This is a long post, but, as Marc Barnes at BadCatholic says, the topic of abortion cannot be addressed in 500 words.
“She had not known the weight until she felt the freedom.”
– Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Scarlet Letter
An Age of Science, An Age of Ignorance
I used to be a science teacher, so I have a great love for all things science. In the biology class I taught, I used to teach 14 and 15 year olds about the seven characteristics of life; those traits that an organism had to possess in order to be considered an organism, rather than a rock. They are as follows:
- All living things metabolize (that is, the break down substances for use as energy);
- All living things are organized. From a single-celled organism to a complex animal, they’re organized (for instance, a bacterium has genetic material, energy producing organelles, etc.)
- All living things reproduce. (This doesn’t mean that if you don’t have babies you’re not alive, it just means that, on a species-wide basis, organisms can have organisms that are similar to themselves.)
- All living things use heredity (that is, they pass on genetic info from one generation to another).
- All living things respond to their environment. See below.
- All living things adapt (homeostasis).
- All living things grow.
If you have those seven things, congratulations, you’re alive! Plants: Alive. Dogs: Alive. Sponges: Alive. Bacterium: Alive.
Stick with me through one more sciency thing. What’s a human?
A human is an organism that has 22 pairs of autosomes (the regular chromosomes) and one pair of sex chromosomes, making 46 chromosomes in all. (Once again, I’m not saying that people who have Down’s Syndrome or other poly-/aneuploidy syndromes are not human, we’re talking on a species-wide basis, here). If someone looked at the following karyotype, they’d say, “Yep, that’s a human.”
Now, for a brief bit about Occam’s Razor. Essentially, Occam’s Razor stands for the entirely logical proposition that, when faced with competing hypotheses, the one that requires the fewest assumptions is likely correct.
For instance, a room stinks badly of B.O. and I’m faced with the following choices: It stinks because I haven’t showered in three days OR while I was out, an aerobics instructor came and held a session in the room. Occam’s Razor suggests that it’s probably that I haven’t showered in a few days.
So, going with good ole Occam, we can confidently state the following: If an organism exhibits the 7 characteristics of life and its DNA contains 22 pairs of autosomes and 1 pair of sex chromosomes, it is a living human.
This seems reasonable to me.
My point of all of this: legal Abortion is borne of ignorance. The new scarlet letter is an “A” that is scarlet from the blood that pours from the veins of fetuses––indeed, fetuses can bleed. We don’t think of that fact because we’ve let ourselves become numbed by the banality of evil. We don’t think of it because, in ignorance, we don’t think of the fact that the thing in the womb is a living human.
From the first cell division after a human sperm and egg join, that “thing” is a living human. It has 22 pairs of autosomes, one pair of sex chromosomes, and it exhibits the characteristics of life––it’s an indisputable biological fact.
Therefore, in order to allow abortion on demand––that is, the willful cessation of the life of a living human in the womb––it requires that we deny personhood to those living humans in the womb. For if those living humans in the womb were persons, we could not end their lives.
An Age of Honesty
Here’s what I’m asking for: An Age of Honesty. I want people who are okay with abortion to say what they really mean. I want them to say the following words:
I believe that some living humans deserve personhood and that others do not. I choose to deny personhood to certain living humans.
This is honesty. Now we can talk. Of course, I think it’s reprehensible to deny any living human personhood and all the rights it entails, but at least we’re being honest. You cannot be for abortion and disagree with that statement above. If you don’t think it’s okay to deny personhood to any living humans, then you cannot be for abortion, because it only works by such a denial.
TL;DR if something exhibits the characteristics of life and has 46 chromosomes in its cells, it’s a living human; the only way you can end that living human’s life is if it’s not a person (or the state has given it due process); thus, for someone to be okay with abortion, they must declare a living human as a non-person.
Read two important side notes here.