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smac97

Is "When Does Life Begin?" a Scientific or Moral Question? Both?

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26 minutes ago, the narrator said:

.

"The rationale is the lack of a rationale for meaningfully calling an embryo a person--that is without forcefully retconning the term to include embryos for reasons other than the abortion debate."

==Here are some postulations:

1. An embryo is a "person."
2. A newborn baby is a "person."
3. A three-year old child is a "person."
4. An accident victim on life support is a "person."
5. A comatose person is a "person."
6. An elderly Alzheimer's patient is a "person."
7. An elderly ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) patient is a "person."

==I assume you agree with postulations #2-7, but not with #1.  Is that correct?  If so, what are the legal / ethical / moral grounds for you to differentiate #1 from #2-7?

"By that I mean the only time anyone really attempts to claim that an embryo is a person is when they are doing so as part of anti-abortion argument."

==I don't think that's true.  For example, discussion of fetal alcohol syndrome could also trigger such a discussion.  Or laws pertaining to fetal homicide.  

"There isn't any particular point besides the neonatal baby taking its first breath, I guess."

==What is it about a baby "taking its first breath" that turns a baby from a non-person to a person?

"(Which is, according to Genesis, is when the spirit enters the body.)"

==According to Luke 1:41, "when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb."  And in Luke 1:44, Elizabeth declared that "as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy."

==And in Luke 1:15, we are told (speaking of Jesus), that "he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb."

"I'm certainly open to the possibility of the prenatal fetus being viewed as a person while recognizing that it not legally such when it cannot possibly have full rights of a person when that would conflict with the already recognized full rights of an adult person."

==Again, the reasoning for this distinction is not self-evident.  For example, why can't it be extended to a baby just born?  It could be said that the newborn baby's rights will "conflict" with the mother's, so why can't the newborn be killed?

==What does "coflict with the already recognized full rights" mean, anyway?  

"Personhood is a complex notion that involves multiple cultural factors."

==But it's a notion that needs to be ascertained and clarified, since otherwise we end up with problems like partial-birth abortion, euthanasia, slavery, and so on.

"Any sort of metaphysics that imply there is a precise point when a fetus becomes a persons is just silly."

==So in the absence of "a precise point," at what point does personhood spring into existence?

==Also, earlier in your post you reference the beginning of personhood as "the neonatal baby taking its first breath."  How is it that my "precise point" of personhood (fertilization) "is just silly," but your "precise point" of personhood (first breath) is not?

"You seem to be disagreeing with this declaration.  I get that.  But you are not addressing it on the merits.  You are only sneering at it.  Again, what is the reasoning for your position in opposition to the above statement?"

"Because those who make the "LIFE!" pro-life argument routinely betray (or acknowledge the insufficiency of ) the rationale when it comes to ending other lives--such as with persons on life support, capital punishment, war, etc."

==Well, no, not really.  I think the ethics of these issues have been explored and discussed quite well.

"If Person B is on life support, can Person A unilaterally 'pull the plug' for any reason, or no reason at all?  If not, then what reasons exist as would allow Person A to 'pull the plug?'"

"The recognition that a person is not mere cellular activity."

==What does "cellulare activity" mean?  And how is an embryo's "cellular activity" differentiated from, say, your "cellular activity?"

Thanks,

-Smac

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1 hour ago, Storm Rider said:

Those situations are all restricted to specific circumstances. It is never, "Geez, grandma is getting old and it is so inconvenient to take care of her; I say let's bump her off."  The authority to pull the plug is very narrowly granted.

Agreed, but this does not make my initial statement any less true. 

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6 hours ago, smac97 said:

The Church's position on abortion is both clear (see here, here and here) and yet also nuanced (see here).

Thoughts?

Thanks,

-Smac

We often make choices in behalf of the living who are unable to make them independently (e.g., when to remove life support, when to abort), especially when it comes to offspring. So, I think the question of ending another life is no more a function of when that life begins than bringing a life into the world not knowing exactly when it ends (temporally or qualitatively).

We are taught to lose our lives to save others, the Father gave up His Son to save others (and Abraham was willing to give up his son). These are certainly moral questions 9and the Church treats it as such in the Handbook).

I think when we make laws that bind a society to particular behaviors and mores, people ultimately participate on a moral and not a scientific basis, no matter what the science says. Politics are fundamentally emotional, arising out of a personal sense of fairness also. Science just becomes part of the overall debate, but spiritual truth shines out of darkness independent of science and debate, and that is where our leaven comes in.

I’m seeing the secularization of society relying more and more on scientific debate, but the saints are also encouraged to be driven by personal revelation, including how to leverage the science when necessary. The war in heaven continues and the adversary is just as convincing as the Spirit to those who do not comprehend the light shining in darkness.

(I think 95% of scientists would agree that conception is an expression and a continuation, and not only the beginning, of life).

