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Friday, June 24, 2005

Abortion III ... Human Personhood

When does human personhood begin?

Judging from the various comments (typically pro-life & pro-choice) on the topic, I think the core questions is "When does human personhood begin?"

“Depends on whether you think of the fetus as being a living being or just a bunch of cells...” -- Quoted by Vidya --

Before we go into the conflicting beliefs about when personhood starts?

  • It happens at conception - the most common pro-life position
  • It happens when blood first appears - a new interpretation based on the Bible
  • It happens later in pregnancy - the most common pro-choice position
  • It happens at 14 or 22 weeks gestation - two novel arguments
  • It happens during childbirth - the traditional Jewish position
I thought it may be a good idea for us to take a quick look on the various stages of development from fertilization to a new born



Fact: It takes an Embryo about 10 weeks to be transformed into a Fetus (its face looks human; its gender may be detectable) and it takes about 4 months before its heartbeat is detectable. More at STAGES OF DEVELOPMENT, FROM AN OVUM & SPERMATOZOON TO A NEWBORN

1st Question: Can an embryo feel pain?

Many conservative Christians believe that the embryo can feel pain but scientifically… It’s a different story.

2nd Question: Can a fetus feel pain?



The short answer is yes. At some stage during pregnancy, a fetus becomes capable of feeling pain. But, there appears to be no consensus among experts about the point in the pregnancy when this happens:
  • Many physicians and researchers of fetal development believe that synaptic connections within the fetus' brain are necessary to perceive pain. These are not formed until well into the third trimester, when fewer than 1% of all pregnancy terminations are done.
  • Others, who tend to be pro-life advocates, believe that a fetus as early as 7 weeks after conception can feel pain. Thus, they believe that a fetus can feel pain part way through the first trimester, when most abortions are performed

It would appear that some of the experts' opinions are so heavily biased by their pro-life/pro-choice stance that they are incapable of making objective observations.

Many women seriously consider this factor when they are deciding whether or not to have an abortion. They are reluctant to submit to an operation that would be painful to the fetus. Women deserve to have precise information on which to base their decision. Unfortunately, emotional factors seem to intrude in this, as in all other matters related to abortion. Information is very easy to find. But its accuracy is almost impossible to evaluate.

Pain in an adult, child, newborn or late-term fetus originates as an electrical signal in some of the body's pain receptors. This signal is sent via nerve pathways to the spinal column, then to the thalamus - an egg-shaped structure within the brain. Finally the signal is transferred to the cerebral cortex where it is sensed as pain. In a fetus, the pain receptors develop around 7 weeks after conception; the spino-thalamic system at about 13 weeks. Finally, the connections to the cortex are established about 26 weeks into pregnancy. Some pro-life advocates believe that pain can be felt by the fetus when these systems are only partly formed. Most pro-choice advocates believe that the complete system has to be "wired up" before the fetus can feel pain - i.e. at about 26 weeks into pregnancy.

Statement by a Panel of Experts:

The issue of fetal pain was addressed by a working group appointed by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists in the United Kingdom. The panel consisted of experts in fetal development, law and bioethics. Dr. Anne McLaren headed the group. She commented: "Fetal awareness of pain is a very emotive topic, of particular concern to pregnant women, but we have tried to approach it without preconceptions, to examine the scientific evidence dispassionately, and to identify areas where further research is urgently needed.''

The group determined that pain can only be felt by a fetus after nerve connections became established between two parts of its brain: the cortex and the thalamus. This happens about 26 weeks from conception. Professor Maria Fitzgerald of University College London, author of the working group's report, says that "little sensory input" reaches the brain of the developing fetus before 26 weeks. "Therefore reactions to noxious stimuli cannot be interpreted as feeling or perceiving pain."

They recommended that the administration of painkillers should be considered before an abortion for any fetus which is 24 or more weeks since conception. This would give a 2 week safety factor in case the date of conception is incorrectly calculated.Recent statistics show that of the 177,225 abortions performed in Britain during a recent year, only 92 (0.05%) occurred after 24 weeks

Statement by an "All Party Parliamentary Pro-Life Group:

"A group of pro-life advocates from various political parties in England issued a statement on "Foetal Sentience" in 1996. They concluded:"Since no direct objective method of assessing fetal pain exists, the crucial question with regard to fetal sentience is: At what stage of human prenatal development are those anatomical structures subserving the appreciation of pain present and functional?

The balance of evidence at the present time indicates that these structures are present and functional before the tenth week of intrauterine life."

