of a spectrum of physical, mental and spiritual development, but their humanity/personhood never comes into question. Since they are humans, they are thereby valuable and worth protecting (or at least being allowed to develop unhindered). That’s a basic truth for me and underlies all that I have said. A society should develop an idea of what a person is and then stick with that definition, this is why we fight about words. They are the only things really worth fighting about. With that, I bid thee adieu.

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

            that has little to do with whether or not it is a life to be protected.

            Then what does make a life worth protecting? You don’t care about the life of a mosquito or a fly. Some life is worth protecting and some isn’t.

            Since they are humans, they are thereby valuable and worth protecti ng

            This is merely an assumption. Don’t pretend that you’ve given me any reason to accept this axiom.

          • http://zaireadams.blogspot.com/ zai

            What is murder then? We don’t murder animals (though killing for sport is very questionable). I know it is an assumption, I am fairly sure I have said as much. This is at the base of the argument for me. Life is inherently valuable, human life in particular. This is why we try to keep people from overfishing etc. (but that is partly due to self-interest) but the human life is more important overall. again, assumptions based on the dignity of mankind etc.

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

            My definition of murder is similar to yours. I’m simply asking that you not give me this “life is worth protecting” when you make pretty much the same distinctions and evaluations as I do–vermin not very important; people quite important.

          • http://zaireadams.blogspot.com/ zai

            then I’ll stick to human life is important and worth protecting at whatever stage of development that it is in. Is that better? (I do think other life forms are important yet different (and thus require different responses). We have to care for them in a way as well and I wouldn’t be for killing any other creature for sport)

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

            You already have a spectrum of life, with mosquitoes and rats at one end and humans at the other. The inconsistency is when you pretend that there’s no meaningful difference between the single cell and the newborn. Let’s apply the spectrum there as well.

          • http://zaireadams.blogspot.com/ zai

            Also, some questions:

            1. Why do you believe that personhood is on a spectrum? Do you only apply this in relationship to the fetus vs. the newborn?
            2. What exactly is the fetus, if it is not a baby?
            3. What makes the skins cells we scratch off the same as the cell that we all start as?

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

            1. Why do you believe that personhood is on a spectrum? Do you only apply this in relationship to the fetus vs. the newborn?

            Are you asking, Why is the spectrum labeled “personhood”? Response: that seems like the obvious term to me, but I’m flexible. Give me a better term if you don’t like that one—a term that describes the property that the newborn has and the single cell doesn’t.

            Otherwise, perhaps I’ve misunderstood your question.

            As for question 2, I apply the concept of a spectrum anywhere there’s a continuous (instead of discrete) transition from one state to another—the spectrum between blue and green, for example.

            2. What exactly is the fetus, if it is not a baby?

            I hope that dictionary arguments bore me as much as they do you. The woman who’s ecstatic to be pregnant can call it a baby from day 1 if she wants. I won’t argue. But I’ve raised two babies, and a single cell that you can’t see without a microscope, isn’t one.

            A fetus is a fetus.

            3. What makes the skins cells we scratch off the same as the cell that we all start as?

            Doesn’t.

          • http://zaireadams.blogspot.com/ zai

            1. The question here is this: why is it that you measure personhood on a spectrum in the first place? Also, how does this spectrum work–is it only in the womb where this applies or do you become more of a person as you get older?

            2. Let me rephrase: is the fetus human or not? does being human guarantee personhood?

            3. I only asked this because you equated the skin cells we scratch with the newly forming human child
            THe comment is below:

            “?? I scratch off living skin cells and don’t think a thing about it. They’re also human; so what? You’ll say that they don’t have the potential to grow into person, and I agree. But a potential person and a person are not the same thing.”

          • http://zaireadams.blogspot.com/ zai

            I am meaning that I desire the precise definition that you hold.

          • http://zaireadams.blogspot.com/ zai

            here is another perspective: https://bearspace.baylor.edu/Alexander_Pruss/www/1308/abort2.html

            one of my former professors and well respected in philosophy.

