This is a “public domain” document.
One reason to refuse to answer a question is because it is “loaded” –it includes an assumption that the questioned person is expected to accept, even though the assumption may be hideously flawed. The classic “Have you stopped beating your spouse?” includes the assumption that you have started beating your spouse, and there is no way a simple “yes” or “no” answer to the question can point out the possibly-totally-invalid assumption. In this document, an attempt has been made to phrase the questions so that none of them qualify as “loaded”, in the manner just described. Nevertheless, most abortion opponents will prefer to avoid answering these questions.
Well, some abortion opponents will probably be willing to answer some of these questions. But if they did actually answer all these questions, they would reveal the Prejudice and/or Hypocrisy and/or Fact-Denial and/or Bad Logic and/or Incomplete Data and/or Outright Bad Data upon which all their anti-abortion arguments are based (and that, which has nothing to do with invalid assumptions built into the questions, is why most abortion opponents will avoid answering most of these questions). Note that some of these questions relate to “positive claims” made by abortion opponents. Per standard debate rules, the Burden of Proof falls upon those who make positive claims. So, on with the list of Questions (and it may get longer in the future):
PART ONE: Secular questions
A “hydatidiform mole” is a 100% human entity, that begins it existence with egg-fertilization, just like a fetus, develops through the morula and blastocyst stages just like a fetus, implants into a womb and has unique DNA (different from its parents) just like an ordinary fetus, and otherwise behaves as independently as a fetus. So is a hydatidiform mole a person, and why or why not?
Note that a hydatidiform mole, if left alone, can cause “trophoblastic disease”, so, and especially if it is a non-person, it should be aborted as early as possible. If a fetus is a person that should not be aborted, then how do you plan to distinguish it from a hydatidiform mole at the zygote and morula and blastocyst stages?
In an ordinary human body, a large percentage of human cells have “full DNA”. Some don’t have any DNA, like red blood cells, and the gamete cells only have 1/2 of the DNA, but the rest generally have ALL the DNA, just like the original zygote cell from which that human body originated. The DNA contains all the “code” for any type of cell to do its thing. A nerve cell processes the section of DNA code that tells it how to be a nerve cell; a muscle cell processes the section of DNA code that tells it how to be a muscle cell, a zygote processes the section of DNA code that tells it how to behave like a zygote, and so on. Well, we know that cells can be “reprogrammed” to process different DNA code than they normally process –a virus routinely does that (make the cell process the DNA in the virus). Modern “stem cell” researchers are focused on finding out how to tell some cell, like a muscle cell, to stop processing muscle-cell DNA code, and to start processing stem-cell DNA code. When “cloning” is done, exactly that sort of change is done, in the processing of DNA code; the zygote IS a stem cell. So, if any cell that has full human DNA also has the potential to process the same DNA code as a zygote, is the value of the ordinary cell under-rated, or is the value of the zygote over-rated? That is, why should “The cell is processing zygote code!” make it inherently more special than many other types of cells (such as cuticle cells, which are routinely killed by the hundred during manicures and pedicures)? Please explain your answer in detail.
Medical research into “regeneration” is ongoing and so far knows of nothing biological that can prevent ultimate success. There is, separately, significant medical research into “head transplants”; we already have the technology to keep either a headless body or a bodiless head alive. So, if in the future you happen to suffer a horrific decapitation accident, but rescuers arrive in time, do you want them to save your body, or save your head, to save you-the-person until either a transplant can be done, or the saved part can be put into a “regeneration vat” (to grow a replacement for the missing part)?
What definition of “person” did you use to answer the previous question?
A brain-dead adult human on full life-support can be “unplugged”. Allowing it makes sense if the mind (now dead) is more relevant than the human body, for personhood. Disallowing it makes sense if the human body (still alive) is more relevant than the mind, for personhood. What is your position, and why?
Consider this phrase: “a human”. Doesn’t that phrase always refer to a member of species Homo Sapiens?
Now consider this phrase: “a human being”. What exactly do you need to use it for?
Have you noticed that in ordinary conversations you don’t use phrases such as “rabbit being” or “worm being” or “lobster being”?
