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Most Abortion is Murder

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 5/31/2014 Category: Politics
Updated: 7 years ago Status: Post Voting Period
Viewed: 1,008 times Debate No: 55801
Debate Rounds (4)
Comments (2)
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*****ONLY ACCEPT IF YOU WILL ACTUALLY DEBATE THIS. My last two opponents in this debate forfeited. My position is that abortion should be considered murder in most cases. The qualifier "most" is used because I wish to exclude abortion in cases of rape, incest, or danger to the life of the mother. I believe these are unique situations and they make up a very small percentage of total abortions performed annually. 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 strongest definition that is presented.

Organization is as follows:

Round 1 - acceptance only, no arguments

Round 2 - opening arguments from 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. Please do not accept if you plan on forfeiting.


I accept. I agree with your definitions of "murder" and "abortion", and I also assure you that I will be completing this debate.
Debate Round No. 1


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 again clarify that we are not including cases of rape, incest, or danger to the life of the mother in this debate.

Murder is intentionally ending another human life. 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 agreed to the two listed above, and I believe they are reasonably accurate for our purposes here. I also acknowledge there are cases when intentionally ending another 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 consider is whether the intentional termination of a pregnancy ends a human life. If it does, then abortion is murder according to our definitions.

Before we consider what human life is, we must first examine the characteristics of life in general. I will 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 an embryo 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 [1]." 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 its possible existence in conditions not found 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 [2]." 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 [3]. 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 this definition of life as well.

I believe I have presented ample evidence to demonstrate that the unborn are living things. This is all fairly uncontroversial though. Few people would deny that a zygote/embryo/fetus is a living organism. 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. [4]"

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 [5]. These are all distinctly human features. The brains and spines of the unborn are not the organs of some separate sub-human species. They are genetically 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 some 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 defects 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.

[1] Mosby"s Medical Dictionary (8th Edition, Elsevier, 2009).



[4] O'Rahilly, Ronan and Muller, Fabiola. Human Embryology & Teratology. 2nd edition. (New York: Wiley-Liss, 1996), 8-29



So to get bearings I'll just kind of summarize what it appears we are trying to do. We are trying to determine if an embryo is human life or not. I shall begin.


Definition 1:

Defining life as something that "grows and changes" is kind of ambiguous. When life grows it has things to do with DNA and RNA, and building proteins. Rivers can grow in width and change direction. Rocks can grow as sediment gets layed down and change in composition. A mass of iron, carbon, oxygen, etc in space also conglomerates and "grows and changes". Dead whales build up a lot of gas and explode, which is a form "growing and changing" too. I wouldn't consider a star, rivers, sedimentary rock, or a dead whale to be alive yet they grow and change. Suffice it to say that life grows and changes in different ways that other things grow and change. So the word "grow" doesn't get at the core of the difference.

Let's define A as the set of all things that grow and change, B as the set of all things that should be, or it doesn't matter if, they are murdered/disposed of/destroyed/have its process terminated. Define h as a healthy human, and w as a dead whale (which have reasons to be disposed of [1])

A = {w, h}

B = {w}

A*B = {w}

I just used the example of a dead whale, I'm sure you can thing of many things that belong to set A*B. If it belongs to set A, then it can certainly belong to set B. I'm sure you can think of many things that belong to both sets. So saying that a fertilized egg belongs to set A, is not justification for saying that it should not be in set B. You need to define a third set, C which includes among other things humans and fetuses and zygotes, such that B*C = {}, the null set. And of course I do not believe there to be such a set.

I don't think there is such a set because of the following: I would argue that a fully developed human is much more different than the sperm and egg cells that are produced and terminated by the millions in either a single man or woman. And if you are throwing out these cells by the millions, I don't think combining them makes them any more valuable. I think once the baby is born, it is obviously a wonderful and blessed thing which would be immoral to put in set B. But as for a few cells... I don't think individual cells are important. Neither does your body. Toss them in set B.