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4 hours ago, rpn said:

I find it difficult to understand how anyone who politically believes in smaller government thinks government should impose it's will over women and their drs who are far better informed and equipped to figure out the nuances anyway.

I find it difficult to understand those who cannot grasp that the State has an interest in preserving the lives of genetically unique human organisms, regardless of their age or degree of development, from being snuffed out without due process.

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28 minutes ago, JAHS said:

I knew one lady who went to her doctor and said she wanted an abortion.

The doctor asked "How far along are you?"

The lady replied "He's 17 years old now". 

 

 

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2 minutes ago, smac97 said:

==Here are some postulations:

1. An embryo is a "person."
2. A newborn baby is a "person."
3. A three-year old child is a "person."
4. An accident victim on life support is a "person."
5. A comatose person is a "person."
6. An elderly Alzheimer's patient is a "person."
7. An elderly ALS (Lou Gehrig's Disease) patient is a "person."

==I assume you agree with postulations #2-7, but not with #1.  Is that correct?  If so, what are the legal / ethical / moral grounds for you to differentiate #1 from #2-7?

Thousands of years of human culture, history, law, and language. Censuses don't count fetuses. US Law doesn't consider a fetus a person (nor does any other nation as far as I'm aware.) Most religions throughout history did not consider the fetus to be a person. Most persons don't consider a miscarriage to be the death of a person. Etc, etc, etc.

7 minutes ago, smac97 said:

==I don't think that's true.  For example, discussion of fetal alcohol syndrome could also trigger such a discussion.  Or laws pertaining to fetal homicide.  

Double homicide laws for pregnant women were largely done with the hope of giving personhood to fetuses to bolster the abortion debate, so my point remains. However, those even haven't been interpreted that way and are more viewed in harms caused to remaining family members, particularly the father, whose anticipated child (potential person) was killed and not a legal person. Similarly, discussions on alcohol and other drug abuse are all generally made in the context of the harm it causes the future person and not the fetus itself.

11 minutes ago, smac97 said:

==What is it about a baby "taking its first breath" that turns a baby from a non-person to a person?

In a time and culture when pregnancies were more likely to terminate with a miscarriage or still birth, the significance is that they have a living child.

13 minutes ago, smac97 said:

==According to Luke 1:41, "when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb."  And in Luke 1:44, Elizabeth declared that "as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy."

==And in Luke 1:15, we are told (speaking of Jesus), that "he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb."

Yes. Some early Christians took this to mean that quickening was evidence of a living soul in the womb, but they didn't take it as far as conception. That really doesn't happen until Augustine, who thought that ejaculate contained a multitude of souls, and hence:

 

17 minutes ago, smac97 said:

==What does "coflict with the already recognized full rights" mean, anyway?  

A pregnant woman and a fetus cannot both have full rights. This is at the core of the abortion debate.

20 minutes ago, smac97 said:

==But it's a notion that needs to be ascertained and clarified, since otherwise we end up with problems like partial-birth abortion, euthanasia, slavery, and so on.

Not really.

20 minutes ago, smac97 said:

==So in the absence of "a precise point," at what point does personhood spring into existence?

The absence of the point means there is no point. Not sure how this is confusing for ya.

21 minutes ago, smac97 said:

==Also, earlier in your post you reference the beginning of personhood as "the neonatal baby taking its first breath."  How is it that my "precise point" of personhood (fertilization) "is just silly," but your "precise point" of personhood (first breath) is not?

Because autonomously breathing as a distinct human individual that has been recognized by the community is a well established notion of personhood. Appeals to fertilization for personhood only exist in the context of abortion. It's a bootstrapping definition constructed to appeal to itself.

25 minutes ago, smac97 said:

==What does "cellulare activity" mean?  And how is an embryo's "cellular activity" differentiated from, say, your "cellular activity?"

My personhood really doesn't have anything to do with biology. It's not like personhood came into being with microscopes. Rather its a complex notion that has arisen from tens of thousands of years of human existence involving culture, language, law, etc. Being alive is not nor has ever been the primary indicator of whether or not someone is a person. Rather it's only been a modifying characteristic of a person--whether someone is a living person or a dead person (or in this context, a potential person.)

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1 hour ago, smac97 said:

Yes.  But end-of-life decisions are quite a bit different from the abortion debate. 

End-of-life decisions are, by the very meaning of the phrase, about the decisions made at the end of a person's life. 

As I said, there are different phases of life in which essentializing "life" takes on different values. 

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Such decisions are not about taking affirmative steps to kill the individual, but rather about withholding measures designed to prolong life.  

That's a bit of a semantic game, though. In the end, this is a phase in which the person's "life" is conceptualized and treated very differently. It is irrelevant to the abortion debate to identify the point at which biological life begins if one cannot sustain an argument for why it ought to be treated identically to the life of a born person.  

