Most Abortion should be Considered Murder
My position for this debate is that in most cases, abortion should be considered murder. The qualifier "most" is used because I wish to exclude abortion in cases of rape, incest, or life of the mother. I believe these are unique situations and they make up a very small percentage of all abortions performed. Terms are defined as follows:
Abortion - Intentionally terminating a pregnancy before giving birth
Murder - Intentionally ending another human life
Life - I anticipate much of this debate will focus on when human life begins. I am open to debating the best definition of this. I would ask voters to accept the most logically convincing definition that is presented.
Organization is as follows:
Round 1 - acceptance only, no arguments
Round 2 - opening arguments for each side, no rebuttals
Round 3 - rebuttals
Round 4 - response/additional rebuttals, conclusion
I realize this is a very emotional topic. I am looking for someone who is willing to debate in a calm, respectful, and logical manner. Burden of proof is shared. No trolling, use of sources is encouraged. If you agree to these terms, please accept.
Thanks to my opponent for accepting. I would like to begin by reaffirming the emotional sensitivity of this topic. My hope is to have a respectful and constructive discussion without offending or angering either side. I would also like to once again clarify that we will not be discussing cases of rape, incest, or danger to life of the mother.
Murder is intentionally ending another human life, which most people agree is wrong. Most people would also agree that abortion is the intentional termination of a pregnancy before birth. Of course, there are many other definitions we could use, but my opponent and I have both agreed to the two described above, and I believe they are reasonably accurate for our purposes here. I also acknowledge there are cases when intentionally ending a human life is not considered murder, such as war or self-defense, but I hope we can both agree that such cases are outside the parameters of this topic. With this in mind, the question we must answer is whether the intentional termination of a pregnancy ends a human life. If it does, then abortion is murder according to our definitions.
To answer this question, I will first examine multiple different definitions of life across numerous disciplines and determine if an unborn child can be included within each definition.
I will start with the dictionary. Several definitions of life according the Merriam-Webster dictionary are:
1) The ability to grow, change, etc., that separates plants and animals from things like water or rocks
2) The quality that distinguishes a vital and functional being from a dead body
3) An organismic state characterized by capacity for metabolism, growth, reaction to stimuli, and reproduction
Starting with the first definition, we must ask if a fetus has the ability to grow and change. The answer is undoubtedly yes. In most cases, pregnancy tests cannot detect a pregnancy until week 4 or later. By this time, a fertilized egg has already implanted in the uterus and is dividing cells. From the very earliest moment a woman can know she’s pregnant, a fertilized egg has already begun to grow and change. Therefore, it fits our first definition of life.
For the second definition, we must determine if an embryo is distinguishable from a dead body. The answer is again yes. A dead body decays, performs no system functions, and does not grow. An embryo does not decay, performs basic system functions (like an independently beating heart at week 5), and grows. It seems an embryo fulfills this definition as well.
For definition number three, does an unborn child possess the capacity for metabolism, growth, reaction to stimuli, and reproduction? Yes. An unborn child can absorb and metabolize nutrients, they grow, they can detect light, sound, and touch stimuli while in the womb. While they obviously cannot reproduce, they begin developing sex organs within a few weeks and females produce eggs during week 16. They are growing the capability to reproduce, which will not be fully actualized until puberty. Once again, an unborn child seems to fit into the definition of life.
Let’s move on to other categorical definitions. Medically, life is defined as “The energy that enables organisms to grow, reproduce, absorb and use nutrients, and evolve, and, in some organisms, to achieve mobility, express consciousness, and demonstrate a voluntary use of the senses .” Do the unborn possess this energy? Yes.
What about in the realm of astrophysics? Astronomers find it more difficult to define life because they must consider the possibility of its existence in conditions that are not present on Earth. However, we do have some attempts. Astrobiologist Benton Clark of the University of Colorado proposes that life involves three factors: “Life reproduces, and life uses energy. These functions follow a set of instructions embedded within the organism .” The “set of instructions” Clark refers to is DNA or something similar. NASA observes that life as we know it on earth tends to be complex, absorbs energy from its environment, synthesizes absorbed energy into growth and reproductive capability, and reacts to stimuli . Once again, unborn embryos/fetuses meet each one of these characteristics in some capacity. While they cannot reproduce themselves, their cells do (this is how they grow), indicating that they indeed consist of living cells. They absorb energy from their environment (the mother) and synthesize that energy into growth. They possess DNA, and they react to stimuli. I submit, therefore, that the unborn meet an astrophysical definition of life as well.
This is all fairly uncontroversial though. Few people would deny that a zygote/embryo/fetus is a living organism in some capacity. The real question is: is it a human life? After all, stepping on a spider is not typically considered murder – that category is reserved for human lives only. There are biological and philosophical considerations that can help us answer this question.
Biologically, humans have 46 chromosomes with DNA specific to the Homo Sapiens species. All 46 chromosomes, as well as the human specific DNA that comes with them, are present in the zygote the moment fertilization occurs. According to the book Human Embryology & Teratology, “fertilization is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is thereby formed.... The combination of 23 chromosomes present in each pronucleus results in 46 chromosomes in the zygote. ”
Even if an abortion happens immediately after pregnancy can first be confirmed (4 weeks), the embryo has already begun developing a brain, spinal cord, and heart. By week 6, the arms, legs, eyes, and bones develop. The heart also begins beating . These are all distinctly human features. The brains and spines of the unborn are not the brains and spines of some sub-human species. They are genetically and fully Homo Sapien, just at an early stage of development.
Philosophically, in order to identify an embryo as “non-human” or “not yet fully human,” we must be able to identify a point at which that organism does become fully human. This distinction is very difficult to make unless you draw it at the moment of birth. But even drawing the line at birth presents philosophical problems. Is a baby really not fully human until the second it leaves the womb? What about after leaving the womb but before the umbilical cord is cut? What about after the cord is cut, since the baby is still completely dependent on others for survival and its brain is still not developed? I am interested to hear my opponent’s distinction of when human life begins, if not at conception.
To conclude, I submit my definition of human life as: “A collection of living cells containing all 46 human chromosomes and complete human DNA that, if kept alive and healthy, will eventually develop into a mature human capable of reproducing with other humans.” Therefore, ending such a life intentionally is murder. Yes, I fully realize there are genetic and sexual mutations that do not fit this definition, but I would direct any critics to the word “most” in the topic title. While there are always exceptions, I believe this definition reasonably describes most human life on Earth.
I look forward to Con’s opening arguments.
 Mosby’s Medical Dictionary (8th Edition, Elsevier, 2009).
 O'Rahilly, Ronan and Muller, Fabiola. Human Embryology & Teratology. 2nd edition. (New York: Wiley-Liss, 1996), 8-29
FrankTheBob forfeited this round.
FrankTheBob forfeited this round.
I'm sorry for not responding. I've been away. There is no point starting a debate in the final round. I would like to respectfully forfeit due to my absents in this debate. Voters please be kind. My absents is due to personal matters that came up recently. I wish not to speak of what came up, but just know my absents is not my fault. I had intentions of doing this debate. My apologies go out to sengejuri and everyone looking forward to this debate.
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