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A detailed discussion of the central
question in all abortion conflicts
between the pro-choice and
pro-life positions:
"When does human personhood begin?"
Also: the new abortion battleground:
personhood amendments.

Quotations:

  • "Whether or not abortion should be legal turns on the answer to the question of whether and at what point [an embryo or] a fetus is a person. This is a question that cannot be answered logically or empirically. The concept of personhood is neither logical nor empirical: It is essentially a religious, or quasi-religious idea, based on one's fundamental (and therefore unverifiable) assumptions about the nature of the world." Paul Campos, professor of law at the University of Colorado. (2002) 1

  • "The real question today is not when human life begins, but, 'What is the value of human life?' The abortionist who reassembles the arms and legs of a tiny baby to make sure all its parts have been torn from its mother's body can hardly doubt whether it is a human being." President Ronald Reagan, (1983). 2

  • "In a world where man must learn more and more to recognize and to respect his brother. The [Catholic] Church wishes to make her own contribution to the service of the human community, while pointing out ... the relation that binds each person to the Creator of all life and the source of the inalienable dignity of each person, from conception to life's natural end." Pope Benedict XVI (2005) 3 (Emphasis not in the original)

  • "Do not tell me these are not children. A heartbeat proves that. ... So do I." Testimony by Gianna Jessen before Congress offering her belief that human personhood starts when an embryo's heart starts beating. She claims that she was born in spite of an attempt to abort her. 4

On 2019-JAN-22, the New York legislature passed Bill S2796, the Reproductive Health Act. Governor Cuomo is expected to sign it into law quickly. it states, in part:

" 'Person,' when referring to the victim of a homicide, means a human being who has been born and is alive." 5

This means that although an embryo and fetus are both forms of human life, they don't become a person until birth. At about 24 weeks gestation, a fetus is aware of its environment to some degree, is capable of hearing and feeling motion, etc. But now, she or he is not considered a human person in New York State.

Stacey Lennox, writing for The Resurgent implied that perhaps the New York Legislator believes that a fetus -- a form of human life -- becomes a person only at birth:

"Because there is magical fairy dust that creates a person when a baby passes through the birth canal or something." 5

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Webmaster's note:

I posted the following to the Comments section of The Resurgent's article as "ocrtol," which is an abbreviation of "Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance:"

"Scientists and informed pro-lifers, & pro-choicers agree that life begins at conception. The scientific definition of life requires that she or he have five properties. Both an ovum and a spermatozoon lack one of the five and thus is not alive. An ovum cannot reproduce itself and produce two ova. Thus, it is not a form of life. A spermatozoon cannot reproduce itself and produce two spermatozoa. Thus, it is not a form of life. But a zygote (a fertilized ovum during the process of conception) can split, produce two zygotes and eventually may result in identical twins being born. Thus, a zygote is alive. Because it contains human DNA, it is a human life. Thus, human life begins at conception.

Meanwhile, just about everyone believes that a newborn baby is not only a form of human life but is a human person. (I say "just about" because some aboriginal groups only believe that a newborn becomes a person only after she or he has gone through a naming ritual.)

The problem that prevents the resolution of the abortion debate is that individuals and groups cannot agree when human life becomes a human person. Many pro-lifers say it happens at conception. New York legislature and the traditional Jewish position has it happen at birth. Others say that it happens about 24 weeks gestation when the fetus' higher brain functions first turn on and the fetus becomes aware -- at some level -- of her or his environment. Others have dozens of other timings for personhood. For example, when a heartbeat can be detected, or the embryo loses its gill slits and tail and begins to look human. Until we can reach a consensus on when personhood is attained, we will not be able to resolve the great abortion debate.

Personally, I believe that it happens before birth. See: https://www.religioustolera..."

The link directs the reader to this essay.

It is doubtful that this comment will see the light of day. Very few of my comments do. I will check back in a few days to see if it survived the The Resurgent's censors. Time will tell.

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Webmaster's comment:

If you want to learn only about the:

  • Pro-life position, then there are lots of web sites on the Internet that will inform you. Googling the term pro-life found about 110 million hits.

  • Pro-choice position, then there are lots of web sites on the Internet that will inform you. Googling the term pro-choice found about 22 million hits.

If you want to look at both sides of the debate, we encourage you to read some of the essays linked below. We try to explain both or all sides objectively -- something that very few other web sites do.

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This section describes various beliefs about when human personhood begins, and attempts to legislate those beliefs:

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The path by which you may have arrived here:

 Home page > "Hot" topics > Abortion > here

 Home page > "Hot" topics > Abortion > Basic facts > here

 Home page > "Hot" topics > Abortion > Laws > here

 Home page > "Hot" topics > Abortion > Religion/ethics > here

References used:

  1. Paul Campos, "Opinions: PAUL CAMPOS: Abortion and the rule of law ," Scripps Howard News Service, 2002-JAN, at: http://www.nandotimes.com
  2. President Ronald Reagan, "Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation," The Human Life Review, 1983-Spring, Online at: http://www.nationalreview.com/
  3. "Dignity of man, from conception until natural death, is primary, says Pope," Catholic News Agency, 2005-JUN-01, at: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/
  4. "Gianna Jessen Asks Congress: 'If abortion is about women’s rights, then what were mine'?" I was a naive pro-lifer, undated, at: https://i-was-a-naive-prolifer.tumblr.com/
  5. Stacey Lennox, "New York Reproductive Health Act Is Beyond The Pale," The Resurgent, 2019-JAN-23. at: https://theresurgent.com/

Copyright 1995 to 2019 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2019-JAN-28
Author: B.A. Robinson

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