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Is Abortion Murder?

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 10/23/2016 Category: Religion
Updated: 2 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 831 times Debate No: 96349
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Abortion is murder. The fetus inside the womb is a separate organism, with a beating heart. If it is aborted, it is murdered, and that's that.


Abortion = termination of a pregnancy
Murder = unlawful premeditated killing of one human being by another

What constitutes a human being? Every cell in your body is discernibly "human". We could separate any cell from your body, hand it to a molecular biologist, and they could use lab techniques to determine that it is in fact a human cell. Yet we do not consider the death of a skin cell, or a liver cell, or even a brain cell to be the death of a human. What I am pointing out is the concept of emergent properties.

Humanity as we are discussing it here, is an emergent property. In other words, a human being is a system. Systems are made of many parts. Systems have properties which the individual parts do not. This is called emergence, and it is a scientific way of explaining that "the whole is greater than the sum of its parts". In particular, humans have characteristics like circulation, immune function, consciousness, and emotion. It is central to this debate which of these characteristics we choose to use to define humanity. It clearly cannot be that you must posses ALL these characteristics to be human. There have been people born without immune function who were none-the-less certainly considered human.

We could define humanity many different ways, and I would concede that we could debate the precise definition. We might try to define "humanity" based on appearance or anatomy. A geneticist might define humanity based on specific chromsomes and genes, though that would once again make every cell a human. But it seems to me that consciousness and emotion are the primary systemic requirements, at least for the *kind* of humanity that we are interested in protecting when we discuss the immorality of murder. I will proceed on the assumption that humanity is simply defined as a high level of consciousness and emotion.

Ironically, this allows for a degree of humanity even in non-human animals. A dog has both consciousness and emotion. It is readily apparent when an organism possesses a high level of both consciousness and emotion, we instantly afford it some rights to humane treatment, even if we do not consider that organism human. The same moral outrage we feel at the mistreatment of a human being, we feel even if to a different degree, at the cruel mistreatment of an animal. Hence our well-placed societal intolerance for the abuse of animals. Once again I think this helps to confirm that this is the *sort of humanity* we are talking about protecting in a conversation about what is and is not murder.

We generally afford the highest protections to humans, which is a position easily derived from the fact that the human capacity for consciousness and emotion seems to objectively exceed all other species, owing to our more elaborate neural infrastructure.

I therefore find it prudent and reasonable to use consciousness and emotion as basic criteria for assessing humanity within the context of this discussion.

Embrionic and fetal development is a gradual process. The "parts" that make up a human being are not all assembled simultaneously. To understand the emergence of the qualities of humanity we must monitor fetal development closely. We have done just that.

At eight weeks, brain wave to not yet exist (66% of abortions in the U.S. occur prior to 8 weeks)
At the end of the first trimester, basic brain waves have begun, but neural infrastructure is insufficient to produce consciousness or emotion (92% of abortions in the U.S. occur prior to the end of the first trimester)

Therefore in the cases of most abortions, we cannot argue the humanity of the fetus, at least not in the sense previously discussed.

My position does have an unsettling consequence: Since consciousness and emotion ARE present by the time of birth, we face a difficult situation with abortions occurring after the first trimester. "Humanity" as I have defined it does not suddenly appear. We can demonstrate that it does not exist in the first trimester, but gradually, humanity does develop over time, and with it an increasing responsibility to protect it. There is no clear point in time at which we will be able to say "OK, now it is human" as if it were dramatically less-human the day before. Thus even if we were to all agree to my position in this debate, we would still have to wrestle with abortions occurring after the first trimester. As consciousness and emotion develop, I would concede that the fetus is progressively entitled to an increasing degree of humane protection. How that factors into the larger context, alongside the rights of the mother, her control of her body, or the potential protection of her health and life, is a question worth exploring, but which I think would overshadow the fundamental question of this debate, and for the sake of focusing the discussion on the central question, I will resist that avenue of discussion.

