The Instigator
Con (against)
0 Points
The Contender
Pro (for)
3 Points

Abortion in the embrionic period is necessarily immoral

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 4/11/2012 Category: Technology
Updated: 4 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 758 times Debate No: 22751
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (2)
Votes (1)





Abortion is the end (termination) of a pregnancy. A low-risk surgical procedure called suction aspiration or suction curette is generally used for first trimester abortions. Medical (non-surgical) abortions using medications such as mifepristone (RU486) are available in some clinics. [1]

The embryonic period in humans begins at fertilization (penetration of the egg by the sperm) and continues until the end of the 10th week of gestation (8th week by embryonic age). [2]

If you have any problems with the debate, use the comments section so we can agree to terms before we start the debate.





I accept this debate.

I would just like to clarify one point. I do believe that abortions in the case of the mother's life being in immediate danger, and both mother and child cannot be saved (e.g. during ectopic pregnancy), are justified. In this case, it is a matter of triage, not abortion. Two patients are in mortal danger and only one can be saved, the one with the greater chance of survival (the mother) is saved.

So I will be arguing that killing humans in the embryonic period of development is immoral in all other cases.

As Con is making the claim that killing human embryos is not necessarily immoral, I will await his opening argument as he bears the burden of proof.
Debate Round No. 1


I thank Tuibaev Aibek for accepting this debate.

My first argument is made up of the following premises and conclusion.....

1) If something contains human DNA then it is human
2) Abortion in the embryonic period destroys something that is human
3) It is not necessarily immoral to destroy something that is human
C) Therefore abortion in the embryonic period is not necessarily immoral

Now onto the warrant for the premises in this argument.....

1) If something contains human DNA then it is human

Some one may think that by human I ONLY mean a thinking, talking, feeling person, this would be incorrect. By human I refer to something that possesses human DNA and thus makes it "human" but this should not be confused with "human being" as Joyce Arthur explains..
"Before going further, we need to clarify and interpret some anti-choice language. First, anti-choicers often confuse the adjective "human" and the noun "human being," giving them the same meaning. I am struck by the question they often put to pro-choicers: "But isn't it human?" —as if we secretly think a fetus is really a creature from outer space. If you point out that a fetus consists of human tissue and DNA, anti-choicers triumphantly claim you just conceded it's a human being. Now, a flake of dandruff from my head is human, but it is not a human being, and in this sense, neither is a zygote" [1]
So why isn't something that is human automatically a human being ? as Joyce Arthur continues…
"Human beings must, by definition, be separate individuals. They do not gain the status of human being by virtue of living inside the body of another human being—the very thought is inherently ridiculous, even offensive." [1]
2) Abortion destroys something that is human/possesses human DNA

I doubt Con will challenge this premise as the logical negation of this premise could be used to form an even more powerful argument in support of the resolution.

3) It is not necessarily immoral to destroy something that possess human DNA

As Wikipedia explains..."The cell is the basic structural and functional unit of all known living organisms. It is the smallest unit of life that is classified as a living thing, and is often called the building block of life" [2]

We can't accept the premise that killing something that possesses human DNA and is therefore human is always immoral as this would lead to absurdities. For example every time you scratch your nose and kill off skin cells, cells which possess human DNA you have committed an immoral act, every time you kill a human sperm you have committed an immoral act.

Now maybe you think you can get around this absurdity by claiming that a zygote or blastocyst or embryo has the potential to continue development, even the potential to become a human being, but so what ? as Sam Harris explains...
"Perhaps you think that the crucial difference between a fly and a human blastocyst is to be found in the latter's potential to become a fully developed human being. But almost every cell in your body is a potential human being, given our recent advances in genetic engineering. Every time you scratch your nose, you have committed a Holocaust of potential human beings" [3]
Therefore abortion in the embryonic period is not necessarily immoral

Assuming that Con agrees the argument is valid, the conclusion follows with logical necessity from the premises.

Second argument in defense of abortion, Bodily rights

as Judith Jarvis Thomson argues...
"But now let me ask you to imagine this. You wake up in the morning and find yourself back to back in bed with an unconscious violinist. A famous unconscious violinist. He has been found to have a fatal kidney ailment, and the Society of Music Lovers has canvassed all the available medical records and found that you alone have the right blood type to help. They have therefore kidnapped you, and last night the violinist's circulatory system was plugged into yours, so that your kidneys can be used to extract poisons from his blood as well as your own. The director of the hospital now tells you, "Look, we're sorry the Society of Music Lovers did this to you--we would never have permitted it if we had known. But still, they did it, and the violinist is now plugged into you. To unplug you would be to kill him. But never mind, it's only for nine months. By then he will have recovered from his ailment, and can safely be unplugged from you." Is it morally incumbent on you to accede to this situation? No doubt it would be very nice of you if you did, a great kindness. But do you have to accede to it? What if it were not nine months, but nine years? Or longer still? What if the director of the hospital says. "Tough luck. I agree. but now you've got to stay in bed, with the violinist plugged into you, for the rest of your life. Because remember this. All persons have a right to life, and violinists are persons. Granted you have a right to decide what happens in and to your body, but a person's right to life outweighs your right to decide what happens in and to your body. So you cannot ever be unplugged from him." I imagine you would regard this as outrageous" [4]

Judith later on says...