Have you noticed that sometimes people DO use phrases such as “intelligent being”, “alien being” and “extraterrestrial being”?
Does it make sense to conclude that the word “being” is getting used in such conversations as a synonym for “person”?
If so, then, logically, if one uses the phrase “a human being”, then one is essentially saying, “a human person”. Do you think that if you merely called a rabbit “a rabbit being”, that would suffice to qualify the rabbit as a person?
In some dictionaries (like the Oxford E.D.), one definition of “person” is “a rational being”. If an outside and completely non-human observer had just arrived at Earth, and began to study its life-forms, what definition of “person” makes the most sense for determining whether or not some Earthly organism was a mere animal, or a person?
Continuing the preceding scenario, if the outside observer chooses a basis of “physical characteristics” (including DNA) for detecting personhood, what rationale would keep that observer from associating personhood with its own non-human physical form and non-human DNA, instead of the human physical form and human DNA?
Abortion opponents sometimes point to a fetus “kicking” in the womb and proclaim, “See, it has enough consciousness and will and mind to do that; therefore it must be a person.” A secondary problem with that conclusion is its misinterpretation of what is really going on. What kicking-in-the-womb REALLY is, is Nature’s Evolved Answer to a Question that has been bothering NASA since the beginning of the Space Age: How do you manage bone structure in a reduced-gravity environment? (Exercise! –during pregnancy it happens courtesy of DNA programming, and nothing else.) The primary problem with the initial conclusion in this paragraph is, plenty of other organisms have even more “consciousness and will and mind” than that. A praying mantis (the insect) has non-faceted focusing eyes with stereoscopic vision, and enough consciousness and will and mind to move its body in a way that can hunt down and catch other bugs for its dinner. “Therefore it must be a person”, right?
Generally, does a mere-animal-organism need to be treated like a person?
Does it make sense that there should exist some Objective Generic Universally Applicable definition of “person”, suitable for distinguishing any type of person from any type of mere-animal organism, anywhere in the Universe?
Should the discoveries of Science, after being verified/validated, be generally ignored, or accepted?
Science is great for determining that each individual living human entity begins at conception. Meanwhile, dictionaries have specific and limited uses, because all the words in them are put there only because of how they are commonly used, not because of any Objective Fact. That basically means relying on dictionary information is about as Objectively Valid as jumping off a cliff just because lots of others are doing it (relying on a dictionary is actually only Subjectively valid, different things get accepted by different folks using dictionaries –consider the English and American pronunciations of “tomato” for example). So, why can’t Science be great for determining an Objective/Generic definition of “person”?
The octopus is one of the smartest animals in the ocean, and can pass a self-recognition personhood test (like dolphins, elephants, some birds, and most of the Great Apes, but unlike most other ordinary animals, such as cats and dogs). When the octopus breeds, it tends to have from 20,000 to 100,000 offspring. Imagine an intelligent species somewhere in the Universe that has many thousands of offspring at a time. Are you aware that it is literally physically impossible for all those offspring to be supported (imagine every human couple on Earth simultaneously trying to raise 10,000 children!), and that most of those offspring must die?
Scientists know that a single living cell does not qualify as a rational being. A great many cells must work together before a living rational being, a person, can exist. When an adult human suffers brain-death, that human is no longer a rational being. Logically, if at some point between the single-cell stage and brain-death, the human (or some member of any other intelligent species) qualified as a person, then scientists should be able to detect when personhood began. Why not?
Equally logically, for a member of an intelligent species that has 50,000 offspring to raise, the younger the offspring, the fewer living cells each has, and the less likely they are to qualify as persons, and the more likely they are to qualify as ordinary animals. If most of them must die, and if most (all but about 2 or 3) die at the animal stage, in what way do those thousands of deaths matter if the species survives?
If scientific methods are used to create a Universally applicable definition of “person”, distinguishing them from ordinary animals, why should that definition not be applied to members of the human species?
Does merely calling an unborn human “a human being” cause it to qualify (or proves it qualifies) as a person?
If you think an unborn human organism should be always considered a person, why don’t you ever call it a “zygote being” or “morula being” or “blastocyst being” or “embryo being” or “fetus being”?
