Anti-Abortion Argument #4: Shouldn’t We Err on the Safe Side?

This post is part of a series of posts addressing arguments made against abortion. The format here is simple: I list a common argument against abortion and then open the floor for my readers to discuss. Without further ado, here’s today’s argument:

Shouldn’t We Err on the Safe Side?

The fetus MIGHT be a person. It’s hard to say when personhood/self-awareness/thought begins and therefore the fetus might be/have any or all of the above and should be given the benefit of the doubt. After all, everyone agrees that a fetus becomes a person at some point. For some, that point is conception. For others, it’s much later–possibly birth. Scientifically, though, we have no idea. Therefore, to be on the safe side so we don’t kill any people, we should assume that point is as early as possible.

Please be civil and direct. Remember that I would like the comments section of this post to serve as a resource in the future. You are encouraged to link to articles elsewhere that help address this argument, or to studies or documentation. And don’t be afraid to respond to each other, to play the devil’s advocate, or to simply ask questions.

After a week I will close the comments sections on this post, and will choose the comments I consider clearest and most interesting and add them to the end of the OP (with full credit, of course).

So. Discuss!

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • http://valuesfromscratch.blogspot.com Marian

    See, as I went from being ardently pro-life to somewhere in the middle to ardently pro-choice, this argument actually made a lot of sense to me… from the other angle.

    “After all, everyone agrees that a fetus becomes a person at some point. For some, that point is conception. For others, it’s much later–possibly birth. Scientifically, though, we have no idea.” I realized that since scientifically we have no idea, short of birth being an absolute (ie, it absolutely doesn’t happen later than birth) the argument of personhood is essentially a religious argument. And in this country we don’t (or shouldn’t) make laws that impose one person’s religious viewpoints on another person.

    I say this as a person who absolutely does think a fetus is a person from the moment of implantation (not sperm meets egg conception, but the moment you have an actual viable pregnancy). I think abortion is wrong in many but not all circumstances. But that is largely based on my religious views, which I don’t think should be imposed on anybody else. From a human rights standpoint, even if you could prove 100% scientfically (not religiously) that it is a human being, there are still TWO human beings in a pregnancy, both the woman and the child, and they BOTH have rights. Therefore, even though I believe it is a person, I am 100% pro-choice and get very indignant any time politicians try to limit or remove abortion rights. But as long as we can’t prove “scientifically” that it is a human being, we should err on the safe side. The safe side being that we can’t oppose one person’s religious or philosophical views on another person, especially not on a person who is 100% definitely a person in favor of someone who may or may not be a person.

  • Andrew G.

    This is just one of the many anti-abortion arguments that relies on erasing the mother from the equation.

    • http://www.queereka.com Yessenia

      This, times 1000.

      It’s absolutely irrelevant whether the fetus is a person. Let’s grant for the sake of argument that every fetus is actually a fully sentient 35 year old man.

      Does a 35 year old man have a right to live inside my body, feeding off of my blood supply without my consent?

      If your answer is no, then why should a fetus, whose personhood is much more questionable than a 35 year old man’s, have such an absurd right to live off of me without my consent?

      The ‘when does it become a person’ is a red herring. If it’s not a person, it has no rights, period; if it is a person, it does not have a special, fetus-only right to parasitize another person.

      • Cathy W

        The typical response to this is, I’m afraid, “You consented when you had sex – you can’t take it back now.”

        Since every sex act, no matter how many forms of birth control you’re using, carries a possibility, however remote, of pregnancy, you shouldn’t have sex unless you’re willing to have a baby, at least in Pro-Life-World.

      • Rosie

        My cousin used the “implied consent” argument to me. I haven’t figured out how to argue against it in a way she will understand, though, because her understanding of sex and consent is still in the “God forbids” and “God allows” boxes, not the “consensual” and “non-consensual” boxes. And she doesn’t see any failing in the boxes she’s using. We end up talking past each other a lot.

