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Essay:Rationalwiki's abortion article

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Essay.svg This essay is an original work by Earthland.
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I just couldn't resist.....

Argument Side-by-Side[edit]

Arguments for the legality of abortion

Arguments for the banning of abortion

Abortion = murder
[edit]

In a very real sense, "life" does not begin at conception since both egg and sperm are "alive". However, the potential for a new and distinct human being begins at conception.

There is a radical difference between parts of a human being that only possess "human life" (such like human sperm or a human oocyte) and a human embryo or human fetus that is an actual "human being." The issue is not when does human life begin, but rather when does the life of every human being begin. Abortion is the destruction of a human being, as virtually every human embryologist, every major textbook of human embryology and almost all medical textbooks and scientific reference works consistently agree that fertilization marks the beginning of the life of the new individual human being.[1][2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10][11]

A pregnancy is defined as the implantation of a fertilized egg into the womb.[12] This distinction is important since modern scientific research suggests that well over 50% and more likely 75-90% of all fertilized eggs are discarded before they implant. An abortion by definition ends a pregnancy.

First of all, abortion by definition ends a pregnancy, resulting in or caused by the death of the fetus. Merriam Webster dictionary:

Abortion - the termination of a pregnancy after, accompanied by, resulting in, or closely followed by the death of the embryo or fetus[13]

Wikipedia's article "pregnancy" is offered as a reference to the claim that "pregnancy begins at implantation." Wikipedia indeed claims that "pregnancy is often defined as beginning when the developing embryo becomes implanted into the endometrial lining of a woman's uterus.". However, in the very same article, at the beginning, they state that "Pregnancy occurs as the result of the female gamete or oocyte merging with the male gamete, spermatozoon, in a process referred to, in medicine, as "fertilization," or more commonly known as "conception." " it of course raises the question, is it right to use Wikipedia's article as a reference in this case?

There are more reliable definitions. Encyclopedia Britannica says that:

Pregnancy - process of human gestation that takes place in the female’s body as a fetus develops, from fertilization to birth. /.../ It begins when a viable sperm from the male and egg from the ovary merge in the fallopian tube.[14]

Also the American Heritage Stedman's Medical Dictionary defines "pregnancy" as "from conception until birth."

At least 25% of pregnancies end in miscarriage and mostly within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.[15] Following the pro-life logic, God allows anywhere from 25-75% of children to die before they are ever born. There has been a noticeable lack of campaigning directed towards stemming this appalling tide of infant death.

If a man dies of a heart attack, from a moral perspective that is quite different than if he had been shot to death by a carjacker. That distinction also exists between a miscarriage and an induced abortion.

Whilst the start of the life cycle might possibly be best put at the point of conception the start of "life" is a far more complex issue. For example, given that the end of life is near universally measured as the cessation of meaningful brain activity, it is scientifically and logically valid to define the start of "life" as the start of meaningful brain activity. This viewpoint, which places the start of "life" at around twenty four to twenty seven weeks after conception is as valid, in scientific and logical terms as any other.

Only through mind-numbing stupidity could someone suggest that when human sperm and human eggs unite, life cycle may start but the start of "life" is something else. As Encyclopedia britannica puts it:

Although organisms are often thought of only as adults, and reproduction is considered to be the formation of a new adult resembling the adult of the previous generation, a living organism, in reality, is an organism for its entire life cycle, from fertilized egg to adult, not for just one short part of that cycle.[16]

The "knowledge" about what is scientifically valid when speaking about the beginning of life, is purely based on one article by Scott Gilbet. When Scott Gilbert talks about the neurological point of view, he makes reference to Harold Morowitz, a biophysicist, and to James Trefil, a physic. The branch of science that studies the unborn life is called embryology. The question as to when the human being begins via sexual reproduction should be answered by human embryologists. And the truth is, there is no human embryologist or any major textbook of human embryology that does not state that fertilization marks the beginning of the life of the new individual human being. Other theories are not only minority views, they are held by people who are not the main experts of the field.

However, for legal sakes, a line has to be drawn. Knowing full well the difficulties of the decision and the strongly felt feelings around it, in most countries that allow abortion, scholars and judges have come to work with viability as a common and discernible line, noting that before 20 weeks, a fetus' chances of survival outside the womb are nil. However well formed its little fingers, it can not be considered an independent entity in any meaningful sense. Realistic viability is attained at around 25 - 26 weeks[17] and few countries permit abortion after 24 weeks, except in cases of clear risk to the life of the mother.

