Tag Archives: Abortion Rights

Which side of the abortion rights debate is backed by scientific evidence?

Unborn Baby - 10 weeks old
Unborn Baby – 10 weeks old

Once upon a time I didn’t know much about the case for abortion rights or the case for the right to life of unborn children. My reason for not reading much about it is that I thought that it was kind of a subjective issue. But, I started a project to read 1-2 books on every conceivable topic, including one on abortion. Lo and behold, it turned out that one side did have the backing of science.

This article from The Public Discourse explains: (links removed)

The following are typical examples—only three of the many, many we could cite. These are from standard texts by embryologists, developmental biologists, and microbiologists:

“Human life begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm unites with a female gamete or oocyte (ovum) to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.” “A zygote is the beginning of a new human being (i.e., an embryo).” Keith L. Moore, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, 7th edition.

“Fertilization is the process by which male and female haploid gametes (sperm and egg) unite to produce a genetically distinct individual.” Signorelli et al., Kinases, phosphatases and proteases during sperm capacitation, Cell Tissue Research.

“Although life is a continuous process, fertilization (which, incidentally, is not a ‘moment’) is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is formed when the chromosomes of the male and female pronuclei blend in the oocyte” (emphasis added; Ronan O’Rahilly and Fabiola Mueller, Human Embryology and Teratology, 3rd edition.

The genetically distinct part is key – this unborn child is has a different DNA signature (a human signature) than either the mother or the father. Nothing will be added or taken away from this new signature as the unborn child grows. It never changes.

More:

These authorities all agree because the underlying science is clear. At fertilization—or, more precisely, when the sperm (a male sex cell) fuses with the oocyte (a female sex cell, more commonly referred to as an egg)—each of them ceases to be, and a new entity, one that is both genetically and functionally distinct from either parent, is generated. This new entity, initially a single totipotent cell, then divides into two cells, then (asynchronously) three, then four, eight, and so on, enclosed all the while by a membrane inherited from the oocyte (the zona pellucida), which then dissolves during implantation, allowing for continued growth in the direction of maturity as a member of the species. Even prior to implantation, however, these cells and membrane function as parts of a whole that regularly and predictably develops into the more mature stages of a complex human body.

How do we know that the result of sperm-oocyte fusion is a new entity, rather than a continuation of the oocyte? We know that a new entity exists because, once the sperm penetrates the oocyte, a completely new trajectory of biological development commences. The biological activity of an oocyte is directed toward successful fertilization; the biological activity of sperm is directed toward penetration of an oocyte. The biological activity of the new entity that results when sperm and oocyte fuse, however, is directed toward nothing less than the development of a mature human organism, distinct from either parent. Further, this new entity’s activities are directed not by instructions from the mother’s body, as some people wrongly suppose, but by its own unique set of instructions, especially the blueprint for development contained in its unique genetic material. The mother’s body recognizes the zygote and then the embryo as an entity distinct from itself. In fact, the embryo must send out chemical signals to prevent the mother’s immune system from attacking it. The embryo also emits chemical signals that induce changes in the lining of the mother’s uterus to enable successful implantation.

If this embryo is provided a suitable environment, nutrition, and protection from deliberate attack, serious injury, or disease, it will develop to the mature stage of a human organism. Thus, from the zygote stage onward this distinct, new organism has all of the internal resources—in its genetic and epigenetic structure—needed to develop itself (or, rather, himself or herself, since in the human sex is determined from the very beginning) to the mature stage of a human organism. At no point after fertilization—implantation, gastrulation, birth, puberty, etc.—does a fundamental change in biological trajectory occur. These subsequent stages of development are simply the unfolding of the zygote’s inherent dynamism toward human organismal maturity. This shows that the zygote already is a human organism—a member of the species Homo sapiens—albeit at an early stage of his or her development.

So, since I like to win arguments with science, I just took the side of the debate that was backed by science. I really hate to lose debates, you know. I really like to cite scientific evidence when I’m debating.

