Faith & Hope: Miracle or Mistake?

Faith and Hope were born on the 8th of May to parents Renee Young and Simon Howie.  The twins share one body and one skull, but have two faces and two brains, a rare condition called diprosopus.  You can read their story here or view the Current Affairs video here.  The rarity of their condition and the fact that they have thus far survived to be seven days old has caused various media outlets and people to give them the title of ‘miracle twins’.  But it seems that many disagree.  Comments on the various news stories range from supportive and encouraging to harsh and judgmental.  Numerous commenters indicated that they thought the couple should have aborted Faith and Hope once the prenatal diagnosis was made.  To give some examples from the story linked above:

“If these parents knew of the condition early on the pregnancy, why did they decide to carry the fetus to term? Is that not more inhumane than an abortion under this circumstance? There are no miracles.  This/these babies will die.”

“They are not blessings.  They are bad prenatal care.  A sonogram could have seen this.  Suffering is not okay.”

“I do believe the best thing for their babies would have been to terminate, as cruel as that sounds.”

“Why anyone would carry these to full term is byond [sic] me”

The more cynical comments on other reports expressed displeasure at the idea that taxpayer money would be spent on the care of the twins.  Others worried about their future should they survive past infant-hood – many thought they would be regarded as freaks and never be able to lead anything approximating to a normal life.

To recap, we have rare conjoined twins with an uncertain future.  They have been born to loving parents and, at present, appear to be comfortable and breathing without assistance, while being cared for in neonatal intensive care. I assume from the photographs that they are being fed via an orogastric tube and given intravenous fluids.  Until they develop further, it will be impossible to know how the duplication of the brain has affected their neural functioning.  All other systems appear to be functioning normally, as much as can be taken from the comment of the maternal-foetal medicine specialist quoted in the linked article.

They should be terminated to prevent suffering.

The diagnosis was made at 19 weeks gestation.  At this stage, the unborn child has all the spino-thalamic connections necessary for sensing of pain.  Abortion at this late stage would be by dilation and evacuation or prostaglandin-induced premature delivery, with or without foetal intracardiac lethal injection prior to induction.  A dilation and extraction involves the unborn child being removed from the uterus in pieces, with each piece being torn from the body with forceps.  A prostaglandin-induced abortion involves the death of the foetus either during labour or shortly afterwards.  An intracardiac injection of digoxin or potassium chloride may be given, which causes the foetal heart to stop.  The lack of oxygen delivery to the body causes the accumulation of lactic acid as the cells attempt to create energy using an alternative pathway, which has the potential to cause pain akin to that experienced in a heart attack.  In fact, American Veterinary Medical Association guidelines on euthanasia of animals prohibit the use of potassium chloride injections without first administering a general anaesthetic.

I can only assume that the people making these suggestions are either unaware of the potential for foetal suffering during late-term abortion, or consider the foetus a lower-life form whose pain does not need to be taken into account – even though Australia enforces guidelines to protect adult and foetal animals from pain.

They should be terminated because the taxpayer shouldn’t have to pay for their lives

There’s a word for eliminating people who you don’t think belong in society; who have characteristics that you consider unacceptable.  It’s called eugenics.  Do I really need to explain what is wrong with determining the ‘worthiness’ of children to be born according to have much they will cost the taxpayer?  Disability is not a criterion by which any decent human being should take into account when deciding how to value another.  In fact, there should be no deciding taking place, because we all have equal value, no matter what we have or what we lack – no matter what we are capable of.

Are Faith and Hope a miracle or a mistake?  You know what?  It doesn’t matter.  What matters is that they are human, and thus entitled to have their lives respected by the rest of the human race.


Update
At 19 days of age, Faith and Hope passed away in hospital.  For nearly three weeks, these girls were able to be loved and nurtured by their parents.  No details are available at this point.

 

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Pro-Choice/Pro-Abortion Comments: My Responses (Part II)

The following comments are from this post.

