Upper Left Coast

Thoughts on politics, faith, sports and other random topics from a red state sympathizer in indigo-blue Portland, Oregon.

Monday, November 28, 2005

Who sets the standards?

Dear Sam,

Here's part II of my response. Sorry it's so long, but you raise several important issues.

You address viability outside the womb. Babies born as much as four months premature are able to survive outside the mother's womb. But viability outside the womb is irrelevant if the "peanut" embedded in a woman's uterine wall is human. Remember the STR quote I keep coming back to? You don't ever answer the question:
If the unborn is not a human person, no justification for abortion is necessary. However, if the unborn is a human person, no justification for abortion is adequate.
Also, a few other questions:
  • As technology progresses, the point of viability gets earlier; does this mean that the start of human life evolves with technology?
  • Viability is an abitrary concept. Why not when the heart beats, or the brain functions? How about when the lungs function? Did you know a baby starts breathing in small amounts of amniotic fluid before the end of the first trimester?
  • What about infants? They're not viable without assistance. Does that mean we can end an infant's life? A handicapped person? Someone with Down Syndrome?
I hope you'll agree that these questions establish too much grey area to support viability, brainwaves or anything else — other than conception — as the standard.

I also want to note your comment about the "mother's life support system," because another favorite argument of the pro-choice crowd is that a woman shouldn't be forced to donate her body as a life-support system. This suggests that the woman wasn't a willing participant in the sex that brought about the pregnancy, which is true in less than 1 percent of all pregnancies.

Also, this is not a fair comparison. What is at stake here is the temporary lifestyle changes of the mother vs. the permanent end of the child's life. It should be a clear standard that life and death outweighs a temporary inconvenience every time.

Coming back to the issue of aborting a Down Syndrome child, you write:
It's not as cut and dry as you're trying to make it sound. Of course the mother will wonder what the child could become, and grieve the potential loss. but the flip side of that coin is the benefit of not bringing a being into this world that can't support itself.
Why do you think "the mother will wonder what the child could become, and grieve the potential loss"? If it's just a peanut, why grieve for it?

Also, since when is the standard for life defined by the ability to support oneself? Who sets that standard? Government? The state? Each family? Why have laws regarding murder if quality of life is an abitrary standard?

Where is the standard set? Does that mean that welfare is a death sentence? Or is it only those people who are completely dependent on others for their survival? Does that include infants? The handicapped? The elderly?

What about those who require medical treatments such as kidney dialysis? How about those being treated for HIV and AIDS? After all, someone needing kidney dialysis or an HIV cocktail would die without treatment.

And how do you know the child won't be able to support itself? In my first post, I quoted a letter that noted an actor with Down Syndrome. Is he unable to support himself? I don't know, because I don't know him. But I suspect your fear about raising a child who will be forever dependent on society is, as you wrote, not as cut and dry and you're trying to make it sound.

The standard has to be set clearly, and the benefit of the doubt must fall in favor of life. As Randy Alcorn wrote:
If a hunter is uncertain whether a movement in the brush is caused by a person, does his uncertainty lead him to fire or not to fire? If you're driving at night and you think the dark figure ahead on the road may be a child, but it may just be the shadow of a tree, do you drive into it, or do you put on the brakes? If we find someone who may be dead or alive, but we're not sure, what is the best policy? To assume he is alive and try to save him, or to assume he is dead and walk away? Shouldn't we give the benefit of the doubt to life? Otherwise we are saying, "This may or may not be a child, therefore it's all right to destroy it."
Death is the only thing you can't get out of.

Sources for the last two posts:
Centers for Disease Control
Guttmacher Institute
Randy Alcorn


  • At 11/29/2005 8:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I may respond later in-depth, but that all depends on my willingness to do research, which takes a lot of time that i don't have. the main reason I argue on the basis of viability is because it's the philosophic standpoint i have that a human being isn't a human being unless they have the ability to grow, produce, develop on their own. scientifically speaking, you might be right but it's a semantic debate about limbs and arms and heartbeats.

    what comes to mind when i think of unwanted pregancy is the movie, "alien". you have a being inside of you that feeds completely off of you, that could not survive without you. that is a parasite. not a baby. i don't care if it physically has the attributes of a baby. until a baby can sustain itself (and yes, it is dependent on technology) outside the womb, i refuse to see it as a baby. life is an abstract concept. we can define it in all sorts of ways, and i'm not going any further down the moral relativist road. but i refuse to legitimize the argument of anti-abortion activists, especially men who believe they have a right to tell a woman what to do with a parasite that may or may not develop into a human child.

    sam canfield

  • At 11/29/2005 8:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    oh, and if i didn't make it clear, it's my opinion (certainly subjective) that life begins when it can sustain itself without the mothers life support system outside the womb.

  • At 11/29/2005 10:53 PM, Blogger Ken said…

    Wow, Sam.

    Essentially what I read into your remarks is this: I can throw whatever scientific facts I want at you, but dammit, you're not going to let facts get in the way of your misguided "philosophic standpoint" that a child qualifies as human only when it can grow, produce & develop on its own. Why deal with facts when you can stick your head in the sand and ignore reality?

    It's not a semantic debate, it's not a subjective discussion, it's not abstract, and it has nothing to do with your "opinion" — please deal with facts. Your attempt to explain away a human life would make me chuckle if it weren't so frightening.

    I'm amused by your comment that "I'm not going any further down the moral relativist road," when that's exactly where you're sitting, hands over your ears, yelling "I'm not listening!"

    I made several attempts to argue my perspective from a scientific basis, and you waffle through philosophy and abstraction. I hope you do respond later, in more depth, and I hope you have the time to do the research. Find the time. Investigate the science. Check my work. Tell me where I'm wrong. But please spare me the philosophy mumbo-jumbo.