The fundamental question of this debate is whether abortion is murder. In other words, whether the two are synonymous. What I have suggested is a definition of humanity based on the characteristics of consciousness and emotion. While we might define "humanity" in many different ways, I have suggested that THIS kind of humanity is the kind we are trying to protect when we have a dialogue about the immorality of murder. As I have pointed out, this kind of humanity is not yet present in a fetus in the first trimester. And overwhelmingly, abortions are carried out during this time frame. It would seem therefore that in the vast majority of cases, abortion does not constitute murder.
Debate Round No. 1


An embryo and a fetus all have the potential to be human beings, the type that you define. As such, abortion is murder and should be illegal. I think you and I can both agree that partial birth abortions are murder. Also, just as murder is premeditated, so too is an abortion. No one "accidentally" aborts a fetus. I'm sure we can have a later debate about if there is any justification for abortion, which there isn't, but for now, we can focus on the question of is abortion murder.

Let's focus on the psychological effects of one human killing another. They feel awful, if they're mentally healthy. Soldiers have to be desensitized before going into battle. Even then, they suffer PTSD. Mothers who undergo abortions always leave the clinic regretting their choice, at least, mothers I know. It's because we all know killing is wrong, and if a mother aborts in the first trimester, she still feels guilt over her decision. Because she knows it's wrong, and she twists and distorts the definition of human to console her and make her feel less guilty.

This is personal for me, because my older sister, who I love very much, was born out of wedlock, and I can't stand the thought of a world where she was aborted. So forgive me if I seem a little brash.


"Potential Human Being" is a very different proposal than "Human Being". Potential in this context can only be used to draw attention to *what it could become*

Let's consider a few scenarios:

First Consideration: Every cell in the human body is a potential human being. Given the right conditions, cells can be reverted back to earlier stages of development. Or nuclei can be transplanted. In short, we could use a skin cell to create a zygote, implant it into a surrogate mother, and she could carry it to term and give birth to a perfectly normal infant. So every cell is a "potential human being", simply depending on the circumstances and what we do with that cell. If we are going to count "potential human" lives, we are all losing millions of cells every day that have to be counted.

Now some will say that the natural course of development for a zygote is to become a full human being. It is not lost on me that manipulating a cell in a lab to make a zygote is not the "natural course". BUT we are talking about "potential human being" here. And regardless of the mechanism used (natural conception or laboratory) the END RESULT is still the birth of an intelligent, emotional, fully-functional human being. In other words, the "potential human being" that can be produced from a skin cell is indistinguishable from any other human being, and therefore in any discussion of "potential human beings", must be considered just as human, just as valuable, as a human being conceived through a fully natural course. In the world of "potential human beings", a skin cell and a zygote are precisely equal in their potential humanity.

It gets even less clear-cut if you delve further into the "natural course" distinction.

Second Consideration: Suppose we have a naturally-conceived zygote. What would we estimate is the probability that this zygote actually follows the "natural course" of eventually being born. The actual probability is 31%. Yes that's right. 69% of all conceptions result in a zygote/embryo that will die naturally. The process is called "spontaneous abortion". Some of these are stories of heart-wrenching miscarriages--certainly tough on the mother and those close to her. That said, in most cases the spontaneous abortion occurs much earlier, and the woman never even knows she was pregnant.

So we have two scenarios here which I think cripple the notion of "potential human being". First, every cell in the human body has precisely the same potential as a zygote. Second even zygotes produced by normal reproductive means are more than twice as likely to naturally abort then to survive to term, and what is presumed to be the natural course of gestation-to-birth is in fact less likely than one in three.

Let's turn our attention to the psychological considerations you raised. I would point out however that it does not necessarily affect the fundamental question of the debate: Is abortion murder. People feel guilty for things that are not murder. And occasionally we even find murders who do not feel guilty. Psychological feelings are not evidence for arguing that abortion is or is not murder. They are only evidence for how women feel after the procedure..

We can't make the leap to say that mothers who undergo abortions "always" leave the clinic regretting their decision. I know that you realize this, because you followed it up with "at least, mothers i know". But that is a very limited sample size. I don't doubt there are degrees of regret in many women who have undergone abortions. It doesn't necessarily have to mean that they see themselves as murderers. I would argue that part of the reason they might feel guilty are the droves of people opposing abortion who are calling them murderers.....

