Friday, September 28, 2012

The Viral Tay-Sachs Story

I wish I could have had an abortion… — Paula’s Story

I've tried googling Paula's story for more information, but all I get is re-re-re-re-re-postings. It's ubiquitous, but has no visible source. Who is Paula? Who is the doctor who, Paula intimates, she sued and had divested of his medical license? Where is this family, so desperately in need of help, but shrouded in a haze of mystery that while keeping out prying eyes and ugly words, also keeps out any offers of help?

I will not edit Paula's story, but will let it stand on its own:

My husband Alan and I found out that I was pregnant in late April of 2009. This was a complete accident. Due to the fact that we were both Tay-Sachs carriers, we were going to have a child via IVF. But what was done was done. I scheduled an appointment for a Chorionic Villus Sampling (CVS) for as early as possible (10 weeks). Words cannot describe how relieved we were when the doctor told us that our child was fine.

My pregnancy was an easy one. No complications, plenty of happiness. My husband, my in-laws, my daughter Sophia (from a previous relationship), and the rest of my friends and family were overjoyed. My parents had passed away years before that, but I know they would have been happy too.

I gave birth to my son Elijah on January 15th, 2010. Everything was perfect until Elijah was six months old. He wasn’t reaching the developmental milestones he should have been. My husband became concerned. His brother died at the age of four from Tay-Sachs. Alan remembered watching the disease progress. He said that this watching Elijah was like “deja vu”. I didn’t think much of it, but I figured it was better to err on the side of caution. I made an appointment with an opthamologist to look at Elijah’s eyes, which is a way of diagnosing Tay-Sachs.

My world came crashing down around me when the opthamologist told me that Elijah had “cherry-red spots” in the back of his eyes. That meant that the doctor was wrong. My son did have Tay-Sachs. Furious, I went back to the first doctor and told him what I had found out. I know he was pro-life, and I’m pretty sure he lied to me so I didn’t have an abortion. It’s also possible that he made a mistake. All I know is that he no longer can practice medicine and I recieved a lot of monetary compensation. However, it’s not worth it.

Alan had a lot of issues in his past. After the death of his brother, he started using drugs. He got into methamphetamines by the time he was 15. He got clean when he was 21. Upon hearing of Elijah’s illness, he began using again at the age of 30. I tried to get him help. I wanted to send him to rehab, but he wouldn’t listen to me. He purposely overdosed about a month after Elijah’s diagnosis. His suicide note read “Watching my baby brother die was too much. I can’t watch my son. I’m sorry.” My husband, the love of my life, is dead.

His in-laws are incredibly distraught. They had to bury both of their children, and now they’re going to have to help me bury their first and last biological grandchild. Their depression caused them to lose their jobs, which lead to them losing their house. They live in my house now, but I hardly see them. They only leave their room to eat.

My seven-year-old daughter is so confused. She knows what’s happening, but she wants to know why. I wish I could tell her, but I don’t even know myself. Every night, she holds Elijah in her arms and weeps. She begs him not to leave and tells him how much she loves him. She showers him with kisses and won’t let him go until I put her to bed. She was too depressed to be in school, so I have teachers coming to our house so she can be homeschooled. She’s in therapy three times per week. I’m doing everything I can for her, but it doesn’t seem like enough.

Elijah needs constant care, so I had to give up my job. At first I had a nurse taking care of him, but as his disease progressed, I kept having to leave work for emergency visits either at home or at the hospital. I have more than enough money to stay afloat, but what good is that when I’m home pretty much 24/7 watching my son slowly die.

This is the only time in my life that I’m glad my parents aren’t around. I don’t want them to see this. It’s too painful.

Elijah has is the worst of all. He’s blind, deaf, and paralyzed. He cannot eat, so he needs to be tube-fed. He has seizures every day and is severely brain damaged. He cannot laugh or smile. My baby boy has no quality of life. If I was made aware of his illness, I would have had an abortion. At only 12 weeks, he wouldn’t have felt a thing. Now pain is all he knows and feels. I expect him to pass away within the next few months.

So, pro-lifers, tell me, what good came out of Elijah being born? A few months of happiness? Guess what, it wasn’t worth it, especially not for Elijah. How can you justify me being forced to put him through this? The love of my life is dead, my in-laws will never see their family carried on, my daughter is being robbed of a happy childhood, my mental health is deteriorating every passing minute, and my son is in agony. All of this could have been prevented by an abortion, but my “doctor” manipulated me so I wouldn’t have one.

Don’t tell me that Elijah’s birth is a blessing or that this experience will make me stronger. Don’t tell me that fetuses can feel pain. Not at 12 weeks they can’t, and every credible medical professional agrees. And please, for the love of God, do NOT tell me how much you “care”. Usually, you only care about the fetus. Not the mother, not the family, just the fetus. But in my case, you don’t care about any of us, especially my son. You just want me to live MY life based on YOUR “moral” standards.