"But I would stress that I am not arguing that people do not have a right to life--quite to the contrary, it seems to me that the primary control we must place on the acceptability of an account of rights is that it should turn out in that account to be a truth that all persons have a right to life. I am arguing only that having a right to life does not guarantee having either a right to be given the use of or a right to be allowed continued use of another person s body--even if one needs it for life itself. So the right to life will not serve the opponents of abortion in the very simple and clear way in which they seem to have thought it would." [4]

Joyce Arthur explains...

"Even if a fetus can be said to have a right to life, this does not include the right to use the body of another human being. For example, the state cannot force people to donate organs or blood, even to save someone's life. We are not obligated by law to risk our lives jumping into a river to save a drowning victim, noble as that might be. Therefore, even if a fetus has a right to life, a pregnant woman is not required to save it by loaning out her body for nine months against her will" [5]

I look forward to Pros reply.



[2] (biology)#cite_note-Alberts2002-0





I would like to thank Belgebayev Yerassyl for issuing this challenge.

First, a rebuttal to Con's syllogism.

Premise 1

Saying that the unborn is a human being, and arguing that anything with human DNA, is equivocation. You are moving from using "human" as a noun (e.g. an embryo is a human), to using it as an adjective (e.g. skin cells are human). So the argument that skin cells are human does not negate a zygote or embryo, etc., from being considered a full member of Homo sapiens which, contrary to what Joyce Arthur thinks she knows about pro-lifers, is what pro-lifers argue.

Pro has used the words of a feminist, but I will see his feminist and raise him an embryologist (an expert on human embryos). This is from the most-used textbook on embryology: "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." [1] Embryologists do not consider zygotes and embryos human in the sense that a skin cell is human, but they consider them a new genetically distinct human organism.

Ms. Arthur also argues that human beings must, by definition, be separate individuals. But by whose definition? Her own? This is special pleading. I've never seen a definition of human being that requires one being completely independent. Using her reasoning, people in comas are not considered human beings and it is perfectly moral to kill someone on a coma because they are dependent on life support, despite having a good chance of coming out of it. The reality is that embryos *are* separate individuals, not in the sense that they can survive on their own but in the sense that they are a separate entity from the mother. They are only in the mother's womb because they can't yet survive in any other location.

One might wonder if pro-choicers would remain pro-choice if artificial womb technology (which is being worked on) comes to fruition and the unborn embryo could be transferred to an artificial womb. Would it then still be all right to kill a human embryo?

Premise 2

Of course, I do not take issue with this premise, other than the wording. Abortion destroys something is is of the human species, not merely "human" as a body part. My arm is a human arm, but it is not a separate human organism. The problem is that many pro-choicers confuse parts with wholes. Human embryos are separate organisms, alive because they grow and exhibit the other signs of life, such as response to stimuli and cell division, and they are human because they have human DNA and are the product of human parents. Everything reproduces after their own kind: dogs have dogs, cats have cats, and humans have humans. At no point in human development is the product of two humans "non-human" and then suddenly become human. Embryos develop themselves from within; they are a whole human organism, not like an arm or skin cell, which are parts of a human that make up the greater whole.

Premise 3

Pro-lifers do not argue that embryos are potential humans. They are potential toddlers, but actual humans. So potentiality is irrelevant. Contraceptives are not immoral, despite the fact that they prevent a sperm from fertilizing an egg, preventing a potential human from coming into existence (there is no human in existence to do wrong to). It is not immoral to kill a skin cell, even though they could potentially be used in cloning to create a human being. Killing a human embryo is wrong because you are killing an actual human being, already in existence.

Killing a human embryo is not wrong simply because it possesses human DNA. It is wrong because you are killing a human organism, a member of the species Homo sapiens, who has an inherent right to live. They have the inherent capacity for all the things that make humans valuable. If you support killing a human embryo, you must also support killing a human fetus or a newborn for the same reason, and some pro-choice philosophers, like Tooley and Singer, argue for infanticide because killing an infant is morally no different from killing a fetus.

