9 1/2 Weeks

Despite the title, this isn't a film review. Rather, it is approximately the point into a pregnancy where abortion should become illegal.

Now, I should explain that my view may be out of step with many (vast majority?) of the contributors and readers of Catallarchy. So, as always with any post, my outlook here doesn't represent anyone's views but my own. That said...

Since the dawn of the abortion debate, which spans back an untold number of years, the central lightning rod has been viewed under the umbrella of religion and religious beliefs, i.e. Pro-life = Christian Right. However, a case against abortion can certainly be made without referencing religion, Catholicism, spirits, souls, etc, even once. The question of when "life" begins and ends can be purely viewed from a biological and scientific angle. Life, in a physical sense, is generally determined by a beating heart and brainwave activity, the telltale signs of we count as a living, breathing homo sapien. Without these, you are not living.

By Week 9 in a pregnancy, the fetus' heart is beating. Also by Week 9, brainwaves are being detected in a fetus. The exact timing may differ slightly in each baby's case, but generally, these two functions are operational by this point in time. According to a survey, 54% who have abortions have them done by 8 weeks, 23% during Weeks 9 and 10, and the remaining 23% after 10 weeks. This is only one survey, but from what I've read elsewhere the percentages generally follow these. So I would say that 54% of the abortions were "allowable", 23% depend on what the ultrasound shows, and the later 23% should've been denied an abortion.

Here are some of the counterpoints I may receive on this topic:

"Mr. Allen, how dare you push your beliefs on others."

As stated earlier, this has nothing to do on a belief system or on my religious affiliation. I'm basing it off a scientifically accepted idea at what constitutes a human life: beating heart, brainwave activity, active nervous system. It's accepted in both the theological and secular communities that when these cease, we physically die. Why not apply it to the other end of the lifespan spectrum?

"You are imposing your will on others via force."

If a fetus is showing the same signs of life you and I do, then an abortion would be imposing our will on the pre-born baby (An aside: It's always amusing when left-of-center folks bring out this charge, ignoring the countless government programs and regulations that fuel its engines using force). Because the baby is in a cognizant haze with the intellect of a rock is irrelevant.

"I find it obscene that you're telling a woman what to do with her body. Keep your laws off my body"

I'd defend a woman's right to smoke doobies, tattoo herself silly, engage in all sorts of kinky sex, and even end her own life if that's what she really, really wanted. But once a fetus' engines are revved up, it's really no longer 'her body', much like West Berlin was never really part of East Germany from the 1940s through the 1980s, even though it was completely surrounded by it (OK, not the greatest analogy, but bear with me here). If we are to assume the libertarian position of property rights, then let's use this analogy: Assume I have a 90-year-old grandmother, who's crippled, staying with me. She's alive, but doesn't exactly have a good memory nor is she very attentive to anything around her. I own my home, own the bedroom she's using, own the food and water I provide to her. She'd be helpless outside my walls. Do I have the right to shoot her? After all, the grandmother (baby) is inside my house (body), and she's totally dependent on my support.

I think the pro-life crowd has been misguided using the "Religion" angle as a means to an end. It's not so much about when a newborn is annointed with a spirit or something similar. A pro-choice proponent will correctly claim that everyone has different ideas as to if/when "life" (in a spiritual sense) begins, thus abortion laws are futile and judgmental. However, an atheist can't kill a 30-year-old man in the street, then in a court of law claim that since he doesn't believe in a soul, the victim was therefore no more "living" than a 2-day-old embryo. But the scientific definition of Life is hard to argue. Currently, I am alive. The Pope is still alive. Johnny Carson is not alive. Yasser Arafat is not alive. There is an undisputed barrier that separates life and non-life at the dusk of our journey. There is also an undisputed barrier that separates non-life from life at the dawn of our journey.

Share this

Trent McBride (uh-oh, did I

Trent McBride (uh-oh, did I spell your name right?),

I agree that definitions of "life" aren't good bedrock for abortion laws, but I don't think viability of the fetus outside the mother is good bedrock either. Viability is on a slope just as slippery as "when life begins," and it's becoming even slipperier with better technology.

The fact is even a full-term newborn isn't viable outside the uterus without tremendous resources and care from an adult. On the other end of the spectrum, some very premature babies survive today that would certainly have been stillborn a hundred years ago. What will happen when, soon enough, a synthetic uterus in a lab can nurture an embryo all the way into babyhood? Our laws explicitly protect new-born babies and we're all happy with that. But shouldn't we build our abortion laws on more solid ground than today's viability?