Classic Infantile Tay-Sachs is an utterly devastating disease; its very existence is an affront to humanity. The fact that such a thing happens to innocent children is enough to make one question a belief in God. So let's just get that out of the way. Even the bright side -- if there can be said to be one -- is in a way part of why Tay-Sachs is so devastating: A happy, seemingly healthy child will begin to inexorably deteriorate and there's not a damned thing the child's helpless, agonized parents can do to stop it.

Brushing this off with platitudes about every life being worthwhile, about adversity making us stronger, etc. is an obscenity.

To face a prenatal diagnosis of Tay-Sachs and flee from that impending horror to the nearest abortion facility isn't selfishness or cruelty. The closest thing outside abortion I can compare it to would be to imagine a father in Nanking as the Japanese invaders approach in 1937. He knows what's coming. His pregnant wife and 6-year-old daughter will be gang raped before his helpless eyes. His wife's belly will then be slit open and her unborn baby torn out just to compound her anguish and agony as she dies. If the brutality of the rape doesn't kill his daughter outright, she'll be used for bayonet practice. The man might be forced, himself, to perform sexual acts upon his precious little girl before he, too, is tortured to death. Who could dismiss as selfish or cruel a man facing that grim reality who, upon hearing the approaching army and the screams of the victims, quietly pulls out a pistol and shoots his wife and child before turning the weapon on himself?

Of course, the plight of our hypothetical Chinese father only serves to illustrate that it's possible for a parent to feel utterly trapped into killing a beloved child in order to spare that child from unspeakable suffering. It doesn't reflect the reality of a Tay-Sachs diagnosis.

There is no halcyon time between the sound of boot-steps and the onset of the torment for the Chinese family. In shooting his family, the Chinese father would not be depriving them of any happiness. There is nothing left for them to experience but terror and agony. The same is not true after the Tay-Sachs diagnosis. Along with the certainty of deterioration and death is the certainty of love and smiles and laughter and snuggling, of sunshine on the child's face and warm milk in his belly and everything else that brings joy in a small child's life. Aborting the child averts the cruelty of the disease, yes, but it also robs him of everything. Absolutely everything.

Would it not be better to be looking for an option that allows the child -- and the family -- to have the good while mitigating the bad as much as possible? Would it not be better to provide families with love and support that would enable them to cherish every possible moment of love and happiness? Would it not be better to strive for treatments and cures? And for the families who simply can not cope with the ordeal, would it not be better to place the child in a setting where his or her daunting needs can be met? Would it not be better to offer adoption, foster care, and hospice care?


Even with the best of help, Tay-Sachs is a hellish disease. I can not stand in judgment of the parents who fled to the abortionist. There is no greater pain than for a parent to witness the suffering and death of a child. I can not, in this case, even stand in judgment of the abortionist. But, that said, I can stand in judgment of the society that, by making abortion available and remaining sanctimoniously nonjudgmental about it, pretends to have done right by those parents and their innocent, doomed children.

It's the epitome of cruelty to leave families feeling trapped between two nightmare scenarios, between watching a beloved child suffer and averting the suffering by also averting any chance of life at all. And it is utterly inexcusable to use the anguish of those families as a smokescreen to hide from public awareness the abortions perpetrated because the child will have a cleft lip, or will interfere with career plans, or will be the "wrong" sex. Did I say, "inexcusable?" Excuse me: I meant "despicable."

Paula is in a world of pain, pain that I will not belittle by even pretending that I can fathom it. She can lash out at me all day and I'll stand and take it whether I deserve it or not.

But -- and at first this may sound cruel -- we can not base public policy on the cries of those in pain. If we did, there would be no such thing as a suicide hotline; we would just kill the depressed because in their pain, death is what they are crying out for. Then we would be left to deal with the anguish of those they've left behind, and we'd likely be carrying out another round of shooting depressed people.

Now imagine a criminal justice system that simply carried out the wishes of the agonized families of murder victims. What then, as well, would we do with the pain that was then inflicted on the loved ones of the suspects?

Public policy must be based on principles, on a sound footing of human rights and fundamental justice. One person's pain can not be justification to deprive another person of property, liberty, or life. To do so is to deny the other person justice. As undeniably difficult as it is for Paula to struggle in the shadow of Elijah's illness, his life is not hers to take away. We can not give that right to another. Not even to that person's mother, and not even if we go back in time to when that person was very, very young and very, very small.

Sometimes, life just sucks. But we do not improve upon it by adding injustice to the mix.

36 comments:

adab2 said...

