Night Owl Mk. II

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Boldfaced statements are parts of the original essay (or a subsequent reply) to which the respondent has directed his comments.

Italicized/emphasized 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 say...

(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 suffice)
(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 considerations?

(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" life.

(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 human).
(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 issue.

(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 question-begging.

(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 well.
(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 expected way.

(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 abortions).
(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 legally violate.

(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 headlines?
(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 wrong.
(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.

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