Definition 2:

Call a living human E and a dead human D. Call the quality of being able to think "t". Call the quality of having a heartbeat "h". Both these qualities distinguish D from E. Call the set of qualities that distinguish D and E, set L for shorthand.

So what we have is t, a quality that distinguishes E and D. Does anything that has quality t, belong in set B? Why you agreed yourself that war is not murder, and soldiers, call them S, have quality t, and belong in set B.

So the takeaway from that is, even though something has a quality from set L, the presence of that quality in some object S does not mean that object S does not belong in set B. Here's my set notation so far:

B = {w, S}

S has quality t

To explicitly counter your argument with brevity, some things that aren't dead should be made dead, as we've proved (as long as you accept that soldiers should be killed or it doesn't matter if the are). To counter my argument here, you'd have to explain why we shouldn't kill soldiers, and why all things that have a quality from set L should not be killed... which is... hard to do.


Definition 3:

That's a good definition for life, I like that one. But it's not the exclusive definition of "human life". The two are different concepts. I of course, being con, do not consider the early stages of a fetus to be human life. I'm sure we both don't consider sperm or egg cells to be human life, so this debate considers where we need to draw the line.


You said this, I should add:

"I also acknowledge there are cases when intentionally ending another human life is not considered murder"

Abortion is the termination of an unborn fetus, or whatever we defined it as above. Even if this fetus is considered "human life" as defined in this debate, ending human life isn't always murder, as you claim. So when IS ending human life, "murder"?

So, to summarize, the resolution is "Most abortion is murder". Murder is killing something that has "human life". So this debate seems to resolve around whether you can prove that a fetus is that, and whether or not I can prove that it isn't that.

Though, this statement you made: "I also acknowledge there are cases when intentionally ending another human life is not considered murder" REALLY REALLY complicates this debate. Because now we have to find a way to determine whether or not ending human life is actually murder or not, BEFORE we can even progress to arguing whether or not an embryo is a human life. Because if ending human life is not murder in some cases, then....

What IS murder?

Debate Round No. 2


I would like to thank Con for their swift response. I find debates much more enjoyable when people respond quickly.

While I applaud my opponent's detailed and logical entry, I am disappointed that they immediately jumped into rebuttals. The agreed upon debate rules clearly state that round 2 was for opening arguments only. Unfortunately, this makes things a bit lopsided going into round 3, but let us proceed nonetheless.

Con gives an impressive presentation by assigning variables to certain ideas and demonstrating logical relationships between them. Unfortunately, they expended all this effort on points that were not intended as arguments. They are simply dictionary definitions, and I only used them to define life in general, not human life. In any case, Con did accept the third definition and did not even address the remaining three (medical, astrophysical, and my own proposed definition of human life) in any significant way, which leads us to assume they are accepted as well. I am perfectly willing to discard the first two definitions and work with the remaining four if my opponent wishes. As a result, I see no need to respond further to Con's rebuttals against the first two definitions, especially since they weren't even arguments to begin with.

Con writes, "I would argue that a fully developed human is much more different than the sperm and egg cells . . . I don't think individual cells are important." I agree. That is why we are not discussing sperm cells or egg cells, we are discussing the organism they create called a zygote. An egg only has 23 chromosomes, a sperm only has 23 chromosomes. A human has 46. I defined human life as a collection of living cells containing 46 human chromosomes. However, since my opponent advocates that these individual cells be tossed into "set B," the obvious follow on question is - at what point is it no longer ok to toss these cells into set B? When they become 4 cells? 8? 16? 200,000? As Con correctly identified, this debate considers where we need to draw the line. I draw it at conception. Con says that a baby is a wonderful and blessed thing once it is born - so I ask again, is it not equally as wonderful 30 seconds before it is born? How about an hour? A day? Where does Con draw the line?