      • http://www.queereka.com Yessenia

        I’ve heard that argument before as well, but it’s about as specious as the argument that by wearing a short skirt, I’m consenting to a random stranger performing unnamed sex acts on me. Only with pregnancy, by consenting to let one person put part of his body inside my body, I’m consenting to let a person or people who don’t yet exist do the same.

        It’s pretty much the logic of a gang rape. In 2007, the Maryland Supreme Court spelled it out:

        “It was only two years ago that Maryland overturned an archaic court ruling stating that if a woman withdrew consent, any sex that followed wasn’t rape. In 2007, the Maryland Court of Special Appeals justified this old ruling, explaining that anything after the initial “deflowering” of a woman couldn’t be rape because “the damage was done” to her virginity and she could never be “reflowered.” In fact, the injured party, according to this ruling, wasn’t even the assaulted woman, but the “responsible male’s interest” – that of her father or husband. It took until 2008 for the state’s highest court to change this.”

        The purpose of that argument is to subtly insert the idea that a woman’s civil rights peak the moment before they lose their virginity – that sexual women are somehow second class citizens who forfeit their bodily autonomy doing what men are freely able to do without forfeiting their autonomy.

  • ButchKitties

    We should err on the side of preserving the rights of the party whom we know is a person. A pregnant woman is a person, no “might” about it. She gets to decide what happens to her body.

    • eric

      Seconded. If you’ve got one undeniably-person and one maybe-person, the real “erring on the side of caution” strategy is to protect the rights of the undeniably-person.

      And, at the risk of bringing up a side-argument, objection #4 also runs into the same old organ donation problem. I.e., even if both parties are people, the conclusion “we can’t let one withhold resources from the other, if it means the other dies” doesn’t follow.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      Yep. There are two beings here, one that is definitely a person, and one that could maybe POSSIBLY be a person, but there are many logically sound philosophical arguments against this idea that make use of good scientific data. Which being’s interests should we prioritize when making public policy? To me, the answer is easy.

      • Rosie

        And to anti-abortionists, the answer is also easy, but in reverse: prioritize the “innocent”, not the one who lives a life they think is immoral and sinful. Which is still a religious argument, but since it’s not (near as I can tell) a fully conscious one, it’s difficult to argue with.

  • http://cfiottawa.com Eamon Knight

    It’s sort of a Reverse Slippery Slope Fallacy — we can’t point to a hard dividing line, therefore we must set the boundary right at one extreme. And the concept of “scientifically determining personhood” is incoherent — personhood is not itself a scientific concept. State the characteristics of personhood, and science can (in principle) tell you if and when they likely apply, and for non-question-begging definitions of personhood, science has shown pretty definitely that early-term fetuses don’t have it. The argument asserts ignorance where we, in fact, have knowledge, or else asks us to apply an unreasonable level of doubt to our conclusions.

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      This. All of this.

  • Jason Dick

    It’s rather dishonest to “err on the safe side” while completely and utterly ignoring the impact of the pregnancy on the woman. Pregnancy significantly increases the risk of a great many medical complications, and is far more deadly to a woman (or especially a young girl) than having an abortion. Erring on the safe side would be to preserve the health and life of the entity we know is a person: the woman or young girl who is pregnant, rather than the entity whose personhood is in question.

    • Rae

      Exactly this.

      If the life or well-being of the mother is at risk, then wouldn’t the “err on the safe side” option be to remove the fetus in order to preserve the life of someone who’s definitely a person rather than trying to avoid killing the fetus that may or may not be a person?

      One can even take that further and say that one should “err on the safe side” by regarding the rights of the mother, who definitely fits any criteria of “personhood” you can come up with over the rights of the fetus which may or may not have “personhood”.

      Then, if you wanted to go even further, you could consider resources like the medicolegal system that investigates “sudden and unexpected deaths” of all sorts, or the criminal justice system, and would investigating the likely natural deaths of the fetuses that may or may not have personhood take resources away from investigating and prosecuting crimes against people who definitely have personhood? What other finite resources might be less available to humans who definitely have personhood if all fetuses have been granted personhood as well?

