Political Wednesday: When Does Human Life Begin?

Yeah, I know its Thursday. Sue me.

I got into a debate with a friendly colleague of mine at work right before we headed home  tonight. He’s a guy with generally cynical tendencies who will subscribe to left/liberal positions when pressed. This is frustrating to me since he is smart, and has a raw anti-establishment attitude – both pre-requisites to converting to my libertarian/anarchic view of the world. He nonetheless resists.The topic tonight was abortion. I took the opportunity to practice my arguments for evictionism, which I explain here is the only rational solution to the problem. I truly believe this is the only approach to this important issue that:

  • Acknowledges the rights conflict at the heart of the problem
  • Comports withe Non-Aggression Axiom – that timeless basis of all real law – that Thou Shalt Not Initiate Violence Toward Another
  • Allows both partisan camps to meet in the middle, and provides a genuine compromise

To be convinced of the argument, one has to accept several assumptions, one of which is that:

Life Begins at Conception

This is the cornerstone of my argument, because it admits what anti-abortion people insist – that a fertilized egg is as good as a human being. But its equally important to pro-abortion people since I base my argument that abortion is still permissible even with this stringent assumption place. Its very important in arguing ethics and law that one take as assumptions those facts which are most detrimental to one’s intended outcome. It lends the final conclusion greater weight.

So why is this assumption important? Its nothing less than defining the beginning boundary of human life, where human rights begin.

Some pro-abortion rights people still maintain the utterly insane view that a fetus is not human until it is naturally birthed by its mother. Only then is it human. These fanatics defend late-term abortion – where fully viable human infants are murdered by a doctor with a drill through the head, moments before being extracted and dumped into a hospital waste bin. This is madness, and it certainly must stop. According to wikipedia statistics, in the US alone there are over 1000 of these cases each year.

What is puzzling to me is why most people feel that there is any difference in the human status of a fetus at 10 weeks vs. 21 weeks. They say: medical science can support a 21 week infant, but not a 10 week fetus – therefore the fetus isn’t a full human life. They intentionally use the term “fetus” to try to de-humanize the 10 week old infant.

Now, as you saw from my full article on this, I maintain that evicting a 10 week old infant from a woman is permissible, not because the non-viable infant isn’t human but because the woman has rights to her own body and may evict at any time. But she is evicting a human life that will die. This is tragic – some might even say immoral – but must not be illegal. There is currently no way to gently remove such a young infant so that it doesn’t die. At this point her only obligation should be to not kill a viable infant, but to respect its rights and gently remove him and surrender him for adoption.

The problem with using the “point of viability” to base an argument about “when life begins” in the womb is that viability is a constantly moving target. And it is moving closer to conception. Medical science will advance to the point that one day a simple two-celled human zygote will be viable outside the womb, able to be incubated in some artificial placenta for 9 months.

Deciding which point along the continuum between conception and natural birth life begins is what statisticians call – appropriately enough – a continuum problem. Each point along a continuum is insufficiently different in character to say where the continuum begins. One must look to the obvious bounding events or facts to mark the true beginning and end.

Since a zygote has all the genetic makekup of a human being, and since, if left unmolested, and barring accidents or illness, will always develop into an independent human being outside his mother’s womb – we must conclude that the change from 1) sperm+egg swimming in soup to 2) a zygote destined for independence and full human expression – is the event that marks the start of human life. To argue that it begins at some later point along the continuum from fertilization to death is to be arbitrary and opinionated.

That’s a lot to chew on. Please let me know what you think in the comments below