Skip to comments.Foetuses [Fetuses] 'may be conscious long before abortion limit'
Posted on 03/09/2003 4:26:55 PM PST by MadIvan
Foetuses may develop consciousness long before the legal age limit for abortions, one of Britain's leading brain scientists has said.
Baroness Greenfield, a professor of neurology at Oxford University and the director of the Royal Institution, said there was evidence to suggest the conscious mind could develop before 24 weeks, the upper age where terminations are permitted.
Although she fell short of calling for changes in the abortion laws, she urged doctors and society to be cautious when assuming unborn babies lacked consciousness. "Is the foetus conscious? The answer is yes, but up to a point," she said.
"Given that we can't prove consciousness or not, we should be very cautious about being too gung ho and assuming something is not conscious. We should err on the side of caution."
Last year, a Daily Telegraph straw poll found many neurologists were concerned that foetuses could feel pain in the womb before 24 weeks after conception.
Many believed foetuses should be given anaesthetics during a late abortion, after 20 weeks. Some also believe pain relief should be given for keyhole surgery in the womb.
Abortions are allowed up to 24 weeks in Britain, but are rarely given so late. Around 90 per cent of the 175,000 planned terminations that take place each year in England and Wales are in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. Around 1.5 per cent - or 2,600 - take place after the 20th week.
Terminations after 24 weeks are only allowed in exceptional circumstances if, for instance, the mother's life is threatened.
Lady Greenfield is sceptical of philosophers and doctors who argue that consciousness is "switched on" at some point during the brain's development.
She believes instead that there is a sliding scale of consciousness and that it develops gradually as neurons, or brain cells, make more and more connections with each other.
She told the British Fertility Society in London last week that she had serious concerns about foetal consciousness.
"The Home Office has legislation that applies to a mammal and they have now extended it to the octopus, a mollusc, because it can learn," she said. "If a mollusc can be attributed with being sentient, and now has Home Office protection, then my own view is that we should be very cautious after making assumptions."
In 2001 a Medical Research Council expert group said unborn babies might feel pain as early as 20 weeks and almost certainly by 24. They called for more sensitive treatment of very premature babies, who often had to undergo painful procedures like heel pricks and injections.
If the child is conscious at 24 weeks, dear God in heaven, the implications regarding the brutality of Partial Birth Abortion are staggering.
Our Leftist enemies are in the service of Satan in wanting to keep this barbaric practice going.
The Partial Birth Abortion Procedure
Guided by ultrasound, the abortionist grabs the baby's leg with forceps.
The baby's leg is pulled out into the birth canal.
The abortionist delivers the baby's entire body, except for the head.
The abortionist jams scissors into the baby's skull. The scissors are then opened to enlarge the hole...
The scissors are removed and a suction catheter is inserted. The child's brains are sucked out, causing the skull to collapse. The dead baby is then removed.
Something to ponder: IT HAPPENS EVERY DAY.
Well said, ping!
Isn't France trying to force their "morality" on both Ireland and Poland as conditions for either remaining in the EU or joining the EU? Supposedly the French are saying that since the former communist government, which was peacfully overthrown, ratified the CEDAW treaty, Poland would be violating that treaty by outlawing abortion.
There is no known case of any mammal that does not breath being conscious. Motion and reactions observed in sleeping human beings (totally unconscious) are much more sophisticated than anything detected in the unborn at any stage. Reactions and movement, in themselves, are not indicators or consciousness. There is absolutely no reason to suppose the unborn have any level of consciousness at all until they, "wake up," that is, begin to breath.
There is no argument here for or against abortion policy of any nature, just a statement about the nature of things as they actually are. There are enough real things to worry about, in this issue as well as others, than to worry about the unborn suffering. They do not.
On the other hand they enjoy killing babies.
