Abortion Is Not Murder

The moral truth here is obvious: anyone who feels that  the interests of a blastocyst just might supersede the interests of a child with a spinal cord injury has had his moral sense blinded by religious metaphysics –Sam Harris

One would be hard-pressed to find a subject that brings out the worst in Christians than Abortion.  With zeal, they scream out that it is murder, but abortion is not homicide. You can’t just go changing definitions all willy-nilly. Homicide is the killing of a human being, which is an independent human life. Until a time when a fetus can survive apart from the mother, either naturally or by medical incubation, it is an unarguable biological fact that fetal gestation and sustenance is inextricable from the mother. The very health of a fetus requires the direct coercion of the mother’s body, and while this coercion is in process, the mother reserves the right to terminate her pregnancy.

First, A little Science…

At conception, the life form is called a zygote and it begins its journey by dividing into two identical cells, called blastomeres. They continue to subdivide once every twelve to twenty hours. When it reaches sixteen cells it becomes known as a morula, which usually occurs after three days gestation. A couple of days later a cavity appears in its center and it is now called a blastocyst, which contain an inner group of cells that will eventually become the fetus and an outer group that will form the placenta. At about twelve days or so after conception, the blastocyst starts to produce hormones that are detectable in urine. It is at this point where most physicians define the start of pregnancy. A vast majority of zygotes never make it this far.

At about two weeks what is known as a ‘primitive streak‘ appears that will later develop into the central nervous system and the zygote is now referred to as an embryo. It is still an extremely small cluster of undifferentiated tissue. After another week of development, the embryo is about the size of pen point and looks a lot like a worm. At four weeks, it looks like a tadpole, complete with gill-like structures, which is normal given our evolutionary beginnings. By seven weeks, the embryo has lost its tail, which is another point of reference to our evolutionary ancestry. The higher functions of the brain have yet to develop, and there are no pathways to transfer pain signals. In fact, even at two months along, the embryo does not appear to be fully human. It has a reptilian brain and has not yet developed the capacity for consciousness. It is not yet sentient and is not defined as a fetus until the tenth week. In fact, over ninety percent of abortions are performed before the fetus reaches thirteen weeks, at which time it is about three inches long and weighs about an ounce.

So, to say that the termination of a human zygote, blastocyst, embryo or a fetus  is a human being before viability, with a right to life, is scientifically unfounded and rightfully illegal. There is a huge difference between something being potentially human and an actual living, breathing human being. Even a fetus that is prematurely born or removed from a sick or dying mother is not a human being until it is actually apart from the mother.

A desire that there should exist legislation that accords rights and person-hood to a zygote, blastocyst or a non-viable fetus is borne out of fairy-tale religious beliefs and a gross ignorance of human embryology. It is a poor way to govern a civil society, is misogynist in principle and results in the oppression of women. The value of a fetus needs to remain subjective. If you are against abortion, then don’t have one.

Legal Terminology…

It should come as no surprise that all those right-wing Christian Tea Baggers who were elected to produce jobs ended up giving us almost a thousand anti-abortion bills, instead.  Many of them seek to have a fetus designated as a person, but “personhood” is a legal term. It means the existence of a birth certificate. If a fetus is considered a person, then it would be entitled to all the rights and privileges that a person has who owns an actual birth certificate.  This would mean that a woman’s body would be subordinated to the protection of embryos. The seemingly obligatory role of fundamental Christian women to function as brood-mares notwithstanding, the legal consequences would be catastrophic. Why this is not obvious to everyone still baffles me.

Still, there are many individuals within the pro-life movement that seek to give a fetus full legal protection. If this were to be granted, then whatever agency was given jurisdiction over a fetus would also need to have complete control and supervision over the body of the mother. When laws that protect a human child from negligence in areas of health, safety, nutrition, physical and mental abuse are violated, the child can be removed from the custody of irresponsible parents or guardians.  However, this cannot be done with a fetus without controlling the mother’s body. In fact, no matter how irresponsibly a pregnant woman behaves, charges cannot be levied against her until her fetus becomes viable, and even then there are complicated issues until the child is actually born.

A fetus is life within a life, and has no basis for distinction or regulation without direct imposition on a woman’s reproductive processes. Because the life of the fetus depends on the life of the mother, decisions regarding the fetus should be the decision of the mother. Because a fetus does not have the ability to exist independently from its mother until it reaches viability, it cannot be considered a person with all the rights and responsibilities of someone who has been born. If we were to grant the same rights to a fetus as we do to the born, it would automatically subjugate the rights of the woman, thus giving the fetus greater rights than the woman carrying it. It is illogical, unreasonable and unfair to the mother.