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Moreover, the individual may have left instructions regarding his preferences for "end-of-life decisions."  That individual had a choice, a voice in the process.

  In many cases, yes. In many cases, no. 

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In contrast, aborted babies have no voice, no ability to declare their preferences.

They have no preferences to declare.

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How many of these would be a justifiable basis for Person A making an "end-of-life decision" for Person B?  For an elderly person?  Or a teenager?  Or a toddler?  

We're getting off target now. I didn't say the justifications for abortion were transferable to the justifications for end-of-life decisions, I said the identification of a "person" is a more salient framework for this debate than identifying "life," since it has different phases in which it is conceptualized and treated differently. In absolutely every corner of our culture, including within biology, a born person is conceptualized as a different entity than a born person and experiences a vastly different type of "life" than a fetus. The "life" argument in the abortion debate is arbitrary. 

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1 hour ago, smac97 said:

First, could you explain the reasoning behind your assertion?  It's not self-evidently true, so I'd like to understand the rationale you have in mind.

I hope you don't mind if I butt in, but this is really the central question, and there hasn't been near enough discussion of it. If this is about the right to life, I would point out that rights are only guaranteed in the Constitution to persons and citizens, not to all human life. Personhood is the question, not life. 

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Second, at what point does "an embryo or early stage fetus" achieve personhood, then?  I am genuinely curious as to your perspective on this issue.

There is no dichotomous threshold where it goes from 0% person to 100% person. It's a conceptual category with fuzzy boundaries, but intuitively personhood is fundamentally relational. It's about social roles and relationships between people. When parents start to perceive a personality in an unborn child, a concept of personhood begins to develop, albeit faint. Birth is the first significant leap forward in the development of personhood, and then the abilities to communicate and act in social roles represent the next significant advances. It's different from society to society and from time to time, and the boundaries are usually only reified insofar as they are rhetorically necessary or useful. These categories don't form at the boundaries, they form at the center.

This is all socio-culturally contingent. If I asked you how long you've been alive, or how long you've been on this earth, you'd measure from birth. We think of birth as the beginning of the phase of life that includes all living person. Even in the Church, while there are comments from leaders sprinkled across the spectrum from conception to birth as the threshold of personhood, we default to omitting stillbirths from most records and all ordinances. Constitutional rights all apply only to born persons. Even in the Bible, fetuses are valued less than born people. Penalties for striking a woman and causing a miscarriage are simple fines, whereas it's life for life if a person is murdered. Even those who want to try to extend personhood back to conception have yet to wrestle with the implications of all the other rights that are extended by our rule of law to persons. Can a pregnant woman claim her unborn child on tax returns? Collect child support from an absent father? Does her qualify for higher amounts for food stamps? If the fetus is a person, the answer will have to be yes across the board, otherwise we're constructing a special category of person just for the fetus, which undermines the central point of the "life begins at conception" argument. This is a product of the arbitrariness of the attribution of personhood to fetuses. It's not the product of objective reason or logical consequences, it's born of rationalization for an ideological position. These are all ways our cultures have wrestled with where personhood begins, and it's only been since the mid-seventies, when evangelical leaders decided to make abortion the standard under which it would muster the religious right to frustrate government attempts to desegregate their schools, that our particular society has slowly built of the nerve to attempt to popularize a black and white notion of full personhood at conception. 

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Posted (edited)
4 hours ago, Dan McClellan said:

Agreed, but this does not make my initial statement any less true. 

Dan, I don't think it is a question of your statement being true or not, but its validity of being used as a comparison is significantly narrowed. 

This topic is challenging due to the layers of undercurrent issues that come into play: abortion, end-of-life choices; euthanasia, etc. are just the beginnings of a long list. 

What is evident in the initial post - the vast majority of the scientists agreed on when life begins - when an egg is fertilized. We may argue that point, but these scientists have made a conclusion.

Further, scientific conclusions can be thrown out the window when applied to personal rights, specifically women's rights. Scientists are willing to forfeit any scientific conclusions IF they conflict with their political views. This scares the dowad out of me and makes me doubt almost any study if there are political implications that can be attached. It turns out that scientists are just as irrational and human as the rest of us. 

Individual Latter-day Saints may have a range of positions regarding abortion. Some think what was found in spiritual thought of ancient Israel has an impact on what we should think today. Others posit that the science of today can allow us to take a more sure foundation upon which to build our personal opinions outside what the Church has clearly stated on the topic.

For me, I am concerned about how we as individuals that recognize each other as children of God, can ever easily conclude that we can choose to end the life of a child at any age from cell fertilization forward. I find anyone that stands of the "rights" position on a slippery slope. If we can make a decision on when to end a child's life in the womb, we can eventually make a decision to end the life of anyone should their life become a significant inconvenience. 