        • Jakeithus

          The spectrum doesn’t necessarily end at newborn however. A similar spectrum exists between newborn and adult, for instance, and selecting newborn as an arbitrary cutoff point on the spectrum for personhood doesn’t solve the problem.

          It makes me extremely uncomfortable for society to assign value to people based on some arbitrary factor instead of accepting the value that people hold on the mere fact they are human.Too much evil has been done by people believing that our value is a result of our place in the spectrum of humanness, rather than looking beyond the spectrum altogether.

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

            The spectrum doesn’t necessarily end at newborn however. A similar spectrum exists between newborn and adult, for instance, and selecting newborn as an arbitrary cutoff point on the spectrum for personhood doesn’t solve the problem.

            Not really. The difference between a newborn and an adult is trivial compared to that between a newborn and a single cell.

            It makes me extremely uncomfortable for society to assign value to people based on some arbitrary factor instead of accepting the value that people hold on the mere fact they are human.

            ?? I scratch off living skin cells and don’t think a thing about it. They’re also human; so what? You’ll say that they don’t have the potential to grow into person, and I agree. But a potential person and a person are not the same thing.

            Consider parenting. We have rules about what is good parenting and what isn’t, and society steps in if parents cross the line. But we give the benefit of the doubt to the parent. I propose the same thing for the pregnant woman. They aren’t stupid, and pregnant women have great nurturing instincts. So when they say that the fetus growing inside them is a problem, they’re worth listening to. Let’s similarly give them the benefit of the doubt.

          • Jakeithus

            “Not really. The difference between a newborn and an adult is trivial compared to that between a newborn and a single cell.”

            Not really. An adult has years of memories, relationships, hopes and skills that a newborn does not possess, all of which create an equal or greater difference than the simple increase in number of cells separating an embryo from a newborn. Also, while you use a single celled human as your example in your argument, it does nothing to differentiate between a newborn and a fetus at later stages of development. Under your scenario, a fetus at 16 weeks has far more in common physiologically with a newborn than a single cell, why not make that the cutoff point?

            “They’re also human; so what? You’ll say that they don’t have the potential to grow into person, and I agree. But a potential person and a person are not the same thing.”

            No, I wouldn’t say that a human embryo doesn’t have the potential to grow into a person. Everything required for personhood is already present in that single cell, everything else is a growth of the person that already exists.

            Nice analogy, although I’m not sure it works in your favour. When the life of a child is at risk, our society steps in to ensure the safety of all parties involved. This interference is ok, even though most mothers aren’t stupid and have strong nurturing instincts. It is not the mother’s decision whether or not their child lives or dies however.

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

            Not really. An adult has years of memories, relationships, hopes and skills that a newborn does not possess, all of which create an equal or greater difference than the simple increase in number of cells separating an embryo from a newborn.

            It’s worse to kill an adult than a newborn because of brain development?? I have no idea what you’re saying.

            Also, while you use a single celled human as your example in your argument, it does nothing to differentiate between a newborn and a fetus at later stages of development.

            It’s a spectrum. If a single cell is 0% a person and a newborn is 100% a person, then that fetus is somewhere in between. Easy, right?

            No, I wouldn’t say that a human embryo doesn’t have the potential to grow into a person.

            Neither would I.

            When the life of a child is at risk, our society steps in to ensure the safety of all parties involved.

            Obviously. And when the parent scolds or spanks the child, we give the parent the benefit of the doubt unless it’s seriously harmful, even if the neighbor next door cringes when he hears it.

            It is not the mother’s decision whether or not their child lives or dies however.

            We’re not talking about children.

          • Jakeithus

            “It’s worse to kill an adult than a newborn because of brain development?? I have no idea what you’re saying.” – What I’m saying is that based on what I can gather from your logic, that’s the conclusion I come to. You are using stages of development as an indicator of personhood when comparing an embryo and a newborn, I’m merely applying the same standards to a newborn and adult.

            The problem I have with your spectrum is that there is no justification for using it in that way. Being 1% or 99% of a person doesn’t make any rational sense to me, it seems like an all or nothing proposition. It’s like the old saying, “there’s no thing as being a little bit pregnant”.

