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."?

Tags: abortion, conception, feminism

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Ah I see where you're coming from now Reggie.
Surely it could be defined as a woman has the right to abort a non-viable foetus.
With freedom of speech, there are limits beyond which that freedom is rescinded. This could be defined as a person has the right to freedom of speech so long as that speech is not hateful or likely to incite hatred or unrest.

I know neither of the above is a particularly perfect example but I hope you get the angle I'm coming from. :)

I believe we should disallow abortion once neurons start to develop.  I base this on the Idea that it is the brain which makes us human.

Bottom line - and this transcends abortion - this is a valid ethical dispute.  Both sides of the abortion debate tend to dismiss that.  The issue is does unique DNA make a person or is viability also a factor?  I personally feel that both are factors.  A single cell can not live outside the mother's body.  Or, more precisely, it is not a being that can ultimately participate in society.  I feel viability - not live birth - is the ethical cut off.  While you are an atheist, the Bible - esp. the OT - demonstrates the existence of the view that the ability to exist independently was a consideration.  Exodus 21:22-23 seems to argue that a child is not human until achieving viability (in utero).  Whereas Leviticus 27:6 &  Numbers 3:15-16 seem to imply that a child is fully human until a month after live birth.  In all 3 cases, the issue is indirectly addressed.  Point being. the ability to function independently has long been a consideration in the debate over life.   

  First off, by definition a sperm cell is alive, it has direction and motility, if we're talking about killing life then, in a sense, men are committing mass murder every time they have an orgasm. Second, I myself am pro life and pro choice, but as a man it doesn't concern me as I don't think I have to worry about becoming pregnant anytime soon, but I am for a woman's right to choose, as she is the one who has to bear the burden not only of the pregnancy itself but in the majority of the time spent in raising her progeny, so my point is that men should mind their own business and keep out of it, and their only concern should be in controlling the application of their sperm in the first place, if laws are to be made it should be by women for women because it is a child bearers issue alone.  But on the issue of when a fetus becomes a person I believe that a parasite is a parasite until it has acheived the ability to survive once detached from it's host.

 Also, in my opinion, the "Miracle of Birth" is a misnomer, because to be a "Miracle" doesn't it have to be a very rare event?  Birth happens millions of times a day, throughout all species of mammals, so where is the Miracle in that? It's a common experience, which I think would exclude it from the description of being a "Miracle."

just sayin : )

@Rick   I don't think it's my view that requires special proof. I know of no reputable biological scientists holding that "life begins at birth." It would seem that any scientist maintaining that would have to adopt the absurd view that an alligator isn't alive until it pokes its nose out of its shell or that a tomato plant isn't alive until it bursts through the surface of the soil. It's the contrary to common sense view that requires special proof, not the common sense view.

I know of no reputable biologist who holds that life began any later than several billion years ago. 

Avoiding the challenge would seem to validate my position.

A major problem with this thread, and indeed all conversations of this nature, is there is a happy and  pervasive conflation of terminology.  I continue to see people switching freely between "human", "life", and a few other words that all mean something different.

 

Life is not the same as human, human is not the same as human being, and personhood is yet again something different.

 

Life began several billion years ago.  It probably only began the one time, so to suggest that it begins billions of times each year over billions of years goes against scientific consensus by profound orders of magnitude.

 

Saying something is human doesn't say much.  My dead skin cells that slough from my body by the millions each day are human skin cells.  If people are using human as shorthand for human being, then perhaps they should make note of it.

 

Human being would represent something more akin to maybe what people are referring to when they use terms like life or human.  The important aspect of this term being "being", a sentient individual. Of course, alone, it could mean anything that is alive or simply exists, but paired with human, most common usage would be in reference to the sentient individual with the rare exception.

 

Personhood would be more of a legal term that would grant certain rights to an individual based on some set of criteria such as sentience among others.  This does not have to be limited to human beings and has, compellingly I think, been argued in favor of being granted to some non-human primates and other animals with highly functioning brains.

 

People may quibble about the meager definitions I have provided for various terms, but I'd be happy if during discourse of this type that there was at least recognition of the nuanced nomenclature involved.  Best of all would be that people would agree first upon terms and their definitions prior to engaging in debate.

This thread isn't about abortion. It's about using terms like "life" and "living" consistently with the way we talk about other organisms, and especially mammals. It is the Christian fallacy to place man as separate somehow from the apes and squirrels and fish and tomato plants. There is never any problem referring to the early stages of those things as "alive." It is only when it comes to man that for purely political, and not scientific, reasons that we hesitate to call our earliest stages "life." By wanting to argue that a newly conceived human isn't alive, we are creating an exception for humanity. We don't hesitate to call a sprouting tomato seed "alive" or imbued with "life." Ditto for squirrel or chimpanzee embryos. But for political reasons, many find it convenient to speak of human embryos in a different way. Let's get the politics out of it and admit the truth and then say, "So what? It's still the woman's right to do as she wants with her own body."

I'm not sure I understand your reply or how it relates to what I posted. Aside from stating a desire to use terms consistently, that is.

I don't know of anyone who claims that an embryo or blastocyst is not alive in the biologic sense. The question is one of when the collection of cells becomes a 'person'. As Reggie pointed out, using inconsistent and imprecise terminology just confuses things.

To be a person is to have a personality.

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