From there I sensed a lot of accusation in your argument:

1. "she knows its wrong"
She certainly does not *know* it is wrong. That would be an incredibly simple, one-sided way to feel about a very complex, difficult decision. I would expect a woman undergoing an abortion to have complex mixed feelings about it, and from what I can gather that is generally what they report. Do any of us even *know* it is wrong? Isn't that why we're having the debate? Because on some level it feels like a moral grey area?

2. "She twists and distorts the definition of human to console her and make her feel less guilty"
This struck a cord with me because I think people do this sort of rationalizing with difficult situations--but not just people having abortions. We could easily spin this around: You talked about your older sister born out of wedlock. When you think about abortion you think about the terrible scenario where she would never have been in your life. I'm sure that feels awful to think about. Your sister is a fully-developed human being who not only exists, but has a lifetime of experiences and interactions, it sounds like, an important place in your life. For you, the abortion debate has a face. But that face bears no resemblance to the small mass of cells we call an embryo. It isn't the embryo you're valuing. It is everything that it has become now, many years later. Isn't it possible that, under such circumstances *you* are distorting the definition of human to justify this......fear, this anxiety, this the thought that she could so easily have never existed? Have never been a part of your life?

We *should* feel some distress at that prospect. It terrifies me to consider that, even just accounting for the rate of natural spontaneous abortions, my siblings, my family, my friends were all at one time 69% likely to not ever be born. But there is a dangerous potential here to let our emotions overpower our rationality, and start projecting our love for these people onto an embryo which has not yet, and may not ever, become any such thing as a fully-formed human being.

Remember the skin cell problem: a skin cell could have become a person. And he or she (let's go with she) would have had a name (I'm going with Bethany). And Bethany would have parents and siblings and friends and everything else. And maybe she becomes the most important person in the world to you. And we could sit here and talk about how the world would be too terrible to imagine if one day we hadn't artificially created the zygote that became Bethany. But Bethany came from a single skin cell. You're likely to lose tens of thousands of potential Bethany's just while reading this.

We can't evaluate every person that does not come into existence. That does not undermine our ability to embrace the immeasurable value of those that do.
Debate Round No. 2


OK, but still, it's not the mother's choice to decide if the pregnancy should be terminated. The embryo did nothing except be conceived. The potential human being argument still applies, because, even if it were to die due to miscarriage, it would have been natural and no one could help it. It sucks, but it's life. You failed to mention premeditation of abortion, so I believe we can agree on that part of the definition of murder. We now have to argue on what makes it human. For me, we become human when we are naturally conceived, but if someone was born in a lab, they're human as well. Potential human life is still life. Think of it this way: if you were to buy cake mix, then go home, make the batter, put it in a cake pan, then put it into the oven and begin to bake it, only to reach in five minutes later and toss the whole thing into the trash, why make the cake anyway if you were going to trash it? The same applies to abortion. The cake batter is the potential for human life when it is inside the cake pan (think of the pan as the egg, and the batter as the sperm.) If you were to go through that much effort to create a human life, then destroy it, then you are an idiot, for lack of a better word. (Call it ad hominem if you want.)

It seems inevitable that we bring up reasons for abortions, because if they are reasonable, then it wouldn't be murder, correct? If a soldier kills someone during a battle, or Billy kills a burglar in self-defense, then it isn't necessarily murder. First, there are two types of people who get abortions: the consenters and the victims. The consenters are those who agreed to have sex, got pregnant, and wanted to terminate the child. These people are responsible for bearing the child. There is no reason among consenters to have an abortion. They knew the risks of sexual intercourse, they went through with it anyway, and they wish to terminate the fetus because the woman has buyers' remorse. Since there is no reason for a consenter to have an abortion, a consenter going through with an abortion is a murderer. "But what of a teenager?" one might cry out. So what? Again, they gave consent, they assumed the risks, and they got pregnant. After giving birth, they can give the child up for adoption.

