Colorado for equal rights has a ballot to give person hood to zygotes. Should a zygote be given person-hood? If a zygote or embryo was a person, it would be unethical to abort them under any condition. If he had been conceived by rape, incest, forced implantation, or forced insemination abortion would be murder. Likewise, if the embryo were to prove lethal to the mother, one might be able to transplant the embryo, but not abort it.

Also, what about the 16 million zygotes / persons that are conceived, but do not implant properly and are flushed down the toilet or thrown in the trash with the maxipad? With research, many of these could be recovered and reimplanted. Boosting birthrates four fold. Special maxipads for capturing and storing embryos...

On a more practical side, when should a new life be given person hood status? Should a new born be given a 'test' or 'physical' and if he fails, infanticide? Or, even the body farm? Should babies that would require lifetime drug regimens, need dozens of surgeries, be incapable of understanding the world around him, and / or be allowed to live with significant pain?

I personally do want to hang around if I get Alzheimer's, dementia, extreme poor health, chronic pain, or become a ward of the state. I certainly would not want to face those conditions from birth. I would advocate infanticide for any infant who could not lead a normal life.

If something like this were to become law, would it be enforced, the child ripped from their mother? An option known to the mother before childbirth? Perhaps with counseling regarding the consequences. Would the mother only have the option of life if she had enough money?

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You phrased the question exactly correctly, Jim: "Should a zygote be given person-hood?" This is an act of valuation, not at all one of medical facts.

Society may assign "peronhood" at any stage of development. I am a utilitarian, so for me the question is, "would society be better off if it assigned the rights of personhood to the zygote?"

I think that the answer is "no", since it would lead to many unwanted and unplanned births into family situations with poor prospects for success.
why not go the whole hog and give sperm person hood status - it makes about as much sense. If the church were really concerned about reducing abortion rates they would be on the streets handing out condoms. The legal status of abortion makes no difference to the amount of abortions that take place, according to a recent study in the Lancet. So if you are serious about reducing abortions - promoting birth control is the only way to do it.
Why do I suddenly feel like a cannibal? :D
Nerd, ya nailed it dead on. Power and control. The true purpose of religions is to take the power and control from the individual and hand it to the parasitic and selfish meme that is religion. It truly has NOTHING to do with saving a human life. If it were, they would be less pro death penalty. Just them trying to take absolute power and control.
Aye, I think it is illogical to forbid any sort of prevention method to begin with, do we really need children in a world which is suffering a food crisis, a world where people have to live on the streets because there aren't enough houses for them etc.

Imo, we should care about the ones who live now, not the ones who might live tomorrow.
We do not seek to preserve life itself. If life (human life) were the focus of consideration of our consideration then a petri dish of skin cells would be the same as a human being to us.

But this is not the case. Instead the thing we value. The thing we seek to protect even in ourselves (most importantly in ourselves) is our identity. And by projection we seek to protect that which is their identity in others.

Identity comes from the brain. Its not just brain matter. But a fully formed (relatively speaking) brain complete with a functioning Cerebrum. It is the Cerebrum that seems to be central to forming the sense of self that we experience as identity.

The Cerebrum does not form in the brain until sometime in the third trimester. Even with the development of a Cerebrum a mind does not necessarily arise as it takes a certain amount of experience for the mind to arise out of the noise of the brain. But this represents the minimum requirements as far as we can tell for a mind to exist.

Thus from these facts it would seem reasonable to withhold consideration of providing moral protection to anything prior to the third trimester as being a Human Being. After the development of the Cerebrum one should begin to consider that there may in fact be a being present and moral consideration should be extended.

A further moral consideration should be the intent of the woman. Thus harm to a fetus that a mother intends to carry to full term would be immoral and termination of a fetus that a woman does not intend to keep would be acceptable.

Or something like that.
Reply by Az 43 minutes ago
Az wrote on July 30
Thus from these facts it would seem reasonable to withhold consideration of providing moral protection to anything prior to the third trimester as being a Human Being.

I disagree with your line of reasoning, Az, for the reasons that I gave in my original post in this folder. You are trying to base a valuation on medical facts, that when the crerebrum reaches a particular stage of development, that personhood occurs. First off, you are wrong to assume that conferring “personhood” based on “identity” is true, or universally accepted. Clearly it is not universally accepted, because an awful lot of people in Colorado say it begins at conception. But medical facts cannot resolve this disagreement.