An ancient adage, “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch!”, exists because doing that thing is considered “stupid”. The U.S. Constitution mandates that a Census of all persons be conducted every ten years, and unborn humans have never been counted. When we know that roughly 50% of conceptions fail to become confirmed pregnancies, and about 15% of confirmed pregnancies naturally miscarry or result in still-births, how does insisting that unborn humans be considered persons not mean we should all become stupid enough to ignore that ancient adage?
The Constitution also forbids “involuntary servitude”, more-often known as “slavery”. Abortion opponents are fond of pointing out how the majority can be wrong, that once-upon-a-time slavery was allowed (hoping the majority would accept their claim that abortion should not be allowed). However, for a woman who doesn’t want to be pregnant, forcing her to carry the pregnancy to term is exactly “involuntary servitude”. If you oppose abortion, how do you plan to resolve that contradiction?
Doctors sometimes perform operations on the unborn to increase their chances of survival. As technology improves, more and more types of problems might become fixable –see the above, that about 65% of conceptions fail. However, even with only about a 35% success rate, the human species has become and is now the second or third most-populous mammal on Earth (about the same number as rats; mice are in first place with a global population of perhaps 100 billion). On what basis do we need a greater success rate, between conception and birth?
So far, the evidence of Science is that an unborn human organism cannot possibly qualify as a person; it lacks the number of cells necessary to permit rational mentality to exist. We know this because we can Test more-developed newborns, and they always fail all of the tests so far devised for personhood. It would be irrational to think that less-developed unborn humans could pass the tests. Remembering that a hydatidiform mole is 100% a human entity, on what basis might you insist that an unborn human fetus is a person, regardless of the Science?
A possible answer to the preceding question involves the Law, which right now, in spite of the Science, grants legal person status to those same newborn humans that fail to pass the Tests. Logically, if the Law can ignore the Science right now, regarding newborn humans, the Law could be changed to ignore the Science, regarding unborn humans. However! (1) In recent decades it has proved beneficial for Laws to pay attention to what Science has to say. Pollution controls exist because many pollutants are toxic. While businesses have objected to the expense of those controls, simple long-term thinking reveals that businesses can sell more stuff if they don’t poison their customers to death. The “ozone hole” is now shrinking because the Law paid attention to Science. And so on. (2) The particular Law about newborn humans and personhood existed long before Science had anything to say on the subject; therefore the Law does not, technically, “ignore” the Science, or say what it says “in spite of” the Science. That would not be the case, today, if the Law was changed to grant legal person status to unborn humans; the Science would have to be ignored to create such a new Law. So, since Laws these days often do pay attention to relevant Science, one possible result of insisting that the existing Law be changed is that infanticide might be the legalized, instead of abortion being banned! (3) When an existing Law has led to a widespread technique which proves to be somewhat less than perfect, a new Law that requires a new technique does not always insist that the old technique be immediately abandoned. The old technique is said to become “grandfathered”. So, what makes the most sense to you, to change the Law to become more synchronized with the Science (allowing infanticide), to change the Law to deny facts and ignore the Science (prohibiting abortion), or to leave the Law where it is (grandfathering it)? And why does your choice make sense to you?
If you can’t prove that an unborn human qualifies right now as a person, in terms of an Objective/Generic definition, why should an unborn human animal organism be treated like a person?
If you have no valid rationale for equating an unborn human with a person (as valid as the rationale for thinking that “an alien being” could qualify as a person), and if the phrase “a human being” equates with “a human person”, and if dictionary definitions are not Objectively Valid, then on what basis might you ever think it is correct to call an unborn human “a human being”?
The existence of “feral children” proves that personhood is not an innate/inevitable characteristic of a growing human organism –before the Late Stone Age began, when humans started creating artistic works, all humans were “feral”, no more than clever animals. Many abortion opponents have not known the fact that significant Nurture is absolutely essential/necessary to convert a clever human animal into a rational being –and if the conversion doesn’t happen during the first decade after birth, when brain growth can be affected by Nurturing, a feral/clever animal is all that any human would ever be. Now that you do know the truth of the matter (feel free to verify the facts about feral children and brain development!), that personhood is neither “innate” nor “inevitable” for humans, does it affect your position in the Abortion Debate, and why or why not?
