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Author Topic: Election Thread Annex
Lyrhawn
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If no one has a problem with it, we can talk about the derailing elements in the election thread here.

So Dan, feel free to post your response to me here, and all other posts on the other random non-election stuff current going on there as well.

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rivka
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quote:
Originally posted by Dan_Frank:
quote:
Originally posted by rivka:
You really, really missed Darth's point.

Apparently! Well, if you understood it, maybe you could clarify for me. [Smile]
Yeah, remind me after Shabbos and I'll try to work up an example with actual numbers.
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Dan_Frank
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Okay! I'll try to remember. [Smile]

Have a good shabbos!

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Lyrhawn
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Rakeesh -

quote:
Well if you start out, by default, with the stance that abortion is murder, then no amount of circumstance will change anything except perhaps degree. But again, we and most human societies recognize the possibility of context changing a given killing, whether to raise it (so to speak) to murder, or lower it to manslaughter or even a negligent death, or even ennoble it by deeming it an act of defense.
I'd be interested in listening if you'd like to argue how this might apply. We do have a legal history of applying different standards depending on the circumstances, and I can see calling it a justifiable homicide if the life of the mother is in danger, but I'm not sure how traditional legal nuance is going to cover causing an intentional death under these circumstances. Did you have something specific in mind?

quote:
The trouble is, you don't know it's murder-bear with me while I explain that remark. You don't know it's a human, so how can you then claim it's murder? It seems to me, and I hope you'll correct me if I'm wrong, that you're starting from not one but two positions that cannot be argued or even reasoned with. One, that the life at any point in the pregnancy is human, a human child in fact; two, that any killing of that child under any circumstances is murder, short of a clear threat to the mother's life.
As I've said before, I waffle on that point because, as you say, there's no way to know for sure. But I err on the side of caution. When you're talking about something as valuable as human life, I don't think it's moral to spin the roulette wheel and hope after you've done the deed that you didn't just actually kill something. I also find something bizarre and just plain wrong about the "quick, let's kill it before it comes alive!" thought process. I'm not sure I can put it into words, but it's just wrong to me.

quote:
Is it still, for example, to be murder if the mother was raped, impregnated, and then her doctors inform her that carrying the pregnancy to term will likely result in lifelong serious health risks and problems for the mother? Suppose for example this mother is 14, and because of the usual tragedies attending rape, she doesn't get prenatal care. When the pregnancy become impossible to hide, it's clear she suffers from, I don't know, preeclampsia. Others can talk about that better than I, along with some of the other heavy hitters.
I'm sure you'd be able to come up with all manner of specific hypotheticals that create a grey area. I'm sure on a case by case basis some things would fall under the "health of the mother" rubric, but just because there are grey areas doesn't mean the whole endeavor is flaws. You don't, pardon the expression, throw the baby out with the bath water.

quote:
Suppose I'm a doctor fresh out of medical school. My child needs a type of rare blood or even an organ quickly, and it is unlikely or even impossible that one can be found before the child dies. But I'm a doctor. I could conceivably take the blood or even an organ, from a complete stranger to save my child's life.

Would the person thus deprived of blood or organ(s) not then be able to demand justice and punishment of this doctor? Why is this any different?

Before I can argue whether or not it's any different, you're going to have to explain why it's the same. At first blush, it doesn't appear to be the same at all.

quote:
The hypothetical scenario game can go indefinitely, and the only reason I offer it now is because of the way you offered, as mentioned above, what I perceived as two positions that you state as fact but that are actually hugely questionable.
I'm pretty sure I used all the appropriate qualifiers. I've only ever been talking about my opinion.
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Vadon
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quote:
Originally posted by Lyrhawn:
Rakeesh -

quote:
Well if you start out, by default, with the stance that abortion is murder, then no amount of circumstance will change anything except perhaps degree. But again, we and most human societies recognize the possibility of context changing a given killing, whether to raise it (so to speak) to murder, or lower it to manslaughter or even a negligent death, or even ennoble it by deeming it an act of defense.
I'd be interested in listening if you'd like to argue how this might apply. We do have a legal history of applying different standards depending on the circumstances, and I can see calling it a justifiable homicide if the life of the mother is in danger, but I'm not sure how traditional legal nuance is going to cover causing an intentional death under these circumstances. Did you have something specific in mind?

quote:
The trouble is, you don't know it's murder-bear with me while I explain that remark. You don't know it's a human, so how can you then claim it's murder? It seems to me, and I hope you'll correct me if I'm wrong, that you're starting from not one but two positions that cannot be argued or even reasoned with. One, that the life at any point in the pregnancy is human, a human child in fact; two, that any killing of that child under any circumstances is murder, short of a clear threat to the mother's life.
As I've said before, I waffle on that point because, as you say, there's no way to know for sure. But I err on the side of caution. When you're talking about something as valuable as human life, I don't think it's moral to spin the roulette wheel and hope after you've done the deed that you didn't just actually kill something. I also find something bizarre and just plain wrong about the "quick, let's kill it before it comes alive!" thought process. I'm not sure I can put it into words, but it's just wrong to me.

I'm not Rakeesh (obviously), but I thought I'd give my take on these two points in particular if you don't mind. You may ignore my comment, of course, being as I wasn't the intended audience. A lot of my opinion is derived from the essay I posted in the other thread.

The legal nuance to abortion is how you term it. Is abortion a procedure to kill a fetus or is it to terminate a pregnancy? The termination of the pregnancy in the early stages at our current level of technology entails the death of the fetus. But does that mean we are saying that abortion is equivalent to killing the child? I would think not.

