Skip to comments.Should the Unborn be Considered Human?
Posted on 12/06/2006 10:56:00 AM PST by Ultra Sonic 007
Abortion: Should the Unborn be Considered Human?
Abortion is one of the most divisive issues in America today. The reasons for this are manifold, as abortion ties into many facets of American society. In this paper, I will elaborate on one part of the debate; specifically, the humanity of the unborn. The question being asked is whether or not a fetus should be considered a living human being. Viewpoints regarding this issue vary wildly, but I aim to clarify why one should be considered human from the moment of conception.
What is the fetus? According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word is originally derived from Latin, meaning the act of bearing young, offspring. It is a term that describes an unborn child, usually used from two months after conception to birth. However, is this an adequate definition of a human life? At first, this might not seem to be true; a human has to have a conscious, doesnt it? Doesnt the fetus need to have a soul, commonly defined as the spiritual essence of human beings? Does a fetus have any sense of self? How exactly do these questions tie into the whole abortion debate?
For starters, when is abortion acceptable? When should one be able to abort an unborn child? Pro-Life advocates say that there should be no such acceptable time. Pro-Choice advocates say that abortion should be allowed at all times. For the moderates in this debate, answering the question becomes trickier; some say that abortion is acceptable until the second trimester, while others some say it should not be allowed after the first month passes. Time is a key factor for a moderate; tolerating an abortion depends largely on time, as well as circumstances. For instance, what if a woman were raped? Should she be forced to bear the child of the one who raped her? This question may not be difficult for some; the mother should not be forced to bear the rapists child. However, as Frank A. Pravone of Priests for Life says, Suppose your father committed a terrible crime and the police came to your home, arrested you, and had you sentenced to death? The unfairness of that is obvious. Yet that is the same unfairness that occurs if a child conceived by rape is aborted. Phrased in this manner, the question is now very difficult to answer; this would be a case of where the victim assuages her pain by victimizing another person. However, this only applies if the unborn are actually human. Now theres a new question to solve: why shouldnt an unborn child be considered human?
It would seem that determining the personhood of a human being is an easy task at first. To be a human being would require that you are, firstly, alive. Secondly, you would have to have some sense of self, or consciousness, or even a soul, if you will. Thirdly, you would have to be able to recognize and rationalize your own existence, via reason and reflection. These conditions seem suitable; however, these conditions would also seem to designate young infants, the mentally handicapped, and even very decrepit old people as non-humans. There is a lot of debate over what constitutes the nature of being human. Yet in the end, a person is still a person whether or not our knowledge of what personhood is qualifies as absolute. If one sees a fish, yet does not recognize it as a fish, that does not mean it is no longer a fish. A fish is a fish, and a person is a person, regardless of whether we recognize that person as a non-person or not. After all, many esteemed scientists and philosophers such as Arthur de Gobineau, who penned An Essay on the Inequality of the Human Races recognized blacks as lesser than white people. Does that mean black people werent human back then, even though they are now considered human? No; the same principle applies here. If the unborn are human, then the debate over abortion almost becomes non-existent; abortion would be the equivalent of state-sanctioned murder.
How can one fully determine the humanity or lack thereof of the unborn? Can it be done? If not, then can any side in the abortion debate be right about the personhood of the unborn? There doesnt seem to be a single logical reason to deny humanity to the unborn. What other reason is there to do so, other than to justify abortion? After all, abortion is the killing of a living organism: the unborn child within the mothers womb. If that organism werent human, killing him would be far easier to contemplate. I have to say that denying humanity to the unborn might lead or perhaps already has led to a slippery slope with regard to American perception of life in general. When weighing the consequences of classifying the unborn as human and denying humanity to the unborn, I cant help but come to the conclusion that a human is human from conception. The consequences of denying that conclusion are simply too severe to allow otherwise, no matter what ones definition of personhood is.
