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Monday, April 30, 2012

Why "When does life begin?" isn't a valid anti-choice question, Part I

A friend of mine said that he's mostly pro-choice, but that he gets stuck on the argument when staunch anti-choice advocates ask him "When does life begin?"

This is such a bullshit question, posed by the anti-choicers to roadblock us from thinking about the subject of abortion any further.  I'm so fucking tired of this, and I want to explain over the next few posts why this question is invalid.

First of all, just about everything is alive, is life, on some level.  You have bacteria growing on your countertop, fungus in your shoes, viruses on your hands and all three growing on the dollar bill in your pocket.  A single sperm is a living cell.  A single egg is a living cell.  They're both destined to live very short lives if they don't meet.  So are they a human life separately?  Just about everyone will agree that they're not.  And if they are, we need to get some laws on the books preventing men from wasting so much "life" while masturbating.  I suppose at that point, women would need to be on some sort of ovulation suppressants to prevent the waste of life during a month when she would not expect to get pregnant.  Then again, that would be birth control.  Wouldn't want women to have access to that!

So, the sperm and egg miraculously meet and the zygote (fertilized egg) divides within itself and becomes a morula, then a blastocyst.  A fertility specialist prefers to transfer a "hatching blast," or a blastocyst that is spilling out of the original casing into the uterus.  Is this now a human life?  If the conditions in the uterus and the mother's hormones are right, if it's genetically viable, if nothing traumatic happens to itself or its environment, it MIGHT become a human life.  Let's face it, if there is a god, that god performs more miscarriages, also called spontaneous abortions, than we as people ever could.  Human beings miscarry all the time.  Quite a few happen before 5 weeks, called a chemical pregnancy, which means some women think their period was a few days late and thus have no idea they were ever pregnant.  In fact, it's estimated that about 50% of all pregnancies end in some kind of miscarriage and 15% of all recognized pregnancies end in miscarriage.  Wow, that means the VAST majority of miscarriages happen in pregnancies that end unnoticed by the woman miscarrying.  Interesting.  If god was anti-abortion, maybe he should stop causing so very, very many of them.


In a way, some women choosing abortion are simply speeding up the process.  Statistically, quite a few of the pregnancies that ended in abortion would have ended in miscarriage, anyway.


So we've now established that abortion is a very natural thing.  This argument certainly covers the morning-after pill (MAP,) which would be just like having an unrecognized miscarriage if the egg had even had a chance to become fertilized.  Please recognize that the MAP works against pregnancy as a three-pronged attack.  First, if taken early enough, it will delay ovulation.  Second, if ovulation has started, but the egg has not been released, it will stop the release of an egg.  Third, if the egg has been released and fertilized, it will prevent the egg from implanting in the uterus.

Back to my original argument, is an embryo a life?  It has the possibility to become one, certainly.  I'll agree with Bill Maher on this one.  If you can put it in the freezer, thaw it out later and everything is fine, it is NOT a baby.  This is still not a human life.  When shall we consider it a human life?

I've also heard the argument that, "If you leave it alone and it becomes a human being, it's a life!"  Well, we've already established that 50% of these "lives" abort themselves, so I think at this point we need to move the debate from "will it become a human=life," since half of them won't become a life all by themselves, to "when it can be self-sustaining being=life."

I would say that when it can survive on its own, it is a human life.  Viability, or the ability to exist as a being separate from the mother, is debatable to be sure.  The policy in the United States is that babies born before 23 weeks are to be given only "comfort care," not life-saving interventions, because the odds of them surviving and living full lives are so slim.  Babies born at 25 weeks have only a 50% chance of survival, even with all our medical advances.  Of those survivors born before 26 weeks, nearly half of them will have moderate to severe incurable disabilities such as cerebral palsy, blindness, deafness and low IQ scores.  

I think it's safe to say that 26 weeks should be the minimum considered viability date, due to the statistics stated above.  So, at the very least, abortion should be legal for any reason before 26 weeks because the fetus could not reasonably be expected to survive on its own and have a good quality of life.

So, if it's now a human life, should abortion be restricted past 26 weeks?

No.  Absolutely not.  But I'll cover that one in my next post.

2 comments:

  1. "In a way, some women choosing abortion are simply speeding up the process."

    Some murderers are simply speeding up the process when they kill their victim, because everyone's going to die eventually. See? The logic still has the problem of defining when the life is 'life' enough to be worth saving.

    "I would say that when it can survive on its own, it is a human life."

    Agreed. This is how the Supreme Court defined 'life,' as well. Viability. But viability changes as science advances. Fifty years ago, saving a child's life at 25 weeks was unheard of.

    The law must change as science advances. For now, 25 weeks is a fine line. But if next year, the survival rate of children born at 23 weeks hits 50%, then that'll have to be the new line.

    I can't imagine it getting any lower, without the complications you described being commonplace (even with scientific advance).

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  2. "Some murderers are simply speeding up the process when they kill their victim, because everyone's going to die eventually. See? The logic still has the problem of defining when the life is 'life' enough to be worth saving."

    I am in no way justifying, because abortion, does not need justification. If a woman does not desire to be pregnant, she should not have to be. Period. I'm simply pointing out that, statistically, 15% or so of these abortions would end in miscarriage anyway.

    I disagree with any definition of viability before 25 weeks due to the problems I listed above. Our medical advances have not canceled out the problems I listed above, which are many and profound. A "life" after birth at 25 weeks is not likely to be a life anyone would prefer. Not impossible, just not likely.

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