Edited by Storm Rider
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I have yet to meet a person who actually believes that a newborn is in anyway comparable to a blastocyst. If you think you do, please participate in the following thought experiment. 

You are a janitor in a fertility clinic that is on fire. You are by a small freezer with X fertilized embryos. By the freezer is a new born. You can save the new born or the freezer with the embryos. There are no other options. You can’t save both. Any delay and everyone dies. How large does X need to be before you take the freezer instead of the newborn?

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13 minutes ago, Storm Rider said:

Dan, I don't think it is a question of your statement being true or not, but its validity of being used as a comparison is significantly narrowed. 

I would say the argument I'm up against is trying to prop up a clear enough dichotomy that narrow is still just as valid.

Quote

 

This topic is challenging due to the layers of undercurrent issues that come into play: abortion, end-of-life choices; euthanasia, etc. are just the beginnings of a long list. 

What is evident in the initial post - the vast majority of the scientists agreed on when life begins - when an egg is fertilized. We may argue that point, but these scientists have made a conclusion.

 

I would disagree that these scientists made a conclusion. I think it's more accurate to say opinions were aggregated.

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Further, scientific conclusions can be thrown out the window when applied to personal rights, specifically women's rights. 

Individual Latter-day Saints may have a range of positions regarding abortion. Some think what was found in spiritual thought of ancient Israel has an impact on what we should think today. Others posit that the science of today can allow us to take a more sure foundation upon which to build our personal opinions outside what the Church has clearly stated on the topic.

For me, I am concerned about how we as individuals that recognize each other as children of God, can ever easily conclude that we can choose to end the life of a child at any age from cell fertilization forward. I find anyone that stands of the "rights" position on a slippery slope. If we can make a decision on when to end a child's life in the womb, we can eventually make a decision to end the life of anyone should their life become a significant inconvenience. 

I don't think we're on nearly that slippery a slope, and the discussion I posted above about how we conceptualize personhood I think illustrates a pretty strong bulwark against it. Roe v. Wade establishes a perfectly fine standard, and the controversial law that came under scrutiny in New York earlier this year is actually materially no different from the Church's own standard regarding when abortion may be appropriate. (The Virginia law was wildly misunderstood and misrepresented.)

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19 minutes ago, Dan McClellan said:

I hope you don't mind if I butt in, but this is really the central question, and there hasn't been near enough discussion of it. If this is about the right to life, I would point out that rights are only guaranteed in the Constitution to persons and citizens, not to all human life. Personhood is the question, not life. 

From a legal perspective, yes.

19 minutes ago, Dan McClellan said:

There is no dichotomous threshold where it goes from 0% person to 100% person.

Which is how we ended up with slavery. 

I submit that we need to define such a dichotomous threshhold, just as our ancestors did.  Black people did not lack personhood because of their skin color or ancestry.  And I submit that in utero babies do not lack personhold because they have not drawn a breath.

19 minutes ago, Dan McClellan said:

It's a conceptual category with fuzzy boundaries, but intuitively personhood is fundamentally relational. It's about social roles and relationships between people.

Well, not really.  Black people went from chattel to persons.  The "fuzzy boundaries" were things like Jim Crow laws, literacy tests, and other abominations against our black brothers and sisters.  It took us a solid century to get rid of those "fuzzy boundaries" and recognize the complete personhood of black people in America.

So I don't think we can shrug off the dichotomy (person v. non-person) and the fuzzy boundaries (Jim Crow laws, etc.).  We need to address both issues as they pertain to babies in the womb.

19 minutes ago, Dan McClellan said:

When parents start to perceive a personality in an unborn child, a concept of personhood begins to develop, albeit faint.

And after the Civil War, society started to perceive black people as persons.  But only in fits and spurts.  Only in certain ways.  And society was wrong to do so.  Black people were fully persons under the law, but they were not treated that way for a very long time.

19 minutes ago, Dan McClellan said:

Birth is the first significant leap forward in the development of personhood, and then the abilities to communicate and act in social roles represent the next significant advances. It's different from society to society and from time to time, and the boundaries are usually only reified insofar as they are rhetorically necessary or useful. These categories don't form at the boundaries, they form at the center.

I don't think that's how the law works, though.

19 minutes ago, Dan McClellan said:

This is all socio-culturally contingent. If I asked you how long you've been alive, or how long you've been on this earth, you'd measure from birth.

So would the law.

19 minutes ago, Dan McClellan said:

We think of birth as the beginning of the phase of life that includes all living person.

I'm not sure about that.  Each time my wife became pregnant, we began to speak of our nascent child in the present tense.

19 minutes ago, Dan McClellan said:

Even in the Church, while there are comments from leaders sprinkled across the spectrum from conception to birth as the threshold of personhood, we default to omitting stillbirths from most records and all ordinances. Constitutional rights all apply only to born persons.

