Women's Reproductive Self-Determination

Pro Choice Right to Abortion

by T.F. Barans


While we have retained this older version of the site for archival purposes,
we have now created an updated and expanded edition
that is substantially reorganized and restructured
for greater readability, message clarity and
to allow additional options for interactive reader participation.

The new site divides the material into separate articles
The index of articles for the new sitecan be found at:

Moral Aspects of Reproductive Choice
Life begins BEFORE fertilization; both the egg and sperm were alive and human before that point.
Includes some hilarious thought questions that will make your anti-choice conservatives brains go KABOOM:

 Legal and Legislative History and Issues in Reproductive Rights
Roe v. Wade was decided 7-2, not even close, and written by a REPUBLICAN
appointee of Richard Nixon, citing the "intent of the Founders"
since abortion had been legal in all 13 original states for almost 50 years
before Connecticut became the first to outlaw it in 1821:

 Judeo-Christian Moral, Religious and Scriptural Aspects of Reproductive Rights
Even though we are a secular nation with separation of state and church/temple/mosque,
for those who claim (without basis) that the Bible opposes abortion,
a well-documented treatise proving that the Bible is 100% PRO CHOICE
(well, at least for the husbands, if not the wives):

 Additional Issues in Reproductive Choice
Late-Term Abortion, Parental Consent, Abortion in cases of Rape, and more.

Please feel welcome to stop by for a visit!

Copyright (c) 1998-2013 T.F. Barans / Word Wizards communications -- all rights reserved

Jump to subheading:
Legal Issue | Moral Issue | Christian Perspective | Historical Religious |
Ensoulment | Holocaust/Slavery | Late Term Abortion | Other Considerations

This web page provides a discussion of issues regarding reproductive self-determination from a variety of different perspectives, and covering many of the different issues (legal, moral, religious) embodied by the issues of abortion and reproductive self-determination. The information here can serve as a convenient reference guide or "talking points" for those who wish to respond to a wide range of questions and concerns about these issues.

Legality and Morality Differentiated
The issue of a woman's right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy by making to CHOICE to have an abortion can be considered from various perspectives: legal distinguished from moral, religion distinguished from science. Whether or not abortion is a good choice or a moral/ethical choice is different than whether or not it should be a LEGAL choice. For many people, this difference is difficult to understand. If something is bad (and we have not yet considered whether or not abortion is even a bad thing yet), then they believe it should be forbidden by law.

This, of course, is flawed thinking. We make distinctions all the time between what we ourselves believe should or should not be legal, entirely apart from whether or not we believe it to be moral.

For example, I believe it is morally and ethically wrong for a woman or man who is married to commit adultery by having sex with someone other than their spouse. I do NOT believe that those who do commit adultery should be prosecuted through the criminal justice system.

I further believe that smoking is wrong, but as long as smokers do not infringe my right to breathe clean air, I do not believe that the private act of smoking should be forbidden by law.

I am a vegetarian. The killing of sentient, biologically autonomous birds or mammals who have done nothing to me, solely to satisfy a completely unnecessary (and unhealthy) lust for artery-clogging animal fat, is something that I personally consider to be immoral and unethical. However, I do not equate the value of animals to that of sentient, autonomous humans, so I do not favor imposing my beliefs on others by force of law. I am "pro-choice" on the subject of eating meat.

I also oppose the use of drugs and of drinking to the point of intoxication, yet I believe that I can oppose these vices more effectively by supporting adequate treatment programs than by putting alcoholics or addicts in jails.

Would anyone accuse me of being pro-adultery, pro-smoking, pro-eating meat, or pro-drugs/alcohol, merely because I believe that they are either matters left to individuals that are none of my business or that they can be opposed more effectively using strategies OTHER THAN the criminal justice system?

Similarly, there are many individuals who strongly oppose abortion on moral grounds, and could never conclude that it was the right choice to make, but feel that it is not a choice than can be compelled by force of law. Some examples of such persons include Baptist Rev. Jesse Jackson and former California Governor Jerry Brown, who at one time studied for the Catholic priesthood. Both oppose abortion and believe it to be immoral, but have taken positions that they do not believe it should be outlawed.

They are clearly pro-CHOICE, in that they leave the decision to the woman, but they are NOT pro-abortion. They oppose abortion on religious grounds, but would no more support legislating this religious belief onto others than passing laws to require anyone else to take up membership in their churches.

Those who wish to keep the government out of other people's personal decisions, whatever they may believe for themselves, see themselves in the moderate middle -- planted firmly between two extremes.

The extreme left (as in Communist China) supports abortion and believes that the government can and should require as a matter of law that a woman have an abortion under certain conditions.

The extreme right (as in the Christian Coalition) opposes abortion and believes that the government can and should require as a matter of law that a woman use the most private part of her reproductive anatomy to carry an unwanted pregnancy even if she doesn't want to.

The moderate middle believes that whatever their own opinion about abortion may be, that they do not have the right to have their hired POLITICIANS pass MORE LAWS to FORCE their OPINIONS onto anyone else who might want to make a different choice with her own body. The decision about what is right and what should be legislated are separate and distinct issues.

Accordingly, we will consider the issues of LEGALITY (whether or not abortion should be outlawed, even if one considers it to be morally wrong) APART FROM the issue of MORALITY/ETHICS (whether abortion is even wrong at all).

Jump to subheading:
Legal Issue | Moral Issue | Christian Perspective | Historical Religious |
Ensoulment | Holocaust/Slavery | Late Term Abortion | Other Considerations
The Legal Issue
Basis for Criminalization
Personal choices about behavior should never be legislated, unless and until they infringe the equal rights of other persons. The old saying goes, "My right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins." Persons have the right to make any choices they want about their behavior, including moral choices, up to the point that someone else's rights come into play. A person has the right to wear whatever they want, choose the color of their house, or even choose sexual behavior (alone or with others who have the capacity to consent to free and voluntary participation) and, however else someone else may disapprove of their taste or moral beliefs, they have the right to make those choices as long as they do not infringe the other person's right to the moral or aesthetic choices THEY believe to be appropriate.

Rights of Woman vs. Rights of Embryo
The problem in the case of abortion is that the disagreement about abortion is partially about differing moral beliefs, but also a disagreement about whose rights are being infringed. Those opposed to abortion claim that they are protecting the rights of the zygote/embryo/fetus from the infringement of having its life terminated.

If the zygote/embryo/fetus is not yet a person, as argued in the moral argument for the right to choose [see "moral issue"] then of course it has no moral standing nor the capacity to have rights that can be infringed, and so the issue becomes moot. Since that issue is covered in the separate discussion of the moral issue," we will not duplicate that discussion here.

But even if the zygote/embryo/fetus were a fully-endowed human person, with all the rights of personhood, all the way back to the moment of fertilization, the crux of the LEGAL question becomes, "Who has the right to control the body: the zygote/embryo/fetus or the woman?"

Bodily Sovereignty
If the zygote/embryo/fetus is a person from the moment of fertilization, then we are dealing with two bodies of two persons: the body of the zygote/embryo/fetus and the body of the woman in which it resides throughout pregnancy. Presumably, then, both the woman and the fetus would each maintain a separate and equal right to the sovereignty and integrity of their own bodies. The zygote/embryo/fetus would have the right not to have its body invaded or infringed, and so would the woman!

So, we must consider where the infringement occurs. If the woman is the owner of her own body (as the zygote/embryo/fetus is of its tiny, embryonic body), then her rights to control that body and protect its integrity would certainly not be less than that of the zygote/embryo/fetus.

During the 1980s, there was a court case in Ohio. Two brothers had become estranged over the years. One of them was stricken with a kidney failure and required ongoing dialysis in order to survive until a donor match could be found. It was determined that his estranged brother was an excellent match, but the brother refused to offer one of his kidneys. The ailing brother sued the healthy brother in court, claiming that Mr. Healthy did not need two kidneys to live, and had no right to deny Mr. Sick -- a fully-endowed human person -- the "right to life." Needless to say, the courts held that Mr. Healthy had the right to control his own body and could not be forced to have his body used to keep Mr. Sick alive if he did not agree. It would be a beautiful CHOICE if he were to voluntarily offer the gift of life, but as a legal matter it could not be FORCED.

Similarly, even if the embryo is human, it still would not have the right to force the mother to use her body to keep it alive against her will. If the decision to give birth is what she wants, then "life" is a "beautiful choice." But it is her choice; she cannot legally be forced into it.

Likewise, if a person with a rare genetic type needs a blood transfusion or bone marrow transplant and finally finds that rare, perfect match, but the owner of the organs doesn't want to donate, no reasonable person would say that the one who wants the organ has the right to demand that a specific person donate his/her organ, even to save the life of an ACTUAL human. The day is fast approaching when everyone's DNA will be identifiable, and could be stored in data banks. Maybe someday men will start getting phone calls informing them that their DNA has been identified as a suitable match for someone who needs a kidney and wants one of theirs ... wants to FORCIBLY use their bodies to keep someone else alive, whether they agree or not. The day that men's bodies can be used to forcibly keep others alive, controversy over abortion will end. Organ donation is a beautiful choice, and I (voluntarily) carry my organ donation card with me at all times, but it is my CHOICE, just as pregnancy can be a beautiful CHOICE when it is voluntarily CHOSEN. But neither choice can rightly be forcibly coerced.

A reader, Tommy, writes to suggest an even more poignant and relevant scenario: "A one week old infant is diagnosed with Leukemia and the infant needs a bone marrow transplant. After checking available donors it is determined that only the child's FATHER has a good match. The father says "NO!" ... Should the state be able to compel the Father of the baby (with threats of fines and prison) to submit and have some of his bone marrow extracted to save his baby's life?" Should a male parent be subject to the same demand that he be forced to use his body to keep his child alive? What if he didn't want the pregnancy in the first place? What if he is estranged from the mother (and the baby, too)? What if he has religious objections to any kind of transfusion? Aside from the moral issue, should the state hold the father to the same standard as the mother? Should any exception be allowed? No state that outlawed abortion prior to Roe v. Wade had an equivalent requirement that the father have the same obligations as the mother (except financial, of course).

Some might argue that a woman has "consented" to pregnancy by inviting the embryo into her body by virtue of engaging in the sex act, or that she should have made her "choice" before consenting to sex. (Such a statement automatically accepts the right of reproductive choice in the event of rape, incest or failed birth control where no such valid consent can be imputed.) Consent to sexual intercourse is NOT the same as consent to pregnancy. They are two different things. Even a completely voluntary sex act would not necessarily mean she invited the embryo into her body, since only a small percentage of sex acts result in pregnancy. The POSSIBILITY of an outcome is very different than its INTENT. If a person rides in a car, knowing there is the POSSIBILITY of an accident, should that person be denied the right to receive medical care, auto repairs or reimbursement from a responsible party if they have an accident ... since they KNEW that was a POSSIBLE outcome? A woman who has sex only invites the sharing of sexual pleasure, not the embryo that accidentally resulted. And EVEN IF she got pregnant on purpose, there is no reason to say that you can't change your mind or correct a mistake, especially when it is the rights of an actual human person against those of non-sentient cell tissue with the potential of becoming a person ... if the woman wants it.

Suppose I invite someone over for a drink. He stays and stays. He becomes obnoxious, in fact. I decide I don't like him. I want him gone. I have as great a right to evict him as I would if he were a burglar. The fact that I once thought I wanted him there, or even felt neutral about his presence (such as a door-to-door peddler that I don't slam the door on) does not make me lose the right to control who stays in my house. And a woman's body is far more personal and intimate than a structure of wood and stucco.

When a man forcibly enters and occupies the most private, personal, intimate part of a woman's reproductive anatomy against her will, we call it "rape." Though it only lasts for a few moments (barring additional physical assault and injury), the trauma and emotional scars can last for years. Yet there are some who would require, by force of law, that women be mandated to have that most private part of their bodies occupied by an unwanted intruder for nine long months. The trauma and emotional scars of a forced, unwanted pregnancy can harm a woman just as long as a rape, and also traumatize the child that is born unwanted.

If a mother does not want a child after it is born, she can give it up for adoption to someone who does want it, so it is not a question of choosing life or not; plus, by that time the embryo has become an autonomous individual in the outside environment. But even though an embryo may die from being denied forced life support if the mother makes that choice with her body, it is the loss of a life of a POTENTIAL human who has not yet developed full consciousness, feeling and its own set of life experiences. The embryonic POTENTIAL human has no right to claim occupancy and control of another person's body if it is not that person's CHOICE.

To those who claim that the zygote/embryo/fetus has an equal right against having its bodily integrity "infringed" by being aborted, we must recall that it has no greater rights to its body than the woman does to hers. At worst, one could argue that, if the two are equal, that the woman would have the right to decide that she does not permit the zygote/embryo/fetus to occupy the most private parts of her reproductive anatomy, and require that it be removed. Theoretically, she does not have to "kill" it or infringe its bodily integrity in any way. She could merely remove it, alive and intact, and then both of these "equals" could then go on to support themselves in whatever way they are able. The fact that modern abortion techniques do not remove the zygote/embryo/fetus intact and alive merely reflects the fact that, given the same outcome (and moral considerations to be discussed in the section on moral issues) the procedure which is least invasive to the woman may be used.

Most Effective Strategy for Opposing
Some people oppose abortion but do not want it handled as a matter of legislation or criminalization, because they believe there are more effective ways to reduce the number of abortions through more effective education and availability of contraception. And, in fact, we have seen in recent years that, as education (both practical and as to values) and contraception have become more available, that rates of abortion do, in fact, drop, without the need to outlaw the right to make that choice.

Legal or Illegal Back-Alley Abortions
The coat hanger and the back alley abortions were moving arguments which originally convinced many to work for legalized abortion. Prior to becoming legal, dangerous methods of do-it-yourself abortions were attempted using instruments, or also using herbal methods such as combining pennyroyal with black cohosh or blue cohosh [more detailed accounts and precise methods can be found by going to any search engine, such as http://www.google.com and typing in as required key words: "cohosh blue black pennyroyal abortion"]. If abortion was again forbidden we would see a return to these back alley abortions, resulting in thousands of women dying. How many women used to die from illegal abortions? Anyone who gives you a figure on the total number of illegal abortions can provide, at best, a MINIMUM number. By definition, illegal abortions are not recorded. They are matters of secrecy. The only way to estimate the number of illegal abortions is to first determine how many women died from abortions, and compare those numbers for times and locations where abortion was legal and compare it with when it was criminalized. When abortion is legal, we do have good numbers for deaths resulting from abortion; when abortion is criminalized, many of the deaths are chalked up to other causes, so any numbers we do have are an absolute minimum. The actual numbers will necessarily be much higher.

Here is a sample of reported numbers of deaths from abortion:
1960 - All States Illegal 289 per year
1966 - All States Illegal 120 per year
1972 - 16 States Legal 39 per year*
1980 - All States Legal 10 -20 per year

*One of the states legalizing abortion by 1972 was California.
The law to legalize abortion was signed by then-governor Ronald Reagan in 1967, seven years before Roe.

Prior to the introduction of penicillin, numbers of deaths from illegal abortions, performed without anesthesia or sterile conditions, were in the thousands each year. When abortion is performed under sanitary conditions, with antibiotics and antiseptics, it is an extremely safe medical procedure -- certainly far safer than a full term pregnancy and a childbirth!

Parental Consent
Although this is really a separate issue from abortion for adults, you can't compare birth control or abortions for minors with giving them aspirins (the variation of this argument I hear most often) or a tonsillectomy (by the way, in my state of California, and I think this is pretty common in other states, too, emergency medical care, including tonsillectomy or any treatment deemed medically necessary, CAN be given if a parent can't be reached, or if a parent withholds permission - numerous cases have been decided in which Christian Scientists refused to give permission for medical care, but it was authorized over their protests).

Giving aspirin, for example, is a matter of risk vs. benefits - aspirin does carry risks (Reyes syndrome, etc.), yet the most benefit you'll ever get is minor pain relief. On the other hand, the risks of birth control or abortion are far less than carrying an unwanted pregnancy to term, and the life-changing consequences of parenthood will last long after the teenager is an adult. The parents are not the ones who will have those consequences, unless they choose to, so they have no right to withhold their permission. Aspirin or other routine, minor procedures (realistic possibility of risk for minimal benefit) SHOULD require parental consent; abortion, as well as other serious procedures that can be life-saving or life changing, should NOT be subject to parental determination as the final authority.

Of course, when the flip side of this issue is brought up, we often see that those who raise this issue are not really in support of parental decision making, but rather only support the parent's right to make the decision IF it agrees with their pre-determined opinion.

Suppose a teenage girl wants to carry an unwed pregnancy to term, but her parents don't think she is ready for the life-changing consequences and they want her to have an abortion. It goes both ways. Should she be required to obtain parental consent for the much more dangerous procedure of childbirth? Should her parents have the right to make the choice that she have an abortion? Should there be "parental consent" for pregnancy? Or is this NOT really an issue of giving rights to parents, but turning over the decision-making process to those who want to force their opinions on parents, children and everyone else?

While it is best when the teenagers and parents have the kind of relationship where they can make important decisions together (which, in real life, is what actually happens) more often, when that relationship is abusive, antagonistic, or the parents will put guilt or pressure on the young woman to make a decision different than what she wants, then they must be prevented from doing so. This is especially true in cases of child abuse, incest or domestic rape -- no matter how rare they are. Especially in the case of incest, where the parent of an underage girl might actually be one and the same as the father of her pregnancy, it would be a cruel irony of injustice (not to mention a horrendous conflict of interest) to also give the parent who has already destroyed any normalcy of her sex life the right to control the choices about her future role of parenthood in a way that could further tie her down and make her a further prisoner of the choices HE forces onto her.

Defining Murder
The definition of "murder" (as distinguished form mere "killing") has comprised the following three elements throughout time, including the time of the Hebrew law givers and other contemporary civilizations:


b) malice or wantonness (i.e., not mere for defensive reasons or reasons of domestic and international law and order)

c)killing of a PERSON (not virus, bacteria, insect, animal or human tissue that is not a PERSON)

A woman's intentional choice to terminate a pregnancy in the interest of her bodily sovereignty at most incorporates only the first of those elements; and, if the tissue removed is not even a human person or no moral issue is involved (see below), then even that doesn't apply.

Ancient Times
Abortion has been known and practiced throughout history, in virtually all cultures and periods of human history. In ancient times, it was performed by a variety of mechanical methods or using herbal abortifacients such as combining pennyroyal with black cohosh or blue cohosh [more detailed accounts and precise methods can be found by going to any search engine, such as http://www.google.com and typing in as required key words: "cohosh blue black pennyroyal abortion"].

American Founding Fathers
Even in the time of the Puritans and the founding fathers of the American Revolution, abortion was accepted prior to "quickening" (feeling fetal movement). To quote Lawrence Tribe, professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard, "In early post-Revolution America, abortion, at least early in pregnancy, was neither prohibited nor uncommon." (Abortion: The Clash of Absolutes, p. 28) He documents with scholarly references to original and secondary research sources the COMMON practice of abortion prior to the mid-1800's when evangelical Protestants, soon followed by Catholics, instituted prohibitions.

Jump to subheading:
Legal Issue | Moral Issue | Christian Perspective | Historical Religious |
Ensoulment | Holocaust/Slavery | Late Term Abortion | Other Considerations
The Moral Issue

Of course, if the zygote/embryo/fetus is NOT a fully-endowed moral person or if there is not a valid moral basis for opposing a woman's reproductive self-determination, then any attempt to use the force of law to impose one's purely arbitrary moral opinions onto others becomes an authoritarian infringement of liberty, and the whole issue of handling abortion as a legislative issue becomes irrelevant. Therefore, let us examine whether or not personhood can be ascribed to the zygote/embryo/fetus, and the moral implications of the issue.

Life? or Personhood?
The question is often asked: when does human LIFE begin? The correct answer to this question is NOT the one often suggested by those who claim to support a "right to life," namely that "life begins at conception." With the slightest thought on the matter, such a statement is quickly seen as being patently absurd. While no reasonable person would argue against the fact that LIFE (affiliated with the human species) exists at all points during pregnancy, this human life did NOT begin at conception.

Human life did NOT begin at conception. Human LIFE existed BEFORE CONCEPTION. Certainly an important change occurs when the sperm fertilizes the egg; a new phase of the ongoing life has been entered. But the fact remains that human life, as egg and sperm, existed and lived before that moment. The sperm and the egg are both alive, active, and genetically human (and each has its own uniquely individual genetic structure derived from but distinct from the male or female from whence they came and from each other sperm or egg produced). If you say that LIFE is what is equal to a HUMAN PERSON, then how do you propose to save all the sperms or eggs that are wasted and die without being fertilized? All of the arguments claiming that LIFE begins at conception would apply equally to the human LIVES that begin BEFORE CONCEPTION.

Of course, every time this point is made, other factors are then interjected. Several examples of a few common objections:

"Before conception there are insufficient chromosomes to be a person." Well, then, exactly how many are needed? The usual 46? Is it OK to abort a fetus with Turner's syndrome (45 chromosomes) or Down's syndrome (47)? And why is THIS purely arbitrary standard (a number of chromosomes) a valid basis for saying that some human LIFE is a person and other human life is not?

"It can't survive on its own." And a newly-fertilized embryo CAN survive "on its own"? So then, there will be no objection if we remove it from the woman's body and let it try to do exactly that? A newborn baby cannot survive very well on its own either, so would these people say it isn't a person either?

"They aren't actually human until fertilization." Oh really? Then what species are they? Dogs? Cats? Monkeys? They are alive. They are of the human species. To say they are not human PERSONS is to acknowledge that LIFE does NOT EQUAL PERSONHOOD. It is to simply acknowledge that the whole point of LIFE is irrelevant.

"A fertilized embryo has its own unique DNA." DNA is not what makes a human being a person, any more than a blueprint is the equivalent of a house. Sperms and eggs are also alive and are of the human species, and each has unique DNA. And, no, they don't all have the same DNA (or half of the same) as the male or female parent. No two sperms or eggs has the same DNA as each other. So if "Sperm A" and "Sperm B" don't have the same DNA as each other, they can't both also be the same as the male from whom they were spawned. Still, no one calls them the equivalent of human persons, or else a woman who doesn't get pregnant commits a murder every month, and males murder 200 million with every ejaculation that doesn't result in pregnancy.

Asking "when does human LIFE begin" is the WRONG QUESTION. The right question as to the moral issue is when does that LIFE become a PERSON.

Becoming a Person
Equating LIFE with PERSONHOOD reduces the value of a human PERSON to that of any other life form -- the same as a bacteria, virus, insect, fish or (unless you are a vegetarian) the sentient, warm-blooded birds/mammals that you kill just to satisfy your unnecessary lust for artery-clogging animal fat. Most people recognize a big difference between murdering a human person and spraying for insects or injecting anitbiotics that kill MILLIONS of individual bacterial or viral life forms for the health or comfort of one human person. I reject such cheapening of human value by equating personhood with mere life, and believe that until something more is added: sentience, consciousness, biological autonomy, personality, ensoulment, or whatever it is that distinguishes human persons from all other creation [the ability to laugh? to be embarrassed], it is not a person. A newborn BABY has all of these features, though in primitive form. A zygote or embryo in the first trimester has NONE of these qualities.

The essence of a human being is more than mere life, or more than even human chromosomes. A severed finger, or a lock of cut hair, or a fully-formed organ awaiting transplant, is human tissue, but not a human being. Sperm and egg cells are alive and human, but they are not human beings, only POTENTIAL humans. I would put 1st trimester embryos in the same category as sperm and eggs.

It includes feelings, consciousness, and independent autonomous experience inhaling the "breath of life" from the surrounding environment. It includes a soul, spirit, consciousness, thoughts, ideas, feelings, relationships; it is the essence of unique personality energy. This only begins when the embryo or fetus begins its own independent experience with the surrounding environment, after it breathes the breath of life. (I also understand that a newborn infant is not very "independent" in terms of its ability to survive, but at least it has begun its own individual experience, and it does not demand that a SPECIFIC, non-transferable caregiver be required to accept a 24-hour job against her will; any person [adoptive parent or other caregiver] could CHOOSE to accept that responsibility if the mother doesn't want it AFTER birth.)

I define personhood as holding a preponderance of the ACTUAL features, functions and processes out of which the experience of human personhood (including consciousness, sentience, experience, memory, self-awareness/instrospection, etc.) arises, as well as a preponderance of the actual physical features (arms, legs, internal organs, brain) which in their usual operation generate such experiences and processes. Again, an absolutely complete set is not required, or no one would qualify, but a general condition of having these attributes. A newborn infant, for example, has ALL of the mental, emotional and physical attributes out of which these processes will arise, even though they are still primitive in form and function and have not yet achieved their full operational essence. It has these mental, emotional and physical features in actuality, not the mere potential to develop them. In contrast, a newly-fertilized blastocyst has NONE of these actual features, though it contains a genetic program for the potential of possibly developing them in the future, if a number of contingent variables are realized. Those who define human personhood as merely the existence of human DNA are merely making a quantitative distinction based on identity, and not a qualitative distinction based on what makes human persons unique and special in their differentiation from other life forms. My definition, based on the qualities of personhood, distinguishes personhood from mere life, and does so in a way that would be qualitatively distinct from other life forms.

Is a newly-formed embryo more similar to a sperm and egg, or a baby? We should note that sperm cells, like egg cells, can be frozen and later revived for future use. Human beings who are frozen, no matter how carefully, cannot be later revived. Once frozen, a human being is dead. What about an embryo? Is it like sperms and eggs, or is it like a fully-developed human. Fertilized human embryos CAN BE FROZEN, stored for YEARS, and REVIVED. They are more like unfertilized sperm and egg cells than human beings. With apologies to the cryogenic societies, that can't be done to a human life - once a full (not potential) human is frozen, it is DEAD. Beyond a certain point of development, a human being who is frozen cannot be revived. What is the difference? The addition of a "spirit" or "soul"? Or merely sufficient complexity to warrant consideration as a human person rather than just an agglomeration of human tissue? When the soul departs from an ensouled person it goes somewhere else and never returns; of course, nothing like this occurs or is relevant if the being does not yet have a soul. What do you think happens to the soul of a fertilized embryo when it is frozen and stored for YEARS? Where does it go? When revived, is the soul yanked back from heaven and restored to the body?

An EMBRYO is no more equal to a BABY than an ACORN is to an OAK. Each has the POTENTIAL to become the actuality of the other. It is no more equal to an ensouled human PERSON than a house being built is equal to a completed home with people living in it.

Another example: If you mix a batch of blue paint and a batch of yellow paint, you get a new batch of paint: green. But the paint existed before it became green; it was just changed or adapted into a new phase. But before that joining they were all paint. And the origin of that batch of green paint began in the batches of yellow and blue paint that formed it. If there were some kind of hazardous chemical wrongly found in the green paint, you can bet that it would be traced back to either the yellow or the blue paint and clearly it would have to be said that the green paint is a continuation of the blue and yellow that came together to form it, though we would all agree that a substantive and important change has occurred. However, in all cases, the blue paint or the yellow paint or the green paint, would still be paint. Not a painting or work of art, but just paint. All of them would have the POTENTIAL to become a painting (or perhaps just be used to paint a fence).

This is not to say that a fertilized egg is not a genetically-uniquely piece of human tissue. A human being is much more than the mere existence of LIFE. Insects and bacteria have LIFE and uniquely individual DNA; each is an autonomous, living individual. Is it a sin to get immunizations (that kill MILLIONS of individual lives), or to use insecticides, or to unnecessarily kill and eat the (sentient, autonomous) birds and mammals you non-vegetarians butcher to satisfy your lust for more fat in your arteries?

To be a HUMAN PERSON is more than merely being ALIVE. It is more than merely having human chromosomes and human DNA. It is a combination of life, human genetics, consciousness and sufficient autonomy that it can live apart from its biological mother [even if it still requires someone to be a caregiver, as long as the person is capable of doing so WILLINGLY, by CHOICE].

Differences between zygotes and babies
While an important milestone is clearly passed on the occasion of an egg (ovum) being fertilized by a sperm, it is nevertheless true that a newly-fertilized blastocyst or ZYGOTE is far more similar to the egg or sperm (one-celled carrier of genetically-coded material) than to a baby. It is no more equal to a BABY than an ACORN is equal to an OAK. It is no more equal to an ensouled human PERSON than a set of construction blueprints is equal to a completed home with people living in it. The POTENTIAL may possibly become the actuality of the former. For those who still have trouble telling the difference, here are a few clues:

a)newly-fertilized zygotes (which some have claimed to be human persons) are one-celled creatures with absolutely no thought, feelings, consciousness, sentience, will, volition or anything remotely resembling the essential qualities of personhood we associated with a human being; post-natal babies have ALL of these qualities, though in primitive form.

b)newly-fertilized zygotes are entirely dependent for the physical existence on the 24/7 full-time care of a single, specific, non-transferable care-giver; post-natal babies, while still very dependent creatures, are biologically autonomous and can be put in the care of any person who CHOOSES to accept the responsibility (either to provide temporary respite or permanent adoption).

c)newly-fertilized zygotes occupy the internal space within the most private reproductive organs of the female body; post-natal babies are not inside another person's body. And yes, "just a few inches" DOES make a difference. In other settings, a few inches might mean the difference between being arrested for trespassing and enjoying your own yard on your side of the fence.

d)newly-fertilized zygotes contain the "blueprints" or plans for the POTENTIAL development of human characteristics, but do not actually manifest ANY of the mental, emotional or physical features, body parts, attributes or characteristics of an ensouled human person; BABIES have essentially ALL of the mental, emotional or physical features, body parts, attributes or characteristics of a human adult, though simply in a less developed form, like a blank sheet of paper waiting to be written on.

e)newly-fertilized zygotes are NEVER identified by the Bible as having been ensouled as human persons (despite many references to pregnancy, birth and the formation of BODY parts being "knit together" in the womb); post-natal babies are clearly identified as ensouled human persons after they have been BORN of a woman and taken the "breath of life".

I have explained clearly the DIFFERENCES between a newly-fertilized zygote and a post-natal baby. Now I challenge those who claim they are equivalent or equal to please provide an unambiguous definition of "ensouled human person" that would apply to BOTH newly-fertilized zygotes AND post-natal babies, but would NOT apply to unfertilized human sperms/eggs or to other conscious, sentient creatures such as birds and mammals. In other words, having LIFE is not sufficient (sperms/eggs & animals all do) and being genetically human is not sufficient (sperms/eggs are).

Until they can respond to this challenge to show why zygotes = babies AND show why (even if it were a person, which it's not) it would have the right to forcibly occupy the most private parts of a woman's reproductive anatomy any more than the "right to life" of someone needing a bone marrow transplant or blood transfusion to forcibly control the body of an unwilling donor, then they are entitled to their opinions (for themselves) but have no basis whatsoever on which to claim a right to hire POLITICIANS to write MORE LAWS to ram their UNSUPPORTED OPINIONS down everyone else's throats and FORCE control of THEIR WILL over women's reproductive organs (i.e., legislative rape).

Measurable brainwaves (a minimal standard for thought or consciousness which even animals possess, much less personhood which suggests an even higher standard) do not even exist until after 25 weeks. Source: According to Bergstrom, R.M. 1986, Development of EEG and Unit Electrical Activity of the Brain during Ontogeny, In L.J. Jilek and T. Stanislaw (Eds.), "Ontogenesis of the Brain," Prague: University of Karlova Press and Morowitz, Harold J. and Trefil, James S. 1994, "The Facts of Life," Oxford University Press, a study of brainwaves in fetuses younger than 25 weeks, which included fetuses from 59 days old (8.5 weeks) to 158 days old (22.5 weeks), there were no brain waves seen before 25 weeks, although electrical (neural) activity was present (electrical activity is present in ALL cells, including sperms/eggs).

Embryonic Stem cells vs. Persons
Carried to its extreme view, the ability to equate a small agglomeration of insensiet cells with the value of a fully autonomous human person allows absurd conclusions such as by those who would wish to outlaw valueable medical research that would benefit actual human persons because a few bits of cell tissue are used in the process. The idea that anyone could object to embryonic stem cell research using embryonic stem cells because they come from zygotes in the first 14 days after fertilization (the earliest point at which cell specialization can begin), merely because they consider these undifferentiated cell to be equal in value to any other human person, demonstrates just how silly their whole premise is.

In the current debate over stem cell research, it is especially absurd because it is not even an issue about life. The issue is how to dispose of more than 400,000 frozen embryos left over from successful attempts at in-vitro fertilization.

Those who support embryonic stem cell research (including many who oppose abortion rights) want to use some of these fertilized blastocysts to develop treatments and cures for many of humankind's most serious and debilitating conditions: Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, diabetes, quadraplegia and paraplegia resulting from spinal cord injuries, and regeneration of damaged tissues that would otherwise require the transplantation of organs or tissues.

Those who oppose embryonic stem cell research want to throw out these cells as "medical waste."

Who is really "pro-life"?

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Ensoulment | Holocaust/Slavery | Late Term Abortion | Other Considerations
Christian Moral Perspectives
Bible is Pro-Choice
It should first be pointed out that the Bible is a text of religious belief, not of public policy or law. Some people believe in the Bible as the word of God, many others do not. In a nation of many faiths and traditions, no single one can be used as the basis for public policies or laws that affect everyone. However, as to the moral issue, since many do believe in the Bible, and cite it (in error) to oppose women's reproductive self determination, this section is presented to address the concerns and questions of those whose religious tradition does include belief in the Bible.

Why are some conservative Christians, who claim the Bible as their sole moral authority, so opposed to abortion? While abortion was well known and written about in ancient Hebrew times (some in favor, some against), the BIBLE is COMPLETELY SILENT on the subject of abortion. None of these other writings, including those cited by those opposed to abortion, made it into the Bible (and citing such sources only reiterates that abortion WAS known and still unmentioned by the Bible writers). No specific passage in the Bible encourages or discourages abortion, although the Law of Moses specifically authorizes it in the case of a married woman impregnated by a man other than her husband (Numbers 5:12-28). The general silence about abortion is the way it should be left: don't go to either extreme, to outlaw or forbid abortion (like the religious extremists) or mandate abortion (like the Communists in China on the extreme left). It should be left to each individual to decide in her own situation. There ARE passages in the Bible that speak of birth, conception, accidental miscarriage, pregnancy, the formation and creation of life, extremely detailed descriptions of what constitutes murder, etc., any one of which would have been a PERFECT OPPORTUNITY the Bible writers to include the simple statement that abortion is a sin, or is forbidden, or is murder, or whatever. BUT THEY DIDN'T.

Falwell and Robertson and Christian religous extremists:
But the religious extremists in America are even more perverse. On Thursday, September 13, just two days after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on New York and Washington, Jerry Falwell appeared as a guest on Pat Robertson's TV program "The 700 Club." Falwell made the following statement: "The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. I really believe that the pagans and the abortionists and the feminists and the gays and the lesbians ... helped this happen .... God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve." Joined in Pat Robertson: "Jerry, that's my feeling. I think we've just seen the antechamber to terror. We haven't even begun to see what they can do to the major population."

Let's get a few things straight:

1. America did not "deserve" this cowardly act of terror, and anyone who says we did is on the same side as the extremists who perpetrated this act of murder.

2. God did not help or in any way support the terrorists. This was an act of evil and God is not evil. What kind of deity do Falwell and Robertson believe in if they claim he aided and abetted this murder?

3. Those who committed this crime are religious extremists, just like Falwell and Robertson. Just like Falwell and Robertson they oppose the right to let women make the most personal decisions about their private lives, and support positions that would subjugate women into second-class roles -- and on these issues of choice and women's rights, Falwell and Robertson are practically in perfect agreement with Osama bin Laden. Just as hateful extremists such as Falwell and Robertson are not representative of the vast majority of good and decent Christians, so also Osama bin Laden is not representative of the vast majority of Moslems, from many sects of Islam, who support the teachings of peace and mercy in the Koran and who reject the senseless and hateful violence which, in truth, is blasphemous to true believers.

While Falwell subsequently apologized for the insensitive timing of his comments, he never came right out and said they were wrong. Apparently he believes America "deserved" this terrorist crime and that God was an accomplice to it.

The real threat to freedom in America is from those who take their high and mighty moralism and want to use the force of law to cram it down the throats of every one else, no matter how different their opinions and beliefs might be.

Specific Scriptures:
For a more in-depth perspective on the Biblical perspective about this issue, including a detailed examination of specific scriptures often cited in the discussion of a woman's right to choose to have an abortion, see the separate discussion at: Abortion and Scripture.

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Ensoulment | Holocaust/Slavery | Late Term Abortion | Other Considerations
Historical Religious Views
Early Hebrew Views
Talmud: The following are exact quotes from p. 238 of the Steinsaltz Edition of the Talmud, translated by Rabbi Israel V. Berman, 1989 edition (published by Random House):

"A fetus is [considered as] the thigh of its mother, i.e., it is like a limb of the mother, and is not a separate entity."

"A human fetus [is] less than a fully undependent human being."

"A fetus cannot inherit property until it is born."

The 12th century Jewish rabbi Maimonides taught that these Talmudic passages in conjunction Exodus 21:22, along with the "first breath" concept (as in Adam) [Genesis 2:7] permitted abortion until the baby's head had emerged. (His work, "The Guide of the Perplexed," completed in 1190, blended Jewish thought with the teachings of Aristotle, and was used by St. Thomas Aquinas as a seminal source.)

Breath of Life (Gen 2:7) applies more broadly than just to Adam:
[Gen 1:30.27] And to every beast of the earth, and to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food." And it was so.

[Gen 2:7] then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

Here ensoulment clearly is defined in the Bible as occurring AFTER the taking of "first breath." And please note that the reference equating "ensoulment" and "breath of life" can be found not only in this reference to the special creation of Adam, but throughout both Old and New Testaments, applying to all the rest of us.

Early Non-Biblical Prohibitions against Abortion
There are, however, a number on NON-BIBLICAL references to opposing abortion.

Sibylline Oracles 2, pg. 339

Didache, Chapter 2 verse 3

Letter to Barnabus from the Codex Sinaiticus from unknown author

Letter to Diognetus [Epistle of Mathetes to Diognetus dates to around 130 A.D. -- citation Chapter 5:6]

While this clearly shows that some early Christians did oppose abortion, TWO key points are very clear here:

1) Those in Biblical times DID KNOW about abortion, so the Bible's silence on abortion cannot be excused on the basis that they didn't know about it (although since God supposedly breathed the inspiration for the Bible and He DID know everything, even that should have been no excuse)

2) The passages that opposed abortion were NOT INCLUDED in the Bible. While several of them were considered for inclusion in the Canon, not one of these opportunities to include a clear statement of Biblical opposition to abortion was accepted. Any effort to have the Bible unambiguously oppose abortion WAS REJECTED!

3) Nothing that actually made it into the Bible opposes abortion.

The simple fact is that the Bible is completely silent about abortion. It neither encourages/promotes nor discourages/opposes abortion in any way. It is completely neutral, therefore leaving that up to each individual person to make their own personal CHOICE.

But believe it or not, I have had people respond by asking, "Well, then, where in the Bible does it say that abortion is PERMITTED?"

Such a comment somehow suggests that EVERYTHING is FORBIDDEN unless God specifically OK's it. Where in the Bible does it say it's OK to use a computer, drive a motorized vehicle, fly in the air, inoculate against disease (and thus kill billions of God's creations - the viruses and bacteria)? [I am not comparing zygotes to viruses, merely showing how silly it is to make such a ridiculous assertion.] Oh, these things weren't invented yet? You don't think that God (who knew Jeremiah before the foundation of the world) could foresee the future day? They still aren't authorized. What about things that WERE known? Where in the Bible does it say it's OK to climb a tree? Kill a shrimp/pig/rabbit for dinner (I can show you where it is FORBIDDEN)?

Abortion WAS known and practiced in Bible times. And there are lots of other things that WERE within the scope of technology for Bible times, but not authorized by the Bible: is surfing allowed by the Bible? Are competitive team sports authorized in scripture? Picnics? Climbing a tree? Going to the zoo?

The Bible is SILENT about abortion. Neutral. The Bible neither supports, encourages, condemns nor discourages the practice. It is left to individual discretion ... or CHOICE. As to whether abortion should be LEGAL (the topic of this folder) I take a purely neutral, middle-of-the-road view: the far left (Chinese Communists) want forced abortion mandated by law; the far right (Christian Conservatives) want forced pregnancy mandated by law; the middle ground (Moderate Middle) leaves it up to each individual ... JUST LIKE THE BIBLE.

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Ensoulment | Holocaust/Slavery | Late Term Abortion | Other Considerations

Can more than one soul inhabit a body? If one believes that only one soul can inhabit a body, then what happens in the case of IDENTICAL multiple births? Each twin or triplet has its own soul at birth and is its own person.

Yet at the time of fertilization/conception, there was only one cell, one entity and one unique genetic individual. One must conclude either that multiple souls can inhabit a body, or that the soul has not yet come to exist at the time (after conception/fertilization) of the division into multiples.

Let's compare the development of a HOME to the development of an ENSOULED HUMAN PERSON. The owner is like the ovum. The architect is like the sperm. The owner (egg) has the complete resources to build a home, including the ideas of how it should take place, but lacks the precise finishing of the plans for doing so. The architect (sperm) replaces those vague, general ideas with a more technically viable representation, infusing his own new additional thoughts and ideas. The resources/ideas of the owner come together with the technical specifications of the architect, and the result of this union is a complete blueprint, or set of building plans (a fertilized zygote). These plans now have to be implanted to an actual construction site, provided by the owner. Even after actual construction has begun, there is nothing yet resembling a HOME. The framing rapidly takes shape and soon begins to resemble the form of a home, though there are no actual walls, insulation, pipes or wiring yet. Even as construction progresses and the wiring and plumbing are added, there still is not a home. Even in the final stages of construction, it LOOKS LIKE a home, but no one lives there. It does not actual become a HOME until a family moves into it (ensoulment) and gives it the spiritual warmth that distinguishes a HOME from a HOUSE.

While there are many references in the Bible to ensoulment of those who have been born, and many references to conception, birth and pregnancy, there is not one single Bible verse that indicates that ensoulment occurs prior to the taking of first breath.

Believe it or not, some have responded by asking me to show evidence that ensoulment did NOT occur at conception or during pregnancy. One of the most basic principles in Logic 101 is that it is impossible to prove a NEGATIVE (i.e., that there is NOT a soul). The person asserting an AFFIRMATIVE claim (i.e., that there IS a soul) is the one with the burden of proving that assertion. I am not making the positive assertion of when ensoulment occurs. Those who claim that it occurs at or before a certain point are the ones required to prove the claim they assert.

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Ensoulment | Holocaust/Slavery | Late Term Abortion | Other Considerations
Comparing Abortion to the Holocaust and/or Slavery
Abortion vs. the Holocaust
Comparing the value of a living, breathing Jew to that of a speck of embryonic tissue is a tremendously anti-Semitic insult to a people who have been persecuted enough. There are several big differences: In the Holocaust they killed real, live, conscious and feeling human beings, with individual experience and personal histories. A 1st trimester abortion removes cell tissue that has no sensation or awareness or thoughts or feelings or experience of any kind. Zero. By the end of the first trimester, neural pathways have barely been formed, but are not yet sending transmissions. There is zero consciousness. Early embryos (fertilized) can actually be frozen, stored for years, AND REVIVED (recently a BABY was born from an embryo frozen and stored MORE THAN 7 YEARS after fertilization). No ensouled human has even been brought NEAR the freezing point (even briefly) and then been revived. With apologies to the cryogenic societies, that can't be done to a human life -- once a full (not potential) human is frozen, it is DEAD. Whether it is the existence of a soul added later, or the development of adequate biological complexity, or whatever, there is a big difference between a fetus (potential human) and an actual human. But even if a fetus WERE human, it would not have the right to dominate the body of someone else and demand 24-hour care for 9 months from a woman against her will; after birth the baby is pretty helpless, but constant, ongoing care from a SPECIFIC caregiver is not required.

Abortion and Slavery
The Bible is not silent about slavery, as it is about abortion. It is very pro-slavery. There are many, many examples in the Old Testament where slavery was approved by God (see Numbers, Joshua) there are also many times when it was even commanded that captives in war be taken as slaves (Num 31). Leviticus chapter 25 outlines the do's and don'ts of permissible and forbidden forms of slavery. Verse 46 specifically permits slavery, as long as fellow Hebrews are not the slaves. Joshua 9:23 commands that captives of war be taken as slaves.]

In the kinder, gentler New Testament, Paul wrote that slaves should be obedient to their masters (Ephesians 6:5-7; see also Titus 2:9-10). In IPeter 2:18, it is even specified to be submissive both to masters who are overbearing as well as gentle! Why didn't Peter, Paul or even Jesus speak out against this moral outrage? If they were afraid of the law (although it didn't stop them in other situations) they could at least have remained neutral on the subject. I am not aware of a single verse that condemns slavery as a general evil, only those that complain specifically when Hebrews or Christians are enslaved or otherwise persecuted.

For Christians to equate an anti-abortion morality with an anti-slavery is doubly hypocritical, since the Bible is silent on one (abortion) and takes a view OPPOSITE theirs on slavery!

Comparing the horrible human rights abuses of fully human slaves with the "rights" of undeveloped cell tissue is a terrible cultural offense against the victims of slavery and their descendants. Maybe white males just don't feel enough compassion for the victims of slavery, mostly from other racial backgrounds, or the victims of anti-choice policies, who are mostly women.

