A Conversation on Abortion

      Last week, I engaged in a conversation on Facebook with a woman who had posted the following message, which was shared by one of my Facebook friends, which is why I saw it. The message comes from a site called “Feminist News.”  The grammar and syntax are verbatim, except for my deleting the obscenity:
    “I have an idea for you pro-lifers out there.  Instead of protesting outside a legal abortion clinic.  Why don’t you go inside the clinic.  And, each young lady that walks in the clinic, with the intention of having an abortion.  You tell them that it’s not necessary.  Because, you are there to sign papers stating you intention to adopt and care for the unborn child.  And, assure her that you will love and nurture that child for the rest of its life.  Also, tell her she has nothing to worry about.  Because you will also be handling all of her medical bills during the pregnancy.  And, if you don’t want to do all of those thing.  Perhaps, you should stay the …  out of her business.”
        I thought I would share our conversation on my blog.  I asked her permission to do so, and she replied, “That’s fine.  I’d appreciate if you did not mention my name.  As much as you skirted the issue … the most deadly domestic terrorists have been anti-abortionists and I would rather not put a target on my families back.”
       So, despite the fact that she already posted the message above on Facebook, which is a public forum a bazillion times larger than my tiny blog, with her picture and pictures and names of her family and where she lives easily available to anyone who feels inspired to click on her Facebook page, I won’t mention her name.  I’ve replaced her name with the initials FB.  And, no, I didn’t get into another conversation with her about the obvious falsity of anti-abortionists being the most deadly domestic terrorists, and I’ll let you decide if I skirted the issue.  There is one comment directed toward me in the midst of the conversation from another person.  I’ll designate that comment: AP.
       Bob:  The same logic could be used for foster kids. If people aren’t willing to adopt kids in foster care, the state can kill them. This would offer significant financial relief on the states.
      Bob:  Come to think of it, why didn’t the Nazis think of this as another way of getting rid of the Jews? “We really want to kill these people, and in our minds we have good reason to do so. But, we’ll reconsider and let them live, but only if you other countries are willing to take them in.” Actually, that’s close to what ISIS is doing with religious minorities today.
      FB:  So by all means… we should turn away refugees fleeing ISIS as we turned away the Jews fleeing the Holocaust. Because you know what happened to most of the people we sent back to Germany right?
      Bob:  Of course I do. They were killed. And the refugees will be killed by ISIS. But, that’s okay, right?. Because, the only thing that gives these people dignity, the only measure on which their right to life stands, is our generosity. If we choose not to be generous, or if we lack the resources to be generous, then they don’t possess any right to life, so they become expendable. That’s the logic of your argument on abortion, only applied to different groups of people.
      FB:  That is assuming an awful lot… such as the belief of life at conception. Most people do not believe hormonal contraception and things such as IUDs are wrong. I think that comparing an embryo to a living person is anathema. So no you will find that a great number of people… a majority by most polls… would not agree that this meme means what you think it means.
    Bob:  That human life begins at conception isn’t a belief. It’s biology. We choose to ignore that biology because doing so allows us to determine that these lives are expendable. We’ve done this before. Africans were regarded as less than human, something more akin to a dancing bear. There were debates in European universities on the humanity of the native peoples of America. During WWII, we didn’t fight the Germans and the Japanese; we fought the Krauts and the Nips. In Vietnam, we fought the Gooks. Indeed, the first step in justifying the killing of a group of people is to de-humanize them. Examples in human history are endless. The argument isn’t whether or not an embryo is a human life. We know it is. Embryo is nothing more than a particular stage in human life and development, just as is fetus, neonate, toddler, child, etc… The question is: Do we extend to these human lives in these early stages of development the protections we extend to those in later stages? If not, why not? The pro-life movement has always argued that if the one in the womb is not a human life, then abortion is nothing more than a benign medical procedure, no more a moral dilemma than removing a skin tag. But, if the one in the womb is a human life, then abortion is the willful destruction of innocent human life, and the circumstances simply do not exist that justify it. Why? Because human life possesses a dignity intrinsic to itself, and not granted by other humans, and not contingent on qualities other than the possession of human life (and certainly not contingent on the generosity or resources of others). If we’re to take a human life, we do so in fear and trembling, and for the purpose of protecting other innocent human lives.
