So after that debate I decided to see what scientists define as the life cycle of a human being. The life cycle is just what it sounds like- the series of events that occur in the life of an organism. At any point in this cycle the organism is alive, except for the point of death, which is usually included as the end of the cycle. If the human life cycle is just birth, infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood, old age and death, then everything before that is “pre-living” or not living. But the majority of scientists believe that it begins before birth. Most include fertilization and prenatal development in the human life cycle. While some see birth as the beginning, these theories tend to rely more on philosophical underpinnings- i.e. the recognition of self and so forth- rather than pure biology. This suggests that scientists- who are paid to not let personal or religious bias into their work- tend to regard life as beginning at fertilization. The pre-birth period is as much a part of life as infancy, childhood, adolescence, adulthood and old age this seems to say. To end an innocent life in any of those other periods would get you sent to prison, possibly to death. Why is ending a life before that legal?
So I started coming up with arguments to counter these slightly frightening facts. First, I considered the fact of development. A zygote is barely developed- it doesn’t look like a human, it doesn’t act like a human, etc. As a result, it really shouldn’t be considered “human life.” Yet isn’t an infant undeveloped? It doesn’t act like a fully mature human nor does it really look much like one. We wouldn’t kill an infant so why is killing just a slightly less developed human any less of an atrocity? It seems that the fact that fetuses aren’t developed isn’t a good excuse to allow for abortion.
Another argument I considered was that this life is different from other types of life in that it is dependent on another human not just for care and provision, but for even the most basic of functions. Its waste is carried out by another person, its breath and food is actually shared by another person. It is clearly a much different form of life than the traditional conception of “human.” Still, when one starts making distinctions between living humans and declares a whole class of them fit for extermination, isn’t that absolutely abhorrent? Isn’t that the idea at the very heart of genocide? If we acknowledge the biological fact that a fetus is alive and it is human, yet a different form of human life, and we then decide that this particular variety of human life can be exterminated at will how are we any better than the Nazis or the butchers in Somalia, Sudan, Japan in World War II or other genocidal regimes? In fact, it seems, we are not if those things are true.
My wife and I watched "In the Womb" on National Geographic the other night, and while I have never been willing to view a fetus as a "clump of cells," I had no idea how alive, sensory and active a fetus is, even months before birth. Read the whole thing, it's not too terribly long and worth the time.
UPDATE: I really should include the money paragraphs that distill Andrew Dobbs' arguments:
Choice is not a valuable argument as no one has the right to choose whether another human lives or dies except when that person poses an immediate threat to one’s own life.
Women’s rights is not a valuable argument in that no one’s rights include the right to kill an innocent human being, not to mention that at least 50% of the lives we are snuffing out are women who will never have a choice on anything.
Political difficulty is not an excuse as the history of our country is the history of oppressed groups taking on monumental difficulties to set themselves free, and in this case we must stand up for those who not only cannot speak for themselves, but are as yet unborn.
Finally, constitutionality is not a valid excuse as it is clear that if these embryos are living humans then Roe v. Wade was a bit of unconstitutional abomination on par with Dred Scott and Plessy v. Ferguson. In the end, if life begins at conception, we have no choice but to protect that life with every element of our law available to us. Democrats must take the lead, as only Democrats can protect life before it is in this world and after it is born. It is time for politics to leave this discussion and for level-headed and honest people to debate the issues with themselves and others in a respectful way.