Well, that's the question though, isn't it?  Constitutional rights originally only applied to white male landowners.  Over time, we changed our understanding of such things to include women, black people, and so on.

19 minutes ago, Dan McClellan said:

Even in the Bible, fetuses are valued less than born people. Penalties for striking a woman and causing a miscarriage are simple fines, whereas it's life for life if a person is murdered. Even those who want to try to extend personhood back to conception have yet to wrestle with the implications of all the other rights that are extended by our rule of law to persons.

I acknowledge this.

But then, we had to wrestle with the implications of all the rights given to the freed slaves, too.  It took us a while, and we are still working on it.  But the basic concept - that black people are persons under the law - has been in place for quite a while.  It took a war and tens of thousands of lives to get this far.  It took a century of civil rights efforts to get this far.  And we still have work to do.

So when does personhood begin?  That's the key issue.

19 minutes ago, Dan McClellan said:

Can a pregnant woman claim her unborn child on tax returns?

No.  But a mother also can't claim a deduction for a child who has died, or who is over 21 and filing on his own, etc.

19 minutes ago, Dan McClellan said:

Collect child support from an absent father?

Nope.  Child support begins at birth.  However, the law often requires a father to provide insurance for the mother, and that can include prenatal care.

19 minutes ago, Dan McClellan said:

Does her qualify for higher amounts for food stamps?

No.

19 minutes ago, Dan McClellan said:

If the fetus is a person, the answer will have to be yes across the board,

No, it wouldn't.  The law makes principled-but-still-somewhat-arbitrary distinctions all the time.  A teenager who is 15 years and 11 months and 29 days old does not magically become a more competent driver a few days later when he turns 16, and yet the law requires him wait until he's 16 anyway.  There is no appreciable difference in safety in a driver going 25 MPH as compared to 26 MPH, and yet the speed limit remains 25 MPH.  And on and on and on.

If the government is going to impose a principled-but-still-somewhat-arbitrary distinction about personhood, about the right to life, then I would prefer that the distinction favor life.

19 minutes ago, Dan McClellan said:

otherwise we're constructing a special category of person just for the fetus, which undermines the central point of the "life begins at conception" argument. 

Not really.

19 minutes ago, Dan McClellan said:

This is a product of the arbitrariness of the attribution of personhood to fetuses.

The law grapples with such distinctions all the time.  I woke up on my 21st birthday and could legally drink alcohol, whereas the day before I could not.  That was pretty arbitrary.

A statute of limitations lawsuit filed one day after the limitations period ended is prohibited and, absent further considerations (such as tolling), is subject to immediate dismissal, no matter how meritorious the underlying claim is. 

I can practice law in St. George and be fully compliant with the law.  But if I drive 40 minutes south and practice law in Mesquite, NV, I would get in trouble with both the Nevada and Utah bar associations.  

But such distinctions matter.  A lot.

19 minutes ago, Dan McClellan said:

It's not the product of objective reason or logical consequences, it's born of rationalization for an ideological position.

I'm not sure it's either/or.  We used reason and logic and ideology to move black people from the "Chattel" category to the "Human Being" category.  Why can't we do the same with babies in utero?

19 minutes ago, Dan McClellan said:

These are all ways our cultures have wrestled with where personhood begins, and it's only been since the mid-seventies, when evangelical leaders decided to make abortion the standard under which it would muster the religious right to frustrate government attempts to desegregate their schools, that our particular society has slowly built of the nerve to attempt to popularize a black and white notion of full personhood at conception. 

Actually, it was the Supreme Court that did that.  Roe v. Wade is a pile of legal nonsense.

For me, I think abortion is a states rights issue.

Thanks,

-Smac

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44 minutes ago, SeekingUnderstanding said:

I have yet to meet a person who actually believes that a newborn is in anyway comparable to a blastocyst.

In terms of personhood, I do.

I have yet to meet a person who can actually formulate a coherent and well-reasoned basis for differentiating the "personhood" of a newborn from the "personhood" of baby in utero.

44 minutes ago, SeekingUnderstanding said:

If you think you do, please participate in the following thought experiment. 

You are a janitor in a fertility clinic that is on fire. You are by a small freezer with X fertilized embryos. By the freezer is a new born. You can save the new born or the freezer with the embryos. Any delay and everyone dies. How large does X need to be before you take the freezer instead of the newborn?

It's a no-win scenario.  "You are a janitor in a hospital that is on fire. You are by a the neonatal unit and find two babies.  Your arm is injured, so you can only save one of them.  There are no other options. You can’t save both.  Any delay and everyone dies.  What do you do?"

Or how about this: You are a janitor in a hospital that is on fire.  You hear cries in a room, and go to discover an elderly woman with a newborn baby.  You can save her or the baby, not both.  There are no other options.  Any delay and everyone dies.  What do you do?"