September 16, 1985
In the abortion debate many pro-abortion and not-quite-anti-abortion proponents have said the humanity of the fetus is the central question, the central issue, but never define humanity or human being except as something that is sentient, the killing of which would be murder. And? By their own words sentience does not define humanity for cows are sentient and humans may feel no pain if certain nerves are severed.
In the above context, they say the case for first trimester abortions depends upon the experience of pain. Are they saying that denying life is not to be permitted if the experience is painful? For whom? Surely after the fetus is dead it will no longer feel or remember feeling pain. This reminds me of the question of whether one would rather be given a drug before an operation that would prevent pain or be given one later that would erase from the memory the pain experienced during the operation. Such questioning is secondary to the fact of the operation. What will be its result? In the case of abortion the result will be the death of the fetus whether it feels any pain or not. The experience of pain, then, is not bad in itself if its cause brings about a better state of being or prevents a worse one. To grant or deny a fetus (the term here used generically) a future life outside the womb as a sentient human being by its present ability to experience pain seems more than bizarre--"Its okay, you know, it didnt feel a thing because it wasnt sentient." Yeah, which is better, to exist having felt no pain of abortion or to not exist having felt no pain of abortion? To be or not to be, that is the question, isnt it?
Some have said The case against abortion in the first trimester must rest entirely on metaphysics and philosophy. I think the case for or against abortion at any time must rest entirely on metaphysics and philosophy. It appears that for many who wish to have nothing to do with metaphysics and philosophy empirical reasons are what they get when they pass the point at which they are no longer aware of (or have successfully forgotten) their philosophical and metaphysical reasons for selecting them.
The empirical reason appears to rest on cold fact, but the reason for using it rests on something entirely different. Any time one moves from the descriptive of This is to the prescriptive of Do this, one moves through the moral world of This ought or ought not to be. This is the world of motives and beliefs. Its the world in which people actually live. It cannot be described in the same way that physics describes solar flares. This is central to the absurdity of experimental psychologys attempts to explain human behavior by dissecting rat brains and measuring dog spit. There is that in human behavior which is mans distinguishing characteristic which transcends the physical processes of reproduction, nourishment, and death.
When I was about five years old, I was taken to a museum and ushered through the hall enshrining Human Reproduction, The Miracle of Life. On one wall I saw encased specimens (whether potentially human or just clever reproductions, I dont know) arranged developmentally from conception to birth. I started at birth and asked my father if the baby, dying at that stage, would go to heaven. As I approached conception asking the same question, the answers changed from Yes to probably to I dont know to Probably not to No. It gets down to the question of whether being human is something you are or something that you have become. I suspect that something akin to ethnocentrism (ontogenocentrism?) is involved here--those folks running around with bones through their noses arent like us and were civilized, so they probably arent, yet. Some say the fetus is much more actually human after the first 12 weeks of gestation and that it little resembles a human being during the first few weeks of gestation, meaning that it does not look much like, well, a post-birth body. It doesnt look like me and Im human, so it probably isnt, yet.
Its interesting how closely the question of the origin of man as an individual resembles the controversy about the origin of man as a species. Did man come fully human from the hand of God or was there a point at which, during eons-long evolution, the genetics defining the species Sapiens appeared? Was it fully human or was it merely human in appearance? Did there appear at the same time or later those characteristics which could be called spiritual? The first view holds all men of different languages, races, and cultures to be members of a common humanity. The second view makes possible all sorts of interesting self-justification from members of master races, true humans as opposed to sub-humans, for individuals personifying the new socialist man or the master race. And just as that distinction has made possible the genocide of whole groups who fell outside the official classification, so, too, have millions of pre-birth lives been defined into oblivion.