      FB:  So you are of course against hormonal contraception and in vitro fertilization. You will find very few people consider termination of a pregnancy on the same level as a skin tag. You must not know very many pro-choice people personally to make that statement. There is a saying…. “legal,safe,and rare” That is what pro choice advocates strive for… the fact that a good portion of anti abortion activists are also anti contraception means they really don’t care to much about preventing unwanted pregnancies and the correlating rise in terminations. Those terminations will happen whether they are legal or not… they have happened legal or not, to think otherwise is beyond naive… it is willfully ignorant.
      Bob:  I’m impressed that you see the connection between hormonal contraception, IVF and abortion. Most people don’t, I think. I care about preventing unwanted pregnancies, certainly. But, the ends don’t justify the means. As you know, one of the means by which hormonal contraceptives work is to create in the uterus an environment hostile to the implantation of the new life created. That’s abortion, not contraception. I don’t care much about how innocent people are being killed, only that they are. To say, “Let’s kill them this way now, so we don’t have to kill them that way later,” isn’t very convincing to someone who doesn’t want to kill them at all. In any case, contraceptives aren’t going away, and I’m not aware of any mass movement to dispense with them, so it’s rather a moot point in this discussion, and I know you don’t like deflections. I’m curious, though, why most pro-choicers don’t think of abortion as on the same level as removing a skin tag. (And, please read carefully: I didn’t say that pro-choice people thought it was; I said that if the one in the womb is not a human life, then abortion is no more a moral dilemma than removing a skin tag; a skin tag is nothing more than a clump of epidermal cells gone rogue; if the one in the womb is nothing more than a clump of innocuous cells that in no way represent a living human being, than it’s no more a moral dilemma removing it than to remove a skin tag). The point is: the key to the abortion question is the identity of the one in the womb. All biological evidence informs us that the one in the womb is a living human being from the moment of conception. Why, then, does it not deserve the protections afforded other living human beings? Certainly, it can’t be because other living human beings who care about their not being killed don’t have the generosity of heart or resources to take them all in. That would mean exactly what I argued above: that the right to life of some is contingent on the generosity of others. That’s morally abhorrent. I would hate to think that someone would put a gun to your head and threaten to pull the trigger unless Bob Hunt can demonstrate that he’s a great guy. You would be lost for sure! Until advocates of “abortion rights” can answer the question of why those in the womb are so essentially different from other living human beings that their lives are expendable, I’m afraid that “abortion rights” advocates don’t have a moral leg on which to stand.
     AP:  Bob Hunt question, if what you say is true then eggs (unfertilized) and sperm are also just stages of human life and if a woman has a period and doesn’t get pregnant or if a man masterbates then they are killing humans correct? And the man especially is a mass homicidal maniac because even when he has sex with a woman the egg only takes 1 sperm cell and the rest die off killing millions if humans correct? Even worse is when a fertilized egg does not stick to the uterine wall right?
      FB:  Just wanted to make sure everyone who read this knew where you and a great many of your compatriots stand. You want to outlaw any method that will cause an embryo not to implant and reach birth. There is plenty of money and will behind the effort to outlaw forms of birth control which are for some women the only option they have. People need to know the effort does not end at terminating pregnancies…. because the reality is that is not going away either, it will just be made more dangerous. People like you would love to be like the backwards countries we sometimes hear prosecuting women who have miscarriages because it was suspected it was really a termination. Thanks for being upfront about it. Often it is hard to get people to believe people like you exist… that it is all about third trimester stuff that is generally illegal anyway except for the life of the mother… they have no idea just how far those that believe as you do will go. That couples whom IVF is the only option for having their own “genetic” child would be stopped by people like you. I feel no need to discuss this anymore… I will have to agree to disagree with you. But thanks for showing just how far you really want to go.
      Bob:  (responding to AP) No, an ovum and a sperm are not stages in human life and development. There is no logical or biological connection between the fact that human life begins at conception and the notion that an ovum and a sperm are living human beings. An ovum and a sperm are both, of themselves, single cells. Never in the history of the world, as far as I’m aware, has anyone made the claim that a single cell organism is a human life. As well, left to itself, the ovum will come to nothing other than an ovum, and a sperm nothing other than a sperm. A human blastocyst, however, immediately begins the process of growth and development toward a fully mature living human being. We were all blastocysts at one time. None of us were ever simply an ovum or simply a sperm.
      Bob:  Prosecuting women who’ve suffered a miscarriage? Yes, make sure to portray pro-lifers as the extremist monsters we are. That way, you don’t have to actually bother addressing our points, which I’ve noticed you’ve not done yet. I wonder why? Is it because you have no clue as to what makes a living human being inside the womb so essentially different from a living human being outside the womb that it makes the one in the womb expendable? Is that really why you feel no need to discuss this anymore? You’ve come up against a wall you cannot get through: trying to justify the willful destruction of innocent human life. I admit that’s hard to do. I can’t do it. So, I understand completely your not wanting to discuss this anymore.