Thomson said it pretty well in her essay with references to the violinist, to quote:

quote:
while I am arguing for the permissibility of abortion in some cases, I am not arguing for the right to secure the death of the unborn child. It is easy to confuse these two things in that up to a certain point in the life of the fetus it is not able to survive outside the mother's body; hence removing it from her body guarantees its death. But they are importantly different. I have argued that you are not morally required to spend nine months in bed, sustaining the life of that violinist, but to say this is by no means to say that if, when you unplug yourself, there is a miracle and he survives, you then have a right to turn round and slit his throat. You may detach yourself even if this costs him his life; you have no right to be guaranteed his death, by some other means, if unplugging yourself does not kill him. Source
In short, let's imagine that a woman terminates her pregnancy in a way which results in the child living and the child is capable of living a fully-functional life given incubation or some other medical intervention. Saying that a woman has the right to the abortion does not entail that she has the right to kill the child. She cannot go to the child and smother it, should it live.

What Thomson is getting at (and I agree with) is that it is entirely possible to maintain that a fetus has a right to life while simultaneously holding that a person has a right to his or her own body. But here's what's problematic about saying the fetus has a right to live--what does that right look like? Is that right to live a claim against its mother?

Many (understandably) would be inclined to say yes. Thomson gives her example of the violinist to show why it's strange to say that the fetus has a particular right against its mother to its life. Even if you were the only person in the world who could save the violinist, it seems strange to say that you have no right to refuse being attached to the violinist.

Is it praiseworthy and demonstrate selflessness to save the violinist? Absolutely.

But is it morally obligatory? I have trouble getting behind that.

It's the same thing with pregnancy to me. Even though the mother is the only person in the world who could save the life of the fetus, it's strange to say that entails they must save the fetus. It's praiseworthy, but seems strange (and in my opinion, wrong) to say it's obligatory.

In short, I really hate abortion because I think it does entail the death of a child. But I believe that abortion ought be preserved as a legal procedure. I just hope that, over time, we find ways such that there are less unwanted pregnancies in the first place.

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Destineer
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quote:
I also find something bizarre and just plain wrong about the "quick, let's kill it before it comes alive!" thought process. I'm not sure I can put it into words, but it's just wrong to me.
Lyrhawn, this seems to me to be the weak point in the view you're expressing--the rest of it I can agree with, in some moods.

Some analogies:

Think about a machine that creates a human infant out of thin air every hour. Obviously it's not wrong to turn the machine off.

Now think of a machine that instantly transforms a rock into a human infant every ten minutes. Clearly there's no moral difference between destroying the rock and turning the machine off. So it's OK to destroy the rock.

Now replace the rock in the new example with a small, non-sentient organism like a pile of slime mold or something. Again, it's clearly not wrong to destroy the slime mold before the machine turns it into a baby.

Now replace the slime mold with a zygote or early-term fetus...

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Destineer
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I find the Thomson example compelling at times, but the bottom line for me is that I actually think you are obligated to stay hooked up to the violinist. If it were a permanent thing, I could see unplugging yourself. If it only had to last for five minutes, it would obviously be wrong to unplug ("I can't waste five minutes of my life on this guy!"). Nine months is an unfortunate hardship, but to save a life, it still seems warranted overall.
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Rakeesh
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I have to agree. 'Kill it before it's human!' *could* be morally foul, if it was a sliding scale so to speak. That is, say at a week it's 2% human, at a month it's 15% human, at four it's 45% human, or something like that, with the value to be placed on that life taken as a percentage of the value of the whole human infant-so suddenly 2% of 'priceless' is a rather serious consideration.

But that assumes that's how it works. Maybe it does, but then maybe it doesn't. What that leaves us with is a contest between two serious needs. On the one hand, there's the possibility of 2% of this priceless value (in this example, that's just the number I made up). On the other, though, there is 100% of a person who didn't invite and certainly didn't want this possibility of 2% of a priceless value to be a part of their lives.

If we value the possibility of the 2% as absolutely ascendent over the other, does that mean we devalue tue other?

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scholarette
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Destineer, do you believe the government should force someone to stay hooked up to the violinist? For me, that is where the issue comes in- not what is right but at what level I believe the government should intervene.
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Destineer
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Yeah, that's a good distinction to draw. The Thomson article itself is about the moral question, but I agree the legal one is separate.

I would say you should be forced if it's only five minutes. At nine months, that does seem like a pretty huge violation of your autonomy. Not sure.

It would be pretty tragic, though, if abortion turned out to be something really morally bad that should be legally allowed nonetheless, like telling a malicious lie or something. That would burden women who chose it with a lot of personal guilt.

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Lyrhawn
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Vadon -

Trying to massage the issue to create a distinction between terminating a pregnancy and killing the fetus doesn't change the equation. If anything I'd say it makes the process incredibly more complicated for women in some ways, and morally questionable in others.

Let's play the theory out. So, you don't have a right to kill a fetus that is viable outside the womb, but you have a right to end the pregnancy.
You'll have to correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe federal law bans late term abortions after 24 weeks. Yet science has advanced to the point where a baby as early as 22 weeks has been kept alive outside the womb. Does it not then follow that every woman after a certain point would be forced to undergo a C-Section with an attempt to save the life of the baby instead of undergoing a more destructive procedure?

