Debating Abortion by TerranceH

Abortion. Abortion. Abortion.

Yes, I know. We’ve debated the issue repeatedly on Sifting Reality and it always seems to end in a stalemate. Like Simic says, we pretend to be rushing off somewhere but we never get anywhere.

But I’m writing this post for a friend with whom I work. He’s a recent hire, and he’s very bright. And though I’m sure he would prefer a less provocative label, I would classify him as a socialist with sense. He is not dogmatic or ideological in any way, and I’ve found myself actually agreeing with many of his economic views. We haven’t discussed very many social issues as yet, save a brief dialogue on abortion. It didn’t progress very far because we were working at the time and weren’t totally devoted to the issue. It was almost an after-thought. So I assured him I would present my arguments on this blog.

So, here goes nothing.

Does Life Begin At Conception?

Since the question, and the answer, are matters of science, allow me to answer accordingly.

“After fertilization has taken place, a new human being has come into being. [It] is no longer a matter of taste or opinion; it is plain experimental evidence. Each individual has a very neat beginning, at conception.” ~ Dr. Jerome LeJeune, professor of genetics at the University of Descartes in Paris.

“It is incorrect to say that biological data cannot be decisive. It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception. Our laws, one function of which is to help preserve the lives of our people, should be based on accurate scientific data.” ~ Dr. Micheline Matthews-Roth, Harvard Medical School

“By all the criteria of modern molecular biology, life is present from the moment of conception.” ~ Professor Hymie Gordon, Mayo Clinic

”The beginning of a single human life is from a biological point of view a simple and straightforward matter – the beginning is conception.”~ Dr. Watson A. Bowes, University of Colorado Medical School

I have learned from my earliest medical education that human life begins at the time of conception. I submit that human life is present throughout this entire sequence from conception to adulthood and that any interruption at any point throughout this time constitutes a termination of human life.” ~ Dr. Alfred M. Bongioanni, professor of pediatrics and obstetrics at the University of Pennsylvania.

Let me also quote some medical textbooks.

Almost all higher animals start their lives from a single cell, the fertilized ovum (zygote). The time of fertilization represents the starting point in the life history, or ontogeny, of the individual.

Carlson, Bruce M. Patten’s Foundations of Embryology. 6th edition. New Yorkl McGraw-Hill, 1996, p. 3 

Although life is a continuous process, fertilization is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is thereby formed.

O’Rahilly, Ronan and Muler, Fabiola. Human Embryology & Teratology. 2nd edition. New York: Wiley-Liss, 1996, p. 8. 

Now, this medical fact, i.e., that life begins at conception, should settle the aforementioned question and also discredit the argument that somehow killing a spermatozoon is the moral equivalent of abortion. It most certainly is not. A spermatozoon is part of a unique individual, as a skin cell or drop of blood; it is not itself a unique individual. This, of course, is not mere semantics. It is science. It is fact.

Of course, my coworker is not a moron and is quite capable of understanding the science well-enough. His question, I think, is simply this: [D]oes the human organism present at conception qualify as a person?

To this question, I would ask: [S]ince when is humanity something achieved or attained? Since when is humanity, personhood, anything other than an innate quality? It is a scientific fact that human life is present the moment of conception. This, therefore, is the beginning of the developmental process that passes through birth, infancy, childhood, puberty, adulthood, and finally death.

If I am correct, and I believe I am, then it logically follows that the pro-choice position hinges on a belief that the worth of an individual is tied to the developmental stage in which they currently reside. And I submit that this view is inherently dangerous and illogical.

To say, for example, that personhood doesn’t begin until brain waves appear, or until the individual is self-aware, or whatever, is unscientific by nature. Such views are subjective opinions that are based on one’s own moral and political philosophy. They cannot be scientific, since personhood is a legal and/or philosophical perspective. And thus, with relative ease, anyone could formulate an arbitrary requisite to personhood that precludes millions of people. And so I ask: [S]hould our laws reflect subjective opinion or experimental evidence?

Now, my coworker mentioned more than once the reality of children growing up unwanted, growing up in orphanages, and so on. He believes that abortion is an effective way of preventing human suffering. 

I will respond to that particular argument in another post. Right now, I want to present him with the primary reason I reject abortion.

Now please, welcome him to Sifting Reality. I know many of you will agree with his views immediately, since we boast many of the pro-choice persuasion. But I would ask that my pro-life friends welcome him as well.


  1. Hopefully your friend comments.

    The reason I think personhood is irrelevant, aside from having to “earn” it, is that it’s totally arbitrary. Both the having to attain it and the standards to attain. No one’s list of what constitutes protective personhood is the same. Everyone has a different list. And I’ve noticed with some people that when I’ve argued away their list, they add to it. This tells me the list of achievement is fluid.

    The list is edited depending on who they want to either pass or fail the test of personhood.

