Where Do We Draw the Line?
by The Liberator [November 26th, 1999]
Prince Mu-Chao's article, Abortion Rights, was dead on when he noted that pro-life advocates are hypocrites. They insist that the unborn have rights to life yet they also are in favor of the death penalty for convicted murderers. Nevertheless, the right-to-lifers justifiably shake their fingers at the low regard for life that is being exhibited in our society and successfully reign in more supporters by using it as the foundation for their argument.
The pro-rights angle has been to depict society as a conglomerate of decaying moral values. They report every crime as if it somehow strengthened the body of evidence in their favor. Yet, crime is statistically down -- a low for the decade -- as reported by The Department of Justice [DOJ].
Department of Justice
The violent but isolated crimes committed on government buildings and in public schools fuel their efforts. The pro-life position is that these crimes are evidence that society is loosing respect for life and hinge it on current abortion laws.
On the other side of the life spectrum, pro-lifers claim that the elderly are being forgotten. This abandonment of our parents would reinforce the pro-life position. Even though it is extremely hard to care for newborns and sickly parents because of the need to have double-income families, our society may be focused in the wrong direction, which determines our need for double-income families.
Is our need for double-income families a result of materialism? Families could be bogged down in competition with the Jones' instead of valuing what is of ultimate importance: relationships, communication, and the thrills of shared experiences. If we base our lives on the habitual pursuit of objects, it would be accurate to conclude that human life, compassion, and harmony with nature would depreciate too.
Might pro-lifers be justified in reporting the (sometimes-institutionalized) cruelty to animals as another symptom of our low regard for life? The number of abandoned pets, experiments on animals and general animal cruelty cases that are reported may indicate that compassion is waning in society. Criminal psychologists claim that serial killers start on the road to destruction by first practicing on animals. This was the case for Jeffrey Dahmer and other serial killers.
Could it be possible that the prelude to animal cruelty starts with a broad contempt for nature? If so, then an increase in pollution may also affirm the pro-life position. [EPA] It certainly is not a stretch to drift from no compassion for fellow humans to animal cruelty to polluting the environment. All of us -- humans, flora and fauna -- are linked, environmentally speaking. Polluting the environment could be considered to be the ultimate crime. It is a crime on all life.
This brings us to the second facet of the pro-life position: when does life begin? It is clear in the minds of right-to-lifers that life begins at conception. Hence, their position on abortion. When looking for Biblical reference to confirm this view, we are definitely left helpless. The body of science does little in approaching this hot-button issue, as if it preferred leaving it up to each individual scientist to form his or her own opinion. The debate on the start of life is without question thrown to the philosophers.
The conception argument assumes that a fertilized egg, called a zygote, goes on to perform cell divisions to eventually become a fetus. It will strongly resemble a human form very early in the 9-month pregnancy term and therefore is alive. "What about the events leading up to conception?" one should ask. The sperm and egg that eventually meet and form the zygote are behaving in a complicated fashion.
Each sperm ejaculated by the male sets out on a mission: to seek and fertilize an egg. With its tiny flagellum, it swims a tireless journey. It contains only half the genetic material for human life, so it seeks its other half. If it finds its counterpart, it will try to burrow into the resistant egg. If it penetrates the egg, it will shed its tail. It is on that critical mission and will either perform or die trying to perform. Is it alive?
Every month, a menstruating woman drops at least one egg, regardless of her sexual activity. The egg waits patiently with the hope that a sperm will penetrate it, until it either gets penetrated or flushed out of the body. Once it becomes penetrated, it seals of itself from further penetration by hardening its outer layer. Is the egg alive before it becomes fertilized? It does behave in a complicated fashion.
If we accept that sperm and eggs are alive, even though it may be reasonable to assume so, we have to also accept the logical problems associated with that view. For instance, a man who is caught masturbating without the possibility of reproduction [not for clinical fertilization purposes] could be tried for sperm murder. Women may not have to worry because egg release happens involuntarily.
This reasoning is appropriate because it is as equally extreme as the "zygotes are alive" position. It is clear that zygotes do not have higher brain functions because they have no official "brains." This means that they are unable to think, or even exist on their own. This hardly sounds truly alive. Does it exhibit complicated functions like that of a sperm and egg? Sure but one runs the risk of appearing extreme if one were to insist that they were alive. Yet, many people feel that the dividing cells called a zygote are alive, which does not seem very reasonable.
Pro-lifers argue it is that exact kind of reasoning which is causing society to devalue human life and quite possibly all life in general. They claim that it rationalizes murder and assaults our good judgement when it comes to dealing with fellow human beings. We must accept this extension on the reasoning, digest it and let it foster cohesive opinions. It is a fair and important addition to the argument. Maybe those pro-lifers have a point.
Is there an obvious conclusion that all of us can agree on in order to bring it to the masses as if in defiance to all of the thinkers who have wrestled with this subject in the past? It is doubtful. Even though pro-life and pro-choice arguers do make convincing arguments, it is hard to determine with pinpoint precision where the point of life begins. They must decide to disagree, it would seem, but agree on the process of handling the abortion issue through the court system.
Compassion and providing appropriate health care are the goals. We must consider the possibility of having back-alley abortions return if abortions were to become outlawed again. Extreme pro-lifers must remember their exact cause so to resist the urge to bomb clinics and assassinate doctors who perform abortions. Likewise, we must insist that people be sexually responsible. Having an abortion as a means of birth control should not be socially acceptable.
There is plenty of learning to be done on both sides of the debate and it begins with open, honest dialogue. Maybe then might we be able to personally conclude where to draw the line at the beginning of life and consequently come to an educated opinion on the abortion issue.
Click here to return to our Articles: liberator.net.
Links for Further Study