Thursday, January 17, 2008

Questions about legalized abortion again

Earlier in the month, I had brought up some questions in regards to legalized abortion. Here are the questions again:

1.) If the unborn is not human (or not human yet), then what is it?

2.) If the the status of the unborn's humanity is not yet established, when will it be? What standards will determine when we know whether the unborn is human or not?

3.) If the unborn is human, then how is legalized abortion justified?

I'm now going to attempt to answer these questions.

The controversy of legalized abortion wouldn't be a controversy if we knew for sure that the unborn weren't human. Let's start by saying this: Simple logic says that if it's human after birth, then it must be human before birth. We know that an already-born baby is indeed human, and recognized as a human life by law. How do we know this? When you hear news about a baby being killed either by a murderer or in an accident, we view that death as tragic. Why? Because we know instinctively that it is not just a life, but a fragile, defenseless life, unable to provide its own defense against a murderer, or unable to run to safety in the case of a fire.

We also lament the fact that it will never get to grow up and live up to whatever potential that it had. If an already-born baby wasn't human, then news reports about its death by murder or accident wouldn't even faze us. What I'm trying to establish here is that we do indeed recognize the humanity of a baby that is already born. So next we must try to determine, if possible, at what point that a baby establishes its humanity.

One answer could be: birth. When it's born, then it's human. There. Nice and simple.

But is it? What about babies born prematurely? If one infant is born 2 months premature, then why is that infant more human than another baby that is carried to term? That is, why is that preemie, who was born during its 7th month of gestation, more human than an unborn in its 8th month of gestation, or even its 9th month? Under the "human at birth" argument, the preemie is human because it has already been born. That it was born 2 months before the usual time is largely irrelevant to the argument.

However, let's carry this "human at birth" argument further by asking: what about the unborn that are withdrawn while still embryos? Aren't they technically "born", since they have been removed from the mother's body? No? Well, why not? Isn't that "born" in the technical sense? The answer here might be "Well yeah, they are out of the mother's body, but an unborn that young doesn't look human. They don't have any eyes, feet, hands, or other characteristics that we would recognize as human."

If we were going to be consistent with the "human at birth" argument, then we wouldn't be involved in the current embryonic stem cell research debate (by the way, I say "embryonic" to separate these forms of stem cells from the other, non-controversial stem cells such as adult and placental), because we would recognize that embryos that are removed from the mother's body are indeed "born". In fact, we might even say that it is to the embryo's advantage to be extracted as early as possible so as to have their human rights conferred to them as early as possible.

Of course, this is ridiculous, because it is to the embryo's advantage to be allowed to develop in its mother's womb - however, this is what the "human at birth" logic arrives at when taken to its extreme. But because of the controversy of embryonic stem cell research, we see that this is not what is accepted by the supporters of such research. In fact, the use of embryos in such research is not only not discouraged, but actively encouraged - thus flying in the face of "human at birth" standards of identifying the beginning point of the unborn's humanity.

Coming tomorrow I shall continue this discussion.

No comments: