Whole lot of woolly thinking going on here, I'm sorry to say.
ditch dweller wrote:
Anyhow ps, I understand what you're saying and the point you are making with your Embryology quote. As you say there are a million quotes saying the same thing but my point from earlier is not that there is any debate around what a human organism is. The brain dead bag of bones is a human organism but is it a human being? Not necessarily is the answer from medical ethics and the courts. So its not just a lack of courage on the part of liberals (thats the bit of your argument that is a stretch for me, and purely ideological) that fails to take an unambiguous position on this. Is an 8 week old or 12 week old fetus a human being or a fetus which is a distinctly other being... thats the question, not whether it is genetically a human organism which of course a heart outside the body is.
A heart outside the body is not a human organism. You are confusing "organism" with "organ". An organism is something with organic function, that is, a genetically distinct identity that carries out life processes and is capable of self-direction. Before we get carried away with that definition, it is perfectly fine for an "organism" to require particular environmental conditions in order to carry out its function. Otherwise a liver fluke wouldn't be an organism, nor would a human in space without a spacesuit. A human heart, on the other hand, is an organ but not an organism.
So, let's consider the foetus: is it alive? Check -- if it wasn't there'd be no abortion, since we wouldn't have to kill it: the purpose of abortion is to kill the foetus; is it genetically distinct? Check -- the foetus has its own complement of DNA, different from any other human individual; is it an organism? Check -- it is alive, genetically distinct, and capable of using resources from its environment for the purposes of self-directed growth; is it human? Check -- it's a living, genetically distinct organism, capable of self-directed growth, with human DNA ... what other species might it be if not human?
If it seems I'm labouring the point, I am only reiterating what the embryology textbooks say: a foetus is a living human organism. By the dictionary definition, that makes it also a human "being" -- a member of the species Homo sapiens
So much for the science. The ethical argument begins where the pro-lifer will insist that human beings are inalienably possessed of human rights
. The pro-choice side has gotten itself all bogged down in trying to come up with that je ne sais quoi
, that ineffable something that turns the disposable non-human foetus into something human and non-disposable at a certain stage of development. It's as if we're afraid to say "we're ok with killing human beings".
But human life, as the embryology textbooks also say, is a continuum. That ineffable something is nowhere to be found, nor will it ever be. In fact it's ironic -- the scientific establishment scoffed at Bergson's élan vital
as unnecessary to the definition of life, and here are we supposedly rational pro-choicers seemingly trying to bring it back. Why do we need to, if not from a lack of courage? The earlier poster who ridiculed the "pro-life" implication that we pro-choicers are pro-death was more right than they maybe intended. That's exactly what we are, and proud of it.
However, ditchdweller, this is seemingly not what you would conclude. To return to your question: "Is an 8 week old or 12 week old fetus a human being or a fetus which is a distinctly other being?". Let's not leave the question hanging -- what's your
answer (and, more importantly, on what specific grounds)?
Life does begin at conception. That is a matter of a complete no brainer uncontroversial scientific fact.
Absolutely not the case. The UK High Court, the Court of Appeal, the European Court of Human Rights and the Irish Supreme Court have all ruled in recent years that an unimplanted embryo does not constitute human life and is not afforded any protection under law. So in law, in this country at least, life begins at implantation - or it doesn't begin before it.
You'll have to cite particular cases if you want to be believed, but to take the fairly obvious one in the Irish Supreme court (Roche v Roche, 2009) -- the court said nothing remotely like that. To take just two contrary quotes from the ruling (emphases mine): "While this appeal raises very important issues, the resolution of those issues does not involve this court in attempting to answer the question of when life begins
". "Nonetheless, it cannot be denied that the fertilisation of the ovum brings into existence, outside the womb, the essential unique components of a potential new individual human person." What the court did
rule, was that the unimplanted embryo did not constitute the "unborn" for the purposes of the protections under Article 40.3.3 of the constitution.
But a legal ruling is only a legal ruling. Implantation is a major milestone in the development of an embryo; but an actively dividing unimplanted embryo is hardly inert.
Neither is hydrogen... nor a carrot.
Sigh. Hydrogen is not an organism. A carrot might be, depending on whether you are talking about the plant or the taproot. Either way it's not a human organism. Feel free to argue for carrot rights though ... I've seen stranger things argued
(One of those stranger things is the latterday argument for chimpanzee rights. We've already concluded that human rights aren't inalienable, otherwise foetuses would have them. So the rights only exist by agreement, as part of the social contract between those who afford the rights to each other ... otherwise we would have mayhem. Chimpanzees, being unable to enter into a social contract with humans, therefore cannot have rights. Unfortunately for them, whatever we decide goes. Simples.)