Separating the two just strikes me as a little odd. It's sort of like saying that shooting someone and them dying are unrelated. When abortion a pregnancy also causes the fetus to die, then separating the two is a pretty artificial and meaningless distinction. Creating the distinction for the purposes of what to do with a fetus successfully removed alive from a mother makes sense, but it makes no sense outside that very specific circumstance. I don't believe it alleviates the moral burden involved.

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Lyrhawn
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quote:
Originally posted by Destineer:
quote:
I also find something bizarre and just plain wrong about the "quick, let's kill it before it comes alive!" thought process. I'm not sure I can put it into words, but it's just wrong to me.
Lyrhawn, this seems to me to be the weak point in the view you're expressing--the rest of it I can agree with, in some moods.

Some analogies:

Think about a machine that creates a human infant out of thin air every hour. Obviously it's not wrong to turn the machine off.

Now think of a machine that instantly transforms a rock into a human infant every ten minutes. Clearly there's no moral difference between destroying the rock and turning the machine off. So it's OK to destroy the rock.

Now replace the rock in the new example with a small, non-sentient organism like a pile of slime mold or something. Again, it's clearly not wrong to destroy the slime mold before the machine turns it into a baby.

Now replace the slime mold with a zygote or early-term fetus...

That's a perfectly respectable way to look at it.

But it just feels wrong. I can't justify it to myself.

I'm sure, from a formal or empirical point of view that's an incredibly weak argument, but it's what I'm going with.

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Lyrhawn
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quote:
Originally posted by Rakeesh:
I have to agree. 'Kill it before it's human!' *could* be morally foul, if it was a sliding scale so to speak. That is, say at a week it's 2% human, at a month it's 15% human, at four it's 45% human, or something like that, with the value to be placed on that life taken as a percentage of the value of the whole human infant-so suddenly 2% of 'priceless' is a rather serious consideration.

But that assumes that's how it works. Maybe it does, but then maybe it doesn't. What that leaves us with is a contest between two serious needs. On the one hand, there's the possibility of 2% of this priceless value (in this example, that's just the number I made up). On the other, though, there is 100% of a person who didn't invite and certainly didn't want this possibility of 2% of a priceless value to be a part of their lives.

If we value the possibility of the 2% as absolutely ascendent over the other, does that mean we devalue tue other?

How are you defining human? Genetically, it's human from the point of conception. I think you mean, more specifically, at what point is it sentient? At what point is it aware?

I think that's a far more difficult and impossible question than at what point is it biologically viable to survive outside the womb. Millions of people survive on a daily basis in a way where they wouldn't be viable without some sort of technological assistance. Further, thousands exist in a vegetative state and are considered to have rights to continued biological functions despite not displaying any brain activity. Further, some who have been in comas, or who have been misdiagnosed as having been in a coma, later report having been conscious the entire time. This all suggests that the science of sentience and awareness is far from complete. It suggests that survivability is not the final litmus test in our society.

As I've said before, until I know for sure, I'm erring on the side of caution. Destroying it with crossed fingers strikes me as highly morally questionable.

What if we knew for a fact that a fetus becomes aware at 20 weeks. Would it be morally acceptable to destroy it at 19 weeks 6 days?

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Vadon
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quote:
Originally posted by Lyrhawn:
Vadon -

Trying to massage the issue to create a distinction between terminating a pregnancy and killing the fetus doesn't change the equation. If anything I'd say it makes the process incredibly more complicated for women in some ways, and morally questionable in others.

Let's play the theory out. So, you don't have a right to kill a fetus that is viable outside the womb, but you have a right to end the pregnancy.
You'll have to correct me if I'm wrong, but I believe federal law bans late term abortions after 24 weeks. Yet science has advanced to the point where a baby as early as 22 weeks has been kept alive outside the womb. Does it not then follow that every woman after a certain point would be forced to undergo a C-Section with an attempt to save the life of the baby instead of undergoing a more destructive procedure?

Separating the two just strikes me as a little odd. It's sort of like saying that shooting someone and them dying are unrelated. When abortion a pregnancy also causes the fetus to die, then separating the two is a pretty artificial and meaningless distinction. Creating the distinction for the purposes of what to do with a fetus successfully removed alive from a mother makes sense, but it makes no sense outside that very specific circumstance. I don't believe it alleviates the moral burden involved.

I'll have to admit I'm not sure how I feel about your 22 week point. It seems plausible that when we think of abortions in terms of terminating the pregnancy, the means by which a woman may permissibly terminate the pregnancy would be such that if the fetus has a reasonable chance of survival, then that must be the approach taken. But I don't know how I feel about if. It's a fair point.
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Rakeesh
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Lyrhawn,

Good idea to shift here. I had forgotten this thread was there.

quote:
I'd be interested in listening if you'd like to argue how this might apply. We do have a legal history of applying different standards depending on the circumstances, and I can see calling it a justifiable homicide if the life of the mother is in danger, but I'm not sure how traditional legal nuance is going to cover causing an intentional death under these circumstances. Did you have something specific in mind?

I think it might apply-personally I'm really on the fence whether morally it should, but I think it needs to be part of the discussion-because we allow killing not only in cases where the subject's life is clearly, unmistakably in danger. Do we require, for example, all strong swimmers to head out into a riptide to save a stranger who is drowning? If they do so, and the drowner's frantic struggles threaten, but don't guarantee, that the would-be rescuer will drown as well, do we insist that they not attempt to kick off the drowner, so to speak?

