Abortion debate, Part 3: The unanswered challenge

When does science tell us that life begins?

When does science tell us that life begins?

In her opening remarks, Dr. McLean asserted that the fetus is not a human. She made several other assertions and arguments that I rebutted, but this was the most glaring error of the debate. As Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not to his own facts.”

My introductory comments were posted yesterday. In them, I challenged Dr. McLean to prove her assertion that the fetus was not human. I would accept almost all of her points. I would agree that abortion should be legal, that abortion should be covered by insurance, that I would even quit my job and find another career. I would do all of this, if and only if she could present conclusive scientific and/or philosophic evidence to show that the preborn child is not human. As you may be aware, no such evidence exists.

To rebut the myth that the unborn child is not human (or that life doesn’t begin at conception), I quoted both medical textbooks and pro-abortion sources:

Zygote. This cell results from the union of an oocyte and a sperm during fertilization. A zygote is the beginning of a new human being (i.e., an embryo). … [The zygote] marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual. (Keith L. Moore and T.V.N. Persaud, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, 7th ed., Philadelphia: Saunders, 2003, pp 2,16)

It is the penetration of the ovum by a spermatozoan and resultant mingling of the nuclear material … that constitutes the culmination of the process of fertilization and marks the initiation of the life of a new individual. (Bradley M. Patten, Human Embryology, 3rd ed., New York: McGraw Hill, 1968, p 43)

We of today know that man is born of sexual union; that he starts life as an embryo within the body of the female; and that the embryo is formed from the fusion of two single cells, the ovum and the sperm. This all seems so simple and evident to us that it is difficult to picture a time when it was not part of the common knowledge. (Alan F. Guttmacher. Life in the Making: The Story of Human Procreation. New York: Viking Press, 1933. p 3.) [Alan Guttmacher is a former president of Planned Parenthood.]

Perhaps the most straightforward relation between you and me on the one hand and every human fetus from conception onward on the other is this: All are living members of the same species, homo sapiens. A human fetus, after all, is simply a human being at a very early stage in his or her development. (David Boonin, A Defense of Abortion, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2002, p 20)

In the top drawer of my desk, I keep [a picture of my son]. This picture was taken on September 7, 1993, 24 weeks before he was born. The sonogram image is murky, but it reveals clear enough a small head tilted back slightly, and an arm raised up and bent, with the hand pointing back toward the face and the thumb extended out toward the mouth. There is no doubt in my mind that this picture, too, shows [my son] at a very early stage in his physical development. And there is no question that the position I defend in this book entails that it would have been morally permissible to end his life at this point. (David Boonin, A Defense of Abortion, New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003, p xiv)

Case closed, but if you want more proof, check out this article: When does life begin?

More coverage to follow in Part 4.

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5 Responses to “Abortion debate, Part 3: The unanswered challenge”

  1. April 20th, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    Lynn Thompson says:

    A question I wanted to ask but, because opinion is irrelevent in debate, I didn’t. How do you (personally) define humanity? Not with quotes, but in your own words and through your own heart and mind.

  2. April 21st, 2011 at 12:48 am

    Fletcher says:

    Can we say, a living being with human parents? Per your request, I’m doing this without consulting any dictionary. But I reserve the right to change my answer if I figure out that it’s incomplete!

  3. April 21st, 2011 at 9:13 am

    Abortion debate, Part 4: Who is more pro-choice? says:

    […] Home « Abortion debate, Part 3: The unanswered challenge […]

  4. April 21st, 2011 at 10:37 am

    Lynn Thompson says:

    Not exactly what I meant. Not what constitutes a human being, but what constitutes humanity itself. I hope that makes sense.

  5. April 24th, 2011 at 1:30 am

    Fletcher says:

    Could be the collective of all of us.
    Could be the quality of being human.
    Not sure I’m getting the question.

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