            Under your spectrum, a person goes from 0% personhood at conception to 100% at birth, and the only determining factor behind this is development time. Given that development continues long after birth, why stop the spectrum where you do? It’s inconsistent and irrational.

            “Neither would I.” – Thanks for the catch. What I meant to say is that I wouldn’t say an embryo has the potential to grow into a person.

            “We’re not talking about children” – Of course we are, but that’s beside the point. The fact that we disagree on the definition of child and person is the very heart of the argument itself.

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

            What I’m saying is that based on what I can gather from your logic, that’s the conclusion I come to.

            I thought I made clear that, IMO, the difference between an adult and a newborn is trivial compared to that between the newborn and the single cell it started at.

            The adult has a brain and eyes and ears and stomach and skin and on and on and on. So does the newborn. There are some physiological differences—the adult is sexually mature, for example—but compare that with the newborn/cell difference. The cell is just a cell!

            The problem I have with your spectrum is that there is no justification for using it in that way. Being 1% or 99% of a person doesn’t make any rational sense to me, it seems like an all or nothing proposition.

            (Sigh.) If you don’t like the term “person,” give me another one. You tell me: what is the property that the newborn has that the single cell doesn’t? I propose “personhood.” You don’t like that term? OK, give me a better one. I’m flexible, seriously. There may be other terms that are as good or better. But let’s not play dictionary games.

            Under your spectrum, a person goes from 0% personhood at conception to 100% at birth, and the only determining factor behind this is development time. Given that development continues long after birth, why stop the spectrum where you do? It’s inconsistent and irrational.

            I don’t stop the spectrum. But (again!) the difference between the newborn with 1,000,000,000,000 cells (each differentiated and hooked up in a precise way) and the person who has 25 times more cells (pretty much the same stuff, just bigger) isn’t especially big.

            I wouldn’t say an embryo has the potential to grow into a person.

            I thought you were defending the embryo by saying, “Well, it ain’t much now … but it will be!” If that’s not your argument, let me know what it is.

            “We’re not talking about children” – Of course we are

            Oh dear. Dictionary games.

            The fact that we disagree on the definition of child and person is the very heart of the argument itself.

            Seriously. I can’t imagine that either one of us is eager for “A fetus is a person” “No it’s not!” “A fetus is a person!” “No it’s not!

          • http://zaireadams.blogspot.com/ zai

            Here is the problem with focusing on the one initial cell: that’s not when abortions are occurring. They occur further down the line. So, even if I were to concede that the zygote is not a person, there is still that issue.

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

            We’re not talking about abortions. We’re one step before that, figuring out what we’re talking about. To blithely say that the fetus along the entire spectrum, all the way back to single cell, is a person or baby is to ignore the elephant in the room: that a single cell is really, really different from a newborn.

            Once we’re on the same page and agree on the spectrum, then let’s talk about abortions.

          • http://zaireadams.blogspot.com/ zai

            Starting from the single cell is a person, it just has not developed it’s physical form fully. It is the start of every human creature, if you rewinded your life you would end up back in that very form. It is part of your physical development, not the development of you becoming more of a person. You were a person from the start, just one that was physically and mentally undeveloped. That does not mean that you were not a human person, it just means you were a human person at an early stage of development. A full person, but not fully realized in other respects (physical, mental development etc). For me, you don’t gain personhood, you have that your entire life.

          • http://zaireadams.blogspot.com/ zai

            We seem to have an issue between a difference in kind and a difference in degree. I would say that the zygote only is different from the newborn in physical degrees, not kind. You seem to think that the development of the zygote changes the kind of thing it is. But, for me, the zygote is a human zygote, just like any other mammal’s young starts as a zygote of that type of mammal. It is a human animal at that point and, when it is implanted, the development continues physically, mentally etc.
            I assume you mean zygote when you’re referring to the single cell?