Very well said. She has no right over her son's life. She clearly is in a lot of pain but Elijah was meant to be that is why he is here today. There is a reason for his existence even if she believes that it only caused pain and tragedy. I feel for her and I really do care. I will share this post in one of my blogs and I will give you credit, of course. Thank you for sharing and for all your posts. ;)

Melissa said...

I think it needs to be said, over, and over, and over again, that hard cases make for bad laws. Tay-Sachs disease is about the hardest of the hard cases.

If the majority of he abortions performed were the hard cases--rape, incest, to save the life of the mother, and yes, even the cases of gross fetal deformity, there would really be no public outcry over abortion at all. If abortion were that rare, would we really give a damn that it were legal?

deepsea said...

a nice try at seeming empathetic.

what you fail to grasp is - where do you draw the line? ok, so for policy-makers sake, let's exclude the 'hard cases', because it's just too gosh darn hard to make policy when they have to listen to such troublesome problems by their constituents!

ok, what about pregnancies from rape? i guess that's a hard one too...let's just not base policy on that either. let's just pretend everyone who wants an abortion are actually using these "rare cases" as a "smokescreen", people who want abortions because "the child will have a cleft lip, or will interfere with career plans, or will be the "wrong" sex". Do you see what I'm saying? You have no support that people are seeking abortions for these reasons. You're just making specious assumptions while REAL families are suffering. You don't even claim that you don't support abortion in the case of a baby with Tay-Sachs, you just try to make the case for ignoring these situations. and THAT'S truly despicable.

Christina Dunigan said...

I said that public policy has to be based on a sound footing of human rights and fundamental justice, not on human emotions.

Why don't you describe for us a sound, functioning society that bases public policy not on human rights and justice, but on emotions?

deepsea said...

you are once again trying to pigeonhole the arguments of your opponents. no, i never said policy should be based on emotion and not on human rights/justice. YOU make the assumption that your system alone is based on these ideals.

here's something to think about. you seem to be opposed to depriving 'another person of property, liberty, or life', but are totally ok with having government policy FORCING rape victims to carry fetuses to full term? or FORCING a family to birth and raise a child that would experience agony its entire short life? lots of 'fundamental justice' there.

Another area where your argumentation is weak: it assumes the 'personhood' of the zygote/embryo/fetus, which is a colossal philosophical/scientific undertaking in itself. As it stands, there is no evidence to consider a zygote/embryo/fetus a person. In another post, I point out how in the early stages of embryo development, it isn't even set whether an embryo will become a single person, twins, triplets, etc, or even fail to implant (zero persons). So how can anyone claim that personhood begins at fertilization is beyond me.

Christina Dunigan said...

Let's see if you're actually interested in engaging.

Let's start by defining "human being." I hold that a human being is an organism of the species homo sapiens. Do you differ from me on that?

deepsea said...

sure, let's go with that.

but let me stop you right there, since i know what directions you're probably hoping to go. no, a zygote/embryo/fetus then does not qualify as a human being, as it can be argued they are not organisms (not capable of autonomous growth, reproduction, or metabolism). to say that autonomous growth etc are not necessary would mean that viruses count as organisms, and that induced pluripotent stem cells should be considered human beings.

also, how useful is such a definition, really? do you have a rational argument for why certain rights extend only to members of homo sapiens and nothing more?

also, i'm intrigued that you seem to think I don't want to engage in a discussion. I may not, since you have only been answering in 1-2 line responses, addressing few of my points. If you don't feel like addressing the things i'm saying, then this is a waste of my time.

Christina Dunigan said...

Let's proceed, shall we?

no, a zygote/embryo/fetus then does not qualify as a human being, as it can be argued they are not organisms (not capable of autonomous growth, reproduction, or metabolism.

First I think we need to distinguish among zygotes, embryos, and fetuses and discuss each of them in turn.

A zygote is "the initial cell formed when two gamete cells are joined by means of sexual reproduction. In multicellular organisms, it is the earliest developmental stage of the embryo."

The first cell division takes place approximately 24 - 30 hours after conception, so the new entity is a zygote (the youngest stage of the embryo) for a tad more than a day.

So are we agreed on the definition of a zygote?

Christina Dunigan said...

"An embryo is a multicellular diploid eukaryote in its earliest stage of development, from the time of first cell division until birth, hatching, or germination. In humans, it is called an embryo until about eight weeks after fertilization (i.e. ten weeks Last Menstrual Period or LMP), and from then it is instead called a fetus."

"A eukaryote is an organism whose cells contain complex structures enclosed within membranes."

In layman's terms, then, an embryo is a living organism of the type made up of cells that have a nucleus. That includes plants, animals, fungi, and many one-celled organisms.

Are we agreed on the definition of an embryo?

Christina Dunigan said...

"A fetus is a developing mammal or other viviparous vertebrate after the embryonic stage and before birth."