     FB:  If you want to take the embryo and implant it in a willing host we can have a conversation. You privilege a group of cells that can not exist outside of the womb over the person whose womb that is. If you want to talk viability outside of the womb I will most likely agree with you in all but life of the mother. But a group of cells that can not exist anywhere but with a host… no. You dismissed the talk of sperm pretty quickly… yet the behavior of sperm is more dynamic than a blastocyst… and all of us were at one point…in part sperm. Perhaps you should be anti spermicidal as well. And now I will have every sperm is sacred in my head all day. When you get to the part of transplanting embryos to a willing host…then we have something to talk about. If not you are talking about forcing someone to go through a life threatening event. And feel free to try and dispute the fact that pregnancy and childbirth is life threatening.
      Bob:  Again with sperm. What is with you guys and sperm? Are you actually suggesting that a sperm is a living human being? A sperm is more dynamic than a blastocyst? Where did you learn your biology? A sperm is a single cell that can only move, pretty much in one direction, and then only in an environment of mucous and with waves of other sperm. A single sperm even requires the assistance of millions of other sperm in order to fertilize the ovum. A blastocyst is immediately involved cell differentiation, immediately beginning the process of growth and development into a fully mature human being. This talk of sperm is a pretty ridiculous deflection, and I thought you didn’t like deflections. Transplanting embryos to a willing host? What, did the embryo invade the mother’s womb? In almost all cases, the embryo was invited by the willful actions of the mother and father. In any case, the embryo isn’t there because the embryo chose to be. The embryo is an innocent party to the entire process, yet you would have it pay with its life. It’s not a matter of privileging a group of cells over the mother. First, an embryo is far more than a group of cells. It is a living, growing human being. We know this. Second, the circumstances simply do not exist that justify the willful destruction of innocent human life. The mother needs and deserves all the support society and medicine can provide. But, to say that she is more valuable in life than another is to pit one life against another, which is exactly what the pro-abortion movement wants to do: to pit mothers against their children, to convince mothers that their children are somehow a threat to them, a parasite living off of them, a burden to them, and that they can therefore do away with them with an easy medical procedure that isn’t life threatening at all (except, of course, for the one in the womb, but we’ve already established that that one is expendable, right?). This isn’t respecting anyone’s life, much less the mother’s. This isn’t empowering anyone. It is sacrificing one innocent life to secure whatever goal one has in mind for another. That’s barbarism, not the basis of a civilized people. I’m off to work for the night.
      FB:  A blatocyst is not even an embryo let alone a human being. Where did you learn your biology? I assume you are against the death penalty, pro refugee, pro living wage and pro welfare… because if not you are simply pro-birth not prolife. Regardless we obviously will not reach an agreement… so have a nice life.
      Bob:  A blastocyst is not a human being? Let’s see: it is human (it’s not going to grow up to be a kangaroo); it has existence, so it is a being. Yep. Human being. Yes, I am against the death penalty, pro-refugee, pro-living wage, and I grew up on welfare. And you still never answered my question. I’ll be back in the morning, if you care to continue. Pax et bonum.
