Tag Archives: biology

S.L.E.D. Part 4: Degree of Dependency

by Garnet

Time for the final installment in the S.L.E.D. Series.  I’ve dealt with the first three common pro-choice arguments, all attempts to dehumanize unborn children based on either size, level of development or environment, and so make abortion excusable.

The last argument has to do with the degree that the fetus is dependent on his/her mother.  Some people say that since the fetus is so dependent on his/her mother to survive, and would not survive on his/her own, the mother has no obligation to keep the fetus alive, and thus may abort it.  The fetus, they say, cannot survive on its own, so it must not have a right to life, since it can only survive as part of the mother.

This argument breaks down in a number of ways.  Unborn children are not the only human beings dependent on another for survival.  A newborn cannot survive without a caregiver.  A diabetic cannot survive without insulin.  A person with a heart condition cannot survive without a pacemaker.  Does this dependency make them less of a person?  Of course not.  Dependency is not a criterion for determining the value of life for born individuals, and it should not be applied to the unborn.

An embryo is very dependent on its mother at the beginning of pregnancy, and gets less dependent as the 40 weeks go by until it is ready to leave the comfort and warmth of the womb and face the cold, harsh reality of this world. The umbilical cord can be cut, but does this end the baby’s dependency on Mother?  No.  From what I understand, a mother’s responsibilities toward that baby grow exponentially after the baby is born.

In addition, humans continue to become less dependent on others as they get older.  Toddlers are less dependent than babies; teenagers are (read: are supposed to be) less dependent on parents than toddlers; adults are less dependent than teenagers.  So the trend of a lessened dependency begins in the womb and continues throughout life long after birth.  Birth, actually, is quite an arbitrary point to say that babies are sufficiently independent to be given rights as persons.  Often at the end of life, elderly people become more and more dependent on others, but this does not take away their right to life.

Essentially the argument to say the unborn have no right to life because of its dependency is age discrimination, and should not be tolerated.

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Pro-Life Spin on Earth Day

by Amanda Hennessey

I realize Earth Day was yesterday, but I wanted to remind you that while we’re celebrating the glories of nature on Earth Day, we should also take this time to think of Nature’s greatest gift: life. Respecting the Earth we have been given is definitely important, but why are we putting so much energy into saving the trees when we could be saving babies?

S.L.E.D. Part 3: Environment

by Garnet

I guess I better continue the SLED series if I want to get it done by the end of the term.

When I travel from place to place, or even room to room, does anything about me change?  Or think about yourself: Are you a different person when you enter different surroundings?  For some reason, the idea that environment dictates value gets applied to the unborn.  In fact, it’s quite extreme: on one side of the birth canal, the unborn child has no rights whatsoever (in Canada), but on the other side the child is a person possessing full rights.  So what changed within that child during the birth process?  Not much, even though labour is probably very distressing and traumatic for the baby.

“Oh, but the unborn doesn’t even breathe air, like all humans do”, someone might say.  Even if this were essential for the right to life, it’s not as if the unborn child is not receiving oxygen.  In fact, from the moment of conception, respiration, or air exchange begins to happen.  And as the baby develops, he will start to “breathe” amniotic fluid in and out of his lungs, something that would actually kill us!  If you wouldn’t survive in the unborn baby’s world, how can you expect the unborn baby to survive in yours?

Some babies are born premature or early.  Some are born late.  The moment of birth is such an arbitrary moment in time. Just because you can’t see the unborn, doesn’t mean she doesn’t have the right to life.

This argument is another attempt to devalue the life of the unborn child.  Again, we see that it simply makes no sense.

Changing the Rhetoric

by Reita S.

When I was about 7 years old, I learnt all about cells from TV. I suspect it was either Bill Nye the Science Guy or Magic School Bus. Using Lego or blocks or grains of rice, they demonstrated that all living things are made of little pieces. Every person is composed of three trillion cells, if I recall correctly, and cells die and replace themselves at different rates.

All this to say that from a very young age, educational programming taught me that, at my basic level, I am a mass of cells. The same TV shows also explained that I had something called DNA, which was rather like a zipper or a ladder. (They knew from the start I would never be a scientist.) Apparently my DNA wasn’t like anyone else’s, unless of course I was an identical twin, which I’m not.

So, to recap, I am a bunch of cells, several trillion, all with unique roles and life spans, and I am also genetically unique from everyone else in the world (except potential evil twins).

Why then is the pro-choice cry so often “the foetus is just a clump of cells”? Simple: dehumanization. My roommate and I recently had a discussion about meat. Though she loves fish, she is unable to go purchase a whole fish from the store. Why? She can’t eat “something with a face”; however, fillet that fish and serve it to her and she’ll eat it happily!

In the same way, saying abortion kills an unborn child (which it does) is “eating the animal with the face”. You feel guilty because you feel empathy for the child. You know that it had to suffer and that it had to die. You are angry at the injustice when you remember every child you ever held.

Getting rid of the “unwanted clump of cells” is having your fish and chips. You are totally divorced from action that produced your desired outcome – you don’t feel guilty because there was never anything real to convict you.

This is an issue of rhetorical double-talk. Pro-choice activists and abortion clinics have convinced the public that the foetus is practically a non-living thing. It is a package of parts which can be assembled at birth, if the mother so chooses, to create a ‘real child’.

Rhetoric’s purpose is to persuade. Rhetoric’s goal should be to persuade people of the truth. Don’t be fooled by pro-choice rhetoric, which seeks to validate its own position by redefining simple biology. From the moment you are conceived to the moment you die, you are “a clump of cells”. Does that mean you deserve life any less?