I will now address Con's reference to my admission that some termination of human life is not considered murder. It's obvious that defining murder as "intentionally ending another human life" inevitably opens the door to cases like war or self-defense, which are not considered murder. I acknowledged this up front in hopes that it would help us avoid collapsing into semantics. My opponent says that this "REALLY REALLY complicates this debate" I agree, which is exactly why I said "I hope we can both agree that such cases are outside the parameters of this topic." If we can agree that most abortion is not in the same category as war or self-defense, then we can easily move on and get back to the substance of the debate. If we cannot agree to that, then we must muddle through the semantics. In the event that Con chooses the latter option, I offer the following:

This debate is not about defining instances when ending a human life is or is not murder. Before we could even discuss that, Con would first have to admit that a fetus is indeed a human life, which I do not believe they are prepared to do. This debate is about proving whether a zygote/embryo/fetus should be considered human life. As my opponent said in their opening paragraph, "We are trying to determine if an embryo is human life or not." We both agreed to accept the murder definition provided in round 1. As a result, all of our arguments operate under the assumption that murder is intentionally ending a human life. Period. Therefore, for the purposes of this debate, killing in war and self-defense is still murder by definition. Socially accepted manifestations of murder, yes, but murder nonetheless. If my opponent wants to debate why and when we should not kill soldiers then we would have to discuss Just War Theory, the principle of declared hostile intent, etc... While that is a highly interesting topic, it would be more appropriately discussed in a separate debate.

The answer to Con's final question (What IS murder?) can be found in round 1. You cannot agree that murder is "intentionally ending another human life" in round 1 and then say that intentionally ending another human life might not be murder in round 2. Con should have asked for a more specific definition before accepting the debate if they wanted to play that game.

As I read over my opponent's round 2 entry one last time, there aren't really any arguments I can respond to other than the aforementioned definitional attacks. The most I can find is the brief comparison that a fully developed human is more important than a sperm or egg. My response to that is, first, this debate is not about some life being more important than other life. It's about if a fetus is a human life. Importance is irrelevant. Such logic suggests that only killing important humans is murder. Second, using a fully developed human as a comparison is meaningless to this topic. Technically, humans are not fully developed until after puberty when their reproductive systems mature. So, according to this reasoning then, is a fully developed adult more human than a 6 year old? If Con wishes to imply that the level of development factors into a life being human, they have given no evidence to support such a claim.

In conclusion, I would like to remind my opponent that the burden of proof is shared. Con manages to say, "I of course, being con, do not consider the early stages of a fetus to be human life" but they have provided no evidence to show why this might be true. I look forward to Con establishing their position more in round 3.


One way to draw the line between "human life" and "reproductive cells", I suggest, is to draw it when the parents finalize the name of their offspring.

Parents may decide a name for their child at conception, but they can't know the gender right away. So they will have to decide both female and male names, to be prepared for either case. You could finalize the name at conception by choosing a unisex name like Jordan or Taylor, but this would not allow the parents to choose the name they want, perhaps if they have a grandparent's name they wish to use. So not all parents can finalize the name right at conception. They have to weight 18 or so weeks to determine the gender. Up until those 18 weeks have expired, the fetus is nameless. If it is human life, it should be able to have a human name.

And if it can't have a human name, then terminating it isn't murder.


If human life begins at conception, then menstruation is murder

This argument is quite simple. Fertilized eggs can be flushed out of the female body. That's a well known fact I don't think it's necessary to cite it (nor can I find a paper specifically about that because it's too basic of a fact). The heading speaks for itself. The human body itself doesn't think that every egg that gets fertilized deserves to grow into a fully developed human. I don't see why we should, or how it's even possible for us to hold every fertilized egg in regard as "human life", if it's just a waste by-product of reproduction.