Personhood is just the moment when the society says “We accept you as one of our own, fully our equal, with all of the rights we guarantee to ourselves.” To a consequentialist like myself, it is when the interests of the individual must be included in the utilitarian calculation. It is clearly decisive in the morality of abortion. If the interests of the conceptus is included in the consequential analysis, abortion is murder, a much more grievous harm than could be offset by benefits to others.

But as I stated originally, the valuation of personhood can (for a utilitarian) only be made on the basis of the greatest number. We can only designate the fetus a person when to do so leads to the best outcome for society as a whole. The upper limit has been set at birth by the United Nations Declaration on Universal Human Rights, but we can set it at any earlier time if there is benefit to society to justify it.

For the United States in the 21st Century, I do not see what that benefit would be. So I think that the precedent set by Roe, that the government has an interest in the fetus that increases over time, cannot be justified.
No, atheists are all people, so their interests must be accounted for in the moral calculation.

The whole issue with the fetus is to determine when we may include it, a potential person, in that calculation. This is not a question that can be decided by medical facts. or by facts of any kind. It is a valuation by society, and must be made on the same basis as every other ethical judgment, the greatest good for the greatest number.
I actually think a definitive answer can only come from medical facts and facts from other fields such as Neuroscience.
Conception is just another phase in the process. So like others have said, it would be the same to give person-hood to sperm cells. Also it's important to note that we are talking about human life, not the life of cells. Therefore, I guess what many people are REALLY arguing over is whether or not the "potential" of human life is as important as "actual" human life. Because at conception I think most people will agree that it is NOT a human at that point, but instead it is a "potential human".
Sadly, however, we do not know at what point it becomes human, that is where medical facts, and probably more importantly, neuroscience comes into play. I say neuroscience because we can be fairly certain that whatever gives rise to our conscious being is in the brain.
Currently there is no universally accepted definition of the time when "personhood" occurs, otherwise there would be no debate!

The moment "personhood" occurs should theoretically coincide with the moment the collection of cells can scientifically (medically) and economically be counted as a "person". When can the parents first declare a dependent? When can the new person begin to formulate thoughts and express "human" behavior? When will he/she put something useful into society? When is the moment of the first spark of consciousness, can we even tell?

The only way we can reach a relatively non-biased conclusion on the dawn of "personhood" and whether or not legislation is necessary is through the most objective facts possible, not pandering about when the soul enters the body (provided it exists), or whether humans are morally obligated to a few cells. I think development of the cerebrum and other brain functions would be a reasonable determinant, except for the fact that the brain does not fully or even acceptably develop its cognitive functions until a significant time after birth. Real "memory" does not occur until at least two, sometimes three, for example. Do we have to wait for that? Or should we wait until it is fully developed to the point of rational thought? If so, then it would be alright to "abort" small children. This is an essential topic to address. There has to be a relatively objective, solid way of knowing, why lay a foundation on sand?

Though George, correct me if I'm wrong, and please clarify, but I read into this perhaps a bit differently than you intended: Personhood is just the moment when the society says “We accept you as one of our own, fully our equal, with all of the rights we guarantee to ourselves.”
"Society says"? What does this imply? How does "society say"? My answer to this, especially for 21st Century American society, lies in documentation: birth certificate, SSN, insurance, taxes, etc. In this age of legality and documentation, a fetus really ISN'T anything, and is not yet acknowledged by "society" except as a part of its mother. When a fetus is born, it adds to the population count and can interact with society, even if only through its parents in the early years. So, from what I read into this, "Personhood", at least in 21st century US, is when that official seal is affixed on your birth certificate and you officially exist. Credit card companies only solicit to "people", after all, and I have yet to see/hear of them sending mail and making phone calls for an unborn child! ;)
I presume the reason for this IS somewhat Utilitarian in nature, as if the fetus dies naturally any time before birth it would be disadvantageous and detrimental to society to have to waste man hours tediously documenting the infant mortality rate by nullifying all the pre-existing paperwork, certificates, and numbers from the pregnancy!



Anyway, I see no reason to make any sort of legislation reducing the upper limit of birth except that after the third trimester is when it is most dangerous to the mother to abort. At that late in the pregnancy, it should be strongly discouraged for safety, but there is no fetus-based reason. Plus, why would anyone wait that long??? At that point, just suck it up, have it, and give the kid up for adoption.

Personally, I wouldn't have an abortion, because if I believe in anything, its taking responsibility for my choices (rape might be a special case, we'll cross that bridge if/when we come to it), but I'm not everyone, and the other thing I believe in is the right of others to choose their own paths.
Anath wrote on July 31
The moment "personhood" occurs should theoretically coincide with the moment the collection of cells can scientifically (medically) and economically be counted as a "person".