       FB:  The blastocyst is like a seed with the potential to become a human embryo, but it is not a fish-like embryo as you might picture in your mind. It is a tiny cluster of cells with no blood, no nerves, and no organs. A blastocyst cannot continue to development into an embryo in a laboratory. A blastocyst is a human in as much as an acorn is a oak tree. So no…I reject your characterization of a blastocyst as a human being. It is not settled science as much as you may keep telling yourself it is. And for the record… in countries that currently have the kind of laws anti abortion people want women are in jail for terminating pregnancies…and yes many women that have miscarriages have been put on trial because they were suspected of terminating their pregnancies. Heck in this country if you work for the federal government and have the misfortune to have a miscarriage, you have to prove to your insurance that the DNC that is often needed after a miscarriage was for a miscarriage. I know someone that went through that. So when you tell me it is a myth that women with miscarriages will be hounded… it is already fact. The only reason it does not happen in this country is Roe vs Wade…
       Bob:  Hmmm … that’s the second time you’ve accused me of saying something I didn’t say. Are you not reading carefully, or is this a strategy of yours when discussing important topics with people who think differently than you? I never said at all that it was a myth that women with miscarriages have been hounded. But, while that has happened in other countries, that hasn’t happened in this country, no. The reason government workers have to demonstrate that they had a miscarriage and that a DNC is not for an abortion is because of federal laws proscribing government paying for abortions. You know that. I suspect you also know that no one in the pro-life movement in the US has ever spoken of hounding or imprisoning women who’ve had miscarriages. Good grief! This is a red herring. I’ve been involved in the pro-life movement for over thirty years and have never heard anyone speak of, much less recommend legislation for, imprisoning women who’ve had miscarriages or abortions. That’s quite extreme. But, you want to talk extremes? Let’s talk about forced abortions in China. Let’s talk about sex-selection abortions in India. Let’s talk about Peter Singer, the Princeton professor who advocates that couples be given two weeks after the delivery of their child to decide whether or not they want to take it home. If they do, great. If they don’t, the hospital “terminates” the child. Let’s talk about Planned Parenthood selling aborted baby parts, and failing to report cases of statutory rape as prescribed by law. Let’s talk about the Virginia law that says a child, fully ex utero but still attached by the placenta, is not a born person, so the mother who murdered her child could not be prosecuted. Is this what pro-choice advocates want for America? Forced abortions? Sex-selection abortions? Hospitals killing born children because the parents decide not to take their baby home? I don’t think they do, frankly. And I think you know that pro-life advocates in this country want nothing to do with imprisoning women who’ve suffered miscarriages. But, since it likely makes you feel all righteous about your cause, I doubt you’ll concede the point.
      Bob:  Oh, yes, and your acorn analogy fails. You’re arguing that an acorn is to an oak tree as a human blastocyst is to a human being. You’re mixing up your categories. You should be arguing that an acorn is to an oak tree what a human blastocyst is to an adult human. That’s at least consistent. But, even here the analogy fails, because an acorn is not like a blastocyst. An acorn is not a living, growing being. Of itself, an acorn will never be anything other than an acorn. But, a blastocyst is already progressing toward full maturity as an adult human being. You might say an acorn is to an oak tree as an ovum is to an adult human being. That would work. But, who cares? We’ve already established that an ovum or a sperm is not a human life. A blastocyst, however, is a unique human being, possessing all the characteristics of human life consistent with that particular stage of human growth and development. That you don’t think this is settled science is willful rejection of settled science on your part for the purpose of serving your agenda. You don’t like the settled science, so you pretend it isn’t settled. Every medical and nursing journal, as well as every embryologist, will tell you that human life begins at conception, when a unique, living individual human being is created. I have no idea what you mean by your reference to a “fish-like embryo.” I’m working again tonight, so I have to get some sleep. I’ll get back to you when I can should you choose to respond.
       FB:  They will tell you life begins at conception. But blastocysts can not grow beyond a 32 cell cluster with no blood, nerves or organs unless or until they are attached to another living organism who will host it. Not unlike a acorn will not become anything but an acorn unless it is planted in the ground. There is the potential for humanity in there, but without the lining of the uterus no life is possible. If as you say it is a human…then you explain why except in the infinitesimally rare case where the uterine lining creates a pocket outside the uterus, this blastocyst does not develop into an embryo in eptopic pregnancies.? Without the uterine lining to sustain it…it continues to grow but not in any form one would categorize as a human form. The reason fish-like embryo is mentioned is in the embyros of fish a fish with blood, a nervous system, organs. Without a womb blastocysts will live but will never be “human”. And sorry whether a blastocyst qualifies as “human life” is debated. It is not being debated whether it lives… but whether it qualifies as Human life… there are even distictly different schools of thought and debate as to what qualifies as distinctly human life or personhood: The genetic view holds that life begins with the acquisition of a novel genome; the embryologic view think life begins when the embryo undergoes gastrulation, and twinning is no longer possible; this occurs about 14 days into development; the neurological view adhere to brainwave criteria, life begins when a distinct EEG pattern can be detected, about 24 to 27 weeks; and finally there are those that say that life begins at or near birth, measured by fetal viability outside the mother’s body. The fact you are unaware of this debate tells me where you are getting your information. Regardless I see no point in debating this further. The fact you deny the question is even being debated means you are not having a scientific debate…but are pushing an agenda and I have no interest in discussing your agenda further.