Thanks,

-Smac

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Since life ends when the spirit leaves the body, it is obvious that life begins when the spirit enters the body.  The problem is that science is currently, (and perhaps always will be) unable to detect it.

It seems reasonable to me that it occurs sometime between conception and when the first movement is detected.

So, should we err on the side of life, or not?

 

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1 hour ago, the narrator said:

Thousands of years of human culture, history, law, and language.

Slavery was also justified by "thousands o fyears of human culture, history, law, and language."

1 hour ago, the narrator said:

Censuses don't count fetuses.

Censuses did count slaves, though.  And yet such persons were still treated differently under the law.

1 hour ago, the narrator said:

US Law doesn't consider a fetus a person (nor does any other nation as far as I'm aware.) Most religions throughout history did not consider the fetus to be a person. Most persons don't consider a miscarriage to be the death of a person. Etc, etc, etc.

The laws can change, as they did after the Civil War, to reflect an evolving view of personhood.

1 hour ago, the narrator said:

Double homicide laws for pregnant women were largely done with the hope of giving personhood to fetuses to bolster the abortion debate, so my point remains.

What is your point?  That the law generally doesn't recognize the personhood of fetuses?  Okay.  But what will you say if and when the law is changed so that such personhood is recognized under the law?  Will you change your view?

1 hour ago, the narrator said:

A pregnant woman and a fetus cannot both have full rights. This is at the core of the abortion debate.

Whether the latter has any rights is "at the core of the abortion debate."

Whether the rights of the former predominate 100% over those of the latter is "at the core of the abortion debate."

1 hour ago, the narrator said:
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So in the absence of "a precise point," at what point does personhood spring into existence?

The absence of the point means there is no point. Not sure how this is confusing for ya.

Except that there is a point, right?  All of us start out as a zygote, then we develop in the womb, then we're born, then we experience babyhood, then childhood, then adolescence, then adulthood, then old age.

Personhood kicks in somewhere along here, such that Person A cannot unilaterally decide to kill Person B.  So what is that point?

1 hour ago, the narrator said:
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Also, earlier in your post you reference the beginning of personhood as "the neonatal baby taking its first breath."  How is it that my "precise point" of personhood (fertilization) "is just silly," but your "precise point" of personhood (first breath) is not?

Because autonomously breathing as a distinct human individual that has been recognized by the community is a well established notion of personhood.

And that makes it not "silly?"

Also, what do you make of babies born not breathing?  Are doctors obligated to provide medical care, or not?

And what about people who require ventillators to breathe?  No autonomy there.  Does that deprive them of personhood?

And what happens if a community recognizes conception, rather than "autonomously breathing" as the "precise point" of personhood?  Would you accept that?  Why or why not?

1 hour ago, the narrator said:

Appeals to fertilization for personhood only exist in the context of abortion. It's a bootstrapping definition constructed to appeal to itself.

I could just as easily say "Appeals to 'taking its first breath' for personhood only exist in the context of abortion.  It's a bootstrapping definition constructed to appeal to itself."

1 hour ago, the narrator said:

My personhood really doesn't have anything to do with biology.

This is wildly and factually incorrect.  Legal rights attach to "persons" (meaning human beings), but not to animals or robots or inanimate objects.  

1 hour ago, the narrator said:

It's not like personhood came into being with microscopes. Rather its a complex notion that has arisen from tens of thousands of years of human existence involving culture, language, law, etc. 

Agreed.  So we can continue to refine our understanding of personhood, yes?  We did that during the Civil War.  We did that during the Civil Rights Era.  Why can't we do it now as to the unborn?

1 hour ago, the narrator said:

Being alive is not nor has ever been the primary indicator of whether or not someone is a person. Rather it's only been a modifying characteristic of a person--whether someone is a living person or a dead person (or in this context, a potential person.)

Not sure what your point here is.

What, in your view, defines a "person" under the law?  What, in your view, are the criteria for personhood?

Thanks,

-Smac 

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We recently completed our budget estimates hearings. When the budget papers were first released, the government announced that it's launching a 'first 1,000 days' initiative for children. (This is a growing global movement.) This period is from conception to age two. During hearings, an opposition member asked the minister to 'clarify' if the first 1,000 days of a child's life includes time in the womb. Yes, she said. Considering that the two parties that currently form our coalition government both have a pro-abortion requirement built into their preselection of candidates, this answer will no doubt reappear at some point.

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it's only been since the mid-seventies, when evangelical leaders decided to make abortion the standard under which it would muster the religious right to frustrate government attempts to desegregate their schools,

Got a link for this? would like more info. 

Edited by Calm

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An effective way to get one group of people to start killing another group is to state the lack of personhood of the " others " . They are rats/vermin/ inhuman/ beasts / parasites etc. 

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2 minutes ago, smac97 said:

From a legal perspective, yes.

Which I think is really the most relevant perspective here. After all, this isn't so much about morality in and of itself as it is about establishing a foundation for launching a legal argument that can ultimately be imposed on others.

