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Do You Need God to Know That Abortion is Wrong?

Unborn

The New Republic’s latest contribution to the abortion debate is remarkable, in that, despite getting virtually everything it says factually wrong, it still raises an interesting problem for pro-choicers and atheists. Here’s the Twitter teaser to the piece that started it all:

According to the author of this piece, New Republic senior editor Jamil Smith, (1) the pro-life movement is struggling to survive; (2) the pro-life movement is fueled by ignorance; and (3) pro-lifers are forced to resort to “because God” in defense of their views. Each of these views is demonstrably false, but the third point actually highlights a potentially devastating problem for pro-choicers and atheists.

Is the Pro-Life Movement Dying or Gaining Ground?

Unlike The New Republic, the pro-life movement isn’t struggling to survive. But you don’t have to take my word for that. Just look at the most recent Gallup poll data on Americans’ positions on abortion:

Gallup3

Here’s how Gallup summarized the overall trends in 2012:

"Gallup began asking Americans to define themselves as pro-choice or pro-life on abortion in 1995, and since then, identification with the labels has shifted from a wide lead for the pro-choice position in the mid-1990s, to a generally narrower lead for 'pro-choice' — from 1998 through 2008 — to a close division between the two positions since 2009. However, in the last period, Gallup has found the pro-life position significantly ahead on two occasions, once in May 2009 and again today [2012]. It remains to be seen whether the pro-life spike found this month proves temporary, as it did in 2009, or is sustained for some period."

It noted further that “the decline in Americans’ self-identification as 'pro-choice' is seen across the three U.S. political groups.” So the last two decades have seen a shift for pro-choicers having a wide lead over pro-lifers to pro-choicers having a narrow lead over pro-lifers, to the present, in which the lead is hotly contested. And from this Smith concludes that the pro-life movement is dying? The data shows the opposite: the pro-life movement is not surviving, it’s gaining ground.

More likely, the problem is that Smith is ignorant: Gallup has also found that most Americans mistakenly believe that a majority of America is pro-choice, and that political moderates and pro-choicers are most likely to get this wrong. So Smith’s description of a political movement that is losing ground but remaining ignorantly deluded is an apt one: he’s just applied it to the wrong side of the debate.

Are Pro-Lifers Promoting Ignorance or Asking Inconvenient Questions?

But let’s talk about ignorance and science. Here’s a larger excerpt from Smith’s piece:

"The anti-choice platform survives by propagating one fundamentally flawed truth above all: Conservative politicians know more about medicine than doctors do, because God. That is an explanation that relies upon the ignorance of the persuaded and coerced.

 

Ignorance—both the kind they embrace and the kind they relentlessly promote—has always been a primary tool for conservatives in their battle against reproductive choice. […] The more of us caught up in speculating when life actually begins and questioning the rights of the fetus, the better."
This is a call to stop asking when life begins and to stop questioning whether or not the fetus has human rights, couched in Orwellian terms as a war on ignorance. Those rascally pro-lifers are making us ignorant by encouraging us to think about unpleasant questions!

 
Figure 18.13

The pro-life movement is actually very much pro-science, and science is on the pro-life side of the question of when life begins. This is from Sandra Alter’s Biology: Understanding Life, a collegiate-level biology textbook for non-majors. It explains the birds and bees for anyone still confused about how reproduction works

"To illustrate, look at the human life cycle diagrammed in Figure 18.13, which is representative of all animal life cycles. A life cycle is the progression of stages an organism passes through from its conception until it conceives another similar organism. The diploid zygote in the diagram represents that part of the life cycle during which the fusion of gametes, or sex cells, from a male and a female of the same species have produced a new individual. The female gamete is the egg, and the male gamete is the sperm.
 

After a person (or other animal) grows to sexual maturity, the sex organs begin to produce gametes by a type of cell division called meiosis (my-OH-sis). During meiosis, one parent cell produces four sex cells, but these cells are not identical to the parent cell. Each sex cell is haploid; that is, it contains half the amount of hereditary material of the original parent cell. It is a single set of genetic information – one of each chromosome. Because of this reduction in chromosome number, one sex cell from each of two parent organisms can join together in a process called fertilization to form the first cell of a new individual that has a full complement of hereditary material. This new cell is diploid. That is, it contains double the haploid amount – a double set of the genetic information, or two of each chromosome. This type of reproduction, which involves the fusion of gametes to produce the first cell of a new individual, is called sexual reproduction."

New life begins the same way in all animals, not just humans. Two gametes, sperm and egg, fuse to form a diploid. This diploid isn’t part of the mother or the father: it’s a genetically-distinct individual member of the species. That’s how we get new birds, new bees, and new boys and girls. On this point, there’s just no serious scientific question. Scientifically literate people don’t wonder, for example, if chicks are alive (or individuated) before they emerge from their eggs. So science teaches that fertilization produces new beings. In the case of humans, the fusion of sperm and egg produces a new human being.

But this doesn’t answer every question in the abortion debate, which is where we get to the most (inadvertently) interesting part of Smith’s piece.

Is Abortion Only Wrong “Because [of] God” or Can Atheists Know It, Too?

That’s an interesting claim for a few reasons. First, because he doesn’t actually quote a single person citing religion in defense of their position: he just ignores the actual reasons given, saying that their reasons are really “because God.” Second, because (Gallup again): “Americans who profess no religious identity are the most heavily pro-choice, at 80%, with 15% calling themselves pro-life.” How would Smith explain those 15%? Are they just pro-life “because God”? Smith claims that the pro-life justification for its position is simply “because of God.” Well, actually he says that it’s “because God,” and that this is why “conservative politicians” claim to know more about medicine than doctors, but that’s a bit of an incoherent mess. What he’s driving at, as near as I can tell, is that opposition to abortion can only be due to religious reasons.

But the third reason is that if Smith is right, this is a damning critique of atheism.

The pro-life argument is simple: (1) human beings are alive from the moment of fertilization, and (2) it is morally wrong (and ought to be illegal) to intentionally kill innocent human beings. The first point is a scientific one. The second is a moral and legal one, one that science can’t answer. You don’t find human rights under a microscope, and there’s no experiment capable of proving that murder is wrong.

Our scientific knowledge gets us far enough to say that abortion is the intentional killing of a human being, so we can say that if all human beings are entitled to basic human rights, then we must recognize unborn humans as having these rights, as well. But science can’t say if the intentional killing of innocent human beings is murder, or if murder is wrong, or if human rights exist.

So here’s why I say that Smiths’ piece ends up being an inadvertent contribution to the broader debate on abortion, as well as on religion. I frequently see two types of pieces from secular writers:

  1. Articles declaring that we can be good without God, that atheists are just as moral as anyone else, etc.
  2. Articles like this one, claiming that we can only know that killing people is wrong “because God,” in which case a truly universal respect for human rights can only come from a religious worldview.

Those two positions can’t both be right, so which is it?If it’s #1, then pro-choicers need to abandon the “because God” strawman. If it’s #2, then atheism is morally terrifying (and if murder is always wrong, then atheism is false).

In fact, atheists don’t agree on this question. Broadly speaking, they fall into three camps. First, there are people like Sam Harris, who claims that science can somehow prove morality, that an ought can be derived from an is without God or teleology. Second, there are those like Jean-Paul Sartre, who acknowledge that apart from God, everything is morally permissible as morality is reduced to a human invention:

"The existentialist, on the contrary, finds it extremely embarrassing that God does not exist, for there disappears with Him all possibility of finding values in an intelligible heaven. There can no longer be any good a priori, since there is no infinite and perfect consciousness to think it. It is nowhere written that “the good” exists, that one must be honest or must not lie, since we are now upon the plane where there are only men. Dostoevsky once wrote: 'If God did not exist, everything would be permitted'; and that, for existentialism, is the starting point. Everything is indeed permitted if God does not exist, and man is in consequence forlorn, for he cannot find anything to depend upon either within or outside himself. He discovers forthwith, that he is without excuse. [….]
 
No one can tell what the painting of tomorrow will be like; one cannot judge a painting until it is done. What has that to do with morality? We are in the same creative situation. We never speak of a work of art as irresponsible; when we are discussing a canvas by Picasso, we understand very well that the composition became what it is at the time when he was painting it, and that his works are part and parcel of his entire life. It is the same upon the plane of morality.There is this in common between art and morality, that in both we have to do with creation and invention. We cannot decide a priori what it is that should be done."

The third group of atheists simply try to have la botte piena e la moglie ubriaca (“the barrel full and the wife drunk,” Italy’s colorful take on “to have your cake and eat it, too”). But this third position isn’t tenable.

So in spite of Smith’s gross ignorance of the statistical growth of the pro-life movement, the scientific origins of human beings, and the actual arguments used by pro-lifers, he’s stumbled into something resembling an interesting point. He (apparently) thinks that only God can coherently undergird the opposition to murdering unborn children. Non-believers and pro-choicers, is he right?
 
 
(Image credit: Caffeinated Thoughts)

Joe Heschmeyer

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Until May 2012, Joe Heschmeyer was an attorney in Washington, D.C., specializing in litigation. These days, he is a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Kansas City, Kansas, and can use all the prayers he can get. Follow Joe through his blog, Shameless Popery or contact him at joseph.heschmeyer@gmail.com.

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  • 1) says human beings are alive from the moment of fertilization. But "alive" is not the point, nor whether it is human. Both sperm and egg are human and alive all along. The question is the thing that is fertilized an individual human being, with the right to life.

    I say no and that it is not immoral to remove it. I do not accept that human rights should be afforded to all living entities with distinct human DNA, simply by virtue f being alive and genetically distinct. The brain dead, the unborn should not be afforded rights and I do not think it is immoral to deprive it of someone else's body, even if it will die by doing so.

    I do not agree with the statement that it is always wrong to intentionally kill innocent human beings either. Nor did Yaweh in the Old Testament at least!

    • OX_IX

      What is the metric of being a human being? The combination of unique human DNA and life are not, so what is?

      • David Nickol

        The question is not about "human beings." Everyone can agree that, at least in some sense, a fertilized human egg is "human" and can plausibly be called a "human being." The question is about the legal and moral status of a fertilized egg, a pre-embryo, an embryo, or a fetus as a person both morally and legally.

        These are philosophical and legal questions, not scientific ones, and reproducing an illustration from a textbook does not clarify the issues in any way at all.

        • OX_IX

          Ok, so when is a human being a person?

          • In the legal sense, at birth until death. But "person" in this sense has to do with legal status, and not all persons have the right to life or are even human individuals.

            In other senses, it depends on what you mean by person, ie the context.

          • OX_IX

            What are some other senses of personhood besides the legal context? I assume the answer is philosophical. I would consider biological a valid context too.

            Why would one of the multiple senses, contexts or definitions of personhood apply at one time and not at another? Isn't this multiplicity of meanings of "person" unjust?

            You'll have to forgive me. My questions aren't supposed to be snide or rude. Most of my dialogue concerning the issue of abortion has been with pro-life advocates, so I'm just trying to understand.

          • Social, casual contexts, sure philosophical.

            Certainly multiple contexts and definitions are not unjust. I don't think there are any words which don't change meaning depending on context.

          • OX_IX

            Most contextual variations don't carry the weight of human life though.

            If biology says human life is this, but politics says in order for this life to receive human rights it must be this, but philosophy says for this life to be a human person is must be this, and we choose the most rigorous definition as our baseline and this results in the end of a human life by a broader definition, is that not unjust to that human life?

            For most other words I would agree with you, but this situation is more important than most other words.

          • William Davis

            Out of curiosity, do agree that the 10 year old should be forced to carry the baby in my above example?

            http://strangenotions.com/do-you-need-god-to-know-that-abortion-is-wrong/#comment-2024484834

            If so, why?

          • OX_IX

            Your link just takes me back to the top of the page. I scrolled down though and found the link to the girl who conceived a child in rape. So, I'm going to address that with a question in return:

            Out of curiosity, do you agree that since there are five species of mammals that lay eggs that we should include "egg-laying" as an attribute of mammals (like four chambered heart, hair, etc.)?

            http://www.livescience.com/5746-odd-egg-laying-mammals-exist.html

            If not, why not?

          • William Davis

            The link worked for me, disqus (like all software) can be a little weird sometimes.

            Yes, egg-laying should be considered an attribute of mammals, but not a common attribute of mammals. Mammals normally don't lay eggs, but they can, as demonstrated by your link. There is a difference between common properties and possible properties/attributes.

          • OX_IX

            So, egg-laying is not a common property of mammals, why not?

          • William Davis

            Because most mammals don't lay eggs. Are you asking for evolutionary reasoning (i.e. why mammals evolved such that internal gestation isn't common)?

          • OX_IX

            I could care less about the evolutionary reasoning of egg-laying mammals.

            Monotremes are an exception. One does not create a common property for all mammals based on an exception.

            Similarly, one does not create a law that results in 1.3 billion lives being aborted since 1980 (http://www.numberofabortions.com/) because of what may be an exception.

          • William Davis

            So you think the 10 year old girl should be forced to go through with the pregnancy? You never answered my question. I answered yours.

          • William Davis

            I hope you had to leave and aren't avoiding my question. In the mean time, I'd like to use your analogy to my advantage.

            Risk factors for miscarriage include an older mother or father, previous miscarriage, exposure to tobacco smoke, obesity, diabetes, and drug or alcohol use, among others.[5][6] In those under the age of 35 the risk is about 10% while it is about 45% in those over the age of 40.[1] Risk begins to increase around the age of 30.[5] About 80% of miscarriages occur in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy (the first trimester).

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Miscarriage

            So abortion (miscarriage) is a common property of pregnancy. 1 out 4 (approximately on average) of all fertilized eggs get naturally aborted. Why wouldn't God give this poor 10 year old girl a miscarriage? He apparently does it quite often in general.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Wrong question. Should someone be allowed to kill the baby she is carrying?

          • William Davis

            Absolutely. To save the 10 year old's life or prevent potentially permanent damage to her productive system. Your comment about personhood is a little sad. You want to talk about philosophy and then reject a major philosophical concept out of hand? Not something a philosopher should do, in my opinion. You have a stance on personhood (like or not) and you say personhood begins at conception. I say it begins at 20 weeks. We have a philosophical difference that can't be resolved empirically. All I am asking is that my family be allowed to handle it's own business using our own God given consciences. You handle your families business. Having abortion legal takes the decision out of your hands and puts it into those in the actual situation.
            In the case of the 10 year old rape victim, my conscience STRONGLY tells me that the abortion is the RIGHT thing to do, but it is up to the 10 year old girl and/or her mother. If the 10 year old wanted to go through with it, I would admire her courage. What upsets me is when people like you want to get in the middle of it and tell people what they are to do. You haven't made one indication that you have any empathy at all towards the 10 year old, I think you couldn't care less. It isn't your position that makes me think less of you as a person, it's your lack of empathy. If I were her real father, and you got my daughter killed, I would hate you until the day I died. I'm big on forgiveness, but I don't think I could forgive that.
            I have always done very well with morality because I have a strong imagination and strong sense of empathy. I don't come up with abstract philosophy that is to govern all decision. I learn philosophy, but in any given situation, I put myself in that situation so I can FEEL it. This feeling is my natural intuitive ability to tell right from wrong. If God exists, God gave me this conscience, and therefore God is telling me you are dead wrong here. I don't expect you to agree, I expect you to have enough respect for you fellow human beings to allow them to use THEIR consciences to make decisions. Your attempts to legislation your morality in this situation strike me at totalitarian and completely anti-liberty in this situation.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            To me this comment is irrational emoting.

          • William Davis

            P.S. If the 10 year old dies, you have managed to abort all the future children she would have had. Nice going.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            We are talking about real actions taken by real people that have real consequences.

          • David Nickol

            What are some other senses of personhood besides the legal context? I
            assume the answer is philosophical. I would consider biological a valid
            context too.

            If person were a biological concept, how could it be possible to claim that there are three Persons in one God?

          • OX_IX

            You are correct. I misspoke. I should have qualified my statement. In this context (see guys, I'm learning!) "human" person is the proper nomenclature.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            So whether you are a person depends on my opinions?

          • No, as I said, the meaning of the word person depends on the context.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            If the 10 year old dies, you have managed to abort all the future children she would have had.

            No. You cannot kill something that does not exist.

            A person in this context is "an individual human being." So the first requirement is that it has being, an act of existence. (This can usually be determined empirically.) Next, is it a human being? (Again, DNA testing should be empirically sufficient.) Whether the being is "individual" can be verified by testing whether it is a part of another being, like an elbow or a skin cell, or whether is exists in itself.

            However, this is largely irrelevant since abortion involves the taking of a "human life," not a "person."

        • It's not at all clear to me that "everyone can agree" that human life begins at conception. There's widespread confusion on this point. I just heard an "expert" on CNN the other day declare that she didn't "believe" life begins at conception in reference to Nick Loeb, who is busying arguing that he does believe it. You might say that "life" (or at least "human life") is shorthand only for the moral and legal status of personhood that you referenced - but I don't buy it. There's a healthy ontological intuition behind the ambiguity - namely, that man is a body-person composite - but that intuition lands many in the strange position of denying that life begins at conception in any sense of the word.

          • William Davis

            Personhood can end up all over the place. Inside my head, my life began around 3-4 as these are my oldest memories. Does that mean I wasn't a person before that? No, but to me, my life still began with my oldest memories. I'm sure my point of view was quite different at 2, even though I don't remember it ;)

          • David Nickol

            It's not at all clear to me that "everyone can agree" that human life begins at conception.

            But that is not what I said everyone can agree on. I said the following:

            Everyone can agree that, at least in some sense, a fertilized human egg is "human" and can plausibly be called a "human being."

            There's a difference.

            You might say that "life" (or at least "human life") is shorthand only
            for the moral and legal status of personhood that you referenced - but I
            don't buy it.

            Since the debate is often about personhood, merely saying "life begins at conception" is vague. You also have to make it clear what you mean by "human life." The HeLa cell line is both human and alive (see The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks—great book!), but it is not a human life in the sense of a "human person."

          • Kevin Aldrich

            Personhood in regard to abortion is just a big scam used to justify the unjustifiable.

          • David Nickol

            Very profound.

