I didn’t know that Bocelli’s own story was a pro-life one, but it is. What makes testimonials like this one so powerful is that they cut through all the distracting garbage that afflicts the abortion debate in our culture. Stories like this one slice right through the morally bankrupt arguments of pro-choicers. Who could say with a straight face to Bocelli, “Your mother could have had you killed in utero, and that would have been a good decision too”?
When you clear away all the confusing legal arguments and debates, the bottom line is this. Unborn babies are persons. They aren’t pre-human; they are human. It’s wrong to kill innocent persons. It’s beautiful and right to affirm and value human lifeâ€”especially in difficult situations. Bocelli is but one more reminder of that simple truth.
(HT: Tim Challies)
Amen, Amen and Amen!
Not only is a fetus human life, it is human life in one of its most fragile states.
This argument is fallacious. Essentially, the argument is that a wonderful person (like Bocelli) would not exist if his mother had practiced abortion. Therefore, abortion is wrong. The problem here is that Bocelli also would not exist if his mother had used birth control, or his mother and father had never met, or a host of other reasons. That does not make a fetus a person.
Let me illustrate with other fallacious arguments:
1. A wonderful person like Tim Tebow would not exist is his parents had only had 3 children. Therefore, if his parents had fewer than 3 children they would have been killing Tebow. Furthermore, anyone who only has 3 children is killing the next Tebow.
2. A great person like Alexander Hamilton would not have existed if his unmarried parents had not had sex with each other. Therefore, we should not discourage unmarried persons from having sex because we are killing the next Alexander Hamilton.
The problem here is that Bocelli also would not exist if his mother had used birth control, or his mother and father had never met, or a host of other reasons. That does not make a fetus a person.
A pushback on this: a fetus that does not exist is in fact not a person but a fetus that does exist is a person.
lol… That was some of the worst argumentation I have seen in awhile. You seem to be forgetting the big difference of whether or not the Fetus exists in the first place! That changes everything. A fetus being prevented and a fetus being killed is not the same thing. #GoodTry
You’ve both missed the point. Bocelli’s argument does nothing to establish that a fetus is a person. It simply proclaims that if he had been aborted, he wouldn’t exist. Perhaps, this will help you understand the fallacy.
1. Andrea Bocelli (or Tim Tebow, etc.) is a wonderful person.
2. Bocelli might have been aborted as a fetus and would never have become the wonderful person that he is.
3. Therefore, a fetus is a person.
Do you see how #3 doesn’t follow?
Um, David, I don’t think Bocelli was trying to “prove” that unborn persons are, well, persons.
The question comes down to is a fetus a tiny human person. I claim the Bible says it is.
If a gov’t thinks it is not a tiny human person, and just a blog of cells that can be disposed of when desired, we get what we have today, abortion on demand until birth.
And then the gov’t can declare other people to just be blobs of cells and it is OK to dispose of them when desired.
I find the whole issue sad and scary. And it all comes down to personhood.
Denny, thanks for the post. My wife and I loved the post and have been fans of his for years. Interesting thing about the pro-choice movement. It’s much less about choice and the “movement” aspect has slowed. There’s a bit of fear in the NOW and PP leadership that there’s not a generation of young women lining up to take their place. May they be damned to the hottest corners of hell. (sorry, been reading the imprecatory psalms).
Rather may their eyes be opened and they become pro-life, like some have.
Just curious David what a fetus is then if it is not a person? Mind you, that science is not on your side on this one. Unanimously, biology teaches now that a new, original life is created at conception.
But if you have some other data or ideas as to what a fetus might be than I am all ears. Have to say though that with my wife being 8 months pregnant right now and going to the doctor the images and information they keep providing us, all seems to indicate that the fetus is a person.
David, agreed that the argument in your comment #6 is a non sequitur.
1. All wonderful people began life as fetuses.
2. No aborted fetuses go on to realize any of their human potential.
3. Abortions therefore terminate human potential.
4. Specifically, an abortion would have prevented the human potential of Bocelli, Tebow, et. al.
The fact that any random coupling of any potential parents might result in a wonderful person is a change of argument from the potential of a specific thing (I consider it a human baby preborn, you consider it a a blob of tissue) to the potential-potential of a possible result. Also, the demonstrated non sequitur of comment 6 does nothing to prove the negative, that a fetus is NOT a person. Moving it further down the line, neither would the argument nor rebuttal prove that a 2-year-old baby either is or is not a person. It strikes me as a facile rebuttal.