“It has been estimated that about half of all human conceptions end in spontaneous abortion, and usually the woman doesn’t even realize she was pregnant. In fact, about 20% of all recognized pregnancies end in a miscarriage. I think there is a rather obvious truth here that cries out for acknowledgement 🙂 If God exists, he is the most prolific abortionist of all…. lol”

The argument is common, and goes as follows:

  1. Pro-life individuals don’t appear to care about the many embryos and foetuses lost through miscarriage and still-birth.
  2. Since pro-lifers don’t care about these unborn children, they must not really care for unborn children at all.
  3. Therefore the pro-life agenda is not to save unborn children, but to repress women (and can therefore be shunned and ignored).

(The religious aspect to this, that God must necessarily be a causative agent for every event that occurs, is a different discussion for another time).

The issues with this are:

  1. The suggestion that pro-lifers don’t care about the unborn who are lost through miscarriage and still-birth is completely baseless.  It requires the assumption that anyone who may be working towards or supporting medical treatment and research to prevent miscarriages must therefore be pro-choice.   It also ignores the possibility of concurrent advocacy; I can both support and actively participate in miscarriage prevention, while concurrently advocating for the right of the unborn not to be unjustly killed.
  2. This is akin to suggesting that an advocate against infanticide doesn’t actually care for infants because they are not doing anything about SIDS.  Or that an advocate against elder abuse doesn’t actually care for the elderly because they’re not doing anything about finding a cure for cancer.  The line of thinking would say that any care for a portion of the population affected by a particular fate is invalidated if all natural causes of harm or death are not also addressed, which is clearly unreasonable.
  3. Given the problems with (1) and (2), this is no longer a logical conclusion.

Two other points detrimental to this argument are:

  • The difference in dealing with natural and anthropogenic (man-made) causes of death.  As Scott Klusendorf has put it, “Does it follow that because nature kills people we may deliberately do so?”  Does embryonic and foetal death through natural miscarriage then justify the intentional killing of embryos and foetuses through induced abortion?  As with any analogous situation that you can imagine, the answer has to be ‘no’.
  • The suggestion that there exists a difference between the wanted unborn child and the unwanted unborn child.  A crux of the pro-life stance is that every unborn child, regardless of how much they are desired or, conversely, despised, has the right not to be unjustly killed.  What this argument regarding miscarriage seems to be trying to suggest is that pro-lifers should focus their attention on preserving the lives of wanted unborn children who would otherwise be lost – as if the lives of these unborn were somehow more important than the lives of those who are aborted.  This is an attitude that belongs to the pro-choice crowd, and has no place in the pro-life movement.  Thus to criticise pro-lifers for standing against abortion while unborn children are lost through miscarriage is to criticise them for being consistent with their own beliefs.

So the two questions I would ask someone who challenges the pro-life stance with this argument would be:

1. Does natural death justify a lack of action against intentional killing?

2. Is a wanted unborn child more worthy of being saved than an unwanted unborn child?  (The response may be ‘yes’, in which case they need to justify how it is acceptable to determine the worth of one being based on the attitude of another.)

Another point to this is the undue emphasis that can be placed on the feelings of the women experiencing a miscarriage.  So that what I am about to write it is not misinterpreted, let me be clear that every embryo or foetus lost through miscarriage is a child, and every woman who experiences a miscarriage – no matter how early – has the right to mourn the loss of a child.  That being said, it is important to recognise that the fact that some women feel that they have lost a child is not what determines the status of the embryo or foetus.  Equally, the fact that other women do not feel that they have lost a child when they miscarry – with many explaining their sense of loss as stemming from having lost the potentiality of a child (see here for an article written from this perspective) – does not determine the status of the embryo or foetus either. Emotions do not necessarily equate with facts.

 

“Finally, the primary opposition to abortion is from Christian religious groups.

“Well, the whole bunch of literal bible-humpers who can’t say a sentence without invoking ‘god’ or ‘jesus’ annoy me. I usually find that those who shriek “abortion is murder!” the loudest are creationist types, who think the earth is 6,000 years old, that fossils were laid down in a Genesis Flood, and that dinosaurs romped with Adam and Eve in Eden.”

