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Life Begins When?

This morning I awakened to a story on the radio about the "Personhood" initiative. Some well-meaning folks are seeking to have states pass laws saying that "life begins at conception" and to ban all abortion and all uses of human cells. I appreciate their purism and their willingness to take this value to its logical end. At least these "lifers" are not hypocrites! But unfortunately for them, their initiatives are falling like flies under a flyswatter. Why? People are unwilling to force women to have babies they don't want. It is problematic. If you MUST give birth to any conceptus that sticks, do you still then have to mother it? Or can you ignore and abuse it? Well it turns out, you CAN ignore and abuse it. If the government notices how bad you treat your kids, it takes them away and they get treated even worse. These people who wish that every conceptus become a child are neglecting to consider the logical outcome of their actions. MORE unwanted children helps create a desperately sick society that doesn't respect life at any age.

But back to the question of when life begins. Life "began" when a bunch of chemical components somehow found themselves able to do something that they couldn't do separately. And somehow they became able to spread, expand, and later to reproduce. Since then life has been continuous. We are an extension of the life that began in the slime. Tentacles of life reach out all the time, in every direction. We are host to more living cells that are NOT us than to cells that ARE us. Life is a network, a collage, a confusing interconnected amazing self-promoting thing. Cells die but life goes on. Skin cells. Stomach cells. Sperm cells. Egg cells. The idea that a sperm cell + an egg cell is somehow sacred because it is more alive than any other cells is exaggerated. The web of life goes on. The boundaries of death remain.


( 23 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 9th, 2011 03:47 pm (UTC)
my position on this.
I make it simple: It is not about 'life' it is about 'when does a 'self's existence' could possibly have an exclusive say in eliminating one's existence'

One has rights as a human citizen when they have the ability to draw their 2nd breath of our common atmosphere, assisted by machine or self powered by lungs.

In other words, when you are 'born'.

Until then, the only individual we can see, touch and communicate with is the mother. Ultimately, her rights as a survivor of birth trump those of 'unborn' humans yet to make the passage.

However,ultimately abortion is strictly a woman's issue; as such, my opinion does not matter as a male.
Nov. 9th, 2011 05:31 pm (UTC)
Re: my position on this.
Cool. As a woman, I appreciate your yielding some decision making power to the womb-holder. As an analytical thinker, I have to point out that an infant under 1 year of age really has no "self" yet. You might see them as a self but really they have not developed the brain capacity to be an "I", rather, they are completely dependent on caregivers and unable to recognize themselves as being distinct from their mother and/or tribe.
Nov. 9th, 2011 06:00 pm (UTC)
I recognize that, however, I tend to err on the side of 'oxygen' heh he...
Nov. 9th, 2011 07:43 pm (UTC)
Re: some?
Yeah, ok, you're yielding all the power to women---but they won't get all the power, because society has to have its say.
Nov. 9th, 2011 08:03 pm (UTC)
Re: some?
Fair enough, you cede *all* the power to women. Society doesn't, though. And the oxygen delineation seems more reasonable than the fertilization one. Pretty much anywhere we draw the line in the stream of life is going to be arbitrary.
Nov. 9th, 2011 04:05 pm (UTC)
I really wish i could agree that the supporters of this amendment in Mississippi were "well meaning." But I think that most "right to lifers" are participants in the same "culture of death" that the rest of us are involved in. They just express their hate and inhumanity in a different way.

As to the importance of ending abortion, i agree that it should be ended or minimized, but laws prohibiting it are not the way to go.

Not being a biologist or medical person, i cannot even guess at the number of miscarriages, spontaneous abortions, and still births which occur. From my experience, i would guess that a majority of pregnancies do not result in live births? Nature continues to insist that it is master, not us.
Nov. 9th, 2011 04:07 pm (UTC)
In fact, it's a pretty small percentage of fertilized eggs that result in anything that could reasonably be called a pregnancy. Last stat I heard was something like 90% fail to implant or miscarry within month 1.
Nov. 9th, 2011 04:37 pm (UTC)
I'm in agreement that the vast majority of egg-sperm unions do not implant or are ejected before 6 weeks. Unfortunately if a woman is seeking an abortion it is because something did implant. And these right to lifers want to outlaw morning after pills too.
Nov. 10th, 2011 12:45 am (UTC)
Yeah. I know. And I used to be pretty arrogant about all that too. My position has softened when I came to realize that my position (which is again, pretty close to yours) is basically based entirely on the unproven and the illogical. At that point, I hadda say that I lost most of my arrogance on this particular topic. And I am pretty arrogant, so that took some doin'.

Essentially, almost all of the positions are based on the fallacy of appeal to consequence. As in:

"if abortion is illegal, then we'll have more abused children", which is true, but has no impact on whether or not that's a person in there.

"if a fetus is a person, then they'll have to investigate miscairaiges as possible homicides", which is true, but has no impact on whether or not the zygote is a person.

See what I mean? There's no good solid logic to be had on this topic, only 2 religions locked in a holy war. That's why my preference is to give it to the states, you know, like we were a Republic or something.
Nov. 9th, 2011 05:26 pm (UTC)
It never occurred to me to think about fertilizations that "don't take" or that the percentage could be so high. This would keep law enforcement in Mississippi incredibly busy investigating "possible homicides."
Nov. 9th, 2011 04:06 pm (UTC)
Not weighing in here on when life happens, that's above my pay grade :)

However, there *is* the possibility of adoption. Just sayin' that the argument that refusing to provide abortions=forcing women to abuse unwanted children doesn't really hold up all that well.