          • David Nickol

            Then-Cardinal Ratzinger has said some very interesting things about personhood in the context of sin:

            "Finding an answer to this requires
            nothing less than trying to understand the human person better. It
            must once again be stressed that no human being is closed in upon
            himself or herself and that no one can live of or for himself or herself
            alone. We receive our life not only at the moment of birth but every
            day from without--from others who are not ourselves but who nonetheless
            somehow pertain to us. Human beings have their selves not only in
            themselves but also outside of themselves: they live in those whom
            they love and in those who love them and to whom they are 'present.'
            Human beings are relational, and they possess their lives--themselves--only
            by way of relationship. I alone am not myself, but only in and with
            you am I myself. To be truly a human being means to be related in
            love, to be of and for. But sin means the damaging or
            the destruction of relationality.

            It is difficult to apply this concept of relationality to a fertilized egg or a very early embryo.

          • If you read that passage purely as a description of mental or spiritual relationality, I think that's begging the question. As far as physical relationality is concerned - and aren't human persons physical? - I can't think of a better description of the relationship between a pregnant mother and her unborn child. Read it again!

          • David Nickol

            I can't think of a better description of the relationship between a pregnant mother and her unborn child.

            To the extent it describes a pregnant (human) mother and her unborn child, it also describes a pregnant chimpanzee, gorilla, or orangutang and her child.

            There are numerous stories on the Internet of babies that have been born to women in comas for as long as 7 months, and one story from the 1990s in which a woman who had been in a coma for ten years was raped by a nursing home worker, conceived, and gave birth.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            It is no more difficult than to apply it to the left big toe.

            Modern science holds that what we see at any given time is a 3-dimensional cross-section of a whole 4-dimensional being. The different parts of this being along the time dimension are no more distinct that the different parts along the three spacial dimensions. Thus, you-at-now is not a different being from you-at-yesterday or you-at-seven-years-ago or you-in-the-womb.

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The mother who aborts her unborn child is the one with the relationally difficulty.

          • David Nickol

            The mother who aborts her unborn child is the one with the relationally difficulty.

            Then let's treat her like the murderer that she is! Don't you agree?

          • Kevin Aldrich

            The woman who aborts her child has a profound relational difficulty. This is why so many women suffer so deeply from abortion.

          • David Nickol

            As I said elsewhere, this is where the pro-life movement (and so many Catholics in it) seem to me so maddeningly hypocritical. If abortion is murder, and if it is such a heinous sin that women are excommunicated for it (which they are, although not for infanticide), then treat them like murderers.

            Do you think the average murderer is the picture of mental health? The average murderer will never kill again. However, about half the women who have abortions in any given year are having their second (third, fourth, etc.) abortion.

            The fact is, however horrible a sin or a crime even pro-lifers claim it is, almost no one wants to see a woman punished for having an abortion. Mother Teresa said, ""We must not be surprised when we hear of murders,
            of killings, of wars, of hatred. If a mother can kill her own child,
            what is left but for us to kill each other." But pro-lifers want mothers who kill their own children to be classified as victims.

            Could it be that "deep down" pro-lifers don't really think it's all that bad for a woman to get an abortion?

          • Mila

            You seem to not know that excommunication is not just an automatic thing if the person didn't know it was an excommunication offense.
            You also seem to think that all pro-lifers think alike.
            In fact, I have met a lot more pro-lifers who hold the woman accountable than not.
            It's not just the woman though. It's everyone involved.
            And if you must know what I think, not deep down as I haven't hidden it, that abortion is so wrong and I mean so intrinsically evil, that when we die we will see the consequences of it. I think it's such grave matter that it cries out to heaven.
            And I also think the one who truly dies is not so much the baby but the mother. She dies eternally. Her grace is killed, she dies spiritually. She separates herself from God completely even though she breaths.

          • David Nickol

            You also seem to think that all pro-lifers think alike.

            Apologies for overgeneralizing. I know that those who call themselves pro-life are not a monolithic group.

        • Ye Olde Statistician

          Actually, it is the human life, not the "person"-hood that is crucial. Person-hood has been denied to all sorts of groups from time to time.

          • David Nickol

            Person-hood has been denied to all sorts of groups from time to time.

            This is often asserted in such discussions, but I have never seen an actual instance of it cited. There have been many cases in which a member of a certain race, or class, or tribe, or whatever has been treated as an inferior human being. But I don't know of any instances in which it was said, "We can kill Jews, or Blacks, or American Indians, etc. because they are not really human."

          • Mila

            Nazis did not referred to the Jews inferior human beings but as rats.
            Dehumanization is what leads to atrocious acts of cruelty and genocide.
            The idea that we can decide who is a person and who isn't is by de facto dehumanization.

          • William Davis

            You have the philosophical position that person-hood begins at conception. I put it at 20 weeks. Some put it at birth. Some have said certain ethnic groups are never persons as you say. We are all drawing lines, whether we admit it or not.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            I put it [person-hood] at 20 weeks.

            What happens in the developing being at 20 weeks that makes it "an individual human being" (the definition of a human person)? How is it different from 19 weeks, or 19 weeks and six days? Or from 21 weeks?

            Some put it at birth.

            Same question. How would those who argue for this position debate those who say even birth is not a marker? The ancient Greeks and Romans had no problem with exposing newborns to their death, and some US Senators voted against a law that would have required the maintenance of life of newborns born accidentally during an abortion. Then there is Peter Singer:

            I do not deny that if one accepts abortion
            on the grounds provided in Chapter 6, the case for killing other human beings,
            in certain circumstances, is strong. As I shall try to show in this chapter,
            however, this is not something to be regarded with horror, and the use of the
            Nazi analogy is utterly misleading. On the contrary, once we abandon those
            doctrines about the sanctity of human life that - as we saw in Chapter 4 -
            collapse as soon as they are questioned, it is the refusal to accept killing
            that, in some cases, is horrific.
            http://utilitarianism.net/singer/by/1993----.htm

            So there are even those for whom birth is not a marker.
            +++++++++++++
            OTOH when sperm and egg fuse, what results is a self-organizing system that pursues its own good. Its morphogenesis is self-unfolding, not assembled like a mousetrap by external forces. Hence, there is a thing (ousia, substantia) that did not previously exist, and a rational justification for regarding it as a new individual. Most importantly, it does not depend on the self-interest of others for its status, nor on arbitrary time limits or abilities.

      • I don't know. There are those among us who do not have unique DNA but essentially the same as their identical twin. There are those that we would call a single individual but who have two distinct DNA in different parts of their bodies. (They are fraternal twins that fused soon after conception. Commonly called chimera.)

        What I can say is what I think rights should be afforded to and this has to do with self-awareness, sapience, and having an interest in one's own life.

        • "What I can say is what I think rights should be afforded to and this has to do with self-awareness, sapience, and having an interest in one's own life."

          So would you assign rights to a mentally-retarded infant in a coma? By your criteria, I don't see how you can.

          • No, mental retardation does not remove sapience, nor does a coma. Brain dead, yes.

          • joey_in_NC

            You must be operating under a different definition of 'sapience' than I. How does any infant, let a lone a mentally-retarded one, have sapience?

          • Indeed we may be using different forms of the word. But yes I would say that very young infants do not possess sapience, but that most people with mental impairments do have it. But I would still give rights to young infants, but for other reasons, see my discussion with OX_IX

          • David Nickol

            So would you assign rights to a mentally-retarded infant in a coma? By your criteria, I don't see how you can.

            It depends on which rights.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            The error lies in the phrase "assigning" rights. The traditional Western notion embodied in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights is that people enjoy rights by their natures. They are not given their rights by the State or the Party or the KKK.

          • David Nickol

            "Assigning rights" was Brandon Vogt's terminology.

            Still there are many human rights that an embryo (or even a profoundly disabled person) does not have. What about the right to marry? Or the right to act according to conscience? The Catholic Church denies the right to marry to anyone who cannot perform at least a single act of sexual intercourse according to spec. One might argue that an embryo has a right to life, but what about a right to liberty, the pursuit of happiness, or the right to own property?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            Then, Mr.Vogt spoke carelessly.

            there are many human rights that an embryo (or even a profoundly disabled person) does not have.

            To speak of an embryo as distinct from the whole person is like asking if a man's big toe possesses rights that his hair does not. It's all part and parcel of the same being if, as we are told, time is just another dimension. Just as a person has parts that are high and low, fore and aft, and side to side, so too he has parts that are now and then. What you see today is the same being as you saw yesterday, the day before. Yesterday's Dave did not pass out of existence to be replaced by today's Dave. It is the same Dave.

          • David Nickol

            But in the Catholic tradition, a person can forfeit his right to liberty, and even life, by committing a crime such as murder. If time is just another dimension, does that mean the murderer never had a right to life and liberty?

            I really don't think we can escape the consequences of living moment by moment through time. And also, according to the Catholic tradition, a good man who commits murder and dies without repenting goes to hell. He doesn't get judged by his overall life. He gets judged by the state his "soul" is in at the instant that he dies. It doesn't seem particularly just or fair, but that is what the Church teaches.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            But in the Catholic tradition, a person can forfeit his right to
            liberty, and even life, by committing a crime such as murder.

            No, they still have the right. A murderer is still justified in defending his own life, even as the State seeks to take it. No one said that all rights are successfully defended.

            That is why Aquinas stated that the imprisonment of a convicted thief is still an evil, since it is a deprivation of the thief's liberty. It is, however, the lesser of the two evils, since allowing him to remain free would deprive others of their property.

            If time is
            just another dimension, does that mean the murderer never had a right to life and liberty?

            It is difficult to regard space-time from the POV of modern physics and use time-bound words like "never." That would be "never" from whose point of view? You would have to postulate a being outside time-and-space.

          • David Nickol

            No, they still have the right. A murderer is still justified in defending his own life, even as the State seeks to take it.

            Who claims this? Thomas Aquinas? I don't think so. Below are some interesting quotes one killing and murder, but it seems to me (both according to common sense and Aquinas) that a murderer fighting off (or killing) his executioner, if the execution is just, would be committing a crime against legitimate authority (or murdering an innocent man).

            On murder, I find that he says (in Whether it is lawful to kill sinners?):

            I answer that, As stated above (Article 1), it is lawful to kill dumb animals, in so far as they are naturally directed to man's use, as the imperfect is directed to the perfect. Now every part is directed to the whole, as imperfect to perfect, wherefore every part is naturallyfor the sake of the whole. For this reason we observe that if the health of the whole body demands the excision of a member, through its being decayed or infectious to the other members, it will be both praiseworthy and advantageous to have it cut away. Now every individual personis compared to the whole community, as part to whole. Therefore if a man be dangerous and infectious to the community, on account of some sin, it is praiseworthy and advantageous that he be killed in order to safeguard the common good, since "a little leaven corrupteth the whole lump" (1 Corinthians 5:6).

            Also, he says (in Whether it is lawful for a private individual to kill a man who has sinned?)

            On the contrary, Augustine says (De Civ. Dei i) [Can. Quicumque percutit, caus. xxiii, qu. 8: "A man who, without exercising public authority, kills an evil-doer, shall be judged guilty of murder, and all the more, since he has dared to usurp a power which God has not given him."

            I answer that, As stated above (Article 2), it is lawful to kill an evildoer in so far as it is directed to the welfare of the whole community, so that it belongs to him alone who has charge of the community's welfare. Thus it belongs to a physician to cut off a decayed limb, when he has been entrusted with the care of the health of the whole body. Now the care of the common good is entrusted to persons of rank having public authority: wherefore they alone, and not private individuals, can lawfully put evildoers to death.

            I will not include another long quote, but it seems to me that in Whether it is lawful to kill a man in self-defense? he in effect condemns "stand your ground" laws.

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            The question is whether the thief or murderer no longer has the right to life and liberty. not whether the State may justly take either one. Even the murderer has the right to defend his life; which is why we have defense attorneys.

            As regards self-defense, Aquinas writes:

            Accordingly the act of self-defense may have two effects, one is the saving of one's life, the other is the slaying of the aggressor. Therefore this act, since one's intention is to save one's own life, is not unlawful, seeing that it is natural to everything to keep itself in being, as far as possible. And yet, though proceeding from a good intention, an act may be rendered unlawful, if it be out of proportion to the end. Wherefore if a man, in self-defense, uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repel force with moderation his defense will be lawful, because according to the jurists [Cap. Significasti, De Homicid. volunt. vel casual.], "it is lawful to repel force by force, provided one does not exceed the limits of a blameless defense."

          • David Nickol

            Even the murderer has the right to defend his life; which is why we have defense attorneys.

            Generally, when the defense attorney is doing his or job (at the trial) the accused isn't a murderer, but rather an accused murderer. In any case, that is not self-defense against an aggressor. Not every jurisdiction has the American system of justice, and I rather doubt Aquinas himself lived under anything resembling our legal and judicial system.

            I very much disagree, if you intend to say so, that a condemned murderer has the right to use violence (up to and including deadly violence) to prevent his own execution. That would be nonsensical. It is well established in Catholic thought that one has the right of self-defense in the case of an unjust aggressor—that is, someone who is wrongfully attacking you. If the person happens to be drug crazed or insane, and not morally responsible for his actions, he is considered a materially unjust aggressor. But when a murderer has been convicted by the proper authorities and is about to be executed, those in charge of his execution, including the executioner himself (or herself), are not unjust aggressors. They are carrying out (according to Aquinas) their God-given duties. They are (according to Aquinas) doing a good thing. It would surely be impermissible for a convicted murderer to use violence against his "innocent" executioners even if that is the only means the murderer has of saving his or her own life. It would not be "blameless defense" to kill your executioner and escape the death penalty. It would be the murder of an innocent person.

        • OX_IX

          I think I'd agree, (particularly with your identical twin example in mind) that there must be something more than simply unique DNA that constitutes a human being or person. For as we see with identical twins, that although they are identical, they are most certainly two distinct beings. And I'm quite sure that if you were to tell a twin he is the same person or being in every way as his brother he would be quite belligerent.

          But this kinda begs the question, what is that something more? What besides biology determines human life, a human being, a human person?

          Before the following comments I'd like to reiterate that (as of now) human rights is different in sense or context from the definition of a human person as being discussed a few posts above in the conversation.

          We've identified three attributes: self-awareness, sapience, and having an interest in one's own life as necessary to grant a person human rights.

          I disagree. All three of the things mentioned are immaterial realities that change even among healthy human beings.

          Self-awareness, or consciousness, eludes most every human being for approximately eight hours a day. This is called sleeping. Does a man lose his rights when he sleeps?

          Further, a person may be temporarily knocked unconscious by an accident of some sort: automobile, sport, a roller coaster that was too intense. Does a man lose his rights during a temporary state following an accident?

          Sapience, or intelligence, can be impaired temporarily by drugs or alcohol. Is a girl who drinks too much on a Saturday night denied her rights?

          Further, there is a wide variance in intelligence among human beings. Where does one draw the line of a person deserving rights? Infants (another temporary time of life)? Grade school students? (I mean, who hasn't looked at a grade school student and thought to themselves, "you are a little idiot?") The mentally handicapped? My own neighbors down the street are quite stupid, fried their brains on drugs. They isn't much sapience left in them. Do they deserve rights?

          An interest in one's own life, or self preservation is also something that can be temporarily impaired. The National Institute of Mental Health that 6.9 percent of American adults experienced major depression in the last year. Who can say how many of those 16.9 million people considered for a time that their life was not worth preserving. Does somebody lose their rights because they have a temporary, curable disease?

          You don't even have to go to the fringes of human experience to witness how the proposed criteria is unacceptable.

          • I don't think we should afford rights based on consciousness or intelligence. What I mean is the ability to know you are alive and have an interest in your life continuing. Having a self-awareness ability, which implies consciousness, but requires more. These rights are afforded to beings who possess these abilities, even if they are temporarily suspended. And they are considered from an objective sense, not subjective. This means you do not ask whether someone wants to live, but whether they are the kind of thing that can want to live.

            You are right that to philosophy has troubling consequences with respect to infants. The person to read here is Peter Singer, in Practical Ethics. I do think we should afford rights to infants, but for different reasons. This is complex and cannot be sufficiently put forward in a comment section, likely. Please note I do not lack empathy for infants, think hurting them or killing them is in any way okay, or am in favour or legalizing such behaviour. This has to do with our intuitions evolved and socialized about pretty much absolutely prohibiting such conduct in any circumstance. Since these feelings are so strong, we all suffer a harm when such behaviours occur. It is to prohibit these harms that I think grounds affording these rights. But I do not deny these intuitions are within me and extremely strong. This veers somewhat to value ethics, which I think is more of a heuristic for the kind of utilitarianism that I fundamentally subscribe to. I am open to Singer's suggestion that infanticide of fatally ill babies who will simply suffer for a while and then die, would not be immoral. But I just can't overcome my intuition that even this is unconscionable.

            At the end of the day, I think pretty much all of our moral choices are more or less based on intuition, and we come up with moral philosophies as defined above to justify them. When we examine them in detail, all these systems seem to result in some inconsistencies.

          • LeeLoo

            "This means you do not ask whether someone wants to live, but whether they are the kind of thing that can want to live." - Who decides this? Sounds like a fertilized egg to me. What is intuition in the context of coming to a conclusion on morals?

          • Who decides this? Humans do, or other sapient beings that may exists. Who else?

            OK, a fertilized egg seems to me to be something that could eventually have this ability but does not at this time. I would draw the line at having the ability, not potentially having the ability.

            The importance of intuition is that it seems to me to be what people base their morals on.

          • OX_IX

            Thank you for the well thought-out post Brian. But to be honest, all it does is lead me to more questions, like:

            How does one measure "the ability to know you are alive and have an interest in your life continuing?"

            Your comments on infants in particular lead me to many questions, but perhaps you are right about a combox not being the ideal medium to hash out all of this information. I would like more information, would you be able to recommend a quality article or book?

          • "How does one measure "the ability to know you are alive and have an interest in your life continuing?"