In laymen's terms, a fetus is a developing animal that gestates inside the mother rather than in an extrenal egg.

Are we agreed on what a fetus is?

Christina Dunigan said...

deepsea seems to have vanished on me. How can we have a discussion of any sort if we can't even define the terms?

deepsea said...

sorry, a one day absence is 'vanishing' now eh.

sure let's go with all those definitions. when are you going to start making some kind of argument or addressing any of the points I made?

the simplest argument you have to deal with: all three stages are not autonomous, and I gave an example of the problems that emerge if you consider non-autonomous human cells with 'future potential' to be 'human beings'

Melissa said...

Here's another line of argument from deepsea's comments.

"here's something to think about. you seem to be opposed to depriving 'another person of property, liberty, or life', but are totally ok with having government policy FORCING rape victims to carry fetuses to full term? or FORCING a family to birth and raise a child that would experience agony its entire short life? lots of 'fundamental justice' there."

There is no force involved when a doctor refuses to perform an abortion. No force involved when a society says "We shall not kill to solve our problems." No force involved when society says to a woman with an unwelcome pregnancy, "No, you cannot ask us to do that for you. You are not entitled to an abortion. Asking someone to kill in order to get you out of this mess is selfish. It is TOO MUCH to ask from your doctor and from society."

We do not force women to carry their pregnancies by refusing them abortions. We merely let women take responsibility for the consequences of their actions.

Which automatically leads back to the question: "But what if she was raped? What if she did not freely CHOOSE the action that led to this pregnancy?"

To which we say: rape is a hard case. And hard cases make for bad laws.

And around, and around, and around we go again.

Christina Dunigan said...

deapsea:

sorry, a one day absence is 'vanishing' now eh.

Sorry; you had been responding far more promptly so I figured you'd gone when the next response was not as prompt. My bad.

sure let's go with all those definitions. when are you going to start making some kind of argument or addressing any of the points I made?

You made assertion that a "z/e/f" is not an organism. I was addressing that assertion. If you are accepting the definitions I took from abortion neutral web sites, you are conceding that the "z/e/f" is an organism. Is that correct?

the simplest argument you have to deal with: all three stages are not autonomous, and I gave an example of the problems that emerge if you consider non-autonomous human cells with 'future potential' to be 'human beings'

We have two arguments you're making here. One is that the z/e/f is "not autonomous," and another assertion that the z/e/f is "human cells." Not comprised of human cells.

Can you explain more fully your definition of autonomous, and why you conceded that the z/e/f is an organism but then assert that the z/e/f is merely cells.

deepsea said...

@ Christina: lol my bad. didn't even really read the definitions. i was impatient and waiting for an argument. so you're trying to establish that z/e/fs or some subset of them are human beings, since they are organisms belonging to our species. the problems with this approach:

1) your definitions don't explicitly declare any of the stages an 'organism', that is merely your interpretation. your interpretations all rely on the definitions saying that X is an 'early state' of an actual organism. this is an unsupported and not necessarily logical extension. you are assuming a particular future for the entity, rather than relying on the empirical history of the entity. THIS is the meaning of my zero persons, twins, triplets etc argument.
2) i have provided criteria for what constitutes an 'organism', which include autonomous metabolism, reproduction, etc. In the case of species that are single-celled organisms, this just means that they have functional intracellular components (mitochondria, DNA replication components, etc). In the case of the human species, which is multicellular, metabolism, reproduction etc entail fully developed organ systems. That is the meaning of autonomous-ness. If you try to extend organism-hood to anything less, then you run into the problem of considering skin cells or induced pluripotent stem cells* in a lab culture as organisms and hence, "human beings".

hope that was more clear.

@ Melissa - your post is wrong since you are assuming someone is getting 'killed' when an abortion occurs. that is the entire subject of Christina and my discussion - it is NOT clear that a human being is being "killed". Also, your finishing point was that "rape is a hard case" so we shouldn't make laws that consider them?? That was the whole point of my first post - you can't just ignore cases because they're 'too hard' or 'inconveniently not consistent with your belief system'.

Christina Dunigan said...

deepsea

1) your definitions don't explicitly declare any of the stages an 'organism', that is merely your interpretation. your interpretations all rely on the definitions saying that X is an 'early state' of an actual organism.

It says "stage" not "state," but either way, a stage or state of something means a specific period of being that particular thing. It's not a prelude to that thing. If somebody has "stage 1 cancer," that's very different from having precancerous cells. Stage 1 cancer is cancer.

you are assuming a particular future for the entity, rather than relying on the empirical history of the entity.

I'm not assuming a particular future. The organism might die or, at a very early stage, reproduce asexually.

THIS is the meaning of my zero persons, twins, triplets etc argument.

I already addressed that.

Christina Dunigan said...