          • http://zaireadams.blogspot.com/ zai

            Let me rephrase: I would say that a zygote is of the same kind as the infant. That is, I would say that the personhood of the zygote, once implanted and going along its merry way, is never in question. The deferences between the two are differences in physical degree and those physical differences do not create any difference in the kind of creature that is developing. The kind of creature is a human and, by virtue of that, a person. We are constantly developing and growing, why would personhood only apply to the more obvious moments when we have brain activity and a heart beat? All that is to come, just as surely (though, of course, there are exceptions that develop oddly) as adolescence follows young childhood and so on.

          • Jakeithus

            “I thought I made clear that, IMO, the difference between an adult and a newborn is trivial compared to that between the newborn and the single cell it started at.”

            And I thought I made it clear that IMO, the difference between an adult and newborn is just as great, given the incredible amount of cognitive and psychological development that an adult has that a newborn does not.

            “You tell me: what is the property that the newborn has that the single cell doesn’t?”

            Age? Complexity? Both of those seem like more accurate descriptors of the difference between embryo and newborn, than personhood, which an individual gains simply by being human.

            Maybe if you could tell me what personhood entails to you, since from what I can gather, it seems to be related simply to the number, complexity and organization of cells, which is a pretty bad determining factor if you ask me.

            “The adult has a brain and eyes and ears and stomach and skin and on and on and on. So does the newborn”

            The funny part is, so does a fetus at a relatively early stage of development. Since I guess you’re unlikely to argue for the value of a fetus despite these traits being present, maybe you could use something else to help explain why newborns are equal to the same value of adults, as I’m a little confused by your logic?

            “I thought you were defending the embryo by saying, “Well, it ain’t much now … but it will be!” If that’s not your argument, let me know what it is.”

            What you’re saying above would be your argument. What I’m saying is that an embryo already is something incredible and valuable, and it doesn’t gain value in 9 months, just like a newborn doesn’t gain value in 18 years.

            “Oh dear. Dictionary games.” – Just remember, you started the games by disagree with the commonly accepted and accurate definition of child that I used.

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

            Age? Complexity?

            What I’m looking for is something to complete this sentence: “The newborn is a ____, while the single cell isn’t.”

            The funny part is, so does a fetus at a relatively early stage of development.

            Then I guess that fetus begins early to acquire the traits of personhood. See how a spectrum works?

            Since I guess you’re unlikely to argue for the value of a fetus despite these traits being present

            ?? I argue for the value of the fetus precisely because those traits are present. Can you have completely missed my point here?

            A single cell isn’t worth much. The brain of a mosquito has thousands of cells, and I’m delighted when I kill one of them. But as the fetus begins to pile up the traits of a person, then killing it becomes less acceptable. At some point, society steps in and says, “Not beyond this point.”

            What I’m saying is that an embryo already is something incredible and valuable, and it doesn’t gain value in 9 months

            And so is a cow incredible and valuable. But we kill them. Is the single human cell more valuable than a cow? Why?

            You reject the potentiality argument (“the fetus will be important”), which is fine by me, but a single cell sure doesn’t seem like much to me. What am I missing?

            Are you anti-abortion just for yourself, or do you want to impose this on everyone?

            Just remember, you started the [dictionary] games by disagree with the commonly accepted and accurate definition of child that I used.

            Wait—everyone says that “child” always applies down to the single cell?

          • Jakeithus

            “What I’m looking for is something to complete this sentence: “The newborn is a ____, while the single cell isn’t.” – The newborn is complex, while the single cell isnt? The newborn is 9 months old, while the single cell is one day old?

            I think a better statement is “The newborn is a human, the single cell is a human”, and considering they have that in common, they are both worthy of the full value we assign to humans. The difference that you are looking for is minor compared to what they have in common.

            “And so is a cow incredible and valuable. But we kill them. Is the single human cell more valuable than a cow? Why?”

            I would say, because it is a human. 10 trillion human cells, no matter how elegantly arranged, don’t gain anything of value over that single cell. All they have had is the benefit of time.

            I am anti-abortion for everyone, just like I am anti-murder for everyone. Just because one human does not value another human, does not give anyone the license to end that life.

            “Wait—everyone says that “child” always applies down to the single cell?”