It's an ugly scenario, I admit, but I think you'll have to agree that we don't say 'people may only use lethal force if they know their life is in danger' but rather 'people may use lethal force if they reasonably fear their life might be in danger, or even that they may suffer serious physical harm'. That's not universal, but it seems to be generally where we as a society try and set the bar. I'm not sure how pregnancy couldn't be considered a condition which someone might reasonably fear would endanger their life or cause them serious physical harm. I mean, it might and that's simply all there is to it. How the pregnant person views that risk has a lot to do with how it came to be, of course. Someone who has tried to get pregnant for years and has looked forward to having a child all that time would probably not view the pregnancy as a serious physical harm much less a threat to their lives, and we would call that outlook reasonable. Is it then to be considered unreasonable that someone who didn't do those things to view it differently?

quote:
As I've said before, I waffle on that point because, as you say, there's no way to know for sure. But I err on the side of caution. When you're talking about something as valuable as human life, I don't think it's moral to spin the roulette wheel and hope after you've done the deed that you didn't just actually kill something. I also find something bizarre and just plain wrong about the "quick, let's kill it before it comes alive!" thought process. I'm not sure I can put it into words, but it's just wrong to me.
Others have touched on the question of pre-emptive killing (pre-emptive as in literally before it's human), so I'll focus on the first part. I want to err on the side of caution, too. I even think we probably should, but what I try to keep in mind is that there are actually competing needs here. Shall we treat the possibility of the serious, priceless need (a human child)-that is, the possibility that a cluster of cells is human-exactly as though it weren't a possibility at all, but a reality?

I mean, if through some bizarre twist of nature, conception involved the sudden creation of a human infant, body and all, shrunk to microscopic scale let us say, I think most people would agree it's no longer a possibility but a reality. Fair enough. Various needs of the mother vs. the various needs of that fully formed, though microscopic, human baby. Now take away that certainty, and revert back to the reality of pregancy. Is the moral calculus to be exactly the same even when one side of the equation has changed dramatically?

Well, maybe. I can see arguments as to why it should be the same. I even share them to an extent, but I hesitate strongly at the notion that we shouldn't have that question on the table, front and center.

quote:
I'm sure you'd be able to come up with all manner of specific hypotheticals that create a grey area. I'm sure on a case by case basis some things would fall under the "health of the mother" rubric, but just because there are grey areas doesn't mean the whole endeavor is flaws. You don't, pardon the expression, throw the baby out with the bath water.

Well, I mean this particular discussion started specifically about exceptions, so I don't think it's unreasonable in this context to talk about them. And I don't throw the baby out with the bathwater, but if we're going to be talking about questions of the value of human life, I think we ought to remember that the presence of the possibility of a human baby doesn't instantly push all other considerations aside.

quote:
Before I can argue whether or not it's any different, you're going to have to explain why it's the same. At first blush, it doesn't appear to be the same at all.

Well, in the case of a pregnancy by rape we have a woman who did nothing except exist as a fertile human female who was raped to become pregnant. She had no intent or negligence or anything in the event that caused her to be pregnant. In my doctor example, we have a human being whose relationship to the doctor's child is the same as that of the woman's to her pregnancy: that is, none whatsoever. In the example I gave, the person has done nothing to owe any sort of obligation to that ill child. This would-be blood or organ donor cannot be said to have a moral obligation to care for that child. In the case of a blood donation, it's of course much less onerous than a pregnancy, by a huge degree. That person will regenerate their blood in short order, and not long after it happened will physically be no different than had it never happened to begin with.

The case of the involuntary organ donation is more akin to the pregnancy, though. Depending on the organ, the person might not notice much of a health difference at all in the long run of their lives, particularly if they live with prudent good health. On the other hand it might be enormously onerous for the rest of their lives.

I'm not sure if I've explained myself well here or not, but to me the comparison seems fairly apt. In the case of a rape pregnancy, the victim has bodily resources the fetus needs to survive, but she has done nothing to earn a responsibility to yield up those resources. In the case of the involuntary organ donation for the sick child, the victim possesses bodily resources that the child needs to survive, but has also done nothing to earn a responsibility for the health of that child.

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Rakeesh
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Now, as an only semi-related thought: part of the reason I have a tendancy to recoil as strongly as I do from religious-based objections to things like a rape exception for abortion is because of what I perceive is religion's pretty crummy record when it comes to regarding women as fully functioning, adult, independent beings. This applies particularly to Christianity in this case, what with its rather specific talk of 'wives submit to your husbands...etc. etc.'

The entire passage is littered with remarks that add lots of potential for wiggle-room about how it doesn't mean what it plainly says, about how it's not an endorsement of female inferiority to men, so on and so forth.

But when I hear talk about God intending a rape pregnancy to happen, about 'legitimate rape', about women's bodies just averting rape pregnancy, so on and so forth, that passage is brought vividly back to my mind and I can't help but remember: this idea that there is something particularly wrong with women beyond the ordinary human condition is in their rulebook, so to speak. How closely tied, if it's tied at all, is the reverence for life to this contempt for women? Is there a connection? I'm not sure, but I don't think it can be dismissed out of hand either.

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kmbboots
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quote:
Originally posted by scholarette:
Destineer, do you believe the government should force someone to stay hooked up to the violinist? For me, that is where the issue comes in- not what is right but at what level I believe the government should intervene.

This is where the line is for me as well. I certainly think that one has a strong moral obligation to stay hooked up to the violinist. I find the idea of forcing someone to remain hooked up to the violinist to be more reprehensible and dangerous especially since we are (beyond the analogy talking about women who have not {and are by some still not}) considered fully people rather than property.
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Rakeesh
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quote:
What if we knew for a fact that a fetus becomes aware at 20 weeks. Would it be morally acceptable to destroy it at 19 weeks 6 days?
I'll go ahead and answer this, then: if we knew for a fact-and in this scenario if it was something that wouldn't be disproven later-that the fetus became aware, or rather became human at 140 days and not before, then yes. It would be morally acceptable to destroy it at 139 days. It wasn't human at 139 days. I mean, where is the line to be drawn if the reverence for life isn't just a reverence for life but also a reverence for potential life?

I think you see where I'm going with this. There is also a potential for human life in sexual intercourse, and even-in this example-the same way. Prior to the sex-no (well, no additional) human life. After the sex, given the right conditions, an additional human life. Why is it acceptable to prevent the existence of a human being 270 days before it happens, but not 1 day before it happens?

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Destineer
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I agree, Rakeesh.
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Blayne Bradley
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If someone were to make the argument, that it is morally wrong to destroy a fetus prior to it becoming aware; how does this argument not continue in that direction to state that birth control, masturbation and condoms are also murder for destroying sperm?
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Lyrhawn
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Rakeesh and others who I may not have responded to yet...don't fret, I'm getting to it. Complicated questions and complicated answers, I don't want to ignore it, nor do I want to give a less than well-thought-out answer.

Blayne -

Some people do indeed make that argument, but that's about where I draw the line. A sperm on its own is never going to become anything. From zygote forward, that's a different story.

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Mucus
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Trivially, a zygote on its *own* isn't going to become much of anything either.
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Lyrhawn
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Neither will a baby. It would starve to death.
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BlackBlade
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quote:
Originally posted by Blayne Bradley:
If someone were to make the argument, that it is morally wrong to destroy a fetus prior to it becoming aware; how does this argument not continue in that direction to state that birth control, masturbation and condoms are also murder for destroying sperm?

Because nobody believes a gamete is alive, or ever will be.
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Mucus
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quote:
Originally posted by Lyrhawn:
Neither will a baby. It would starve to death.

Precisely, which is why the attribute of "[becoming something] on its own" isn't a good way of dividing up the three entities. They aren't actually divided up by it.
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Lyrhawn
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My point was that, no amount of care or cultivation would turn a sperm into a person.
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Rakeesh
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Wait a minute, isn't 'cultivation' specifically the interference in 'what would happen' to achieve a different outcome? I mean, if a person decides to stop cultivating a completely non-human (in your example) fetus at 139 days, isn't the difference between that and the example of the sperm and the egg only one of degree, not type?

This isn't something I say lightly to you, Lyrhawn, because I've got quite a lot of respect for you, but it *really* feels as though you're approaching this from the 'this is what is true, now to figure out why' approach.

A sperm on its own won't become anything, unless at least one person decides to do one of a few things with it. A pregnancy on its own won't become anything, unless a woman decides to let her body sustain it for nine months. In the example of 140 days, what exactly is the difference?

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Lyrhawn
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Rakeesh I'm going to answer your first post first before this most recent one, as some of this will carry on to my subsequent answers.

quote:
I think it might apply-personally I'm really on the fence whether morally it should, but I think it needs to be part of the discussion-because we allow killing not only in cases where the subject's life is clearly, unmistakably in danger. Do we require, for example, all strong swimmers to head out into a riptide to save a stranger who is drowning? If they do so, and the drowner's frantic struggles threaten, but don't guarantee, that the would-be rescuer will drown as well, do we insist that they not attempt to kick off the drowner, so to speak?

It's an ugly scenario, I admit, but I think you'll have to agree that we don't say 'people may only use lethal force if they know their life is in danger' but rather 'people may use lethal force if they reasonably fear their life might be in danger, or even that they may suffer serious physical harm'. That's not universal, but it seems to be generally where we as a society try and set the bar. I'm not sure how pregnancy couldn't be considered a condition which someone might reasonably fear would endanger their life or cause them serious physical harm. I mean, it might and that's simply all there is to it. How the pregnant person views that risk has a lot to do with how it came to be, of course. Someone who has tried to get pregnant for years and has looked forward to having a child all that time would probably not view the pregnancy as a serious physical harm much less a threat to their lives, and we would call that outlook reasonable. Is it then to be considered unreasonable that someone who didn't do those things to view it differently?

I think you make a reasonable argument in here that I find troublesome, but it hinges entirely on the basis of what sort of threat a pregnancy imposes on a woman. What's the statistical likelihood that any given pregnancy will kill a woman? It comes down to, as you say, a reasonable fear of death. This is one of the few aspects of this where I think serious scientific data could sway my opinion, but what are the numbers that make such a fear reasonable? After all, just because YOU think it's reasonable to shoot someone doesn't mean a jury would, so clearly there's more to it than just how you feel. In that instance, there's a subjective nature to it.

I've agreed in the past that it's morally permissible to abort a fetus if the life of the mother is in danger, but to suggest that the life of the mother is always in danger because danger has the potential to lurk in any given pregenancy muddies the waters.