The crime of abortion, it seems to me, is that you are depriving a human being of his or her future, because of your convenience right now. Human beings don’t have the right to take away the futures of other human beings because they want to be unburdened by the results of their own actions. We shouldn’t resort to violence in order to escape responsibility for our own actions. In almost every case, (except to save the life of the mother), killing the unborn child isn’t justified. It’s actually very scary to me that anyone would think that hurting other people was a reasonable response to one’s own diminished happiness. How did we ever get to a place in society when people don’t think that taking responsibility to care for the unborn child is morally better than killing the unborn child? It’s a baby for goodness sake. We ought to be serious about setting up our lives and controlling ourselves so that we never hurt an unborn child.

Which side of the abortion rights debate is backed by scientific evidence?

Unborn Baby - 10 weeks old
Unborn Baby – 10 weeks old

Once upon a time I didn’t know much about the case for abortion rights or the case for the right to life of unborn children. My reason for not reading much about it is that I thought that it was kind of a subjective issue. But, I started a project to read 1-2 books on every conceivable topic, including one on abortion. Lo and behold, it turned out that one side did have the backing of science.

This article from The Public Discourse explains: (links removed)

The following are typical examples—only three of the many, many we could cite. These are from standard texts by embryologists, developmental biologists, and microbiologists:

“Human life begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm unites with a female gamete or oocyte (ovum) to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.” “A zygote is the beginning of a new human being (i.e., an embryo).” Keith L. Moore, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, 7th edition.

“Fertilization is the process by which male and female haploid gametes (sperm and egg) unite to produce a genetically distinct individual.” Signorelli et al., Kinases, phosphatases and proteases during sperm capacitation, Cell Tissue Research.

“Although life is a continuous process, fertilization (which, incidentally, is not a ‘moment’) is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is formed when the chromosomes of the male and female pronuclei blend in the oocyte” (emphasis added; Ronan O’Rahilly and Fabiola Mueller, Human Embryology and Teratology, 3rd edition.

The genetically distinct part is key – this unborn child is has a different DNA signature (a human signature) than either the mother or the father. Nothing will be added or taken away from this new signature as the unborn child grows. It never changes.

More:

These authorities all agree because the underlying science is clear. At fertilization—or, more precisely, when the sperm (a male sex cell) fuses with the oocyte (a female sex cell, more commonly referred to as an egg)—each of them ceases to be, and a new entity, one that is both genetically and functionally distinct from either parent, is generated. This new entity, initially a single totipotent cell, then divides into two cells, then (asynchronously) three, then four, eight, and so on, enclosed all the while by a membrane inherited from the oocyte (the zona pellucida), which then dissolves during implantation, allowing for continued growth in the direction of maturity as a member of the species. Even prior to implantation, however, these cells and membrane function as parts of a whole that regularly and predictably develops into the more mature stages of a complex human body.

How do we know that the result of sperm-oocyte fusion is a new entity, rather than a continuation of the oocyte? We know that a new entity exists because, once the sperm penetrates the oocyte, a completely new trajectory of biological development commences. The biological activity of an oocyte is directed toward successful fertilization; the biological activity of sperm is directed toward penetration of an oocyte. The biological activity of the new entity that results when sperm and oocyte fuse, however, is directed toward nothing less than the development of a mature human organism, distinct from either parent. Further, this new entity’s activities are directed not by instructions from the mother’s body, as some people wrongly suppose, but by its own unique set of instructions, especially the blueprint for development contained in its unique genetic material. The mother’s body recognizes the zygote and then the embryo as an entity distinct from itself. In fact, the embryo must send out chemical signals to prevent the mother’s immune system from attacking it. The embryo also emits chemical signals that induce changes in the lining of the mother’s uterus to enable successful implantation.

