REPLY #18 TO
are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.
prefaced by (R) are those of the respondent and are presented unedited.
My replies appear under the respondent's comments in blue text
and are prefaced by my initials (MB)
(R) Mark, I've wrestled with this issue for a long time, but I have to
disagree with your overall stance.
(MB) I expect that most people who respond to my essays
will do so to express disagreement. Most of those who agree with me are more
likely to read them, nod their heads approvingly and go on to the next one.
But, what's a debate forum without "debate"? Let's hear what you have to
(R) I do think that you've hit the nail on the head with the question of
what is a human life and when one begins. This is the crux of the debate, this
is the question that everyone's decision rests upon. I haven't met anyone yet
on either side of the debate who thinks it okay to kill a "human being".
Therefore killing a "zygote", "fetus", "unborn child", etc. would not be wrong
if it is not a human being.
(MB) In fact, it's even difficult to call it "killing"
without tacitly admitting that the aborted fetus was even "living" (in the legal
sense) at some point.
(R) Why, it would be no worse than clipping of a fingernail, cutting your
hair, or having your appendix removed.
(MB) That's a unique way of looking at it which would
probably shock a lot of people.
(R) This is the point where we part company. I believe that the life form
existing in the mother's womb after conception is a human being, not because of
my religious beliefs but because of my understanding of science. (I do admit I
am not a professional scientist or biologist so I hope my basic knowledge will
(MB) This all depends on how you define "human being" --
and this is where the pro-life view starts teetering on shaky rhetorical and
logical ground. Let's see how you resolve this...
(R) When the male's sperm cell fertilizes the female's egg cell a completely
unique DNA code is formed - a "human" DNA code - the same human DNA code that
the person will have when they die (provided they're permitted to gestate and be
born). When I say a human DNA code I mean that by allowing the life to progress
naturally it will grow through all the stages of a human life as opposed to the
DNA code contained in a sperm cell - allowed to progress naturally (provided it
does not fertilize an egg) will grow into nothing and remain a sperm cell and
die a sperm cell. The new alignment of DNA formed at conception is completely
unique and is not just a carbon copy code of the parent organism. It's not just
a cell of a human being - it is a brand new human cellular organism and it
cannot become anything but a human being.
(MB) Granted. But, what about this particular DNA code
makes it "human"? What property or properties does it possess that give it such
a unique quality that it must be preserved over and above all other
(R) The pro abortionists argue that this life form of which we speak is not
a human being. I ask, "then what is it?" "Is it an insect? Is it an amoebae?"
They say it's a "zygote". A zygote is an early stage of a human life. Is that
true or false? Were we not all zygotes at one point in our life? Infants and
toddlers are also early stages of human life - true or false?
(MB) Again, your statements are all true, but they are
incomplete arguments without the definition of the unique quality of "human"
(R) The pro abortionists argue that an unborn fetus is not a human being
because it is connected to the mother's body and cannot sustain itself (kind of
like a parasite).
(MB) Of course. This comes from the legal definition of a
"human life". The moment of actual birth used to be the dividing line between
"human" and "non-human" life since it corresponded with the acquisition of the
rights and privileges that society bestows upon its citizens. I think it is now
reasonable to back that dividing line up to the point of viability.
(R) Drop a six month old in the woods and leave it there - it will die. It
cannot sustain itself without connection to its mother (or other capable
(MB) That is not a compelling argument. Heck, drop almost
*anybody* of *any* age in the woods and leave them there. The vast majority of
them will soon become fatalities since few among us have sufficient survival
skills. The point is not whether or not the individual can support themselves
in any given situation for long periods of time. The point is whether or not
the individual can even maintain the basic bodily functions necessary to support
life for *any* non-trivial period of time.
(R) The pro abortionists argue that it's a woman's body and she has the
right to do with it as she pleases. This is my favorite: my fist is part of my
body but can I go and smash someone's face with it? Of course not! Why?
Because to attack another human being is wrong.
(MB) This begs the question of whether or not the unborn
child is a "another human being" or not. Clearly, the person being punched out
by your fist qualifies as being a "human being". If the same could
unquestioningly be said for an unborn child, there would be no debates on this
(R) It's not just the woman's body involved - there's someone else in the
equation (if someone on a crowded subway is standing up against you, you can't
kill them just because they've suddenly come in contact with your body).
(MB) This is just a variation of the argument advanced in
the previous paragraph and suffers from the same fallacy of
(R) Our society's laws state that you can't just do whatever you want with
your body if it is going to effect someone else. The unborn child is a separate
entity, it is not an appendix, it is not a bacteria or viral infection that has
invaded and attacked the host, it is another person.