It’s amazing how people love to cling to their stereotypes.  I believe this is because it makes it easier for them to dismiss the arguments of the pro-life side.  Unfortunately, they’re (a) basing this on a logical fallacy, and (b) wrong.

A. The logical fallacy at play is known as ad hominem, or attacking the speaker.  The content of the argument is ignored in favour of attacking the source of the argument. The author of the second comment above is committing this fallacy in suggesting that because the source of an argument against abortion is held by a creationist, the argument itself can be dismissed.  The author of the first does a similar thing, broadening the field to include all Christians.  This side-steps all discussion of the issue at hand, in a way that suggests that there is an unwillingness or inability to engage in the argument (one might question why).  It ignores the obvious fact that truth does not depend on its source, but is a stand-alone concept.  It is also extremely unproductive, as it shuts down what might otherwise be a worthwhile discussion.

B. They’re also wrong.  Secular, non-religious groups are becoming more and more prominent in the pro-life movement.  I’ve linked a few examples below;
Secular Pro-Life Perspectives
Atheist & Agnostic Pro-Life League
Pro-Life Humanists
Pr0-Life Pagans

A 2004-2005 Gallup poll aggregate shows the two ‘extreme’ viewpoints on abortion (‘legal under any’ circumstances, and ‘illegal in all’ circumstances) according to religion.  From this, you can see that although the ‘illegal in all’ stance is more common among Christians, 10% of those who were classified as ‘no religion’ also held this view.  Also worthy of note is that the percentages of Christians with viewpoints at either end of the spectrum were nearly identical: 20% for ‘legal under any’ versus 22% for ‘illegal in all’.  It’s a pity that the two intervening viewpoints (‘legal in most’ circumstances, and legal in ‘only a few’ circumstances) were not shown, as this would have conveyed more information than merely including the two diametrically opposed viewpoints.

 

Religions & Abortion Views

Pro-Choice/Pro-Abortion Comments & My Responses (Part I)

Below are comments I came across on this story: (linked from here).  I wanted to write a response to them here to help equip others who might come across similar sentiments.  Also as an outlet for my frustration regarding seeing these same unthinking statements come up again and again from the pro-choice/pro-abortion side.

“I have a penis and testicles, therefore my opinion is irrelevant. I wish all men would come to this realization.”
“How about when men can get pregnant and grow a child, THEN you can have a say about it.”
He’s a man and he will never understand. No one will ever understand until they feel what it’s like to be pregnant.”

In effect, we’ve just disregarded the opinion of half of the human race.  Seems like a big call.  I would say that firstly, you do not have to undergo something or even have the capacity to undergo something in order to have a valid opinion on it.  If we’re to limit what we can and cannot have opinions on only to things we can personally experience, then each person’s acceptable points of view become repressively narrow and unhelpful.
Secondly, moral issues relate to the protection of society as a whole, and therefore the whole of society has a right to be concerned with them.  The defence of vulnerable populations should not be limited to those who have had first-hand experience.  I have never experienced child-abuse, never known a child-abuser and – to the best of my knowledge – never known an abused child.  And yet I am able to hold an opinion on child-abuse. That opinion is, of course, that it is very wrong, and I suspect that that is the reason why few would argue with my right to hold such an opinion – it’s easier to accept abstract opinions when you agree with them and don’t need to be looking for a reason to invalidate them.
Thirdly, this argument completely disregards any experience men may have had with abortion.  They may have experienced the loss of what was to them a wanted pregnancy.  Just as we would validate a man’s grief over the loss of an unborn child through miscarriage, even though it didn’t happen to him personally, so can we also validate a man’s grief  over an abortion carried out against his will.  Then there are men who have seen a girlfriend, partner or wife suffer through the emotional and physical repercussions of abortion, and their protectiveness of them drives their opinion on the matter.
Of course, I am a woman with a uterus – which has even had a foetus inside it at various times – so it seems that I get a free pass to have an opinion.

unless you have had the experiences of getting an unexpected pregnancy, your opinion is irrelevant” 