For more information, please see this interesting post by John Sutherland at http://www.johnonlife.blogspot.com.

Choice maybe, but informed choice?

by Elizabeth Tanguay

Abortion has often been described as an important reproductive health care service. Pro-choice advocates seem to believe that abortion is a sort of treatment that many women need in order to live normal lives.

As a nursing student, one compulsory component of the program is a course entitled “Philosophical Issues in Health Care”. One of the main chapters in this section is about consent-based health care (as opposed to paternalism, but I don’t need to bore you with details). The basic idea is that the patient needs to give consent to the treatment that the doctor recommends for it to happen. So if the patient doesn’t agree with the particular treatment then the doctor cannot perform the treatment, even if the doctor believes it to be in the patient’s best interests.

For consent to be genuine, it must be informed, given voluntarily, and the patient must be competent to make such a decision. Since this isn’t a philosophy paper, but a blog, I’ll focus on the informed part of the consent.

In order for consent to be informed, the patient must be told the nature of the treatment, the possible risks associated with such a treatment, the perceived benefits, and possible alternatives to the treatment. How often does this happen in the abortion setting? How many women simply don’t know of the numerous risks of abortion, including breast cancer, infertility, depression and greater risk of drug and alcohol abuse? How many are not aware that they do have a choice other than abortion? That it is OK to place the baby for adoption of they feel they are not ready to be parents quite yet. How many are aware of what exactly the procedure entails, such as injecting a saline solution into the uterus to burn the baby alive, or dismembering the unborn baby with a vacuum or forceps, or that it may entail an operation? How many truly give voluntary consent to their abortion? How many women are forced, coerced or pressured to have an abortion from their boyfriend, family, and peers? How many more women must be taken advantage of before we do something? Everyone has the right to be informed about abortion. For more details concerning abortion and informed consent, please CLICK HERE.

As a side note, for those who are following Baby Isaiah’s story, the parents have three more weeks before the court decides Isaiah’s fate.

What a doctor says about the issue.

S.L.E.D. Part 2: Level of Development

by Garnet

It’s time for another instalment in the S.L.E.D. Test Series.  For the other articles in the series, click here.

It is often said that unborn babies are less developed than born babies, and for that reason should not be considered persons.  “It’s just a clump of cells,” people say.  Some refuse to use the term “fetus” to refer to an unborn child, preferring “blob of tissue” as a more accurate name.

This is another attempt to dehumanize the unborn, which makes abortion excusable.  If what is inside a pregnant woman is indeed simply a blob of tissue or a lump of cells, as many in the abortion trade would have women believe, then it’s no big deal to just get rid of the problem.  It would be the same as getting rid of a tumour.

How do prolifers address this?   Of course, we need to say that calling the unborn “clump of cells” is a lie. For example, right at the moment of conception, when the sperm implants the egg, that baby has a gender.  This probably sounds obvious, but some people don’t think about that fact.  Five weeks into the pregnancy, the baby’s heart begins to beat.  At this point, some women might not be 100% sure they’re pregnant!  There are so many other facts that show the humanity of an unborn child, but that will have to be another post.

We can grant the objector’s point that a one-month old unborn child is less developed than a nine-month old born child.  But how does this fact affect the personhood of this human life?  For example, a toddler is not as developed as a kindergartener.  Does that mean the kindergartener has more of a right to life than a toddler?  In fact, human beings are on a continuous line of development our entire lives.  But we do not attain more of a right to life as we develop.

The choice of the moment of birth as the defining moment where a child is valued is incredibly arbitrary.  Some babies are born after 38 weeks, some are born after 42 weeks.  Why, all of a sudden, when the baby leaves the uterus his or her mother, are they developed enough for our standards?  There must be another factor.

Stay tuned for the next instalment about Environment.

S.L.E.D. Part 1: Size

by Garnet

The “morality of abortion” debate always centres on one question: “What is the unborn?”  I’ve had discussions with people about abortion, and no matter where we started (hard cases, overpopulation, unwanted/unplanned pregnancies), the discussion always comes to this point.  If the pro-life movement is wrong about the humanity of the unborn child we are all wasting our time.  But if pro-choice people are wrong there are countless children being killed daily.  The question, “What is the unborn” is of paramount importance; it is a matter of life and death.

This four part blog series (over the next while) will deal with four objections to the personhood of the unborn (Size, Level of Development, Environment, Degree of Dependency).  The first argument goes like this:

“The unborn child is smaller than a born child or toddler.  In fact, they are simply blobs of tissue.  Therefore they do not have the right to life.”

The pro-life advocate would respond like this: Size is not a fair criterion for determining value.  Physical size simply has nothing to do with rights.  For example, take a look at this amazing video in which the world’s tallest man meets the world’s smallest man (at the time – in 2007).

Would anyone assert that Bao Xishun, who is 7 feet, 9 inches, has more of a right to life than He PingPing, who is only 2 feet, 5 inches?  After all, Bao Xishun is over 5 feet taller than He PingPing.  This would be quickly condemned as discrimination.  Or consider another example: a toddler is a lot smaller than a grown man or woman.   Are we therefore permitted to dispose of a toddler if it would benefit someone else?  Of course not.  This is a preposterous proposition.  But, from the time of conception, right through childhood, adolescence and beyond, human beings grow in size.  Why did we pick birth as the moment babies are big enough to have the right to life?  It just makes no sense.

Maybe one of the other arguments, Level of Dependency, Environment or Degree of Dependency, will convince you more, so stay tuned.

p.s. The SLED concept comes from Stephen Shwartz’s book The Moral Question of Abortion (Chicago: Loyola University Press, 1990).