The problem is that you can apply that logic to just about everything. For example, driving fatality numbers in this country are horrendous. If you could statistically prove that you're more likely to die in a car accident than from a pregnancy, then could we criminally prosecute every parent who takes their child for a car ride for reckless endangerment? I think that's be pretty unreasonable, just as I think it's probably unreasonable to assume that every pregnancy is a game of Russian roulette with five instead of one bullet in the tumbler. The entire question hinges on what is and isn't a reasonable fear of danger.

quote:
I think we ought to remember that the presence of the possibility of a human baby doesn't instantly push all other considerations aside.
And I agree with that, as I have before.

quote:
I'm not sure if I've explained myself well here or not, but to me the comparison seems fairly apt. In the case of a rape pregnancy, the victim has bodily resources the fetus needs to survive, but she has done nothing to earn a responsibility to yield up those resources. In the case of the involuntary organ donation for the sick child, the victim possesses bodily resources that the child needs to survive, but has also done nothing to earn a responsibility for the health of that child.
I see what you're saying and I'm not sure. If pressed, and I'm not entirely sure how much I believe this, I think my argument would sort of be this: The child with the organ problem had a chance, but nature dealt him a bad hand and it didn't work out so well. If you're harvesting organs from innocent people you're probably killing that person, unless you want to use the violinist example or maybe something like a kidney where you can survive with out it. But those people have a chance to live, for whatever amount of time. The fetus who is killed before ever being born never gets that chance. Maybe it would have died at 100 years old surrounded by family, maybe there would have been a natural miscarriage. Maybe it would have died young of leukemia, but we'll never know, because it never got the chance to live.

As a sort of addendum to the post you made right after your first, I should clarify, if you didn't already know, that my beliefs don't come from any particular religious background. I haven't gone to any sort of church or youth group on a regular basis in probably two decades. I'm speaking for my own personal morality.

quote:
Originally posted by Rakeesh:
quote:
What if we knew for a fact that a fetus becomes aware at 20 weeks. Would it be morally acceptable to destroy it at 19 weeks 6 days?
I'll go ahead and answer this, then: if we knew for a fact-and in this scenario if it was something that wouldn't be disproven later-that the fetus became aware, or rather became human at 140 days and not before, then yes. It would be morally acceptable to destroy it at 139 days. It wasn't human at 139 days. I mean, where is the line to be drawn if the reverence for life isn't just a reverence for life but also a reverence for potential life?

I think you see where I'm going with this. There is also a potential for human life in sexual intercourse, and even-in this example-the same way. Prior to the sex-no (well, no additional) human life. After the sex, given the right conditions, an additional human life. Why is it acceptable to prevent the existence of a human being 270 days before it happens, but not 1 day before it happens?

For me the line is drawn well before that. I would find it highly morally objectionable to destroy something literally hours away from becoming conscious. I will say that if push came to shove, I value present life over potential life. It's a troublesome choice, but if that's the ONLY criteria I was forced to make a decision on, it's how I would decide. But in cases where it's not a zero sum game (and really that's the crux of this isn't it, whether or not it IS in fact a zero sum game or not), I give potential life a great deal of value.

I see your point on the pre and post sex thing, and I'll admit it's something I've waffled on many times. I think there's a point at which the conversation devolves into one on free choice and destiny. If I decide right now to never have sex again, am I violating some sort of destined path and thereby killing what would have been some babies years in the future? Or was I never destined to have them at all? If I abstain from sex, is that the same thing as having sex but using a condom, with respect to the potential for life? Ultimately we can't choose which instances of sex will result in a pregnancy, but if one can make the argument that using a condom is equally as immoral as abstinence, then the whole thing loses its meaning entirely.

Ultimately for me it comes down to the moment of conception. Once you have that little ball of life in there, with its own individual totally unique DNA, it's something new, distinct and separate from anything else, and deserves a chance to become a person. To argue that stopping the process from happening, via protected sex or abstinence takes the argument to a point of absurdity, for we'd have to constantly have unprotected sex all the time at every potential moment in order to ensure no wasted reproductive material. So that's where I draw the line.

quote:
Wait a minute, isn't 'cultivation' specifically the interference in 'what would happen' to achieve a different outcome?
Not necessarily. There's a difference between natural and artificial cultivation. Nature obviously didn't intend for newborn babies to fend for themselves. Human infants have some of the longest development times of any known species on earth and require years of care before they become anything close to self-sufficient. So you can't call it interference in a natural process for a mother to care for her child. Neither can you call it interference in a natural process when a zygote, unhindered is allowed to become an embryo, fetus and eventually a baby, because that's nature's intended process. The body naturally cultivates the zygote and shepherds it to its natural end.

quote:
I mean, if a person decides to stop cultivating a completely non-human (in your example) fetus at 139 days, isn't the difference between that and the example of the sperm and the egg only one of degree, not type?
Yes I suppose it is. But lots of things are just a matter of degrees, and those degrees often matter a great deal, as I believe it does here. This is why I wanted to answer your other points first, since I think they (hopefully) explain the moral framework I'm operating with. The whole conversation is really a matter of degrees.

You know we shake our heads in disdain, often, in America at Chinese parents who abort female children before they are born because of the national preference for boys. Barbaric! We say, girls are just as good as boys! But if you believe in abortion at all, then killing a fetus to choose the sex of your baby, or the eye color or whatever, has zero moral implications.

Otherwise, once you admit that there are morally problematic uses for abortion, you've entered into a realm where it's all a matter of degrees, and that those degrees matter a great deal on the moral permissibility of certain actions. Clearly we draw the line at different places, but certainly you admit that A. There is a line to be drawn, and B. There's no scientifically correct place to put it. At that point, no one is right or wrong, it all comes down to what we believe. And to me, what I believe feels right, even beyond my ability to explain it. I consider myself an empiricist, an evidence-based pragmatist who will change my mind depending on where reason, data and a good argument will lead me. But this isn't one of those arguments.

quote:
This isn't something I say lightly to you, Lyrhawn, because I've got quite a lot of respect for you, but it *really* feels as though you're approaching this from the 'this is what is true, now to figure out why' approach.
And to answer this most specifically...I won't deny that, but I don't think that's really as problematic as you seem to be implying. I feel this is right. Perhaps "right" and "true" have different meanings before because I can't prove, with scientific accuracy, that what I believe is true, but I feel that it is right. I've had it out on Hatrack on abortion once or twice before over the last eight years, and it's forced me to build up a sort of framework of explanations and fine tuning around how to explain why I believe what I do, but I'll admit it's still a work in progress. I think I could take that same problem "this is true, but why?" and apply it to a great many things that both of us believe, because there are simply too many questions in this world that don't have scientific answers. And we don't come born with the explanations for why we believe what we believe, we have to figure them out as we go along, as I've been doing with this topic for many years.