Whoa, okay. There goes my free pass. How disappointing.
This statement takes the first lot of arguments I looked at, gets in the car with them, drives down the street, turns left onto the highway and ends up three states over.  Let’s have a play with this sort of sentiment in other situations, and see what we come up with:
“If you haven’t been tortured, your opinion on torture is irrelevant.”
“If you haven’t been an alcoholic, your opinion on alcoholism is irrelevant.”
“If you haven’t been a drug user, your opinion on drug legalisation is irrelevant.”
“If you haven’t been raped, your opinion on the punishment of rapists is irrelevant.”
Once again, to base the validity of our opinions on whether or not we have first-hand experience of the issue in questions is not only stupidly restrictive, it is also impractical.  We need to be able to form judgments on many issues in order to create the laws that keep society functioning and provide protection for those unable to speak for themselves (the unborn, infants, children, profoundly disabled etc.), and it is simply not possible for everyone involved in these processes to have had firsthand experience.  Furthermore, taking this attitude doesn’t actually resolve the argument.  There are women who have experienced the situation of an unwanted pregnancy who have carried the pregnancy to term and consider themselves blessed, and also those who have had an abortion and regretted it ever since.  So regardless of whether or not you apply this criteria, you will still end up with a broad range of differing opinions and an unresolved issue.
But if we’re going to stick with this kind of attitude, how about this one:
“I was once a foetus, therefore my opinion on foetal rights is relevant.”

“The best part of this whole argument and fight, is that most people who are pro-life, are male”
Anyone notice how the ones who have a problem with abortions are pretty much all males?”

Actually, men and women in American share very similar views on abortion, according to Gallup:
American Abortion Views

This is further explored here.  Most interestingly is that in various surveys (not the one above), more women than men favour abortion being illegal in all circumstances.  And by far the greatest percentage of men or women come down in the ‘legal only in a few circumstances’ camp; far from an overwhelming majority cry for abortion on demand.
In my exposure to the pro-life movement, I have come across more women than men.  Admittedly, this is my personal experience and therefore may not extrapolate across the board, but to list just a few examples:
Abby Johnson
Kelsey Hazzard
Rebecca Kiessling
Hannah Rose Allen
The girls at New Wave Feminists
etc.

” And ten years after that [her abortion], I gave birth to my son at the time that was best for me and for him.”
“Just telling your unborn fetus to come back later is probably the best advice I could give to women with an unwanted pregnancy.”

I’ve read again and again that one of the reasons that women give for abortion is that, “I’m not ready to be a mother.  I want to be a mother when the time is right.”  Some follow this up with remarks like the first one above, in that they had subsequent children at the ‘right time’ and feel that they have been able to fully parent them.  These sort of remarks baffle me slightly, because I’m not sure if the woman involved is deliberately deluding herself to protect her conscience, or if she really doesn’t think it through and realise that the foetus you abort and the foetus you bring to birth and parent are not the same child.  Being the best mother in the world to your living children makes no difference whatsoever to the life that was ended by abortion.  For that child, there was no best time, there was no right time.  There was only one time, and that was when the woman was pregnant with them.  Once that chance has passed, that child will never have another one.

“If you believe that a fetus’s right to life trumps a woman’s right to control her own body, you believe that everyone has the right to requisition organs from other people in order to maintain their life as well.”
“You are not legally bound to donate a kidney, blood, or anything else to a dying relative, even your own child. In the same respect, a woman cannot be legally bound to carrying an unwanted pregnancy”

One of the scary things about the first statement above is that someone further down in the comments seemed to find it a sound argument.  But there are several problems with it;
Firstly and foremostly it demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of what pro-lifers are arguing for.  It’s not the right to have life, regardless of the circumstances and the effect on others.  What the unborn child should have, as should we all, is the right not to be unjustly killed.  Once you realise this, you can see how their whole argument is going nowhere.  Because when we consider that the individual in need of an organ transplant is limited to this right also, we can see that they are no longer justified in removing your organ to sustain their own life.  However, it is also certain that you are not justified in sneaking into their hospital room and putting a pillow over their face.
Which leads onto the next point, as secondly, there is a strong distinction to be made between an act of omission which causes a death, and an act of commission which causes a death.  In the case of the organ receipient-to-be, it is an act of omission which would lead to their death (not giving them your organ).  In every case of abortion, it is an act of commission, a deliberate intervention, that leads to the death of the foetus.
Thirdly, an organ donation involves the introduction of a pathological state, permanent or otherwise, in the donor.  Pregnancy, on the other hand, is a physiological state for which the body is designed and equipped.
Fourthly, this argument ignores the responsibility that a pregnant woman (in the majority of cases) has for creating the foetus’ current state of dependence; a responsibility that is not present for a stranger in need of an organ donation.  A closer analogy would be that the someone had injured another person, causing them to need an organ donation, and then refuses to donate their own organ to assist and, in doing so, condemns this person to death.