Statement by Dr. Paul Ranalli:

Dr. Ranalli is a neurologist at the University of Toronto, in Toronto Canada. He is acting president of the de Veber Institute for Bioethics and Social Research. He gave a presentation called "Pain, Fetal Development, and Partial-birth abortion" on 1997-JUN-27 to the House Judiciary Committee of the State of Ohio. 2,3 He has concluded that the "spino-thalamic" system is fully developed at about 12 to 14 weeks of gestation. This is the system that conveys pain signals from pain receptors throughout the body to the thalamus. He apparently believes that the thalamus can feel pain, even though a connection between it and the cortex is missing.

To support his belief that a fetus in the second trimester can feel pain, he cites three signs:

  • a fetus will "withdraw from painful stimulation"
  • two types of stress hormones which are detected in adults who are feeling pain are also found in a fetus from when a blood sample is withdrawn. He quotes:

Nicholas Fisk of London, England who observed this reaction as early as 19 weeks, and J Partch of Kiel, Germany who observed it at 16 weeks.

More about Commission of Inquiry into Fetal Sentience and Laws regarding the use of fetal anesthetic during pregnancy terminations

Based on the prevailing intelligence we have on "Embryo/Fetus: Pain", at which stage during the course pregnancy do you think is when human personhood begins?

20 Comments:

Blogger La Bona said...

by Islam Dean

hi there,

hope ure fine and well.

abortion in islam is forbidden, unless there is a risk to the mother's life. concerning your comments:

'Do you think it is right to burden say a 15 years old school-going girl with a new life ...'

If there is a burden on the girl, then why doesn't she have the baby yet let her parents take care of the baby, or if that's not possible, since some parents may reject this, then there are other options.

just because it is a burden on the 15yr old girl doesn't mean it is right to abort/kill a baby in it's developing stage.

the baby is human too. so one shouldn't go to such extreme stages to abort due to it having a burden on the girl.

one should persist in educating these youngters so they dont fall into these errors that they later regret.

i hope that has helped.

take care : )

12:52 AM  
Blogger SBB said...

There are babies born into the world all the time who die or suffer for a long, long period of time. Why worry about the unborn suffering for a few seconds when no one cares what happens after they are born?

Re: Islam forbids abortion - I'd like to see the specific quotation that says it does. Note that there are non-negative mentions or abortion in the Bible as well, although people choose to interpret it differently.

Just a quick point as this issue can never be resolved. No-one will every agree 100% on this issue.

1:20 AM  
Blogger jenny said...

i think the choice should be the 15 year old girl's to make (with her parent's permission not being mandatory) and she should be supported in whatever her choice is, be it abortion, adoption, or raising it.

1:20 AM  
Blogger jenny said...

to your other questions, no pharmacists job is to dispense medication, not to prescribe or make moral decisions about prescriptions or patients.

and no God does not forbid contraception.

1:22 AM  
Blogger Transplanted Lawyer said...

Hate the game, not the playa, jonben.

9:45 AM  
Blogger Paul (probably - maybe Liz) said...

Is "the ability to feel pain" a necessary and sufficient definition of personhood?

9:50 AM  
Blogger In Christ Alone said...

A baby is a baby at conception. In God's eyes, it's murder, whether or not you think the baby feels the pain. If someone is sleeping and you shoot them in the head, and you think they'll die without feeling it, isn't it still murder? God designed sex as soemthing between a married man and woman. And it therefore brings life into the world. When young girls or anyone else is careless, they know possible consequences of their actions. Or even if it's a consequence of rape or whatever, the baby is not at fault and no one has the right to kill a baby. No one.

9:53 AM  
Blogger La Bona said...

by Gravityboy

I'd like to talk about lite brite. Ever since recieving the joyful gift of lite brite in my home, life has been wonderful! Screw God, lite brite is where it's at!
I think all of the world's childern should have a lite brite and some electricity so they can experience the joy for themselves.

See how stupid this looks La Bona?

My two cents on your topic:The abortion issue is soooo tired. We used to "discuss" this and capital punishment in school when I was very young.

And, being as this topic has been talked over so many times, I will only address a few points. I will say that it's no one's business what some annonymous woman wants to do with her body. It is protected by the law and that's that. Accept it. Not everyone has your "moral" values.

The thing to remember is that this country is not a CHRISTIAN STATE. Hard to believe, I know, but it's not. It's a secular state, that is meant to represent people of many backgrounds, faiths, and beliefs.

11:44 AM  
Blogger La Bona said...

by mollie conlee

i really appreciate your page and am quite surprised that such a religiously faithful individual would make a page even acknowledging this issue of abortion. I think I am pro-choice, but am young and possibly do not have enough experience to make this decision. I am passionate about the issue of teen mothers and abortion in teen girls and would like to share my views.