      It all goes down, again, to the question of whether or not the fetus has the right to use another person’s body without their consent, even if it is a person.

  • Baal

    trigger warning – horrific biology
    We know the blastocysts and other really early stages of pregnancy don’t have neurons and even one the brain gets formation started, it can’t think yet. There need to be rounds and rounds of new connections, pruning for a long while to even get basic functionality going. The argument as posited says no abortions due to potential ‘personhood’. Clearly that’s wrong at the earliest instances. Even if a ‘scientific personhood’ point is difficult to determine, it’s too far to go to -0-.

    Could we also get a definition of what’s a person? The tradtional rule (it’s also the current rule, common law and at the time of the founders) was that until live birth of a viable baby happens, you don’t have a person from a legal perspective.

    Lastly, the ‘benefit of the doubt’ here cuts against the life of the mother – a person in being. Childbirth is not a trivial activity and not every pregnancy will result in live birth. Some birthdefects include lack of forebrain formaiton or the brain forming outside of the skull. These fetuses can live until birth – could you imagine being the woman with this type of pregnancy? In other cases the placenta is ok but the fetus dies for some reason. The woman is then left being pregnant with a dead fetus in her. If you disallow all abortions under this just be on the safe side argument, you are condemning women to certain horrors.
    I’ve gone on too long already but there are many pregnancy related illnesses that can cause a women to be sterile or die (placental abruption, infection, eclampsya etc) where an abortion may be the only solution.

  • Baal

    oh – I had an additional thought. Were we to ‘err of the safe side’ of no abortions, we’d also likely have to relitigate birth control (particularly hormonal types). When the cameras are off, the proponents of this type of argument admit they want that as well – killing two birds with one stone as it were.

  • Derby

    One major problem with this entire argument is that “personhood” and “person” have absolutely no scientific definitions. They are purely social concepts, so of course science hasn’t been able to find out when they are achieved. A person is nothing more than a human being, according to the dictionary, but when do we define a human being? The attempt to define personhood by unique DNA is useless, because there are several cells within the human body that have separate DNA from the rest and yet they are not considered separate persons. A person is not defined by the capability to feel pain nor by simply having a heartbeat, otherwise all other animals would also be considered persons. Neither is a person and thus personhood defined by rational thought or altruism or semi-self conscious brain functioning, else many other species of mammals, birds, and molluscs would also be considered people and they’re not. And that’s to say nothing of the fact that many human beings would no longer be considered “persons” as well if altruistic thoughts and actions are a measure of personhood. About the only way “person” can be defined (and almost exclusively is in society and law outside of certain pro-lifers who have realized the problem) is by having a unique philosophy of “self,” a concept that requires full self-consciousness in order to even be aware of the existence of that “self.”

    However, if personhood is defined as self-consciousness, the pro-life movement has a big problem – human beings don’t have self-awareness or conscious thought until on average 15 months after they’re born. There can be no playing it safe because fetus might be persons: they are definitively not persons and have no chance of being persons under the by far most commonly used understanding of what a person is. In fact, babies aren’t technically persons until after their first year of life, but since the development of self-consciousness is a long process and there is no marked event to define self-consciousness, we ethically use a clear measure that covers all potential persons just to be safe already: birth.

    This whole argument is bunk regardless and just a distraction from the real issue because as said above there is another person involved in this equation. Even if you could prove beyond any reasonable doubt that fetuses are full persons who regularly quote Shakespeare , compose concertos and debate philosophy while in the womb, that has absolutely no bearing on whether or not abortion should be made illegal. No other fully developed person has the right to violate the bodily autonomy of another person against their will, even if death is the guaranteed outcome – period, end of story.

  • thalwen

    Exactly, the question is between the rights of a definite, existing, unquestionably human woman and a potential human. Why limit consciousness to humans? Certainly other animals show signs of consciousness that we can’t see as we can’t get in their heads. If we’re going to protect life, then why stop at the foetus?