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Which is how we ended up with slavery. 

I would disagree there. Slaves were not considered 0% persons. Even animals are considered persons to some degree by many people. To the degree we establish social relationships with animals, they can function as persons. 

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I submit that we need to define such a dichotomous threshhold, just as our ancestors did.  Black people did not lack personhood because of their skin color or ancestry.  And I submit that in utero babies do not lack personhold because they have not drawn a breath.

For legal reasons, yes, we need to define a threshold, and I think the one that most effectively incorporates socio-cultural, scientific, and medical perspectives is viability. 

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Well, not really.  Black people went from chattel to persons.  The "fuzzy boundaries" were things like Jim Crow laws, literacy tests, and other abominations against our black brothers and sisters.  It took us a solid century to get rid of those "fuzzy boundaries" and recognize the complete personhood of black people in America.

But we have not yet recognized the equal personhood of Black people in America. Police still murder Black people at disproportionately high rates and face either reduced or no legal consequences. Legally, they are treated much differently, and socio-culturally they are commonly dehumanized.

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So I don't think we can shrug off the dichotomy (person v. non-person) and the fuzzy boundaries (Jim Crow laws, etc.).  We need to address both issues as they pertain to babies in the womb.

But there's no corner of our American culture outside of the abortion debate where fetuses are considered persons anywhere approximating the degree that their right to life outweighs the mother's right to privacy. 

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And after the Civil War, society started to perceive black people as persons.  But only in fits and spurts.  Only in certain ways.  And society was wrong to do so.  Black people were fully persons under the law, but they were not treated that way for a very long time.

I address this above. 

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I don't think that's how the law works, though.

Very true, but our law has never treated fetuses as full persons. 

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So would the law.

Yes.

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I'm not sure about that.  Each time my wife became pregnant, we began to speak of our nascent child in the present tense.

Of course, it's filling a certain restricted social role. Its personhood will have expanded significantly as the pregnancy progressed and after it was born, though. 

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Well, that's the question though, isn't it?  Constitutional rights originally only applied to white male landowners.  Over time, we changed our understanding of such things to include women, black people, and so on.

While white male landowners were certainly privileged, there were very few Constitutional rights only extended to them. The extension of rights to Black people and women were a result of their agitation for them, and they didn't infringe upon the rights of anyone else. Attempting to extend rights to fetuses not only will infringe upon the mothers' right to privacy, it would constitute a fundamental restructuring of our conceptualization of personhood. 

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I acknowledge this.

But then, we had to wrestle with the implications of all the rights given to the freed slaves, too.  It took us a while, and we are still working on it.  But the basic concept - that black people are persons under the law - has been in place for quite a while.  It took a war and tens of thousands of lives to get this far.  It took a century of civil rights efforts to get this far.  And we still have work to do.

So when does personhood begin?  That's the key issue.

 

Yes, and I don't think it's been considered particularly thoroughly, and certainly not in anything approximating an objective way. Anti-abortionists are arguing backwards from a dogmatic position. It's just rationalization.

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No.  But a mother also can't claim a deduction for a child who has died, or who is over 21 and filing on his own, etc.

But if full personhood is extended to fetuses, why shouldn't she? She has to spend all kinds of time and money taking care of the fetus.

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Nope.  Child support begins at birth.  However, the law often requires a father to provide insurance for the mother, and that can include prenatal care.

And if personhood extends to fetuses, why shouldn't she be able to? Pregnancy takes quite a bit of support. 

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No.

But she'd be eating for two persons if a fetus becomes a full person.

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No, it wouldn't.  The law makes principled-but-still-somewhat-arbitrary distinctions all the time.  A teenager who is 15 years and 11 months and 29 days old does not magically become a more competent driver a few days later when he turns 16, and yet the law requires him wait until he's 16 anyway.  There is no appreciable difference in safety in a driver going 25 MPH as compared to 26 MPH, and yet the speed limit remains 25 MPH.  And on and on and on.

But that's a question of developing facilities, not of personhood. The arbitrariness relates to establishing a threshold that applies to everyone. A five-year-old would be a phenomenally dangerous driver. That's not arbitrary. On what grounds does a fetus who is fully a person not merit child support in light of the increased costs and restrictions imposed upon a single mother?

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If the government is going to impose a principled-but-still-somewhat-arbitrary distinction about personhood, about the right to life, then I would prefer that the distinction favor life.

Over and against the Constitutional rights of the pregnant woman? What is the principle there? If two people get into a car accident and one dies immediately while the other is quickly dying, a doctor may not legally remove life-saving organs from the deceased person even if it is the only way to save the life of the still-living person. The right to life does not supersede a deceased person's right to privacy. Why should it supersede a woman's?

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Not really.

