Who is right about abortion?

What is a human being? What are its capacities that make it so? This of course has a potential implication in the matter of abortion. Nowadays in different countries, or in the US States, different views apply. Some take the view that humanity happens at conception, others choose the time at which the heart starts to beat, and others take it to be at birth.

I, as a born Catholic, find it straightforward: from the moment of conception, there is a living entity created by the Almighty — a human being who will continue to the end of life (and thereafter). But, if I had no religious beliefs, how would  I argue?

Perhaps, I would hold that all the human characteristics, such as free will, morality and love, are the outcome of evolution. They give us the facilities for benefitting the human race which, as a result, grows and spreads through its control for existence.  Yes, it is necessary, for our race, to protect the choices of human beings throughout life. But there is no reason why a baby in the womb should grow to birth against the wishes of its mother.

This leads me to understand why many people, who do not share my religious beliefs, accept the use of abortion as a benefit in a wide range of circumstances.

So, how would you argue against abortion without a reference to God or to religious teaching?

x   x   x

Discussion examining when a baby in the womb become a human being. https://geneticliteracyproject.org/2022/01/21/determining-when-life-biologically-begins-is-too-fuzzy-to-give-clarity-to-the-abortion-debate/?mc_cid=2d6fd207d5&mc_eid=877633983d

About Quentin

Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
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18 Responses to Who is right about abortion?

  1. Quentin says:

    Forgive me for double indication re humanity.. Computer problem!

    • pnyikos says:

      That’s all right — it certainly kept me from overlooking it! I’m very glad you posted the link.

      I skimmed the article and decided to focus on the biological facts in my first response [I’m also the first commenter on the article]. I thus left the theme of your caption, “Discussion examining when a baby in the womb become a human being” for later comments. But you already have some inkling of my views on that from my two responses to David Smith. [The first was intended for you, by the way, but I too am not free of computer problems.]

      My comment is somewhat hard to find, so I’m repeating it here for your benefit and that of the other readers.

      “Professor Prete, you are not a human embryologist, nor a developmental biologist specializing in developing humans. The two most authoritative books on the respective subjects are Human Embryology and Teratology, by Ronan O’Rahilly and Fabiola Muller, and The Developing Human, by Keith Moore. Both unambiguously put the beginning of the life of the human individual at the union of sperm and oocyte [not “ovum,” a stage that does not exist in Homo sapiens].

      “O’Rahilly, the leading human embryologist of the 20th century, established the widely used Carnegie Stages and put the beginning of this union at the beginning of Stage 1, the sub-stage of “the penetrated oocyte.” You mis-identified this sub-stage as “the zygote,” which is only the third and last sub-stage: in between comes the ootid.

      “This is mainstream biology, utterly ignored by Justice Blackmun in his error-riddled Opinion of the Court in Roe v. Wade. He proclaimed that where medicine, philosophy, and religion could not agree when life begins, the Supreme Court could not presume to rule. But these three disciplines use varying definitions for “life,” somewhat as you do in your article. I will be glad to debate your other definitions with you, but please be aware that you are stepping outside the relevant branch of science.”

  2. David Smith says:

    Quentin writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2022/02/04/who-is-right-about-abortion/ ) :

    // So, how would you argue against abortion without a reference to God or to religious teaching? //

    I’m afraid I couldn’t. I wouldn’t try. There’s no point arguing facts in this, because for me it’s a matter of feeling, and almost of conviction and belief. Life is a miracle, it’s beautiful, and mysterious, and terribly fragile. If anything is sacred, it has to be life.

    Over the past two years, I’ve witnessed the devastating force of extreme arrogance in power and felt the evil that radiates from the will to subjugate and cripple hundreds of millions of human minds. I would not dream of trying to argue with these people. They’re an alien species. Similarly, I would not try to argue against a mentality that sees life as simply a raw material, to be used and disposed of like a lump of coal.

    At its core this is a matter of who you are and what you are and of what matters to you most. There’s no point in arguing that life is sacred with people who believe that it most certainly is not.

    • pnyikos says:

      My opposition to abortion began with a non-religious outlook and has continued to be (except in the moral sense) independent of any religious considerations.

      I’ve expounded at great length elsewhere on this over the years, and will be glad to go into far more detail if anyone has questions about the following summary.

      Once the unborn child is able to feel intense pain, my opposition is primarily due to humanitarian outrage over the way it is not even treated like an animal is treated by laws against cruelty to animals. The evidence is growing that this can happen by the 15th week past fertilization, where the Mississippi law now being debated by the US Supreme Court. Most abortions at this stage are done by a barbaric procedure euphemistically known as “Dilation and Evacuation (D&E)” in which the child is torn limb from limb without benefit of anesthesia.

