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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) It seems strange that Christians should be one of the most vocal opponents of aborting an "innocent" fetus considering that they are the only group I know of that (through the doctrine of original sin) considers the unborn "guilty."
(MB) If you listen to their arguments, they justify this by saying this is "God's Will". They will even go so far as to defend the numerous instances of killing pregnant women and children that are related in the Old Testament by saying that God wanted it to be that way. This zealotry runs into a problem, however, when it comes to abortion since there are no verses in the Bible which either forbid it or say that God disapproves of it. Therefore, any attempt to thump Bibles in a pro-life argument can't be supported.

(R) Also odd is the condemnation by many sects of that religion to any sort of birth control, which should contribute more than any other factor to a -reduction- of abortions. This brings up the point that you made clear, but so often gets lost in the debate, that people on both sides of the issue would rather there be no need for an abortion in the first place.
(MB) You're absolutely right. Abortion is not an action which any woman undertakes gleefully. It is also not something that is mandated for all women in general or any woman in particular if they choose not to exercise that option. It is just that -- an *option*.

(R) The question of when "personhood" begins is an important one, as most of us would not think to kill a one year old under the same circumstances we would terminate a pregnancy. Those of us who's morals do not depend a dogmatic belief in a supernatural "soul," must determine this based on physiological factors. Clearly the fetus is alive. Even the independent sperm and egg cells are alive (though there's no sharp boundary as to when chemical reactions are complex enough to be considered life). Clearly it is also human, as it contains the entire genetic code for a human. It is simply in an earlier stage of development, just as a child, adult, and old person are all human. The transition from "fetus" to "person" has to be made upon achieving consciousness. I don't think anyone has any reliable memories from their time in the womb, so we should determine this based on development of the nervous system.
(MB) That's a reasonable guideline. However, I can see instances where that guideline's edges might become fuzzy. In particular, I'm thinking about the cases of any genetic defect that would inhibit the development of the brain to the point where what we call "consciousness" can never be achieved. Such a child may well be able to be born and live for some time without ever becoming a conscious person. I'm also wondering how the present of consciousness can be detected in a fetus so that a clear determination of its "personhood" could be obtained. Such a determination could go a long way towards helping settle the "viability" question that seems to be the current measuring stick for when abortions are or are not permitted.

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