     Bob:  No, the blastocyst (really, zygote at this point, but I’ll defer to the more all-encompassing term “embryo”) will not survive unless it is attached to another living organism that you call a “host” and that I call “the mother.” But, again, this is perfectly consistent with the characteristics of human life at this particular state of growth and development, so it provides no evidence refuting the humanity of the embryo. A neonate, after all, is dependent on her mother’s breast milk in order to survive. If you think about it, in some way or other, we all need each other. I’m not sure what the basis of your claim is that an embryo in an ectopic pregnancy will continue to grow but not like anything we would call human. An ectopic pregnancy is one where the embryo implants outside the uterus, almost always in the fallopian tube. In half of these cases, the embryo dies from lack of nutrition and the remains are sloughed away. In the remaining cases, the embryo grows to a point where the fallopian tube will rupture, resulting in the death of the embryo and in severe bleeding/infection for the mother. There are, of course, those extraordinarily rare cases of an abdominal ectopic pregnancies where the child as actually been brought to term. None of these cases, however, provide evidence refuting the humanity of the embryo. In your discussion on the debate about the beginning of human life, you’re conflating the question of when human life begins with the question of legal personhood. Perhaps you’re unaware that, thanks largely to the abortion rights movement, human life and legal personhood are now two distinct concepts. Yes, one would think that human life and personhood would go hand-in-hand, but in our morally insane culture it’s now possible to be a living human being, even a living, breathing human being, and not enjoy the status of legal personhood. Hence, the Virginia law where a child fully ex utero, but still attached to the umbilical cord and the placenta still within the mother’s uterus is not legally a person, so the state had no grounds on which to prosecute a mother who killed her newly born child (“Campbell County mother can’t be charged in baby’s death,”www.nbc12.com, 2009). The debate you reference in your post is not a debate over when human life begins, but a debate on when it is deemed best to assign legal personhood to the unborn (or, in some cases, already born) child. This distinction between human life and personhood is disconcerting, for it can be possibly be applied to all kinds of people. There is already serious talk about “fourth-term abortions,” and I mentioned Peter Singer’s ominous ideas. But, for the sake of the argument, let’s say you’re right, and the science of when human life begins is unsettled. The argument in favor of abortion based on the non-humanity of the one in the womb still fails. Why? Because in cases where we can’t be certain whether or not we’re destroying innocent human life, if we truly don’t know, then we must presume in favor of life. Consider a hunter who sees the rustling of leaves and branches in the bushes. Is it a deer? Is it a man? Is the hunter ever justified in shooting if he doesn’t know? Or consider a contractor hired to raze a building. He thinks he sees movement through a window. Is it shadows? Is it the wind through a window? Is there someone in the building? He doesn’t know. Is he justified in razing the building before he’s certain? You argue that the question of when human life begins is unsettled. Yet, you justify abortion on the grounds that we can’t be certain the one in the womb is human life, rather than the grounds that we’re certain it isn’t. You are effectively telling the hunter to shoot, and the contractor to raze the building. When you can’t be certain, you presume against life rather than for it. that is morally unsustainable.


      Bob:  Here is a sampling of medical articles and medical textbooks that affirm that a unique human life is created at the moment of conception: Carlson, Bruce M. Patton’s Foundations of Embryology, 6th edition, McGraw-Hill, 1996; Essential of Human Embryology, William J. Larson (Churchill Livingston, 1998); Ronan O’Rahilly and Fabiola Miller, Human Embryology and Teratology, 3rd edition, Wiley-Liss, 2001; Keith L. Moore, The Developing Human: Clincally Oriented Embryology, 7th edition, Saunders, 2003; T. W. Sadler, Langman’s Medical Embryology, 10th edition, Lippincott, Williams and Wikins, 2006; Keith L. Moore, Before We Were Born: Essentials of Embryology, 7th edition, Saunders, 2008; Okada, et al., A role for the elongater complex in zygotic paternal genome demethylation, NATURE 463:554 (Jan 28, 2010); Marsden, et al., Model systems for membrane fusion, CHEM. SOC. REV. 40(3):1572 (Mar 2011); Signorelli, et al., Kinases, phosphatases and proteases during sperm capacitation, CELL TISSUE RES. 349(3):765 (Mar 20, 2012); Coy, et al., Roles of the oviduct in mammalian fertilization, REPRODUCTION 144(6):649 (Oct 1, 2012); Marcello, et al., Fertilization, ADV. EXP. BIOL. 757:321 (2013); National Institute of Health, Medline Plus Merriam-Webster Medical Dictionary (2013).
Be Christ for all.  Bring Christ to all.  See Christ in all.

2 thoughts on “A Conversation on Abortion

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