Now, a more touchy subject: the victims. These are the women who were raped and got pregnant. Do they have a reason for aborting the child? No. It was against their will, but they are not exempt either. What did the child do to deserve a grisly demise? The zygote did what it was supposed to, without question. Why punish it? Also, if a rape victim aborts the fetus, what justice is that? The rapist is still out there, an innocent life was lost, and nothing beneficial happened.

This debate is under religion, so let's get religious. I am a Roman Catholic, so I believe abortion goes against natural law. That the fetus has a soul, and that by aborting it, we take on the role of God. Everyone knows killing is wrong, down to the core. That's why soldiers are desensitized before entering combat, and why they still suffer PTSD. Have you heard of the question "If you go back in time, would you kill Hitler?" Most say yes, but would they? If they got right up in Hitler's face, with a gun, or a knife, would they do it? What if Hitler was a child? You'd possibly save millions of lives by doing it, but would you? When all he wanted to do was get into art school and paint landscapes and be famous? If we're really honest, we might find we couldn't. Why? Because deep down, we know murder is wrong. Why would abortion be any different?


I will have to disagree with you on several key points.

First, logic dictates that potential human argument does *not* apply unless you concede that every cell in the human body is a potential human being. This seems to be rationally indisputable for the simple reason that we can make those cells into a complete human, and that is the definition of "potential human being".

What I am asking for here is consistency. Are the embryo and the skin cell BOTH potential human beings? Or are NEITHER human beings? What possible justification could there be for considering them different, with respect to potential humanity, when both have precisely the same potential. If both are potential human beings then every skin cell that falls off your body is a tragedy equal to embryonic abortion. Why are we not grieving for each skin cell? I think it is because we have fallen into the peculiar habit, when discussing abortion, of assigning value based on what something might or might note potentially become. As I have previously stated, my position here is that value cannot be assigned according to what something might, or might not, potentially become.

Abortion as a medical procedure (naturally-occurring spontaneous abortion aside) is certainly premeditated. I don't for a minute expect that women are going through abortion without putting a tremendous amount of thought into it. No argument on the premeditation piece.

I have argued that humanity develops, and is most appropriately tied to the nervous system. In my first post I devoted substantial space to this approach to defining "humanity".

You have recently proposed the alternative that we become human when we are naturally conceived. How are you defining human? What possible justification would you offer for this notion? At the moment just prior to fertilization, the sperm and egg are separate cells, and you are saying they are not human. Moments after fertilization, they have fused into a single cell called a zygote. There is nothing present in the zygote that was not present prior to fertilization. The cell is essentially a bubble, and the act of fertilization is analogous to the fusing of two bubbles into one. Do we really think a concept as complex as humanity pops into existence because two bubbles fused? That seems far-fetched. By contrast, I have proposed that what we commonly refer to as "humanity" emerges from the complex neurological circuitry that we develop.

The cake analogy does not add to this debate. It is a metaphor that suffers from several inconsistencies with abortion. One of which is that people trying to bake cakes are trying to bake cakes. People who get pregnant were not necessarily trying to have babies. In some cases birth control failed. There are cases of rape. There are cases where the pregnancy is endangering the woman's life. There are cases like anencephaly where the baby is non-viable to begin with and will not survive even if brought to term.

Before I discuss reasons for abortions, I would note that regardless of the reasons, abortion would fail to be murder if the embryo is not considered a human life. I have hung most of my argument on the basis that an embryo, particularly in the first trimester, is not yet duly considered a human life. So far you have *claimed* that we become human at the moment of conception, but you have provided no justification for that claim. You have only said, and I quote, "For me, we become human when we are naturally conceived". This is a debate. No matter how strongly you believe this to be true, we are under no obligation to accept this belief in the absence of a *rational* justification. As yet, you have not offered a definition of human either, which would be a critical first step towards a rational justification of when we become human.

In raising "reasons for abortions" you have created a straw-man argument for you to debate against. I have not argued that killing human babies can be justified with sufficient reasons. Nor do I believe that. I have argued it is not appropriate, nor is it rationally defensible, to consider the embryo a human life.

