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Concerning Abortion

Recently I viewed a post on Facebook. It was a video by Bill Nye, The Science Guy. He took what he called an “objective” scientific look at abortion. Primarily, it began as a basic explanation of the birth process and ended with the proclamation that we cannot tell women what to do. So, let’s indeed discuss this issue objectively from a scientific and logical perspective.

Discussion One: Is an embryo in the earliest stages of development considered to possess life?

It has been stated that scientifically life does not begin when the egg is fertilized by sperm because many of these fertilized eggs do not develop. I’m sure that’s true for those that do not develop, but once development begins, a very specific process commences – growth. Once the sperm and egg have become a zygote, it already has the 23 chromosomes from the sperm and the 23 chromosomes of the egg. Chromosomes contain all the information needed to determine the genetic structure of the new baby. Normally all human beings have two chromosomes that determine sex: A combination of X and Y makes a male or a combination of X and X makes a female. (Pregnancy and Birth" authors: Dr. Karina Reynolds, Dr. Christoph Lees, Grainne McCartan). This process takes about 24 hours (Med Health Daily).

Point #1: Within 24 hours after the successful fertilization of the egg, development begins and gender has been determined. Growth occurs.

Now we have two options: Either a zygote is a living entity or a non-living entity?

There is no universally accepted definition of life although many have been suggested. One of the most dependable definitions of life is: any entity or organism that has the ability to take in nourishment, process that nourishment to enable growth and reproduce itself. Certainly there are caveats to this definition. A mule (the offspring that results from the union of a horse and a donkey) cannot reproduce. Also, many humans cannot reproduce as a result of some genetic aberration. However, in normal circumstances, an entity is living if it possesses these capabilities. Contrarily, non-living matter does not possess these capabilities. Therefore, there is a definite distinction between living and non-living substances based on these capabilities.

Once the zygote begins to develop, it travels down the fallopian tube to the uterus. There it becomes implanted in the uterus lining, begins to obtain nourishment and then processes that nourishment. The result is growth. It cannot reproduce itself at this stage but it is in the process of developing that capability and, in normal circumstances, it will be able to perform that function when fully developed. According to our definition of life, the zygote does possess life. It is a living rather than a non-living substance.

Point #2: A zygote is a living entity.

Here, again, we have two options: either the development of this entity will be a human or some other type of organism.

Science and observation confirm that the result of the development of a human zygote will not result in the birth of a plant or a leopard or some other organism. It will result in

the birth of a human. So, if it possesses life and the result of its development will be a human, it is a human life.

Point #3: The developing zygote possesses life and it is human, therefore it is human life.

Discussion Two: Does society have the right to tell women what to do?

The answer to this question seems to be self-evident. Society not only has the right to do so, we have the obligation to do so; not only to women, but also to men. We call these mandates laws. Laws define what society will allow as acceptable and unacceptable behavior. Sometimes these laws also establish or support a moral or ethical code. Among other things, laws protect society from the dangers of selfish behavior. I want this or I want to do that. Many times selfish behavior can have a devastating affect on others. Our laws protect us from people simply acting out of selfishness.

Point #1: Society does have the right and obligation to establish laws that define acceptable social behavior for women and men.

So how do laws apply to abortion? There are several definitions of abortion.

The Legal Dictionary defines abortion as: the spontaneous or artificially induced expulsion of an embryo or fetus. As used in legal context, the term usually refers to induced abortion.

Black’s Law Dictionary defines it as: The artificial or spontaneous termination of a pregnancy before the embryo or fetus can survive on its own outside a woman's uterus.

Both agree that abortion is the termination or expulsion of the embryo, in other words the elimination of the embryo. The definition offered by Black’s is problematic in that it opens a Pandora’s Box of other considerations such as it infers that an entity must be able to survive on its own outside a woman’s uterus. That insinuates that those who are not able to survive independently are at risk of being terminated. That might include the mentally handicapped, the elderly and those who are unable to survive without financial aid. If this definition applies to a living embryo it must also apply to other living entities as well since we are talking about the termination of life. But is the termination of life against the law in America? There are several laws that pertain to one human killing another. (1) There is self-defense where a person kills another because their life is in jeopardy. This is a spontaneous act and is not committed with malice or forethought. (2) There are situations where someone kills another accidentally. Again, this is an act that was not planned or intentional. (3) Then there is the situation where one person plans to take another’s life and does so with forethought: the intentional termination of another’s life. Murder.

Point #2: Murder is defined as the unlawful killing of another human being without justification or excuse (Legal Dictionary).

We have previously concluded that an embryo even in the earliest stages of evolution is a human life. The result of this human life development is a human being. Abortion is a process where one person plans to intentionally terminate another human life. It doesn’t meet the definition of self-defense unless the mother’s life is at risk. It doesn’t meet the criteria for accidental killing since the process involves a predetermination and intention to terminate a human life. So, is it murder? But, to be murder, there must be no acceptable justification or excuse for the killing. So what are the reasons for abortion?

I will put the reasons or justifications into two categories: (1) External Reasons and (2) Personal Reasons. External Reasons include incest and rape. These are pregnancies that are the result of situations that were beyond the control of the victim. The second category is a pregnancy that is the result of a conscious decision to participate in a sexual relationship by the one who becomes pregnant. While abortion is still the decision of the one who is pregnant even where the pregnancy was caused by rape or incest, the reasons for making that decision are more varied and require greater analysis than those that fall under Category 2.

Reasons for choosing abortion under Category 2.

The natural consequence of participating in sexual intercourse is reproduction. We might have forgotten that today since we have chosen to use it as a casual social activity. However, we must be cognizant of its original purpose and understand that it remains the probable result of participating in such an activity in spite of taking precautions to preclude such a result. When an unwanted pregnancy occurs what are the possible reasons for its termination? One is inconvenience. Maybe the pregnancy will cause schedule conflicts. Perhaps the pregnant person isn’t ready to have a family. It would cause financial hardships. It would affect other relationships. It would require a modification in career objectives. All of these reasons are a matter of inconvenience.

Another reason is embarrassment. It might embarrass the family or cause embarrassment with peers. Except for health considerations that might constitute a viable reason for termination, these are the primary reasons or justifications for wanting to take a human life. And if these are acceptable reasons then the question becomes, are inconvenience and embarrassment sufficient causes for taking a human life? Are we allowed to use those reasons for killing another adult or child? The answer is no. So why does it constitute a just reason for taking the life of a developing, living human? In fact, killing for these reasons in any other situation would be considered murder. And so it is.

Final Point:

Except for rape, incest and health concerns, there is no justifiable reason for taking the life of a developing human being. We might attempt to use science to claim technicalities like “when does life begin” or “at an early stage of development the fetus does not actually experience death”. But in reality, commonsense and objective evaluation provides us with the inescapable truth: abortion is murder and it should be treated as such in our justice system.

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