With my current understanding of relevant facts, I propose that fetuses should be considered human and therefore worthy of legal protection from a few weeks before the developmental point at which the average fetus shows uniquely human brainwave patterns. By that term I mean thinking, reasoning brainwaves, which are arguably our most significant distinction from other animals. These come in the 30th week and are not the original post's 9-week waves, which are indistinguishable from those of reptile fetuses. To be sure we never end the life of a creature who thinks and feels just like we do, we should add a few weeks of safety. That takes us somewhere near the seventh-month mark.

This, by the way, is not my idea. It belongs to Carl Sagan and several other people much better educated and better at thinking than I am.

Is there really an

Is there really an undisputed barrier between life and non-life at the end of our journey? Terri Schiavo: life or non-life?

So miscarriages after 9.5

So miscarriages after 9.5 weeks are to be murder investigations?

How are we to monitor women 9.5 weeks pregnant to make sure they don't "accidently" abort the unborn?

What if a really slow/unaware/insane woman unfit for motherhood doesn't know she's pregnant until 10 weeks. What steps are to be taken to force her to give birth?

What punishments, how severe, and against who? Just the abortionist? The woman and abortionist? Just to woman? Would a knowing un-father be charged with accessory?

I'm not saying 9.5 weeks is a bad cut-off time in an ethical sense. I just think we should be careful not th fall into the "make a law and *poof!* it's so!" trap. It's not enough to find a moral justification for a law. A law has to be enforceable. Protecting the "rights" of an individual living inside of another individual is much harder than protecting someone we all can see.

Mr. Doug Allen, Your

Mr. Doug Allen,

Your repeated claim that there is a scientifically agreed-on definition of life (the linchpin of your case) is resoundingly false. It so totally flies in the face of what scientists themselves say and write that if you were a natural scientist by education, the claim would be called disingenuous.

Science has as much difficulty defining “life” as everybody else. Carl Sagan (a scientist if there ever was one) wrote:

“Despite many claims to the contrary, life does not begin at conception: It is an unbroken chain that stretches back nearly to the origin of the Earth, 4.6 billion years ago. Nor does human life begin at conception: It is an unbroken chain dating back to the origin of our species, hundreds of thousands of years ago. Every human sperm and egg is, beyond the shadow of a doubt, alive. They are not human beings, of course. However, it could be argued that neither is a fertilized egg.”

Despite the dramatic fallacy with which your post ends, nature does not conform to our philosophical requirements. It gives many continua where our intellects would prefer sharp distinctions. Just because people observe and can usually agree on the “end” of any one organism’s life does not mean that life had an unambiguous “beginning.” Any natural scientist knows and will admit this. Humanity (or God, for theists) must make the decision where to draw the line between the potential to become a human being and constitutionally-protected human “life.”

By wrongly declaring that science has experimentally proved and even agreed on a simple answer, your post belittles the intelligence of scientists, religious people, and other thinkers still rolling around in what is actually a legitimate debate. The empirical difficulty of defining life may be the chief reason the abortion debate still exists.

Secondarily, your fair point about brainwaves in human fetuses at week 9 is open to a rational criticism. Fetal brainwaves do not in fact at all resemble our uniquely human brainwaves (adult or baby) until around week 30. If human thinking might be said to characterize human life (after all, it’s human life that our laws protect from murder, not reptile or even primate life) then the mere existence of brainwaves does not prove the life of a 9-week fetus is human enough for legal protection. You would have to include a plethora of animal fetuses under any protection based on brainwaves and heartbeats per se.

As a point of interest, Carl Sagan and Ann Druyan made several other well-informed and logically impeccable points about abortion (see www.2think.org/abortion.shtml). They drew worthwhile, tentative conclusions based not on imaginary absolutes but on natural facts and the emotional value for humanity that, for now, all of us in the debate claim to share.

Scott, yes it does.

Scott, yes it does. Unfortunately, there is not a point where it goes from 0% to 100%, so it may get a little messy.