I agree that Con's syllogism is valid, however it is not sound. In Premise 1, he equivocates by comparing something "human" (an appendage) with something that is a human organism. Premise 3 is inconsistent because no one would argue it is moral to kill an innocent human being without cause. You must prove that an embryo is not an innocent human being to consider it moral (or at least that it is not necessarily immoral). Killing an innocent human being is immoral, therefore killing a human embryo is immoral.

Now for Con's bodily rights argument.

On the surface, Ms. Thompson's argument appears to be a similar situation to pregnancy. However, it fails in three key areas.

First, in this analogy you are a product of violence. You are kidnapped and forced to be connected to this person. However, the vast majority of pregnancies are through a consensual act between two people. To create a human being through an act that is consensual only to kill that individual is irresponsible and barbaric.

Consider this: you come upon a machine that at the press of a button, will give you a pleasurable experience. However, there is a one in 100 chance that a baby will pop out of the machine. You press the button for the experience, but a baby does pop out. Are you now responsible for that baby you just created, even though you only wanted the pleasurable experience?

Second, you are not responsible for the situation the violinist finds himself in. It is not your fault he is dying from his kidney ailment.

Consider this scenario: You have three sons and are playing baseball with them. Your son hits a pop fly which soars into your neighbor's yard and breaks his window. You knock on your neighbor's door and apologize for the broken window. You say, "I consented to play baseball with my sons, but not to break your window. Therefore I am not responsible for the broken window." That excuse will not fly. You are still responsible and must make restitution for the broken window.

In the same way, you are responsible for a child you create through the intimate act of sexual intercourse.

Finally, most pregnant women are not bed-ridden. They can still get out and have a life. Becoming pregnant is not the end of the world that many people fear that it is.

So, Ms. Arthur is correct that one does not have an obligation to save a drowning person they happen upon, but one does have a moral obligation to save a drowning person if you pushed them into the river.

As I have demonstrated, Ms. Thompson's analogy is not an accurate reflection of pregnancy. A person's right to life does not always trump someone's right to bodily autonomy, but pregnancy is different. In pregnancy, the mother is usually responsible for the young human being there in the first place, and the human is living in the only place in the entire universe they can survive.

I appreciate Con's thoughtful arguments, and I look forward to our next round.

[1] Ronan O'Rahilly and Fabiola M´┐Żller, Human Embryology and Teratology, 3rd edition. New York: Wiley-Liss, 2001. p. 8
Debate Round No. 2


Now some one may say the the two situations are not morally equal, I would reply, you are exactly right. You see the pregnant woman at least has the excuse in the the embryonic period to say her decision won't change whether a child lives or die (I mean real child not an embyro here) even more so, its her body that's on the line. Pro can't even have that as an excuse, as they could give up all there wealth and possessions and not put there body on the line at all, unlike a pregnant women.

Vote Con

I thank Pro for the debate.


I thank Con again for this thought-provoking debate.

While children may be thinking, felling, self-aware, with a desire to live, this is not true of infants. So again, Con must either oppose abortion or support infanticide. However, even the embryo is part of a sentient species and has the inherent capacity to perform these functions. They just haven't developed them yet. Con's argument could also be used to support killing a sleeping person or a person in a reversible coma, which most people would believe are immoral acts. Additionally, I already responded to Con's objection about being dependent on only one person, in the analogy of the swimming pool. Con has chosen not to respond as it clearly shows that being dependent on one person does not make one non-valuable. Con would still have a moral obligation to help that child, despite being the only person in the entire world it is depending on for its survival, even if it doesn't know it. As such, I extend my argument.

I have shown why abortion in the embryonic period is immoral. You are killing an innocent human being with the inherent capacity to fulfill all the functions that make humans valuable.

Please vote Pro.
Debate Round No. 3
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by wiploc 4 years ago
Con wasted his first argument by going first. Con shouldn't go first. That never works.

It never works because Con has to guess what Pro's argument will be, and then refute it. If he does too good a job at creating Pro's argument for him, Pro uses his argument and wins. But if Con refutes the argument he created for Pro, then simply says, "That isn't my argument," and produces another, rendering Con's first post irrelevant. Wasted effort.

Which Pro did. He rejected the line of argument that Con thought he could beat, and offered his own argument. Nothing wrong with that. Perfectly proper.

But it leaves Con at a terrible disadvantage turn-wise. Con's first post is no longer relevant to the debate. That means Pro gets to make his argument, then Con gets to respond once, and then Pro gets to go again. Pro goes both first and last, post twice to Con's once.

Which means Con's second post has to be really good if he's going to stand a chance. But he hardly showed up. His second post was hardly relevant to Pro's argument.

Victory: Pro.
Posted by Abel_Rodriguez 4 years ago
Though I agree with Con the case was majorly in other people's words.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by wiploc 4 years ago
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Total points awarded:03 
Reasons for voting decision: RFD in comments.