Equating abortion with murder is not only playing fast and furious with the truth, such a comparison is legally disingenuous. With few exceptions, the pro-life argument is theological and the First Amendment implies that legislation should not reflect theological doctrines. Thus, personal religious convictions toward abortion do not constitute legal opposition to the right to an abortion. Additionally, abortion does not have an equal effect on our societies as murder. We need laws against murder to regulate behavior and allow the civil function of human society and laws against murder pre-date all the Abrahamic religions. Not only does this prove that a god is not needed to regulate murder, but that society is capable of regulating murder on its own because if left unregulated, civil society could not exist.

Exactly when a fetus becomes viable was addressed and decided by the Supreme Court in 1973 in a decision stating that an unborn fetus had no constitutional rights until the third trimester. This decision was reached based on scientific data, which revealed a post-birth survival rate of less than ten percent due to undifferentiated respiratory, and central nervous systems. Pre-term birth remains the most common cause of perinatal mortality and it is rare for a baby weighing less than five hundred grams to survive.

Fear, Loathing, Violence And Intimidation…

Religious doctrines and dogmas have blinded pro-lifers to the fact that abortion often has positive benefits to the health and well-being of women. Their “narrow-is-the-gate” worldview does not take into account that most people reject the position that abortion is always wrong. It makes them cringe that abortion helps with family planning, which only serves to strengthen families. As well, they seem to have forgotten that when abortion was illegal it did not stop the practice from being performed, but only made them horrifically unsafe. As well, many unwanted babies are abused, neglected and suffer lifelong developmental and social problems.

What it boils down to is that pro-lifers fear that their interpretation of morality is being abrogated. This is true not only with the abortion issue, but with same-sex marriage and everything else they perceive as an affront or abomination against their god. Most individuals and church groups often choose to work within the legal system to correct what they perceive as a moral injustice. They use their vote and influence in an attempt to elect legislators that are supportive of their views. This should be obvious to anyone who knows that the slew of Tea Baggers elected last year failed in their promise to create jobs, but did manage to present almost a thousand anti-abortion bills. Most pro-life people are content to hold up signs in protest, usually in proximity to facilities that provide abortion services.  This is their right as long as they are not interfering with the conduction of business.

Many Christians, however, cannot stop there.  They often resort to anti-social and usually illegal actions against individuals and businesses whom they believe are worthy of judgment and condemnation. Sometimes all it takes is the statement, “I am pro-choice” to instigate them to assault.  Sometimes this assault escalates to battery, or worse. They routinely harass women who are arriving for an appointment. They attempt to block their entry, shove pictures of aborted fetuses in their face, cram tracts into their hands and hurl threats of eternal damnation or worse.

Some take it to the extreme, such as Scott Roeder, the man who killed Dr. George Tiller, who was one of the few physicians licensed to provide late-term emergency abortions in order to save the life of the mother. Roeder has been linked to “Operation Rescue,” a group considered by many to be domestic terrorists.  Roeder accused Dr. Tiller of mass murder and compared him to Hitler, stating that six million abortions are the same as six million Jews, which is a total and complete insult to the memory of the actual, living human beings who were murdered by the Nazis. Fact is, rabid fundamentalist pro-lifers are responsible for hundreds of crimes against doctors who perform abortions, from vandalism to murder, including the use of bombs.

The Right To Choose…

Christians are forever preaching about how the bible supports the pro-life point of view, citing allegories and inferences.  But, in reality (a word I genuinely try to avoid putting in the same sentence as the word “bible”), the Bible doesn’t mention abortion and doesn’t even deal with the question of when life begins.  In fact, the book of Exodus indicates that a fetus lacks the same legal status as a person in chapter 21:22-23, which states that if a man pushes a pregnant woman and she then miscarries, he is required only to pay a fine. If the fetus were considered a full person, he would be punished more severely as though he had taken a life.

It is no secret that I don’t often write about abortion. For one, I get enough hate mail already.  Secondly, because I do not possess a uterus, I generally don’t care what an individual who has one so chooses to do with it.  In short, it’s really none of my business.  But every now and again the subject bubbles up through my news feeds. When the ignorant and arrogant antics of the pro-life crowd take a prominent place in my daily influx of batshittery, I find myself compelled to comment and present my personal opinion is that a woman has a right to terminate her pregnancy for whatever reason she sees fit.

Abortion on demand should be no different from any other elective surgery, and in cases where abortion would save the life of the mother, the procedure should be a no-brainer.

  48 comments for “Abortion Is Not Murder

  1. Randomfactor
    October 17, 2011 at 11:35 am

    If this were to be granted, then whatever agency was given jurisdiction over a fetus would also need to have complete control and supervision over the body of the mother.

    That’s a feature, not a bug. It’s the primary objective of the anti-woman movement.

  2. JC Denton Anderson
    October 17, 2011 at 12:32 pm
  3. carolw
    October 17, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    [Applause] This is one of the best articles I have read on this issue. I totally agree, especially with “If you’re opposed to abortion, don’t get one.” I’ve said that for many years. Having an abortion should be no more controversial than having a wart or a mole removed. It’s just unwanted tissue.