            With great difficulty! This is why a reading of Singer is pretty useful. With those that can converse with language, it is pretty difficult. With others we have to infer from behaviour. Singer would say that many animals have it, from their behaviour. We try to err on the side of being over-inclusive. Which is another reason to include infants as well.

            http://www.cambridge.org/us/academic/subjects/philosophy/ethics/practical-ethics-3rd-edition?format=PB

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            The person to read here is Peter Singer, in Practical Ethics.

            He's the guy who said parents should be allowed to kill their children for any reason up to the age of two? And then backtracked by saying he had no right to set any time limit?

            Lebensunwertes Leben?

          • David Nickol

            Can you document this?

          • Sounds like him. I'm afraid I don't understand the last two words of your comment.

          • Papalinton

            "Lebensunwertes Leben?"
            Life unworthy of life? It's a Catholic-Nazi thing.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      Hence, the "terrifying" comment in the article. Remind me never to get sick or weak if you are in the neighborhood.

      The question is the thing that is fertilized an individual human being, with the right to life.

      a) Proceed inductively: is it canine? Equine? Petunia? Keep going until you run out of alternatives to "human."
      b) You seem to believe that "rights" are privileges granted by the State, or Society. And indeed, secular rights -- to vote, buy a house in your neighborhood, etc. -- are of this nature. But natural rights stem from the nature of a human being -- even if men, or white men, or some secular political movement does not recognize them. Ockham mentioned three in particular: life, liberty, and property.

      • David Nickol

        Remind me never to get sick or weak if you are in the neighborhood.

        And yet I would argue that in the United States, the old, the sick, and especially the disabled in the 21st century are treated with greater care then ever before. We have altered all of our theaters, restaurants, and public buildings so that the disabled can use them. In New York we have "kneeling buses" for the wheelchair bound. We have the Special Olympics. We spend billions upon billions of dollars to prolong the lives of the elderly for a few months (while letting millions of children live in poverty). My niece, who is disabled to the point where she will never be able to learn to read and write went to one of the top schools in the country and had someone there to watch over her all day while she learned next to nothing. I am not complaining at all. I think it was great for my sister's family and for my niece to receive those benefits. (Not all the benefits of being in school through the 12th grade are about the reading, writing, and arithmetic.) But anyone who implies that 40+ years of abortion has caused us to treat the elderly, the sick, and the disabled poorly is very badly mistaken.

  • Greg Schaefer

    Joe.

    While far too many culture warriors appear to love false dichotomies, any person of intellectual integrity who has followed the debate understands that the factions denominated as "pro-life" and "pro-choice" are not synonymous with "devout religious believer" and "religious agnostic or atheist," respectively. Although, of course, many of those who consider themselves to be devout religious believers do count themselves within the camp that I prefer to characterize as "pro-birth" (rather than "pro-life") and, in at least some of those cases, the fact that the institutional church with which they identify teaches that God counsels against abortion forms at least part of the rationale they may offer to justify their adamantly "anti-abortion under all circumstances" position.

    I think it is possible for people of good will to come down on either side of the issue for reasons that can be thought of as being moral, independently of whether they happen to be religious believers or not.

    And, let me note that while I am not a biologist, I am perfectly willing to concede that a new human life is created within a short period of time after the "moment" of conception. But, even if that happened to reflect a consensus of 99.99% of scientists with expertise in the relevant disciplines, the answer to the question: "When does a human life begin, from a biological perspective?" does not answer the real question we care about in this circumstance, which is: "At what point in the stage of human development are we, as a society, prepared to extend to the developing human being that resides in -- and, crucially, depends upon for its very life and ongoing development -- a woman's body the same protections the law affords to humans who have been born and exist independently and outside of their mother's body?

    After all, we as a society don't recognize an absolute "right to life" for all humans, once born, either. To list just the most obvious examples, we go to war, knowing humans will be killed; we permit people to kill others in various circumstances, like self-defense or police officers in defined contexts; and many of the US states and the US federal government resort to capital punishment for various crimes, etc. Life is always about and involves choices, and there are many values and considerations that come into play in the context of the morality of abortion. Reasonable people can arrive at different conclusions regarding the interplay of those different values and considerations.

    While this seems hard for many in the "pro-birth" camp to come to grips with, it is possible for those in the "pro-choice" camp to offer moral reasons for why the decision whether to bear a child if she becomes pregnant ought to be left to each woman under the circumstances she finds herself in during the course of any pregnancy.

    While I "get" that this is not an issue on which the majority who are so deeply committed on either side are really open to being persuaded, I wish we could arrive at the point in our society (I'm writing from the perspective of a US citizen) where there was deeper understanding for the good faith others on the other side might possess.

    For any of those of the "pro-birth" side who are amenable to seeking to understand, rather than condemn, those on the "pro-choice" side, even if they'll never be persuaded, I highly recommend Prof. Ronald Dworkin's book, Life's Dominion: An Argument About Abortion, Euthanasia and Human Freedom. In addition, Boston College Philosopher and prolific Catholic apologist Peter Kreeft has debated on this topic with Prof. David Boonin, a philosophy professor at the University of Colorado on two or three occasions, and a video of their 2010 debate is available for anyone interested. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6RobCjM0ZLA

  • David Nickol

    But you don’t have to take my word for that. Just look at the most recent Gallup poll data on Americans’ positions on abortion . . . .

    While Mr. Heschmeyer's does link to the most recent data, the chart he reproduces is from an older (2012) Gallup Poll, not the most recent one (2014). The most recent poll shows a change in the trend, with those who identify as pro-life dropping from 50% (in the 2012 poll) to 46% in 2014, and those who identify as pro-choice rising from 41% (in the 2012 poll) to 47% in 2014, making the pro-choice position the "winner" by one percentage point. Hence the headline to the article he links to says U.S. Still Split on Abortion: 47% Pro-Choice, 46% Pro-Life, but the data he discusses is from two years ago when the numbers were different.

    Here’s how Gallup summarized the overall trends in 2012:

    Mr. Mr. Heschmeyer's link here is to the 2012 report, the one he reproduces his chart from, which has this interesting information:

    Views About Morality and Legality of Abortion Hold Steady

    While Americans' identification as "pro-choice" has waned over the past year, their fundamental views about the morality and legality of abortion have held steady. Half of Americans, 51%, consider abortion morally wrong and 38% say it is morally acceptable -- nearly identical to the results in May 2011.

    So when this survey was taken, people had not changed their views. They kept the same views and just changed what they labeled themselves.

    • Michael Murray

      It is also interesting to see the data for "Legal under any circumstances" "Legal in some circumstances" and "Illegal in all circumstances" which is on the Gallup site

      http://content.gallup.com/origin/gallupinc/GallupSpaces/Production/Cms/POLL/9ja9dk8onuwawp1ys5gnkg.png

      http://www.gallup.com/poll/170249/split-abortion-pro-choice-pro-life.aspx

      • "There doesn't seem to be a lot of movement in the Catholic position."

        It's gone from 12% in 1990 to 21% in 2014. That's a 75% jump in just 14 years.

        • Michael Murray

          It all depends where you pick your start point doesn't it? It's gone from 21% in 1976 to 21% in 2014. That's a change of 0% in 38 years. Hence my comment. I gather the Catholic Church is about 24% of the US population as well.

          • joey_in_NC

            I sinusoid also doesn't have "a lot of movement" depending on where you pick the starting and end points. ;)

          • Michael Murray

            Sure. But for a sinusoid it would be a mistake both to extrapolate that it is going by picking an upward bit and a mistake to extrapolate it is going down by picking a downward bit. Seems to me we need another decades data to see where this is going.

      • Ye Olde Statistician

        There does not appear to be much change in any of the alternatives in the way the alternatives are stated. What is meant by "some" circumstances is left unsaid. Some would allow abortion to save the life of the mother, but not to ensure a male heir. Some would allow abortion only in the first trimester, others in the first or second trimester. Some may be unable to discriminate between deliberately killing the child and the child dying as a side-effect of another treatment.

        • Michael Murray

          Sure. It would be interesting to see some alternatives there. But the three options are an improvement on just the two or pro-life and pro-choice.

          • William Davis

            More detailed information is always better. I'm pro-choice, but I have a strong distaste for abortion. I was once completely anti-abortion until I got older and (hopefully) wiser.

    • "While Mr. Heschmeyer's does link to the most recent data, the chart he reproduces is from an older (2012) Gallup Poll, not the most recent one (2014)."

      That's my fault, not Joe's. He sent me the 2014 chart but it was low resolution so I tried to find a better version online. I accidentally grabbed the 2012 version instead of 2014.

      Thanks for the heads up though! I just fixed it.

    • Ye Olde Statistician

      Please do not confuse the results of a poll with a scientific measurement of an attribute. Even assuming no problems with the mechanics of defining the attribute being measured or with the drawing of the sample, one must also account for sampling variation. Try this as an experiment: fill a container with several thousand beads, roughly half of them white and half of them red. Now draw a sample of a couple hundred from the container and count the percentage of white and red in the sample. Consider each successive sample to be a different "year." You will discover that the results fluctuate over time: sometimes with more white, sometimes with more red. This does not reflect any change whatever in the number of red and white beads in the container.

      In the chart, we see that in early 2011 the split is 49% pro-choice to 45% pro-life, and then one year later early in 2012 it is suddenly 41%:50% until abruptly in 2013, the percentages flip again (unlabeled in chart), then a little later in the same year, 45%:48%, then in 2014 flipping again to 47%:46% pro-choice. But then reflect that except for those who have died or grown to poll-able age these represent samples drawn from pretty much the same container of people. Unless people are constantly changing their opinions, this must represent the "luck of the draw" and not a change in the underlying sampled population.

      To detect a change in the population is not so simple as observing a change in samples drawn from the population. Especially when the system contains red noise and successive samples are serially correlated.

      • David Nickol

        I have no problem at all with what you say here, but perhaps you should be saying it to Mr. Heschmeyer.

  • Mila

    It is not common to find pro-life atheists but we do find them. They even have pro-life organizations, secular pro-life is one of them.

    I'll steer off this subject. I'll just say that if abortion is not wrong then absolutely nothing is wrong, as Mother Teresa used to say.
    Even when I was away from the Church and had very little faith, I still thought abortion was wrong. Humans grow. It is our natural condition. Whether the human is an embryo or an 80 years old, that person is a human being from the instant it was conceived till death.

    I have seen Muslim's decapitations, burning people alive, genital mutilation of children, and all kinds of horrible things, however when I saw an abortion and the abortionist had to use instruments to slowly remove the limbs first as they didn't fit in the vacuum, then the torso, and lastly the head. When I saw the head and the expression on that baby, his mouth slightly opened and his eyes closed, an expression of such pain, I screamed in horror. When one sees that all philosophical arguments go out the window. If anyone even attempts to defend that horror; that butchery; in my eyes they have lost all their humanity.

    The semi-good news is that at least we might be able to avoid the human sacrifice by butchering them in parts with the House passing the pain-capable protection Act. I doubt it will pass the senate, but at least some people now know that the baby suffers enormous pain. Can you imagine being chopped into pieces? See an abortion at http://abortioninstruments.com/
    The Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act passed the House today on a 242 to 184 vote, and now heads to the Senate.

    Just heads up, I will take this truth to my grave. Nothing anyone can say will change my heart or my mind on this subject.

    • Are you suggesting that it is immoral to kill anything that is capable of feeling pain?

    • Do you feel less horror when the thing being aborted has no head, eyes, mouth, but is one cell?

      I honestly have the same reaction to such images. But I recognize that I have these reactions irrespective of whether there really is a human entity experiencing that pain and death. I cried when the Lion King died, though I don't think for a second that the animated Lion was real in any sense, or even could be. I am 41 but I cried last week when watching the horse die in The Neverending Story. I recognize that what is going on here is that I have faculties that allow me to empathize with certain images. I further recognize that it is the images themselves not the reality that generate these feelings.

      I think the killing of hundreds of children in Pakistan was much, much worse than the death of the Lion King,must I didn't cry when I heard about that.

      I think we need to be aware that there is more going on here than our emotional reaction to images being a clear indication of the moral reality.

      • joey_in_NC

        I think we need to be aware that there is more going on here than our
        emotional reaction to images being a clear indication of the moral
        reality.

        I agree. This statement can also be made from someone arguing on the pro-life side.

      • Ye Olde Statistician

        The camp guards had to overcome much the same mentality in order to toughen up for their jobs.

        • As did the soldiers God ordered to kill Amalakite infants. What is your point?

          • Ye Olde Statistician

            One atrocity does not justify another.

    • Mike

      I used to be nominally pro-choice when i was in my 20s an a cultural atheist but i always thought that something wasn't quit honest about my position.

      Last year we attended a prolife march and it was awesome...lovely happy young ppl and a great atmosphere.

      • Mila

        [blockquote]but i always thought that something wasn't quit honest about my position[/blockquote]

        Most people, deep down, know there is something wrong with all of the so-called pro-choice arguments, so-called humanist arguments that try to mask and justify this horror.

        • Mike

          I agree, we all know the truth but for various reasons many of us just would prefer not to hear it - that was me: out of sight out of mind; i didn't want to hear the prolife arguments and so i wrote them off as religious wackos and cranks.

          • David Nickol

            No doubt you would find it offensive if atheists said, "Of course, deep down Catholics (or any theists) realize God is just imaginary, but they are too fearful to live in a godless universe with no imaginary 'Father' watching over them and with death being the end of their existence. So in spite of what they believe deep down, they cling to their religion."

            There is nothing more arrogant (and annoying) than the argument, "I am right, and everybody knows I'm right. Those who disagree with me are just outright liars or at best deluding themselves." It is equally obnoxious whether it comes from believers or nonbelievers.

          • Mike

            i honestly believe pro choicers know that abortion is evil and that children deserve at least a chance at life..but i hear you.

          • David Nickol

            And exactly how do you determine when people believe what they say or "deep down" don't believe it? Do you pretend to know people better than they know themselves? And if it is possible for people to fool themselves about what they believe "deep down," why is it not possible that you are fooling yourself?

            I can't use myself as an example, because I am conflicted on the issue of abortion. (I do, though, spend a lot of time objecting to what I believe to be bad arguments by pro-lifers.) But I certainly know people who clearly and honestly believe not only that abortion is a necessary evil, but that it is a positive good.

            Also, it is interesting to note that while many "conservatives" are anti-abortion and claim that life begins at conception, they nevertheless support embryonic stem-cell research. Even John McCain being questioned by Rick Warren declared human beings got human rights at the moment of conception, and then turned around and supported embryonic stem-cell research.

            It seems to me taking it upon oneself to determine what people "really believe," instead letting them decide for themselves, is arrogant and dangerous. It can be used to justify such things as slavery by claiming you know better than your slaved do what they "really" want and what is "really" best for them.

            Does it even make sense to talk about what people "really" believe? It seems to me there are serious problems with the concept.

          • Mike

            I agree with everything you say...i was just speaking "off the record" i suppose...but yeah i really do believe that ppl know the truth but rationalize it away for other reasons that to them are more important - which there's nothing wrong with that we all do it but "in my heart" i believe we all know that ending the life of a growing baby is wrong.

          • William Davis

            I think you just are unable to imagine anyone else's point of view. This is why you come of with such an obvious lack of empathy, especially with the case of the 10 year old girl. I believe you think abortion is evil, and I think you are wrong in some cases. I think you are right if abortion is used as a form of birth control, though "evil" is probably too strong. I understand your point of view quite well, my parents hold a similar view, but they have enough of a heart to want to allow abortions for medical reasons. The Catholic church seems to have no heart, only dogma. In a way, I feel sorry for you guys, you're trapped in an intellectual iron cage built nearly 2000 years ago.

          • Mike

            don't forget that there's nothing wrong with doing a rape kit on someone who's been raped if there's no baby inside ie if it's early enough and nothing's detected then if the baby is killed in the process that's fine.

            also difficult cases are you are correct difficult bc of the emotions involved not the reasoning which says that both ppl's lives deserve to be protected to the extend possible.

            if the girl were to be hysterical and psychologically suicidal etc. then they could induce and try to save the baby/let it go peaceful with love and prayers but to kill it on purpose intentionally is as you agree pure evil.

          • Mila

            ""Of course, deep down Catholics (or any theists) realize God is just imaginary, but they are too fearful to live in a godless universe with no imaginary "Father" watching over them and with death being the end of their existence. So in spite of what they believe deep down, they cling to their religion."

            I hear that all the time from atheists and in this blog explicitly and implicitly as well.
            However, I don't take offense at all. I feel privileged now because at some point I was on that camp as well.
            And notice the difference, one is accusing Catholics Christians, but we are accusing those in favor of murder, whether they call themselves atheists, Christians, Buddhists, Muslims, etc. Because we see abortion as murder. It would be hypocritical to think abortion is murder and to think those who murder don't think it's wrong deep down. In essence, we are giving people the benefit of the doubt.

            Is there something you stand for that you can say you are right?
            Every time someone proclaims they are right, the relativists would say that is offensive and arrogant as if we can no longer think we are right or wrong because the only ones who are right are those who say there is nothing right or wrong.

          • David Nickol

            Is there something you stand for that you can say you are right?

            I am right about everything I stand for. :P

            The difference between me and some people here is that first, I consider the possibility that I might possibly be wrong even when I "know" I am right, and second, I generally acknowledge that the people who disagree with me actually believe what they claim to believe. I don't claim that "deep down" they really agree with me and are lying about it.

          • Mila

            Are you "right" right now? Or do you think there might be a possibility that you might be wrong?

          • David Nickol

            It seems to me that if there is a God who puts an immortal soul into a human being at the moment of conception, intending the resulting person to be born and live a life in "this world," then abortion is wrong. But I have many, many questions about whether that is true. Is there really a God? What is a soul? If there is a soul, is it really present from birth? If life begins at conception in the sense that pro-lifers claim, why do 60% to 80% of the new lives conceived die within a few days?

            My position on abortion is "I don't really know, certainly not with enough confidence to prohibit women from having abortions by law." However, what I do know is that if abortion is immoral, it is primarily the woman who have the abortions who need to the target of the law. Claiming that the majority of women who have abortions are "victims" is just sheer nonsense, in my opinion. If pro-lifers don't have the guts to hold mothers who abort their children accountable for their actions, then they are hypocrites. If abortion is murder, than women who procure abortions are murderers at least as responsible as abortionists, if not more so.