2) i have provided criteria for what constitutes an 'organism', which include autonomous metabolism, reproduction, etc. .... In the case of the human species, which is multicellular, metabolism, reproduction etc entail fully developed organ systems. That is the meaning of autonomous-ness.

I'll use the definition of organism from Biology Online.

"An individual living thing that can react to stimuli, reproduce, grow, and maintain homeostasis. It can be a virus, bacterium, protist, fungus, plant or an animal."

a z/e/f is a separate and distinct living thing. You assert that it merely a cell or collection of cells, but I don't believe you hold that it is not living.

It is capable of reacting to stimulii. This need not be a conscious reaction -- for example, flowering plants will respond to sunlight by growing towards it. The human zygote responds differently to different types of light.

The early-stage embryo responds to contact with the uterine wall by burrowing in and developing a placenta.

In later stages of gestation, embryos and fetuses respond to touch, sound, and changes of the taste of the amniotic fluid. (This last is used therapeutically in conditions involving excessive amniotic fluid.)

Christina Dunigan said...

Continued, the definition of organism from Biology Online.

"An individual living thing that can react to stimuli, reproduce, grow, and maintain homeostasis. It can be a virus, bacterium, protist, fungus, plant or an animal."

As far as reproduction, are you really willing to assert that the following are not organisms:

Kittens, puppies, bunnies, colts, toddlers, etc., which are not yet sexually mature and thus incapable of getting pregnant and giving birth.

Humans who have had tubal ligations or vasectomies, rendering them incapble of reproducing?

Christina Dunigan said...

Further continuing from the definition of organism from Biology Online.

"An individual living thing that can react to stimuli, reproduce, grow, and maintain homeostasis. It can be a virus, bacterium, protist, fungus, plant or an animal."

I hope you're not arguing that the z/e/f does not grow.

As for maintaining homeostasis, Biology Online defines homeostasis as:

"(1) The tendency of an organism or a cell to regulate its internal conditions, usually by a system of feedback controls, so as to stabilize health and functioning, regardless of the outside changing conditions

(2) The ability of the body or a cell to seek and maintain a condition of equilibrium or stability within its internal environment when dealing with external changes"

The z/e/f certainly fits the first definition, as it uses feedback controls to differentiate cells and to build and mature biological structures.

You can examine the abstracts for these two articles as evidence that the z/e/f maintains homeostasis:

Regulation of ionic homeostasis by mammalian embryos.

Media Composition: Amino Acids and Cellular Homeostasis

Christina Dunigan said...

If you try to extend organism-hood to anything less, then you run into the problem of considering skin cells or induced pluripotent stem cells* in a lab culture as organisms and hence, "human beings".

When have you seen the slightest evidence of anybody claiming that skin cells or stem cells are actually organisms?

You can culture skin cells as long as you want and they will not develop into separate human organisms.

While a stem cell might have the capacity to become a human organism, until it begins to act on that capacity it is just a cell, not an organism. If it were an organism, it would develop its own organ systems, etc.

Christina Dunigan said...

deepsea, you also place a lot of empasis on the existence of "fully developed organ systems."

The human reproductive tract does not mature until puberty. Are you asserting that human children and pre-teens are not organisms?

As for the remainder of human organs, you can review the development of various organ systems here. Some examples:

Week 6: "The heart bulges, further develops, and begins to beat in a regular rhythm. Septum primum appears.[6]"

Week 7: "The brain divides into 5 vesicles, including the early telencephalon."

Week 8: "Lungs begin to form.
The brain continues to develop."

(8 weeks is considered the end of the embryonic period and the beginning of the fetal period; it is marked by the formation of all the major organs.)

Week 9: "Fetal heart tone (the sound of the heart beat) can be heard using doppler. .... All essential organs have at least begun."

Week 13-16: "The liver and pancreas produce fluid secretions."

Week 23: "All of the eye components are developed. .... Alveoli (air sacs) are forming in lungs."

At 24 weeks the fetus, if delivered alive, is capable of surviving.

Week 27: "The brain develops rapidly.
The nervous system develops enough to control some body functions. .... The respiratory system, while immature, has developed to the point where gas exchange is possible."


Oh, there is also this little tidbit buried in the section under Week 1-2: "Fertilization of the ovum to form a new human organism, the human zygote. (day 1 of fert.[6])"

Week 31: "Rhythmic breathing movements occur, but lungs are not fully mature.
Thalamic brain connections, which mediate sensory input, form."

Christina Dunigan said...

Let's look at when various human organ systems mature:

Brains of Young Adults Not Fully Mature: "The results are consistent with other research suggesting that the human brain continues to grow and mature right up to the point when we become adults and even beyond. In another study, researchers found that humans don't really develop the ability to handle multiple pieces of information at once until about the ages of 16 or 17.