Genetically speaking, there is a time before which an individual of a sexually reproducing species does not exist and after which it does, be it ever so humble. From that moment to the moment of its dissolution it passes through definable stages of development and degeneration. Here are some that apply to us: zygote, embryo, fetus, newborn, infant, toddler, child, pre-adolescent, young adult, mature adult, old-aged. Upon this continuum of development place an asterisk where it becomes human and perhaps another where its humanity ceases as far as the empirical world is concerned. Many would place the asterisks at conception and death (death defined as the irreversible disruption of the continuum). I do. It is this creature appearing at conception and disappearing at death that is human. Against this, talk about seeds not being trees and fertilized eggs not being chickens shows itself for the silly ontogenocentrism that it is-- the full-grown chicken is not a fertilized egg, but both are developmental stages of the same being. An acorn is not a tree, but both are equally oak.
But if human being is just a later stage of that individuals existence, then what is the name for the being started at conception and ended at death? On the individual level, the first view calls it human whether conscious or not, crippled, retarded, senile, diseased, sinful, intelligent, female, or male. The second view permits quality of life and value to society to define the parameters of being human and those who have the power to do so to define those terms, whether a woman and her physician, N.A.R.A.L, or Big Brother.
The bottom line is that there is a struggle between equality under law (metaphysics) and power as the law (empiricism), between doing what we ought and doing whatever we can get away with, between submitting our desires to a higher moral law or enshrining our desires as the only moral law.
One will never find the answers in the charts and tables of science. And for the modern man thats scary.
In the almost 30 years since Roe, this Court has never described the various methods of aborting a second- or third-trimester fetus. From reading the majority's sanitized description, one would think that this case involves state regulation of a widely accepted routine medical procedure. Nothing could be further from the truth. The most widely used method of abortion during this stage of pregnancy is so gruesome that its use can be traumatic even for the physicians and medical staff who perform it. ... And the particular procedure at issue in this case, "partial birth abortion," so closely borders on infanticide that 30 States have attempted to ban it.
I sure didn't. I've got one memory which I can place at an age of 2 years old, but nothing before that.
Those that can do this are consciousless monsters. And to think of the infant, lying in his/her mothers body, to have this done. There are countless people lined up to adopt unwanted babies, why can't they be allowed to live and given to others?
One of the biggest part of the problem, IMO, is that information isn't given to the mothers, information like your pictures.I had a friend who had a 3 month abortion, the baby was economically inconvenient and her husband wanted the abortion. She was fed the lie that "it's just a piece of tissue", and believed it, until she saw the little hands, feet and other body parts being thrown into a bucket. I've heard other women say the say thing. They just believed the lie that it wasn't really a living baby. Dumb? Yes, but it was so convenient at the time, and the baby "wasn't real yet". And then many of them have the heartbreak afterwards, when they realize the truth.
What say Ye, abortionists!
I don't think that unborn children are building permanent memories of the kind that you mention. If you can still place something that happened to you at age 2, you are doing much better than I am. When I spoke of unborn children developing memories, I meant that they learn their mother's voice and things of that nature. Some studies have also suggested that children are capable of intellectual learning in the womb. Again, I don't think anyone will ever have a conscious memory of a fact learned in the womb, but I can believe that positive influences would build some foundation for learning.
Apparently, but it's nothing to be ashamed of, and can be corrected.
Here, let me help you out. Since this is only a forum, some brevity is usually in order. Since you ignore context, I could have said, "The development of the brain, alone, does not determine consciousness, because even fully developed brains are not necessarily conscious and frequently are not."
Does that help?
Smell Of Rain: The story of Danae comforted on God's chest
A cold March wind danced around the dead of night in Dallas as the Doctor walked into the small hospital room of Diana Blessing. Still groggy from surgery, her husband David held her hand as they braced themselves for the latest news. That afternoon of March 10, 1991, complications had forced Diana, only 24-weeks pregnant, to undergo an emergency cesarean to deliver the couple's new daughter, Danae Lu Blessing.
At 12 inches long and weighing only one pound and nine ounces, they already knew she was perilously premature. Still, the doctor's soft words dropped like bombs. 'I don't think she's going to make it', he said, as kindly as he could. "There's only a 10-percent chance she will live through the night, and even then, if by some slim chance she does make it, her future could be a very cruel one".