The fetus is not a full human being, but a POTENTIAL one any more than an acorn is the same as an oak. Thus a fetus itself, until born, does not have HUMAN rights.

And EVEN IF IT WERE HUMAN, it would not have the right to demand control of another person's body against her will. Some time ago there was a court case involving two estranged brothers. One had two healthy kidneys, the other's kidneys had failed and he needed a transplant in order to survive. They were genetically compatible, but the healthy brother refused to give up one of his kidneys. The sick brother - a fully-human being - sued in court to force the organ donation, saying he had an inalienable right to life. The court rightly agreed that, while voluntary organ donation is a beautiful choice, people cannot be FORCED to keep someone else alive by using their bodies AGAINST THEIR WILL.

The closest similarity to slavery applicable to the issue of abortion is the attempt to deny a woman's right to prevent a fetus from controlling her body against her will and making HER a ... SLAVE.

As I have said, the only relevant comparison between the issues of slavery and abortion is that of sentient being (Black slave) to sentient being (woman) who are both forced to have their bodies used for the interests of others against their will.

Please remember, that the modern women's rights movement began at the 1848 (pre-Civil War) World Anti-Slavery Convention in London, when Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretion Mott -- women -- were refused participation and quickly realized that women were no better off than slaves and they better get that straightened out and it was just as much of a priority.

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Late Term Abortion

While not many people would seek to encourage MORE late-term abortions (or any abortions, for that matter), and there is much ambivalence about 3rd trimester abortions even in among those who call themselves "pro-choice," emphasizing that a better approach is to prevent the need with proper teaching of values, sex education, and birth control measures. In the end, the choice remains the mother's as to what she will do with her own body, and who she will permit to occupy that body.

I heard an example on the Tom Leykis show some time back of a woman who had a late term "partial birth" abortion. The reason she didn't PREVENT the pregnancy is that it was not an unplanned pregnancy at all. She and her husband had been trying to conceive for five years, and they had great hopes and excitement in the pregnancy. Late in the pregnancy, however, it was determined that there was a serious deformity. The child's brain was growing outside its head. It would be born dead, or would most likely die soon after birth. With great sadness, the couple made the choice to terminate the pregnancy in the 3rd trimester. I heard the anguish in that woman's voice as she described the terrible ordeal of making that choice. Whether you think she made the right decision or not, it was a very personal choice only she and her husband and doctor and priest could make. No, let me rephrase that -- it was a choice only SHE could make, with advice from her husband, doctor or priest if she wanted that advice.

The reality of late-term abortion is that

a) it is extremely, extremely rare

b) it is used primarily to terminate pregnancies that were wanted, but in which something has gone wrong

c) it is being exploited by those opposed to women's reproductive self-determination as a means of demonizing all abortions, including first-term abortions (when almost 90% of all abortions actually occur) which have little if any resemblance to abortions in late term.

When Abortions Occur During Pregnancy
In an article which criticized BOTH pro-life and pro-choice lobbyists, the San Diego Union-Tribune provided its data on abortions (8-6-96, page A14), which showed that 52% occur at 8 weeks or less of pregnancy, and 89% occur in the first trimester. Only 1% occur at 21 weeks or more and .04% occur in the 3rd trimester (that is 4 out of 10,000). The article criticizes pro-CHOICE activists who used the rarity of LATE-TERM abortions to try to say that a specific controversial procedure was rare, when in fact it is used in a number of abortions between the 15th and 21st weeks in addition to the few done later. It also criticized the pro-LIFE activists who tried to capitalize on the false statements about the rarity of a specific procedure to claim that late-TERM abortions are common when, in fact, ANYONE from EITHER side who mixes up the chronology with the specific procedure used is being dishonest. These figures were backed up in a much later article in the Los Angeles Times (4-25-00, page A8) which showed identical numbers.

Four out of every TEN THOUSAND abortions occurring in the 3rd-trimester totals about 600 per year. It's a big country - more than 260 MILLION people here, so small fractions of large numbers DO add up. It is one 3rd-trimester abortion for every 433,000 people. If that were a U.S. city, it would rank 35th in size out of the thousands of incorporated cities (based on numbers from 1997 Information Please Almanac), and would only have one such procedure a year. And the fact remains that almost all of these are the result of medical complications. I have heard a number of radio interviews and seen TV interviews with women who WANTED their pregnancies and WANTED to have a baby, but went through the emotional trauma because of medical complications trivialized by insensitive pro-life extremists. I have also seen several of the very few doctors who perform such procedures, and they stated that they do NOT do them unless there are medical conditions. I acknowledge that I do not have actual numbers or percentages of how many were done for medical reasons and how many (if any) were "discretionary". But if someone wants to claim that THIRD TRIMESTER abortions are "discretionary", let that person provide a specific example or actual numbers from a neutral source.

An abortion spokesperson (Ron Fitzsimmons, "head" of a small lobbying organization called "The National Coalition of Abortion Providers") admitted that he "lied through his teeth" about the numbers of D&E abortions performed, when he called it "rare". This was one of the examples cited by the Los Angeles Times against the pro-CHOICE side. His dishonesty was that he took an ACCURATE number, the rarity of 3rd trimester abortions, and used it to claim that the D&E procedure was rare. But since the D&E is also used in some abortions during the 2nd trimester, using the numbers for all D&E's and 3rd-trimester abortions was not accurate.

Differences between First and Third Trimester Abortion
Just as I recognize the distinction between a newly-fertilized zygote and a post-partum infant, I also recognize the difference between a first trimester embryo and a third trimester fetus. This is relevant because (according to the Los Angeles Times) 89% of all abortions occur during the first trimester (and, within that group, 52% of all abortions - more than half of all abortions - occur during the first 8 weeks - less than 2/3 of the way through the first trimester). Only .04% (that is four out of TEN THOUSAND for the math-impaired) occur after 26 weeks, and most of those involve some health risk factors to either the fetus, the mother, or both - they are NOT "convenience" abortions. The remainder occur in the 2nd trimester.

During the first trimester, as documented in a previous post in THIS folder as well as other folders, there are NO measurable brain waves. There is NO thought, no consciousness, no feeling, no sentience and (with the fact that the embryo can be frozen, stored for years and revived, unless you think God yanks the soul back from heaven and returns it to the embryonic cell structure) not much (if any) possibility of a soul. A first trimester embryo has NONE of the characteristics or qualities of humanness or personhood which engender the inherent and inalienable value of the human person, except that a genetic blueprint for a human being is present - but it is still just a set of plans, not yet a substantially completed work of architecture.

Because there are no true qualities of humanness or personhood, I see no issue of either morality nor legality in first trimester abortions. However, because a THIRD trimester fetus DOES have brain waves and neural activity (though there is no clear evidence of a soul nor for the ability to perceive pain), I consider it POSSIBLE that it MIGHT BE an ensouled person. Based on this remote chance, I would consider it unethical for a healthy woman to abort a healthy fetus in the third trimester, but not in the FIRST trimester. Even so, because even an ensouled person would not have the right to forcibly dominate another person's body, I would not favor outlawing ANY abortion; just as I would consider it UNETHICAL to deny bone marrow to a donor match who needs it (an ensouled person), but would not want organ donations mandated by force of law.

Forget for a moment about the issue of ALL abortions. Would you be willing to acknowledge (setting aside your OWN personal choices or preferences) that, at least during the first trimester, when there are no brain waves, no pain, no sentience, no consciousness, the dubious existence of a soul in a creature that can be frozen, stored for years and revived, that at least during this time that it would NOT be appropriate to PASS LAWS that would limit the right of a woman to make decisions about the most private parts of her reproductive anatomy? And if you DO support having LAWMAKERS made these decisions for women, for FIRST TRIMESTER pregnancies, please give REASONS and FACTS to justify this intrusive use of government force.