          • Mila

            All those are good questions. I have said this before, an honest atheist who searches for Truth is probably more righteous than a nominal Christian who knows Truth and rejects it.
            The stats are a bit off though. Miscarriages are more like 20%.
            I agree, not just the abortionists, but everyone involved is accountable. Even those who promote abortion.
            The women as well as everyone involved has culpability.
            The woman will be a victim of her own doing, but the damage of an abortion on a woman is profound. In fact, it is estimated that a women who had abortions are 6 to 7 times more likely to commit suicide. That's not a statistic to ignore.
            And I wouldn't lump all pro-lifers in one category. I am pro-life yet I have a totally different outlook than other pro-lifers. Some focus on stopping the abortion. I tend to focus on preventing it. Some focus on making it illegal, I focus on changing the hearts of people.
            I also think society in general is to be held accountable.
            I don't know if I told you this before, but I work in a women crisis center. I see this every day. Young teens and young adult women who were sold a lie. The big lie that sex equals love. Lust. These women were never told that sex does not equal love and they were handed down contraceptives as if sexual pleasure was the end and not the means.
            These women that I see, sometimes don't come back. They go 5 blocks away to the PP office. We follow-up with them and most of the time they are distraught and their lives ruined. Most go back to a life of promiscuity and drugs thinking that they are loved when the guy has sex with them, yet discards them a few days later. It is a vicious cycle. Chronic disease of our modern society.
            The ones who decide to keep the babies and give them up for adoption do better than those who panicked and went down the street to PP. One notices a general change in these young women's lives though. Many of them choose open adoptions and not one of them regrets having the baby. All, without exception, will tell you that they can't believe they ever thought of killing their children.

          • David Nickol

            The stats are a bit off though. Miscarriages are more like 20%.

            Miscarriages, by definition, take place during a "clinical pregnancy" (that is, after the embryo has implanted in the uterus). However, the best estimates I have seen tell us that after conception (when the Church tells us human life is present), somewhere between 60% to 80% of pre-embryos fail to implant, thus dying with a few days of being brought into existence. See Early Embryonic Development: An Up to Date Account:

            PROF. SANDEL: Thank you. I have two questions about the rate of natural embryo loss in human beings. The first is what percent of fertilized eggs fail to implant or are otherwise lost? And the second question is is it the case that all of these lost embryos contain genetic defects that would have prevented their normal development and birth?

            DR. OPITZ: The answer to your first question
            is that it is enormous. Estimates range all the way from 60
            percent to 80 percent of the very earliest stages, cleavage
            stages, for example, that are lost.

            PROF. SANDEL: Sixty to 80 percent?

            DR. OPITZ: Sixty to 80 percent. . . .

            I don't know if I told you this before, but I work in a women crisis center.

            Yes, you have mentioned this before, and I say, "Bless you for the good work that you do!" There should be an alternative for every woman who has an unwanted pregnancy. Here is a statement from the Catholic Church (Declaration on Procured Abortion) that I can endorse unqualifiedly:

            On the contrary, it is the task of law to pursue a reform of society and of conditions of life in all milieux, starting with the most deprived, so that always and everywhere it may be possible to give every child coming into this world a welcome worthy of a person. Help for families and for unmarried mothers, assured grants for children, a statute for illegitimate children and reasonable arrangements for adoption - a whole positive policy must be put into force so that there will always be a concrete, honorable and possible alternative to abortion.

          • Michael Murray

            It's interesting how relatively unknown that 60-80% number is. I've quoted it in a few places since I read it in one of your posts and people are often surprised. As I was.

          • David Nickol

            One of the things that is fascinating is that it comes from a source that is difficult for anti-abortion advocates to attempt to impeach (should they be inclined to do so):

            Created by President George W. Bush in 2001, the Council was charged with advising the President on bioethical issues that may emerge as a consequence of advances in biomedical science and technology. It expired in
            2009.

            I frequently point out that almost nothing is being done in the way of medical research to understand or prevent early embryo loss in humans, but early embryo loss is of significant concern in the cattle industry!

          • Mila

            So what does the fact that naturally we lose babies have to do with the intent to kill them?
            And I suspect those statistics are very precise, however I also think that the implantation is also prevented in some abortifacient contraceptive methods such as the famously called the copper T or IUD.

          • David Nickol

            So what does the fact that naturally we lose babies have to do with the intent to kill them?

            The enormous loss of human life between implantation and live birth cannot be used to justify abortion. However, it raises questions (in my mind, at least) about the idea of human life (personhood) beginning at conception. I suppose the questions are theological. If the purpose of life is "to know, love, and serve God in this world and be happy with him forever in heaven" (as my elementary school catechism taught), why do so few "people" actually have a life "in this world"?

            The other question it raises is the depth of conviction of those who claim that life begins at conception. As I have argued a number of times (and as Michael Sandel has similarly argued), if 60% to 80% of babies died within a few days of birth, it would be a catastrophic medical disaster and untold billions would be spent to stop this tremendous loss. But according to many in the pro-life movement, there is no moral difference between an embryo that is a few days old and a newborn baby that is a few days old. They are both persons with a right to life. So why is there no effort to solve the problem of early embryo loss?

          • Mila

            My suspicion is that a great part of that 60% to 80% of babies who die before reaching the uterus are due to the thinning of the uterus lining due to hormones in the most common contraceptives used today. So to argue that most eggs don't implant in the uterus due to natural causes only is not quite realistic.
            For example:
            The Intrauterine Device (IUD) - It works to prevent fertilization by keeping sperm from entering the fallopian tubes and thins the lining of the uterus, which may prevent implantation if fertilization does occur.

            Depo-Provera - It prevents ovulation, thickens the mucus lining so as to prevent fertilization, and thins the lining of the uterus, which may prevent implantation if fertilization does occur.

            Oral Contraceptives (Birth Control Pills) - Delivers hormones orally through a daily pill that prevents ovulation, thickens the mucus lining so as to prevent fertilization, and thins the lining of the uterus, which may prevent implantation if fertilization does occur. The estimated failure rate is 5%.*

            The Patch (Ortho Evra) - Hormones delivered through a skin patch worn on the lower abdomen, buttocks, or upper body. It prevents ovulation, thickens the mucus lining so as to prevent fertilization, and thins the lining of the uterus, which may prevent implantation if fertilization does occur. The estimated failure rate is 5%.*

            The Hormonal Vaginal Contraceptive Ring (NuvaRing) - Hormones delivered through a ring that is inserted into the vagina for three weeks at a time. It prevents ovulation, thickens the mucus lining so as to prevent fertilization, and thins the lining of the uterus, which may prevent implantation if fertilization does occur. The estimated failure rate is 5%.*

            Emergency Contraception ("Morning After" Pill, Postcoital Contraception, Plan B, etc.) - Delivers hormones orally through a high-dosage pill that prevents ovulation, thickens the mucus lining so as to prevent fertilization, and thins the lining of the uterus, which may prevent implantation if fertilization does occur. The estimated failure rate is 1%.

            So to imply that the fertilized egg is not implanted due only because of natural causes is somewhat illogical given the failure rate of these contraceptives that all thin the lining of the uterus. In other words, it is also human caused.

          • David Nickol

            My suspicion is that a great part of that 60% to 80% of babies who died before reaching the uterus are due to the thining of the uterus lining due to hormones in the most common contraceptives used today.

            Do you honestly think that scientists studying the natural rate of early embryo loss are so incompetent that they would use women taking contraceptives as their research subjects?

          • Mila

            Did I say it was the only cause? Notice I said....In other words, it is also human caused.
            Also I still fail to see how natural causes justify the intent to kill.
            That's like saying because an earthquake kills thousands of people, I have now a license to kill.
            I actually find it quite dishonest and a deflection to try and justify human's will to kill with what occurs in nature.
            One doesn't justify the other and quite frankly I find that those who have no moral arguments for abortion will attempt to say that since atrocities occur in nature, it is permissible for us to cause them.

          • David Nickol

            Also I still fail to see how natural causes justify the intent to kill.

            That's like saying because an earthquake kills thousands of people, I have now a license to kill.

            Please see my earlier message to you where I said

            The enormous loss of human life between implantation and live birth cannot be used to justify abortion.

            In that same message, I also gave reasons why I think the facts about early embryo loss are relevant to a discussion like this. I don't know how to make myself any clearer.

            There is a fairly strong implication in you message above that I am being dishonest or trying to divert attention from the "real" arguments. That is not the case.

          • Mila

            Yea I just saw that. I apologize for reading your comment really fast and actually not realizing you wrote that.
            I am glad that you don't think this is a reason to justify abortion.
            As to your question of "personhood" and conception goes...
            "why do so few "people" actually have a life "in this world"?"
            I wouldn't consider this a theological dilemma at all given the fact that we are talking about eternity versus 90-95 years here on this earth at most.

            "But according to many in the pro-life movement, there is no moral difference between an embryo that is a few days old and a newborn baby that is a few days old. They are both persons with a right to life. So why is there no effort to solve the problem of early embryo loss?"

            There is a huge difference, one is cause by the will of human beings and the other by abnormalities in nature.

            I might be wrong, but I don't think you are grasping the essence of the pro-life movement. The pro-life movement is primarily (though with a large humanist faction), a religious based response. So the intentional killing is what most are concerned with. Not only because babies are being killed, but also because the person doing the act is also being killed and the act itself is an offense to God who is the only Creator.

            There are other things I could say but it would be a bit difficult to explain at this hour.

          • Michael Murray

            I wouldn't consider this a theological dilemma at all given the fact that we are talking about eternity versus 90-95 years here on this earth at most.

            I thought God created the whole universe so that we could spend those 90-95 years here with our free will and that the consequences of our actions here determined what happened to us for the rest of eternity. It seems strange to imply therefore that our life here is somehow irrelevant to eternity because 95 < infinity.

          • Mila

            Nobody is saying it doesn't matter. What matter is the intent. I don't think those natural miscarriages are the cause of human beings where us intentional abortions are.

          • Michael Murray

            I wasn't talking about abortion.

            Your post implied that the 90-95 years we spend is irrelevant in the context of eternity. You said

            I wouldn't consider this a theological dilemma at all given the fact that we are talking about eternity versus 90-95 years here on this earth at most.

            I think that it isn't possible under Catholic theology to dismiss the earthly experience in that way. What does happen to the 80% of souls that don't have that experience. Why did God even bother with the whole universe if He was planning for 80% of souls to never go there ?

          • Mila

            The intent is the only thing that matters. Our short period with free will whether that is a few years or 90 years. And we actually begin our eternal life here.
            And the original question was why do so many people die and not live in this world. And I responded that theologically it was not a dilemma as the only thing that matters is eternal life and that actually begins here on earth.

          • Ignatius Reilly

            It seems God doesn't care very much about what happens to us on earth, with all the war, famine, disease, and pestilence, some of which he allegedly inflicted. He's much more concerned about our eternal happiness or our doom, if we wear condoms or act out on the desires that he gave us.

          • William Davis

            In the case of medically necessary abortions, I intend to do the right thing, and the right thing to my conscience is an abortion. Rape is another example where my conscience tells me it's the right thing. There is absolutely no reason to think a Catholic conscience is somehow superior to a non-Catholic one. Having abortion legal (up to 20 weeks) allows the individual conscience to make the decision.

          • Alexandra

            " why do 60% to 80% of the new lives conceived die within a few days?"
            How is this known? The mother would have no evidence this happened to her.

          • David Nickol

            How is this known? The mother would have no evidence this happened to her.

            Either go read this for the whole story, or read the following excerpt:

            DR. OPITZ: . . . . . And one of the objective ways of establishing the loss at least as of the moment of implantation, well, even earlier, let's say as of five days because the blastocyst begins to make a chorionic gonadotrophin and with extremely sensitive assay methods, you can detect the presence of gonadotrophins, let me say, first around Day 7. That's the beta of human chorionic gonadotrophin. And if you follow prospectively the cycles that has been done on quite a few occasions in the Permanente study in Hawaii and so on, a group of women, of nonfertility, who want to conceive and you detect the first sign of pregnancy there of human chorionic gonadotrophin, about 60 percent of those pregnancies are lost.

            It is independently corroborated by the fact that the monozygotic twin conception rate at the very beginning is much, much higher than the birth rate and then if you follow with amniocentesis, the presence of the two sacs in about 80 percent of cases,the second sac disappears, one of the sacs disappears.

            CHAIRMAN KASS: The 60 percent then would be of those that have at least reached the 7 days so that you could trace the – so there might be even greater loss at the early cleavage stage, is that correct?

            DR. OPITZ: That's correct. And the earlier the stage of loss, the greater the rate of aneuploidy. There exists sort of a standard, textbook formula whereby 60 percent of spontaneous abortions have a chromosome abnormality. Six percent of all stillbirths and 6/10ths percent of all live born children. Now the latter figure is probably closer to 1 percent if you include some growth variants. So that's sort of a rule of thumb.

            In my own lab in Helena where I did all of the autopsies on all pregnancy losses for 18 years, the rate of chromosome abnormalities was a little bit higher.

          • Alexandra

            The rate is estimated to be around 22%.
            http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/m/pubmed/3393170/

            This study is not conclusive not direct evidence. There are limitations in the methodology and it is a small sample size so the % of actual fertilizations might be even lower.
            (I think your link is referencing a study of infertile woman, but I'm not sure).

            Edit to add words.

          • Michael Murray

            That's quite a different number to the one claimed by Opitz above. I'm not a medical person or a biologist but I do note that Opitz was giving evidence in 2003 and the study you cited was in 1988.

          • Alexandra

            A review in 2002 referenced this as the a definitive study on the subject.

            http://www.researchgate.net/profile/Bart_Fauser/publication/11183246_Conception_to_ongoing_pregnancy_the_%27black_box%27_of_early_pregnancy_loss/links/00b7d51ba2856769eb000000.pdf

            So far David's link is hearsay. But if he can show the evidence (i.e. a scientific publication) I'm all ears.

          • Michael Murray

            See my other link.

          • Alexandra

            That is so funny! It's the same link as mine. :) Opitz's claim is limited to preclinical embryo loss so read that section especially around table II.

          • Michael Murray

            Opitz talked about 60-80% so this article is on the lower end of that 60% they claim. But a lot higher than the 22% your other article had.

            For me the theological implications remain. If this is true at least 30% of souls in heaven are those of blastocysts and another 30% of souls in heaven are those of embryos which where only a few weeks old.

          • Alexandra

            30% is an upper limit, not the average. So no, it can't be much higher than 22%.
            The data is from an indirect assay measuring a placental protein, not the fertilized egg. No one has ever actually proved mechanistically that a fertilized egg actually is produced. It is impossible scientifically to count up the number of actual fertilized eggs that are lost. In other words, we can't know the percentage at all with certainty. It may be 30%, it may be 5%.

            As to why this happens- it has been shown that a high rate of embryo losses have chromosomal abnormalities. It may be nature's way of producing healthier pregnancies.

          • Michael Murray

            OK seems like we found the same article (great minds think alike as we used to say at school !). Did you see their figure 1 ? It gives a breakdown of what happens to fertilised eggs:

            30% lost before implantation
            30% lost after implantation but before missed period
            10% classical miscarriage
            30% live birth

            So 70% miscarriage which is consistent with the 60-80%

            By the way the person in David's article giving evidence is

            John M. Opitz, M.D.,
            Professor of Pediatrics, Human Genetics, and Obstetrics/Gynecology, School of Medicine, University of Utah.

          • Alexandra

            "What did you mean by hearsay ? He seems reputable and the source seems reliable. Someone like that with scientific training should not be making up numbers just for fun."

            The link is hearsay, not Opitz, because no evidence is shown, only what someone says the evidence is.
            The Hawaii study is not Opitz own work, he was just referring to it. I think Opitz may have been talking about an infertility study so an embryo loss of 60%- 80% is consistent. I believe he may be telling the truth but taken out of context. This is not the fault of Opitz. It's those that took this as truth without evaluating the actual evidence.

          • Michael Murray

            I believe he may be telling the truth but taken out of context. This is not the fault of Opitz. It's those that took this as truth without evaluating the actual evidence.

            I wonder if this is being misread. Well at least by me!

            PROF. SANDEL: Thank you. I have two questions about the rate of natural embryo loss in human beings. The first is what percent of fertilized eggs fail to implant or are otherwise lost? And the second question is is it the case that all of these lost embryos contain genetic defects that would have prevented their normal development and birth?

            DR. OPITZ: The answer to your first question is that it is enormous. Estimates range all the way from 60 percent to 80 percent of the very earliest stages, cleavage stages, for example, that are lost.

            What is Opitz saying? Is he saying that if you track pregnancy from the very earliest stages some 60-80% are subsequently lost or is he saying that by the earliest stages some 60-80% of fertilised eggs have been lost. I always thought it was the latter. But if you read it the other way then it would be more consistent with the other literature. It would also be consistent with what he says later

            and you detect the first sign of pregnancy there of human chorionic gonadotrophin, about 60 percent of those pregnancies are lost.

            where he is talking about after a certain point not before a certain point.

          • William Davis

            I usually stick with miscarriage, it is the easiest to demonstrate and the information is more reliable in general. Here, stanford says 2/3 of all fertilzed eggs never make it. Stanford is a very reliable institution, so I don't think they would exaggerate. I share your skepticism about facts and figures, and I think 60% is probably closer to the truth.

            Most of the figures for failure to implant do come from couples with fertility problems. That is exactly what this article is about from Stanford :)

            http://med.stanford.edu/news/all-news/2010/10/earlier-more-accurate-prediction-of-embryo-survival-enabled-by-research.html

            This article is 5 years old, but it seems we are getting to the point we can predict which mothers are more likely to biologically reject their own offspring. Very useful for couples that are having a problem becoming pregnant.

          • Alexandra

            You've also just shown David's claim it's 60%-80% is unsupported. If the sum of all misscarriages is at 66%, then the rate of early embryo loss has to be lower.

          • William Davis

            If 60-80 is about implantation, I think it must be wrong. I was assuming the 60-80% was the number of fertilized eggs that didn't make it to birth. Even then, 80% seems high to me. I am beginning to think David's number is only representative of people with some serious fertility problems. I think you have enough evidence to point that out (though I'm not that familiar with David's source)

          • David Nickol

            Did you read your own article?