But I still think it's the right way to look at it. We have a conflict of the fetus' right to life with the mother's right to her body (if she does not want to be pregnant. Some argue that the act of having sex forfeits that right, but I disagree). This is a problem for the first two semester when the two are not compatible (at all). I think the mother's rights supercede. Afterward, the two are compatible (to varying degrees), so the effort should be made legally to protect both rights.

I admit that the periods from 24 to about 32 weeks have low chances of survival, but a) no doctors would perform that anyway, and b) I would think that by that point a decision is made by the mother one way or another.

Trent, does the fact that a

Trent, does the fact that a baby born through induced labor at an early age have less of a chance of surviving bear into your calculus at all?

If we are going to draw the

If we are going to draw the line at 9 1/2 weeks, then why do we need abortion at all? After all, if you are going to call for an end to abortion in any case, then there must be a reason not to abort. With that in mind, why does that reason only exist after the fetus has become a "life"?

Assuming that no

Assuming that no pro-abortion individual felt that abortion of a 39-week old baby should be legal, one must grant that a line has to be drawn somewhere. So the question becomes, where should that line be? And what helps guide us in that decision? I think Doug has made a good-faith effort to try to figure that out.

Let me suggest antother way of thinking about it - one that I espouse. A fetus has rights, and so does the mother. Where the two conflict, how is it resolved. Instead of looking for a definition of "life," I look at "when can the baby reasonably be expected to survive without the mother's body?

At 16 weeks gestation, the fetus could not survive without the mother. At this point, wihtout an abortion, if the mother does not want to be pregnant, too bad - she's stuck. An abortion is the only way out. However, at 36 weeks, if a mother does not want to be pregnant, she could theoretically have labor induced and the child could survive on its own.

The current threshold for absolute survival is considered 24 weeks (in the US). I think that is a reasonable restriction to put on abortion - and is very close to where it curreently is.

One possible objection: A mother might well have trouble finding a physician who woud induce at, say, 26 weeks. True, but theoretically, if nobody was willing to do an abortion procedure, that fact wouldn't have any bearing on the legality of the procedure. I think that should apply here, too - you can't kill a fetus that has a reasonable chance of surviving if ot could survive on it's own - today.

Defining the Beginning of

Defining the Beginning of Life
Doug Allen provides a pro-abortion argument that will probably leave both the pro-choice side and the pro-life side a little...

Defining the Beginning of

Defining the Beginning of Life
Doug Allen provides a pro-abortion argument that will probably leave both the pro-choice side and the pro-life side a little...

Time to chime in, Mr. Allen?

Time to chime in, Mr. Allen?

Lets take Ruth Richert's

Lets take Ruth Richert's arguments to their logical conclusion...

If your leg had to be amputated due to cancer... the surgeon could be guilt of murder of the just amputated leg because, after the amputation, it is still life! In fact, that amputated leg is just as much life (according to Richert) as the person it came from.

In other words, if we "dumb down" or downward define the meaning of life in the way that Richert has done, then life ends up with practically no meaning at all. And this is exactly where you end up if you define ANY living human cell as equivalent to a human being.

(Or, better yet, a man is guilty of multiple counts of murder if he were to masterbate? Those poor dead sperm!)

Also, correct me if I'm wrong... but does a sperm or an unfertilized egg contain a complete and well-formed human genome? I'm thinking the answer is no.

Nevertheless, I do know that a fertilized egg does! Also, I know that (unlike other cells in the mother's body) the fertilized egg's DNA is distinctly different than the mother's DNA. This is the "fingerprint" of life and maybe this difference should be factored in?

(BTW, I'm sure that Carl Sagan was aware of these things, but his analysis is often colored by his philosophical biases. Just because the left thinks of Carl as "God" doesn't mean the rest of us do.)

Finally, I do think that survival outside of the womb should also be a factor or milestone to consider. But you also have to consider that this is a flexible barrier and is subject to change. For example, babies can now survive outside of the womb many weeks earlier than they could 40 years ago due to modern technology. If we had relied on that standard 40 years ago, would previous abortions where the baby could have survived today now be considered murder?

My point is that survival outside the womb is a slippery and subjective standard. I like Doug's standard better because it seeks something that is more tangible, more "hard science", less subjective, and less debatable.

Admittedly, I think that when you weight "potential murder" vs. "issues of convenience"... it is better to err on the safe side and define life as beginning at conception... but what is really amazing about this whole debate is how uneasy the Left gets and intellectually bankrupt the Left is when the discussion focuses on "survival outside the womb". Its fun to watch them squirm.

