Monday, January 28, 2013

The Ultimate Pro-Life Argument (Doesn't Exist)

For as long as I can remember, the RCC has been the predominate peddler of the notion that life begins at birth, for some magical reason (soul enshrinement? Can't be. Aquinas is sometimes used to argue this, but that's only half the truth. And that's before we dive into the rampant misogyny of the whole thing - what do you expect from a man quoting Aristotle, who as from that bastion of feminism and gender equality known as Ancient Greece? And it fails biology, since the soul wouldn't technically be enshrined for males until 120 days, since we're all female at gestation and only become male once the extra testosterone triggers the development of certain chromosomes. Bad science aside - I'm not going to hold that against either man since they did the best with what they had at the time - the RCC's position here isn't based on any kind of strict reading of the Bible, either. After all, Leviticus gives slave prices for any person over 3 years old, but not under, and Exodus clearly declares that if a man kills a fetus he pays a fine, but it's not murder unless the woman is killed as well. God declares to Jeremiah that "I knew ye in the womb," but that's God talking to Jeremiah, not God talking to all of humanity. David declares that he was a sinner at conception, but that's David talking, not God, and that matches existing doctrine anyway without saying that life starts; the sin is there before the life starts, since the sin is present in the parents, not the fetus. Part of me wants to blame the RCC stance ultimately on the Romans, since the RCC is basically a 1,000-year-old reactionary movement against a culture that doesn't exist anymore, and since the Romans practiced contraception and abortion, the RCC might have branded those sinful because the Romans did them. They did it for bathing, though there's not a single Biblical reason for it). Regardless what the ultimate reason happens to be, they're still wrong, since there's no such thing as a soul to enshrine. But that's their belief, even if it is convoluted, backwards, and relies on several very pinpoint and almost cherry-picked readings - rest assured, dear reader, it's nowhere near as complicated as that Rapture/Second Coming garbage that American Evangelicals push.

So when something like this happens:
Lori Stodghill was 31-years old, seven-months pregnant with twin boys and feeling sick when she arrived at St. Thomas More hospital in CaƱon City on New Year’s Day 2006. She was vomiting and short of breath and she passed out as she was being wheeled into an examination room. Medical staff tried to resuscitate her but, as became clear only later, a main artery feeding her lungs was clogged and the clog led to a massive heart attack. Stodghill’s obstetrician, Dr. Pelham Staples, who also happened to be the obstetrician on call for emergencies that night, never answered a page. His patient died at the hospital less than an hour after she arrived and her twins died in her womb.

In the aftermath of the tragedy, Stodghill’s husband Jeremy, a prison guard, filed a wrongful-death lawsuit on behalf of himself and the couple’s then-two-year-old daughter Elizabeth. Staples should have made it to the hospital, his lawyers argued, or at least instructed the frantic emergency room staff to perform a caesarian-section. The procedure likely would not have saved the mother, a testifying expert said, but it may have saved the twins.
Being good pro-lifers, the Church hospital admitted to murder and offered to step up and do what was necessary to so help the family through this dark time, raising the moral standard for the anti-abortion side of the debate and set precedent that will strengthen those arguments legally:

But when it came to mounting a defense in the Stodghill case, Catholic Health’s lawyers effectively turned the Church directives on their head. Catholic organizations have for decades fought to change federal and state laws that fail to protect “unborn persons,” and Catholic Health’s lawyers in this case had the chance to set precedent bolstering anti-abortion legal arguments. Instead, they are arguing state law protects doctors from liability concerning unborn fetuses on grounds that those fetuses are not persons with legal rights.
That's some moral standard. See, a fetus is only a viable human - unless it's going to cost their hospital a malpractice case, in which case it's not viable person after all. The take away message here is that "It's alive, so long as we don't have to pay for it." But then, we already knew that about conservative pro-lifers, didn't we?

I'm sorry, I can't hear which side of your face is talking. You'll need to shut one of those up so I can understand what the other is saying.

The thing is, this is a solid legal argument and the Church hospital will win. This is what the law says; fetuses are not people, they have no rights under the law, and frankly, that's how it should be, since they're not. However, savor the irony of the RCC admitting this, and basically agreeing with me. Will this force them off of their pro-life propaganda? Not likely; misdirection and two-minute hates are all that's necessary to appease Big Brother Jesus. The Church will continue to maintain its "pro-life" position, and do so without missing a beat.

Still even if they had been consistent, the Stodghill's would've had no ground for the case. A fetus is simply not a human by utilitarian definitions, which is the only philosophy that we can use here. The whole concept of human is  legal and a philosophical one, but not a scientific one - what is human is not a scientific question, since 'human' does not carry any more intrinsic specialness in science than, say, chimpanzee (indeed, we share something like 99% of genetic code with chimpanzees. They technically belong in the same family as we do; but I can't remember what the exact reason for putting chimpanzees under the Pan family was).

The definition of "human" is not clear for several reasons, none of which have been given little more than a single neuron's worth of effort by the "Pro-lifers", since they don't care about life and their sole interest is in punishing women who don't remain "pure" - i.e., who have sex outside of marriage.