So we're extending full personhood to fetuses just to facilitate the selective extension of only one Constitutional right to them? Seems like the extension of full personhood is a bit disingenuous. 

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The law grapples with such distinctions all the time.  I woke up on my 21st birthday and could legally drink alcohol, whereas the day before I could not.  That was pretty arbitrary.

Again, the only thing arbitrary is where the threshold is to be placed. There is already a threshold placed in a roughly equally arbitrary place regarding abortion. The extension of personhood arbitrarily changes the place of that threshold. That's not analogous. 

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A statute of limitations lawsuit filed one day after the limitations period ended is prohibited and, absent further considerations (such as tolling), is subject to immediate dismissal, no matter how meritorious the underlying claim is. 

I can practice law in St. George and be fully compliant with the law.  But if I drive 40 minutes south and practice law in Mesquite, NV, I would get in trouble with both the Nevada and Utah bar associations.  

But such distinctions matter.  A lot.

 

And those distinctions already exist vis-à-vis abortion. It's arbitrarily changing them in a way that infringes on the rights of others that's the issue.

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I'm not sure it's either/or.  We used reason and logic and ideology to move black people from the "Chattel" category to the "Human Being" category.  Why can't we do the same with babies in utero?

Because it infringes on the Constitutional rights of others. 

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Actually, it was the Supreme Court that did that.  Roe v. Wade is a pile of legal nonsense.

Evangelicals widely respected and defended the decision in the first few years after the ruling. Paul Weyrich and Jerry Fallwell orchestrated the rallying of evangelicals over the next six years around opposition to abortion.

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For me, I think abortion is a states rights issue.

I have yet to see an issue that was asserted to be a "states rights" issue that wasn't fundamentally about circumventing federal restrictions on infringing on the Constitutional right of others.

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4 hours ago, the narrator said:

 

 

Of course somebody had to go there with this little bit of Antipapistry 

Edited by USU78

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Posted (edited)

duplicate

 

Edited by mfbukowski

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5 hours ago, JAHS said:

I knew one lady who went to her doctor and said she wanted an abortion.

The doctor asked "How far along are you?"

The lady replied "He's 17 years old now". 

 

Well that should be acceptable because everyone knows that life begins at 40.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4gXVXVXzqg

 

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3 hours ago, smac97 said:

In terms of personhood, I do.

I have yet to meet a person who can actually formulate a coherent and well-reasoned basis for differentiating the "personhood" of a newborn from the "personhood" of baby in utero.

 I agree completely that a 40 week fetus is indistinguishable from a newborn baby. That said an embryo is nothing like a baby. An embryo has no thoughts, feelings, or consciousness. If you start with a grain of sand and add one at a time when does it become a heap? As of yet, there are no clear boundaries. It’s hard to define, like many things in life. 

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It's a no-win scenario.  "You are a janitor in a hospital that is on fire. You are by a the neonatal unit and find two babies.  Your arm is injured, so you can only save one of them.  There are no other options. You can’t save both.  Any delay and everyone dies.  What do you do?"

First what a complete and utter dodge of the question (as well as a misread). I wonder why you didn’t answer. I have no problem answering yours:

That’s tragic. I would likely choose one at random and leave. I would cry afterwords. It would be a hard choice. As mentioned above, you completely misread the question. To be analogous, with my one good arm, I could activate a sprinkler system and save a roomful of X kids, or save the one kid I see engulfed in flames. It’s a tragic choice for me, but I would choose the many over the one. Remember the fridge has 100’s or perhaps even 1000’s of embryos. So you’d choose the fridge right? How many embryos is worth the life of one new born? It’s not a hard question! For me there is no number. I’d always choose the baby and wouldn’t lose any sleep over the choice. Would you?

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Or how about this: You are a janitor in a hospital that is on fire.  You hear cries in a room, and go to discover an elderly woman with a newborn baby.  You can save her or the baby, not both.  There are no other options.  Any delay and everyone dies.  What do you do?"

This is sad, but not a hard choice. I’d choose the baby who has their whole life in front of him/her. There might be certain cases where I’d choose differently: if the child was terminally ill or the elderly woman was vitally important. Again as above, I would be sad, I’d likely develop some form of PTSD. It would be hard, completely unlike leaving a fridge full of blastocysts. 

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Thanks,

-Smac

I answered your scenarios, I wonder if you can answer mine. 

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32 minutes ago, mfbukowski said:
5 hours ago, JAHS said:

I knew one lady who went to her doctor and said she wanted an abortion.

The doctor asked "How far along are you?"

The lady replied "He's 17 years old now". 

 

Well that should be acceptable because everyone knows that life begins at 40.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4gXVXVXzqg

Meant to be a joke, but why should the thought of aborting a child at 17 be any different than aborting them at a few weeks in the womb?
It's simply a matter of their location. 
By the way I noticed you reached the 30,000 post milestone. 👍

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