I am hesitant to take up the argument that you have framed for me. It is an argument entirely nullified by the argument that an embryo is not a human life. But in the interest of a more thorough discussion, I will be happy to provide some thoughts and counterpoints.

Your Said: "The consenters are those who agreed to have sex, got pregnant, and wanted to terminate the child. These people are responsible for bearing the child. There is no reason among consenters to have an abortion. They knew the risks of sexual intercourse, they went through with it anyway, and they wish to terminate the fetus because the woman has buyers' remorse"

Counterpoint: It seems to me that you're injecting a moral judgment here that they shouldn't have had sex in the first place. Sex is natural. Women are allowed to have sex. We're not (at least I'm not) trying to punish them for it. People have sex for reasons other than having babies. It just seems to me that you're coming at this from a perspective where women are supposed to conform to a certain standard of sexual behavior. I think that is coming from your Roman Catholic background.

The religious argument is where abortion always seems to wind up. Time to go there...

Let me start with this: I respect people. I am willing to afford every person the basic humanity they are due, regardless of their religious beliefs. I respect people. I do not respect beliefs. I analyze beliefs. Beliefs are subject to criticism. Beliefs are subject to critique. Beliefs are subject to logical analysis. I do not spare beliefs from logical analysis simply because they are religious in nature. I put beliefs into the logical crucible and see if they hold up. You may believe something, even for religious reasons, and it may still be a silly belief.

You believe that the fetus has a soul. That is a silly belief. The concept of a soul is materially meaningless. Nothing factual about human beings can be attributed to the soul. It can all be attributed to our neurochemistry. In other words, there is absolutely no logical reason to believe that a soul even *exists*, let alone that there is evidence to precisely pinpoint the moment at which it *comes into existence*. I will be happy to look at whatever evidence you want to offer that a "soul" exists, but I have only ever heard absurd justifications. Everything you think and feel is the result of neurochemistry, and can be documented as such.

Now none of this is to say that you have to abandon your belief in the soul. And even if you cling to this belief, I will still respect you as a human being. I will not seek to take away your rights, or your pursuit of happiness. You can certainly decide to believe in the soul despite a lack of evidence.

But you can't use YOUR religious beliefs to define morality for everyone else. Many of us do not share your religious beliefs. We are falling back on the religious argument because you can't argue humanity of an embryo on the basis of a secular justification. You bring up the religious notion that humanity starts at conception, and absent a secular justification, you justify it with another religious notion--the soul.

Any woman who shares your religious beliefs is welcome to avoid having an abortion if she so chooses. But it an egregious assault on the rights of women everywhere to insist that on the basis of *your* religious beliefs, every other woman must avoid abortion, and that if she does not, she is a murderer. Murder is, after all, a crime. Are we to start defining criminal acts based on religious beliefs? A horrifying prospect, to be sure.
Debate Round No. 3


If this debate wasn't under the Religion topic, then we wouldn't have to bring religion into this. But since it is, we might as well bring in religious arguments, which I will go more in-depth later.

Here's the thing, though; I can scientifically back up my claims. For example, Keith L. Moore & T.V.N. Persaud write, "A zygote is the beginning of a new human being. Human development begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm " unites with a female gamete or oocyte " to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marks the beginning of each of us as a unique individual." Prior to his abortion advocacy, former Planned Parenthood President Dr. Alan Guttmacher was perplexed that anyone, much less a medical doctor, would question this. "This all seems so simple and evident that it is difficult to picture a time when it wasn"t part of the common knowledge," he wrote in his book Life in the Making.

Also, you keep bringing up skin cells. Skin cells have human life. An embryonic zygote is a human being. Big difference there, don't you agree? That is from Princeton University.

From this same website, ProLifeTraining.Com, comes arbitrary arguments a pro-choice supporter might go with:
Size: True, embryos are smaller than newborns and adults, but why is that relevant? Do we really want to say that large people are more human than small ones? Men are generally larger than women, but that doesn"t mean that they deserve more rights. Size doesn"t equal value.