This mistakes an act of valuation with a condition of fact. Logically, it demonstrates the error of deriving an “ought” statement from “is” statements. You cannot get there without introducing an “ought” statement into your premises. In this case, you are hiding it in the term “personhood,” by having it represent both some medical state and something to which we must assign ethical value.

This is the logical trick that religionists use in the abortion debate, although we laugh at their supposed facts, like “ensoulment.” The underlying error is that a value cannot be derived from statements of fact. And if you are a consequentialist, you can only determine value by looking at effects in peoples’ lives.

Anath continued
Though George, correct me if I'm wrong, and please clarify, but I read into this perhaps a bit differently than you intended: Personhood is just the moment when the society says “We accept you as one of our own, fully our equal, with all of the rights we guarantee to ourselves.”

"Society says"? What does this imply? How does "society say"?


Obviously by law. The only time people discuss the “personhood of the fetus” is when the explicit or disguised topic is abortion. The principle of progressive state interest in the life of the fetus has become a legal shell game that abortion opponents employ to shrink the window in which abortion is legal. In fact, whether the law places the limit of that window at third trimester or viability or eliminates it altogether, it is nothing more than an act of valuation.

Anath continued
Personally, I wouldn't have an abortion, because if I believe in anything, its taking responsibility for my choices (rape might be a special case, we'll cross that bridge if/when we come to it), but I'm not everyone, and the other thing I believe in is the right of others to choose their own paths.

I hardly think that declining to consider abortion is “taking responsibility” for your actions. In most cases, if “don’t get pregnant” was the morally correct decision, then so is “have an abortion now,” since the consequences that one must consider are the same in each case. Particularly when the woman is young and unmarried, she can expect to have much better prospects of a successful parenting outcome if she waits a few years to have her child.
So are you for or against "valuation"? How are you defining it here? And how do you propose we get to a point of majority agreement without using some sort of objective statement? Clearly, there are too many different views and value judgments for everyone to agree based on valuation alone. How would you propose we determine value, other than a relatively objective measurable scale or series of variables and states? Touchy-feely emotional value judgments?

Obviously by law.
So you agree with my statement that "personhood" occurs at the stamping of a birth certificate?


I hardly think that declining to consider abortion is “taking responsibility” for your actions. In most cases, if “don’t get pregnant” was the morally correct decision, then so is “have an abortion now,” since the consequences that one must consider are the same in each case.
I disagree. If "don't get pregnant" was the morally correct decision, then "utilize responsible behavior, safe sex, and research your birth control options" should be the following morally correct choice. If its not "convenient" to have a child, then don't risk having one. This might boil down to a differing view of the purpose of abortion. Some people might view abortion as a last-resort birth control option; get pregnant, oops, have an abortion, fixed. I disagree with this. Both parties should have taken the necessary steps beforehand to prevent pregnancy. When properly used, condoms have a success rate of over 99%, as do several female birth control options such as Depo-Provera, Nuva Ring, female condoms, spermicidal creams and so on, not to mention emergency birth control such as IUDs. All of these options are widely available and it is actually quite easy to get prescription birth control and emergency contraception from groups such as Planned Parenthood. Multiple birth control methods at the same time (i.e. female condom + male condom, Nuva Ring + male condom+sperimicidal creams, etc) will further decrease likelihood. If birth control is unavailable for whatever reason or you reallyreallyreallyreally don't want the slightest chance whatsoever of pregnancy, then suck it up and keep it in your pants. Granted, there is always a percentage error, but if birth control is properly used, that is significantly under .05%, and there is a higher rate for improperly used birth control, but if you can't be bothered to read the package... and its not like there's any scarcity of information on birth control.

However, this premise provides for a consenting, respectful relationship. Outside this situation, there is a largely grey area where abortion may be the correct moral choice. Sexual abuse, for example, or a relationship where the child will be abused or not cared for properly, or a serious, genuine accident. There is really no method for determining whether it is or is not the correct choice.

There are also other options after birth, such as adoption. A young, unmarried girl does not have to raise the child unless she chooses to. If something happened right now, I would put the child up for adoption rather than abort. There are a lot of families who would like to have children, but can't, and if my mistake/bad choice can benefit someone else, then this is the best possible outcome.

Arguably, this is my choice, and I would not force it on anyone else. They are free to make their own decisions.

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