      But even if anesthesia were universally provided, there is a deeper phenomenological issue. A sentient unborn child is no longer an “object” but a “subject” with a personal identity that may be continuous throughout the rest of its life. To kill such an entity is to rob it of a priceless, lifelong legacy as a member of the human race.

      I have debated for many years against apologists for abortion on this basis. A standard trick of theirs is to load down words like “sentient,” “conscious,” “aware,” etc. with all kinds of excess baggage, to a point where, in some instances, they could easily be used to justify infanticide to the end of age 1 and even beyond. After about two years of this, I coined the word “non-oblivion” for any experience that goes beyond complete oblivion. That is where I put my proposed legal dividing line between excusable homicide and manslaughter, and to err on the side of caution, I put it no later than where human embryologists draw the line between an embryo and a fetus: for humans, 8 weeks after fertilization, roughly 10 LMP. That is where Portugal, for one, puts it.

    • pnyikos says:

      I would not dream of trying to argue with these people. They’re an alien species.

      After something like eight years (four at highly separated intervals) of arguing with them on a long-running but now defunct forum, I came to realize that there are key differences between them. Some are able to understand and appreciate the viewpoint that I expounded on just now. And the rest, perhaps more numerous, while regularly attacking me with trumped-up charges over those years, did not try to argue against my viewpoint once I had coined the word “non-oblivion” and applied it the way I have.

      Also, I was able to make an impression on some of them on other matters, such as the “abortion hurts untold numbers of women” theme, while not trying to argue against women who claimed that for them, personally, abortion had been a big relief.

      I also had some success with redefining “pro-abortionist” to mean “someone who cares more about abortionists than about the women they treat, and sometimes hurt.” One person in particular was of this sort, and she was gone during my second four-year stint, making it possible for me to make some headway with this word. After reading one long series of posts about a notorious local abortionist, Jesse Floyd, the most cunning and well-informed abortion apologist on that long-running forum called him “a nasty piece of work.”

  3. Iona says:

    At the time I first heard of abortion – some time in my mid teens – I was horrified that anyone would do such a thing. But at that point, having been brought up in an agnostic home, I was more-or-less agnostic myself, hence not influenced by a belief in God or in religion; – being horrified was my immediate emotional response. When, at a later date, I started to consider becoming a Catholic, one of the things about the Catholic Church that impressed me was that it was not the least ambivalent about abortion (as the Church of England seemed to be).
    Quentin suggests “there is no reason why a baby in the womb should grow to birth against the wishes of its mother”. A woman who finds she is pregnant against her wishes is in some ways in the position of someone sailing single-handed on a long voyage, who encounters a baby floating alone on a life-raft. Does she push it away, “nothing to do with me” or does she take it into the boat with her and care for it as best she can for the remainder of her voyage?

  4. John Thomas says:

    It has been said that if we (Christians) are ever going to make abortion unthinkable, we have to make a watertight case in purely materialist/purely-this-worldly terms. I believe we can. Materialists may not hold with any Image-of-God stuff, but they (claim to) value human life. If they do not accept that human life begins at conception, they will surely agree that if a foetus is left alone, it will surely become a human life, and for a person to say “I am getting rid of this what-very-likely-will-become-a-human-life, for MY own ends” – then that person is behaving with the most appalling selfishness, I’m-All-Right-Jackery imaginable … But then, the world we have made for ourselves, is all about Me, Me, Me … But remember, the viability of foetuses is pushed ever further back …
    For Christians, I think Bearing-the-image-of-God can throw us off track. I’ve read of a Christian justifying abortion on the grounds that that God-Image-Bearing comes with actual birth.

    • milliganp says:

      I seem to remember that Thomas Aquinas believes that ensoulment happened at the first time the baby moved in the womb. The danger of all these sorts of theories is that they allow arguments. Conception to natural death is as clear and precise as any definition allows.

  5. David Smith says:

    Iona writes ( https://secondsightblog.net/2022/02/04/who-is-right-about-abortion/#comment-65513 ) :

    // A woman who finds she is pregnant against her wishes is in some ways in the position of someone sailing single-handed on a long voyage, who encounters a baby floating alone on a life-raft. Does she push it away, “nothing to do with me” or does she take it into the boat with her and care for it as best she can for the remainder of her voyage? //

    Nice. But if when she looks at the baby she sees a monster ….

  6. milliganp says:

    Can I pay the role of AD (Advocatus Diaboli), – a position now vacant in Rome. Various websites inform me that anything between 15% and 50% od pregnancies end in miscarriage;this would imply that for a world population of 7.8 Billion between 1.17Billion and 3.9 Billion lives have been ended by God via nature.

