Monday, July 19, 2010

Responding to Christa

A liberal commenter named Christa sent an me an email answering some questions I posed to liberals. (She tried the comment box, but it didn't all fit.) My first draft of answers for her was waaaaaaay too long for a blog post. I have tried to cut it down to a manageable size, and I have limited the topic to abortion. I will get to her other points (politics, homosexuality) in subsequent posts, God willing.


Christa, I am going to continue engaging you “simplistically,” not because I am “simple” or an “uneducated Republican” from Arizona (to quote some of your points), but because I often employ the Socratic Method of dialogue. The Socratic Method is named for Socrates. He was an ancient philosopher whose works (along with Plato and Aristotle) helped form the foundation of Western Civilization. Being that you are on the far left (which typically disdains Western Civilization), I don’t expect that you are familiar with Socrates or his Method.
But I do believe in simple truths which help us understand a complicated (and really messed-up) world. Now, to your points (I have put Christa's words in red):
       You repeatedly stressed your need for simplicity and clarity…and I will answer your questions in simplistic  terms and then elaborate.

Question #1
       'You began life as a single cell.' Do you agree with that statement?"
             No.
 Thank you for your direct and honest answer, Christa. The full question was posed like this, by the way: "When I was homeschooling my sixth-grade daughter a few years ago, her secular Harcourt science book began its chapter on human biology with the following sentence: 'You began life as a single cell.' Do you agree with that statement?"

      Elaboration

      Question #1
         God trusts women with their bodies and so do I. Abortion is a difficult, graphic and emotional topic. It is an intensely personal decision and I believe individual women, not big government, should make that decision.
I am confused by the first statement, “God trusts women with their bodies....” What does that mean? And where do you get that? Please elaborate. For example, if a woman wants to take a hacksaw and cut off her arm, is God pleased with her? Seriously, I don’t know what you mean. 
And, you said that you, too, trust a woman with her body. That’s nice, but wholly irrelevant to the question of when human life begins.
    The point at which “life” begins is a question that remains unanswered. 
Unanswered by whom? In fact, medical science answered that question long ago. Go to this website (scroll down) and see quotes from no less than nine secular teaching textbooks on human embryology/prenatal development, two National Geographic prenatal development videos, statements from medical doctors and professors from institutions such as Harvard, the Mayo Clinic, UPenn, etc. After you have researched, please respond: Unanswered by whom?

   The Catholic Church’s answer evolved significantly for a thousand years. 
You are confused on this issue. Unlike we moderns (who have recourse to the knowledge of embryology contained in the textbooks mentioned above), the ancient Church did not have the benefit of 21st Century biological science. What you are referring to here is the question of “ensoulment” of the unborn child, a question which was bandied about by theologians for a time, including St. Thomas Aquinas. 

Dissident Catholics (including Nancy Pelosi, who was publicly corrected by the bishops) have misrepresented the facts of history in an attempt to justify abortion. In reality, the issue of “ensoulment” (a metaphysical, not a scientific issue) is separate and apart from the question of whether or not abortion was ever permitted by the Church. It was not. Ever. As in, never. The Catholic Church has always and forever taught that abortion is intrinsically evil, regardless of the separate discussion of "ensoulment." 
     
      The scientific community cannot come to an agreement either. 

I have no idea where you are getting this (unless it’s from a Planned Parenthood pamphlet). See above, or consult an embryology textbook. If you can show me any peer-reviewed journal articles showing that the scientific community is confused on this issue of elementary biology, then show them. But I believe you are confusing two issues. You are confusing the biology (science) of when a new human life begins with the concept of “personhood." The latter question is a metaphysical question, not a scientific one. Christa, it is so important to make distinctions.
     