            I didn’t say everyone, I said commonly accepted. You took issue with the definition of the word I used, and that’s your prerogative, but to try and impose your definition like you did can only be described as playing games.

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

            I think a better statement is “The newborn is a human, the single cell is a human”, and considering they have that in common, they are both worthy of the full value we assign to humans.

            And, since you want to impose your view on everyone else, I think that we should look at the differences as well from a due diligence standpoint.

            Full value that we assign to humans? Yet again, if you broaden the category of humans to include single cells—we’re talking about something that you need a microscope to see!—then you have a pretty heterogeneous group. Some humans in this group are very important, and others aren’t.

            The difference that you are looking for is minor compared to what they have in common.

            That so? What they have in common is DNA. And that they’re eukaryotes. That’s it.

            Golly, that’s something that I get misty-eyed just thinking about. DNA. And eukaryotes. Wow—cool.

            And the minor differences that mean little to you are the eyes and ears and arms and legs and heart and brain that the newborn has and that new parents can bond with.

            One thing we can perhaps agree on is that we see this issue radically differently. Are you so sure about the rightness of your views that you want to impose this on society?

            10 trillion human cells, no matter how elegantly arranged, don’t gain anything of value over that single cell.

            We have little common ground here. Not much point in continuing this conversation, is there?

            I am anti-abortion for everyone

            You’re so confident that you’re right that you’re eager to impose your beliefs on everyone else? Me, I’d prefer to treat people like adults and trust them with a choice.

            Just because one human does not value another human, does not give anyone the license to end that life.

            It’s a cell. Who cares?

            I didn’t say everyone, I said commonly accepted.

            Oh, good. Good to know that I’m not insane for my definition of the word.

  • Susan_G1

    This post is more thought provoking than most on abortion. Framing it this way really does help one see it as the idol of self. And, of course the rational answer is, no, we would not kill another.

    However it is not as simple as you frame it (it rarely is). Many young women (and abortion is most common under 25) don’t see the entire picture. For many, pregnancy is not just an uncomfortable five months plus a few days of pain and recuperation. For some, it may threaten life with an unloving or abusive man, the abandonment of parents, lifelong poverty, an education forever gone. For some, the thought of a rapist’s or a father’s child growing inside of them and causing such fear and anxiety is really more than they can bear. In this last case, we need to be especially sensitive to the person involved.

    One sin does not excuse another. Have you considered, however, before throwing that stone, that the idol of self is prevalent in our culture (christian as well)? Expressed in hundreds of ways by many millions of people every day? Do not forget, please, that fully 40% of women seeking abortions are Christians (13% born again, 27% Catholic). If Christian women can kill babies… then it tells me that Christians can do anything. They can kill, rape, abuse, commit genocide, etc.

    I believe that vaginal sonograms and a waiting period of 24-48 hours is a small intrusion when balanced against the life of a fetus, so I support that. I support most of the changes proposed by Texas State Bill 5. They would decrease abortion significantly and improve safety conditions as well.

    60% of women seeking abortions are non-Christians, and have been told that for some 40 years, a mass of cells is not a considered a human. I’m sure many of them know otherwise. If 40% surely know otherwise and do it anyway, it says more about pregnancy-associated problems than we want to examine. We are surely guilty of something ourselves if 600,000 abortions are performed on our own Christian daughters and sisters.

    The law legalizes abortion. As we live in a republic, not a theocracy, they have the legal right to have the procedure done in a safe and timely manner. We do have the right to protest, inform, preach, and through elected officials legislate the process, perhaps someday to eliminate it. But (and I know you have not advocated this, but it is done none-the-less) we do not have the right to hate, or condemn another to damnation, ever. Hate based language here is no more welcome than that of the Westboro Baptist Church at servicemen’s funerals.

    One final caveat: many theologians themselves are not sure when life begins.