    • Emmet
      October 18, 2011 at 9:34 pm

      “Just unwanted tissue”? If that were true – if a foetus was just a pregnant woman’s tissue, like a mole on her shoulder or a wart on her finger – then a pregnant woman with a male foetus would be a woman with both male and female genitals – the foetus’s penis is her penis, because it’s her tissue.
      Yes, that is what you’re saying. You’re also saying that she has two heads. And four arms. The tissue in her womb is her tissue, part of her; like the wart is part of her, like the mole is.

      That’s absurd, isn’t it? Isn’t it clear that the foetus is actually genetic “tissue” making up another separate person?

      • crissakentavr
        October 22, 2011 at 12:03 am

        No. None of those things exist when most abortions take place.

        And none of those belong to someone else until that someone else is born.

        And the health of the mother is paramount – without her there is no new life now or later. So what she decides, is what she decides. Any limitations – reasons, background – are just invasions of privacy.

    • frustum
      October 22, 2011 at 12:55 am

      carolw said, “If you’re opposed to abortion, don’t get one.”

      This is terrible logic and easily countered. I support a woman’s right to choose abortion, but there are better arguments than the one you just used.

      I assume we both agree that it is wrong to rape a child. Say someone told you that they want to rape children, and “if you’re opposed to child rape, then don’t do it.” Would you find this a convincing argument?

      • Emmet
        October 22, 2011 at 10:33 pm

        Or “I don’t like slavery myself, but I support your right to own slaves.”

        “If you don’t like slavery, just don’t get one.”

        Either slavery is OK, or it’s not. There’s no “right to choose” one way or the other.

  4. October 17, 2011 at 5:07 pm

    Very well written.

    Here, have a cookie.

  5. MarkA
    October 17, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    This is my primary argument against those who try to claim that abortion is murder: pregnancy and childbirth are potentially dangerous, and can even be fatal to the mother. The fetus is a parasite in the biological sense of the term. If the mother does not wish to expose herself to the risks of pregnancy, she cannot be forced to do so. Her first priority is to protect her own health and well being. The fetus is certainly not an “innocent life” when it is threatening the health of the mother.

    • Curiousity
      August 30, 2012 at 4:50 pm

      Well if it came in effect that one has a right to defend themselves or others(fetus), isn’t getting an abortion (in some cases) just that? A human being trying to defend themselves against someone threatening harm.

      • bakakurisu
        September 3, 2012 at 4:47 am

        In what cases is abortion “self-defense”?

        Are you talking about in cases to save the mother’s life? In those EXCEPTIONALLY rare cases (roughly .3% of all abortion cases, according to The Johnston Archives and The Guttmacher Institute), then we would concede a necessity to sacrifice a doomed life to save another.

        Over 99% of all abortion cases are done for selfish reasons.

  6. jimvj
    October 18, 2011 at 10:19 am

    In Numbers chapter 5 abortion is implicitly condoned as a punishment; a punishment that is delivered by YHWH.

    There, a husband who suspects his wife of infidelity is told to take her along with some gifts to the Temple. A priest will do some mumbo-jumbo with the gifts and the dirt in the Temple; if the wife is indeed guilty, her womb will shrivel and she will become barren. No exception is made if she is pregnant, which implies an abortion / miscarriage has been performed or induced.

    It is very surprising that this incredibly barbaric and misogynistic (there is no recourse available for a woman who suspect her husband of infidelity) part of the “Bible” gets very little exposure.

  7. Yellow Thursday
    October 18, 2011 at 12:29 pm

    To paraphrase what Tracie Harris said on one of the Godless Bitches’ podcasts, even if the fetus is a person, so what? There’s no similar legislation after the child is born. A parent isn’t required, for example, to give their child a kidney if he or she needs one. Why should I be forced to give of my body to keep another person alive, whether adult, child, or fetus? Why does this requirement end when the child is born, and the responsibility would pass to both parents?

    • Emmet
      October 18, 2011 at 9:47 pm

      Giving a child a kidney and keeping a child in the womb are not equivalent. A kidney transplant is an artificial operation; a sperm and egg joining and then growing is a natural one. Your argument seems compelling on the surface but makes the mistake of saying that a kidney transplant is equivalent to the natural process of gestation.

      Another parallel you attempt to draw is that with-holding a kidney from a child is the same as “with-holding the womb” from the foetus. It’s not – abortion terminates the foetus’ life. A more accurate parallel would be to cut that child in need of a kidney up into pieces, then tell him he can’t have his mother’s kidney.

      Lastly, while a mother shouldn’t be compelled to give her son a kidney, what would we think of a mother who refused to save her child’s life by transplanting her kidney into him? Wouldn’t we say she had some sort of obligation because she is his mother?

      • Yellow Thursday
        October 19, 2011 at 12:01 pm

        Cancer is natural. A yeast infection is natural. And I will gladly use unnatural means to be rid of them. A kidney transplant is good (when medically necessary) but unnatural. Don’t try to tell us that conception, just because it is natural, is good.