Those are my two main expansions on the idea of human life. Below are some addendums:


Human life can be defined as something that has human consciousness. Fetuses don't have consciousness; I'll support that by asking anyone to recall their experience in the womb. Consciousness requires memory, and if there's no memory of an event then a human life didn't experience it. Forgetting happens though; people don't remember events after heavily intoxicating themselves, but during the event they can at least maintain some short term memory (they know where they are and what they are doing). If you ask them their name, they can probably tell you, so their long term memory must be working as well. If you are asleep, you still have human life in you because you have memory of before you went to sleep, and after you went to sleep. Anything upper limited and lower limited by memory of experience of events is considered to be an event in human life. Human life begins when you have your first memory, and ends at the point when going forward, you will no longer remember anything else.

So at the very least, it's certain that human life begins or has begun at consciousness.


Fertilization is just another chemical reaction. If we consider sperm cells to be human life, then that means male ejaculation is abortion/murder. If we consider female egg cells to be human life, then menstruation is abortion/murder. Neither of these cells alone is a human life. And even when they are combined in a chemical reaction, menstruation can still toss them. Which would mean the body is a murderer, given definitions from round 1. You could argue that males could be told not to masturbate, but telling females not to menstruate is futile.

The body performs many chemical reactions. Fertilization is just another one of those. If the body is not trying to protect the result of this chemical reaction, then it suggests we should not try to protect the result by calling it "human life".



"I draw it at conception. Con says that a baby is a wonderful and blessed thing once it is born - so I ask again, is it not equally as wonderful 30 seconds before it is born? How about an hour? A day? Where does Con draw the line?"

At the point after which the name has been given to the child. My reasoning has been elaborated above.

"So, according to this reasoning then, is a fully developed adult more human than a 6 year old?"

No. Rather than the idea of "more human", I prefer to say "human or non-human"; a binary answer rather than a continuum.

"Con manages to say, "I of course, being con, do not consider the early stages of a fetus to be human life" but they have provided no evidence to show why this might be true."

Rather than use evidence to determine when human life begins, I will use biology and human behaviour, as elaborated above.



If you call it the Just War Theory, to explain why killing soldiers is ok, then so be it. That really would be a topic fo another debte and probably a red herring in this one. I appreciate the rebuttal given in the anticipation of the event I may have wished to muddle through semantics. I suppose in this debate, morbid as it may be, we will have to exclude soldiers from the definition of "human life" to avoid contradiction. And if a fetus arises from rape, incest, etc. then aborting it isn't considered murder, nor is it not considered murder, in this debate. Just a technicality I suppose.

My final statement for this round: Abortion of an unnamed fetus is not murder, nor is a natural process of the body.
Debate Round No. 3


Welcome to the final round! Let’s get right to it.

Con categorizes their argument into 5 sections: Human names, menstruation, human consciousness, chemical reaction, and responses to questions. I will address each of these in the order they appear.

1. Human names: Con argues that a fetus qualifies as human life once the parents permanently name it. As an example, they note that names cannot be finalized until gender is detected. According to this logic, a mother who chooses not to find out the gender until birth delivers a non-human at 40 weeks, while a mother who chooses to find out at 20 weeks carries a human for 20 more (assuming a 40 week pregnancy, of course). This makes no sense.

This argument incorrectly assumes that an embryo remains genderless until our current level of technology allows us to detect it. In most cases, gender is determined by the cells’ possession of an XX or XY chromosomal pairing. This pairing happens at conception. So, the cells possess gender immediately, we just can’t detect it until later. Our technological limitations for detecting gender do not indicate its non-existence.

Second, for something to be considered human life it must be somehow distinguishable from other life forms. I propose this distinction is made by the presence of human DNA and 46 chromosomes. Con proposes that names accomplish this distinction. However, we also give other life forms human names. A fish can be named Larry. A dog can be named Richard. This undoubtedly disqualifies the premise that names distinguish human life from other life forms.

Finally, we must consider people who don’t have a known name, or who choose to change their names. Are nameless orphans non-human until someone finds them and names them? If people change their name, was their existence under the former name a non-human existence since the name was not permanent? Surely not.

I believe this more than disqualifies Con’s first argument.