            Conclusion

            Human pregnancy wastage occurs on such a scale that only ~30% of conceived pregnancies will progress to live birth.

            In other words, approximately 70 percent of human conceptions do not result in births.

          • Andre V.

            Would the "insertion of souls" argument not take care of that objection?

          • David Nickol

            The Catholic Church is a bit ambiguous on the issue of ensoulment. While not saying as a matter of doctrine or dogma that a soul is infused at the moment of conception, the Church does say:

            2270 Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person—among which is the inviolable right of every innocent being to life.

            Does that mean a human at the moment of conception should be treated as if it were a person, because it might be? Or does it mean it must be treated as a person because it is?

            One might make all kinds of speculations. God knows which zygotes will eventually become babies, and only ensouls those. God recycles souls. You can make up just about anything you want to make some kind of sense of the fact that perhaps 70 percent of people (?) conceived never have an opportunity to life an earthly life. But there is absolutely no way of knowing if such speculations are correct.

          • Andre V.

            Meh. It needs work. I thought I'd give it a try.
            I suppose one could argue that only certain conceptions get ensured, but in addition to the concerns you've raised that proposal would create other huge theological dilemmas.

          • Michael Murray

            Just following up my previous post I found a more recent (2002) survey type article here

            http://humupd.oxfordjournals.org/content/8/4/333.full.pdf+html

            This suggests 70% of conceptions fail to result in a live birth. There seem to be lots of technical questions I don't understand about the testing used. Their Figure 1 was about all I could follow. It breaks the results of conception down into

            30% lost before implantation
            30% lost after implantation but before missed period
            10% classical miscarriage
            30% live birth

          • Alexandra

            You've just shown David's statistic is wrong. Your number is 30%. Now in actuality, from all the studies, it is a range up to 30% with the best study at 22%.
            "R. OPITZ: Estimates range all the way from 60 percent to 80 percent of the very earliest stages, cleavage stages..."

            But you are showing its 30%.

          • Michael Murray

            OK I'll let David answer that :-) For me the interest in theological and I don't see anything that has changed in that.

          • William Davis

            Often statistics vary depending on the study and/or how the statistics are put together. This study is apparently at the 60% end of the 60-80% spectrum. Lost before implantation is less commonly measured as I believe it requires hormone testing.

          • David Nickol

            The rate is estimated to be around 22%.

            The study you are citing is about pregnancy, which begins with implantation, not conception. The studies I have been citing are about failure of implantation. Note that the study you cite detects pregnancy by measuring hCG levels. What is hCG?

            The hormone human chorionic gonadotropin (better known as hCG) is produced during pregnancy. It is made by cells that form the placenta, which nourishes the egg after it has been fertilized and becomes attached to the uterine wall.

            So hCG is produced after implantation. From your study:

            Of these, 22 percent ended before pregnancy was detected clinically. Most of these early pregnancy losses would not have been detectable by the less sensitive assays for hCG used in earlier studies. The total rate of pregnancy loss after implantation, including clinically
            recognized spontaneous abortions, was 31 percent.

            The 22 percent represents early early pregnancy loss, and the 31 percent represents a total of early and later early pregnancy loss.

            This 31 percent is in addition to the already enormous rate of loss before implantation.

          • Michael Murray

            David can I just clarify your quote here. Do you read Opitz as saying that from 0 - 5 days there is a 60-80% loss or from 5 days to end of pregnancy there is a a 60-80% loss ?

          • David Nickol

            It is a little confusing. He appears to say that in the very earliest stages after conception, the loss is 60% to 80%. But then it seems to me the discussion settles on a 60% loss from day 5. I think he may still be talking about the earliest stages of pregnancy, though, from day 5 before implantation to the earliest days after implantation (before a woman knows she is pregnant).

            Alexandra's study, as I read it, gives a rate for miscarriage (loss after implantation) for 22% of pregnancies that would have passed unnoticed had the women not been under study and a total of 31% adding in miscarriages that would have been recognized by the mother as such. That, of course, is by no means an insignificant number all by itself, but it does not reflect embryo loss from conception onward, but only from implantation onward.

            I take the article I cited to be very authoritative and from a source extremely sympathetic to the "pro-life" view (President Bush's Commission on Bioethics), but it has to be remembered that the information it contains was presented in a Q&A session.

            I found a discussion in a book titled Embryo Research in Pluralistic Europe,on Google Books that concludes (on page 41), "It is generally accepted that only about one in five fertilized eggs will give a viable human baby, whereas in many mammals, such as mice, the rate approaches 100%." Since that is an 80% loss, it is, of course, consistent with the Opitz saying embryo loss is 60% to 80% overall (if you interpret him to be saying that).

            It is kind of difficult to do the math, since some of the information is about failure to implant, some of the information is about miscarriage after implantation, and some of the information (like the 1 in 5 figure) combines conception to implantation and implantation to birth (or miscarriage).

            In any case, it is crystal clear from virtually everything that has been brought up so far that the loss of human life (if you consider "life" to begin at conception) is "enormous."

          • Michael Murray

            From the link David gave

            DR. OPITZ: Sixty to 80 percent. And one of the objective ways of establishing the loss at least as of the moment of implantation, well, even earlier, let's say as of five days because the blastocyst begins to make a chorionic gonadotrophin and with extremely sensitive assay methods, you can detect the presence of gonadotrophins, let me say, first around Day 7. That's the beta of human chorionic gonadotrophin. And if you follow prospectively the cycles that has been done on quite a few occasions in the Permanente study in Hawaii and so on, a group of women, of nonfertility, who want to conceive and you detect the first sign of pregnancy there of human chorionic gonadotrophin, about 60 percent of those pregnancies are lost.

            It is independently corroborated by the fact that the monozygotic twin conception rate at the very beginning is much, much higher than the birth rate and then if you follow with amniocentesis, the presence of the two sacs in about 80 percent of cases,the second sac disappears, one of the sacs disappears.

          • Alexandra

            That's ok and thank you Michael. I responded to David. (See above.)

          • William Davis

            My wife and I lost our first child to miscarriage. We had just found out she was pregnant. I saw what she miscarried, it looked nothing like a baby. It was a little sad but it was lucky that it happened early (as most miscarriages do). You are correct that most miscarriages look like a normal period, the woman never knows. I think my wife miscarried at 8 weeks if I remember correctly, it's been a while, our oldest is the ten year old daughter I mentioned earlier.

          • Michael Murray

            Disqus tends to hide some responses at random so in case you didn't see the one from David Nickol it included a discussion of how they can measure that 80% by measuring hormones levels that demonstrate implantation of the fertilised egg (I think).

          • William Davis

            I missed that thanks. Nickol brings some great information into the discussion.

          • Alexandra

            I'm sorry to hear about what your family went through and how lovely that you have your little girl. Is there online debates in her future just like her daddy? ;) Genetics says she will be good debater. ;)

          • William Davis

            She debating me already..not always a good thing ;)

          • Alexandra

            Aw. She's giving the counter argument? Excellent. ;)

          • William Davis

            Lol, not when it's a counter argument to doing choirs. Here they are at their karate tournament. My daughter got first place in fastest kick, and third in strongest kick ( competing against mostly boys). The 4 year old didn't do as well, but he was the smallest of the bunch. A for effort at least.

          • Alexandra

            Aw. Absolutely adorable.

  • Another pro-choice argument that I have heard is the bodily autonomy. Should someone provide their body or body parts to another if the other will die if they do not? Does this change if doing so endangers the donor?

    I agree that this is immoral to withhold life saving blood, but I'm not sure about a kidney. But I absolutely do not think it should be illegal to withhold.

    This generally leads to the suggestion that pregnancy is a unique circumstance. There are risks in engaging in sex and people should bear the consequences. Choices will say that choosing to have sex is not choosing to bear a child. I'm not sure I agree with that. I think having sex opens the risk of pregnancy and we need to accept the consequences.

    This also opens up the questions of pregnancy due to rape or where it will likely lead to the death of the mom. Very few people's moral intuition recoils at ending these pregnancies. Which indicates what is obvious to me: that in the early stages of pregnancy we do not really consider the fertilized egg and even embryo to be the same kind of thing as the newborn or fetus in the later stages.

    I think what is going on here is that most of us have a huge feeling of moral wrongness about killing or harming babies. This is strongest when it is our own child, then our kin, species, then we have it as well for other similar species, mammals particularly. This fits in perfectly with some kind of evolved instinct to protect the most vulnerable, that share the most genes with us. The evolutionary benefits to this are obvious. Animals with genes that impose such an instinct will be much more successful than those without it.

    Of course, it may be imprinted on us by a creator, but this seems out of keeping with other theological views with respect to free will. If we are to exercise our free will with respect to moral actions, we should not be swayed by strong moral intuitions. We should be basing it, I guess on rational applications of thou shall not kill and so on, as this article suggests. But we do have this strong moral intuition not to kill babies, particularly not those closest to us. If this is a moral intuition it must be in some way related to God, it can't be a function of our sin nature. But if this is the case why do so many of us lack it with respect to early term abortions, rape abortions. Why does our moral intuition switch then to the mom if we learn she will die if she brings the pregnancy to term?

    • Michael Murray

      Have you read Jared Diamond's "The World Until Yesterday"? It is about traditional hunter-gather societies which, as he points out, was the way humans lived until very recently in our history. A lot of them practiced infanticide. Disabled children were smothered at birth or if there were twins the mother had to pick one and smother the other. I'm not sure how that reflects on the instinct to protect babies although I agree that is strong. That's why anti-abortion articles like this one always have a picture of a cute fetus in them. Perhaps the instinct to protect is genetic and the practice of infanticide cultural.

      Wikipedia has a long article on infanticide including traditional practices.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Infanticide

      • I might, I read Guns Germs and Steel, but have since learned that Diamond is not generally representative of mainstream historical thought.

        But, yes I'm familiar with these practices. I would be skeptical about just how widespread they are. Compared to the intuitions and practices of protecting the young.

        I imagine that to is why things like religion develop. In hunter gatherer societies, you generally need very low population densities. Successful societies would be ones that develop practices to limit growth. Infanticide, human sacrifice, but also sexual prohibitions. The one that comes to mind is some societies that prohibit sex with a woman who has given birth for a year or more if I recall.

        • Michael Murray

          Yes I know he coped a lot of flack over Guns, Germs and Steel. Some of it just seemed to be people who couldn't understand the difference between explaining things and justifying them.

          In this book he draws a lot on his extensive first hand experience of living in PNG with native tribes while studying birds.

          • I'll give it another look. But he seems to have also been wrong about Easter Island in "collapse".

            If you're interested in this kind of things I'd highly recomend this course on YouTube. It's where I realized how off-base Diamond seems to be on a lot of things.

            https://m.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL49C7AA14331CFEF3

          • Michael Murray

            Thanks.

      • joey_in_NC

        Do you think the morality of infanticide is relative from culture to culture?

        • Michael Murray

          No. But in those societies facing a choice of infanticide or starvation I can see how the practice would arise.

          • joey_in_NC

            Do you think the secular world would eventually adopt the philosophies of the likes of Peter Singer and permit infanticide up to a certain neonatal age? What exactly are the secular arguments against such a practice, considering the huge biological gap between a neonate and an adult human person?

          • David Nickol

            Do you think the secular world would eventually adopt the philosophies of the likes of Peter Singer and permit infanticide up to a certain neonatal age?

            Peter Singer does not advocate infanticide. Interestingly, he also believes that Roe v. Wade was wrongly decided by the Supreme Court, and it should be democratically decided (not decreed by courts) whether abortion is permissible.

          • joey_in_NC

            Peter Singer does not advocate infanticide.

            I didn't use the word "advocate".

          • David Nickol

            I didn't use the word "advocate".

            I didn't say you did.

          • Michael Murray

            No idea what the secular world will do. My opinion on abortion is that there is no perfect answer. It is just a fact existence that there is a conflict between the foetus/babies rights and the mothers. I think existing laws that make abortion less acceptable and more difficult to obtain as the pregnancy advances are about right. The new born baby is not dependent in the same way so I don't see any argument in favour of infanticide or any "slippery slope" from first trimester abortion to infanticide.

          • joey_in_NC

            The new born baby is not dependent in the same way so I don't see any argument in favour of infanticide or any "slippery slope" from first trimester abortion to infanticide.

            Then why recognize any fetus rights at all? Why would you not be in favor of all late-term abortions, no matter how late in the pregnancy?

          • Michael Murray

            Then why recognize any fetus rights at all? Why would you not be in favor of all late-term abortions, no matter how late in the pregnancy?

            Because I think you end up in the tricky situation of having to declare that the foetus only acquires rights when the very last molecule of the umbilical cord is cut. I think the foetus should have rights I just don't think they should overwhelm the rights of the woman which is what happens if you opt for rights from conception. Like I said I don't think there is a perfect answer. But then I don't think God made the world so why would I expect a perfect answer ?

          • joey_in_NC

            Because I think you end up in the tricky situation of having to declare that the foetus only acquires rights when the very last molecule of the umbilical cord is cut.

            That is correct, and the "tricky situation" is precisely where the logic would take us if we buy into the bodily autonomy argument.

            I think the foetus should have rights I just don't think they should overwhelm the rights of the woman which is what happens if you opt for rights from conception.

            How is it any different if you opt for rights from viability? Wouldn't a viable fetus "overwhelm the rights of the woman" if the woman wanted an abortion at that moment?

          • Michael Murray

            Why do you think that there has to be a logical solution where one person's rights win? Why cannot it just be a moral dilemma which is impossible to resolve.

          • joey_in_NC

            Why do you think that there has to be a logical solution where one person's rights win?

            All conceivable rights are not of equal importance. I have the right to play video games on my free time. But my children also have the right to eat when they are hungry. If those two rights are in conflict with each other (my kids are starving while I'm busy gaming), there is definitely a logical solution where one side's rights wins out given the relative importance of these rights.

            Why cannot it just be a moral dilemma which is impossible to resolve.

            There are some situations where the moral dilemma is very difficult to solve. And in many cause it is quite trivial. The hypothetical I introduced above is an easy case. Likewise for the vast majority of abortion cases where the woman's life is not in imminent danger.

          • David Nickol

            Wouldn't a viable fetus "overwhelm the rights of the woman" if the woman wanted an abortion at that moment?

            This is pretty much the situation we now have. Somewhere close to 99 percent of abortions are performed before viability (21 weeks). States have the authority to regulate third-trimester abortions. Some might claim that too many abortions are performed after 21 weeks using the "loophole" of the health of the mother, which can be broadly interpreted, but in actual fact, late-term abortions are comparatively rare. So few doctors will perform them that they are rather effectively banned.

          • Doug Shaver

            Do you think the secular world would eventually adopt the philosophies of the likes of Peter Singer

            I hope not, but he does raise many relevant points that are too often ignored.

          • joey_in_NC

            I hope not...

            I'll assume you meant this with regards to permitting infanticide. Why exactly would you "hope not"? If the secular world did permit infanticide in the near future, what would be your arguments against the practice (again, provided all the points raised by Singer concerning the state of neonates/infants)?

          • Doug Shaver

            I'll assume you meant this with regards to permitting infanticide.

            That's a good example. It's not the only one.

            Why exactly would you "hope not"?

            My problem with Singer isn't his conclusions. It's the reasoning he uses to get to them.

            If the secular world did permit infanticide in the near future, what would be your arguments against the practice

            That would depend on the arguments used in its defense.

            again, provided all the points raised by Singer concerning the state of neonates/infants

            My approval of his raising the points doesn't mean I agree with what he said about them.

          • joey_in_NC

            That would depend on the arguments used in its defense.

            As I mentioned, Singer's arguments for permitting infanticide. That a neonate is no more self-aware, self-conscious, and rational as a pig, so why give more rights to the neonate over pig?

            I have given the arguments used in its defense. Now give your arguments against this defense.

          • Doug Shaver

            I have given the arguments used in its defense.

            You have mentioned Singer's argument. All I know of his thinking is what I've read in just one of his books, Practical Ethics (Cambridge, 2011). In that book, he says this about infanticide:

            We should put very strict conditions on permissible infanticide; but these restrictions should owe more to the effects of infanticide on others than to the intrinsic wrongness of killing an infant. . . . My comparison of abortion and infanticide was prompted by the objection that the position I have taken on abortion also justifies infanticide. I have admitted this charge to the extent that the intrinsic wrongness of killing the late fetus and the intrinsic wrongness of killing the newborn infant are not markedly different.

            That statement comes at the end of Chapter 4, and the case he presents in that chapter rests on a cumulative argument that he developed in Chapters 1 through 3. Among the key premises of that cumulative argument is the moral irrelevance of any distinction between human and nonhuman life. If that premise is granted, then we must conclude that whatever is wrong when done to a human is wrong when done to a pig, and that whatever is acceptable when done to a pig is acceptable when done to a human, or else we contradict ourselves.

            Singer presents little if any argument for that premise. He merely asserts it as if it were too obvious to need a defense. But I don't accept it. I believe in a limited privilege for human interests. Singer believes in no privilege except the trivial one of self-preservation. (I don't mean trivial as in unimportant. I mean trivial as in without it, nothing else has any importance.)

            I speak only of relative privilege, not absolute. I don't believe that human life is valuable just because it's human or that nonhuman life is worthless just because it isn't human. I just mean that discrimination per se is not a bad thing. We can value human life more than other life, but it does not follow that we are never justified in terminating it.

            Almost no one claims that homicide is never justified. The usual objection in these debates is to the killing of "innocent people." But what is "innocent" supposed to mean in these contexts? It seems usually to mean something like this. In general, people may not kill other people, but we specify a few exceptions, such as self-defense, military combat, or as punishment for certain crimes, and in the latter case the killing may only be done by an agent of the state. In these contexts, an innocent person is anyone not covered by one of these specified exceptions. An infant cannot threaten anyone else's life, cannot be a military combatant, and cannot be guilty of any crime. Therefore, no one is allowed to kill an infant. In Chapter 5, Singer argues for a few other exceptions, most of which he classifies as various forms of euthanasia and some of which would also allow infanticide in a few situations.

