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canidmajor's avatar

As a follow up to the other question, why do some of you deem a fetus “human” before it is viable extra-utero?

Asked by canidmajor (14640points) 5 days ago

In general, a fetus is not viable extra-utero before 24 weeks, and many not even then. Why would some of you grant it human rights before then?
Honest question, seriously asking.

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45 Answers

SavoirFaire's avatar

Because they’ve inherited the language of a bad argument. The question of whether or not a fetus is biologically human has nothing to do with whether or not it counts as a moral person.

Darth_Algar's avatar

Human or not is irrelevant, as far as I’m concerned. To me the question is one of personhood. And, to me, the answer is clear – personhood begins at the moment of birth.

Demosthenes's avatar

Eh, for me it’s just about calling a spade a spade. A fetus is a human life at an early stage. You can end that life if you want, but recognize what you’re doing.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Demosthenes No one in the debate denies that a fetus is biologically human.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

And no one is ‘pro abortion’.

Demosthenes's avatar

@SavoirFaire I think some people downplay the human factor to make abortion easier to accept morally.

ragingloli's avatar

A tumor is biologically human.

canidmajor's avatar

I put “human” in quotes to denote that the fetus is given human rights.

@Demosthenes, without extra-uterine viability, it is a potential human life. Why would you give any stage of development before viability the full status of “human”?
And do you accord the woman who is gestating the fetus fewer rights than the fetus itself?

@Dutchess_lll, this question is not about abortion per se, but about at what point a cluster of cells should be given rights.

Demosthenes's avatar

@canidmajor I think the fetus has a right to life. I think the right to life supersedes the right to end a life.

canidmajor's avatar

My question, though, is why, @Demosthenes. And when. When it’s a four celled blastocyst? When it’s fertilized? Implanted?
An egg is a “potential” human life, so is a sperm, by some definitions.
And what is your reasoning behind the decision to designate a non-viable (extra-uterine) fetus deserving of more rights than a woman?

Demosthenes's avatar

If you can’t see the difference between an egg/sperm and a fetus then you are beyond hope.

“More rights”. Lol. That reminds me of the arguments against gay marriage.

Clearly most pro-choice folks draw a line. They don’t support very late term abortions except in rare cases where the mother’s life is at risk. That means they draw a line as well. Where do you draw your line? Why is it only people who are not keen on abortion who are required to extrapolate on their “line”? I prefer to draw a line around the end of the first trimester, to answer the question.

canidmajor's avatar

Thank you, @hmmmmmm, I find it rather specious to simply tell someone they are “beyond hope” if they don’t agree.

@Demosthenes, it is a fair question. If something absolutely cannot survive in any other environment, does it count as a “life”?
And you didn’t address the other options. Fertilized but not implanted? Implanted but precarious?

And you didn’t answer why either, @Demosthenes. Why do you ascribe fully human status, with all the rights inherent therein to a fetus? (Or an embryo or a couple of cells)

canidmajor's avatar

Read the Q again. It is not about abortion.

hmmmmmm's avatar

@Demosthenes: “Clearly most pro-choice folks draw a line. They don’t support very late term abortions except in rare cases where the mother’s life is at risk.That means they draw a line as well. Where do you draw your line?”

I support abortion until the baby is born. That’s a relatively easy distinction to make, because the baby is not part of the woman. In fact abortion after the baby is born is not called abortion.

@Demosthenes: “Why is it only people who are not keen on abortion who are required to extrapolate on their “line”?

Because you are the one with your hand in my daughter’s uterus. you’re the one advocating for a dystopian police state where the government controls your body. If you feel that there is some distinction to be made or some moral case for outlawing abortion, then the burden is on you.

@Demosthenes: “I prefer to draw a line around the end of the first trimester.”

But why? You’re just asserting this without any kind of argument. And if your statement about spades being called spades means that ending a pregnancy = murder, than you should also support prosecuting these murders. If not…again, what is the distinction here? You seem to have one, but haven’t outlined it yet, other than some kind of personal preference.

Demosthenes's avatar

I said it constitutes ending a life, not murder. I think treating it as murder would be worse for everyone involved so I don’t support that.