Another fascinating thing is to read news stories about British doctors proposing injecting the fetuses with drugs so that they won't "feel the pain of the abortion"... particularly with late term abortions. They make such proposals "with a straight face" and don't see the irony. Even in America, our extreme left discuss legalized infanticide with a straight face. Recall that evolutionist PZ Meyers who recently got into a duel of words with PowerLine Blog? There is actually an entry on Meyers' web site where he says that he supports infanticide (in some extreme cases) soon after birth.

What is my point?

(1) It is a slippery slope when you start downward defining life and have no core moral and/or religious values to anchor your judgements on (along with a measure of legitimate science)


(2) it is about time that the Left would start answering and dealing with these hard questions with intellectual honesty... as Doug Allen has done.

I posted after Ruth

I posted after Ruth Richert's first post... but I must have been typing while she posted her 2nd post. Therefore, from her 2nd post, I see that we actually agree on more than I thought.

(But I think that her two posts are a bit contradictory... maybe she was "working through this"?)

Also, while Ruth Richert does make a good point about brain waves... I wonder if our science "knows enough" about this.

In the famous ultrasound video of a 12-week old "fetus" during an abortion, the "fetus" physically squirms like crazy and its hard rate doubles as it tries to get away from the abortionist's suction curette.


Maybe this is what Ruth Richert meant by having the cognitive ability of a reptile? I’m sure a reptile would squirm and show signs of feeling pain, too! But it also seems like a human life is worth more dignity. Also, is this (as well as the science discussed here) not soooo different from the "clump of tissue" description that so many people thought was the case back in the early days just before, during, and after Roe V. Wade.

Sagan was a good astronomer

Sagan was a good astronomer (and great at popularizing science), but he is not an authority for anything else.

But the scientific

But the scientific definition of Life is hard to argue. Currently, I am alive. The Pope is still alive. Johnny Carson is not alive. Yasser Arafat is not alive. There is an undisputed barrier that separates life and non-life at the dusk of our journey. There is also an undisputed barrier that separates non-life from life at the dawn of our journey.

Since when is life the important issue here? A sperm and an egg are alive. An adult chimpanzee is alive. A plant is alive. Do these forms of life entail moral concerns? Perhaps, but until we stipulate what it is about life that brings with it a right to continue living, which is to say, what is it about life that creates obligations on others to respect it, we have not really had a debate about abortion at all.

Speaking of which, I've already outlined most of the relevant arguments in this thread.

There are two seperate

There are two seperate levels here that frequently get tangled up and confused. The first is the scientific level, which describes what happens when sperm meets egg and everything after that. The other level is the legal level, i.e. deciding at what point we declare that the fetus is entitled to legal protections. As has been pointed out, scientifically there is no bright line where the fetus suddenly jumps the gap from "clump of cells" to "human being". So any legal line we try to draw is going to be arbitrary from a scientific point of view. We could declare wasting sperm to be a crime, we could declare killing fertilized zygotes a crime, we could use the 9.5-week rule, we could permit abortions right up until birth, or we could permit parents to kill their infants. Science is totally agnostic on all of these and can only inform us of the biological processes at work. You can't get the is directly from the ought.

So the question now becomes: where do we draw the arbitrary legal line in a way that is most consistent and best balances the rights of the mother and the fetus? I think Doug has chosen a good place, and it's precisely the same stance I've had for a while. It's certainly not an impregnable (er, no pun intended) position, but as arbitrary thresholds go it's a lot more sound than "it's a person at conception" or " it's not a person right up until birth." Also, after 9 weeks it's nearly impossible for a woman not to know she's pregnant, so it's fair to say that you've given tacit permission to carry the child to term by that point. No matter what position one takes here, one could easily think up a bunch of borderline cases that make the arbitrary line seem a little fuzzy. But I think the 9-week rule balances the arguments out pretty well. We're not looking for perfect here, we're looking for least-bad.

Of course, me, I'm waiting for cheap and plentiful temporary birth control that's 100% effective to make this whole argument moot. The sooner, the better. Come on markets, faster!