In order to determine the humanity of a fetus, one must first determine whether he is alive. On this point, there is no debate. The Encyclopedia Britannica classifies that, for an organism to be considered alive scientifically, it must exhibit four characteristics: metabolism, growth, reproduction, and some form of responsiveness and adaptation. The fetus certainly metabolizes the glucose and nutrients coming in through the umbilical cord; otherwise, there would be no growth. Within the first month after conception, the heart, brain, spinal cord and nervous system have grown. Reproduction, in its most fundamental sense, implies the dividing of a cell into two more cells. Thus, a fetus is clearly capable of reproduction. An unborn child has been shown to respond to stimuli; according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, a device has been recently invented that can detect fetal brain activity in response to flashes of light transmitted through the mother's abdomen. As for adaptation, one only has to look at the placenta. A healthy placenta is the single most important factor in producing a healthy baby, says Dr. Harvey J. Kliman. The placenta, which is part of the fetus, removes waste products, induces the mother to deliver more blood through the umbilical cord, and helps protect the fetus from the mothers immune system. If the placenta is damaged, or if it detaches from the uterus, or even if it attaches in the wrong place, great harm can come to both the fetus and the mother. If the fetus did not grow this unique organ, he would not survive. It is evident that the fetus is alive according to the scientific definition of life; however, if the fetus is to be considered human, must he meet more criteria?
Perhaps one can look at the fetuss nature from a philosophical standpoint. One common argument by Pro-Choice advocates is that, as a mass of non-sentient cell tissue, an unborn child is not equal to a living human person. Not only that, but something has to be said about the viability of the fetus and his dependence on the mother for support. If the fetus were to be removed from the womb, he would die; seeing as how he is reliant on the mother whilst in the womb, it can be said that the child is a part of the mother, and thus is subject to her whims. As T.F. Barans says, An EMBRYO is no more equal to a BABY than an ACORN is to an OAK. Each has the POTENTIAL to become the actuality of the other. This seems to make sense; treating an embryo as a complete human doesnt seem logical, as the embryo is incapable of utilizing his potential like an adult human can. However, upon closer inspection, there appear to be some problems with these claims.
Even though the fetus is dependent upon the mother for support whilst in the womb, that continues to be the case long after birth. Even if the mother gives her child up for adoption, the child will still need to depend on someone to survive. Humans have varying degrees of dependence, with further variations from person to person. Also, older people generally depend upon artificial means of support in order to function (e.g. a feeding tube, an I/V drip, some form of mechanical ventilation, etcetera). The dependability argument would imply that killing older people or infants is less severe of an act than killing an adult. This goes hand-in-hand with the argument for viability; even though a zygote would be incapable of protecting himself if left outside of the womb, an infant is also just as incapable of ensuring his viability. The argument about the fetus being part of the mother also has some holes; following it logically, that would mean parts of the fetus would be parts of the mother. In other words, a mother would have a penis if her unborn child were male. Also, consider the childs genetic code; although partly given by the mother, the childs genes are a fusion of both parents genes. The resulting genetic code is totally unique and independent of the mothers. Even though an embryo is incapable of actualizing his potential, it is still there; the process of development within the womb is merely the unfolding of what already exists. Looking at it another way, a zygote is smaller, less mobile, less developed, and more dependent upon the mother than an infant is. Likewise, an infant is smaller, less mobile, less developed, and more dependent on other humans than an adult is. Using that logic, does this mean killing an infant is not as bad as killing an adult? There doesnt seem to be a morally relevant difference between an unborn child and an adult human; even though an embryo does not look like a human, he will not develop into anything else other than a human. That kind of reasoning would imply that a blue whale is not a mammal because it looks more like a fish.
There are enough philosophical arguments to fill a novel, so now its time to look at the question from a different, more culturally relevant angle. After ROE v. WADE was decided in favor of the plaintiff Jane Roe, Justice Blackmun delivered the opinion of the Supreme Court. He noted that any law proscribing abortion that excepts from criminality only a lifesaving procedure on behalf of the mother, without regard to pregnancy stage and without recognition of the other interests involved, is violative of the Due Process Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment. In other words, it was ruled that a woman had a right to an abortion, and that to prevent her from obtaining one was in violation of her legal rights. However, if one infers that the fetus is human, then this means that that the mother has a legal right to, at the very least, manslaughter. This contradiction shows how much of the abortion debate hinges upon the status of the unborn; if the unborn are human, then Justice Blackmuns opinion transforms into one of how the U.S. Constitution protects the killing of young humans. Inconsistencies like this would be cleared up if the original question were answered.