I started discussing bodily autonomy here as well, but then I realised that to do it justice, I really need to devote an entire blog post to it.  So I will postpone that discussion for now.

Part II coming soon…

*Edited to add links and fix typos

My Heart Will Not Cease to be Troubled

When reading journal articles looking at abortion, I come across a lot of things that just leave me unable to comprehend how things like this take place in a so-called civilised society.  This one, for example (regarding abortions at twenty weeks gestation and beyond):

“The operative technique was categorized as ‘‘D&E’’ if the procedure required disarticulation of the fetus with forceps. The operative technique was categorized as ‘‘intact D&X’’ if the fetus was delivered largely intact without disarticulation”

“Disarticulation” is when bones are separated at the joint.  Here are a couple of quotes from abortionists if some clarification is needed on why the matter-of-fact way the authors are describing this procedure that’s carried out at their healthcare institution might trouble me:

“And typically when the abortion procedure is started we typically know that the fetus is still alive because either we can feel it move as we’re making our initial grasps or if we’re using some ultrasound visualization when we actually see a heartbeat as we’re starting the procedure.”
Dr Martin Haskwell, in sworn testimony given in US District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin.

“A second trimester D&E abortion is a blind procedure. The baby can be in any orientation or position inside the uterus. Picture yourself reaching in with the Sopher clamp and grasping anything you can. At twenty weeks gestation, the uterus is thin and soft so be careful not to perforate or puncture the walls. Once you have grasped something inside, squeeze on the clamp to set the jaws and pull hard – really hard. You feel something let go and out pops a fully formed leg about 4 to 5 inches long. Reach in again and grasp whatever you can. Set the jaw and pull really hard once again and out pops an arm about the same length. Reach in again and again with that clamp and tear out the spine, intestines, heart and lungs.”
Dr Tony Levantino, former abortionist
(full description here: http://www.priestsforlife.org/resources/medical/delevatino.htm)

Yes, this is horrible, but being unaware won’t change this fact that this legally happens in Australia as well as other countries around the world.  And no matter what your perspective, whether you consider yourself pro-life or pro-choice, I would hope that you’d agree that dismembering a living unborn baby (who can feel pain from 20 weeks with the strong potential to do so prior to that) is so far beyond what is acceptable that we should never see it happen.

If you’re struggling to grasp just what this procedure entails, and you’ve the stomach for it, visit this page to confront images of aborted twenty week foetuses.  Warning: it is very graphic.
http://clinicquotes.com/abortion-at-20-weeks-pictures/

The Embryo/Foetus as a Living Human Person

Introduction

Whether or not we regard the unborn child as a fully human person can completely change the way that we perceive abortion.  Consider these excerpts from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Preamble and Article 3) (emphasis added):

“Whereas recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world”

“Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person.” (http://www.un.org/en/documents/udhr/)

The moment we acknowledge the embryo or foetus as a fully fledged member of the human race, we also acknowledge that abortion is a severe and unjust infringement on the humans rights of this being.  That is why the biological and philosophical status of the unborn child is pivotal to the abortion debate, and why those on both sides must be able to justify fully their position on this point in order to justify their position on abortion.

The Embryo/Foetus is Human

An unborn child has:

  • Human parents
  • Human cells
  • Human DNA
  • Progressively distinct human physiology

It is difficult to see how the inclusion of the embryo/foetus as a member of the human race can even come into question.  One might ask: what would the alternative be?