"Fetal brainwaves do not in

"Fetal brainwaves do not in fact at all resemble our uniquely human brainwaves (adult or baby) until around week 30. If human thinking might be said to characterize human life (after all, it’s human life that our laws protect from murder, not reptile or even primate life) then the mere existence of brainwaves does not prove the life of a 9-week fetus is human enough for legal protection." - Ruth

In response, I once again point to the '90-Year-Old Grandmother' example. A 90-year-old grandmother with Alzheimer's Disease in my complete care couldn't survive outside the walls of my home. We can also assume her brainwaves and thinking processes may just well be at the level well below a mature human being,, in which case these thought patterns don't "appear human enough". But I certainly wouldn't - and shouldn't - have liberty to shoot my grandmother. IMO, if the fetus cannot live independently outside of the mother, it's irrelevant. Likewise, if the fetus isn't thinking at the level of a human child quite yet, that is also irrelevant.

This also strikes at Sagan's argument in the link. He makes sure to point out that "brain waves with regular patterns typical of adult human brains do not appear in the fetus until about the 30th week of pregnancy." Lest he forgets that there are many fully-grown human adults inside mental institutions and hospital wards right now who also don't exhibit regular patterns typical of adult human brains. Permission to kill 'em? Of course not. No reasonable person would suggest such a thing.

Sagan also asks, "So, if only a person can be murdered, when does the fetus attain personhood? When its face becomes distinctly human, near the end of the first trimester?" This suggestion is just silly, because a face in the shape of a human does not alone indicate the state of life or non-life. Johnny Carson's (RIP) face likely still looks distinctly human... but is he alive? Of course not. His vital engines of life - the heart and brain - shut completely off the day he was pronounced dead. These are the life indicators.

I, and I imagine many others, cannot go toe-to-toe in the realm of science data and research with folks like Sagan. I'm neither a doctor nor a scientist, so I'm not claiming to know more than the pros. But these are how ideas and different modes of thinking get introduced. Many times it's by outsiders.

My gist is this... Can we consider the same physiological "rules" (for lack of a better word) we apply to the generally accepted conditions for the end of life, and appropriate it for the beginning of life as well? This ain't the end-all, be-all of such an age-old debate, so I'm not suggesting that I can't be at least partially convinced of others' views.

I do appreciate everyone's thoughts and responses. There have been good, lucid points from all sides of the table.

Rob McEwen, I'm proud to say

Rob McEwen,

I'm proud to say the logical conclusion of my ideas is that life has no intrinsic meaning at all. You got it! All our definitions of life are en masse cultural decisions which, hopefully, consider facts. Any parading of an "undisputed" beginning of life, which is Allen's tack, is absurd. Nature doesn't define life, so the decision of how and when to protect it is ours. We can endeavor to convince each other through rational debate. We can even mention emotional and spiritual motives, with due attention to their unfalsifiability and changeability. But just as people should be taken to task for faking evidence, they should be nailed for falsely claiming their conclusions are undisputed by scientific authority. (This happens Right and Left, by the way.)

A lone human leg could be protected as human life in no more arbitrary a sense than Allen's "hard science" claim that life begins when a heartbeat and brainwaves are discernible. These things are discernible in the fetuses of reptiles, birds, amphibians, and mammals other than us. If brainwaves are our thing, shouldn't it be uniquely human brainwaves we consider in making decisions? And if brainwaves aren't our thing, fine, but let's not be specious about the sactioned science underpinning our positions.

You mention a full genetic blueprint in a fertilized egg, while an unfertilized sex cell has only half the material. Very true. Is this the measure of science we're allowed to add to our solid "core" of moral and religious values? What about the scientific fact that 99% of our somatic cells have a full genetic complement too, and will never become another human being? If your dismissal of that fact is that a human already exists with that information, then what about identical twins? Can we kill one of them?

What about the fact that the majority of fertilized eggs are spontaneously aborted? If we want an absolute moment at which to say a fetus is "alive," why not at uterine implantation, which is far more momentous than fertilization? Heartbeats and brainwaves that we share with every vertebrate on the planet are at least as arbitrary as fertilization or implantation as the kickoff of human life. Totally contradicting your explicit view, Allen's point is debatable and subjective by virtue of being arbitrary. We don’t reject it for this reason. We may even choose his compromise for our abortion laws. But we reject the bogus claim that his position is “the” scientifically tenable one.