This isn't a conversation I'm likely to have anywhere outside of Hatrack, because I doubt anywhere else I'd have the time to think about it this much, or someone to discuss it with who honestly wants to understand my point of view and doesn't try to demonize me for what I understand is a troublesome point of view on a hot-button topic.

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Destineer
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quote:
Not necessarily. There's a difference between natural and artificial cultivation. Nature obviously didn't intend for newborn babies to fend for themselves. Human infants have some of the longest development times of any known species on earth and require years of care before they become anything close to self-sufficient. So you can't call it interference in a natural process for a mother to care for her child. Neither can you call it interference in a natural process when a zygote, unhindered is allowed to become an embryo, fetus and eventually a baby, because that's nature's intended process. The body naturally cultivates the zygote and shepherds it to its natural end.
There's another related point here, though. Why should feeding a child, or leaving a zygote in the uterus, count as "natural cultivation," but bringing a sperm into contact with an egg not count as such?

You need it not to count as cultivation, I think, to maintain your view. Because otherwise we once again have no distinction between aborting a fetus which isn't yet a person (not OK according to you) and letting a sperm or unfertilized egg go to waste (OK according to you).

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Marlozhan
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(moved from Election thread)

With the current type of government we have, regardless of the outcome of a pregnancy, the creation or abortion of children creates a cost for society:
  • • If contraception is used, that costs money and is often subsidized by government
    • If morning-after pills and such are used, they cost money are often subsidized by government
    • If an abortion is performed, it costs money and is often subsidized. It gets more expensive the further along in pregnancy you go
    • If the child is not aborted, the mother and fetus still need medical care. This costs money for individuals or society. We don’t deny medical care if a woman shows up in an emergency room or uses other social care programs
    • If the mother births the child and puts him or her up for adoption, there are individual or societal costs involved in this process
    • If the mother keeps and raises the child, there are obviously individual and societal costs here, too

My point is that all of us, whether on the pro-life or pro-choice side, have become financially and socially involved in the issue of child conception, rearing or abortion. Any arguments against either pro-life or pro-choice that uses these arguments as defense don’t really apply unless we change our entire system one way or the other. We can’t wash our hands of the fact that both sides of this issue cost money for all of us.

Certainly children in the womb are a drain on the mother’s physical, emotional, and financial resources and society’s resources. But so are children that are already born. If you give birth to a child that was conceived by rape, and take that child home, you have lost the right to kill or neglect that child because of how he or she was conceived. Again, using the argument that babies in the womb are a drain on resources is irrelevant.

Obviously the issue really has to do with two main ideas that have yet to be fully understood:
  • 1. When does human life begin (on a biological level)?
    2. When does human life deserve the same rights we ascribe to the people that are protected in the constitution?

The first issue is a little more clear cut. Most people agree that human biological life begins at conception. An embryo grows into a fully formed human being unless damage is done to it through harm or neglect, or malfunction occurs. An egg or a sperm alone cannot grow into a human being, no matter how good the conditions. But embryos do. However, the confusion that does exist seems to be about what exactly “life” means. Obviously there are all forms of life that we kill on a regular basis without breaking a sweat: bacteria, plants, insects, etc. The large majority of people agree that human life has more value than other forms of life. If we all agreed that bacteria and plants carried as much worth as a human, then we might as well all run into the forest, strip naked and do whatever feels good like the rest of the animal kingdom. We deserve to live just as much as the snake or plant does, so…survival of the fittest!

Only 1 problem with this: our higher intellectual function prevents us from living within the instinctual order of nature. When humans “do whatever feels good,” we clearly do not fit within the order that the rest of nature provides. This is the difference between having just instinct, and having instincts mixed with the ability to reason and identify ethics and make conscious choices. We must live by some type of ethics and values. Our brain development requires it. We have determined as a society that human life is on a different level than other forms of life.

The second issue is the real crux of the problem. I don’t see the first issue as being the main problem. We know that human life begins at conception. An embryo grows into a fully formed human being unless damage is done to it or malfunction occurs. But when does human life reach the status of deserving equal human rights? As was mentioned earlier, excess fertilized eggs are often discarded and most people don’t worry about this. Yet, a fertilized egg has technically been conceived. Human life will develop if allowed to thrive under the conditions it needs. Yes, it is dependent, but all of us are on food. The fertilized egg just needs more specialized conditions for food and shelter.

No, the problem is that we haven’t defined when human life develops the same human value as the rest of us “born” people. If the fertilized egg does not carry the same value as a third-trimester baby, then why?

Don’t we have a powerful responsibility to answer this question? Sometimes I think this question is glossed over too quickly in the name of politics or religion. When did you first gain your constitutional rights? If it was at birth, then there is no problem doing whatever we want to third-trimester babies that are in the womb but don’t have to be. I personally cannot accept this as the definition of when human rights begin. Late-term abortions are no worse than infanticide in my opinion.