        If your argument stems from destroying human life, then we should be required to allow cancer to grow unchecked. Cancer contains the same DNA as the host. Cancer has the same cognitive abilities as a fetus and (aguably) more sensitivity to pain, yet hardly anyone objects when someone receives cancer treatments.

        And no, I don’t think a parent (not just a mother) should be legally required to donate organs to his or her child, even if it would save that child’s life. If it were legally required, what sentence would you inflict on a parent who refused? Should the sentence be the same as pre-meditated murder? Should the sentence be the same if it was known beforehand that the organ transplant wouldn’t be enough to save the child’s life? What if donating the organ would kill the parent, or endanger his or her life?

        And are your answers the same if we’re talking about a fetus instead of a child? Would you charge a woman who had an abortion with pre-meditated murder? What if carrying the fetus to term would kill her? What if her baby had a birth defect? What if it was already dead; would you force her to carry a dead fetus to term? If your answers for these questions are different than your answers when it’s a child, you need to ask yourself: why?

        • Emmet
          October 20, 2011 at 10:55 pm

          I think you’ve misunderstood my argument: I was saying that the refusal to go through a kidney transplant and the act of aborting a foetus are not equivalent, which is what your original argument (or Tracie Harris’) tries to say.
          You ask, “Why should I be forced to give of my body to keep another person alive?” In fact, of course, you (if you’re a parent) are forced to do so. If a mother didn’t “give of her body” by putting aside in some degree her own needs in order to feed, clothe, wash etc her child to the point of that child being harmed, she’d be locked up. The state does, in fact, force parents to give of their bodies, day after day, to provide for their child. (In another example, soldiers in battle are forced to give of their bodies to keep others alive.)
          “If your argument stems from destroying human life, then we should be required to allow cancer to grow unchecked. Cancer contains the same DNA as the host.” Again, I think you’re misunderstanding. My argument isn’t about “destroying human life” in that sense: of course we can treat cancer, just as we can clip our toenails. However, a foetus *does not* have the same DNA as its mother – clone it and you won’t get a clone of the woman but a clone of the child. This is a different human life to the human life whose womb it occupies.
          “Cancer has the same cognitive abilities as a fetus”: really? A cancer cell can turn its face towards a light shone on its mother’s stomach?
          Going back to the kidney thing: a kidney transplant is extra-ordinary means of maintaining health. Carrying a foetus for 9 months is an ordinary means of doing so. I didn’t say people should be obliged to donate kidneys: that would be wrong. Just as we’re not obliged to do every possible extra-ordinary thing to keep alive someone on a life-support machine, or try every possible means to treat cancer. At some point we say, “Let’s let nature take its course.”
          But we are obliged to do every ordinary means of keeping children alive – feeding them, clothing them, giving them shelter … allowing them to stay in the womb and be born.

          • Emmet
            October 20, 2011 at 11:07 pm

            “And are your answers the same if we’re talking about a fetus instead of a child? Would you charge a woman who had an abortion with pre-meditated murder?”

            Obviously, I think abortion should be illegal: the penalties for breaking the law I’ll leave to the lawmakers.

            “What if carrying the fetus to term would kill her?”
            See my comment below – the principle of “double effect” comes into play here. (And this is partly why eg kidney transplants shouldn’t be obligated – because they can put the donor’s health at risk. To take that risk is noble, but not obligatory. Carrying an unplanned pregnancy to term is both noble and obligatory. Keeping an unwanted baby after birth is not obligatory.)
            “What if her baby had a birth defect?”
            What if indeed? Are people with birth defects somehow less human than the rest of us?
            “What if it was already dead; would you force her to carry a dead fetus to term?”
            Of course not. I don’t follow your logic. If a foetus has died, why would I say a woman has to carry it to term? It’s dead, and can (and should, of course, or it will harm the mother) be removed and buried.

          • Yellow Thursday
            October 22, 2011 at 11:51 am

            You’re right – a kidney transplant and an abortion are not equivalent. The main reason being that there is a much greater risk for the person donating the kidney. But I wasn’t comparing kidney transplant with abortion. I was comparing kidney transplant with pregnancy.

            Giving resources of time and money is not the same as giving of one’s flesh. There is little to no health risk with the former, but there’s a huge health risk with the latter.

            “A cancer cell can turn its face towards a light shone on its mother’s stomach?” This doesn’t make sense. Using this line of thinking, we shouldn’t kill plants because they reach out towards light. Reaction to light has nothing to do with being human or having higher cognitive functioning.

            “…kidney transplants shouldn’t be obligated – because they can put the donor’s health at risk. To take that risk is noble, but not obligatory. Carrying an unplanned pregnancy to term is both noble and obligatory.” Granted that the mortality rate with kidney transplant is, on average, higher than with pregnancy, the maternal mortality rate with abortion is far lower than the maternal mortality rate if the fetus is carried to term.