Fair enough on your position that abortion should be available until the baby is born, but not all pro-choice advocates agree with that. I would be interested to hear from them.

It’s not black and white. You’re asking me to provide a black and white answer to something that is not black and white. There is no single precise moment when a life becomes too much of a life to abort. We can only make a general cut-off point to avoid ending a life that is further along.

hmmmmmm's avatar

@Demosthenes: “It’s not black and white. You’re asking me to provide a black and white answer to something that is not black and white. There is no single precise moment when a life becomes too much of a life to abort. We can only make a general cut-off point to avoid ending a life that is further along.”

The results of your thought process here have huge real life effects. You need to work through this, because right now you are a real threat to my family, friends, and frankly everyone. If you’re unclear, please don’t vote in a way that legalizes such confusion. This is some serious shit.

You say that abortion = “ending a life, not murder”. Why? Ending a life a premeditated way – other than through euthanasia, which introduces other issues that are not relevant to this discussion, means murder, right? What is that distinction? Is it possible that you don’t really think it’s ending a life?

Edit: Sorry for the derail on abortion. I’ll try to keep that out.

canidmajor's avatar

“Ending a life”...no, you mean “ending a human life”. And how do you define “human”?

canidmajor's avatar

And @Demosthenes, why, when I have clearly stated time and again that that is not the question, do you keep bringing this back to abortion? The other Q is about abortion, not this one.

Demosthenes's avatar

@canidmajor I define it biologically.

We make distinctions in killing all the time. Soldiers killing in war, killing in self-defense, I’m not going to pretend that ending a human life at a very early stage isn’t killing, but abortion is a unique situation that should not be considered murder. That is a legal definition that is going too far.

And it has become about abortion whether you like it or not. Of course it will go in that direction. The inspiration for this question is clear. The distinction doesn’t matter if we’re not talking about abortion.

KNOWITALL's avatar

I deem it an individual because they feel pain. The science and equipment are still improving every day. Also State Laws on Fetal Homicide define it for us.

The debate concerning “fetal homicide” hinges on the issue of fetuses killed by violent acts against pregnant women.
http://www.ncsl.org/research/health/fetal-homicide-state-laws.aspx

A wanted child’s parents care if it feels pain if fetal surgery is needed. I’m not sure how many unwanted children’s parents care, which means someone else has to care. That’s where the Pro-Life movement steps in. We all know this, yet I don’t see anyone here mentioning that the fetus/ baby can FEEL PAIN. That should matter imo.
_________________________________________________________________________

As early as 8 weeks the baby exhibits reflex movement during invasive procedures.[8] There is extensive evidence of a hormonal stress response by unborn babies as early as 18 weeks [9] including “increases in cortisol, beta-endorphin, and decreases in the pulsatility index of the fetal middle cerebral artery.”[10] Two independent studies in 2006 used brain scans of the sensory part of unborn babies’ brains, showing response to pain.[11] They found a “clear cortical response” and concluded there was “the potential for both higher-level pain processing and pain-induced plasticity in the human brain from a very early age.”

Fetal surgeons recognize unborn babies as patients. A leading children’s hospital performed nearly 1,600 fetal surgeries between 1995 and June 2017.[18] Perinatal medicine now treats unborn babies as young as 18 weeks for dozens of conditions. Pain medication for unborn patients is routinely administered as standard medical practice.[19]

https://lozierinstitute.org/fact-sheet-science-of-fetal-pain/

https://www.livescience.com/54774-fetal-pain-anesthesia.html

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

So if a human exits their space suit or scuba gear and enter an environment where they can’t survive they don’t qualify as human… sorry I don’t buy into the “not viable yet” argument. If left alone, with no intervention a zygote will develop into a fetus and that fetus will come to term is what I would consider “viable” and human.

canidmajor's avatar

No, @Demosthenes, of course it didn’t need to go in that direction. My question is one of curiosity, different people have different ideas of when actual personhood occurs. There have been cultures where a baby isn’t named until it is a month (or whatever designated time frame) and beyond basic feeding and sheltering is given no special care, where “personhood” was not established until it survived that long.