Level of development: True, embryos and fetuses are less developed than the adults they"ll one day become. But again, why is this relevant? Four year-old girls are less developed than 14 year-old ones. Should older children have more rights than their younger siblings? Some people say that self-awareness makes one human. But if that is true, newborns do not qualify as valuable human beings. Six-week old infants lack the immediate capacity for performing human mental functions, as do the reversibly comatose, the sleeping, and those with Alzheimer"s Disease.

Environment: Where you are has no bearing on who you are. Does your value change when you cross the street or roll over in bed? If not, how can a journey of eight inches down the birth-canal suddenly change the essential nature of the unborn from non-human to human? If the unborn are not already human, merely changing their location can"t make them valuable.

Degree of Dependency: If viability makes us human, then all those who depend on insulin or kidney medication are not valuable and we may kill them. Conjoined twins who share blood type and bodily systems also have no right to life.

In short, it"s far more reasonable to argue that although humans differ immensely with respect to talents, accomplishments, and degrees of development, they are nonetheless equal because they share a common human nature.

And sure, one might say that these are hyperbolic arguments, exaggerations. Are they though? No, not really. They are perfectly reasonable and secular.

On way or another, no matter how this debate goes, I will always believe abortion is murder. You might remain pro-choice. I simply put the question forth to find out the opposition and see if I am able to confront it. Thankfully, I have a mature opponent, so that really helps. Just know that an embryo's right to life outweigh a woman's right over her body. There's always varying degrees of concepts, such as color, crime, etc. Even so, there are differing degrees of rights. At the top, life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, to quote the Declaration of Independence. I would put forth that a right to life is more important than, say, the right to vote, or the right to practice your own religion. You continuously bring up a mother who is at risk of death via childbirth. Abortion, according to AbortionFacts.Com, is much riskier and deadlier than seeing a pregnancy through to full term.

You bring up my claim about the consenters. Sex is natural because sex is meant for reproducing. Not for pleasure or a fulfillment of desire. So if a woman has sex for pleasure, and gets pregnant, she would sound like, well, an idiot. "Oh, I didn't think I'd get pregnant for having sex!" Despite the fact that sex *is* meant for reproduction, and women are *supposed* to get pregnant after having intercourse. I'm not saying that every woman who has sex must get pregnant, but you cannot be seriously trying to defend them when *everyone* knows what sex is meant for. So if a consenter tries to get an abortion, it's because the child was an "accident." A "byproduct." A piece of garbage that can be thrown away. NO! NO! UNACCEPTABLE! That is a stupid argument, plain and simple!

You criticize my cake analogy and say that it doesn't work for rape victims. I didn't use it for rape victims. I used it solely for the consenters, those who knew the risks and still had intercourse. Sure, the condom broke. That's not the fault of the human zygote, and so it should not be punished with a grisly end. Rape victims were given their own paragraph. Rape victims are touchier. They have more of a reason to abort than a consenter. But even then, the embryo, which has been scientifically proven to be human, doesn't deserve to die. It is a human being. Also from Princeton,:
Quoting Carlson:

"... [T]hrough the mingling of maternal and paternal chromosomes, the zygote is a genetically unique product of chromosomal reassortment, which is important for the viability of any species."15 (Emphasis added.)

Therefore, the fetus isn't a part of the mother, and isn't subject to the mother's decision on whether it should live or die.

I have so much more to throw at you in this final round. Like this, from the same Princeton article:

Myth 7: "The product of fertilization, up to 14-days, is not an embryo; it is just a A533;pre-embryoA533;A533;and therefore it can be used in experimental research, aborted, or donated."

Fact 7: This "scientific" myth is perhaps the most common error, which pervades the current literature. The term "pre-embryo" has quite a long and interesting history. (See Irving and Kischer, The Human Development Hoax: Time To Tell The Truth!, for extensive details and references.) But it roughly goes back to at least 1979 in the bioethics writings of Jesuit theologian Richard McCormick in his work with the Ethics Advisory Board to the United States Department of Health, Education and Welfare,18 and those of frog developmental biologist Dr. Clifford Grobstein in a 1979 article in Scientific American,19 and most notably in his classic book, Science and the Unborn: Choosing Human Futures (1988).20 Both McCormick and Grobstein subsequently continued propagating this scientific myth as members of the Ethics Committee of the American Fertility Society, and in numerous influential bioethics articles, leading to its common use in bioethics, theological, and public policy literature to this day.