      I believe a “soul” or “spirit” emerges at some point during the gestation process, but I do not know the  timing. 
Okay, so now we are talking metaphysics, not science. You “believe” that some sort of “soul” “emerges” (from where?) at some point in the womb, but you don’t know when. So, you really don’t know anything at all about it. Your subjective belief has no weight. For example, I might believe that my cat can read, but believing won’t make it so. Can you give me something other than your opinion?
      I do, however, believe that the single cell of a recently fertilized egg is not a human being.
But again, you are giving me your subjective “belief.” By that standard, I can say, "I believe Christa is not a human being." That would be absurd, of course, because you and I both know that your value and dignity as a human being is inherent, and not based on my opinion of your humanity (or lack thereof). 
This is a matter of life or death we are discussing, so it’s of the utmost importance that you get it right. If, as you maintain, even scientists have no idea when life begins, then you can’t be sure either, right? Can you back up your belief in some way besides “feelings”? Give us your reasoning?
(This is just a silly aside, but do you realize that the logical conclusion of this belief is that "you," Christa, were never conceived?)
You must admit that you really don’t know for sure if life begins at conception. And if you don’t know, then shouldn’t you err on the side of life? 
I mean, if you were hunting in the woods (I doubt you hunt, but still...) and you weren’t sure if that creature behind the tree were a deer or a child, would you shoot? I am guessing you would never, ever shoot until you were 100% positive that it was not a child. Am I wrong?
***********************
But now we have to make the distinction between the science (does a new human being start at conception) and the metaphysical question of “personhood” (which is what I suspect you have been talking about all along). 
Traditionally, abortion activists tried to dehumanize the unborn by calling them “blobs of tissue” or “part of a woman’s body,” etc. But these days, the science is so obviously on the side of pro-lifers, (ultrasound has brought home the humanity of the unborn) that the abortion activists have started to reframe the debate. So, now it’s all a matter of “personhood”.... Yes, we may be killing, they say openly, but it’s okay because we are not killing a “person” since there is no “meaningful life” until {fill in the blank with something completely arbitrary}.
Pet Peeve Alert!! Did you ever notice that with any genocide, it’s always about one group (with more power) deciding that another group is not quite "human"? How come they never decide that they themselves are not human? It's always the other guy! Ha ha!
There should be no litmus test for who gets to belong to the human family. As the saying goes: Either we are all human, or none of us is. 

   I do not believe abortion is murder…and I suspect you don’t either.           
    If a 16 year-old high-school girl is kidnapped and raped by a serial rapist, gets pregnant and gets an abortion, should she get the death penalty? If not, why not? It was premeditated. According to your beliefs, it ended a “life.” Should the young girl get the lethal injection? Should the doctor? If you truly believed it was murder, you would not accept any exceptions and you would support the teenage girl’s execution.
  
    This is the problem with ‘simple’ minds that require ‘clarity’…life is often complicated. Regardless of your opinions on abortion, the issue has inherent ambiguity [see execution of rape victim…]

You suspect wrongly. Yes, I believe abortion is murder, and no, I wouldn't support the death penalty in your scenario, since I am against the death penalty in most cases. I believe you said you were Catholic? Read what the Catechism says about the death penalty. 
And, you must not be the least bit familiar with the pro-life movement. The pro-life community believes that there are two victims in an abortion: the child and the mother. I could elaborate on that for hours, but this post is already too long. 
If abortion were illegal, it would be the abortionists who were prosecuted. Even my “simple mind” knows that. No one has ever proposed otherwise.
The last thing I will respond to today is your closing statements:
     My reaction to this specific right-wing forum is unique. I see a group of “Catholic” women hiding behind  the cloak of “Christianity” expressing very un-Christian positions. 
Why did you put the word “Catholic” in quotes? Are we not Catholic? Seeing that we submit to the teachings of the Catholic Church, and that we defend and love her in every moment of our lives, how are we faux “Catholics”? Doesn't it make more sense that those who reject and mock the teachings of the Catholic Church should wear the quotes around the name?
What specific “positions” do we espouse that are “very un-Christian”? Please be specific.
      I think it is sad because you have intentionally insulated yourselves by seeking others who think like you.
Christa, I'm guessing your good friends are liberal.... Is that "sad" in your mind? Or, do you hang out with pro-life Catholic Republicans? I'm guessing not. Don't we all "seek out" people with whom we have things in common? It doesn't mean we don't have family, neighbors, co-workers and yes, friends, who think differently than we do. 

    “Bubble” is an appropriate description for this blog. To each their own…but I am grateful the Christianity to which I’ve always been exposed doesn’t require such a narrow, limited and restricted life.
I’m not sure what brand of “Christianity” you have been exposed to, but I thought you said you were Catholic? There is only one Catholicism. What Christianity are you talking about?
Christa, everyone is welcome in the “Bubble”... it’s infinitely expansive. Just like the truth and beauty of the Catholic Church. And just like the mercy of God. There is nothing restrictive about it; on the contrary, I have lived both in and out of the Church, and life in Christ is utter freedom compared to the slavery that is sin. 
I never pass up a chance to repost my favorite quotes from G.K. Chesterton (a convert from atheism):
"The Catholic Church is the only thing which saves a man from the degrading slavery of being a child of his age."

"[When the convert] has entered the Church, he finds that the Church is much larger inside than it is outside."
 God bless, Christa!

97 comments:

  1. Wowzie! Great dialogue. The issue at core is that people who believe in abortion believe in the woman's "right" to live her life without having to allow her body to sustain a new life because her born life has more value, period. As this new life is vulnerable, weak and unable to live without aid, she has a right to kill it, particularly if the new life was created in less than "ideal" circumstances. The other co-creator in this process, for example a boyfriend, or husband, doesn't have any say or right in the life of his child. The human being that has been created has no right or say in this matter. The woman's desire to do what she wants, live without pregnancy and without her embodied responsibility trumps all. VERY GOOD point about those who have more power as being the ones who always make the decision if someone is worthy, or in this cause, strong enough to live. It really is the core belief of Nazism, too. And, the weak do not deserve assistance, care, time, and opportunity to grow and be. It is the cult of individualism gone too far. All of us need help from others.