Numb with disbelief, David and Diana listened as the doctor described the devastating problems Danae would likely face if she survived. She would never walk, she would never talk, she would probably be blind, and she would certainly be prone to other catastrophic conditions from cerebral palsy to complete mental retardation, and on and on.
"No! No!" was all Diana could say. She and David, with their 5-year-old son Dustin, had long dreamed of the day they would have a daughter to become a family of four. Now, within a matter of hours, that dream was slipping away.
Through the dark hours of morning as Danae held onto life by the thinnest thread, Diana slipped in and out of sleep, growing more and more determined that their tiny daughter would live-and live to be a healthy, happy young girl. But David, fully awake and listening to additional dire details of their daughter's chances of ever leaving the hospital alive, much less healthy, knew he must confront his wife with the inevitable.
David walked in and said that we needed to talk about making funeral arrangements. Diana remembers 'I felt so bad for him because he was doing everything, trying to include me in what was going on, but I just wouldn't listen, I couldn't listen.' I said, "No, that is not going to happen, no way! I don't care what the doctors say; Danae is not going to die! One day she will be just fine, and she will be coming home with us!" As if willed to live by Diana's determination, Danae clung to life hour after hour, with the help of every medical machine and marvel her miniature body could endure.
But as those first days passed, a new agony set in for David and Diana. Because Danae's underdeveloped nervous system was essentially 'raw,' the lightest kiss or caress only intensified her discomfort, so they couldn't even cradle their tiny baby girl against their chests to offer the strength of their love. All they could do, as Danae struggled alone beneath the ultraviolet light in the tangle of tubes and wires, was to pray that God would stay close to their precious little girl. There was never a moment when Danae suddenly grew stronger. But as the weeks went by, she did slowly gain an ounce of weight here and an ounce of strength there.
At last, when Danae turned two months old, her parents were able to hold her in their arms for the very first time. And two months later, though doctors continued to gently but grimly warn that her chances of surviving, much less living any kind of normal life, were next to zero, Danae went home from the hospital--just as her mother had predicted.
Today, five years later, Danae is a petite but feisty young girl with glittering gray eyes and an unquenchable zest for life. She shows no signs, what so ever, of any mental or physical impairment. Simply, she is everything a little girl can be and more-but that happy ending is far from the end of her story.
One blistering afternoon in the summer of 1996 near her home in Irving, Texas, Danae was sitting in her mother's lap in the bleachers of a local ballpark where her brother Dustin's baseball team was practicing.
As always, Danae was chattering nonstop with her mother and several other adults sitting nearby when she suddenly fell silent. Hugging her arms across her chest, Danae asked, "Do you smell that?"
Smelling the air and detecting the approach of a thunderstorm, Diana replied, "Yes, it smells like rain."
Danae closed her eyes and again asked, "Do you smell that?"
Once again, her mother replied, "Yes, I think we're about to get wet, it smells like rain.
Still caught in the moment, Danae shook her head, patted her thin shoulders with her small hands and loudly announced, "No, it smells like Him. It smells like God when you lay your head on His chest."
Tears blurred Diana's eyes as Danae then happily hopped down to play with the other children. Before the rains came, her daughter's words confirmed what Diana and all the members of the extended Blessing family had known, at least in their hearts, all along. During those long days and nights of her first two months of her life, when her nerves were too sensitive for them to touch her, God was holding Danae on His chest and it is His loving scent that she remembers so well.
If your premise is that consciousness is an emergent quality of the brain or, "brain activity," your argument might succeed, but even the assumption that Consciousness could be a subset of the Brain Development superset has no objective basis and is unsupported.
Since consciousness is non-demonstrable, (there is no objective evidence of any consciouness, and we only known are own because we are conscious), there is no reason to suppose it is an emergent quality in the first place.