    And most anti-choicers do stop at the foetus. It’s hard to find anti-choice articles dealing with the foetus that mention the mother at all or the impact of her pregnancy. It’s also hard to find anti-choice articles dealing with helping born children. Once they’re born they’re parasites and any assistance they need is socialism.

    But yeah, we do err on the safe side. That’s why countries with the most open abortion policies have abortions early. That’s why abortions are performed to save a woman’s life and health as she too is a human worth protecting. That’s why we invest in medical science to make reproductive health safer so we have safer pregnancies and better outcomes for wanted children. Does that mean no risk? No, but there is very little in life that does not come with any risk.

  • http://politicsproseotherthings.blogspot.com/ Nathaniel

    Erring on the safe side is already abortion policy. That’s why we let the woman decide.

  • Gordon

    This is an argument against waiting periods and delays. It would imply a need to have the morning after pill available in corner shops. The sooner the better.

  • http://quinesqueue.blogspot.com Quine

    There is an example in philosophy known as the Sorties Paradox that covers cases where something comes into being by fine grain steps (little by little) such that you can’t tell the specific point of change. When a fetus develops by progressive cell division and differentiation, we don’t ever have a single point in either time or development that makes the change from a collection of tissues that could be rearranged into almost any other mammal, into a human being who has personal rights.

    Setting personal rights at conception makes an easy point in time, but makes no biological sense. The odds that a fertilized egg will develop enough to attach, and then develop all the way through to live birth is something between 25% and 50%. With a world live birth rate at about 11 million a month, that means there are between 11 and 22 million spontaneous abortions every month. If those are all persons, that would be a major genocide every month, just from nature itself. It is not evenly distributed, such that some couples end up with babies on the first try, while others have to “keep trying” for years because of carrying problems. If a woman produces healthy eggs, but can’t carry at all, is she guilty of homicide every month she has unprotected sex?

    The point in time we can all agree about is birth. It is hard to justify infanticide even in cases of very bad birth defects. At the same time, we can’t justify letting a development problem kill or injure a pregnant woman (there are thousands of ectopic pregnancies each month, worldwide). What we know is that before birth the pregnant woman is using (and risking) her body to support the fetus. For me, that unique relationship means she gets the power and responsibility of making the call on something we will never be able to define with a bright line.

  • joeclark77

    The argument is a fallacious one intended to distract from the real issue. We all know that a human life begins at the moment of conception. It is scientific fact and has no aspect of religion to it. Abortion is the intentional killing of a living human being. Only pro-abortionists claim that there is a religious mystery about how human reproduction works. (It’s so odd to hear a bunch of atheists tell us that the only way to answer a scientific question is for each of us to personally consult God and form our own consciences on the matter.) The reasons pro-abortionists perpetuate this supposed debate is to deflect from the real question, a question that they don’t want to answer because they know their answer makes them look bad.

    The real question is: “Is the intentional killing of a living human being morally wrong?”

    The “err on the safe side” argument is merely a way of taking the air out of the tires of the atheist who tries to claim that human reproduction is a religious mystery. If the pro-abortionist rejects the idea of erring on the safe side, he “outs himself” as somebody who really doesn’t have a moral objection to murder (which is the thing he’s trying hard to prevent people from realizing). To a moral person, of COURSE if the baby MIGHT be human, you DON’T go ahead and kill it.

    • http://politicsproseotherthings.blogspot.com/ Nathaniel

      “We all know that a human life begins at the moment of conception.”

      Dude, did you even notice the the past posts addressing this issue? Reading comprehension is your friend.

    • OurSally

      Let’s run with that one. If every fertilised egg is immediately a human being with all the attendant rights and privileges, that must include inheritance. So every fertilised egg is an heir to the fortune of its parents. Now a big fraction of these eggs do not implant or do not carry to term for health reasons. You can imagine scenarios where this could become quite interesting from a legal point of view. Maybe fertilised egg cells could get married? Could own property?