I observe that a “pro-life” story does not require one to believe that an unborn baby, complete with all internal organs and external digits and members, is a human. Simply observing that saving the life of a fetus preserves human potential should give pro-choice folks great pause.
It would be valid to point out that plenty of fetuses go on to become terrible people that commit horrible crimes. If evil dictators had been aborted the world would have been spared great evil. And to that I would say that evil people are still people. This is a separate line of reasoning but it was on my mind, so I put it out there.
My point here is simply that the Bocelli story does not prove that a fetus is a person. While Bocelli himself does not say this, it seems he is implying this and Denny seems to believe that the story somehow settles the question entirely.
The Bocelli and Tebow stories are powerful emotionally, but they do not carry logical weight as to the crux of the abortion debate, which is, as Donald rightly points out, the question of personhood. Using such stories to bolster the anti-abortion argument simply begs the question (that is, it assumes its own conclusion: that the fetus is a person).
Ryan raises the worthwhile question of what a fetus is if it is not a person, and asserts that science has already decided that it is a person. But what is a person? Here’s a snippet from wikipedia:
“In philosophy, “person” may apply to any human or non-human actor who is regarded as self-conscious and capable of certain kinds of thought; for example, individuals who have the power to reflect upon and choose their actions. This could also extend to late fetuses and neonates, dependent on what level of thought is required.” (This definition might also encompass some animals and artificial entities as “persons.”)
Incidentally, I have never said that a fetus is merely a blob of cells. That description could be applied more accurately to an embryo – though even an embryo is more organized than a blob.
I would submit that we can gain some insight as to when a fetus (or pre-person) becomes a person, by asking when a human body is considered no longer a person (or post-person). Most folks agree that human personhood ceases at brain death. A physical human body could be kept alive on life support for weeks, months or even years with no brain activity, yet few would grant such a body personhood.
Thus, I would propose that personhood begins with brain activity that is capable of recognizing pain. So when is that? Again from wikipedia (article on fetal pain):
“The accepted hypothesis of the means by which pain is perceived states that it requires certain physical structures and operations. These are not formed in fetuses until 20 weeks or more. The general consensus of the scientific community at this time is that only fetuses of this age or older are capable of perceiving pain.
“Researchers from the University of California, San Francisco in the Journal of the American Medical Association concluded in a meta-analysis of data from dozens of medical reports and studies that fetuses are unlikely to feel pain until the third trimester of pregnancy.”
To be safe, I would be willing to support banning all abortions, except to save the life of the mother, after the first trimester.
The abortion debate in this country is dominated by the 20% who oppose abortion from conception forward and the 20% who favor abortion until the moment before birth. I think the pro-life cause would be advanced if you absoluters would join with the 60% of us who believe that personhood begins neither at coneption nor birth, but somewhere in-between.
I think life begins at conception, yet I would vote for banning abortions after first trimester. Politics is the art of the possible. I believe a believer is to act to promote life and am pragmatic about this.
David not sure where you got your stats about 60% thinking life begins “somewhere in-between” conception and birth.
In addition I want to politely disagree with your notion of using brain activity as a measurement for being a person/human. What if someone temporarily loses brain activity, or they not a person during that time period? May we kill them during this window of lost brain activity? I know you might argue that the brain activity is only temporarily gone so therefore we should respect that person’s status as being alive, but a baby before 20 weeks is only temporarily without brain activity also, as it is definitively going to be there at a known point. So why should it be okay to kill them as long as we do so before their brain activity begins?
Also life is not defined by brain activity (sorry Wikipedia). Dr. Maureen Condic, professor of neurobiology and anatomy at the University of Utah says that, “death occurs when the body ceases to act in a coordinated manner to support the the continued healthy function of all bodily organs… Once the ability to act in a coordinated manner has been lost, life cannot be restored to a corpse.”
Dr. Condic also says that embryos are alive (and human unless you want to tell me what else they could be, dog, chair, cloud) because, “they possess the single defining feature of human life that is lost in the moment of death– the ability to function as a coordinated organism rather than merely as a group of living human cells.”
So at conception a new life is formed, with an original DNA, that is acting in a coordinated manner to advance in life.
Last I would refer you to the widely used textbook in medical schools “The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology” which says that “human development begins at fertilization when a male gamete or sperm unites with a female gamete to form a single cell.”
So David I just want to be clear that the science is clear on the matter and it is actually the pro-choice crowd who is more interested in playing politics than letting the scientific facts speak for itself. If we are going to kill human babies in America at least be honest enough to admit that biology and embryology is not up for debate on the matter.