            But why is carrying an unplanned pregnancy to term both noble and obligatory? Why is it noble to be beholden to one’s biology? This kind of argument is never made of other types of biology. Is it noble and obligatory to allow gout to continue unchecked? Is it noble and obligatory to leave diabetes untreated? Would it still be obligatory is cases of rape, incest, or where other forms of birth control have failed? Why is it not noble to value the woman’s health and well-being over the fetus’?

          • julian
            October 27, 2011 at 9:20 am

            Obviously, I think abortion should be illegal: the penalties for breaking the law I’ll leave to the lawmakers.

            In other words, you don’t actually believe the fetus to be a person. If it were then abortion would be murder and women who had and doctors who performed abortions would be murders. That you’re suggesting abortion be made illegal and implying a different set of laws be drawn up to decide the punishment sends the clear signal you don’t consider a fetus on par with a baby.

            Abortion is the intentional killing of a child in the womb.

            So, because it’s the killing of a child, you agree existing murder laws and penalties should cover it, right?

  8. Cwayne
    October 18, 2011 at 12:59 pm

    Thanks. Good article.

  9. jakc
    October 18, 2011 at 6:03 pm

    Murder (homicide is a latincized term for murder and means the same thing) is an illegal killing. A killing that is not illegal cannot be a murder, such as a killing in self-defense or a legal abortion or execution. Ok? That’s why the phrase is such nonsense. Historically too, causing the death of a fetus, when illegal, has been treated as a lesser crime than 1st degree murder.

  10. October 18, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    I don’t recall the bible saying anything about when life begins, exactly, but I do know that Leviticus 17:11 says “For the life of the flesh is in the blood,” and 17:14 says “For the life of every creature is the blood of it.”
    So the thing isn’t even considered alive for the first 18 days or so, much less human, as far as the bible is concerned.
    Of course, this is a few chapters after the “winged insects going about on all fours” stuff, so hey, consider the source.

    • Emmet
      October 18, 2011 at 9:52 pm

      As a Catholic I don’t expect the Bible to give accurate biological information about embryology. I don’t know why you’re looking for scientific information in a non-scientific text of any age, let alone one written some thousands of years ago. You’re on thin ice trying to use the Bible to talk about embryology! (But then you knew that already, and were trying to make a point – thing is, one doesn’t need the Bible to argue that abortion is, in fact, murder.)

      • gwen
        October 20, 2011 at 5:15 pm

        Yes, and I can also use the bible to argue that:
        men (Lot) can have sex with their daughters,
        Unicorns exist(Num. 23:22)
        I can bash my infants heads against rocks for gods pleasure ( Psalms 136-140)
        I can kill my neighbor for working on Saturday(Numbers 15:32-36)
        I can cheat on my wife with the servant, get her pregnant and abandon her(Genesis 16:1-16).
        I can sell my daughter(Exodus 21:7-11)
        I am allowed to own slaves(Ephesians 6:5-6,Luke 12:47-48,1 Timothy 6:1-2)–all New Testament!
        If my fruit tree will not bear fruit out of season for me, just curse and destroy it!(Mark 11:12)
        It’s okay to steal(Matthew 12:1)
        It is okay to rape, as long as you pay the father (Deuteronomy 22:28-29)
        I can go on and on, from the Old AND New Testaments. People typically address the parts of the bible they agree with, and ignore the rest. As my mom used to say, you can make any damned argument with the bible, aka ‘the great book of multiple choices’.

        • Emmet
          October 20, 2011 at 10:34 pm

          “People typically address the parts of the bible they agree with, and ignore the rest.”
          A common argument, and a poor one. You do understand that the Bible is a collection of texts: poetry, allegory, song, history, military statistics, letters etc. Each needs a different reading – to observers such as presumably yourself, a Christian reading a book as allegory looks like “ignoring” the literal meaning of it, when in fact it’s reading allegory as allegory.

          That’s a fairly broad-brush treatment of the matter of Biblical interpretation, and I hardly expect it to satisfy you, but it needed to be said. Especially in the face of basic errors as the reference to Numbers 22.23, which in fact says nothing about unicorns and actually refers to human beings (the Israelites).

          But you didn’t check that out for yourself first did you – you just read it somewhere on the internet and then cut-and-pasted merrily away.

          • speedwell
            October 21, 2011 at 7:51 am

            But you didn’t address the fact that such verses exist and say what they say, did you. You just glossed it over smoothly like a used-car salesman distracting a mark from a bad engine, didn’t you.

          • gwen
            October 21, 2011 at 9:14 am

            Yes, Emmett, THAT one I did google and copy because I couldn’t remember which book it was in. But unlike most christians, I HAVE read the entire bible, forgive me if it was 30 years ago, but I DO remember enough to know it references unicorns and other fantastical creatures. If you know ‘parts of the bible are just allegories’ etc, how could you take ANY part of it as a tool for truths, any more than say, the Norse legends. The bible has just as much credibility as a moral guide.