Remember, pro-abortion here.
Nov. 9th, 2011 05:37 pm (UTC)
I didn't mean that it "=" forcing abuse, rather I am reporting on what I see. The last thing we need is more unwanted children. I don't know much about adoption but most of the adoptions I am personally aware of involve rich Americans going to China to get girls that they believe they are "saving" from poverty or sexual slavery. Nobody I've met seems too interested in "saving" kids from the US.

Edited at 2011-11-09 08:01 pm (UTC)
Nov. 10th, 2011 12:35 am (UTC)
There's a hugely long waiting list for adoptions in the US. Seriously. Tens of thousands. Most are adopting internationally because they would be unable to get a healthy non-special needs non-foster placed with them. It is of course easier for families willing to take on children with some... encumbrances.

Now, the problem raised by Hausfrauatu are legitimate, many children carried to term with the intent of giving them for adoption fail to do so when they get a look at the infant.

And the problem that you're raising here is legitimate too, that the world really doesn't need more unwanted children. The counter-point however, is equally true "So it's better to kill them than create the possibility of them being abused?"
Nov. 10th, 2011 07:55 pm (UTC)
Well and that is the question, isn't it. Is removing an implanted blob of cells "killing" in infant? No, it is not. This is where I disagree with the folks who are making the news these days. There are those who say that "every sperm is sacred" and so must be deposited in a fertile female, instead of into a sock. Framing the abortion of a nonviable fetus as murder is a way to make the argument visceral, and gets everybody's guts twisted. People vote on their guts far more often then on their minds, hence social conservatives have political ooomph. But allowing our guts to decide on important issues, without the application of the rational mind too all information available, is a recipe for a dysfunctional society. This battle between guts/instinct and brains/knowledge is central to our political stalemate.
Nov. 10th, 2011 10:21 pm (UTC)
I would say that that's where the debate is. It is my opinion that the proponents on both sides really *are* both being honest to the greatest degree they are able. That the anti-abortioners *do* believe that sperm+egg= a person, and that abortion is murder. They believe that for reasons that are every bit as well founded as is your belief to the contrary, which is to say not at all. Again, I will reiterate, there is *no* logic to be had on either side of this debate, it's *all* down to religion and appeals to consequence. On both sides.

It's *so* tempting to take our "enlightened" position and dismiss the other group, but their position is not less well founded than our own.

The sorry truth is that their position is actually *more* logically correct than ours. Because... What we are doing is often engaging in equivocation and line drawing. To say "viable" fetus which is the case in late term abortions... Well, that's pretty much a person, take it out of the mother and it'd live. "partial birth abortions" for example make a specific effort to kill the infant, which frequently survive if the proceedure is botched. So now we get into the delightful task of "line drawing", where we try to figure out which day of the pregnancy translates to that being a person in there. I can't claim much moral superiority at this point.

What I *can* claim is that I personally view slavery as a worse crime than murder. So regardless of anything else, whether or not the zygote is a person, I don't care, I remain pro-abortion because if I have to choose between ending one life and wrecking another, I will take the ending.
Nov. 10th, 2011 10:41 pm (UTC)
Same here. Mercy may sometimes involve not allowing a life to take place. I just don't want to be the one to decide that, if I can avoid it.
Nov. 10th, 2011 10:54 pm (UTC)
Yeah. It's pretty central to my belief system that I *don't* have all the answers. I consider it very important to permit the people actually facing each decision make the choices.

On the abortion front, there is *one* thing that I would like to see changed (other than leaving it to the states). That would be the *male* abortion. The man should have a legal recourse to abrogate *all* further responsibility for that child. Pay a fee equivalent to the cost of an abortion, which the woman can use for either an abortion or whatever, and boom, no further parental rights or responsibilities *ever* apply to that man as regards that kid (or not).

I want that because the current system is *unequal*. The woman has many options for pre-sex birth control and a few after. The man has 2, condoms (unreliable) and abstinence. After the fact, the woman has options that begin with the morning after pill, then transition to abortion. The man has none. On the societal side, how many unwanted fatherless babies would not be born if it were *known* that the father wasn't going to be contributing?
Nov. 10th, 2011 11:14 pm (UTC)
You know that is entirely reasonable and I've had the same thought. If abortion IS legal and the *fertilizer* has no desire to be a father, it seems that the mother should have no claim on him after the initial decision-making period. It's not fair to pin him to 18 years of payments for one short-sighted moment. I hope that doesn't happen much in real life.
Nov. 11th, 2011 12:16 am (UTC)
Personal anecdata says that it happens disturbingly often.
Nov. 11th, 2011 04:50 am (UTC)
Bah. Head will roll when I am the queen.
Nov. 11th, 2011 05:14 am (UTC)
:P Ye'd do better than most.
Nov. 9th, 2011 07:30 pm (UTC)
As a woman that has carried three kids to term and mothered each one of them, I'll tell you why adoption isn't usually an option.

Nature provides mechanisms to bond mothers to their infants even before they are born. I am as pro-life as they come, but after investing that much time and energy into growing an infant, and then birthing the infant and then...gosh. They are awfully cute! It's not natural to want to give up a baby.

I wonder if the sort of women who would make the rational choice to give up a child would be less likely to get knocked up in the first place.

Before Roe v. Wade a lot of women were compelled to give their babies away. If people say that abortion is traumatic, what about giving up a full term infant?

Another thing. Just because a woman can care for an infant, doesn't mean she will be an effective in the long term. I think there are a lot of toddlers in foster care. It's like the animal shelters being full of 1 1/2 year old dogs. Everyone loves a cute wriggly little puppy, but when the reality of actually training them sets in and then doesn't happen, they aren't wanted.

My first ethical standard is to minimize suffering. Abortion minimizes suffering.
Nov. 9th, 2011 07:40 pm (UTC)
Yes! Thanks for weighing in.
( 23 comments — Leave a comment )



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