And since I am on such a role I can’t help but wonder when the rhetoric game of of pro-choice people saying abortions are “tragic” and the number of them should be “reduced” will stop. If abortion is not the killing of a baby than it is not different than having a mole removed or your wisdom teeth taken out; just a morally neutral medical procedure.
Wow, I guess David goes silent when facts and science conflict with his ideas…
â€œIn philosophy, â€œpersonâ€ may apply to any human or non-human actor who is regarded as self-conscious and capable of certain kinds of thought; for example, individuals who have the power to reflect upon and choose their actions. This could also extend to late fetuses and neonates, dependent on what level of thought is required.â€
David, where then does this leave the mentally disabled/handicapped? Are they not a real “person” because they do not possess the “power to reflect upon and choose their actions”, as per the great Wikipedia’s definition? Should parents be allowed to terminate a severely disabled child’s life because they are not “self-conscious”?
I agree with Ryan, life absolutely cannot be defined by brain activity or cognitive ability.
My 20-20-60 breakdown is based on polls such as the following.
USA Today/Gallup Poll. July 17-19, 2009. N=1,006 adults nationwide. MoE Â± 3.
“Do you think abortions should be legal under any circumstances, legal only under certain circumstances, or illegal in all circumstances?”
21% Legal Under Any
57% Legal Only Under Certain
18% Illegal In All
With regard to brain death as the marker of death – the Uniform Determination of Death Act, accepted by the AMA, the ABA, all 50 states, and the federal government, define death as the cessation of all brain functions.
A human body could be kept alive indefinitely after irreversible brain death, but this entity is no longer considered a person.
The key distinction here is between existence and personhood. A human fetus is just that – a human fetus. Its DNA is human and it has the potential to become a fully functioning human being and thus, a person.
Historically, there have been many different understandings as to when that potential person actually becomes a person. Some understood it as the moment of quickening (when the mother first feels the fetus moving), which occurs at about 20 weeks. Our Constitution recognizes citizenship at birth, not conception or quickening or even viability (see 14th Amendment).
The Bible itself is not clear on this question, which may be why most Christians (including some conservatives) do not believe abortion is absolutely wrong. The only passage I know of that speaks to this issue non-poetically is Exodus 21:22 which implies that a man causing a woman to miscarry is not guilty of murder. Jesus, Paul and others in the NT never speak of abortion, even though it was practiced in the 1st century Roman world.
“Our Constitution recognizes citizenship at birth, not conception or quickening or even viability (see 14th Amendment).”
Then why are we having to pass bills to protect aborted babies who survive the abortion? The Federal Government is not outraged that its citizens are being murdered.
Point being: You can spin things almost any way you want.
Thanks for the reply David.
The bottom line is that science, biology, and embryology define life as that which functions together in a coordinated manner, not a brain functioning criteria. Also as I raised before, your brain activity test raises troublesome situations for the personhood status of certain medical situations of people losing and regaining brain activity. And what about people who possess great brain activity than others, are they more human? Am I more human than someone who is mentally handicap because I have greater brain activity?
The 14th amendment is not meant to weigh in the status of a fetus, it has to do with slavery.
But if we are to take birth as the status for life I would like to know scientifically why this is valid? Is there a magical bestowing of humanness upon a baby as it passes through the cervix? Medically I have not heard of this, but I am open to new insight…
You also say that a fetus has the potential to become a fully functioning human and thus a person. Correct me if I am wrong but is seems you are linking humanness to level of development. By that standard we can kill any human till after adolescence since they are still developing into what they will become.
This is where we find philosophy Peter Singer being at least very consistent as he endorses infanticide using this same logic of personhood being linked to development levels.
I am sure this is not what you mean David and I truly am not trying to be manipulative, but I am just trying to highlight the logical outcomes of your arguments and ideas.
And last you try to argue from history but really this hold little weight. Historically, there have been debates on the age of the universe, and if the Earth was flat. But like these issues science has brought an answer to the question. We know what life is and when it begins. As I provided quotes in my previous comment citing the latest biology and medical answers to the question of when life begins.
I think the key distinction here is between any life and personhood. You perhaps don’t accept this distinction. Regardless of Dr. Condic’s definition (incidentally, she is a PhD, not an MD), I think I have shown that the key scientific and legal bodies (including every state and the federal government) do link human personhood with brain activity of some sort.
Here’s a question for you – if a human body is completely brain dead, but can be kept alive indefinitely (heart beating) through life support, do you believe it to be murder to allow or cause this life to stop?
I have nowhere asserted that there are levels of personhood or that levels of brain activity are somehow linked to levels of personhood. I believe in the inherent worth and dignity of all persons. What I have asserted is that human personhood is associated with a discernible existence of brain activity.