It is generally claimed that because we are persons, we are superior to mere animals. Now think about that last phrase, “superior to mere animals”. Human biology does not make us superior! Here’s a chart of various adult animal weights; normal/healthy adult humans tend to range in weight from roughly 50 to roughly 125 kilograms. If you were naked and went into combat against, say, a jaguar or an orangutan, your humanness isn’t going to save you. But your mind might, because that is what makes us superior to ordinary animals. So WHY do abortion opponents keep blathering about “humanness” as if it was all-important, when the data says otherwise (including data about hydatidiform moles and brain-dead adults and feral children)?!?!?!
Generically, the “potential” and the “actual” are two different things and are generally treated differently. No one insists that a potential corpse must be treated right now like an actual corpse, or that a potential lottery-jackpot winner must be taxed right now like an actual jackpot-winner. So, exactly why should an exception be made to the general rule, such that potential persons, which currently are unborn human animal organisms, must be treated like actual persons?
The word “potential” does not include any degree of magnitude of potential. A potential avalanche could be either tiny, or humongous. Both a zygote and a full-term fetus each have the potential to become a healthy newborn human, but the magnitudes of those potentials are not identical (especially since about 50% of zygotes, conceptions, fail to eventually become confirmed pregnancies). A key fact, though, is that neither the zygote nor the full-term fetus can fulfill its potential without help (the fetus doesn’t claw its way out of the womb; it is pushed out!). Recognizing that fact leads us to a kind of “third option” in the Overall Abortion Debate. Abortion actively interferes with what an unborn human organism is doing. Prohibiting abortion, however, is not exactly the same thing as insisting that the unborn human receive active help. For example, the drug “RU-486” can be taken as a “morning after pill”, and it works to make the uterus unable to accept implantation by a blastocyst –the woman would be refusing to provide the help that the unborn human organism is seeking. In an alternate scenario, imagine a woman refusing to help a full-term fetus be born –she might take “muscle relaxant” drugs. Eventually the placenta would detach from the womb and the unborn human would die, because of that refusal to actively help it become born. We may now conclude that it is very likely abortion opponents must deny that “third option”, and generally insist that help must be actively provided, for the potential of an unborn human organism to be fulfilled. And it is that conclusion that leads us to the current Question. See, modern stem-cell and cloning research has proved that any ordinary human body-cell that happens to contain a full set of human DNA has the potential to become a healthy newborn human. Each such cell is a living thing; all it needs is appropriate help, to fulfill its potential! Well, for any abortion opponent who insists that potential-fulfilling help must be provided, then why shouldn’t that abortion opponent be dissected into more than 30 trillion cells, each of which is given the help, to fulfill its potential, that the abortion opponent insists must be provided?
It took modern DNA tests to discover that much of the “placenta” is an actual part of an overall unborn human organism –a “vital organ”, just like the heart is a vital organ. For thousands of years the “fetus” portion of an overall unborn human organism was considered to be equivalent to a “baby” or “child” –thinking they are equivalent is almost habitual. However, today we know they are physically different, since a fetus needs its placenta, while a normal baby or child does not need a placenta. The language includes many commonly-used words to distinguish humans by their physical characteristics, and those words are seldom used inaccurately, except as a joke (like “Little John” in Sherwood Forest). Someone diagnosed with cancer is not called “healthy”. So, on what basis can you, nowadays, ignore physical facts, deny any need to overcome habitual thinking, and ever call an unborn human organism, including its placenta, a “baby” or “child”?
A possible answer to the preceding Question is, “to promote a psychological bond between a woman and her offspring”. The problem here is that she is not guaranteed to carry the pregnancy to term. An unborn human can be called a “baby under construction”, and the construction is very complex, with Murphy’s Law a significant factor, since about 15% of confirmed pregnancies naturally miscarry or result in still-births. To call it a “baby”, without focusing on the failure rate, is to imply that the chances of a successful outcome are 100%. This means that for any woman who experiences a failed outcome, it was not only futile to promote a psychological bond, it was actually psychologically detrimental for the woman –her emotional suffering increases to the extent to which she felt a now-broken bond! On what basis can you claim it is ethical to risk causing extra emotional suffering, by calling an unborn human a “baby” or “child” without mentioning the chance of failure?