Pro-life side usually ask, what kind of line does the "viability" draw? If viability is determined by the point at which the embryo can survive outside the womb, that means that it is the point where it has a good chance of not dying. Of course, if something is going to die, it has to be alive first; this is kind of hard to get around. But if someone is alive, we should have no business judging the value of their lives. We know that viability is not the beginning of life of new human individual, so why should it have any impact on whether or not an abortion can be performed?

Besides that, fetal viability is largely a function of our abilities, not the fetus's. 40 years ago viability was at 30 weeks. Now it has dropped to 25 weeks. But fetal development has not changed in the last 40 years, only our understanding and ability to support a fetus outside of the womb has changed. As renowned fertility specialist Dr. Landrum Shettles observed:

An abortion law truly based on "viability" would require constant redefination. What was not considered protectable human life last year might be this year. If we were to take the Court at its word, we would find ourselves with a law that makes last year's "abortions" this year's homicides in some cases.[18]

References[edit]

  1. Encyclopedia Britannica 1998, v 26, p 664: ”A new individual is created when the elements of a potent sperm merge with those of a fertile ovum, or egg.” (Encyclopedia Britannica:pregnancy)
  2. Van Nostrand’s Scientific Encyclopedia 2002, v 1, p 1290: ”Embryo. The developing individual between the time of the union of the germ cells and the completion of the organs which characterize its body when it becomes a separate organism. [...] At the moment the sperm cell of the human male meets the ovum of the female and the union results in a fertilized ovum (zygote), a new life has begun.”
  3. Collier’s Encyclopedia 1987, v 9, p 121: ”The new individual is established at the time of fertilization, and embryonic development simply prepares this individual for the vicissitudes of adult life, and the development of future embryos.”
  4. Keith L. Moore (a professor emeritus in the division of anatomy (department of surgery), former Chair of anatomy from 1974 to 1984 and associate dean for Basic Medical Sciences): ”This fertilized ovum, known as a zygote, is a large diploid cell that is the beginning, or primordium, of a human being” (1988. Essentials of Human Embryology. p. 2. B.C. Decker Co., Toronto.)
  5. William J. Larsen: ”… gametes, which will unite at fertilization to initiate the embryonic development of a new individual.” (1993. Human Embryology. p. 1. Churchill-Livingston, New York.)
  6. When do human beings (normally) begin? "scientific" myths and scientific facts, Dianne N. Irving, M.A., Ph.D.
  7. Scott Gilbert, Devlopmental biology: "Traditional ways of classifying catalog animals according to their adult structure. But, as J. T. Bonner (1965) pointed out, this is a very artificial method, because what we consider an individual is usually just a brief slice of its life cycle. When we consider a dog, for instance, we usually picture an adult. But the dog is a “dog” from the moment of fertilization of a dog egg by a dog sperm. It remains a dog even as a senescent dying hound. Therefore, the dog is actually the entire life cycle of the animal, from fertilization through death. /... / The life of a new individual is initiated by the fusion of genetic material from the two gametes—the sperm and the egg. This fusion, called fertilization, stimulates the egg to begin development."
  8. Psychology and Life (the standard college text book), Dr. Floyd L. Ruch: “At the time of conception, two living germ cells—the sperm from the father and the egg, or ovum, from the mother—unite to produce a new individual.”
  9. Dr. Herbert Ratner “It is now of unquestionable certainty that a human being comes into existence precisely at the moment when the sperm combines with the egg.” (Quoted in Wikipedia)
  10. Encyclopedia Britannica 1998, v 26, p 611: “Although organisms are often thought of only as adults, and reproduction is considered to be the formation of a new adult resembling the adult of the previous generation, a living organism, in reality, is an organism for its entire life cycle, from fertilized egg to adult, not for just one short part of that cycle.”
  11. Van Nostrand’s Scientific Encyclopedia 2002, v 1, p 1291: ”The period of pregnancy begins with the union of the sperm and egg. At the moment of fertilization of the egg (conception), a new life begins.” Collier’s Encyclopedia 1987, v 9, p 121: ”The new individual is established at the time of fertilization, and embryonic development simply prepares this individual for the vicissitudes of adult life, and the development of future embryos.”
  12. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pregnancy
  13. http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/abortion
  14. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/474704/pregnancy#
  15. Miscarriage - NHS Direct [1]
  16. Encyclopedia Britannica: Life-cycle reproduction
  17. Premature babies - BBC News/Health [2]
  18. As quoted in this book