If this embryo is provided a suitable environment, nutrition, and protection from deliberate attack, serious injury, or disease, it will develop to the mature stage of a human organism. Thus, from the zygote stage onward this distinct, new organism has all of the internal resources—in its genetic and epigenetic structure—needed to develop itself (or, rather, himself or herself, since in the human sex is determined from the very beginning) to the mature stage of a human organism. At no point after fertilization—implantation, gastrulation, birth, puberty, etc.—does a fundamental change in biological trajectory occur. These subsequent stages of development are simply the unfolding of the zygote’s inherent dynamism toward human organismal maturity. This shows that the zygote already is a human organism—a member of the species Homo sapiens—albeit at an early stage of his or her development.

So, since I like to win arguments with science, I just took the side of the debate that was backed by science. I really hate to lose debates, you know. I really like to cite scientific evidence when I’m debating.

The crime of abortion, it seems to me, is that you are depriving a human being of his or her future, because of your convenience right now. Human beings don’t have the right to take away the futures of other human beings because they want to be unburdened by the results of their own actions. We shouldn’t resort to violence in order to escape responsibility for our own actions. In almost every case, (except to save the life of the mother), killing the unborn child isn’t justified. It’s actually very scary to me that anyone would think that hurting other people was a reasonable response to one’s own diminished happiness. How did we ever get to a place in society when people don’t think that taking responsibility to care for the unborn child is morally better than killing the unborn child? It’s a baby for goodness sake. We ought to be serious about setting up our lives and controlling ourselves so that we never hurt an unborn child.

When women consent to have an abortion, is it an informed consent?

Here’s an interesting article from the Ottawa Citizen by McGill University ethicist Margaret Somerville. (H/T Laura Welch)

Excerpt:

Anna explained, “Everyone in Quebec thinks that abortion is normal; nothing to fuss or be upset about; the obvious and easy solution to an unplanned pregnancy.” But, when she unexpectedly found herself pregnant, she didn’t feel that way and sought support to continue the pregnancy. Everyone told her, however, to “get on with it” – have an abortion.

Anna, first, asked her mother whether she would help her, if she had the baby. Her mother flatly refused, saying, “I do not want to waste my life babysitting.” Her male partner said he “wasn’t interested in a kid” and their relationship has since broken up. She tried to get an appointment with her gynecologist to discuss her options, but the first available one was two months away. She then contacted an abortion clinic, which gave her an appointment in two weeks, at which time Anna was nine weeks pregnant. She said, “I went to them to get information on abortion, to know more about my options, the consequences of an abortion. I was open to getting an abortion, because that was what everyone around me recommended I do. I saw abortion as an option, but was really not sure. I was hoping for some answers.”

Anna met, first, with a nurse for a “consent interview.” She said, “The nurse told me that at this stage of the pregnancy the fetus is just a bunch of cells. I also asked her if the abortion would have any impact on my health, my future pregnancies, and so on. She said abortions had no impact at all, no consequences at all, that all that I had read (to the contrary) were myths. The nurse said, ‘In two weeks, it will be as if all this never happened’.”

Anna changed into a hospital gown and was taken into an examination room where a technician proceeded to do an ultrasound. Anna asked what the fetus looked like and could she see the ultrasound. She said, “The technician told me she was not allowed to show me the images and I was unable to see the screen,” which showed the fetus. At nine weeks gestation, it would have had a beating heart. The technician then picked up the printout of the ultrasound, but dropped it on the floor. She scrambled to gather it up quickly, saying, “You don’t want to see this.” But that’s exactly what Anna did want.

Anna says she was left “waiting alone in a little room in the blue gown,” before a nurse took her to the operating room, “where they gave me the sedative injection. At that point I was just crying, I was just thinking of all the reasons people told me I had to get the abortion, and that I did not have any help anyways, so I was crying. The doctor asked me if I was here on my own will and I said, ‘Yes’, while crying. So they gave me a double dose of sedative to calm me down. At that point, I felt it was pointless to protest further and that I couldn’t back out at that stage and would just have to go ahead.” So, she closed her eyes and let the abortion proceed.

Do you think that this woman was informed about what she was doing? If not, then how was she able to give her informed consent?