Extending the preceding, it can be noted that Historically, up until only a century or so ago, it was normal for about 50% of all children born to die by the age of three. In some cultures they didn’t even give their children names (in a “name day ceremony”) until it seemed likely the kids would survive. Parents were basically holding-off on bonding with their offspring, to protect themselves psychologically. Note that cultures survived and thrived, from Mesopotamia and Ancient India through the Industrial Revolution, regardless. Today, the child-mortality rate is very low, compared to the old days, but the miscarriage rate hasn’t dropped (and may even have increased a bit, due to industrial toxins in the environment). It is certainly fairly safe, now, to bond with offspring beginning with a successful birth. Is there any data suggesting that our culture has improved by parents bonding with their offspring earlier than they did in prior centuries? What do you expect the culture to gain by “pushing” the formation of psychological bonds with the unborn, in spite of the risk of miscarriage?
Science has discovered that during pregnancy, the placenta creates some hormones that are infused into the pregnant woman’s body. One of them, progesterone, has been called “the feel-good hormone” and is actually addictive. Post-partum depression, regardless of associated with miscarriage, abortion, or successful birth, is at least partly a withdrawal symptom, due to the supply of progesterone ending when pregnancy ends. Another hormone, oxytocin, is “mind-altering” in that it works to cause the woman to psychologically bond with her offspring (entirely independently of the other mechanism described earlier!). Basically, the facts are, the unborn human organism drugs its hostess into not only liking being pregnant, but becoming its protector, too. This qualifies as “The Law Of The Jungle In Operation”, or “might makes right”. Abortion opponents are fond of claiming that killing the unborn is an unethical exhibition of might-makes-right, but thanks to Science we now know that the unborn human animal organism is not in the least an “innocent victim”. Why should a mere animal be allowed to exercise might-makes-right (alternate example: a mosquito forcing its proboscis into you to suck your blood), without any person being allowed to object to that, and respond in kind (by swatting it)?
There is a huge amount of evidence supporting the validity of “The Law Of Supply And Demand”, and one of its features/precepts is that “all valuations are relative and subjective and arbitrary”. If you claim that the notion of “intrinsic value” describes something real, instead of something that is only theoretical/philosophical, how can you prove it?
If you can prove that “intrinsic value” actually exists, then how can you prove the claim that humans have intrinsic value?
If you cannot prove those two claims, then why is your arbitrary subjective valuation of an unborn human more relevant than the arbitrary subjective valuation made by a woman seeking to abort an unwanted pregnancy?
Our understanding of what “life” is has increased hugely in recent decades, thanks to Science. “We no longer regard life as some sort of magic matter, but rather as a complex chemical system that we can understand and control.” In the long run this will mean that creating a mere-animal life-form is no more significant than creating a painting or a novel or a music composition or a robot. Traditionally, the creator of something has a complete right to destroy it. That might change if the created thing is a person, such as a True Artificial Intelligence. However, so long as an unborn human organism fails to qualify as a person, why shouldn’t those most closely associated with conceptions have the right to kill those life-forms?
There is an alternate viewpoint regarding humans and conceptions/pregnancies. As previously mentioned, the process is not guaranteed to succeed, and part of the reason why it can fail is because “intermediary entities” are involved. Sperm and ovum are different from the adult participants in a sex act, and conception only happens if sperm and egg encounter each other (and sometimes not even then!). The resulting zygote may becomes a “morula” and then a “blastocyst”, and finally may implant into the womb to initiate a “confirmed pregnancy” as an embryo. The point of this explanation is that if entities other than the adult human sex-participants are responsible for conception, then the adults cannot automatically have the right-associated-with-creation to kill those life-forms. On the other hand, to conclude the adults are not responsible for conception goes directly against other claims that abortion opponents typically make (“They caused it so they must take responsibility for it!”). If you can possibly think you can have it both ways, assigning responsibility for pregnancy while denying a right to terminate it, then the Question is, “Exactly what rationale supports you having it both ways?”