The Embryo/Foetus is Alive

There are certain biological properties that help us to define what is alive and what is not.  A living organism displays a variety of these properties

Order

The embryo/foetus has a structure that shows visible order; the cells act together in a coordinated fashion to give regular and predictable results; they show distinct and ordered patterns of gene expression.

Boundaries

The embryo/foetus maintains boundaries between itself and the outside environment, distinguishing itself from it and enabling its recognition as a distinct entity.

Energy Processing

The mitochondria of embryonic and foetal cells use aerobic and anaerobic respiration to generate ATP – the energy molecule needed for biological processes.

Environmental Response

According to environmental input, embryonic cells can alter gene expression, alter intracellular signalling, undergo metabolic stress and undergo apoptosis.  Once the appropriate systems have been developed, the foetus can react to sound and noxious (painful) stimuli.

Growth and development

In a suitable environment, the embryo/foetus goes through undeniable growth and development from the very moment of conception.

Reproduction

The embryo or foetus is obviously not capable of sexual reproduction, but an mind-boggling number of cell divisions take place as  a single cell replicates and divides to become trillions of cells.

The Embryo/Foetus is a Person

Is the embryo or foetus human?  Yes.  It is alive?  Unquestionably.  But then, so is my appendix.  And yet it’s not an issue if I choose to have it removed.  So what is the difference between an appendix and a embryo or foetus?

The most obvious difference is that, left to its natural course without interference, an appendix will not manifest as a newborn infant in nine months time.  The acknowledgement of this potential allows us to distinguish the embryo or foetus from other organised structures within the human body; from its conception it is unique.  However, it is important not to wholly define the embryo or foetus by its potential, as this is a denial of its intrinsic and current properties (of which more will be said).

The majority of those who accept or advocate abortion argue that there is a distinction to be drawn between the embryo or foetus and the newborn infant*.  Once the child is born and, in some cases, has drawn its first breath, then and only then can it be acknowledged as a life to be valued and protected (some are a little more generous and allow that the foetus should be protected from a certain time-point onwards; perhaps when it could be viably born, or perhaps when it can theoretically feel pain).  These points of view rest upon the idea that until a certain transition has occurred or a certain stage of development is reached, the embryo or foetus is not a person, and hence not entitled to the rights and protection that all reasonable human beings ought to extend to other persons.

What defines a person?  The straight answer is that there is no consensus.  The difficulty with this is that, though it is unmeasurable, we cannot allow personhood to be subjective.  If personhood is in the eye of the beholder, what right have we to criticise the mother who wraps her newborn child in a plastic bag and leaves it in a dumpster?  Instead we recognise that there can be a legitimate moral imperative to restrict the actions of individuals, regardless of their personal opinion.  Thus it is also true that we cannot allow our treatment of the unborn child to rest on what individual people do or do not believe.

Generally speaking, thoughts on the topic tend to fall into one of two ways of thinking: a person is defined by their capabilities (functionalism), or a person is defined by their nature (essentialism).  To put it simply, functionalism says, “I think and feel, therefore I am person”, whereas essentialism says, “I am a person, therefore I think and feel.”

To some extent, the functionalist approach is irrational, being that we do not confer or withhold personhood from any born person on the basis of their capabilities – it is enough that they have been born as human offspring to human parents.  An example of a functionalist definition is to say that unless an individual is capable of rational thought, they are not a person.  Obviously this excludes the unborn child.   The dangers inherent in such an approach to defining personhood, and hence how an individual is to be treated, should be obvious:

  • Any capability-based definition of personhood that excludes the embryo or foetus will inevitably exclude other distinct groups, such as newborn infants, the mentally disabled, those on life support, etc.
  • Denial of the personhood of the embryo or foetus on the basis of capability leads to unpalatable, and yet logical conclusions, such as the diminishment of the moral status of the newborn and the acceptability of infanticide.**

On the opposing hand, essentialism argues that personhood is possessed by virtue of simply being a human being, without regard to capabilities.   This is an inclusive approach, acknowledging the human race as a whole without distinction or prejudice.  An important point to note when considering this is to realise that although the physical structure of the embryo or foetus changes as it undergoes development and maturation, the nature of the unborn child does not.   The nature the embryo or foetus possesses is the same nature it will possess as an infant, a child, an adolescent and an adult.  It is this nature, present from the first moment of existence, that entitles the embryo or foetus to be acknowledged as a person.