"The brain of an 18-year-old college freshman is still far from resembling the brain of someone in their mid-twenties," said Craig Bennett, a graduate student who was involved in the new research. "When do we reach adulthood? It might be much later than we traditionally think.""

Human lungs are not fully developed until between 2 and 5 years of age.

The human skeletal system does not fully mature until around puberty.

So perhaps you need to more clearly define what you consider to be sufficiently "fully developed organ systems" for you to consider the human entity to no longer be a cell but be classified as an organism, and when you consider the human entity to be "autonomous."

deepsea said...

unfortunately, my first comment failed to post, so I get to have the joy of retyping the whole thing.

so your argument, summarized:
1) you bring up your own definition of an organism, and claim that ZEFs meet this definition
2) you claim that my definition leads to problems
3) you claim that ZEFs are organisms under my definition

Response:
I don't care if there are problems with my definition. It is YOUR job to find a satisfactory defintion that shows that ZEFs are organisms and human beings. As it stands, your definition would still include human skin cells and induced pluripotent stem cells. This is a problem for you, since although you never SAID you consider these to be human beings, by extension of your definition, these must be considered organisms and thus human beings. Just as an embryo must implant into the uterine wall to survive and grow, an iPSC culture could too become a human given the correct conditions and treatment.

Problem with your definition: it also includes viruses as organisms. Whether or not viruses are organisms is subject to debate, and frankly, unknowable and arbitrary.

Problem with your line of reasoning: Even if I were to concede that ZEFs are organisms, your premise to grant them the same rights as 'human beings' depends on yet another arbitrary definition. What if I say I only accept the definition for 'human beings' = members of homo sapiens post-birth. What if I say I only accept the definition for 'human beings' = members of homo sapiens that demonstrate self-awareness. This is a trait that is only exhibited around ages 2-3, and arguably not by the comatose or severely mentally deficient - but none if this matters, since the position is CONSISTENT. Likewise, you may be able to craft a CONSISTENT position, but it's nonetheless based on an arbitrary set of definitions.

As it stands, the biggest problem for you is still that you can't distinguish between a zygote post fertilization and an iPSC culture.

Additionally, you fail to understand the implications of the zero to infinity persons argument. That is, if a zygote immediately post fertilization can become anywhere from zero to infinite persons, aren't we obligated to save embryos that fail to implant spontaneously? Also, given that an embryo can be split to create more than one individuals..how many "humans" are we obligated to protect? Do we assume that these embryos were going to become one person? two people? twelve?

You need to understand that it is your job as a anti-abortion advocate to establish that immediately upon conception, there is DEFINITELY at least one person in existence, and their rights must be protected. Anyone who is pro-choice needs to only establish that there is a window of time where, given a natural course of events, there may very well not be any people in existence - which there is.

Kathy said...

Deepsea, you said, "You need to understand that it is your job as a anti-abortion advocate to establish that immediately upon conception, there is DEFINITELY at least one person in existence, and their rights must be protected. Anyone who is pro-choice needs to only establish that there is a window of time where, given a natural course of events, there may very well not be any people in existence - which there is."

Would you likewise say that if a man goes out hunting deer (or some other animal), that if he hears a rustle or sees a movement which *might* be an animal, that he has the right to fire in the direction of the noise/movement, even though it might also be a person? Do you assert that it is up to the human to prove himself to be a person to the hunter, or that it is the hunter's responsibility to ensure that the thing he is about to kill is indeed an animal and not a human?

deepsea said...

one of my arguments is that your position is impossible to defend, since you can't know for sure that there isn't zero persons resulting from a pregnancy. This, in addition to arguments that your position results in somewhat ludicrous scenarios where we must capture all embryos that fail to implant, and also ban iPSCs.

Your analogy is inappropriate, since I've never actually even said what my position is, I"m merely saying that your position is indefensible.

It may be more like a hunter who hears a bear-like roar from nearby (let's say here the bear is analogous to a pregnancy that is the product of rape, or a life-threatening pregnancy, in either case, severely traumatic for the woman). The woods are known to have man-bears, bears that can turn into humans. Your position - hunter is responsible for making sure the bear gets their way. My position - the bear can be killed while it's still a bear. But actually, I would ignore this analogy entirely. I think it'll just confuse things.

Kathy said...

You said, "Your analogy is inappropriate, since I've never actually even said what my position is." Actually you gave your position in your previous argument, namely, that the burden of proof is on pro-lifers to prove that the thing about to be killed is indeed a person, rather than on the person about to kill the thing that the thing is not a person. As such, my analogy is completely appropriate; you just want to dismiss it as "confusing" because it is damning to your statement and you know you can't refute it.