@ARE_you_kidding_me not even remotely relating to the Q.

kritiper's avatar

Cancer, which is a living thing when it grows within the human body, can be deemed “human.”

kritiper's avatar

To me, a fetus doesn’t rise to the level of “human” until it can think/reason. That is what makes us “human” after all.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@kritiper Ok then, so that happens well after birth, like more than a year after.

Darth_Algar's avatar

Does it belong to the Homo genus? If “yes” then it is human.

stanleybmanly's avatar

Because it is undeniably a human fetus.

gondwanalon's avatar

Does it have H. sapiens DNA? If yes then it’s human.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

Both the sperm and the egg alone have homosapian DNA.

kritiper's avatar

Within reasonable limits, and considering that there is a booming overpopulation problem, anything is possible.
Desperate times DO call for desperate measures!

Zaku's avatar

@gondwanalon “Does it have H. sapiens DNA? If yes then it’s human.”
– Just like human skin, hair folicles, sperm, etc. Or as others have mentioned, cancer.

I met a professor who remarked that he thought that shaving was masochistic, but even he wasn’t about to picket barber shops.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

Why did he think shaving was masochistic?

Zaku's avatar

@Dutchess_lll He was noted for talking about it frequently, but I only had contact with him for a few short classes which weren’t about that, though he did mention it.

I always wondered what he meant, but not enough to ask.

He was an English teacher so let’s check the definition:

“Definition of masochism

1 : the derivation of sexual gratification from being subjected to physical pain or humiliation by oneself or another person — compare sadism, sadomasochism
2 : pleasure in being abused or dominated : a taste for suffering”

Hmm, ok.

I think I get the sense of it that he meant, and it sort of makes a certain sense to me. People are cutting their hair and sometimes their faces (and women moreso with their legs), and there is kind of a domination/submission aspect (to social norms, at least), and a sexual connotation (see shaving product ads aimed at men).

I think it was exaggerated poetic humor on his part, and a way to stimulate students’ thinking, and to entertain himself.

SavoirFaire's avatar

@Demosthenes “I think some people downplay the human factor to make abortion easier to accept morally.”

Alternatively, they downplay it because it is both misleading and frequently overplayed. Being biologically human is neither necessary nor sufficient for moral standing (nor has it been treated as such by any coherent theory of morality).


@KNOWITALL “I deem it an individual because they feel pain.”

A fetus cannot feel pain until the third trimester (and even then it still might not because of the chemical environment in the womb). That’s what the science says. It’s also what your second link says. Your first link, meanwhile, is brazenly incorrect and has cherry picked its sources in ways that are deeply dishonest (more on that below).

As a side note, congenital analgesia is a thing, so the ability to experience pain obviously isn’t a necessary condition for moral standing.

“I’m not sure how many unwanted children’s parents care, which means someone else has to care.”

I don’t think you meant to say this. I get that this debate stirs up the passions, but you are not cruel enough as a person to really believe that women who get abortions do not care at all about whether they are causing pain to their fetus. Overwhelmingly, the women who get abortions do not make their decision lightly. They deliberate every step of the way, often agonizing over what they should do—and they suffer under both the real and imagined judgments of those around them. I am sure that you know this. And I also know that, for all we might disagree about, you are a compassionate person who cares about others. So I’d like to offer you an opportunity to walk this back.

“As early as 8 weeks the baby exhibits reflex movement during invasive procedures.”

It is true that a fetus can exhibit reflex responses during invasive surgeries. But conflating a stimulus response with a conscious experience is a pretty basic logical error that anyone putting themselves in the position of compiling a “fact” sheet really ought to know how to avoid. You can make the corpse of a recently deceased male ejaculate, but that doesn’t mean it feels any sexual pleasure.

“There is extensive evidence of a hormonal stress response by unborn babies as early as 18 weeks”

And here we see the same mistake again. An amoeba can exhibit a stress response, but it nevertheless lacks structures necessary to experience pain.

“Two independent studies in 2006 used brain scans of the sensory part of unborn babies’ brains, showing response to pain.”