There is a widely-accepted notion that “if you want something, you should pay for it”. So, a woman seeking an abortion is expected to pay for it. Logically, this means that an abortion opponent’s “want”, to prevent an abortion, might be fulfilled by paying for all the prenatal medical expenses, all the birthing costs, and all the child-raising costs, for 18 years –and do that for every abortion that the opponent wants to prevent. Are you willing to put that much of your money where your mouth is?
If not, why should someone else pay even one cent for what you want?
Opponents of abortion typically assume that the process prevents a valuable-to-Society person from getting born (like an Einstein or a Ghandi), while ignoring the equal likelihood that abortion might prevent the birth of a detrimental-to-Society person (like a Hitler or a Stalin). Why?
PART TWO: Religious questions
(This section can be ignored by any/all abortion opponents who do not include a Religious basis in their opposition to abortion.)
Imagine a scenario in which Science proves that God exists. In response to that announcement, would it be rational for each different Religion to announce, “All of our precepts are proved true!!!” –when different Religions have different-even-contradictory-precepts and, in fact, in this scenario, the only thing proved true is that God exists? (For a humorous single-page graphic exposition of just how wrong Religions might be about other things, see this link.)
Religions for millennia have made many claims regarding various aspects of the physical world, and very often those claims have, when investigated thoroughly by Science, been proved to be inaccurate. The Earth is not the center of Creation. God does not bother to directly control most ordinary everyday events. (Not to mention, why would a perfect God be directly associated with a greater-than-60% natural failure rate between conception and birth?) The default sex for humanity is female, meaning that the male is the modified form, not the other way around. The world has been covered with ice a few times, but there has never been a world-wide Flood. Every time fossil hunters find a “missing link“, Creation-Hypothesists have one less “hole” to point at in the Theory of Evolution. Given so many proven failures of accuracy, why should all the other precepts of a Religion be believed?
Science has proved that anything that can begin to exist as a result of some purely physical phenomenon can also be destroyed by some other purely physical phenomenon. Science has also proved that the egg-fertilization process is a purely physical phenomenon (“vitalism” has been disproved multiple ways). Logically, this means that it is impossible for conception to result in the formation of an immortal (immune to physical destruction) soul. Therefore, for any human that happens to be associated with an immortal soul, the origin of that soul must have been some process other than egg-fertilization –such as a direct Act of God. This leads us directly to a conundrum between Almighty God and puny Earthlings. In a Universe containing hundreds of billions of galaxies, most of which have hundreds of billions of stars, many of them having reasonably Earth-like planets (Life might be extremely common), such that the Earth itself is just another speck, on what basis might we dare think that God is required to create a soul for a human body, just because a conception-event has occurred?
Two other Science facts that God certainly knows all about relate to the topics of “twinning” and “chimerism“. When these events occur, they take place at least 3 days after conception. The chimerism case is especially relevant, because when two separately-conceived blastocysts join forces to form just one overall human organism, neither of them dies in the process. That means either a chimeric human has two souls, or God does not arbitrarily create souls at each-and-every conception. Well, if there two good reasons (this paragraph and the previous) for God to not always create a soul when an ovum is fertilized, there may be more. For example, the “God is Loving” claim more logically applies to souls, God’s direct offspring, than to mere human bodies, products of Evolution. God will know the exact probability that a woman with a new offspring might choose to seek an abortion. So, if God loves the woman’s soul, and hasn’t yet created a soul for the newly-existing zygote, would that Rational and Knowledgeable and Loving God create a soul, anyway, just so the woman could be condemned for getting an abortion?
Every Religion offers a “package” of precepts you are expected to accept/believe, in order to qualify for membership in that Religion. The concept of “Freedom of Religion” means you can pick and choose which precepts you want to accept/believe; nobody can force you to swallow any particular whole package. So, if no precept regarding abortion has been proved, have you carefully considered exactly why you have chosen to accept the precept that abortion should be opposed?