I disagree with your baseless assertion that, "it is your job as a anti-abortion advocate to establish that immediately upon conception, there is DEFINITELY at least one person in existence". My view is the scientific one that at conception a new human comes into existence [existence = being, therefore it is a new human being at that point]; and it is wrong and ought to be illegal to kill humans that have not perpetrated a crime worthy of death. Being conceived is not a crime worthy of death, especially since the actions which produced the conception were not in the control of the human who is to die from abortion. Abortion kills a living human who has committed no crime worthy of death, therefore abortion ought to be illegal. That is my argument. Personhood does not enter into it.

But let's take up the argument of personhood, just for kicks. There are several definitions of "person" which do not really apply (such as "Three Persons in the Godhead", the archaic "bodily appearance", or "a character in a play"), but the remaining do apply to the discussion, which all discuss "human beings". I have already proven that at the point of conception a new human comes into existence and therefore is a human being, so I win the "personhood" argument as well.

But let's pretend that those don't count and that since the conceptus cannot demonstrate any personality (though much of the personality comes from genetics, and as such would be in existence though not demonstrated even at that point), that it *might* not be a person after all. Is it still up to pro-life advocates to *prove* that there is definitely a person, or is it up to the abortion advocates to *prove* that there is no person about to be killed in abortion? I still assert it is the latter, going back to the hunter analogy.

But let us go on. At the point of conception, we know that death is inevitable -- there is a 100% mortality rate with humans at some point before or after birth. Let's say that we can't determine until the baby is born that it is definitely a person (though, again, "person" just really means a human individual, which applies equally to the newly conceived human as to the octogenarian), so while you say that abortion advocates need only prove that it *might not* be a person being killed, which again sounds awfully like the hunter shooting into the bramble at what might be a person but might not, let us look into the future a bit.

If there is no abortion, many newly conceived humans will die before birth, therefore in those cases, abortion is not necessary; but many newly conceived humans will live to be born, thus proving themselves to be persons. Since the humans that are to be killed might then be persons but if left alone will definitely become persons or prove themselves to be persons (or will die naturally w/o abortion), then I say the onus is on abortion advocates to prove that the humans being killed are definitely not persons, not just that they might not be persons.

deepsea said...

Brevity is the soul of wit. Please keep your posts short and less repetitive.

You fail to grasp the entire point of mine and Christina's discussion, because your entire rant depends on the assumption that something that 'exists' (or is a 'being') and is a member of the human species means that it is a human being. I have repeatedly said that this definition results in a number of ludicrous scenarios, including: aren't we obligated to rescue every embryo that fails to implant? and why don't we outlaw research of induced pluripotent stem cells? Your definition is in fact even more vague than Christina's, such that it would include just random human skin cells as "human beings".

You fail to see why your analogy is inappropriate, as expected. This is why I said to ignore it, as it is only making you confused. You think my position is that it is unknown whether what is in the bush is a man or a bear. This is false, my position is that it is CERTAIN that it is a bear, and at some point will become a human. That is why I use the example of a man-bear, as opposed to just some unknown creature. This is because I select a definition for human being as a member of the human species post birth. Your equally arbitrary definition results in a scenario where it is unknown if what is in the bush is a person or a bear, except it also compels us into ridiculous scenarios where we must protect whatever it is, bear or man. Seriously though, stop focusing on the analogy and just focus on understanding my argument that your definition of 'human being' is too inclusive and is in fact, pretty arbitrary.

Kathy said...

You can say that I have not said what I have said, or that I have not proven what I have proven, but that doesn't mean that that is so. You may refuse to accept dictionary definitions, preferring to substitute your own arbitrary and made-up ones, but that wreaks havoc on the English language and on every acceptable form of communication. Since we cannot even agree on ground rules, and since you disagree that "an existing human" is "a human being", even though those terms are synonymous based on the dictionary definitions, we shall have to part ways. We cannot have a meaningful conversation if you insist that black sometimes means red or yellow or even white.

Creativepowerhouse said...

To suggest that a scenario is ludicrous requires a personal judgment. The best you can come up with is that in your opinion, the scenarios described are ludicrous. That does not make them so.

The real issue at stake here is the idea that abortion should be allowed on demand at any stage at all. We already know that a woman whose unborn baby is identified to have Tay Sachs is in for a troubling, horrific time and so is her child. But that abortion, if sought, would have already been legal pre-Roe. Yep. They were already allowing abortion for women whose amniocentesis showed anencephaly or another grave abnormality. Even Down Syndrome, potentially, although I'm not sure they could yet identify that in utero. Repealing Roe, then, would have no impact on these tragic situations. They were always between a woman and her doctor and would have remained so. Roe was based on a right to privacy. It was a "make abortion legal by slipping it in through the back door." There is really no reason beyond severe fetal abnormality that you could ever supply that would logically (my opinion and that of 83% of America) impress us as a valid reason for abortion. You have to stop a heart from beating, brain from developing, organ systems from continuing to develop, etc. It is legalized killing, wrapped in smarmy rhetoric. To me, as I view this from a bird's eye view, we have stopped pushing for women's rights too soon. Where is the feminism of the 1970s now? We should be demanding the right to reproduce with impunity. Once we legalized abortion, the push toward aborting to keep a job or a boyfriend or a spouse sent women tumbling backward in the fight for equal rights.

deepsea said...