Statistically speaking, the amount of recorded abortions is staggering; William Robert Johnston of the University of Texas at Dallas has compiled a summary of registered abortions worldwide through October 2005. The total number of reported abortions: 756,695,000. Out of a current global population of over 6,500,000,000, thats almost 12% of all the people currently alive on Earth. Its sensible to suggest how all of those people wouldve contributed to overpopulation; however, overpopulation can be rather hard to describe, as clearly defined measurements for overpopulation have yet to be agreed upon. Just to make an example, take Europes total land area 3,837,000 square miles and divide that number from the total global population. If everyone lived in five-story apartments with four people per floor, you could fit roughly 85 people per every square mile in a landmass the size of Europe. This leaves the rest of the world for other use. One could draw from this calculation that theres room for a lot more people in this world. This brings another personal observation to mind; how many great people were aborted? I cant help but wonder how many great scientists, philosophers, civil rights activists, and leaders were lost to abortion. After all, it only took one man Alexander Fleming to discover penicillin, an antibiotic that has saved countless lives. Who knows how far mankind could have advanced had these unborn lived?
Another disturbing piece of information to consider is the fertility rate; many of the worlds developed nations are not meeting the replacement rate of 2.1 children per woman. According to the Spanish news agency EFE, as reported by LifeSiteNews, the National Institute of Statistics has noted that there are 8.8 abortions for every 1,000 women as of September 2006. Spains fertility rate is already at 1.28; well below the replacement rate. This is a dilemma facing many other European nations as well. The drop in the number of women bearing children is resulting in a population implosion of sorts. This also has another effect: with less young people in the workforce, there will be less workers paying toward the retirement of older people. In Spain alone, there have been 920,000 abortions reported since 1941. Would Spain be facing this situation had those 920,000 people lived? Would their contribution to the Spanish economy have negated this problem? Had the unborn been considered human, would there have been as many abortions in Spain? In the world?
Considering how wide reaching the abortion debate is, many people have chosen to use satirical mediums such as political cartoons to get their point across. In the Examining Issues Through Political Cartoons series, there is a book about abortion. One of the cartoons contained in this book chronicles two scientists speaking in a lab; one scientist speaks of how the abortion issue will never be resolved because no one knows when life begins! However, he quickly berates his female partner for touching the fertilized egg of a California condor, resulting in a sarcastic response from the other scientist: You seem to know when life begins for California condors! This brings up an interesting point; although the fact that the California condor is an endangered species might have something to do with it, the condor egg is given much more respect than an unborn child. The fertilized egg in the cartoon is the equivalent of a human embryo in the fetus; the condor is born when it hatches, and a baby is born when he is expelled from the womb. Yet if the condors fertilized egg is not to be harmed, then why should a human zygote be treated any differently? Are humans worth less than animals? Although there are humans who have driven some animals to extinction like the passenger pigeon, for example there are also humans who are prominent environmental activists. As the value of human life seems to continually lessen, are people forgetting how much value one human life can bring to the world?
Denying the humanity to any human being is a recipe for catastrophe, oppression, and death. There is a historical precedent involved here; for example, many white people in the South during the antebellum years described black slaves as lesser beings. This brand of reasoning allowed them to mistreat and dehumanize blacks without a second thought. The Nazis, utilizing the non-person label, were able to remove moral obstacles to torturing and killing Jews during the Holocaust. These are just two historical examples; a culture that denies the humanity to anyone is opening the door for future abuse. If you murder someone that is legally classified as non-human, how can you be faulted? What kind of psychological damage would this have on those who were dehumanized? This is occurring right now to the unborn; although I cannot determine whether abortionists and mothers regard the unborn as human or not, I can determine the results. Over 44,037,000 people have been aborted in America alone, and that is a number of greater magnitude than the estimated casualty total of World War II, which totals at 20,858,800. If the unborn are human, should they not deserve the same protection offered other humans in American society?
As an odd irony, American culture generally paints a very positive image of babies. Infants and babies are almost always depicted in commercial advertisements as very cute and beautiful. When I see a baby, my usual reaction is a smile, followed by numerous attempts to make the child laugh. I do this because I see children as a source of purity; untainted by the evils of this world, a baby is a picture of innocence in my eyes. However, I have to say that I momentarily recoiled when I once saw a malformed baby. The sight of the misshapen face did make me cringe for a moment, but I let it go after remembering that the baby is still human. Physical defects do not detract from the inherent humanity of a person. As noted earlier, there doesnt seem to be a morally relevant difference between an embryo and an infant, so why are embryos or fetuses not adored in the same manner as babies? Is it simply because they are not as endearing or as huggable as babies? If that is the case, then has Americas popular culture become too obsessed with image and physical beauty? Think of The Ugly Duckling and remember its moral: inner beauty will overshadow physical appearance. Does the same not apply to the unborn child?