  • lkk

    I posted this sentiment below when the article was on NRO several days ago. While pastors can be a key catalyst to our own self-awareness that connect us to our better selves, I think the case for a pro-life stance is very simple and doesn’t require one to be particularly religious –

    Who among us has not looked up at the magical night sky with its sparkly stars and enormous full moon and milky haze against an infinite blackness and not felt humbled and confounded by its beauty and mystery? Wondered until your head hurt about how it was all created and that how it has no end (or does it?) and the fact that you, a walking, breathing, intelligent life form exists….either a gift of God’s love or the outcome of an amazing incomprehensible unquantifiable series of serendipitous events over an unknowable number of years….all roads lead us back to nothing less than a miraculous gift of immeasurable grace…And if that has touched you at the deepest part of yourself, then you will treasure your time here and desire to make it more purposeful. You will have a desire to care for yourself because you want to make the most of this gift. You will treat others with respect and honor. You may fiercely oppose the ideologies and behavior of others, but you cannot deny the miracle of their existence.

    Perhaps it is modernity that has tuned us inward on ourselves and our own importance, omnipotence and entitlement..and has served to separate us from our reverence for this gift and our connection to a larger purpose. Prosperity without humility….with civility a human casualty.

    If we have felt the miracle of own life, then must we not also give reverence to our own life-giving potential? and to the lives we create? How do we reconcile that my life is a miracle, but this one isn’t? It is the question that that will forever gnaw at our conscience and is why… as Peggy Noonan says… abortion is the constant agitation of the American soul…

  • Marcion

    This is a christian blog, correct? What happens to the souls of fetuses that are aborted?

    • Agni Ashwin

      Different Christians have different answers.

  • Jerry Lynch

    David, this is what I have been pestering you about, getting you to write this sort of piece. Nicely done. I had a little cringe going as I got deeper and deeper into the article, praying your political Hyde would not appear with its savage tendencies, and was really, really happy when he did not.

  • ahermit

    Yes, It was so selfish of Savita Halappanavar to ask for an abortion when she was dying of sepsis in that Irish hospital…

  • ahermit

    The Catholic Church and the Irish government did.

    More importantly this post arrogantly presumes to know and judge the reasons that women seek abortions instead of trying to understand those reasons, or giving women enough credit to think that they might understand their own circumstances well enough to make a rational, informed decision about what should and shouldn’t happen inside their own bodies. What passes between a woman and her doctor concerning the care of her own body is no business of yours or mine or David French.

  • Valde

    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.

    Yes, once upon a time we were blastocysts, too. 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.

    Johnathan M Sullivan MD PHD

  • ahermit

    The problem seems to be that if there is even a slim chance that the pregnancy won’t kill the woman she can’t have that abortion. That was the case for Savita.

    The Church pays lip service to such exceptions, but in practice doesn’t seem to take them very seriously…

    Nine-Year-Old’s Abortion Outrages Brazil’s Catholic Church

    “Archibishop Jose Cardoso Sobrinho of the coastal city of
    Recife announced that the Vatican was excommunicating the family of a local girl who had been raped and impregnated with twins by her stepfather, because they had chosen to have the girl undergo an abortion. The Church excommunicated the doctors who performed the procedure as well…

    …Abortion is illegal in Brazil except in cases of rape or when the mother’s life is in danger, both of which apply in this case.”

    Nun excommunicated for approving life-saving abortion

    “A 27-year-old pregnant patient at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix, Arizona became gravely ill.
    Doctors told her unless she aborted her 11-week-old fetus she would likely die. The problem: St. Joseph’s is a Catholic hospital and abortions are largely prohibited.

    Sister Margaret McBride was part of an ethics panel that included doctors that consulted with the young woman. The woman had the procedure and survived. But Sister McBride took some heat. The Phoenix Catholic Diocese, led by Bishop Thomas Olmsted, automatically excommunicated the nun, effectively banning her from participating in the church.”

    This is the problem with the absolutist position and this erroneous assumption that women only, or mostly, have abortions out of selfishness and simply for “convenience”; it seeks to take the choice of women like these away.

  • Carrie

    Spoken just like a person who will never, never know those circumstances personally

  • Saddened

    And yet, the pro-abortion comments here only go on to prove the very point you’re making. Tragic.


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