@ Kathy, nice attempt to try and dodge my responses. You totally misunderstand my arguments, probably so you don't have to bother with actually challenging any of your views. I'm simply trying to point out some of the consequences of your own definitions. You have to have a JUSTIFICATION for the selection of your definition. I've given clear reasons why that definition is erroneous (the 'ludicrous' scenarios and obligations that arise). if you're not going to take this seriously, then fine. i won't waste my time. just know that you're only reinforcing the view in my mind that anti-abortionists aren't willing to consider rational argument.

@ creativepowerhouse - ok, if you don't think they're ludicrous or infeasible, then...explain to me why not. or better yet, why we SHOULD then save every embryo that fails to implant.

re: your tangent on policy...this is a totally different discussion. I can justify a law that prevents abortions for those cases, but still allows for abortions in the case of rape/life-threatening pregnancy. All i need to say is that we don't want to encourage the mindset of aborting on a whim or aborting due to potential deformity (the former, due to inherent risks in the abortive process, the latter, due to encouraging prejudice against the handicapped). you're still stuck with a philosophy that only lends itself to ludicrous scenarios and even worse policy (see above).

@ Christina: it has been a few days since I've gotten any response from you. I hope you are at the very least, thinking about my arguments, and (I can only dream!) reconsidering your position. I don't mean to be mean, I just like for people to be open to challenging their views and rationales. I probably won't check this blog again for a while unless on a whim. Hopefully you won't take this opportunity to make a bunch of posts and gloat a 'victory' or something. Itd only be a detriment to real discourse, and to yourself.

Kathy said...

You're projecting. But pretend that I don't understand your arguments if it makes you happy. (even though you're actually arguing with the dictionary and all people who speak English).

Christina Dunigan said...

@deepsea, unlike Alice, I don't find conversing with Humpty Dumpty to be very diverting.

'I don't know what you mean by "glory",' Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. 'Of course you don't — till I tell you. I meant "there's a nice knock-down argument for you!"'

'But "glory" doesn't mean "a nice knock-down argument",' Alice objected.

'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.'

'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you can make words mean so many different things.'

'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master — that's all.'

deepsea said...

there's a right way to gloat, and a wrong way to gloat.

I suppose you chose the right way, in that you did it in a less predictable manner.

I wasn't the one that brought us into a definition dispute, you did. My interests are "where in the course of human development does personhood/ensoulment happen?". From a scientific perspective, this can't happen before the number of persons that WILL develop from the embryo is fixed. At the very least, I hoped for you to think of the consequences of the definition YOU chose. You didn't have to even think of any definition but YOUR OWN to consider the cases I brought to your attention (ipscs, our obligation to save non-implanting embryos). Your reluctance to address these points, or seemingly to even think about why these are significant is deeply troubling.

Kathy said...

Can you back up your assertion that "from a scientific perspective, [ensoulment] can't happen before the number of persons that WILL develop from an embryo is fixed"? I always kinda thought that science concerned itself primarily if not totally with the physical, material world (you know, the things that can be observed and tested and experimented upon), leaving the question of souls and other immaterial, spiritual things outside the realm of science. What scientific experiments have been done on souls, and when a person acquires a soul?

deepsea said...

you miss the point of what i was saying. i'm not saying there have been scientific inquiries into the specific question of 'when does ensoulment/personhood begin?', but rather, the answers to questions like these must be consistent with real/empirical/scientific observation (examples of such observations i've alluded to in our discussion: ipscs can be made from somatic cells and can form all other cells of the human body, some embryos naturally fail to implant, the process of zygote/embryo splitting to form twins, triplets etc is a random process that may occur long after fertilization).

i'm getting tired of the tone of your posts - i'm obviously not going to say that there have been experiments done on souls, so why are you even asking? a point like that isn't even critical to our discussion, so why are you trying to nitpick at "problems" with my position, rather than actually addressing my position? long story short, getting tired of checking this blog.

Kathy said...

Maybe you should write more clearly then? Perhaps?

Why can't personhood "happen before the number of persons that WILL develop from an embryo is fixed"? Here's the deal: when a bacterium reproduces, it splits itself in two -- prior to the split, there is one bacterium, and afterward, there are two bacteria -- one becomes two by splitting. Scientifically, this happens to some humans during identical twinning -- one human embryo becomes two. Why is this not possible with personhood? -- one person becomes two?