  11. papango
    October 18, 2011 at 11:31 pm

    Thank you for this. I really like the article and it’s a hard subject to tackle.

    While I don’t think that abortion is murder, I do think it is important that the women who get one fully understand that it will end whatever potential life is there. That’s a big thing and if you’re not okay with it, it might be better to look at other options. When I had my abortion the counsellers were very careful to ensure that I fully understood the procedure and would be able to deal with it mentally as well as physically. This was a two day process, followed by a week in which to think about it (this time was available to me, but would not have been had I been further along in the pregnancy). I was and it went fine and I stand by my decision, but I’m really glad they took the time to be sure I understood the consequences.

    • Aquaria
      January 15, 2012 at 4:50 pm

      While I don’t think that abortion is murder, I do think it is important that the women who get one fully understand that it will end whatever potential life is there.

      With all due respect?

      Fuck you. Women aren’t a bunch of mindless idiots, dumbass. We know what we’re doing. We know what an abortion is, what’s it’s doing.. We have fucking brains.

      Act like it, you fucking condescending prat.

  12. October 19, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    So if a woman that will be killed by a pregnancy has an abortion she is a murderer?
    A woman that has an abortion after being raped is a murderer?

    How about the 60-80+% of all naturally conceived embryos that are flushed out in a woman’s natural menstrual flow? If god created mankind, and designed women as they are, is not god the biggest murderer of all?

    And as is stated in the post you are commenting on, you can actually argue that the Bible says that abortion is not murder: The biblical punishment for murder is death, while the biblical punishment for abortion is a fine.

    • October 19, 2011 at 5:54 pm

      This was in reply to Emmet at 10.1.

    • Emmet
      October 20, 2011 at 10:25 pm

      If a pregnant woman needs medical attention to save her life, attention which has the unintended effect of ending the foetus’ life, that’s not abortion. (Abortion is the intentional killing of a child in the womb.) (This parallels self-defence: my intention is not to kill the axe-waving intruder who is advancing on me and my family, but when I shoot him in the chest to stop him killing us, he dies. I’m not guilty of murder.)

      “If god created mankind, and designed women as they are, is not god the biggest murderer of all?”
      So of all the possible scientific causes of miscarriages (which still aren’t fully understood) – sickness, stress, injury, chromosmal abnormality, placental abnormality, hormone problems, malformed uterus, diabetes, STDs like chlamydia, previous abortions etc etc – the reason you’ll go with is “God did it”? Come on.

      “… you can actually argue that the Bible says that abortion is not murder: The biblical punishment for murder is death, while the biblical punishment for abortion is a fine.”
      If you want to make that argument, you’ll also have to make other arguments: go back a few verses: v 17 “Whoever curses his father and mother shall be put to death”. Is that what you want to do?
      What are Stefanelli’s credentials for biblical interpretation? You’d follow what he has to say about this verse? Why? And if you do take his literalist/fundamentalist reading, do you take a similar reading of v17? Why not?

      My point is this: the Bible (or any Christian teaching) is not needed to argue against abortion. Understand that.
      So saying to me “But but but the Bible says… ” is fairly pointless here.

      • October 21, 2011 at 7:43 am

        “Abortion is the intentional killing of a child in the womb.”

        Abortion: the removal of an embryo or foetus from the uterus in order to end a pregnancy.
        Please stop making up new definitions of words.

        “the reason you’ll go with is “God did it”? Come on.”
        Just using logic here. If God created women, as Christians claims he did, and naturally conceived embryos are regularly rejected from the uterus, then god must be the biggest abortionist of all. This will be the same as using the morning after pill.

        “And if you do take his literalist/fundamentalist reading, do you take a similar reading of v17? Why not?”
        I’m an atheist, so I don’t. The problem is why some Christians do use a literal interpretation of the bible regarding some things, and others are suddenly an allegory. Who decides what’s allegorical or not?

        “My point is this: the Bible (or any Christian teaching) is not needed to argue against abortion.”
        Then can you give me a purely secular argument to oppose abortion? I can’t remember ever having heard one that makes sense…

        • bakakurisu
          September 3, 2012 at 4:50 am

          So… Delivering a child prematurely is an abortion?

          What we’re contesting is the slaughter of children in the womb. This really shouldn’t be an issue.

  13. rork
    October 20, 2011 at 3:11 pm

    I think delving into the science or the definitions of words is often entirely beside the point.
    Call abortion anything you want, it does not change the question of what we want the law to be one whit. What we want the law to be is not a question of science or terminology.

    Much of the rest was to my liking.

    • Emmet
      October 20, 2011 at 11:24 pm

      Words matter. This is why, of course, those who are for abortion use words like “tissue”, “clump of cells”, and, interestingly, “foetus” (interesting because “foetus” derives from the Latin for “offspring” or “young one”) and those who are for life use “baby”.