If your rights began sometime in the womb, when? When did you gain the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness? When did you gain the right to stay alive even though you presented a financial, physical, or emotional burden on a parent or society? When did you gain the right to live even when someone else, including your mom, didn’t want you to?

I assert that those rights began in the womb, but I don’t know when during that time period. That is the problem as I see it. We need to figure this question out.

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Lyrhawn
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quote:
Originally posted by Destineer:
quote:
Not necessarily. There's a difference between natural and artificial cultivation. Nature obviously didn't intend for newborn babies to fend for themselves. Human infants have some of the longest development times of any known species on earth and require years of care before they become anything close to self-sufficient. So you can't call it interference in a natural process for a mother to care for her child. Neither can you call it interference in a natural process when a zygote, unhindered is allowed to become an embryo, fetus and eventually a baby, because that's nature's intended process. The body naturally cultivates the zygote and shepherds it to its natural end.
There's another related point here, though. Why should feeding a child, or leaving a zygote in the uterus, count as "natural cultivation," but bringing a sperm into contact with an egg not count as such?

You need it not to count as cultivation, I think, to maintain your view. Because otherwise we once again have no distinction between aborting a fetus which isn't yet a person (not OK according to you) and letting a sperm or unfertilized egg go to waste (OK according to you).

Somewhere in my monster post I explained why I draw the line here. I do think there's a distinction.
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Blayne Bradley
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It is impossible to assert rights for a 'person' within the womb without at the same time; removing those same rights from the mother. I believe the rights of the individual adult trumps those of an unborn child.

The problem with the alternative, of not legalizing abortion is that society especially in the United States absolutely refuses to pay the cost to insure the child has a good life and an equal playing field.

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scholarette
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I feel very uncomfortable with the whole since we don't know, be safe and side with life. I hate beig pregnant beyond belief and so for me, picking the cautious side isn't the one where a woman suffers horribly. Making it through my mostly normal pregnancies made me much more pro choice. I was before, but pregnancy is for me just so awful that I can't force any one else to do it. I know just how bad pregnancy is, so if I have to pick a side without full knowledge of life, I have to side with the woman.
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Destineer
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quote:

Somewhere in my monster post I explained why I draw the line here. I do think there's a distinction.

Here, you mean?

quote:
Ultimately for me it comes down to the moment of conception. Once you have that little ball of life in there, with its own individual totally unique DNA, it's something new, distinct and separate from anything else, and deserves a chance to become a person. To argue that stopping the process from happening, via protected sex or abstinence takes the argument to a point of absurdity, for we'd have to constantly have unprotected sex all the time at every potential moment in order to ensure no wasted reproductive material. So that's where I draw the line.
Since sperm and egg cells are also little balls of life, it seems like it's the "own DNA" part that must be making the difference here. But that can't be right. If it were, the embryo of a clone, which shares the parent's DNA rather than having its own, wouldn't deserve the same protection. But clearly clones are people with equal rights, and cloned fetuses should have the same rights as ordinary ones (whatever those rights may be).

You're right that drawing the line at sperm rather than zygote leads to absurdity, but you need to show that your reasons for valuing the zygote don't also require you to value the sperm. Otherwise the absurdity is just a consequence of your view. You can't just say that your view applies to zygotes but not gametes and leave it at that, when the reasons you give for granting rights to the zygote apply equally well to the gametes.

On a related note, are you opposed to in vitro fertilization and embryonic stem cell research? Your view would also seem to require that you oppose these things, unless I'm misunderstanding something.

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Lyrhawn
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quote:
Originally posted by scholarette:
I feel very uncomfortable with the whole since we don't know, be safe and side with life. I hate beig pregnant beyond belief and so for me, picking the cautious side isn't the one where a woman suffers horribly. Making it through my mostly normal pregnancies made me much more pro choice. I was before, but pregnancy is for me just so awful that I can't force any one else to do it. I know just how bad pregnancy is, so if I have to pick a side without full knowledge of life, I have to side with the woman.

That's a perfectly respectable point of view.
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Blayne Bradley
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Also if we draw the line there, then we would have to likely ban in vitro fertilization and all research related to it.
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Destineer
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Sad to see this discussion taper off, Lyrhawn. It was going in a pretty interesting direction, and my impression is that your view about these issues could benefit from some further thought.
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Hobbes
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Many years ago, someone here linked to an article that talked about using the same standard for start of life that we do for end of life. Basically, brain-activity used as the metric. That still leaves some questions as to what consitutes brain activity since begining life is hardly a perfect mirror of ending life, but it makes a lot of sense to me to use that standard.

None of which has to do with abortions after rape, but if we've moved onto where you draw the line I thought I'd throw that in...

Hobbes [Smile]

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Destineer
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quote:
Originally posted by Hobbes:
Many years ago, someone here linked to an article that talked about using the same standard for start of life that we do for end of life. Basically, brain-activity used as the metric. That still leaves some questions as to what consitutes brain activity since begining life is hardly a perfect mirror of ending life, but it makes a lot of sense to me to use that standard.

In a sense, this has to be right--the same standards of whether a human is "alive" in the morally relevant sense should apply at the beginning of life as well as the end. But I would hesitate to apply the existing legal definition of the end of life to the beginning of life. "Brain death" is a useful notion for most practical purposes, but there are many cases where I think someone can be dead, for all morally important purposes, without being brain dead. This is a controversial example, but I would count Terry Schiavo as one such case.

On the "beginning of life" side of things, an anencephalic baby probably shouldn't count as alive.

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