The 14th Amendment has to do with defining citizenship (including for former slaves) as the 13th Amendment had abolished slavery.
Science is certainly an important part of the issue of abortion, but science ultimately cannot decide personhood. I do not dispute that a new organism is formed at conception. I think this has been generally acknowledged for a long time. The question that science cannot decide is at what point this developing zygote, then embryo, then fetus, then baby deserves to be treated in law as a person.
As this is not a purely scientific matter, I think historical views on when a potential person becomes a person are worth considering.
I fully realize that locating this point at a “bright line” (such as conception or birth) is very appealing. I think the vast majority of Americans – including most Christians – simply do not agree with this. Most people don’t think a fertilized egg has human personhood in the way that a baby does.
It is not of huge importance to this debate, but I am curious as to why you did not address my point about the New Testament’s silence on abortion and the Old Testament’s apparent teaching that causing a miscarriage is not equivalent to a murder.
Assuming that a person in this scenario has little or no chance of emerging from their vegetative state, we are mixing apples and oranges here. Since an embroyo will in almost all likelihood have a healthy, functioning brain, you would have to compare the baby to a person who is in a coma – that is, they may be practically speaking, vegetative, but in a matter of time, they stand a very good chance of emerging from the condition intact. There’s a huge difference here.
Sorry David I just ran out of time and could not get to your Exodus argument. Plus trying to casually dismiss Psalm 139 here is quite self-serving. There is no reason to believe that Psalm 139 does not actually mean to convey that God is intricately involved with our being during the time in our mother’s womb.
The argument form Exodus is a common one among pro-abortion folks and has many holes in it.
1. Assuming the pro-abortion understanding of the passage, it still does not follow that the unborn are not fully human. The proceeding verses (20-21) speak of a master accidentally killing his slave with no penalty at all; yet it does not mean the passage is teaching the slave is not human.
2. The passage does not even hint that a woman can willfully kill her unborn child through abortion. Nothing at all in the context, or book of Exodus supports this at all.
3. As Hebrew scholar notes, the fetus is covered by lex talionis, the law of retribution. Gleason says, “There is no second class status attached to the fetus under this rule. The fetus is just as valuable as the mother.”
Also I think Derek clearly answers your question about a human with no brain activity being a poor comparison to a unborn baby.
Last David you assert that you no where asserted brain activity is linked to personhood, but you did implicitly when you said, “The key distinction here is between existence and personhood. A human fetus is just that â€“ a human fetus. Its DNA is human and it has the potential to become a fully functioning human being and thus, a person.”
You say the human potential (based on brain activity as you laid out elsewhere) to become a fully functioning human. So my previous questions still remain applicable to your line of reasoning.
If the unborn baby is just “potential” of a fully functioning human, then why can’t we define a two month old as still in the “potential” phase? They are certainly far from being a full functioning human. If our stage of development is what gives humanness (embryo v. toddler) than you face some scary conclusions. If as you say before that science takes a backseat to law in deciding what is a person then I guess personhood is relative to geography. If you are in China and their government law says you can kill a kid until five then I guess it is five. If your in other parts of the world and the law says your a human at birth but your humanness ends at 60 when you become a burden on the village than so be it, that is what the law says.
I realize that, Derek. A fetus has potential that someone in a coma does not. The question is whether an otherwise living entity, who either was or will be a person, and has a complete absence of any brain activity should be considered a person.
I notice you did not answer the question.
Exodus 21:20-21 says: â€œWhen a man strikes his slave, male or female, with a rod and the slave dies under his hand, he shall be avenged. 21 But if the slave survives a day or two, he is not to be avenged, for the uslave is his money.”
How can you read verse 20 and say there is no penalty? In verse 21, the implication is that the death was unintentional. The same laws existed in this country in the days of slavery. Masters were not held liable for unintentionally killing their slaves when all they meant to do was punish them.
Furthermore, foreign slaves were not persons in the same sense that an Israelite was. I think it can be successfully argued that the idea that every human being should be treated equally as a person is a relatively new concept, dating to the Enlightenment. Slaves were often considered sub-human in many ancient (and not so ancient)cultures. Indeed, women and children were also often accorded lower status as persons.
How is the fetus covered under the lex talionis? That would require causing the perpetrator to also lose a fetus through miscarriage. That is not commanded. Instead, a fine is levied, as would be would be with the killing of someone’s livestock.
If the fetus were being treated the same as the mother, then the death of the offender would be required – “life for life.”