      In this argument, either I’m right or you are: either abortion is murder or it’s not. There’s no middle ground; it’s not complicated. This argument, like other arguments through history, will be won only when one side convinces the other – through words.

      One site, among many, that makes an offer of help to those women who may need it after undergoing the trauma of abortion:

      Another site, this one offering philosophical arguments against abortion, from the redoubtable Peter Kreeft:

      • speedwell
        October 21, 2011 at 7:54 am

        I’m sorry, you’re wrong. As a woman who bore a child and gave her up for adoption because of my opposition to abortion, and as a woman who now supports abortion rights for all women as a medical issue, I can testify that there is plenty of middle ground.

        Believe me, I’ve walked it.

        And giving out links to sites that attempt to persuade people that women do not have power over their own bodies and that they must submit to the whims of others… that’s just low.

      • rork
        October 24, 2011 at 8:30 am

        depends on what “murder” means. If calling abortion murder has any operational consequences, as it might if it were illegal, then I want abortion to not be murder. If it has no operational consequences, then who cares. You see, it doesn’t have to be one way or the other. We can change the definitions. It depends on what we want to be legal or not. What the law should be is interesting because it has operational consequences. What you call a thing may not, and if your word does have operational meaning, tell us about that part rather than leaving it implied.

        But arguing about the words sure wastes allot of time to no purpose. As does argument about when “life” begins, as pointed out by Trip@14 – though I might argue Whitman was right, and that the correlate of “soul” in reality is your body.

  14. Trip
    October 21, 2011 at 7:50 pm

    I’m not sure why folks are questioning ‘when life begins.’

    It is pretty well established by methodical scientific observations that life begins approximately 4 billion years ago.

    Life is continuous. Human organisms are developed by the union of ‘sperm and egg,’ both of which are living. There is no point in time at which a blastocyte ‘comes alive,’ since it was always living biological material.

    I think the confusion arises when entertaining the religious concept of the ‘soul,’ which has no correlate in reality. No such thing exists.

  15. Yellow Thursday
    October 22, 2011 at 10:28 am

    Emmet, your logic is truly dizzying.

  16. 'Tis Himself, OM
    October 22, 2011 at 6:30 pm

    One thing I’ve noticed in the abortion debate is how many of the anti-abortion folks allow abortion in cases of rape and incest. So if the woman did not engage in consensual sex, then abortion is okay. But if the sex was consensual, then abortion is a no-no. The anti-abortion folks aren’t trying to “save the fetus’ life,” they’re punishing the woman for having sexual intercourse.

  17. Robert B.
    October 23, 2011 at 3:23 am

    You make a reasonable case, and I agree with you in the broad strokes. But I’ve always taken the development of the brain to be the beginning of person-hood, rather than viability. The way I see it, “viability” of a fetus is based on our ability to help it survive with technology. In theory, we could develop technology that would let us take a fertilized egg and bring it to term in vitro, without actually needing a womb at all. It seems incorrect to claim there is some real essence of person-hood tied up in our ability to preserve life.

    What’s special about humans is our capacity for learning, reason, and personality, which is seated in the brain. It strikes me therefore that once the brain has developed (to some standard that would presumably take a very wise doctor to set, I have no idea of the details) then the fetus is a person. Or at least, if we need a single biological marker of person-hood, brain development seems the best bet.

    It might be that the brain is developed before the fetus is viable, and I admit that this new person’s complete biological dependence on their mother is morally complex. But we acknowledge that infants and children have a legal right to expect care from their parents; it seems reasonable to extend that right some time before birth if the fetus is already a person at that time. Assuming, of course, that the woman has a range of family planning options that starts at education and ranges through the right to abort a fetus before it becomes a person.

    If the fetus is viable before the brain is developed, then great! We have a nice margin of error: we are able to protect and sustain these future-people, and not have to worry that our wise doctor who drew the neurodevelopmental dividing line might have made a mistake.

    And of course, in a stage of pregnancy where the fetus has become a person, if an emergency forces difficult choices where only one person can be saved, doctors must be free to judge which person they are best able to help. This is common practice in other kinds of medical emergencies, after all. I imagine (though again I know very little about medicine) that this will almost always be the mother: she is already a mature and independent organism, easier to keep alive, and I would expect that if the conflict is arising at all, the fetus probably can’t survive without her anyway, so letting her die to save the young one doesn’t make much sense.

    • speedwell
      October 25, 2011 at 1:18 pm

      At which point does technology make it okay to intimately invade a woman’s body against her will?

  18. Donna
    January 15, 2012 at 4:05 am

    Wow I read every comment on this web site. I have to say, we truly have become more intelligent at arguing.Frankly, I have no means to argue. But to simply get to the core of my so called paragraph; we all have our own obligations to ourselves and ourselves only. Please don’t comment or else we’ll start a verbal WAR because people, “as being the most intelligent species,” are VERY good at that.