  7. Hock says:

    Milliganp writes
    Can I pay the role of AD (Advocatus Diaboli), – a position now vacant in Rome. Various websites inform me that anything between 15% and 50% od pregnancies end in miscarriage;this would imply that for a world population of 7.8 Billion between 1.17Billion and 3.9 Billion lives have been ended by God via nature.

    At the risk of stating the obvious all human life ends at some point, and God did not prevent any of them. (Delayed perhaps but not prevented.) This issue is about death by means of abortion by human intervention and not by a natural act of miscarriage.

    The original question posed by Quentin is an interesting one when asked if our religion is the prime motivator for those of us who condemn abortion?

    In a wider context, but on similar reasoning, I often ask myself would I be a Moslem if I had been born in Saudi Arabia or would I convert to Christianity? In other words would my morality depend on the accident of birth?

    I suppose I have to accept that my opposition to abortion is strongly influenced by my being a Catholic but i hope I have reasoned it out enough to be opposed to it regardless of what the Church might say. (But would I focus on it much if not a Catholic.? I don’t know for sure but I am what I am.)

    At what part of our being life starts is a matter of argument but if a procedure is set in motion to bring about an abortion then that stage of life has been reached.

    • milliganp says:

      Hock, your comment regading to what extent faith is an accident of birth is realy fundamental to the practice of faith. Catholicism once held that lack of faith was implicitly a rejection of Christ. Thus Musllms and Protestants were guilty of rejection, and condemned for that rejection.
      My chidlhood Penny Caetchism tod me that “Faith is a supernatural gift of God,” and I found myself wondering why those who had not received the gift should be punished for their state (a bit close to predestination – which we rejected).
      In the 19th Century we developed the doctrine of Invincible Ignorance (though Wikipedia informs me this goes back to Aquinas (13th C) and even Origen(3rd C)).
      Quentin’s wife’s concern to ensure the baptism of her child at the moment of miscarriage is a wondeful witness to faith but represents a worrying reflection of a dogma which did not seem to reflect the love we believe God has for all His creation.

  8. David Smith says:

    Governments have always assumed a monopoly over taking lives: armies, police, courts, prisons, executions. It’s only a small step for democratic demagogues to parcel out the power to murder in exchange for political services rendered. ‘Want the legal right to save a *lot* of time and money by killing that thing in your belly before it can escape into the outside world and eat you alive? Vote for me. There’s more where this came from.’

    I admire pnyikos’ ability and willingness to argue with the technicians who provide the “scientific” arguments politicians use to justify handing over to women the legal right to kill their own children. May his efforts bear good fruit. But so long as politicians rule, and not technocrats, it’s mostly the voting public who need convincing. And since the public are increasingly – we’re told – shunning traditional morality and worshiping instead at the feet of utilitarianism, hedonism, and popular culture, neither scientific nor moral arguments are likely to be very influential with them. Nevertheless, we’re told that pulling back from the free-rein child murder legitimated in America fifty years ago by the Supreme Court is an attractive proposition for a large proportion of Americans. Why? What is their thinking and feeling? Perhaps religious people, whose numbers are shrinking, are out of touch with them. It may be wise to study and consult with thoughtful and articulate non-religious opponents of open abortion. Who are they?

  9. Alasdair says:

    Almost 50 years ago, as a non-Christian. I attended an anti-abortion march in Glasgow. I was taken aback by the aggressive attitude of counter-demonstrators, on the sidelines. Someone in the march just in front of me was struck by a thrown object near their eye which drew blood. I found myself apologising to my companion, a Catholic girlfriend afterwards for dragging her along to what was far from being a pleasant day out. She said she was glad she’d been there.
    50 years later, some things have changed and others have’nt.
    Abortion is still something that raises my hackles and has even been the stuff of nightmares that have woken me up in a cold sweat. Religious conviction was probably nothing to do with my feelings about abortion.
    I am, now a practicing christian in an evangelical tradition.
    I am a frequent visitor to the Gulf area of Texas, once upon a time for work, then latterly for family reasons. Evangelical christianity seems to be a major force opposed to abortion in the USA, which I find encouraging.

  10. ignatius says:

    I guess the thing is to be ‘anti abortion’ but not to be ” anti-the- person-who -is -seeking-the -abortion.” They, after all, are human too.

  11. Hock says:

    Ignatius makes a good point until you read of some women who have multiple abortions as a form of birth control. I think the known total is of a woman having eight abortions and when these women speak they have no compunction is stating they do not regret a single one of their abortions.

  12. ignatius says:

    Hock The three or four women I know who have had abortions are not of that type..I don’t know any like that..do you?

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