2. Menstruation: Con argues that if human life beings at conception, then menstruation must qualify as murder. Even if it did, this does nothing for Con’s case because it’s not abortion. It is miscarriage. Abortion is the INTENTIONAL termination of a pregnancy, and miscarriage is not intentional (if a woman intentionally forces a miscarriage, then it qualifies as abortion). However, miscarriage is not murder either because murder also involves intentionality. Therefore, unintended miscarriage is neither abortion nor murder. Nothing more needs to be said on this point.

3. Human consciousness: In this argument, Con throws around a term that is impossibly complex. Entire books can (and have) been written attempting to define human consciousness - assuming it even exists at all. But, since my opponent offers it I must still try to refute it. Con says (quote), “Consciousness requires memory.” They posit that no one remembers being in the womb, therefore, we were not conscious beings in the womb. They go on to make the astounding claim that “human life only begins when you have your first memory.” Assuming this is true, then I ask if anyone remembers having their umbilical cord cut, or taking their first breath? The earliest memories I have are maybe from age 3 or 4, possibly later. So was I not human until age 3? Was I not human if I have no memory of taking my first breath? This means intentionally stabbing a newborn is not murder, which is certainly not true.

Even if we play a very generous devil’s advocate, and assume consciousness does require memory, there are still problems Con must deal with. For example, let’s say a 40 year old man comes out of a 3 year coma with complete amnesia and remembers nothing of his previous life. Did he then lose his humanity between year 1 and year 37? At the risk of indulging in Ad Hominem, this is a ridiculous claim.

Con commits the logical fallacy of denying the antecedent with this argument. Con says: If a being has memory, then it has human consciousness. Fetuses have no memory, therefore they have no human consciousness. I will demonstrate why this is a fallacy. Consider the claim: If bacteria enter my body, I will get sick. Bacteria did not enter my body, therefore I will not get sick. But, you could still get sick from a virus or poison. Denying the premise does not prove the conclusion.

4. Fertilization as a chemical reaction: This point is a combination of previous arguments presented by Con. Con asks if we consider sperm or egg cells as human life. I already answered this point in the previous round. Sperm cells have 23 chromosomes, eggs have 23 chromosomes. Humans have 46 chromosomes. Sperm and egg cells are not human life, so ejaculation or menstruation is not murder. Confusingly, my opponent goes on to say “neither of these cells alone is a human life,” so they negate their own argument in the previous two sentences. Con then refutes their own menstruation argument by writing, “telling females not to menstruate is futile.” This is an admission that menstruation cannot be controlled and therefore cannot be intentional, which means it is not murder or abortion.

5: Responses to questions: I will only address one because the rest are repetitive. Con says in response to comparing a fully developed human to a 6 year old that they “prefer to say ‘human or non-human.” This digs my opponent an even deeper hole, because now they are not calling the 6 year old non-human. Unless, of course, Con either shows that a 6 year old is fully developed or withdraws their argument that the level of development indicates human life.

In conclusion, I must point out that my opponent has never challenged or even referenced my definition of human life from Round 2. In case it was missed, I will present it again: "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.” I submit that my case for human life beginning at conception is much stronger than my opponent’s case that it does not. As a result, intentionally ending a pregnancy after conception qualifies as murder.

I would like to thank BradK for debating this with me, I had fun and I hope they did too.



1 Human Names

My distinction of using the name to begin human life can work if you consider "human" vs "human life". A human corpse is human, since it still has 46 chromosomes (you can get DNA from hair and other dead cells), but it's not "human life". Interestingly a human corpse still has living cells [1]. So if I refine my definition of human life, incorporating pro's, then I could propose "human life" is:

A - a collection of living cells with 46 chromosomes and human DNA
B - an organism with a human name
C - an organism with developed or undeveloped potential for consciousness and sentience

If a collection of atoms has all 3 of these characteristics, then I would consider it "human life". Refining my definition like this deals with the issue of a fish named Larry, because Larry the fish does not meet all 3 of these criteria. And abortion of an unnamed fetus would not be considered murder under this definition.