The term "pre-embryo" was also used as the rationale for permitting human embryo research in the British Warnock Committee Report (1984),21 and then picked up by literally hundreds of writers internationally, including, e.g., Australian writers Michael Lockwood, Michael Tooley, Alan TrounsonA533;and especially by Peter Singer (a philosopher), Pascal Kasimba (a lawyer), Helga Kuhse (an ethicist), Stephen Buckle (a philosopher) and Karen Dawson (a geneticist, not a human embryologist).

Oddly, the influential book by Singer, Kuhse, Buckle, and Dawson, Embryo Experimentation,22 (which uses the term "pre-embryo," and which contains no scientific references for its "human embryology" chart or its list of "scientific" terms).

As I have demonstrated, quite clearly, abortion is wrong either through a secular lens or a religious one. Abortion is the premeditated murder of a defenseless human who cannot speak for themselves. I rest my case. We can continue in the comments to tie up loose ends, if you so desire.


A zygote is the first time that the hypothetical person's full genetic code is within the same cell. Cells are essentially bubbles. Prior to fertilization, one set of chromosomes was in the sperm "bubble" and the other set in the egg bubble. At fertilization, the two bubbles fused and you had one bubble containing both sets of chromosomes. It was you who pointed out, correctly so, that a change of location is no justification for something like humanity to suddenly exist. In the case of fertilization, all that has changed is location. The genetic information that was in two cells happens to now be in one fused cell. But nothing has been added or changed. Simply moved. It is also worth noting that even if having all the genetic information in one cell was somehow significant (its not, but if it was) that would not change the fact that the lowly skin-cell I have been referencing all along ALSO has this same characteristic.

When a scientist says that the zygote is "a new human being", they do not mean what you are suggesting they mean. I use this phrase myself and I certainly don't mean to imply that a zygote is suddenly somehow a fundamental, borderline magical leap in development. The scientific community at large does not consider the zygote special in any way that the sperm and egg are not. The zygote is human. The sperm was human too. And the egg. And the embryo will be human. And the third cell from the left in your kidney. And every other cell in your body. They are all "human" in the scientific genetic sense. The zygote noteworthy only in that the full genetic code of what might become a new human being is, for the first time, inside the same cell.

What you are doing in your argument is as follows:
1. Use a seemingly-credible source to state scientifically that the zygote is the first cell of a new human being
2. Bait-and-switch the definition of "human being" from a species-based scientific one (genetic-definition, whereby all cells in your body are human) back to a definition of "human" along the lines of what we have been debating all along.

"Skin cells have human life. An embryonic zygote is a human being. Big difference there, don't you agree?"
No I don't agree. It is a meaningless statement. Give me a tangible explanation of how that is different? The only defense I can foresee is the "potential human being" argument, which we have already seen falls apart under even modest scrutiny. Also it is not from "Princeton University". It is from a woman named Dianne Irving, who happened to be affiliated with Princeton University when she published the article in the International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy. Had she tried to publish it in a scientific journal, it would have been ripped to shreds, for a variety of reasons, including the fact that nowhere in the article does she even define "human being" except to say that it begins at conception. She provides no justification for this claim. She simply stacks the vocabulary in her favor, by defining "human being" as what you have from conception onward.

If there is one thing I learned from it is that the Pro-Life advocates who maintain that website do not even remotely understand the pro-choice arguments they are trying to refute.

I have *never* heard the argument that birth itself is the key step in deriving humanity. As you said, it is just a change in location. We are also not doing abortions days before birth. We are doing abortions overwhelmingly in the first trimester, with a few exceptions just beyond this point, usually when mom's life is endangered.

I have *never* heard the argument that a person has to be fully developed to be considered human. Just the argument that if there has not yet been ANY discernible brain activity, and certainly no brain activity beyond that of a slug, that the embryo is not necessarily human.