Neither of the two studies cited are about fetuses. They are both about newborns. As such, we cannot rely on them to tell us much about fetal pain response. They certainly cannot tell us anything about fetal pain response prior to the third trimester as neither study includes preterm newborns from before that period.

“Fetal surgeons recognize unborn babies as patients.”

And tree surgeons recognize trees as patients. This doesn’t really tell us anything other than the fact that people take their jobs seriously (as they should).

“Pain medication for unborn patients is routinely administered as standard medical practice.”

Yes, but not for pain. It’s used to counter bradycardia (low heart rate). Anesthetics, like so many pharmacological interventions, have more than one possible use.


@ARE_you_kidding_me “So if a human exits their space suit or scuba gear and enter an environment where they can’t survive they don’t qualify as human…”

There are certainly problems with the viability argument for abortion rights, but this isn’t one of them. Indeed, it looks like a pretty obvious straw man. For one, what @canidmajor said wasn’t “if there is any environment in which the fetus cannot survive on its own, then it is not viable” but rather “if there is no environment in which the fetus can survive on its own, then it is not viable” (not direct quotes of either of you, of course; the quotation marks here are used to demarcate the separate claims).

In any case, “viable” has a defined meaning with regard to fetuses the law, and that definition is “able to survive outside the uterus after birth (with or without artificial aid).” One can disagree with that definition, of course, and it may even pose some problems for those who support the legality of abortion. But it’s not like @canidmajor is just pulling her definition out of thin air.

Dutchess_lll's avatar

As always @SavoirFaire, thoughtful and intelligent response. Thank you.

Brian1946's avatar

@SavoirFaire

“A fetus cannot feel pain until the third trimester ”

I’ve read that typically a fetus either doesn’t start to develop a nervous system until it’s 28 weeks old, or that it takes 28 weeks for the nervous system to fully develop.

Have you read or heard anything that would clarify my recollection?

Dutchess_lll's avatar

28 weeks is the first week in the 3rd trimester.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@SavoirFaire “There are certainly problems with the viability argument for abortion rights, but this isn’t one of them. Indeed, it looks like a pretty obvious straw man.”

I wouldn’t say that, to consider that a fetus is not human because it can’t survive outside of its natural environment of the womb is just as absurd as saying an adult person is not human because they can’t survive outside the natural environment of the earth. Neither have any bearing on “humanity.” The “viability” argument itself is the straw man (which was my point) but I can see how my answer would be viewed as such.

canidmajor's avatar

Thank you, @SavoirFaire, for your cogent defense of my rather obvious (but apparently so fun to argue with, as if one was a three year old!) points.

With the exception of a very few people here, no one seems willing to explain why they have decided that a blastocyst/embryo/fetus has more human rights than the woman gestating it, and when that occurs.

Too bad.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

“no one seems willing to explain why they have decided that a blastocyst/embryo/fetus has more human rights than the woman”

I don’t see people actually saying that. I think this is what you hear. Granting a fetus human rights does not take away from the rights of the mother. Unless you’re speaking about a staunch “life at conception” hardliner that make no considerations for the health of the mother or pregnancy then I would say that’s the case. Most don’t hold that view and I don’t see anyone arguing that here.

canidmajor's avatar

Cherry picking parts of my post is as asinine as comparing a fetus in uterus to a person in a space suit or wearing SCUBA gear.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

@canidmajor where are you seeing that people are granting or arguing that the fetus has more rights? Where is the “cherry picking?” I think you’re also assuming I have a certain position on this when in fact I have no hard line position on abortion.

jca2's avatar

I think if the mother’s life is at risk, and she is unable, legally, to have an abortion, then the law is saying that the fetus has more rights than the mother.

ARE_you_kidding_me's avatar

I posted in the other abortion thread an example of this. The so called “heartbeat bill.” In that specific case I would say that this is effectively what is happening even if the intent is not to elevate the rights of the fetus over that of the mother.

Usually though when I hear “the fetus has more rights than the mother” it’s just a hollow pro-choice talking point that just conveys emotion but no context or real meaning.

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