(MB) Same song, third verse.
(R) The pro abortionists argue that an unborn child is not a human being
because it lacks sentience, self-awareness, its brain is not fully developed, it
cannot communicate etc. All these apply to a newborn or an infant as
(MB) Not true. Sentience and self-awareness can't be
present without sufficient development of the brain. All newborns can
communicate if only to cry when something isn't right.
(R) As far a sentience and self-awareness go, how do you prove that ? (I
know some adults who don't seem sentient!)
(MB) The functions of most parts of the brain are
well-known. If those parts of the brain which are responsible for sentience and
self-awareness have not yet sufficiently developed, they can not function in the
(R) Unborn babies do communicate with their mothers through physical
movement and chemical, hormonal interchange.
(MB) What sort of "communication" is this?
(R) The one question I like to ask pro abortionists (and I'm playing the
"devils advocate" here, I know,) is, if abortion is okay, than why don't we set
up a system wherein a young, unwed mother, perhaps, or a woman living in poverty
with children already, or any woman who has given birth and soon finds she
cannot provide adequately for the baby, can take a newborn, say up to 6 months,
to a "termination clinic" where the infant will be quickly and painlessly
euthanized (as opposed to the horribly painful mutilation process of most
(MB) This can't happen because our legal system has
determined that such things are not permitted. Our laws say that you gain
certain rights and privileges upon your birth. Since a 6-month old child has
certainly been born, it has rights and privileges which the mother cannot
(R) After all we're talking about a 6 month old, it can't sustain itself,
it's a virtual parasite to the mother, it's infringing on her rights of personal
freedom and independence, it can't walk, it can't talk, it contributes nothing
of material value, it drains food, money, and energy from the mother, it seems
to lack sentience and self-awareness, it's brain is not fully developed, it's
cranium hasn't even completely fused together yet, and it can't offer any viable
argument for its continued existence.
(MB) Some of these things are true and others are dubious,
but the bottom line is that our laws protect anyone who has been born.
Therefore, you can't equate them with the unborn in any legal sense since the
basic rules change at the moment of birth.
(R) And besides wouldn't this be a more humane treatment of this not yet
nearly "human" organism than having the mother beat it to death, drown it, or
through it into a dumpster as we've read about so many times in the
(MB) If those were the only available choices and if all
were permitted by the laws of our society, then I would agree with you. Heck,
when we execute a condemned criminal, we do it "humanely" rather than beating
him to death or drowning him. Even if one doesn't agree with capital
punishment, he would have to agree that lethal injection was a more humane way
to execute the criminal.
(R) Okay, there's the question. Now, why, when I suggest this, why do
people look at me as if I'm an evil, genocidal madman?
(MB) Because they are letting their emotions overwhelm
their intellects. This is a fairly common thing.
(R) What's the difference between giving a woman the right to choose an
abortion or the right to choose newborn termination?
(MB) The difference is that our society's legal system
does not consider an unborn child and a newborn to be one and the same as far as
their rights and privileges are concerned. Legally, a fetus is not a "human
being" or a "human life". Therefore, in the eyes of the law, it can't be
"killed" or "murdered". Views to the contrary are based on the doctrine of this
country's majority religion. However, that is not a sufficient basis for
overturning legal statutes, since such views are emotional or doctrinal in
nature and not based on objective fact. Also, such views fail to take into
consideration the fact that millions of people in this country are not members
of that religion and do not feel that they have any obligation to be bound by
that religion's morality.
(R) I think that science, biology in particular, offers more proof that an
unborn baby is a human being, a stage of human being definitely, and who's to
say which stage has more rights or is more valid; a 96 year old, a 3.5 month
old, a 34 year old, or a 2 month old in the womb?
(MB) Our legal system has already established those
guidelines and has established other guidelines for many other matters where an
individual's rights and privileges change after some defined line of demarcation
is crossed. No science has shown any evidence that there is anything inherently
"special" about human life at any stage of development. The previous argument
about being human because you possess human DNA doesn't work since dead people
possess the same "human DNA" as do living people. "Life" itself can't be upheld
as "special" since all species on Earth have "life", and nobody frets overly
much about "killing" plants, bacteria, or too many other non-vertebrate living
things. Therefore, the anti-abortion argument always boils down to emotional and
theological implications that simply can not be defended.
(R) If we can ever agree that all these stages are stages of the human being
and we all agree that to arbitrarily kill human beings is wrong than abortion is
(MB) A lot of "ifs" mixed with a health dollop of
question-begging. In addition, just because people might agree on something
doesn't necessarily make it right. Consider that all people used to agree that
the Earth was flat and stationary at the center of the universe. That didn't
change the reality of the situation.