What about feral children or nameless orphans? I suppose orphans could name each other if they wanted. Humans are social creatures and generally come in packs, so there's always another human around to name you. As for the feral child, it's a sad reality no doubt, and opens up a troubling philosophy. If no one knows about the feral child, is it "human life"? No one knows whether the feral child exists or not, it's merely a possibility. It's sort of like "if a tree falls in the forest does it make a sound?". I could adjust my definition, by adding on "D - is possibly a feral child", but that topic seems like it's very tangential to "is abortion murder?" so I won't get into feral children. If it troubles you, then add D to the above criteria.

So the above 3 criteria (plus more if you wish) I will use for the definition of "human life".

Picking Apart Pro's Definition

I will humbly attempt to pick apart pro's definition.

Since a corpse can have living cells with DNA in them, this part of pro's definition "A collection of living cells containing all 46 human chromosomes and complete human DNA" is not enough to define a human life. So the best definition for human life will be either what my opponent or I tack on to that statement.

For this part of the definition, "if kept alive and healthy, will eventually develop into a mature human", the unavoidablee question is "what is maturity?". What about the morbid case when a baby develops cancer? I'm not sure what age would be considered the point for "maturity", but whatever age it is it's possible for terminal cancer to develop before that point. Terminal cancer could develop, despite all efforts to keep a baby alive and healthy. It might be argued "well the baby clearly wasn't alive and healthy if it got cancer". Cancer risk can be reduced but it can't be eliminated [2] so a baby could be kept alive and healthy and still fail to mature. A baby with terminal cancer will not develop into a mature human; this is just one example of when the above statement is false.

The phrase "capable of reproducing with other humans" is not enough to define human life, because suppose the baby makes it to maturity but is infertile. This human life doesn't fit this criteria.

So to summarize, assume there are 3 people, Albert, Bill and Charles. Albert is dead. Bill is a 6 month old baby who developed terminal cancer and won't make it past age 1. Charles is infertile. None of these people satisfy all of the criteria in pro's definition of being "alive and human". Yet Bill and Charles satisfy all 3 of my criteria above, as one would intuit. If Bill or Charles were arguing for their human rights, they would want to use my definition of "human life", not pro's.

Human Consciousness

I think I fixed all the issues by saying "human life" doesn't have to be conscious, but has the potential to be conscious. For the sake of completion assume a baby enters a coma, on the day it is born, before it gains consciousness and memory. You could keep it on life support until came out of the coma, in which case it would eventually develop consciousness.

For the man who woke up at a coma at age 40, with no memory of his previous life, I'd argue he's living his second life. The atoms that make up your current consciousness and memories used to make up other peoples' memories and consciousness. It's the same thing with this 40 year old man waking up with amnesia, more or less. I've never heard of anything like this actually happening before though, so it's pure philosophy as far as I am aware.


Albert, Bill, and Charles are considered "human life" under my criteria, but not under pro's criteria. If you use their definition, killing Bill or Charles wouldn't be considered murder; if you used my definition it would be. Additionally, with my definition, not all abortion is murder.

I thank sengejri for an interesting and thought-provoking debate.

[1] http : // www (dot) huffingtonpost (dot) com/2012/06/13/stem-cells-corpses_n_1592935 (dot) html

[2] http : // www (dot)cancerresearchuk (dot) org/cancer-info/healthyliving/introducingcancerprevention/can-cancer-be-prevented

Debate Round No. 4
2 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 2 records.
Posted by BradK 7 years ago
Sorry I did offer some rebuttals in round 2, but I did give opening arguments too.
Posted by Jjjohn 7 years ago
Pro argues
"I also acknowledge there are cases when intentionally ending another 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."

if you allow that some cases of causing human death are not murder, then the argument for abortion not being murder becomes one of defining abortion as one of those cases.
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