I have *never* heard the argument that because the fetus is not yet viable, it is not yet human. Some babies are born non-viable without medical intervention, which then saves them. is not arguing against the *actual* prolife arguments. They're arguing against misquoted, misrepresented, misunderstood oversimplifications of the prolife arguments. Straw man arguments that they tailored to their own purpose, so they could show that they have an answer. They haven't even got to the actual questions.

Continuing with my homework assignment of checking your sources, let's talk about The info is simply wrong. They do not cite a single source for the facts they lay out. Anyone (myself included) could make a website like this. Credibility = zero. But let's look just for fun:

"Abortion is much riskier and deadlier than seeing a pregnancy through to full term"
Ridiculous statement. Complications are almost always minor, and occur at a rate of approximately 0.25%. This is about the same rate of complications you see with colonoscopies (Ushma et. al, 2014, Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology).

Continuing on. You have stated that sex is "not for pleasure or a fulfillment of desire" and that "women are *supposed* to get pregnant after having intercourse". This wreaks of religious undertones. Human beings have sex for precisely one reason: because our instincts tell us to. We are hard-wired to want sex, and to have sex, and to enjoy sex, and so we are in the habit of doing it. Now I will concede that evolution developed sex as an effective means of reproduction. But it seems to me that you have layered a lot of societal expectations on top of that. For reasons I have never understood, the Roman Catholic Church is oddly preoccupied with our sex lives.

"Piece of garbage to be thrown away" is another argument that no one is making, except the pro-life people looking for a point to debate against. Women *do* wrestle with this decision, even if they believe as I do. No one is carelessly, thoughtlessly rushing into these decisions. When you say it that way, you are making it sound black-and-white. If there is one thing this issue absolutely is NOT, its black-and-white.

Embryo vs. pre-embryo is irrelevant. Even if we agreed to a distinction it would be arbitrary, and just a matter of vocabulary. I am happy to consider the zygote an embryo as soon as the first cell division takes place. My argument hangs on an embryo, regardless of what we call it, not yet possessing "humanity" as we mean to defend it.

Here are my closing points:

1. I have offered a definition of "humanity" based on neurological criteria (intelligence/emotion). I offered this criteria knowing that we could define humanity in many ways, but believing none-the-less that this is the *type* of humanity that we are so interested in protecting.

2. Science has shown) that an embryo in the first trimester cannot come close to meeting this definition of "humanity"

3. I have conceded that an embryo will possibly become a full human being, and that by the time of birth there can be no doubt that the embryo possesses "humanity". It therefore develops humanity over time, and there is likely no precise point at which we can suddenly say it has humanity. However, we can be sure that during the first trimester, it does not have humanity yet.

4. I have shown that the "potential human being" argument is indefensible, since every cell in the human body is a potential human being. There are limitless "potential human beings". They are better referred to as "hypothetical human beings", and we cannot assess their value as being equal to an actual human being.

5. You have not offered a counter-definition of humanity, except to say that it is there as of the moment of conception.

6. Because the overwhelming majority of abortions occur in the first trimester, when embryos cannot rationally be said to possess the kind of humanity we are considering in this debate, we must conclude that, at least in the vast majority of cases, abortion does not constitute murde
Debate Round No. 4
1 comment has been posted on this debate.
Posted by ChaseE 2 years ago
I will say, I think this was a fine debate. You did well. I have no doubt that you'd have won if this was not under religion. We didn't really elaborate on that.
1 votes has been placed for this debate.
Vote Placed by hutch976 2 years ago
Agreed with before the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Agreed with after the debate:Vote Checkmark--0 points
Who had better conduct:--Vote Checkmark1 point
Had better spelling and grammar:Vote Checkmark--1 point
Made more convincing arguments:Vote Checkmark--3 points
Used the most reliable sources:Vote Checkmark--2 points
Total points awarded:60 
Reasons for voting decision: As indicative of my numerical score, Pro had the more convincing arguments, as he was able to span into science, philosophy, and religion. Con did not do so as skillfully.