Let's talk about life starting at conception: The common argument here is that it has separate DNA, made from two different parents, therefore, it's a separate, independent entity that's alive. There are cells inside of me right now that have modified DNA from the rest of me; these are mutations, and at any given time, I am a carrier of several thousand of these mutations. Should I ever reproduce, some of those mutations will be passed on, and eventually, those mutations will assist in the development of a new species over many millions of years. Are those cells alive? Cancer cells have modified DNA, too; their genetic code is all sorts of fucked up. Are they independent humans, too?

You scoff. No, you say, of course not. They're not independent humans.

Then define human.

Go ahead, I'll wait.

Human speak, use tools, and are intelligent. Well, readers of my blog know that, over the course of my premature campaigning for animal uplifting, I've learned these are not exclusively human traits. Crows, ravens, whales, dolphins, and Africa Gray Parrots can all talk, too. Chimpanzees and gorillas can learn sign language. Bees have their own complex language of pheromones, and so do ants. All of the above except for bees and ants use tools, too. And "intelligence," while abstract over all, can be condense to a couple of traits that all of the above (again, except for bees and ant) display. Crows and ravens learn. Whales may be as intelligent as we are. Dolphins, too. African Grays are incredibly smart - they're smarter than some human toddlers.

Is human possessing a sense of self? Well, if that's what it takes to be a human, our traditional way of measuring that is through a mirror test. This test is to see if you can recognize yourself in the mirror and  to date, only a handful of animals have passed it. But here's the kicker - humans don't pass the test until we're 26 months old, on average. And I assure that fetuses do not recognize themselves

Feeling pain is all it takes? Having finger nails? Having a heart beat? These are all things that make you a "living" being, worthy of human rights? All of the above have it too. Yet pro-lifers aren't out there campaigning for them to be declared human.

What is human?

You wanted this debate. You answer the question.

Human means being upright and looking human. Awesome. Up until the last century, it was common to hear how people would describe Africans and Eastern Europeans as "subhuman" because they didn't look "human" (defined by Western Europeans, of course). In fact, you can still find pictures comparing the skulls of West Africans with Chimpanzees from the glorious days beyond that annoying thing called "political correctness". Blacks didn't look human. Jews didn't look human - propaganda has a huge help in this. Basing it off of looks is silly. A human walks upright and has pink skin (except, you know, for the majority of the population - admit it, I say "human" and the first thing you think of is a white male)! Fetuses don't walk upright, and they don't have pink skin, and I would bet you anything you cannot tell the difference: tell me which is a human fetus and which is a dog fetus:

Which one is the human?

Do you give up?


This is a human fetus:

The first one is a cat fetus. The second is a dog fetus. Above this is the human fetus. It might be easy to tell the dog fetus from the cat one, but without knowing this, could you tell the cat fetus from the human one?

In any case, none of them look human.

But God knows, you argue; God knows! He gave it a soul, and he can tell the difference even if I can't!

Ignoring there's no evidence for God or a soul, we're back where we started. Read that first paragraph again. However, the Bible can be used to argue any side of any debate, which is why it doesn't really belong here. So, we'll have to take this argument apart some other way. And there's a couple of ways to do it.

First, if God enshrines the soul at conception, that means God knows what's going to happen with that infant. Would God give a soul to an infant that he knew was going to get an abortion? God is all powerful, remember that; he must be in order to punish us as often as he does (which is to say nothing of his bad aim...). Surely God knows that the child is going to miscarry, so he wouldn't, right? What's the difference between a miscarriage and an abortion, aside from the fact that one is deliberate (and therefore, an "abortion") and the other done by God himself (divine abortion ahoy! It's okay when God does it, since God is a bigger bully than me and he can boss me around)?  Surely God that the mother would plan to abort the child, just like he would if he planned to abort it later, so he would never give that child soul at conception, right? That'd just be pointless. So what exactly did you hope to accomplish, anyway, by stopping abortion, other than having a bunch of soulless babies born? Oh ho, you say, but God intended for me to save that baby, so he gave it a soul. This is followed with a sage nod, while overlooking the fact this is like God playing both sides of a chess game and really, it's got to get boring after a while. But what about all of the other infants that you didn't save? That means they weren't murdered, since they were never given souls, therefore, the only abortion that would be murder are the abortions that you stop, which are abortions that never happen, therefore aren't abortions at all. Since they're not abortions that you stop, they're not murder. The ones you don't stop aren't murder either, since there'd be no point in God giving that child a soul. So, let's construct a syllogism here (or a sillygism, since that's what this is):

Mp: Abortion is murder because the embryo has a soul
mp: God gives souls at conception
Therefore, every embryo has a soul

Mp: God has control over everything; nothing happens without him known or intending
mp: Miscarriages are things that happen
Therefore, God intended for the miscarriage to happen

Mp: God intended for the miscarriage to happen
mp: Every embryo has a soul
Therefore, God committed murder
However: God is good and will not commit murder (He told us not to, because it's bad) 

MP: Murder is Bad and God would not do Bad things
mp: A miscarriage is without a soul is not murder
Therefore: God did not give the miscarriage a soul, so he would not commit murder

Mp: God is in control over everything and intends for things to happen
mp: Abortions are things that happen
Therefore, God intended for abortions to happen

Mp: God intended for the abortion to happen
mp: Every embryo has a soul
Therefore: God, through intending for the abortion to happen, commits murder
However: God is good and will not commit murder

Mp: Murder is Bad and God would not do Bad things
Therefore: His followers blame it on the impure slut that did it
mp: God did not give the abortion a soul
Therfore: An abortion is not murder
(You get left out of this. You are basically another vehicle that God uses to act; it doesn't matter how many places you protest, super-right to lifer, you won't succeed unless God wants you to, which means we're right back at "God intends for everything to happen and is in control over everything.").