Young women all over the world are financially and emotionally burdened every day with the resposibilities of motherhood. Most teenage girls are not ready to take on the lifelong commitment of having a child. Even those girls who choose to have unprotected sex and risk pregnancy are endangered with death during childbirth. Many of the children that are a result of these teen pregnancies end up fatherless and disadvantaged from the day they are born. I don't believe that abortion should be used as a type of birth control for women who are financially and fraternally ready to take on a child, but for a young girl whose life has already began and is still impending, pregnancy can be a distastrous and life-changing circumstance of sex.

I applaud organizations like Planned Parenthood who help young people be tested for STIs and provide contraception to them. I also appreciate you for posting this page and sharing both sides of this issue for comment.

11:51 AM  
Blogger La Bona said...

Paul "Is the ability to feel pain a necessary and sufficient definition of personhood?"

This seems to be the yardstick most people consider as 'logical' ... what do you think?

3:56 PM  
Blogger KaiserSoze said...

Yes my religion prohibits abortion but I guess being all mighty and compassionate, God could see the necessity of abortion of those who are not capable of raising another soul, rape victims, those with medical conditions etc. For he is the Lord Almighty


I personally think, the body is YOUR temple, hence you should be be given the choice.

10:09 PM  
Blogger Takakohazelnut said...

Hi La Bona,

As a Christian, I think abortion is a no-no, unless it is medically life-threatening to the mother.

In the context of the 15-year-old girl being pregnant, I will still advise against abortion as it is a life that we are talking about here; God's gift to the world. The girl should have known the consequences before she engaged in non-protected sex and hence should be responsible enough to admit to the mistake and manage it as best as she can. She can also give the baby up for adoption if she feels that it will hinder her future, though that is really selfish of her.

In this case, I think the issue is not about whether teens should go for abortions or not; it's really about sex education. What are we teaching/showing in the media to our young nowadays that girls as young as 15 are engaging in sex?

If a female is raped however, this is a grey area. I think in this case, it depends on how old the foteus is. God hates rapists but he wouldn't want the baby to die either. But he also understands how the afflicted will feel. So perhaps, the female can choose to give the baby up for adoption if she doesn't want to live with the reminder of the shame forever.

12:10 AM  
Blogger Agent K00 said...

Dear Bona,

Recently you posted on my web log a question on Abortion. Although I did reply on my own blog-site, I see that many, many, have already spoken.

I forgot to include the medical portion on my reply entry. Pro-life is about saving lives. From the beginning, to the very end, saving lives.

For the long-version, cut and paste this link into your URL, and scroll down.

Thank you, by the way... for dropping in, and leaving those few lines.

12:39 AM  
Blogger Whitters said...

I personally believe that a fetus becomes a person during childbirth. I didn't know that was a traditional Jewish belief; that's very interesting.

Also interesting is the fact that, for centuries, Christians did NOT believe that life began at conception. For example, in the 15th century, Catholic church officials defined life as beginning at "quickening," or when movement is first felt within the womb (about 3 months along). Until then, abortion was acceptable. In fact, there was even a patron saint of abortion.

I have had an abortion before, and although it was a difficult decision and process, I don't regret it at all. I'm a strong supporter of a woman's right to choose. If you don't approve of abortion, then don't have one--but don't try to impose your own morality onto other people who don't share your beliefs, opinions, life situation, etc.

2:09 AM  
Blogger La Bona said...

by Agent K00 @ http://cuckoosnestpress.blogspot.com/2005/06/parable-of-prodigal-son.html#comments

Thank you Bona, for the question.

This is a difficult question because well, I am not a woman. But I do know women, so I will try and venture for an intelligible answer.

First, I am NOT an Anti-Abortion activist but am Pro-life, even though I have my own personal minor destructive habits such as: smoking and occasional binge drinking. (This I believe to be a necessary disclaimer since I fully recognize that I have flaws other than these that I disclose)

It is not uncommon for girls to have children at fifteen, in some cultures it is still practiced even though it does cut short their own childhood. Which is why in most civilized nations the average age for bearing children is well past twenty, now approaching late twenties to early thirties in some areas.

There are clearly some lines that modern life has blurred over time, but abortion as a means to clean up the mess of an unwanted birth is, simply wrong.

You mentioned that the poor 15 year old school girl must carry too heavy a burden in rearing a child of her own, but if one thinks that an abortive procedure is not going to leave a whole 'nother kind of burden on that girl, this person is quite mistaken.

But clearly, there are those who get so unfortunately violated, raped, impregnated against their will and judgment. This is a very tough test to say the least, on what course of action to take next.

The girl impregnated against her will does have a choice in our current legal system. I have heard of both cases, where the girl decides to abort, and very few and far between, decide to actually have the child in spite of who fathered this child. (Yes, I know that it's incredible but there are cases like these. I'm sure you've heard of them too.)

There are some who view even contraception to be wrong in the eyes of our Maker, so clearly, abortion is no less of a crime, which is taken course with perhaps not enough thought and prayer.