There's nothing dumbed down about pointing out the weakness in an ideological point of view, Left or Right. Your casting pathetic aspersions on my intellectual honesty (and ability, for that matter) hardly proves otherwise. Good luck in your crusade.

David Madsen, You're right,

David Madsen,

You're right, of course. My use of Carl Sagan was not as an authority so much as an example of a scientist grappling with ambiguities of individual life. His conclusions are just for interest. But incidentally I'm sure he published research on early biological evolution, and he also wrote a book on human cognition whose name I can't remember (something with "Eden").

Oops. Sorry I misspelled

Oops. Sorry I misspelled your name, dude!

Somebody up here stated it's

Somebody up here stated it's virtually impossible for a woman not to know she's pregnant at 9 weeks. Virtually is safe to say, but I myself was pregnant at 12 weeks without knowing it and several of my acquaintances were late to discover their pregnancies too. Frequently a womans (or girls) first pregnancy is unnoticeable for longer than her later pregnancies especially if she ovulates irregularly, which is more and more common for various reasons, and if she has no symptoms. Not everybody gets morning sickness or obvious fatigue. Also, a first pregnancy shows pretty late so the belly doesn't help, and there is such a thing as implantation bleeding and spot bleeding, which can mislead somebody (especially an uneducated girl) to think she's having a period. I would like to see some statistic on when the average first pregnancy is discovered, or how many are discovered after 9 weeks. It really is possible that it's more than we (especially men) think. Just a thought.

I'm a bit more strict on the

I'm a bit more strict on the issue, in that once the cells start to differentiate, to me it's gone beyond tissue and into organism stage, and its a human organism that, given its context, will be human and form a human life.

The contextual environment matters to me; growing an embryo outside of a womb without the ability to foster its development to full babyhood means that you don't have a child, you have an odd (and doomed) cell line.

But my thinking on the matter would effectively make abortion illegal, and I think that's going too far. Doug has a decent compromise, one I've heard before. Might as well go with the heart and brain, two definite signs of human life and definitive proof that what is growing will most likely turn into a person ceteris paribus.


I am not at all persuaded by "I didn't find out about it until its too late". If its too late, its too late. Sometimes life sucks, but that fact does not alter at all the moral position of the fetus given Doug's formulation. The convenience of the mother does not trump the life of a soon-to-be human just as the convenience of Doug does not trump the life of his hypothetical semi-vegetable grandmother.

Nine weeks is two missed

Nine weeks is two missed periods! Jenny F's right, "nearly impossible" to not know at nine weeks has got to be wrong.

Remember ovulation is unpredictable after a birth, depending on if she breastfeeds, how much weight she gained, etc. A woman could be not having periods and suddenly ovulate and get pregnant and really not notice a pregnancy till she remembers to check (and has $15 to buy the OTC test.)

Then keep in mind an abortion costs money in some states. I know the simplest abortions cost at least $400 (I heard that from a pro-life picketer!)

Also, they make you wait one to two weeks to really be sure. By the 9 week rule you would have to discover your pregnancy by week 7 or 8. If you've never been pregnant before and you're young and your periods don't come like clockwork, there's a good chance you won't know.

I didn't say anything about morality, so sorry for not helping out with my two cents on that one, but from a practical side alone, 9 weeks isn't much.

As for Brian Doss, I just

As for Brian Doss, I just want to mention I'm no fan of abortion. I don't even like Dougs compromise. But I was responding to Matt Macintoshs comment, which seems mostly well thought out, except I believe he's wrong when he says there's almost always tacit permission in a woman carrying on a pregnancy after 9 weeks. He contributes this to the womans convenience side of his compromise. But I believe even a big minority might not know they're pregnant until 11 or 12 weeks, and I had to point it out. I'm not a bulldog about making my points like Rob McEwen or Ruth Richter, but I think the points should be accurate.

Out of curiosity, I'm surprised you can compromise since you feel as strong as you do. You say "it's too late" is a completely invalid argument. But you make a compromise on abortion up to 9 weeks, why? If it's not for the conveneience of the woman, why compromise?

"I’m proud to say the

"I’m proud to say the logical conclusion of my ideas is that life has no intrinsic meaning at all."

Beautiful. Maybe write that into the next Congratulation card you give to parents of a newborn.

