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."?
I think I can respect your point of view. It's a complicated subject. Pretending that life begins at birth or that life must be defended no matter what are attempts to reach a quick and easy solution so that they don't have to think or deal with the complexities. Dealing with the complexities would foster understanding, but holding to these two ridiculous views without questioning them is much easier.
According to the research I've read (that unfortunately I don't have time to hunt down right now), the alleged numbers of women who suffer "abortion trauma syndrome" - which is a made up label, BTW, are pretty unimpressive. There's no amount of women who have issues post-abortion that can be statistically linked to said procedure.
That's all propaganda put out by the "right to lifers" (AKA "forced birthers") to shore up their side of the issue.
If I can find those numbers/sources I'll post them.
"I believe that life begins when the baby can live separately from (the mother's) body."
This sounds a lot like a stipulation rather than a fact. What actual facts can you cite to justify this attempted proof by redefinition?
In the UK the law is very clear that legal status of being a human being is when the child can live independently outside it's mother - i.e. the unbilical cord is cut and the child is "reasonably" alive. Therefore you cannot be convicted of murder of an unborn child in the UK if you shoot a pregnant mother and the baby dies. However, you can be convicted of an unlawful act resulting manslaughter if you stabbed a pregnant mum, the child was born prematurely then later died as a result of the injuries received in utero!
I think it's a mistake to get bogged down in competing definitions, which will be settled by either a majority vote or whoever can muster the most political power. Definitions are just that, not facts.
Rather, I believe it's political in a different sense. The state must not be allowed to dictate matters which can result in having the standing to enforce invasive procedures on innocent parties. It seems to me that if the state can tell a woman not to abort a foetus, they've established the standing to force a person to endure invasive procedures. It works both ways.
It's a matter of legal standing.
I think the most unbiased and reasonable way to consider when a fetus deserves state protection at the "beginning" of life may be very similar to how each state legally defines the end of life. In particular, there are considerations of viability without artificial support, brain activity, self-awareness, issues of comfort vs pain, and family considerations.
The most significant difference I see (between definitions of "the beginning of life" vs "the end of life") would be how mothers should have additional rights in each decision of the beginning of life. This will obviously be controversial and would be codified differently between states, but I still think that the cold, scientific baseline definition of "life" itself has already been spelled out to a large extent for end of life judgements.
One difference between the beginning of life vs the end of life is the possibility of future, healthy life. This possibility is high for a fetus, but is usually low by the time end-of-life cases have to be resolved. This should give a fetus more of the benefit of the doubt wrt future life (i.e. not terminating it).
However, another logical consideration (imo) would be the being's awareness of its circumstances, and its own hopes for survival. These thought processes cannot be measured and we can only speculate about them presently, but these (or similar) thoughts may be more scientifically measurable some decades from now.
Meanwhile, I think it's reasonable to assume that a fetus has no memory of past experiences to draw from, no awareness of its current circumstances, and no personally realized hope for its own future. Even if we could assume that a fetus' spirit lives separately from its brain (aka dualism), it seems to me (again just imo) that it's difficult to argue that its spirit actually possesses the body the instant the egg is fertilized, or gradually over time as the brain develops.
Because the union of a sperm and an egg automatically means alive? I seem to recall it is something like %60 of all fertilized eggs result in miscarriage. It isn't really the DNA, as that is already present in the man and the woman. Throughout the whole situation it is still a matter of potential. Life is a process, and you really can not separate out a definite beginning for the life of an individual organism. Is it really just having DNA that remotely resembles human what we value in the law? No, the law may one day have to deal with broader definitions than that. It is the mind that we value, and this takes a long while to develop. If we want to determine what separates murder from contraception it is better to look at the lesser of evils.
When the mind is not yet functional, then there is no problem to terminate a pregnancy. If, on the other hand the mother has waited until the last moth or two and decides to have an abortion, then it is really the lesser evil to just have her carry it to term. Besides, at that point it becomes a serious health risk to have an abortion and many doctors will not carry out an abortion in the third trimester.
I'm not sure in what sense a fetus can "feel." I don't even remember being circumcised, which I'm sure, done as an adult, would hurt like hell. In fact, I have no memories much before my second year, and those are very hazy, like being in an inflatable baby pool in my parents' backyard. I'm pretty sure the fetus isn't thinking "OMG, I'm being killed!"
The ability of an organism to sense a stimuli is an issue from my point of view. If you grab a fetus with forceps and it reacts to the pincers penetrating it's body then there is pain taking place. If the abortion is necessary, for whatever reason, then it would be inhumane to not medicate the fetus first. I would think consideration for the unborn on a par at least equal to what dogs and cats receive at the veterinary clinic would be justified. There's a little more going on here than just grabbing a shop vac and cleaning your car's carpet.
Have you heard a single one of them demand that American soldiers cease and desist from murdering Iraqi children because they, too, have a "right to life"? Of course not! No, it's not reverence for life that motivates them, it's Old Testament male domination.
It's a bit of a stretch to compare the right to life of a fetus and an indoctrinated 7 year old Iraqi child who is strapped with an IED and instructed to engage an American soldier(s).
No one has mentioned the responsibility issue of women who have repeated abortions. Should abortion be considered an expensive form of birth control? Is it ultimately the women's responsibility to ensure she does or does not get pregnant? Should sterilization be considered at some point?
I had the traumatic experience of assisting my first girlfriend as she went through an early stage abortion. It affects both of us to this day. There are mental aspects of this procedure that cannot be fathomed until you have experienced it first hand. I'll never forget the day I sat in the clinic's waiting room and witnessed another woman about to have the procedure. She was so flippant and upbeat about it all. It was as if she was about to have a manicure done or something.
It's my belief that counseling should be provided before and after an abortion. Especially for teenagers who have them. I've heard of the trauma that they cause for many people, and I can't believe we are allowing them to be done without any mental health or emotional therapy for those who need it.