However, I remain pretty skeptical about prenatal consciousness, since there doesn't really seem to be a whole lot of postnatal consciousness for several months. I guess it all comes down to how you want to define it.
Well, anything is possible, but this much is certain, it is absolutely impossible to objectively know, not only if the unborn are conscious, but if any living creature in the world is. Consciousness in others is assumed on the basis of their testimony (but a very clever machine that appeared to be human could be made to make the same claim). In animals, it is presumed, because their behavior is what we would expect if they were conscious. As for evidence of the consciousness itself, since in all creatures it is a subective experience, their is no evidence. The only consciousness you will ever know is your own.
It is bad science to attribute behavior to something when all that behavior can be explained without that attribution, and the thing it is being attributed to can never be known.
Of course, scientists with an agenda, often are less rigorous than they ought to be.
I have no idea what this mystic nonsense is supposed to mean. In any lucid language, "awareness" is "consciousness." There is no such thing as a "congnition" level, since cognition is aspect of rational/volitional consciousess, that is, the intellect, and no "cogition" exists at least until the rudiments of language are developed.
As for evidence of consciousness, there is absolutely no objective evidence for consciousness in any creature except in my case, my own consciousness, and in your case, (and I'm only assuming here) your own consciousness. I have to take your word for it that you are consciousness because there is no way you can demonstrate it to me, because it is your own subjective experience.
No, wait, that argument is deeply flawed...
You can put a conscious animal (or an adult, if medical ethics allowed for it) on a heart and lung machine that would do the breathing for them. This is a direct analog of what a mother does for her child in the womb.
You may also want to look at marsupials (pre-placental mammals) which are born in a fetal state and then climb into their mother's pouch to suck milk instead of developing a placenta. But the more important to realize is that human children and chimpanzee children develop very closely until about the age of two (when language and the "sentient brain" turn on in human children). There is no "present attribute" criteria sufficient to declare humans conscious and protected while allowing the killing of animals as non-people. Indeed both Michael Tooley and Peter Singer have used this to argue that the right to kill children should extend post-natally with Tooley following the argument to the logical extreme of about two years of age.
More accurately, the question is whether it is something that you can be in the future. Indeed, that's the only question that matters. Infants are often less intelligent than adult animals when born. And it is by no means a given in human nature that killing an infant is murder, given the prevalence of infanticide throughout history though the modern day. That said, we've decide that infants are full humans and to kill one is murder. Why? I think for much the same reason why a key element in defining "clinical death" is whether the patient can ever recover. We look the the future. And must.
Indeed, murder is not wrong for the immediate pain it causes. Murder may be performed painlessly and extreme torture can be inflicted yet murder is considered the ultimate "capital" crime. Why? Because it robs a living being of its future in a way that no human can restore. And it is that awareness of a lost future that makes us grieve more, for better or worse, for a young child two dies than an elderly person in a nursing home at the twilight of their life. And it is that awareness of the absence of a future that allows us to consider the perminently brain dead that will never recover "clinically dead" and which allow some to accept that killing the terminally ill could be considered "mercy".
Science fiction is full of examples of the detachment of the present capacity of an individual from their "personhood". The original Star Trek series had an expisode where two crew members were reduced to foam blocks. One was crushed while the other was restored. The implication was clear to any who watched it. The crewmember who was crushed as a foam block was "murdered" because they could no longer be restored. Though is was fantasy, the scene would have had no emotional impact if, looking at the inert block of foam, the audience simply concluded "no brainwaves, no heartbeat, and no conscious so no murder was committed."
As to the hall of life, the key question is missing from this essay. Why does the author (or their father) wander from "yes" to "probably" and eventually to "no"? By what criteria are those transitions made? By how the fetus "looks"? The truth is that there are no non-trivial criteria that will let you declare a human fetus, or even a human infant, a "person" while denying that status to my pet cats. It is only looking at what something can become, if given time to grow or recover, that we can develop criteria consistent with how we define persons from the animals and the clinically dead in every other case.