"But... God gives everyone a soul! He would never intend for an abortion!"

That would make GOD a murderer when he causes miscarriages. Just because He's god it doesn't make murder right. And if God can intend for there to miscarriages, why can't he intend for there to be abortions in the same sense? On that note, you're basically admitting God isn't in control over everything, since there are people who can act outside of his wishes.

Well, yeah. That's free will.

But he willingly punishes us for it. Over and over again, like an abusive spouse. Why? He can intend for miscarriages and not for abortions, for what reason? What is the difference? Murdering a "child" is good when God does it, but bad when we do it (hey, the Bible is full of this, so perhaps this is a solid leg to stand on after all)? Is something good because God does it, or does God do it because it's good? Why would he have us living by a totally different set of standards than what he says for himself? That's not intrinsically benevolent at all; especially when you begin to punish people for trying to break those standards and move into the standards you live by. Is god not benevolent? What's the difference between that god, then, and the god of Fred Phelps?

Because he's god, and he says so, that's why.

You missed a step. Because he's god and he always agrees with you, and he says so, that's why.

In fact, I can cleave that even further: Because you say so, that's why. And I challenge you prove me wrong. ("Well, the Bible says...." )


Let's pound this dead horse further into the dirt.

If we're going to go back and claim that a unique genetic is what makes you human, how do you define chimeric embryos? Human chimeras, while rare, are not exactly unheard of. In this case, the embryo twins, but instead of the twins growing independent, one twin is consumed by the other. This results in two different genetic codes inside of the same individual. Does that mean they're two different people? They are by your logic, so they should get double the legal rights!

Oh, but wait. One fetus consumed another fetus, denying it the right to life. It basically kills that fetus. Does that mean we charge it with manslaughter? It did commit murder, after all, even if it wasn't premeditated. Forget the school-to-prison pipeline, we're rocking with the maternity ward-to-prison pipeline.

And what about twins? It's the inverse of the miscarriage problem. Did god give that embryo two souls, because he knew they would twin? We're right back at the problem, then. If knew gave it two souls because he knew it was going to twin, that implies God knows the ultimate fate of the fetus, therefore, God knows if it's going to be aborted or miscarried and wouldn't give it a soul at all. The implications of this are very far reaching: why would God give a soul to anyone if he knew they were going to die? Since we all die, why would God give a soul to anyone? I could walk outside and kill a man, and if he died, it was because God intended for it. I'm completely innocent, I was just doing God's will.

You heard this logic all the time with the school shootings, or whenever we have some sort of great disaster - God intended for it, you see. He's in control over everything. He never gave those people souls. At the heart of the "soul" argument, with God in total control over everything, you have totally absolved personal responsibility. If something happens, its because God intended it.

But what if God doesn't have total control?

God still gives out souls, right? Why would he award a soul to something that was going to die in the womb? In fact, we all die, so why would he give a soul to anything since it was just going to die? So does that mean God does give souls to miscarriages, only to murder them later on? We're back to God doing evil things now (it's good when God does it bad when we do it? It's a double-standard of Biblical proportions), but you calling them good because because they agree with what you believe. Clearly, this argument can continue onward, like a dog chasing it's tail down the event horizon of a black hole, where it remains, forever, to those of us on the other side of the horizon.

So how do I define life?

Life is a process. There is no one moment where it begins, and no one moment where it ends. Any line is going to be as arbitrary as the next, however, I can tell you with certainty that there is one thing I regard as being alive involved here without any question: we can argue until we're blue in the face over whether or not fetus' are alive and what not, but there's no question the mother is alive. This is where I start. The mother is a living entity, and because of it, her life, her wants, her needs, have to be taken into consideration over something that may or may not be alive. She already is alive. And that's what matters.

Thus, I am pro-choice, and pro-life. I support the choice of the mother, and the I support the mother's life, since she's the one thing that I regard as being alive with any certainty.

And apparently, the law - and the Catholic Church now, too - agree with me.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. I know this is old, but thank you! its helped me with a fundie.

  3. Wow, are you utterly misinformed about human life. That picture of a 'cat' fetus is a human being. See this link for proof: - Please educate yourself if you are going to fight to kill children in the womb. By the way, abortion is not a religious issue, it's a human rights issue. I'm an atheist and no deity is required to understand that killing innocent human beings, no matter their size, location, or level of dependency is wrong.