I would classify the entire abortion issue as a moral dilemma. When I first learned what abortion is, I cried. How could this happen? How could people do this to human children, the purest form of life I know? My Aunt Kathy, when speaking to my dad once about women who have abortions, said, You cant hate them. But you have to pity them for their ignorance. That underlines the whole argument for me; many people simply do not know. They are either unknowingly ignorant of the nature of the fetus, or they choose not to learn. Can one ever determine the true nature of the unborn? Whatever the answer, to continue to perform abortions without knowing what is being aborted is a logical fallacy. As a hypothetically resurrected Socrates postulates in The Unaborted Socrates, killing fetuses not knowing if they are persons or not is akin to the hunter that shoots at a moving bush, unknowing if it was a deer or his fellow hunter inside of it. If American society continues to tolerate abortion, then it must at least learn and clarify what exactly is being aborted. Nevertheless, my hope is that America will one day recognize the unborn as human. The consequences of not doing so are potentially catastrophic; if the unborn child is proven to be human, that would not only entail that we have killed innocent humans for years, but that we willingly allowed it to happen. That might deliver a blow to Americas moral fabric from which she may never recover.
Abortion. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary. 27 Oct. 2006.
Abortion Rates in Youth Climb as Spain Declines. Smith, Peter J. LifeSiteNews. 21 Sep. 2006. 4 Dec. 2006.
Alexander Fleming. Ho, David. TIME. 29 Mar. 1999. 6 Dec. 2006.
Behind Every Healthy Baby Is A Healthy Placenta. Kliman, Harvey J. Lectric Law Library. Online posting. Apr. 1998. 6 Nov. 2006.
Estimated war dead, World War II. War Chronicle. Online posting. 5 Dec. 2006.
Gobineau, Joseph Arthur, Comte de. Encyclopedia Americana. Intl ed. 1999.
Life. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. 27 Oct. 2006.
New Device Detects Fetal Brain Response to Light: May Help Prevent Brain Damage. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. 8 Mar. 2005. 1 Dec. 2006.
Rape and Abortion. Pravone, Frank A. Priests for Life. Online posting. 5 Dec. 2006.
ROE v. WADE. Touro Law Center. Online posting. 27 Oct. 2006.
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The professor's assignment was basically to take a current hot topic - like abortion, capital punishment, the war in Iraq - and write a 6-10 page research essay delving into a particular subject of that issue.
Mine involved whether or not the unborn are human.
I submit this to you, my fellow Freepers, for your opinion.
They ain't chickens.
why not? we consider Helen Thomas to be human...well some of us do anyway, the jury is still out...
You'll get an A, easily. Great writing.
Ironic timing with NASA drooling over the notion that a few microbes in water will prove that "life" exists on Mars, but the medical/liberal community thinks an embryo represents something else.
Please take the time to read it.
10 pages is far too short to write about this issue. :|
Na... their Aliens... /sarcasm...
FYI: mistakenly shooting a hunter here in MN during deer season is ,by law, felony manslaughter.
my 2 cent:
if we can use the presence of brainwave activity to claim scientific proof of death, why not for proof of life?
The question is: Did these aborted unborn have the capacity to grow into anything OTHER than a human being?
sorry for the poor grammar...
I've read about half of it and so far so good! I'll try to finish it later and let you know.
Lovely piece. A shame you had to write it to convince someone of the obvious. Thank you
I'll overlook it this time. Me am a stickler for grammar.
very good! Is this current then? (e.g. you haven't rec'd a grade yet?)
The question is: Did these aborted unborn have the capacity to grow into anything OTHER than a human being?
Grand slam reply! BINGO!
I've actually never thought of that. I'll have to try it.
Bottom Line: Abortion is Child Sacrifice.
Primitive societies sacrificed their children to appease the Sun god, or the god of Fire, etc. They did this either out of fear or greed - self interest either way.
Abortions today are done for no different - or better reason.
good writing ping!