I posted When Does Life Begin? about a month ago, covering the basics of the “core issue” of the abortion debate. Now I’ll get down to the details of this critical question. In the aforementioned post I compiled a short list of the different opinions of when personhood begins, and I’ll go through that list now.
· When the umbilical cord is cut
The idea behind this opinion is that the baby is just a part of the mother’s body. Therefore, until the baby is separated from the mother and no longer dependant on her, the baby isn’t a person. This idea is also the fundamental rallying cry behind the pro-abortion movement: a woman has the right to have control over her own body. Yes, of course she does.
The baby isn’t a part of her body.
The baby is connected to her mother’s body and dependant on her mother’s body. That isn’t the same thing. Basic genetics shows this. Everybody knows the equation: man + woman = baby. Woman =/= baby. The baby has her own unique set of genes. If woman = baby, everybody would be clones of everybody else. Being connected to the woman’s body has absolutely no connection to whether the baby is a person or not.
· When the baby breathes for the first time
Honestly, I don’t know what this is supposed to mean. What does breathing have to do with being a person? Dogs breathe, and that doesn’t mean they’re people. They’re alive and conscious, certainly, but they still aren’t people. Likewise, none-breathing, thinking, conscious, hearing human beings aren’t disqualified from being people because they don’t breathe. Drowning people aren’t disqualified from being human either.
· When the baby develops bones
The time I heard this opinion voiced, the woman explained her reasoning like this (paraphrasing): “I think that once you’re breaking bones to abort the baby, it’s just too far along to abort it.” I can understand her feelings behind this, but developed bones by themselves don’t really have any logical connections to personhood. (It isn’t clear exactly when this woman meant. The baby has fully developed bones at about week 29 gestation, which is probably when she meant, or perhaps a bit earlier, but the bone development begins at about week 4 gestation.) However, connected with other things that are already developed, it does make a strong case for personhood.
· When the baby is viable
This argument is irrelevant. When the baby is viable, she is able to survive outside the womb. The reasoning behind this also has to do with the argument that the baby is just a part of the woman’s body. However, when she’s able to live outside of the womb, then she must be her own person, right?
Let’s look at the most glaringly obvious obstacle to this reasoning. Science progresses. Would a twenty-three-week-old baby had survived back in the 1800s? Probably not. They can now. Were twenty-three-week-old babies less than people a few hundred years ago while they are people now? Or you could look at this argument disregarding science: if the baby can survive outside of the womb, without the help of science, then she is a person.
Lots of people are dependent on science for survival. Diseases, car crashes, disabilities. Does needing help from modern science degrade them as people? Of course not. Why then do we pin that “qualification” on unborn children?
Disregarding science entirely, people are dependent on other people. We all are. That’s part of being alive. We are dependent on others in some way shape or form as some time in our life. Like right after we are born. The twenty-three-week-old preemie is just as dependent on other people as the forty-week-old newborn. Sure, the preemie may need more intense care, but if you just left the forty-week newborn on the ground by himself he would die, just as the preemie would if left by herself.
I will continue breaking down these ideas in a few days. If you are interested, here is a detailed article about fetal development.
Images found via Google Images. No copyright infringement intended.