Instead of “potential to become a fully functioning human being and thus, a person,” I should have said “potential to have brain activity and thus, a person.”
Like Derek, you dodged my question. I realize that it is not a perfect analogy, but it does get at the question of how to define personhood. I’d like to hear your answer.
I’m saying that there is a huge distinction between a)a person who has little or no likelihood to emerge from a vegetative state and b) someone who is likely or certain to emerge (someone in a coma) or develop (a fetus).
You can’t lump a and b together. I reject the entire premise you’ve set up here because it ignores the obvious differences between a and b.
Having established the fact that you’ve set up a straw man, we should take “heroic measures” for any person, baby or adult, who falls into category B. This happens all the time. People recover from vegetative states. Same goes for a baby in all stages of pregnancy. Category A is a different situation. A person should be humanely removed from life support once the doctor has established that they are effectively brain dead.
So is a brain dead human no longer a person?
Yes, they are a person. But heroic means and endless life support are not required in order to accord a vegetative person dignity.
By the way, the same is true of a truly non-viable fetus. My sister had an ectopic pregnancy. The child didn’t have any chance of survival (my sister is strongly pro-life, but she is also a nurse and knew there was no alternative). So the baby was aborted. But this is in no way comparable to aborting a healthy fetus.
No dodging David, I have made point after point showing the awful outcomes of your logic yet I have gotten nothing but silence form you. I respect your willingness to engage David and that you are quite cordial, but I think it is you doing the dodging.
Why are “heroic means and endless life support” not required for a person who is brain dead? What is your rationale for not doing everything possible to protect and extend the life of such a person? Are they less deserving of life because they have no brain functions?
I also appreciate your cordial attitude. I have tried to respond to all of your arguments. I would encourage you to at least try to answer my question.
Once again, you fail to appreciate or acknowledge the distinction between scenario a and b, as described in #26. That is why the entire premise of your argument is built on a faulty foundation.
As I said in post #24, I do recognize the difference between the two situations. I still believe your answers to the questions I posed in post #30 would be helpful. If you do not know your answers, that’s okay – just say so.
Are you still there?
The unwillingness you both have to engage with these questions suggests that you think your answers might weaken your case.
The example I gave in #28 is exactly the reason. Did you not read this example? Seriously, what is unclear here? Only someone who wants to be argumentative or just plain difficult would fail to comprehend this example or fail to see how this is a completely different scenario than to kill a healthy embryo or fetus.
I read the example and understand the difference in the scenarios.
Here are my questions:
Why are â€œheroic means and endless life supportâ€ not required for a person who is brain dead? What is your rationale for not doing everything possible to protect and extend the life of such a person? Are they less deserving of life because they have no brain functions?
David, why do you insist on framing it as an issue of what a person “deserves”? If you want to frame it that way, ok: a person who is permanently brain dead deserves to die naturally. I don’t know anyone who would want to be left on life support unless there is a chance of at least partial recovery- do you? Conversely, who would want life support withdrawn if there is a decent chance of recovery? No one is going to say, “you should have let me die those two weeks while I was in a vegetative state” (unless they are suicidal, of course).
But really, why do you so uncharitably assume or imply that I or others would declare vegetative persons “undeserving”? This is a non-sequitur, because it isn’t a matter of deserving or not deserving. It is a matter of common sense that you do not destroy a perfectly healthy embryo or fetus just because they are too young for healthy brain activity. This isn’t comparable in any way to these other scenarios you insist upon comparing this to.
Denny wrote: “Itâ€™s beautiful and right to affirm and value human lifeâ€”especially in difficult situations.”
Yet you seem to deny the value of preserving human life when brain acivity is absent. I agree that it is common sense to withdraw life support when there is no chance of recovery. My rationale is that any meaningful humanity or personhood is lost when brain activity is lost. What is your rationale?
I don’t even see how your position makes any sense even outside of a Christian or religious perspective. Go to a hospital or place where grownups and professionals actually make decisions about these things on a regular basis. Go ahead, tell them your theory. Better yet, tell the family member of someone in a coma that the determinative and decisive factor is whether their brain is currently functioning properly. They are going to look at you like you have a 3rd eye. They want to know ONE THING. What does the future hold for my loved one? That is what matters, period, end of sentence. The current/existing state of the brain is a moot point. Again, your whole argument is a non-sequitur, because people make these decisions based on facts and circumstances that you won’t even allow to be considered/taken into account.
So why is lack of future brain activity important? What I’m trying to get you to address is your rationale for deciding that lack of future brain function is a sufficent reason to allow or cause death. Why should life not be preserved beyond that point?