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  20. bakakurisu
    August 23, 2012 at 2:48 am

    Wow… How uneducated can you get?


    “We talk of human development not because a jumble of cells, which is perhaps initially atypical, gradually turns more and more into a human, but rather because the human being develops from a uniquely human cell. There is no state in human development prior to which one could claim that a being exists with not-yet-human individuality. On the basis of anatomical studies, we know today that no developmental phase exists that constitutes a transition from the not-yet-human to the human.”

    “In short, a fertilized egg (conceptus) is already a human being.”

    Erich Blechschmidt, Brian Freeman, The Ontogenetic Basis of Human Anatomy: The Biodynamic Approach to Development from Conception to Adulthood, North Atlantic Books, June 2004. pp 7,8


    “Human development begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm unites with a female gamete or oocyte (ovum) to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.”

    “A zygote is the beginning of a new human being (i.e., an embryo).”

    Keith L. Moore, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, 8th edition. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders, 2008. pp. 15, 2


    “Although life is a continuous process, fertilization (which, incidentally, is not a ‘moment’) is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new genetically distinct human organism is formed when the chromosomes of the male and female pronuclei blend in the oocyte.”

    Ronan O’Rahilly and Fabiola Müller, Human Embryology and Teratology, 3rd edition. New York: Wiley-Liss, 2001. p. 8


    “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 York: McGraw-Hill, 1996, p. 3


    “The development of a human being begins with fertilization, a process by which two highly specialized cells, the spermatozoon from the male and the oocyte from the female, unite to give rise to a new organism, the zygote.”

    Langman, Jan. Medical Embryology. 3rd edition. Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins, 1975, p. 3


    “It is the penetration of the ovum by a spermatozoan and resultant mingling of the nuclear material each brings to the union that constitutes the culmination of the process of fertilization and marks the initiation of the life of a new individual.”

    Human Embryology, 3rd ed. Bradley M. Patten, (New York: McGraw Hill, 1968), 43


    Dr. Jerome Lejeune of Paris, France was a medical doctor, a Doctor of Science and a professor of Fundamental Genetics for over twenty years. Dr. Lejeune discovered the genetic cause of Down Syndrome, receiving the Kennedy Prize for the discovery and, in addition, received the Memorial Allen Award Medal, the world’s highest award for work in the field of Genetics. He is often called the “Father of Modern Genetics”. The following are some notable statements by him:

    “After fertilization has taken place a new human being has come into existence. This is no longer a matter of taste or opinion. Each individual has a very neat beginning, at conception.”
    – 1989 court testimony in Tennessee, cf. also Louisiana Legislature’s House Committee on the Administration of Criminal Justice on June 7, 1990

    “The human nature of the human being from conception to old age is not a metaphysical contention, it is plain experimental evidence.”
    – The Subcommittee on Separation of Powers, Report to Senate Judiciary Committee S-158, 97th
    Congress, First Session, 1981


    “Physicians, biologists, and other scientists agree that conception marks the beginning of the life of a human being – a being that is alive and is a member of the human species. There is overwhelming agreement on this point in countless medical, biological, and scientific writings.”
    – The official Senate report from Subcommittee on Separation of Powers to Senate Judiciary Committee S-158, Report, 97th Congress, 1st Session, 1981

    Background on the Committee testifiers:
    A group of internationally-known biologists and geneticists appeared to speak on behalf of the scientific community on the subject of when a human being begins. They all presented the same view and there was no opposing testimony. Among those testifying:

    Dr. Micheline M. Mathews-Roth, Harvard medical School
    Dr. Jerome Lejeune (“Father of Modern Genetics”)
    Dr. McCarthy de Mere, medical doctor and law professor, University of Tennessee
    Dr. Alfred Bongiovanni, Professor of Pediatrics and Obstetrics, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine
    Dr. Richard V. Jaynes
    Dr. Landrum Shettles, sometimes called the “Father of In Vitro Fertilization”
    Professor Eugene Diamond
    Gordon, Hymie, M.D., F.R.C.P., Chairman of Medical Genetics, Mayo Clinic, Rochester
    C. Christopher Hook, M.D. Oncologist, Mayo Clinic, Director of Ethics Education, Mayo Graduate School of Medicine


    • bakakurisu
      August 23, 2012 at 2:54 am

      homicide (ˈhɒmɪˌsaɪd)

      — n
      1. the killing of a human being by another person
      2. a person who kills another

      There. I’ve aptly and easily debunked your entire article.

      I hope you didn’t waste too much time writing it… :/

  21. Tiredofliberalbullshit
    November 9, 2012 at 8:07 am

    Can’t go changing definitions willy nilly? You mean the way liberals do when they want their own way? A baby is alive whether you like it or not. Eloquent speech won’t change the fact that you are killing a human being simply so that your life will be easier. If that is a problem, don’t get pregnant.

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