  2. Have you guys considered moving to a theocratic totalitarian regime?

    You seem to hate living in a secular Constitutional republic. Romans 13 1-7:1 Obey the government, for God is the one who put it there. All governments have been placed in power by God. 2 So those who refuse to obey the laws of the land are refusing to obey God, and punishment will follow. 3 For the authorities do not frighten people who are doing right, but they frighten those who do wrong. So do what they say, and you will get along well. 4 The authorities are sent by God to help you. But if you are doing something wrong, of course you should be afraid, for you will be punished. The authorities are established by God for that very purpose, to punish those who do wrong. 5 So you must obey the government for two reasons: to keep from being punished and to keep a clear conscience. 6 Pay your taxes, too, for these same reasons. For government workers need to be paid so they can keep on doing the work God intended them to do. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: Pay your taxes and import duties, and give respect and honor to all to whom it is due.

    A woman’s rights will trump the rights of the fetus, they do by law, they do by science, etc.

    Why not ad nauseum posts about getting all the christians to adopt the 400k children waiting for a family? I just read that 55% of all children under 5 are homeless in NYC. Where is that post?

    And…..hopefully your friend at work will have some idea of what your bible says about the subject.

    Abortion is not murder. A fetus is not considered a human life.
    If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman’s husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. And if any mischief follow, then thou shalt give life for life. — Exodus 21:22-23

    The Bible places no value on fetuses or infants less than one month old.
    And if it be from a month old even unto five years old, then thy estimation shall be of the male five shekels of silver, and for the female thy estimation shall be three shekels of silver. — Leviticus 27:6

    Fetuses and infants less than one month old are not considered persons.
    Number the children of Levi after the house of their fathers, by their families: every male from a month old and upward shalt thou number them. And Moses numbered them according to the word of the LORD. — Numbers 3:15-16

    God sometimes approves of killing fetuses.
    And Moses said unto them, Have ye saved all the women alive? … Now therefore kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman that hath known man by lying with him. — Numbers 31:15-17
    (Some of the non-virgin women must have been pregnant. They would have been killed along with their unborn fetuses.)

    Give them, O LORD: what wilt thou give? give them a miscarrying womb and dry breasts. — Hosea 9:14

    Yea, though they bring forth, yet will I slay even the beloved fruit of their womb. — Hosea 9:16

    Samaria shall become desolate; for she hath rebelled against her God: they shall fall by the sword: their infants shall be dashed in pieces, and their women with child shall be ripped up. — Hosea 13:16

    God sometimes kills newborn babies to punish their parents.
    Because by this deed thou hast given great occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born unto thee shall surely die. — 2 Samuel 12:14

    God sometimes causes abortions by cursing unfaithful wives.
    The priest shall say unto the woman, The LORD make thee a curse and an oath among thy people, when the LORD doth make thy thigh to rot, and thy belly to swell. And this water that causeth the curse shall go into thy bowels, to make thy belly to swell, and thy thigh to rot: And the woman shall say, Amen, amen. …
    And when he hath made her to drink the water, then it shall come to pass, that, if she be defiled, and have done trespass against her husband, that the water that causeth the curse shall enter into her, and become bitter, and her belly shall swell, and her thigh shall rot: and the woman shall be a curse among her people. And if the woman be not defiled, but be clean; then she shall be free, and shall conceive seed. — Numbers 5:21-21, 27-28

    God’s law sometimes requires the execution (by burning to death) of pregnant women.
    Tamar thy daughter in law hath played the harlot; and also, behold, she is with child by whoredom. And Judah said, Bring her forth, and let her be burnt. — Genesis 38:24

  3. Nash,

    If you want to discuss abortion as it pertains to Biblical morality, we can do that in another post. This post is concerned with secular pro-life arguments, the only kind of pro-life argument I have made on Sifting Reality.

    We can also discuss the reality of unwanted children – in another post. I plan do address the issue anyway because my coworker used that argument himself.

    Now, whether the fetus has legal rights is open to debate. Certainly fetal homicide laws indicate that the law does view unborn children as human beings. This is true in almost all instances, save abortion. This needs to change. And science has nothing to say on the issue of legal or moral rights.

    So, do you have something to say in response to the secular pro-life arguments listed above?

  4. The whole thing about “unwanted children” is easily resolved by not having sex. But everyone thinks sex is as necessary as food and water. They hate it when you suggest they just not have sex.

  5. I welcome this new person!

    As a pro-life advocate I am actually critical of the church because we need serious ministry for 3 groups:

    1)The future, children or women who don’t have kids
    2) Those that choose to keep their child
    3) Those that have aborted

    I feel that sometimes the church is so focused on politicizing abortion as a way of applying their Christian faith that we forget that these 3 groups are understood by God and He wants to meet them where they are. Each group can have an abundant life if the church would focus more on ministry than politics.

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