I'm an atheist. I believe in reproductive rights for women. I believe a woman should be able to abort a pregnancy no questions asked. Why should I have to also believe the nonsense that "life begins at birth"? It seems to me that a human being is created as soon as a sperm fertilizes an egg. The DNA of a human being exists from that point onward. Are we so under the thumbs of the religious right that we can't say, "Yeah, life begins at conception. So what? The woman still has control."?
@Dave G "You have a strange definition of individual, if you are only considering genetic data. Identical twins are genetically identical, yet I doubt you would claim that they are not two seperate individuals."
In most cases, genetic data would be sufficient, however in the case of twins, there are many ways to determine that they are individuals. Even in the womb, they are next to each other for example. A dead giveaway that they are individuals.
I only bring up DNA as proof that they are human. I never proffered it as proof of individuality.
I think it really depends on how people define "living". I would say it's pretty widely accepted that fetuses are not conscious creatures, but they are certainly alive, and they are human just as anyone else is human, only in a premature neotenous stage of existence. Sure they're alive.
Does this mean the mother shouldn't be able to choose whether she aborts the child? People say that aborting a child is killing a human. Maybe it is - but they fail to consider the benefits vs. the costs. Perhaps this child is born into an underprivileged single mother's life. Will she be able to provide for it? Probably not. It wouldn't live a very healthy, long life if this were the case.
Then they say that there's the option of putting the child up for adoption. This is a good option in some cases. But, at the same time, the psychological consequences of separation from a child or primary caregiver at an early age are immense and can't be disregarded.
Of course this issue is completely divisive and full of polar opinions, so this is just my opinion and reasoning.
I think trying to reason your way to an absolute position on abortion is a losing proposition. Determining when "human life begins," for the purpose of assigning legal rights and protections, is like determining the precise moment when a sunrise goes from red to orange. While the biological process can be objectively described, I agree with the earlier posts that consider the question to be largely subjective. One's judgement is based on one's values, and on the circumstances of the situation (and also undoubtedly on the cultural time and place in which one lives and debates the issue).
What appears to be troubling Unseen, and me as well, is the highly polarized political debate in which each side takes an extreme and absolute position. Does life-worth-protecting begin at conception? Of course not. Does life-worth-protecting only begin at birth? I can't accept that either.
Dear Unseen, your understanding of DNA is not quite accurate here. Your very own DNA started life in your Grandmother.
And on back to the original string of DNA. Not sure how what you're saying has anything to do with my points.
Definitions are not facts, they are conventions. A convention sets some sort of set point or trigger.
Descriptions of set points and triggers are factual, but set points and triggers themselves are just conventions.
Start by defining 'life'. Why is a zygote 'alive' but a developing mineral crystal 'not alive'? To me, 'human life' begins when human experiences start being recorded in memory - although I don't know exactly when that is, biologically speaking. I don't see any magic in the initial assembly of DNA from sperm/egg that sets the genetics of a human zygote that will eventually develop into a human being.
Conception vs at birth:
A big part of this (definition) I think comes from the question of when it's OK to abort. I don't pretend to have an answer for that.
True: people customize their definitions of when life begins to align with their attitude on the matter.