* Please note that there are who those advocate that no such distinction should be drawn, and that the life of the unborn child and the newborn is equally disposable.

** The beginnings of which are already seen in countries such as the Netherlands, where euthanasia of infants is permissable by law.

Conclusion

It is an honest, and yet hard to understand, abortion supporter who can acknowledge the true nature of what is occurring in the “termination of a pregnancy” and “removal of the contents of the uterus”.  My hope is that you will take the time to consider what it means to deny admittance to the human race, and therefore the most basic of human rights, to the smallest and most vulnerable among us – what it means when we define what it is to be human according to our own prerogative.

Bibliography

Abrams R. M. & Gerhardt K. J. (2000) The Acoustic Environment and Physiological Responses of the Fetus Journal of Perinatology 20:830-835

Aburatani S. & Fujibuchi W. (2012) Inference of specific gene regulation by environmental chemicals in embryonic stem cells Journal of Molecular Biology Research 2(1):54-64

Campbell N. A. & Reece J. B. (2005) Biology: 7th Edition Pearson Education Inc. San Francisco

Fleming T.P.,  Kwong W. Y., Porter R., Ursell E., Fesenko I., Wilkins A., Miller D.J., Watkins A. J. & Eckert J. J. (2004) The Embryo and Its Future Biology of Reproduction 71:1046-1054

George R. P. & Lee P. (2009) Embryonic Human Persons: talking point on morality and human embryo research EMBO reports 10(4):301-306

Giubilini A. & Minerva F. (2013) After-birth abortion: why should the baby live? J Med Ethics 39:261–263.

Gupta A. & Giordano J. (2007) On the nature, assessment, and treatment of fetal pain: neurobiological bases, pragmatic issues, and ethical concerns Pain Physician 10:525-532

Hauskeller M. (2011) Believing in the Dignity of Human Embryos HRGE 17(1):53-65

Knoepffler N. J. & O’Malley M. J. (2013) After-birth and before-birth personhood: why the baby should live J Med Ethics 39:11-14

Lee S. J., Ralston H. J. P., Drey E. A., Partridge J. C. & Rosen M. A. (2005) Fetal pain: a systemic multidisciplinary review of the evidence JAMA 294:947-954

Lloyd-Thomas A. R. & Fitzgerald M. (1996) Reflex responses do not necessarily signify pain BMJ 313:797-798

Prescott L. M., Harley J. P. & Klein D. A. (2005) Microbiology: 6th Edition The McGraw-Hill Companies Inc., New York

UN General Assembly, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 10 December 1948, 217 A (III), available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6b3712c.html %5Baccessed 3rd June 2013]

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Wilding M., Coppola G., Dale B. & Di Matteo L. (2009) Mitochondria and human preimplantation embryo development Reproduction 137:619-624

Terminolgy

A lot of different terminology gets bandied about in the abortion debate.  Which terms you use seems to depend upon which side of the debate you are on. Because of this, I thought I would share my thoughts on some of the terms used, and acquaint you with the ones I will be commonly using in my writing.

“Embryo” and “foetus”

Both refer to the unborn child at different stages of development.

  • An embryo is the unborn child to approximately the eighth week after conception (approximately the tenth week after the last menstrual period).
  • A foetus is the unborn child from the eighth week after conception to birth.

I have no difficulty using the terms embryo and and foetus to refer to the unborn child.  This is because these terms simply refer to a stage of development, as one might use the terms infant, adolescent, adult, etc.  And while I dislike the de-humanising way some may use these terms, I don’t feel that that is sufficient reason for me to desist from using the scientifically accurate descriptions.