            I see no reasonable objection to allowing people who want to die to end their own lives, and to allowing others to assist them if they require assistance, provided there is adequate proof that the assistance was both necessary and actually requested. And of course, there must also be adequate evidence that the person in question was mentally competent when making the request.

            In all other cases, I don't think Singer adequately addresses the concerns we all should have that some people would abuse any exceptions that might otherwise be justifiable. My primary concern here is that we should not have to worry that someone might find it convenient to decide, in a moment while we were temporarily incapacitated, that our lives were no longer worth living. In occasional extreme cases, this is not a realistic problem. There are certain conditions that we know, with all the certainty that we need for a rational ethical code, are irreversible. Neither the people in those conditions nor anyone else derives any benefit from continuing their physical existence. But in general, the rule should be: If you cannot ask them whether they want to continue living, assume that they do and act accordingly. And this rule would, in all the instances we should care about, prohibit the killing of infants.

          • joey_in_NC

            I sincerely appreciate the lengthy response, but no where did you attempt to distinguish an infant from a human fetus. That was Singer's main point, that there is no difference in "intrinsic wrongness" between killing a fetus and killing an infant. Therefore, one should just be as permissible as the other.

          • Doug Shaver

            That was Singer's main point, that there is no difference in "intrinsic wrongness" between killing a fetus and killing an infant.

            Singer might be looking for intrinsic wrongness. I'm not. There is another thread on this site titled "Can Atheists Defend Abortion Without Defending Infanticide?" My response to that question is here: http://strangenotions.com/can-atheists-defend-abortion-without-defending-infanticide/#comment-1509744733.

          • joey_in_NC

            Thanks for the link. I'll read your responses in that thread.

      • William Davis

        A limited food supply can have dramatic effects on morality for obvious reasons. Morality adapts to the harsh environment. The Romans did the same thing (killing deformed children) because they though trying to care for them could potentially endanger the Republic. I'm not saying they are right, but I don't think its completely fair to judge too harshly unless you've been in that kind of situation.

        • Michael Murray

          I'm not saying they are right, but I don't think its completely fair to judge too harshly unless you've been in that kind of situation. I'm not saying they are right, but I don't think its completely fair to judge too harshly unless you've been in that kind of situation.

          I agree completely. I wasn't judging just wondering what this says about love of children which obviously has evolutionary advantages.

          • William Davis

            Sorry, wasn't trying to imply you were judging. I was basically agreeing with you :)

          • Michael Murray

            Oops. Text only communication is really annoying sometimes isn't it. No tone, or body language or gesture!

          • William Davis

            Sometimes I feel silly using too many smiley faces, but it definitely can help.

  • William Davis

    Personally I think abortion is wrong, but there are many cases when abortion is less wrong than not allowing an abortion. Here is a case where that is certainly true:

    http://www.cnn.com/2015/05/10/americas/paraguay-girl-rape-pregnancy/

    A 10 year old girl was raped by her step father, and the authorities in Paraguay are FORCING her to carry the baby. This is a major medical risk to the 10 year, and she is likely to have permanent damage from the pregnancy. It's clear to me abortion is the right thing here, and if I was the child's father (not the pathetic excuse for a human being that is the step dad) I would be fighting mad over this. Since Paraguay is nearly 90% Catholic, I think the Catholic church's dogmatic teaching here are directly to blame for this moral travesty.
    I'm confident the U.S. has it right in allowing abortions up to 20 week (20 weeks is before the brain is developed enough to feel pain with a few week safety window). Allowing abortion is not condoning it, but it is up to the woman and the family to weigh their own situation and determine if having an abortion is the right choice for her and her family. It should not be up to the state since the situation is unclear, it should be up to the individual conscience. Again, I think abortion is wrong, and I would never want one of my children to be aborted, unexpected or not, but I don'
    t see how it's up to me or the Catholic church to make that decision for someone else. It is between the mother and God.

    There are plenty of Christians who agree abortion should be a matter of the mother's conscience, not a matter of state force.

    • Alexandra

      What an absolutely horrendous situation. I'm sickened just thinking about it. This is a case where the pro choice side has an understandable point of view.

      My first question is what does the little girl want for herself? Does she want the baby?

      Secondly, the little girl is at 22 weeks into the pregnancy so the baby is viable. If she is to remove the baby right now, the procedure for the abortion or delivery is essentially the same level of medical intervention, so why not let the baby live? The abortion at this point is unnecessary.

      Baby that was born at 23 weeks:

      • William Davis

        From what I understand the girl didn't want it (though I'm not 100% certain of this). Apparently this has been going on for a while, and there was a chance to abort the baby much earlier but politics got involved, apparently abortion is illegal under any circumstance in Paraguay. As I said in my comment, I'm against abortions past 20 weeks (unless medically necessary). If this had happened in America the baby would have been aborted much earlier, probably not that long after the rape. I suppose it is us to the doctors whether an abortion would be helpful now.
        I take this situation a bit personally because I have a 10 year old daughter who hitting puberty. Thankfully I'm happily married so no worries of an evil step-dad.

      • Mike

        LOTS of ppl are routinely born at 20 weeks now...and in the future they'll be viable even earlier!

        • Papalinton

          Of course. That's the marvel of modern medicine. I suspect the zygote will probably have a far better chance of survival when it can bypass the womb and birth phase, moving from fertilisation in a petrie dish into a growing medium with the very best health care science can provide. This would obviate any discussion on abortion etc etc.

          Just saying. And I think parents of the future will follow this path, although it is strange for me to imagine it.

          • Michael Murray

            I won't speculate on what we could do in 1000 years or so. Maybe we just all upload our minds to a vast quantum computer. But in 2006 there had been no change for a decade in the point at which premature babies were viable. There had been improvements in the survival rate of viable babies.

            http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/7390522.stm

          • Mike

            i think that that is a theoretical possibility but i wonder how much science fiction is in that given how small and fragile they are at that stage...however i could more easily imagine kids being saved at like 15 weeks or even 12 weeks outside the womb.

            Remember always though that nothing in "catholic ethics" means that any and all actions should be taken to save life so if an extraordinary amount of effort/resources are required relative to the amount available to save a life then the life can take it's natural course and die - what the teaching reasons is very wrong is Intentionally ending life and directly ending it; indirect secondary effects are not immoral.

          • William Davis

            .however i could more easily imagine kids being saved at like 15 weeks or even 12 weeks outside the womb.

            Just because you imagine it, doesn't mean it's possible. Most doctors didn't think it was possible (even with all the modern tech marvels) to survive at 21 weeks. There are a couple of cases.
            If we manage to create an artificial womb, it might be possible, but then we won't actually need women (other than eggs) for reproduction. The future may hold this, but I'm sure Catholics would say this is immoral. A couple could decide have a baby, donate sperm and egg. The dna will be tested to ensure there will be no genetic disease, the baby grown in an artificial womb, and the parents show up when the baby is "born".

          • Mike

            yes that reminds me of the nazi birth programs.

        • William Davis

          That's completely false. The youngest baby ever to survive was 21 weeks. I think there are 2. I can provide references if you don't believe me.

          At least have the decency not to speak falsehoods on the subject.

          Notice this article is about "surviving the impossible". Nearly all babies born before 25 weeks never survive. Modern medicine is working miracles here.

          http://www.oddee.com/item_98601.aspx

          • Mike

            ok just asked my wife the earliest were like 23-24; there was a feature in our local paper featuring kids who were born very early...thanks for the correction.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      It is not between the mother and God. It is also between the father, the abortionist, those who assist the abortionist, the pharmacist, the drug makers, and the lawmakers and God.

      • William Davis

        Do you actually understand the situation here? Are you really suggesting that the step-father who raped the 10 year old should have a say on whether or not the child should be carried to term?

        • Alexandra

          I don't think that is what he is saying. It means everyone is accountable to God.

        • Mike

          That disgusting pig should have NO SAY but the girl shouldn't kill the baby.

        • Papalinton

          And they wonder why Catholicism is in a nosedive in the US

          Latest PEW results 2015

    • Mike

      Do you know about the double effect principle? if the young girl gets into physical distress they can induce the baby at any stage and try to save it and this would be catholic compliant - but DIRECTLY killing another human being no matter how small is...we you know...wrong.

      • William Davis

        I disagree with you and the Church completely. Thankfully I live in a country that doesn't bow to the Catholic church. I will do everything in my power to keep it that way.

        Here is a woman who died because of your position:

        http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/nov/14/ireland-woman-dies-after-abortion-refusal

        Are you guys sure you have this right? You do realize there are a ton of arguments I can mount that a zygote isn't a person. This time I want to use specific real world examples. The real world is where morality actually happens.

        • Mike

          I disagree with you also and i will do everything in my power to save as many women for the horrors of abortion and as many children from being offed as well.

          You were a zygote, what if your mom aborted you? would you be here? now think what if she hadn't aborted that zygote, then would you be here?

          • Pofarmer

            This is just such a terrible argument. If you were aborted as a zygote, you would never know it, because you would never become sentient. The majority of zygotes are aborted naturally for one reason or another.

          • Mike

            Exactly if i was aborted by my mom or some evil doctor when i was a zygote i wouldn't be here to tell you about it...thanks we agree on the science.

          • Pofarmer

            What aout the evil God that aborts the majority of them?

          • Mike

            Which evil god is this that goes into women's wombs and aborts their and their husband's children?

          • Pofarmer

            I suppose you never heard of a miscarriage? But that is really besides the point here, because weren't you arguing for the personhood of a zygote?

          • Mike

            i have but i was interested in this "evil god" who goes into mothers' wombs and kills their babies - what an evil tyrant ... would that "god" have the name cecile rodgers by any chance ;)? BTW you ever wonder if she's ever had an abortion herself? anyway off topic.

            yes human zygotes are people, like you and me only very very early in their development.

          • Pofarmer

            Mike, there's a serious problem with the zygote as human argument. The most important, IMHO being that you are giving rights to a potential human greater than the rights you are according to actual living functioning people.

          • Mila

            Does that mean that my grandma who is 98 years old and who can't move or function at all, not even to go to the bathroom by herself, should not be given any rights?
            Potential human?
            The baby inside is not a potential human but a human in development just like a 1 month old baby, a 2 years old toddler, a 10 years old kid, a teenager, a 40 years old man, etc.
            We, humans, grow... we don't all of the sudden say an 18 years old young man or woman is now a functioning human being versus a month ago when they were 17 years old.

          • Pofarmer

            Would you want your 98 year old grandmother robbed raped and murdered?

          • Mila

            I don't but those who say that a human being in the early stages of development inside the womb shouldn't be given rights until they are "functioning human beings" can't argue why an old granny who can't really function should have any rights either.

          • Pofarmer

            That's not what I asked.

          • Mila

            I was responding to your "you are giving rights to a potential human, who is not and never has been conscious., greater than the rights you are according to actual living functioning people."

          • Pofarmer

            Sorry, that's not the order it's threaded in browser. What about the question?

          • Mila

            What question didn't I answer?
            Read my comment I believe I wrote "I don't"
            The order is that you wrote "you are giving rights to a potential human being....... actual living functioning people."
            So I ask you, my grandma can't really function, does she not have rights then? Is she less than human because she can't function?

          • Pofarmer

            The question is, would you want your 98 year old grandmother robbed, raped, and murdered?

          • Mila

            The question was answered pofarmer.... if you only bothered to read. Good night

          • Pofarmer

            I apologize. I missed it. Then, the second part of the question is-Why would you condemn literally millions to that fate?

          • Mila

            I don't believe you answered my questions.
            And to answer your second question now, nope I'm not condemning anyone to that fate. The opposite as I believe human beings are not defined by functionality. It seems to me those who want to condemned human beings to that fate are those who try to define whether they are human or not in the first place. Why condemned millions to that fate by declaring that they are not human in the first place?

          • Pofarmer

            You actually are condemning people to those fates, via the idea that every fertilized egg should live. Did you know, for instance, that up to 80% of fertilized eggs naturally abort?

            https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcbe/transcripts/jan03/session1.html

            "PROF. SANDEL: Thank you. I have two questions
            about the rate of natural embryo loss in human beings. The
            first is what percent of fertilized eggs fail to implant or
            are otherwise lost? And the second question is is it the case
            that all of these lost embryos contain genetic defects that
            would have prevented their normal development and birth?

            DR. OPITZ: The answer to your first question
            is that it is enormous. Estimates range all the way from 60
            percent to 80 percent of the very earliest stages, cleavage
            stages, for example, that are lost."

            That's 80% of fertilized eggs are naturally lost.

            Now, be that as it may, it is pretty clearly indicated that after the passage of Roe V Wade both property crime and violent crime fell dramatically. Here are links to three articles, one of them contradictory, on the issue.

            http://scholar.harvard.edu/barro/files/99_0927_crimerate_bw.pdf

            http://freakonomics.com/2005/05/15/abortion-and-crime-who-should-you-believe/

            http://www.lifenews.com/2012/10/26/does-abortion-really-reduce-crime-another-look-at-freakonomics/

            So, by saying that every egg should live, you are condemning literally millions of people to be victims of crime. You are condemning millions of teens to not get an education. You are condemning millions of unwed mothers to poverty. Millions of children to poverty, crime, and jail. And if you oppose contraception, because it might cause the loss of these fertilized eggs, then you are still wrong as well. Here's an article by prolife obgyn's talking about it.

            http://www.aaplog.org/position-and-papers/oral-contraceptive-controversy/hormone-contraceptives-controversies-and-clarifications/

            It's very clear, if you really want to reduce abortions, you need to support contraception, there is simply no other way for it to work. Libby Anne lays it out superbly in this long article.

            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2012/10/how-i-lost-faith-in-the-pro-life-movement.html

            The latest study in St. Louis also shows the same thing.

            http://www.stltoday.com/news/local/metro/contraceptive-study-in-st-louis-coincides-with-drop-in-abortion/article_9efe9196-b672-5f6a-9a6a-c094e7fe5546.html

            My point is this, that by calling an egg smaller than the period at the end of this sentence a person, you are causing all of the above to happen. At 30 days, the end of the blastocyst period, the clump of now specializing cells is still smaller than a pencil eraser, with no nervous system. By opposing contraception you are causing more abortions. By opposing very, very early term abortions, you are causing more late term abortions, when they are more objectionable to most people. By all of these things, attempting to give rights to a zygote, you are telling all the people who will be robbed and injured, all the mothers entrenched in poverty, all of the zygotes who survive who wind up on drugs and in jail. You are telling all of these people that the survival of a fertilized egg, which 80% are expelled naturally, is more important. Good luck with that.

          • joey_in_NC

            You actually are condemning people to those fates, via the idea that every fertilized egg should live.

            So since everyone eventually dies, then we are "condemning people" to death by allowing them to live? Interesting way to look at it.

          • Pofarmer

            What you are saying is that the potential person embodied by a fertilized egg has more rights than those already living and loving and productive members of society. Do you really not understand the consequences of your ideology?

          • joey_in_NC

            What you are saying is that the potential person embodied by a fertilized egg has more rights than those already living and loving and productive members of society.

            Not really. A fetus, that is already a human person with the potential to be productive members of society, has the same right to life as any other human person.

            Do you really not understand the consequences of your ideology?

            Yes.

          • Pofarmer

            Fetus has a specific meaning. I've never said anything about a Fetus.

          • joey_in_NC

            My apologies.

            A fertilized egg, that is already a human person with the potential to be productive members of society, has the same right to life as any other human person.

          • Pofarmer

            Person also has a definition.

            http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/person

            A fertilized egg does not meet the definition of either Human Being or Person.

          • David Nickol

            A fertilized egg, that is already a human person with the potential to be productive members of society, has the same right to life as any other human person.

            Would you argue, then, that frozen embryos in storage in fertility clinics have the right to be placed in women's uteruses (volunteers, presumably), brought to term, and delivered? Or would a frozen embryo's right to life merely be the right not to be destroyed but to life in a freezer until it is no longer viable?

            According to the first site I checked, there are an estimated 600,000 cryo-preserved embryos in the United States. What are we to do about their rights?

          • joey_in_NC

            Frozen embryos have the right to never be frozen in the first place.

          • David Nickol

            Frozen embryos have the right to never be frozen in the first place.

            And exactly how does that help the 600,000 embryos that are already frozen?

          • joey_in_NC

            It means that the situation of producing an embryo outside the mother should have never happened in the first place.

            The existence of frozen embryos is a very complex ethical situation, one that I would not attempt to make a judgment on.

          • Mila

            What are you talking about???
            What does the abnormalities in nature have to do with the intent to kill or the notion that humans are not humans until someone decides so.... or because of their functionality as you stated?

            I'm condemning people to that fate? What????
            What are you talking about? Unreal!
            If anyone here condemning people to death are the ones claiming that embryos are not human at all.

          • Pofarmer

            If you would actually look at the articles and statistics, only a very small percentage of expelled eggs have abnormalities, and also only a small percentage of misscarriages. The consequences of your ideology is increases in poverty, decreases in education, decreases in property crime of as much as 50%, violent crime by 40% and murder, as well as increased incarceration rates and all that goes along with that. These are real consequences to the idea that every fertilized egg is a person with the full rights thereof.

          • Mike

            you were not a potential human being when you were a zygote.

          • Pofarmer

            What human characteristics does a zygote have?

          • Mike

            well it is a member of the species and it has i think the stem cells that form into all the human organs it has the beginnings of a head etc. i think...but i am not an embryologist so you'dhave to consult a college bio book for that.

          • Pofarmer

            So you want to confer personhood to a group of cells smaller than the period at the end of a sentence.

          • Mila

            I think someone else here referred to the concept of personhood versus human beings.
            Personhood has been denied many times before to different groups. The Nazis, for example, denied personhood to the Jews.

          • Pofarmer

            Well, somebody had to go there. Godwins law wins.