    A human life is not a variable that can be defined by the whims of society, science or technology. It either is a life or it isn't a life. You can "refuse to see it as a baby" and you can believe that life begins only at viability, but that doesn't make it true — people believed the earth was flat for centuries, but last time I checked, they were wrong. Sorry. Thanks for playing.

    Oh, and I love the "men who believe they have a right to tell a woman what to do with a parasite that may or may not develop into a human child" line. You think it will develop into a porcupine? A tadpole, maybe? A grapefruit? If it has the physical attributes of a baby, but it's not human, what in the world is it? And how did it get inside that woman? Quick, someone alert the authorities!

    Sam, the only reasons it wouldn't develop into a human child is if 1) there was no pregnancy; 2) the woman was impregnated by the Alien; or 3) the pregnancy ended in a miscarriage or other problem. Otherwise, guess what — it's a human baby!

    If it indeed were a parasite, it would be ejected by the woman's body. Instead, the embryo sends a signal to the woman that a friend is present, and the woman's body creates a special home for it.

    Sam, I'm assuming you're a man. I hope you'll forgive me if I'm wrong about that. But let's assume for a moment that I'm right, and let's take your argument that I (as a man) can't tell a woman what to do with her parasite. By that argument, you (as a man) have no more place in this argument than I do. By that argument, every pro-choice male legislator, every judge that voted in favor of Roe v. Wade (they were all men, you know), and any male abortion doctor or pro-choice advocate (including Alan Guttmacher) should be disqualified. If men should be eliminated from the abortion debate, shouldn't they be eliminated from both sides? Or is it only those who think abortion is an absolute right guaranteed in the constitution who should be able to speak about it?

    Should those who are white never speak of civil rights issues? Should those who are athiests never speak of faith issues? Should debates about war be restricted to those in the military?

    The question of what a woman should do with her pregnancy is irrelevant until — look out, here it comes again — we answer the question of what "it" is: "If the unborn is not a human person, no justification for abortion is necessary. However, if the unborn is a human person, no justification for abortion is adequate."

    Facts, Sam. Just the facts.

  • At 11/30/2005 10:45 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    this conversation is ending here. viability. if you won't acknowledge the FACT that a fetus can't survive outside the mothers womb, I'm most certainly not going out of my way to research counterpoints to the supposed facts that you copied/pasted from pro-life websites.

    You're no scientist, and neither am I. I could easily copy/paste text from some website.

    I am a man, and I would agree with your snide comments about no men having any say in this argument. The supreme court should have no say either. The states should have no say. Society as a whole should have no say. The individual is the only person who should have any say over their own body. Or "friendly" or "unfriendly" parasites that happen to be living inside.

    I'm not going to continue this argument. I'm not going to argue your "facts" because they don't really negate my points. You have reached a different conclusion, based on your philosophy of what a human life is. You're missing the broader scope. If you can't control your own body, then it's a life that's not worth living.

    sam canfield

  • At 11/30/2005 11:26 AM, Blogger Ken said…


    I have no trouble acknowledging that the fetus can't survive outside the mother's womb. That is not the issue. For what seems like the sixth or seventh time, I ask: is it a human life or isn't it? Viability does not establish life, only whether that life can survive.

    You're right, I'm not a scientist. Does that mean that only scientists should be allowed to discuss the issue? If so, again, you have disqualified yourself in the process. We have brains with which we can investigate the facts and learn the truth. I'm sorry that you choose to ignore the facts and refuse to consider the legitimacy of my arguments -- instead, you accuse me of ignoring your "philosophy." That's not an argument, it's a copout: "I don't like your answers, so I'm going to stick to what I believe without ever examining the legitimacy of my perspective."

    I have no trouble allowing someone control over their own body IF it's only their own life they're messing with. You can accuse me of reaching different conclusions, but the science says that a fetus is a human life. Thus, abortion is allowing someone to control the destiny of someone other than themselves, someone who has no say over their destiny.

    I'm sorry you're choosing not to continue the discussion, but you're welcome to return at any time. I just ask you to return with an open mind that you might be, as you write, missing the broader scope. The invitation remains open: check my work and tell me -- with facts -- where I'm wrong. If that means you need to cut and paste from some website, so be it.

    Thanks for stopping by.

  • At 11/30/2005 12:10 PM, Blogger Brian B said…

    Sam says he's "No Scientist", and that's obvious from his position. He claims, and you assent, that "a fetus can't survive outside the mothers womb", but he's wrong. As I strated in my connected post, the stage in gestation at which a premature baby can survive outside the womb, with modern medical care, has been moved back significantly in recent years. Even if one were to concede Sam's point, which I agree one shouldn't, there's no way that you can hold to the "Viability" argument and support late term abortions. But most people who play the viability card support abortion up until birth, which belies their integrity in claiming the issue is viability.

    The fact that he calls fetuses "parasites" is merely further evidence of his lack of understanding of biology. And no, Sam, one needn't have a PHD in a scientific field to gain some understanding of the issue.

    Don't be too sorry that he's quitting the discussion. I suspect that he had no interest in actually exchanging ideas to begin with.

    And again, you make the important point -- if the fetus is a human, it's the BABY'S body, not the mother's.

  • At 12/01/2005 7:42 PM, Blogger MAX Redline said…

    Unlike Sam, Brian makes some good points. The term "viability" is very subjective, as Brian correctly notes: the stage in gestation at which a premature baby can survive outside the womb, with modern medical care, has been moved back significantly in recent years.

    Even more to the point, I think, is the fact that as many as 50 aborted children each year are alive following the procedure, in the UK alone: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2087-1892696_1,00.html

    People like Sam need to sit down, take a deep breath, and then talk with people like 28-year-old musician Gianna Jessen, who survived abortion.


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