      • thalwen

        There have been some interesting cases of fertilised egg inheritance – though the issue wasn’t the personhood of the embryo but the timing of the father’s death and the conception which can get pretty tricky with modern technology. If a father freezes his sperm pre-chemo, intending to have kids after he recovers but dies and his wife impregnates herself with his sperm type of scenarios. If we were to declare legally a foetus to be a person then the scope of the legal mess involved would be immense.

        And no, we don’t all know life starts at conception because we will never agree to the definition of life. According to the Bible, God knew you before you were in the womb, does that mean that life starts before conception, and does that mean that God knows that you might not be born from the start? According to science, well.. you can’t go by DNA, we don’t know when consciousness begins, etc. Oh and we have this living, breathing, human woman who is already alive and her rights and health need to be considered as well. If we all knew that a foetus was a living, breathing person and it was so obvious.. then we’d be living in a different universe. In our world it isn’t that clear and since even anti-choicers have plenty of abortions I doubt most believe that “it’s a fully formed human” crap.

        And I suspect the conflation of an embryo/foetus/baby is one of the reasons anti-choicers have so little regard for real humans.

      • Petticoat Philosopher

        We actually DO have a scientific definition of “life” or, at least, a set of criteria that, when most are present, indicate the existence of life (homeostasis, metabolism, etc.). The thing is, it applies as much to bacteria as to humans so it’s really not very helpful in this debate. What you are talking about is “personhood.” Proper terms, people. Proper terms!

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      lol, you’re really got us all figured out, joeclark.

      It IS a scientific fact that a fetus is genetically human and living, nobody is denying that. However, it does not follow that it is a PERSON, since there are other genetically human organisms that are not persons and many good arguments to be made that there are non-genetically human organisms that ARE persons. (For example, I find the many arguments that some species of ceteceans have personhood to be quite convincing.) The question of personhood is not a “religious mystery,” however, it is a philosophical question, not a scientific one and, while scientific data can and should be used to support a philosophical position on this point (and my position does), it is not a question that can be answered by science. There is extensive discussion of these distinctions on Libby’s personhood post, which you may read to discover the ACTUAL reasoning of pro-choicers. That is, if you can handle having your neat little explanation of our every motive challenged in any way.

      • http://cfiottawa.com Eamon Knight

        Joe needs to look up HeLa cells.

    • Zme

      Human life begins 30,000 to 200,000 years ago and hasn’t stopped since, so “human at conception” is specious argument.

      What we’re talking about is who owns a woman’s body…a freeloading, vandalizing parasite (that may or may not be a person) or the woman. If you say the latter then can you justify evicting a squatter (who raids your pantry and refrigerator, damages your furniture, and makes you clean up its piss and shit) from your home in the middle of winter?

      If you anti-abortionists were truly pro-life you’d be battling for comprehensive sex education and free effective contraception. Instead all I hear from you is slut shaming as a high art.

      • Zme

        oops…”latter” should be “former”

    • BabyRaptor

      No, we don’t all know that human life begins at conception. The majority of people in this country don’t think that way–They support the law as it stands. Claiming otherwise is just you lying.

      There is no fact-based argument for life beginning at conception. And there’s no truly moral argument for forced birth. Every argument your side makes completely ignores the rights and desires of the woman, without whom the fetus wouldn’t develop to begin with.

    • Ray

      Society glorifies and place people high up on the stepladder of morality for killing humans outside of their body. Often stating they are protecting a community, so you statement that moral people don’t intentionally kill humans is kinda flawed. Because moral people do intentionally kill humans unless you are saying any upstanding member of the arm forces are immoral based on kill count.

  • Liz

    To expand a bit about DNA, I understand that other cells such as tumors have their own unique DNA, as does a fertilized egg. However, tumors are a mass of abnormal cells. A fertilized egg is the sperm and egg united together. The sperm and egg separate from each other would not result in a human being. But when they are united, they do. Even secular science textbooks have claimed this union is a new human being.