          • Mike

            ok look you were also that small we were all that small that is a scientific fact; what is also a fact is that say a million of zygotes is NOT the same as a million 20 year olds ofcourse...but BOTH are human beings in different stages of their development and intentionally killing directly a human being is wrong very wrong. So what the law says about personhood is a slightly different question than whether zygotes are human beings which they are per you know all scientific inquiry.

            so yes i think that as a CULTURE we should change the laws to protect this life but we should obviously agree on this together we should feel about abortion the same way we feel about slavery or some other unjust practice...but this gets into wider issues of how this culture treats little children single mothers parenthood in general how MANY 'rich' cultural catholics secretly feel about abortion and sterilization - ppl i know personally and so i would welcome a supreme court ruling that all human life has the right to develop freely without being attacked but think it MUCH better for our laws decided by ppl to evolve in that direction.

            btw just bc abortion is evil does NOT mean that it is in EVERY aspect the same as killing a 7 year old...and everyone acknowledges this but at the end of the day killing something very very small that is human and developing is still killing it which is well you know really bad.

          • Pofarmer

            So, are you in favor of contraception?

          • Michael Murray

            I find it really hard to discuss the morality of abortion with people who are opposed to contraception. It's just so absurd.

          • William Davis

            The contraception thing still baffles me. I've mentioned it to some Christians I know recently (protestant) and they had never heard of anyone against contraception either. Personally I'm against the pill, but that is just because of the side effect, nothing moral.

          • Pofarmer

            You have to really be blindly dogmatic.

          • Mike

            ok so you concede that my view on abortion is correct? before we move onto contraception...;)

          • Pofarmer

            Nope, just askin.

          • Mike

            btw i am not either in favor nor against but i agree with the church that it is a sin and that it distorts the relationship between men and women and severs the relationship between love and babies and has led to more abortions and more divorce and to now marriage redefinition...but of course it should be perfectly legal for ppl to use as much as they want but of course no one should have to pay for it if it offends their conscience.

            the pope predicted in the 60s that women would in popular general culture be reduced to the role of sex objects for men and with that i agree 100%.

          • Pofarmer

            Wow.

            "has led to more abortions and more divorce ". You do realize that this is unquestionably false?

          • Mike

            no i believe it is true generally speaking.

          • Pofarmer

            The highest divorce rates in the U.S. is among evangelical Christians.

            http://atheism.about.com/od/atheistfamiliesmarriage/a/AtheistsDivorce.htm

            Abortion rates fall with increasing contraception use.

            Both
            the lowest and highest subregional abortion rates are in Europe, where
            abortion is generally legal under broad grounds. In Western Europe, the
            rate is 12 per 1,000 women, while in Eastern Europe it is 43. The
            discrepancy in rates between the two regions reflects relatively low
            contraceptive use in Eastern Europe, as well as a high degree of
            reliance on methods with relatively high user failure rates, such as the
            condom, withdrawal and the rhythm method. - See more at:
            http://www.patheos.com/blogs/lovejoyfeminism/2012/10/how-i-lost-faith-in-the-pro-life-movement.html#sthash.sJiAHzyE.dpuf

          • Mike

            do you think that widespread contraception use generally increases the amount of intercourse that ppl have or decrease it?

            i would also be careful about the bias those sites wear on their sleeves.

            either way this issues is NOT about stats in principle but about what is right and wrong and i hope that one day we'll as a society get to the point where the vast majority recoil at the thought of terminating a pregnancy and welcome even sick children with love and tenderness and where we agree that abortion procedures are relics of a selfish and barbaric past...but one can only hope and pray at this time.

            we are a VERY selfish materialist culture and i am as guilty of that as anyone else..it's VERY hard to resist the temptations of stuff and shiny objects and cars and houses an vacations and clothes and money...we're decadent and we know it but we don't know how to stop.

          • Pofarmer

            "do you think that widespread contraception use generally increases the amount of intercourse that ppl have or decrease it?"

            Why does that even matter?

            "i would also be careful about the bias those sites wear on their sleeves."

            Now THAT is funny.

            "either way this issues is NOT about stats in principle but about what is right and wrong "

            Ignore the stats, and you ignore the right and wrong. You are no longer making an informed decision, you are subject to blind ideology and emotion.

            and i hope that one day we'll as a society get to the point where the vast majority recoil at the thought of terminating a pregnancy "

            I hope we'll get to the point where we realize rhe best, and probably the only way, to acheive that goal is by effective education and contraception.

            ."and welcome even sick children with love and tenderness and where we agree that abortion procedures "

            I have a child with Hurlers syndrome, I know all about sick children.

            "we are a VERY selfish materialist culture and i am as guilty of that as anyone else.."

            Meh, it's HORRIBLE, HORRIBLE, THE WORST EVAAARRRR! Don't you ever get tired of the self flagelation?

            "it's VERY hard to resist the temptations of stuff and shiny objects and cars and houses an vacations and clothes and money...we're decadent and we know it but we don't know how to stop."

            Ain't no reason to stop. This is the best time in the history of the world so far to be a Homo Sapien.

          • Mike

            don't forget that you grew up live and will live in the richest safest place there's ever been on earth...you are the 1% of the 1% you are lucky where as the vast majority of ppl will never know the material comforts you enjoy and so have a different appreciation of what it means to be alive.

          • Pofarmer

            What the hell does that have to do with anything? I'd like other people to grow up and enjoy even better. You can't do that in an overcrowded cardboard slum.

          • Mike

            me too i hope one day that even the poorest person will have access to safe water and food and basic shelter...let's catch up again.

          • Pofarmer

            Let's catch up again? What does that mean?

          • Mike

            on another thread...we can argue again about something else.

          • Pofarmer

            All righty then. Missunderstood. That happens easily enough on written forums!

          • Pofarmer

            BTW, if you want to see societies where women are sexual objects, look to extremely conservative Muslim and Christian movements where women are little more than brood mares.

          • Mike

            ok i am not aware of women being treated like that in catholic circles but thanks.

          • Mila

            For someone who defends abortion, to then say that miscarriages are done by an "evil" God seems to me a concession to the notion that abortion is evil.
            Btw, after over a billion abortions worldwide since the 80s it is highly debatable that the majority of deaths of persons inside the womb are caused by God.

          • Mike

            Logic is not strong on that side of the debate.

          • Papalinton

            For someone who defends abortion, to then say that miscarriages are done by an "evil" God seems to me a concession to the notion that abortion is evil.

            And equally a concession that God is evil to allow it.

          • Michael Murray

            The world population has grown 2 billion since 1980. There have been deaths so let's guess 3 billion births. I can't find the actual number. So if 80% of conceptions aren't born then that should mean 15 billion conceptions, 12 billion resulting in no birth and 3 billion resulting in a birth.

            Does anyone know a source for "numbers of births since time X" ?

          • Papalinton

            You can't use those sorts of figures, Michael, because hindu, Buddhist and Zoroastrian conceptions? They don't count. We can only talk of what the Christian God can control within his bailiwick. There's no way the Christian God would claim responsibility for allowing such gargantuan numbers. You simply don't understand the meaning of the Christian God and how that meaning should be applied. :o)

          • Michael Murray

            You simply don't understand the meaning of the Christian God

            Never a truer word was said !

          • Papalinton

            And the great tragedy is, neither do Christians. That's why there are some 41,000 varieties of Christianity extant.

          • Kraker Jak

            Please give you head a shake....I find this exchange to be almost intolerable from your personal point of view. Severely biting my tongue here.

          • Mike

            Do not deny youreslf kraker...if you got hate in your heart let it out brother!

          • Papalinton

            Let me guess.

          • Mike

            lol.

          • Alexandra

            So you're a theist who is pro life. It's unnaceptable for God to "abort" according to you. (God allows all living creatures to die.)

          • William Davis

            So you would save this 10 year old girl from an abortion that could save her life? I'm glad their AREN'T more heroes like you.

            If my mother had aborted me I'd be perfectly content. She gave me life, and at that stage she could have taken it away and I would have never known the difference.

          • Mike

            She could have killed you but she chose not to - this we already know.

          • William Davis

            What's your point? I already said I would have been fine with it if she had aborted me. I love my mother, and trust her judgement.

          • Mike

            my point is that if she had killed you as a zygote you wouldn't be here you would be dead and she would have killed you but she didn't which is great for you i suppose but i know you feel less enthused about it as to you it could've gone either way no big whoop.

          • William Davis

            I find it better not to be overly attached to myself. I have the honor (thanks to my mother and father) of existing for a short period, 80 years if I'm lucky, then I will go back from whence I came. We spend most of time not existing, it is the normal state of affairs for us. Perhaps babies aren't ensouled until they are born. If that is the case, my soul would have gone to the next baby my mother had. You can't prove otherwise, all you have is a completely theoretical position that ensoulment occurs at conception. I don't believe in souls, but that's beside the point. There are plenty of pro-choice Christian:

            http://www.beliefnet.com/News/2003/01/The-Biblical-Basis-Forbeing-Pro-Choice.aspx

            Just one example.

          • Mike

            "I find it better not to be overly attached to myself."

            Sorry, i like you, but that is demented.

          • William Davis

            You do realize this matches Christian teaching on ignoring the self to benefit others right? A major part of my identity is attached to the human race as a whole, not just my individual self. It's not demented, it's altruistic and accurate. Are you sure you're a Christian?

          • Mike

            ok, i understand.

          • Kraker Jak

            Sir...I think that you are the demented, delusional person in this discussion.

          • Mike

            You're back Kraker! hey hope you can stick around longer this time!

          • Kraker Jak

            Ohhh....is that a veiled threat as to your influence with the moderator.

          • Mike

            come to think of it YES! i actually submit to brandon a list at the end of every week of all the atheists to be banned!

          • Papalinton

            That beliefnet article you cite is the most commonsensical and sensitive treatment of the issue. I would also suggest if one reads the Roe v Wade ruling, it reflects many of the points made in it. The right balance has been struck. The less charitable religionists must realise that we live in eclectic and diverse communities across the country, let alone speaking of diverse societies. The peddling and imposition of parochial, group-specific beliefs is neither ecumenical nor reasonable in such communities.

          • William Davis

            Agreed. Some call my 20 week stance "anti-abortion" but I think it's both fair and safe. If you haven't decided before then, too bad. After 24 weeks the baby can potentially be saved, and I'm all for that.

          • Papalinton

            God kills off 20% off all foetuses, 1 in 5. Not a bad record for a killer.

          • Michael Murray

            No God kills of 80% of all fertilised eggs.

            PROF. SANDEL: Thank you. I have two questions about the rate of natural embryo loss in human beings. The first is what percent of fertilized eggs fail to implant or are otherwise lost? And the second question is is it the case that all of these lost embryos contain genetic defects that would have prevented their normal development and birth?

            DR. OPITZ: The answer to your first question is that it is enormous. Estimates range all the way from 60 percent to 80 percent of the very earliest stages, cleavage stages, for example, that are lost.

            https://bioethicsarchive.georgetown.edu/pcbe/transcripts/jan03/session1.html

          • Mike

            oh geez you folks are incorrigible.

            exist question: if it's bad for this moral monster to do it why isn't it bad for cecile rodgers?

          • Papalinton

            If my mother had aborted me I'd be perfectly content.

            Stanislaw J Lec, the Polish-Jewish poet/aphorist, a holocaust survivor has it right on the button:

            "I dreamt of a slogn for contraceptives: 'The unborn will bless you'."

          • Kraker Jak

            If one never developed past the zygote stage of development, would that zygote not possess a soul? A human is created at the moment of conception nes't pas? If that zygote is a person and has a soul, then said person has a life with god in heaven...yes no?

          • Mike

            Yes of course...next...

          • Kraker Jak

            So.....a pregnancy that is aborted due to natural selection due to health problems, spontaneous abortion, miscarriage ectopic pregnancy etc...is actually in no danger of losing individual personhood and can be expected to have everlasting life in heaven and will not have be part of any limbo or vestibule of 'heaven' and will be an equal just as any other Christian person.

          • Mike

            Yes, keep going...you're doing fine....next...

          • Pofarmer

            "You were a zygote, what if your mom aborted you? would you be here"

            Then you would be just like the other 80% of zygotes that don't implant.

            Are you going to also save these women carrying these children from poverty! Lack of education? Are you going to save all the people affected by rising crome rates? Are you going to pay the bills for more prisons? This isn't a black and white issue.

          • Mike

            ok so you don't dispute that ending the life of that zygote would have been the ending of your life? i am glad you don't dispute that bc there's no sense in it as that's just basic embryology 101 and basic science which you folks never fail to extol.

            that 80% or even 99.9% of human life ends even mere minutes after it began does not imho affect the argument that we should strive to protect and nourish all of it to the extent practically possible - don't forget about the principle of double effect.

            i agree it's not a black and white issue but its ironic you put it like that as it does appear to . be a rich vs poor issue with MOST abortions being done by the poor. and so our culture is guilty of secretly wanting this option to be available if only to keep the undesirables down and away from us..iam guilty of this too.

            only strong family oriented cultures can support a consensus that life is precious and families are precious and that our lives should be directed towards family life not careers and money and shiny new objects...but that takes well hundreds of years if not thousands.

          • Pofarmer

            "ok so you don't dispute that ending the life of that zygote would have been the ending of your life?"

            No, my life is a conscious entity would have never begun, just like billions of others never begin, just like the consciousness that I have now didn't begin for billions of years. There is no self awareness in a zygote. What we consider as a "human life" is our physical consciousness as much as our physical bodies.

            "and so our culture is guilty of secretly wanting this option to be
            available if only to keep the undesirables down and away from us..iam
            guilty of this too."

            This is completely, and I do mean completely missing the point. Christopher Hitchens opined, and I think correctly, that if you want to bring 3rd world women out of poverty, you allow them to control their birth rates, and you give them access to capital and education. It's the only thing that has ever been shown to work, and it works in first world countries too. It's trying to let people raise themselves up, it doesn't have to do with keeping anybody down, that's just such backwards ass thinking it must be religious.

            "and that our lives should be directed towards family life not careers and money and shiny new objects.."

            This is particularly foolish, as it just leads to more grinding poverty. Most of what we have in the world is because of people wanting to better themselves. People wanting things, people wanting a BETTER life for the children and grandchildren. You desire to go backwards, to a time when men were ruled by the church, when grinding poverty was the rule, not the exception, we have been there, we don't really want to go back. Your guilty conscious is made possible by the hard work and striving of billions who preceded you. I wish you could let loose of your unwarranted guilt.

          • Mike

            ok thx for the exchange we disagree but such is life...all the best and i'll try remember to say a little prayer for you and your family.

          • Pofarmer
          • Mike

            ok well i already prayed for you and your family but if you prefer i will retract it or whatever...seriously if you want me to 'take it back'or whatever i will...let me know.

          • David Nickol

            You were a zygote, what if your mom aborted you? would you be here?

            You'd be in heaven, enjoying eternal bliss. How bad could that be?

          • Mike

            not bad at all...and you'd be the innocent victim of a moral crime.

        • Alexandra
          • William Davis

            Your article is talking about a different woman. The poor woman in my case actually died. Your article has the same women's mane but a completely different story. My first link was from the Guardian which is probably one of the most reputable news papers in the entire world (it's journalism is much better than American sites like CCN).

            Here's is a wiki article:
            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Savita_Halappanavar

            Your article may be right that Savit's abortion should have been legal, but clearly an "no abortion under any circumstance" bias led to her death.

            The inquest into the death of Mrs Halappanavar took place in April and found she had died due to medical misadventure.

            An HSE clinical review report was published in June, which found inadequate assessment and monitoring and a failure to recognise the gravity of the situation and the increasing risk to her life.

            http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-24463106

            I'm sure Kevin and Mike would have denied the abortion. Another Catholic here, OX_IX referred to situations like this as uncommon, and no reason to change laws. The lack of empathy from these men toward mothers is highly repulsive to me.

          • Alexandra

            I'm so sorry for wasting your time William. I mistakenly copied and pasted the wrong link. I meant to send you something else, but actually you already know the information.

          • William Davis

            You're fine :)

    • Kraker Jak

      Personally I think abortion is wrong, but there are many cases when abortion is less wrong than not allowing an abortion.

      I tend to agree. Things are not so black and white as Christians/Catholics like to think they are.

    • joey_in_NC

      There are plenty of Christians who agree abortion should be a matter of the mother's conscience, not a matter of state force.

      If these Christians also believe the fetus is a person who possesses the right to life as any other human person, then they simply are logically impaired, unless they also feel it is not a matter of state force regarding mothers killing their own (out of the womb) children.

    • Alexandra

      William, I am seriously upset that you took my dialogue here and posted on another website site without my permission. I comment here in good faith and can't believe you did such a thing.

      • William Davis

        I've found friends who have been banned from the site, unjustly from what I can tell. They find the conversation interesting. I post here in good faith too, feel free to copy anything I say and post it anywhere you like. I linked your comment for direct reference.
        Are you saying you are embarrassed by your position on this topic?

        • Alexandra

          No contrition. Rationalizing your despicable behavior. I did not give you permission, you had no right to do what you did.

          • William Davis

            I don't understand why you are upset about it. Fair enough. I won't do it again, and we have no need to speak further. Everything posted on these types of discussion is public domain, you are the first person I've ever heard of thinking otherwise. I do not apologize however, as I'm confident I did nothing wrong. You seem very kind, so it was never my intention to upset you. I'm genuinely surprised that you are upset.

          • Alexandra

            Thank you. I appreciate that you won't do it again. I welcome dialogue with you. I have enjoyed our conversations.

          • William Davis

            I have enjoyed our conversation too. I deleted your comment from my post.
            Everyone there comes to here to SN and reads the conversations. Lacking that background information, my action probably looks a lot worse. They find the conversation interesting here too, that's why they all used to post here until they got locked out. I understand that Brandon wants more Catholics here, and so do I, but I don't think that justifies banning a whole bunch of people and deleting their comments off the site. Personally I think a rotation schedule run by the Estranged notions would be much better, if it's possible to ask Brandon about that. Brandon might be able to control the rotation with Disqus. Just a thought.

          • Alexandra

            I would support a second chance for the banned.

            I don't understand what a rotation schedule means, nor what you are proposing. Would you mind explaining?