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Other Considerations
Graphic Protest Posters & Signs

Who are the deceptive ones carrying gross signs with graphic pictures of aborted fetuses around schools and clinics to FORCE people to see such pictures? The pictures themselves are deceptive ... either using late-term fetuses in a general campaign against all abortions (a vast majority of which occur in the 1st trimester) or against "discretionary" late-term abortion, which are virtually ALL done for serious medical reasons, at great trauma to the women who have them [since they wanted their pregnancies - otherwise would have had the abortions much earlier], whose pain - the pain of REAL, not potential human persons - is trivialized by the cold, heartless people who then have the nerve to call themselves "conceived-again" Christians.

Since they can't convince people on the merits of serious argument, the pro-life extremists who use such tactics have just one hope: to try and gross people out with pictures with as much blood and gore as they can fit on a poster, and then parade where small children will be present. In MY community, such tactics have backfired, and even pro-life believers have expressed their outrage and revulsion. Many medical procedures are gruesome. Should we show posters of open-heart surgeries to small children? People whose faces are being reconstructed after grotesque auto accidents? The more extreme elements of the pro-life movement don't care about women who are human persons, they only care about fetal tissue. Should I, as a vegetarian, parade in front of YOUR favorite restaurant where YOU are eating MEAT, with pictures of what goes on in the slaughterhouse where your meal came from? If you find such a thought revolting, is it because you know in your heart the vileness of your wanton, unnecessary killing of animals just to feed your lustful addiction to fat? Would there be a difference? [For the record, as I have stated many times, I do not equate animals with persons and am respectfully pro-CHOICE on the subject of vegetarianism - I do not go around carrying signs or yelling "Meat is Murder," but I could make a lot stronger case for their position than the pro-life one, since birds and mammals clearly ARE sentient, conscious and autonomous - not requiring that you use your body to keep them alive.]

Our Mothers, Ourselves
Some have asked, what if our mothers had chosen abortions? This is a simplistic, juvenile argument. What if ANY of the sperms or eggs you have lost or wasted over the years had become a person? What if our mothers had "had a headache" that night? The result would be the same -- you wouldn't be here. So does that mean that a woman commits a moral failing every time she passes up a chance to have one of her eggs fertilized? That is really what is being suggested by the assumptions in this question. Do you miss the losses of all the POTENTIAL persons that never came to become actual persons? You cannot look at actual, real life independent autonomous persons and say, "What if...?," because that is not the eventuality that occurred, unless you are going to argue that every sperm or egg every produced should be merged and grown into a human being. Of course, this would be impossible not only because eggs and sperms are produced is such vastly differing and unmatched ratios, but also because our planet would have been overrun centuries ago!

Others point to famous persons and suggest that if their mothers had aborted the world would have missed a Beethoven, Einstein or Jesus (they don't usually cite the examples of a Hitler or a Manson, which are much more likely outcomes of unwanted pregnancies). IF a different sperm and egg had matched, a different person would be here, who might have become either a serial killer, a brain surgeon or (more likely) somewhere in between. IF one person's mother had an abortion, that person wouldn't be here. Get real. Deal with reality, not the "What If's," because they go both ways.

Right to Abortion (reproductive self-determination) compared to Right to Suicide
The real issue in any question of "choice" is one of the validity of the choice -- that it truly be the will of the person making that choice, and that it reflects their valid and legitimate consent.

The elements of valid consent require that the person making the "choice" have the capacity to do so - that they be of legal age and maturity and that they be "of sound mind". In the case of suicide, the vast majority of suicides are the result of mental illness in general, especially clinical depression.

However, when the elements for valid consent DO exist, including legal age and mental capacity, as well as verification that this IS what the person is actually choosing, then the OPTION to end one's life - freely made as a choice, not promoted nor coerced in any way - may well be morally valid and, in any case, should not be legally deterred. Examples of such conditions where a rational choice to end one's life might be appropriate could include: a elderly and/or terminally ill person in persistent pain without hope of recovery; a captured POW facing certain torture and who does not want to reveal secrets that could endanger others; the assumption of risk with a high certainty of death for the purpose of saving someone else. As long as there are safeguards to ensure that the person making the "choice" to terminate their own life a)is making their own choice without coercion; b)is mentally capable of making this choice as a rational decision; and, c)is a legal adult, then I do respect the legal right (for sure) and the moral validity (probably) of some persons choices to end their own lives.

Most pro-CHOICE people DO support the right of women (and men) to end their lives if it is a CHOICE made by VALID CONSENT. As with all choices, however, INCLUDING reproductive choices, it requires valid consent, which rules out those who are merely responding to mental illness (including depression). And how do YOU propose to deter those who attempt suicide from repeat attempts? Threaten them with the death penalty?

Jump to subheading:
Legal Issue | Moral Issue | Christian Perspective | Historical Religious |
Ensoulment | Holocaust/Slavery | Late Term Abortion | Other Considerations

References and Recommended Readings:
Tribe, Laurence H., "Abortion: the Clash of Absolutes." New York: W.W. Norton. 1990.
An excellent and balanced presentation of the abortion issue presented by an acclaimed professor of Constitutional Law at Harvard University. Available in most general bookstores and libraries.
Harrison, William F., M.D., "There is a Bomb in Gilead." Fayetteville, Arkansas: M&M Press. 1999. A compelling fictionalized account adapted from real-life experiences, written by an OBGYN who also performs abortions. Insightful and brilliant. This book may be ordered directly from the publisher, M&M Press, P.O. Box 338, Fayettevile, Arkansas 72702 for $9.95 plus $2.50 postage/handling (for total of $12.45). Dispels many myths and stereotypes, and personalizes the issue in a dramatic and realistic way.

We are pleased to host several insightful commentaries by renowned physician Dr. William F. Harrison, and recommend the following:
Post-Abortion Syndrome: Myth or Reality, at: http://www.wordwiz72.com/wfh-post-abort.html
Human Soul and Abortion Morality, at: http://www.wordwiz72.com/wfh-soul.html
Smug Religious Terrorists, at: http://www.wordwiz72.com/religterror.html
Election 2002 - The Mourning After, at: http://www.wordwiz72.com/wfhmd2002.html
Roe v. Wade, Bush and the Republican Congress - A Thirty Year Run Ended? at: http://www.wordwiz72.com/roe-v-republicans.html

Feldt, Gloria, with Carol Trickett Jennings, "Behind Every Choice Is a Story," University of North Texas Press, 2003. The president of Planned Parenthood collects letters written by mothers, daughters, teenagers, teachers, doctors, patients, activists, clergy, politicians, and other women and men who write about universal themes -- love, sex, pregnancy, health, family, and the future -- but each of their individual stories, told in quiet, moving voices, is unique. Contact University of North Texas Press for ordering information, toll-free at 1-800-826-8911 or e-mail at: pressasst@unt.edu or obtain more info from website at: http://www.behindeverychoice.com/
Morowitz, Harold J. and Trefil, James S., "The Facts of Life," Oxford University Press, 1994. An excellent scientifically documented study of early fetal development. Strongly recommended.
Patterson, Richard North, "Protect and Defend." Alfred A. Knopf, 2000. Fictionalized account that raises issues of politics, late term abortion and the Supreme Court.

Copyright (c) 1998-2004 T.F. Barans / Word Wizards communications

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LINKS to other sources of pro-choice information and involvement opportunities:
--Planned Parenthood.
--National Abortion & Reproductive Rights Action League (NARAL).
--Abortion rights guide: http://www.datehookup.com/content-guide-to-abortion-rights.htm.
--Californians for Responsible Choices.
--Catholics for Choice.
--Elroy's Abortion Rights Commentary.
A particularly insightful and informative commentary on the subject.

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