    Or consider this, even: The tumor cells can grow and divide rapidly, as does a fertilized egg. But, tumor cells do not result in a human being. The fertilized egg does. This holds true regardless of where one believes personhood begins. Personally, I base my pro-life position on science, not religion. Here is an Atheist who is pro-life. http://www.godandscience.org/doctrine/pro-life_atheist.html.

    • http://www.queereka.com Yessenia

      You…you do realize that sometimes fertilized eggs can actually *become tumors,* right?

      Oh. No. You didn’t. Maybe you should go study “secular science textbooks” some more, or google some of the following terms: fetus in fetu; fetiform teratoma; molar pregnancy; tetragametic microchimerism; maternal microchimerism… you get the picture. Your understanding of genetics – that sperm+egg inevitably and only leads to a baby – is quite simplistic and uninformed.

      And it’s absolutely horrifying to me that despite knowing so very little, you feel sufficiently competent to have these sweeping and ridiculous opinions about what medical choices I get to make with my body. And you may even think they should be law. Talk about the arrogance of ignorance. Talk about hubris. Talk about the sin of pride!

      • machintelligence

        It’s just Dunning-Kruger effect in action:

        The Dunning–Kruger effect is a cognitive bias in which unskilled individuals suffer from illusory superiority, mistakenly rating their ability much higher than average. This bias is attributed to a metacognitive inability of the unskilled to recognize their mistakes.[1]

        See:
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning%E2%80%93Kruger_effect

    • Petticoat Philosopher

      “However, tumors are a mass of abnormal cells.”

      Why should the “abnormality” of the cells affect its value? If a human embryo had abnormal cells due to a congenital birth defect, would you think it justifiable to abort it? My guess is no. Why should the supposed “normality” of the cells have any bearing? Who gets to decide what’s normal? A tumor is going through the various biological processes involved in growth and self-preservation, just like an embryo is. Who are you to decide which cell-types are worthy of being allowed to continued to do this?

      My point is, this distinction you are making does nothing to uphold your position.

      “The sperm and egg separate from each other would not result in a human being. But when they are united, they do.”

      No they don’t. They only result in the a human being when they have the support, resources, and protection of another, fully grown human being. Just as it requires such human beings to bring the sperm and the egg together, it requires a human being to transform those two cells into something other than what they are. A fertilized egg does not simply “result in a person.” It’s not magic. Stop erasing the woman.

      And stop pretending that the “union” of the sperm and the egg is one magic moment. The transformation of these two cells into a different type of cell is actually complicated and involved multiple processes that take time. This has been covered in more depth elsewhere by people with more off-the-cuff biological knowledge than I but, suffice to say, the “moment” of conception is not a moment at all. So at what point in this complex set of processes do you say “Poof! It’s a person?”

    • plunderb

      “But, tumor cells do not result in a human being. The fertilized egg does.”

      A fertilized egg does not result in a human being without the extreme cooperation of a woman. That is the difference between an embryo and a newborn. An embryo is like a seed — with the right nutrients and time and effort, it may become a newborn. But the only way that an embryo will become a newborn is if a woman provides it with shelter, food, oxygen, etc. and then goes through the difficulties of labor and delivery. The pro-choice position is that no woman should be forced to grow a human insider her body without her consent. The pro-life position is that a woman’s consent does not matter and that her right to sovereignty over her own body can be trumped by other people’s needs. That is why anti-patriarchy people like feminists are pro-choice and pro-patriarchy people like Quiverfull Christians are not.

      • plunderb

        *inside*

    • BabyRaptor

      Hey, I have a question.

      You DO understand that, without a woman, your beloved sperm/egg=baby magic won’t happen, yes? So why do you completely erase women from your view? How are you hand-waving that women are still people who have bodily autonomy? And how can you call yourself a moral person after ignoring this?

    • http://cfiottawa.com Eamon Knight

      I note that while the article you link to talks a lot about the cutting-edge science that supports the pro-life position, he never gets around to *citing* any of it. Funny, that.