          • William Davis

            The folks at Estranged Notions are generally very intelligent, and mostly ex-Catholic. Andrew G runs the site, and could potentially organize them to allow 2-3 people to post on a single article here. I'd be willing to bench myself to allow other to post. Andrew could still maintain his site and allow "benched" people to post their for the week they are "off". There are plenty of variations that could help balance the atheist/Catholic ratio. I'm sort of a deist, but you can still classify me as an atheist for this kind of balance.
            Brandon might be more amenable to a suggestion from someone on the Catholic side. I don't think everyone over there actually wants to post here at any rate. Geena Safire specifically seems very interested in being able to come back. She is a very kind, and intelligent person, but also an ex-Catholic. I've learned a lot about science and philosophy from her (and I'm not poorly educated on the topic to begin with), Epeeist (he has a ph.d. in physics and knows a ton about philosophy of science), and Andrew G. While their arguments may oppose Catholic positions, one can learn a lot of good/new information from their posts.

          • Kraker Jak

            Hmmm....yet Andrew G and crew while castigating Mr. Vogt for being unreasonable for deleting and banning persons from SN..has no problem banning SN participants and others that rub his fur the wrong way, even though they have emailed him and asked for a second chance for not strictly conforming to his rules. However he does not acknowledge to his adoring followers that they did so.

          • Kraker Jak

            The compIaint about impatience....re:Ray Vorkin was banned for sending an email to Andrew that complained about his tardiness in putting up the Most recent SN topics. Andrew would sometimes wait for a day or two before addressing the things, so I accused him of lack of interest...big deal...and hence got banned.
            :An excerpt from the moderation actions thread at EN.
            Re-banning user "Krakerjak", previously known as "Ray Vorkin", for posting when previously banned....

            Yes....banned cause he realized I was using a pseudonym. Big deal. I freely admit that KrakerJak was a pseudonym, or "sock" for Ray, as the folks on EN like to say.

            The main crime of Krakerjak on En was to come to the defense of other participants such as Loreen Lee, and to point out the intolerant attitude of some EN participants.

            Andrew at least pays lip mild service to his bans in the self protection mode...justified or not! http://outshine-the-sun.blogspot.ca/2014/01/the-moderation-actions-thread.html

            One should not have to be in a perpetual state of defense of oneself as a person imbued with transcendental ideas as though those ideas were without intrinsic merit. Nor should one have to be in the constant mode of apologizing left and right for being "compurter illiterate" or relatively uneducated or
            unsophisticated compared to the elite, participants on here who think their shite does not stink, So perhaps this is likely going to be my encore performance or last hurrah, and that is ok. Just am fed up with the intolerance and contempt shown to theists and even some nontheists and agnostics.

          • William Davis

            Yeah tribalism is everywhere, it's part of human nature. I get caught up in it myself sometimes.
            From my experience you can be pretty abrasive sometimes, and I've been told you created 6 aliases trying to sneak back in. That's a little underhanded wouldn't you say? If I get banned, so be it. It's their site, they can do what they want. If I was motivated enough I'd create my own, but I'm not quite that motivated ;)

          • Kraker Jak

            I admit that I can be interpreted as abrasive at times...of course you are not at any time abrasive. You say you have been told that I have created 6 aliases trying to sneak back in to EN? By Andrew I assume. Proof please. Are you in bed with Andrew? I admit trying to reply to some things as a test to see if I would continue to be deleted or banned....that hardly constitutes trying to Sneak back in. The reason I was banned....read the link below. I did email Andrew in regard to getting back in but he refused to respond.

            http://outshine-the-sun.blogspot.ca/2014/01/the-moderation-actions-thread.html

          • Kraker Jak

            It's their site, they can do what they want.

            That goes for SN as well as EN. Really no need to justify deletions and bans....so we should all just suck it up. Gotcha.

            EN seems to have made holding Mr. Vogt as beneath contempt and obsessing about the bans at SN as their main raison d'être .

          • William Davis

            P.S. For what it's worth, it says very good things about your character that you seem to realize the Church's dogmatic position here is wrong on an intuitive level. Some seem to have no empathy. No contrition or rationalization (like I said I can't see how I've done anything wrong), just my thoughts. I truly believe that Catholicism is committing a deep injustice here, and I'm morally obligated to fight it. Have a nice life, I won't comment on your posts out of respect.

          • Papalinton

            If it's already in the public domain one does not need permission to post elsewhere. So long as William ascribed it to you, all well and good.

          • Alexandra

            Correct. And if that is only what he did in his post I would not have been upset.

          • Pofarmer

            Why should you be upset at all? Your comments are public, and anonymous. Sheesh.

          • Alexandra

            Ok Profarmer. Thank you for your input. I will keep your words in mind if it ever were to happen again. (I pray that in never does!) I will picture a little cow. ;)

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    One issue with surveys that ask if someone is "pro-life" or "pro-choice" is that it is not always clear what those terms mean to the respondent. I've heard plenty of people say things like "I am personally pro-life: I'd never get an abortion. But I would never tell someone else what to do." In, my book, I consider that person pro-choice, even if they may not.

    It might be more useful to ask what their actual thoughts on abortion are, instaed of the label. From the same Gallup poll that Mr. Herschmeyer links, we see that currently only 21% think that abortion should be illegal under all circumstances (the Catholic position), 28% say legal always, and 50% say legal only in some circumstances. I'm not sure which of these would be considered "pro-choice" and "pro-life"

  • It is possible to be opposed to all abortion and to be an intellectually honest atheist. An atheist might think that there is a kind of Platonic moral universe, where right and wrong are impersonal abstract truths. She might think that "abortion is wrong" is one of these abstract truths.

    Alternatively, she might be a moral rationalist. She might think that the statement "it is wrong to do X" is equivalent to "it is irrational to do X", and may have a further argument about the irrationality of abortion.

    She could be a moral intuitionist, and think that ethical statements are determined by intuition. She might think that it is intuitively self-evident that abortion is wrong.

    There are many other options besides these. There's even a group for atheists who oppose all abortion, Secular Pro-Life ( http://www.secularprolife.org/ ).

  • OverlappingMagisteria

    I frequently see two types of pieces from secular writers:

    1. Articles declaring that we can be good without God, that atheists are just as moral as anyone else, etc.
    2. Articles like this one, claiming that we can only know that killing
    people is wrong “because God,” in which case a truly universal respect
    for human rights can only come from a religious worldview.

    Those two positions can’t both be right, so which is it?

    First of all, I'll agree with most of the other here that position 2 is wrong: there are non-religious arguments against abortion.

    However, the two positions are contradictory only if you agree with the author that abortion is immoral and that abortion is an violation of human rights. Someone can consistently believe that God is not necessary to be moral, abortion is moral, and that the only reason that people falsely (in their view) think that abortion is immoral is because of their religious beliefs. Mr. Heschmeyer errs in his description of position 2 by wrongly assuming that the New Replublic author beliefs that abortion goes against human rights.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      One can believe that abortion is not immoral but one would be wrong if directly killing an innocent person is wrong, which it is.

      • OverlappingMagisteria

        Yes, it is possible to come to a false moral conclusion. But my point is that the two positions that Mr. Heschmeyer mentions are not contradictory. He seems to be mischaracterizing the New Republic authors position as:

        A. Only God can tell us that abortion is immoral.
        B. Abortion truly is immoral.
        C. Therefore, Only God can tell us what is immoral (and therefore, we cannot know morality without God.)

        However, I'm sure the New Republic author would disagree with point B, so the conclusion does not follow. Perhaps the author is wrong to disagree with point B, but in either case, he is not being inconsistent

        • Kevin Aldrich

          I took the NR writer to mean only people who believe in God are against abortion and they are stupid.

  • Mike

    If you've ever seen a 6 week old baby on an ultrasound, moving and twitching, you know perfectly well when life begins...also you know if you've ever worried about being or getting someone pregnant ;)

    • Pofarmer

      The problem is, that 6 week old on the ultrasound is generally agreed to have zero level of consciousness.

      • Mike

        I wouldn't want to lose consciousness around you! ;)

        • Kraker Jak

          Veiled implication noted!

          • Mike

            HEY KRAKER JACK's BACK!

            WELCOME but be nice this time.

          • Kraker Jak

            I am trying to be nice.....have bitten my tongue a few times.

          • Mike

            Good, being nice is good for the soul!

          • Kraker Jak

            Do you not recognize that fact that you are being a tad condescending? I really feel sorry for you that you are so triumphalistic in your faith...even though I have bent over backwards to see things in your light.

          • Mike

            i am just trying to levitate the situation a bit ;).

    • William Davis

      You mean this?

      http://pregnancy.familyeducation.com/images/pdbd/228/ddpb0926wee_002.jpg

      You sure you have the number of weeks right?

      • Mike

        Have you never seen your babies on an ultrasound? I have.

        • William Davis

          I did, and I love my children very much. I already said I would never abort one. The point is that it is not my place to tell another mother/family what they are supposed to do. I would discourage abortion unless there is a serious need, that is all. To me it's about boundaries of the state, and individual liberty.

          • Mike

            My place is also not to tell anyone what to do; my place is to defend the innocent life of every person to the extent possible...as a culture we have to change our thinking about children.

            Ok now you say that tiny babies are not person...;) let's not go around and around, we know we disagree already.

          • William Davis

            Sure, but you see how that changes things doesn't it? To risk killing a 10 year old child because of something that might be a person (assuming God doesn't abort it with a miscarriage) seems deeply wrong and immoral to me.

          • Mike

            Of course but why kill the baby, why not just induce and try to save it?

          • Mila

            Some say, "might be a person"... with that logic if I see something moving at night but I don't know what it is for sure, I'll just shoot it anyway even though it might or might not be a person. Even the "might be a person" argument is highly immoral.

          • David

            Are you really unable to understand why a 10 year old should not carry and deliver a baby? This is completely absurd. This baby should have been aborted weeks ago. I can't believe this is even a debate.

          • Mila

            Medically she poses a higher risk by having an abortion. When a girl has her period, her body is ready to bear children. She is not ready to have a child for other reasons but mostly not for physiological reasons.
            I also work with women who have had abortions, and some clearly don't have a clue as to the damage an abortion causes. Why put the girl up for that? Why kill the baby and damage the girl for life and not deal with the rapist instead?
            The case in Paraguay has absolutely nothing to do with the girl, but all to do with the meddling with the countries's pro-life stance as reflected by the nation's laws. The international community of pro-abort feminists alike who want the entire world to be as miserable and immoral as they are meddle in nations they have absolutely right to meddle in. Why don't they actually advocate for women in say, Saudi?
            They will always present a case that is not only an exception but unjustifiably used to propagate their agenda. Notice they do not mention the rapist at all, but just the abortion agenda.
            The same thing they successfully did in the US but worse. They actually manufactured a false victim to push their agenda of death along. They would say things such as, just in case of rapes and incest.... 56 million babies afterwards.... shame on them! .

          • William Davis

            The case in Paraguay has absolutely nothing to do with the girl, but all to do with the meddling with the countries's pro-life stance as reflected by the nation's laws.

            For me, it has EVERYTHING to do with the little girl who is the same age as my daughter. How dare you imply something about my intentions that is completely false. I don't doubt that some exploit situations like this for a "agenda" but the impression I get from all Catholics here (except for Alexandra) is that they couldn't care less a bout the 10 year old girl. Do you care about the 10 year old girl?

          • Mike

            I don't understand why you think that a mother even one who is only 10 may not want to kill her baby.

            PS why do you call it a baby? is it a baby in your opinion or just "clump of cells"?

        • Andre V.

          And why were you looking at William's babies on ultrasound?

          • Mike

            Bc they were cute! or well to him they looked like Alien so therefore he thinks they can be offed...ugly!

      • Alexandra

        We have better quality pictures now. This is also 6 weeks.

        • William Davis

          My point with Mike (I failed to mention) is that most of the time the first ultrasound is at 12 weeks, getting much closer to the 20 week mark:

          https://c2.staticflickr.com/6/5049/5229381679_05cbf200dd_z.jpg

          Look much more like a baby.
          At 20 weeks I'm with you. I think that is a great place to draw the line legally. Plenty of time to make the decision before 20 weeks. The supreme court rules 27 weeks, I personally think that is too late.

          • Kraker Jak

            I am with you William....20 weeks is a good place to draw the line for now....until we know more.

          • Alexandra

            What do you do when the developmental age is an approximation?

          • Kraker Jak

            That is a question for ethicists and medical professionals to figure out.

          • Alexandra

            Good point. What I meant is: Say the developmental age is estimated between 19 weeks and 21 weeks. According to your position, the women shouldn't have an abortion. Am I understanding this correctly?

          • Michael Murray

            20 weeks is too low to be viable

            The limit of viability is the gestational age at which a prematurely born fetus/infant has a 50% chance of long-term survival outside its mother's womb. With the support of neonatal intensive care units, the limit of viability in the developed world has declined since 50 years ago, but has remained unchanged in the last 12 years.[8][9] Currently the limit of viability is considered to be around 24 weeks although the incidence of major disabilities remains high at this point.[10][11] Neo-natologists generally would not provide intensive care at 23 weeks, but would from 26 weeks.[12][13]

            http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fetal_viability#Legal_definitions

          • Kraker Jak

            20 weeks is too low to be viable

            Granted....but at what stage of development of a healthy fetus where the mother's life is not in danger, should abortion be allowed or considered to be within the bounds of morality? A reasonable question I think.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        http://www.babycenter.com/fetal-development-images-6-weeks

        Arm bud: Your baby already has tiny hands shaped like paddles, with thick webbing between the developing fingers. She'll start moving her arms later this week.

        Heart bulge: Your baby's heart is beating almost twice as fast as yours and beginning to divide into right and left chambers.

        Leg bud: Your baby already has tiny feet shaped like paddles, with thick webbing between the developing toes. She'll start moving her legs later this week.

        Lower jaw: Inside your baby's tiny mouth, the tongue and vocal cords are just beginning to form.

        • William Davis

          Notice there is nothing about the brain. I think a functioning brain without a body is a person. A living body without a functioning brain is not. Of course, the fetus WILL have a brain in the future (unless it is the one in 5 that get naturally aborted). That is the primary difference between a fetus and a brain dead person on life support. This is why I say abortion is wrong, but no where near murder at this stage. In my view, abortion gets closer and closer to murder as the baby develops, after birth it is true murder.

          • Alexandra

            The embryos brain at 4 weeks:

          • William Davis

            Correct, compare that to a human brain (same as a newborn baby's, just the baby's is smaller

            http://www.miniscience.com/projects/ModelBrain/Brian_diagram_1.jpg

            I think the fetus is first able to feel pain around 24 weeks, 20 weeks gives a 1 month safety window.

            But Dr. Fisk, a former president of the International Fetal Medicine and Surgery Society, said neurological research has convinced him that pain “is not possible at all” before 24 weeks.

            http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/17/health/complex-science-at-issue-in-politics-of-fetal-pain.html?_r=0

            Current law in many places allows abortion up to 27 weeks. I prefer to err on the side of caution, and agree with the 20 week mark, not 27. The youngest baby to survive outside the womb (with major medical intervention) was 21 weeks. His name was James Elgin Gill, and he weighed as much as a normal 25 week old. 20 weeks also provides a safety window for one that is developing much faster than normal.
            It is my view, however that a VERY good reason is necessary to warrant an abortion, safety of the mother primarily. Abortion as a form of birth control is terrible (though making it illegal puts the decision in the hands of some kind of state board instead of the mother).

          • Michael Murray
          • William Davis

            Looks like the U.S. does a little better. After 27 weeks it really isn't an abortion anymore, it's a premature birth. Killing a baby that is born alive is truly murder in my opinion.

          • Michael Murray

            The upper end might be a function of the legal system of course. It would be better, IMHO, if it was a function of the medical system which helped women make an early decision. I don't quite understand that large block from 0-8 weeks on the US chart. Histograms don't usually look like that.

          • William Davis

            I suspect the large block is due to how difficult it is to determine precise age when it's that low. Knowing the exact day of conception can be almost impossible, so it makes sense to group 0-8 weeks altogether. I guess the UK is trying to be more accurate in that time period.

      • Kevin Aldrich

        That looks like William Davis at five weeks. Should he be killed for looking like this?

        • William Davis

          If my mother deems it to be necessary, yet. Especially if it saves her life. Saving my mother's life would also mean saving my two sisters lives too. Well worth my nearly non-existent sacrifice :)

  • Doug Shaver

    He (apparently) thinks that only God can coherently undergird the opposition to murdering unborn children. Non-believers and pro-choicers, is he right?

    Of course not. Abortion is just one moral question among all the others. I have no problem finding a coherent naturalistic basis for my own answers to any of them.

  • EricP

    I have a question that I couldn't find an answer for anywhere else (It might seems stupid). Why is there a strong temptation to do EVIL, but almost none to do GOOD?? If God wants us to be with him and love him, why is only evil appear is this world, tempting us everyday. Why does God not make it easier to do good then evil, is it because only the strong should get into Heaven, I thought he wants everybody in Heaven with him, strong AND weak in faith.

    • Andre V.

      I don't think that too many here will agree with you that we find only evil in the world, or even that there is only a limited "temptation" to do good.

    • Kevin Aldrich

      Everyone has the inclination to do good. This is why we always act only to be happy or happier.

      The question is whether a particular act really will make us happy.

      An act of adultery can make one happy for a while due to the pleasure and ego boost it gives one. Refraining from the act deprives one of this happiness-in-pleasure but preserves many greater happinesses, like self-control and chastity, justice toward many persons, integrity, obedience to the moral law and the divine law, and so on.

    • neil_ogi

      because most 'evils' can add more comfort to the one who does it (e.g. he steals millions of dollars from the bank)

    • Doug Shaver

      Why is there a strong temptation to do EVIL, but almost none to do GOOD??

      It has not been my observation that there is almost no temptation to do good, nor that the temptation to do evil is always strong.

  • neil_ogi

    i have read one medical literature that when 'imminent' abortion is going on, the woman's body will react negatively to the unborn child, and her body will 'do' the abortion?

  • Boris

    Apparently if you believe in God, you don't know that forcing parenthood on people who don't want it, can't afford it, aren't ready for it or shouldn't be parents, is wrong. Abortions were openly advertised in this country when our Constitution was written. had our founders wanted to end abortions they would have done so.

  • No, he seems to be claiming (clumsily and wrongly) that the religious argument alone opposes abortion.