It is a difficult question, so I won't hold it against you if you think that I'm skirting around the issue. There are extreme situations where perhaps abortion may be called for in my opinion. But even those violated women who go through with it; I'm willing to bet that they will still have that dark, heavy burden in their hearts, afterwards for years and years deep inside of them.

As it is, I don't have all the answers but I know someone who does. I'm sure you've heard of him too. His name is God, and he can be accessed through a fellow by the name of Jesus Christ.

9:51 AM  
Blogger La Bona said...

by Sarah M

My name's Sarah aka agathis. Abortion is a very personal topic for me, but i totaly agree with what you are saying. I myself experienced an unwanted pregnancy at the age of 16. I hated abortions and never thought I would ever go through with such an extreme, however, when the time came, it looked like my only option. I had a boyfriend (who i am still with now), and loving understanding parents, yet the problem was i was 16 and i knew i wouldnt ever be able to raise a baby. I had no money and I still had to pass year 12, (i had just finished year 11). So i turned to the option i had dissagreed so strongly againts for a majority of my life. However after the opporation, I have come to realise, yes I miss my baby like crazy, and I do cry for the loss of the baby at times too, but it was the right thing to do. I do not look down on any woman, girl, or child who has an abortion. I never will. If a woman feels she cannot have a baby for what ever reason, and yes that reason is personal, than that is her choise.. I have been a lot more careful now, and i hope that i will never have to go through that again. But that is a thing that I had to do.

I hope my imput has been helpful. Good luck with your case.

10:37 AM  
Blogger Lunatic said...

I won't advocate abortion as such. But, I think it is better to abort a baby rather than bring it to birth and subject it to a lot more pain post birth. People should behave like responsible adults and use contraceptives in the first place... yet, in situations wherein you ARE pregnant but not in a position to take care of another life, abortion will be better option than giving birth to the 'cannot care for' child.

3:17 PM  
Blogger Nikkabee said...

I noticed your questions and statements about abortion on a friends blog.
I personally believe you have the right to your own opinion, But you do not have the right to push it upon other people.
If a person is liable to have sex then that person should be capable of handling the choice of abortion themselves. I do believe abortion should be legal, People have the choice to it if they really don't feel they are ready to be parents.

As for the whole 'God thinks it's death' thing. Not everyone believes in higher powers, and personally if "god" cared so much about abortion; He'd do something to stop it.

If people are stupid enough to have sex without using contraceptive methods then the burden of a child should be on them.

1:05 PM  
Blogger Whisper Pictures said...

It's quite an interresting subject, but I'm sure many other, more qualified people are out there with better answers. I am going to say, though, that this burden is the mother's alone. (Well, it also affects everyone around, but you know what I mean...) If, even on a whim, she decides to abort it, it's her choice. She may come to regret it in time, but that's what choices are all about. Make the one you think is best for you, as long as it doesn't hurt anybody permanently. As for the God thing, before questionning His will, why not prove His existence.
J

8:30 PM  
Blogger Heather said...

well now...this is actually a very much used question. aside from the question "should teens be having sex?" well...i think that if she thinks she's old enought to ingage in that sort of thing...she should be old enough and responsible enough to deal with the results of ingaging in teen sex. a baby should not be punished for the poor choices of say a 15 year old girl, even if it was her first time, or even if it was a one time thing. it's real aggrivating to me to see little girls walking around in skirts up to their butts...laughing and flirting with older guys...and getting into relationships with older guys. We all know that 15 year old gurls are not physically or mentally ready for that sort of thing. but they knowingly put themselves out there. and no...doctors have no right to play god. even if the woman is dying. if god wants her. he'll take her. if not...she'll live.

10:39 PM  

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WARNING: Blind obsession with prophecy can be perilous or even fatal, reader discretion is advised! Submitted to God as His worldly Activist on a non-exclusive basis since June 15, 2005 1:00 am ET. “La Bona” is a professional name inspired by God; it means "The Righteous", “The Virtuous” or simply “The Good” in Esperanto (a neutral international language). DivineTalk® is an Open Commentary Forum dedicated to God for His Children to engage in dialogue, discourse and debate on laws, standards and values on morality, lifestyle, ethics, business and just about anything else related to their life. God enlightened to have His Words improvised and updated with the prevailing circumstances so that the divine guidance, dogma and policy will evolve with time and stay relevant to His Children in the very era they live in as the way forward. La Bona is a Truth Seeker, Myth Buster, Freedom Fighter, Cyber Activist, Liberal Animal, Good Samaritan, Messiah Wannabe and in order to serve His Children of diverse backgrounds, La Bona is motivated and aim to eventually multitask as Divine Representative, Contemporary Prophet, Celestial Executive, Deity Clairvoyant, Holy Spiritualist ...

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