Terms for the unborn child that I have seen used in what appears to be a euphemistic manner, and will not use, are:

  • Product(s) of conception
  • Conceptus
  • Contents of the womb/uterus
  • A pregnancy
  • Pregnancy tissue
  • Clump of cells
  • Tissue
  • Uterine matter

I am aware that some of these are covering terms intended to include the embryo/foetus and the placenta.  However, I feel it is important – in the context of the abortion debate – to draw a distinction between the embryo/foetus and supportive tissue.

“Abortion”

Used to refer to the loss of the embryo or foetus from the uterus, but there are several different types of abortion:

  • A spontaneous abortion is a miscarriage.
  • An induced abortion is an elective procedure.
  • A therapeutic abortion is one undertaken to prevent harm to the mother or when the foetus would be born with severe birth defects.
  • A medical abortion is achieved through taking medication that will result in the expulsion of the embryo or foetus through the cervix and the vaginal canal.
  • A surgical abortion is removal of the embryo or foetus through surgical means, such as suction or forceps.

An induced abortion is also often referred to as a termination of pregnancy.  For simplicity’s sake, I will use ‘abortion’ to indicate induced abortion, with clarifying terms as necessary.

“Pro-life”

This is my preferred term for those who oppose abortion.  My reason for this is that I believe it defines the heart of the issue – the belief that each abortion results in the wrongful taking of a life.  Alternative terms include:

  • Right-to-lifer
  • Anti-abortion
  • Anti-choice

‘Right-to-lifer’ carries the same connotations as ‘pro-life’, but I prefer pro-life for aesthetic reasons and because it is the more widely used and recognised term. ‘Anti-abortion’ is not my preferred term, but I still find this to be an accurate description of my position, if not as explanatory as ‘pro-life’.  I strongly object to the term ‘anti-choice’ for two main reasons:

  1. It attempts to redefine the core issue at the centre of the abortion debate and shift the emphasis away from the position of the embryo/foetus as a human being with a right to life.
  2. It fails to acknowledge that choice restriction is necessary if one is to live as part of a functioning society; I would accept the designation provided those against murder, rape, theft, drink-driving, etc. would also accept the same.

“Pro-Choice”

This term describes those who accept abortion, ranging from those who believe it is a necessary evil, to those who avidly advocate for its acceptance and utilisation.  With respect to those who don’t believe that abortion is a good thing, while still supporting it as an individual choice, and as I also wish to avoid being unnecessarily antagonistic, this is the term I will be using.  Other terms include:

  • Pro-abortion/pro-abort
  • Pro-death
  • Abortion rights advocate/activist

I am aware that many who consider themselves to be pro-choice object to being called ‘pro-abortion’.  I think this can be a valid objection, and hence the reason why I will use the term pro-choice. However, there may be individuals who may be more appropriately referred to as pro-abortion, and you may see this as a statement of my belief that this person crosses the line from tolerance of abortion to advocation of it.

‘Pro-death’ is an extreme term, and one that I will only use to describe an equally extreme position, such as advocation of blanket application of abortion for any embryo/foetus who will not be born perfectly formed and healthy.  I prefer, on the whole, to steer away from emotive terms such as this, as I think they can obscure the key issues and degenerate it instead into an emotional slinging match.

‘Abortion rights activist/advocate’ is a term I will use to describe someone who is politically or social active in their defense of abortion.

Thank you for bearing with this somewhat dry entry.  My next entry will be discussing the status of the embryo/foetus as a living, human person.

Introduction – About Me & My Beliefs

(Briefly) About Me

I am 32 years old, a mother of three and a 1st year medical student.  I also have a nursing degree and a biomedical science degree.

My Beliefs

I believe that a new human life is formed at the moment of conception.  I believe that this life deserves respect, and that the taking of this life is equivalent to taking the life of any born human.

My beliefs are based upon medical, scientific and philosophical foundations.

I believe that unless the physiologically inevitable outcome of a pregnancy is the death of both the mother and the unborn child before the child can viably survive birth, elective abortion should be prohibited.

Why the Blog?

I created this blog as a place to rationally express my beliefs, and in the hope that I might alternatively encourage those with similar beliefs and influence others to consider carefully what they believe about abortion – and perhaps change some minds.

Ultimately I hope for the most important outcome of all; that lives might be saved.