Whoa. It's possible to

Whoa. It's possible to logically believe life has no intrinsic meaning and still find (or invent) personal meaning in your kids. For all we know Ruth has 15 kids and loves them. I have 2 kids and my greatest joy is making them thrive, but I know the percentage of living beings who care is pretty low. I don't think there's necessarily a God who cares, either. And even if you believe 100% in God, there's no built-in consensus on what a life means, or is worth. Was an adult African member of our own species worth 3/5 of a white slaveholder 200 years ago? Not in any intrinsic sense. Humans graft the meeting over the facts and fortunately change their minds. We shouldn't be too set in our "meanings." I think that's what Ruth might be saying. Seems like a fairly libertarian position to me.

Doug you inspired some good

Doug you inspired some good posts, man. Your second one is good too: Endgame signs of life for the pregame show? Not a bad idea, but kinda random. It may be too random for some peoples' tastes, others went into that in the blog so I won't muddy it up.

But I gotta say it seems weird when guys come down so strong on the pro-life side. We can't know what it feels like to bear babies, of course you know that but we usually ignore it. Since human morality shifts in different generations we shouldn't dismiss the privacy and rights of the woman alive today like it's automatic the fetus wins. A braindead grandmother in your house could be packed off to Boca tomorrow if you were a jerk. A pregnancy lasts 9 months not to mention the scary deal Roslyn said, and lactation and hyper-PMS. This might seem off point but if you can kill a living, feeling dog just for bitin you, I think at least in principle you could believe a woman's right to her body is more important than some cells who can't feel human emotions (yet). I assume you're not religious though Doug.

Trent, I would have no


I would have no problem with a 39 week abortion if it were to protect the life of the mother. Surely the mother has a right to live?

Most states have post-viability bans which protect this right. :beatnik:

Matt McIntosh,

Well, in all reality, human ingenuity via some technological fix will invariably "solve" this problem (if religionists don't get in the way) and that's where I place my hopes (even though I have no problem with on demand abortions).*

Doug Allen,

But would you have a problem with your Granny's living will or power of attorney calling for termination of life at a certain point and being able to legally enforce such? I certainly wouldn't.

Brian Doss,

There is no way to predict whether it "will" be human or not. Women "naturall" reject embryos all the time due something as basic as poor nutrition or even "daily stress." My wife, a cellular and molecular biology guru, stresses that there is nothing like the guarantee that you seem to be implying. :wink:

Hear, hear for the birth

Hear, hear for the birth control, Matt Macintosh!!! It's discouraging that so many American anti-abortion activists do nothing to promote non-abstinence prevention. There's the problem with strictly moralistic views. In Italy they are hypocritical this way too, but for some reason less persuasive. :twisted:

Annamaria de Frassini, Well,

Annamaria de Frassini,

Well, there's also the fact that so many of the religious oppose various birth control measures as well many types of reproductive technology generally. The Pope (as you are probably aware) argues that they harm what he calls the "Culture of Life." Of course he also argues that gay marraige is "evil" for the same reason.

Watching Ruth Richert and

Watching Ruth Richert and Rob McEwen go at it, I'm struck by how Rob leapt to the conclusion that Ruth was anti-choice because she drew no dividing line of "life" between a sex cell and a fertilized egg. This is hilarious. All she did was logically clear away the mess from Doug Allen's sloppy thinking, but the assumption shows how knee-jerk people are about the magic word "life." If something's alive then of course we protect it right? A mosquito comes to mind. :evil: We're going to have to reason better than that.

Gary, "La santissima cultura

"La santissima cultura della vita". I would be lesbian if I could do it, just to make the Pope angry. He also hate the presumption "del ruolo di Dio", God's role. I don't like to be cruel, I have much compassion for the Pope, but how can a man who is only alive because of technology claim that to interfere with life in any way is to be presumptuous with God's role? It's too funny. :wall:

big downer coming... it's

big downer coming...

it's stunning how so many people are ready to declare some inviolable moment when life begins for the purpose of making its destruction a crime, when a similar multitude of people are willing to entertain ambiguity in whether a woman's clothing, flirtatiousness, or sexual history invited sexual assault. surely murder isn't the only heinous crime?

From a naturalist's

From a naturalist's perspective, what is the purpose of drawing an arbitrary line in the first place? I appeciate the intellectual honesty of the poster that said life does not have intrisic value. Indeed, to the naturalist it doesn't.

So why draw an abitrary line at 9 1/2 weeks or at any other time? It's more convenient and less expensive to have abortions on demand.