      I flatly do not believe there’s been any radical new discoveries about embryology within the past 50 years (and probably more) that bear on the question of when human life begins. We’ve known about sperm fertilizing ova, and the basics of development, for what — over a century now? Pro-lifers babbling about “new scientific information” (as a certain Honorable Member up here did recently) are either confused or being disingenuous.

  • http://manojpontificates.blogspot.com/ Manoj Joseph

    “For some, that point is conception. For others, it’s much later–possibly birth.”
    Well, quite frankly it is modern Catholic/Christian theology that defines the point as conception.
    Admitting that it is theology that is at play helps in understanding the issue.

    Let’s consider a hypothetical theology. What if my theology suggested that every egg is a person,
    even prior to conception? Every egg after all has the potential for developing into a fully grown
    human, provided, it is fertilized. Should we then err on the safe side by expecting every woman
    to have frequent coitus during the fertile period so as to give the ‘person’ a chance to live?

    The “let’s err on the safe side” is often just euphemism for erring on ‘my side’ of the argument!

    • joeclark77

      Again, amusing how the atheists are always declaring that we need to consult a theologian in order to understand human reproduction.

      • ButchKitties

        It’s amusing how no atheists here have said any such thing, but you keep insisting they have. Now for the million dollar question: Are you doing this because your reading comprehension is poor, or is this a deliberate straw man?

  • http://fidesquaerens.livejournal.com Marta Layton

    This reminds me of an idea in Jewish halakha (though it’s not strictly religious – you see shades of it in Aristotle, for instance). It is good to encourage what might be, but it is right (and required) to protect what actually is. So if you can only do one you should always side with preserving the mother’s life. More than that, you must always preserve her humanity. That means treating her like a person who can make a choice, not as a mere vessel for someone else. Even if it’s a someone rather than a something.

    So I’d say to this argument: while a fetus may be a person, the mother definitely is one. Protecting what might be is no excuse for throwing away what is.

  • BabyRaptor

    When science comes up with a way to remove the blastocyst and “grow” it elsewhere, we can start humoring “What if?” arguments. Until then, the rights of the woman must always come first, because there’s no doubt that she is a living, breathing human with rights and a life.

    • http://AztecQueen2000.blogspot.com AztecQueen2000

      Totally this.

    • http://manojpontificates.blogspot.com/ Manoj Joseph

      “When science comes up…”
      I get what you are saying. But I’d say, probably not even then.

      Who would fund these babies? The government? Who would care for these babies? Foster parents?
      Even if we can find foster parents, what if the mother does not want this? Does the mother not get a say?

      I’d think the mother gets to choose even in this hypothetical scenario.

  • Ashton

    Shouldn’t we be erring on the safe side by allowing freedom? Give me liberty or give me death and all that.

  • http://thechurchproject.yeahmyfoot.com Tracey

    Has anyone considered that human life really begins before conception? The sperm is alive. So is the egg. Maybe we should be preserving those from destruction as well?

    And how about parasitic twins? You know, those instances where an embryo starts to twin but never finishes splitting, resulting in a baby with an extra pair of legs and an arm? They remove those things without anyone batting an eye or crying foul even though the parasitic twin is definitely human and alive.

    • http://cfiottawa.com Eamon Knight

      I think the usual argument would be that, it’s only after conception you have a full diploid complement of human DNA, and can start to grow the whole organism*. However, I call the assertion that that is sufficient to declare human personhood the Fallacy of Genetic Essentialism — that our moral value as individuals consists in having unique DNA. It’s a shockingly reductionist position for religious people to take.

  • http://thechurchproject.yeahmyfoot.com Tracey

    What do you mean by ‘shockingly reductionist’? Like DNA is the important feature of a person versus personality, actions and the like?

    • http://cfiottawa.com Eamon Knight

      That’s exactly what I mean. It’s like they watched too many science shows repeating the simplistic mantra “Your DNA is what make you YOU!!!!”, and read their latent Platonism (a fallacy that pervades Christian thought) into it. Our genes may define an envelope of possibility, but there’s so much more to being human — and to being a particular human — than that.


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