Gary, I was talking about

Gary, I was talking about elective abortions. Abortions "to save the mother's life" can be effectively discarded from the debate. It is so obvious that they shoudl be legal I feel it's a waste of time to qualify it.

"I assume you're not

"I assume you're not religious though Doug." - Sam

Actually I am to a certain extent, though I don't attend church often (Easter, Christmas, and a few Sundays in between usually does it for me), and my belief system is a bit more 'liberal' relative to some other Christians.

"But would you have a problem with your Granny's living will or power of attorney calling for a termination of life at a certain point and being able to legally enforce such?" - Gary

I would have no problem with that either, if that was her wish.

An important consideration

An important consideration in determining where to draw the arbitrary line should be the enforcement implications. After all, the practical effect of the decision is to empower the state at some arbitrary point to force women to take pregnancies to term, to punish women who do not, and to punish abortion providers. No pregnancy is 100% risk free, and I for one am reluctant to let the state interpose itself in the decision of a woman, in consultation with her medical provider or otherwise, about how much risk she is willing to take with her own life and body. Even if one is concerned about the morality of the decision to abort, one may consider the enforcement implications to be so untenable as to outweigh the concern with the theoretical rights of the fetus. One may conclude, as I have done, that it is preferable to take the risk that some women may make morally unjustifiable choices (from my moral point of view) than to grant the state so great a role in the intimate affairs of pregnant women. The violence to the principle of self ownership entailed in anti-abortion legislation may be too great.

it’s stunning how so many

it’s stunning how so many people are ready to declare some inviolable moment when life begins...

You know what else is stunning?

How some commenters pretend to be six different people on the same thread, including men, women, and a wannabe Italian lesbian.

All Catallarchy, All the

All Catallarchy, All the Time
Also from Catallarchy, a very good post on abortion by Doug Allen: . . . this has nothing to do on a belief system or on my religious affiliation. I?m basing it off a scientifically accepted idea at what constitutes a human life: beating heart, brainwa...

hey jonathan. the class got

hey jonathan.
the class got extra credit if we contributed to this blog (from alist of different blogs) before the exam. our prof keeps a computer open 24 hrs for it.

Which professor, class, and

Which professor, class, and university? I'm curious...

It’s accepted in both the

It’s accepted in both the theological and secular communities that when these cease, we physically die. Why not apply it to the other end of the lifespan spectrum?

Because humans don't die from the absence of these at the beginning of their life cycle. Neither would the absence of a heartbeat or brainwaves be regarded as death for adults if these were expected to resume.

Micha, Since when is life


Since when is life the important issue here?

Because we've already implicitly narrowed the domain of relevant criteria - we're talking about individual humans. Live ones.

But again, JTK, that only

But again, JTK, that only begs the question: what is it about live humans that gives them moral consideration? Until we answer that question, we have not made a moral argument.

Incidentally, I'm proud to say I agree that life has no intrinsic meaning at all. It has only the meaning we choose to give to it. I choose to given moral consideration to other rational beings that have the ability to contractually agree to give me their moral consideration. I do not choose to give moral consideration to human fetuses and chimpanzees.

But who are you, Micha, to

But who are you, Micha, to give moral meanings to things? You're just a collection of complex molecules.

And a collection of complex

And a collection of complex molecules does not have the ability to make moral decisions and act on them?

Trent, Its not particularly


Its not particularly obvious since many in the prohibitionist crowd do not accept "life of the mother" as a legitimate rationale to allow abortions.

"Its not particularly

"Its not particularly obvious since many in the prohibitionist crowd do not accept “life of the mother” as a legitimate rationale to allow abortions."

I, myself--being in the prohibitionist crowd--view the argument with suspicion. It may very well be a slippery slope. If we allow abortions when the life of the mother is at risk, what does that mean? A 50% risk of dying? 25% risk?

Or is it any risk at all that makes the abortion legitimate, in which case, all abortions are acceptable.

The life of the mother concept needs refinement to be useful, in my opinion.

Micha: "And a collection of

Micha: "And a collection of complex molecules does not have the ability to make moral decisions and act on them?"

That's not my position. But if you hold that life is meaningless, why isn't that yours?

Because we are creatures

Because we are creatures capable of imputing meaning to otherwise meaningless natural phenomenon.