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  2. OH, and by the way, I am an example of one of those people conceived in less than ideal circumstances, even what pro-choice people would say would justify my biological mother's right to choose an abortion. And, I am so glad she didn't. I am happy to be alive. Thanks for not killing me Mom and thanks for putting me up for adoption. Life Rocks! I love living.

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  3. Great conversation! Signign up for follow-ups!

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  4. Me too, LJ. I'm the sixth child born to my parents.

    Leila, we all believe we're seeking "justice". Even Hitler thought he was seeking "justice"......but he wasn't seeking true justice. Those who held slaves here in America also believed themselves to have been "just" in doing so. Some have embraced the pro-abortion arguments so deeply that they now see abortion as a "just" act. This is why they think we are unjust and why they are so offended by us. They subjectively believe they are advancing justice even while working against true justice. It's easier for me to love them and be patient with them when I am reminded of that.

    Blessings!

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  5. YES! I love these debates, this is so awesome :)

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  6. Umm...Jennifer @ Conversion Diary commented on your blog? You have MADE IT, my friend!!! :)

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  7. Great points Leila! I really commend you for engaging a name-calling leftist on the abortion issue in the Socratic fashion. You go girl!
    My experience has been that hard-core pro-choicers just need our prayers, but I hope you have made some type of impression! :)

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  8. You're having this discussion while I'm posting chicken recipes? I'm so not worthy.

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  9. Great presentation of the Catholic Church and her stance on human life-- both at conception, throughout pregnancy, and even until death (regarding the death penalty). I've always thought that Republicans (as a political party) have done themselves a disservice by supporting the death penalty, thus weakening their defense of life at all stages.

    One thing that has always bothered me about "pro-choice" arguments (because that term really just cloaks an acceptance for abortion) is that they always rely on these random teens being brutally assaulted (and not to make light of this poor 16 year old who was kidnapped and raped by a SERIAL rapist, no less, but... REALLY??) and an assumption that 1) these girls' lives are devastated by the pregnancy (as though the rape was not enough) and 2) the abortion is a blessing for them, having no physical, emotional, or mental ramifications.

    The argument falls apart immediately because, while I have no absolute statistics from Planned Parenthood (which seems intent on destroying as many lives, be they embryonic or teenaged or adult, as possible), I seriously doubt that this kidnapped/raped-by-serial-rapist/impregnated-by-said-serial-rapist girl is someone that many PP's have seen.

    It kills me that our society talks about being "responsible," implying birth control, and then shirks responsibility once a child is conceived. Here's the thing: the pro-choice movement has co-opted the idea of choice. I'm all for women's choice in the sexual arena... I get to choose when and where to have sex (with my husband). That's where choice comes in... there's no destruction of life. The "choice" part of "pro-choice" needs to refer to the act of sex... after that, the choice to abort infringes on the baby's (embryo's, even if you want to go that route) right to live.

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  10. Love how you articulate these points, Leila. Yes, clarity is needed. One thing I love about reading Love & Responsibility is that JPII cuts through a lot of the weighted jargon thrown around these days and defines the basics. Loved how he elaborates that sexuality is both biological and "inherently moral." We're so afraid of words like "morality" today because we've added all sorts of emotional and subjective weight to it and have forgotten the basic meanings of words, phrases, and concepts. Amazing how many ethical quandaries become clear when we actually get the root of the issue (and/or the words defining the issue).

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  11. Leila, this is absolutely awesome! I'm sure you already approached this in your email to her, but when I took a class in logically defending life, they said to stress the question, "What is the unborn?" As Christa mentioned, abortion has become an issue about a woman's body. People fail to recognize that this baby has its own unique dna, blood type, etc. It is a separate being from the mother! We aren't advocating against the woman, but rather we are advocating for the unborn child!
    Also, I was struck by her comment about not knowing when a soul enters the body etc. But didn't St. Thomas Aquinas say that since we can never be positive when the soul enters the body, we need to err on the side of caution and assume it is from the point of conception.? This is just common sense. Just because we don't know for certain doesn't give us license to take a shot in the dark. Your deer hunting example is brilliant!

    I too am confused by the use of the word "Catholic," and Leila, you are spot on in your response. I have to admit that being called a "Catholic" in an email to me would have made my blood boil, and I would have had to take many deep breaths to calm down before I responded.
    As I have mentioned before, I have found that liberal minds are hung up on a sense of misguided compassion. They believe that they are the loving and compassionate ones, and since our views seem opposite, I can kind of understand why she thinks that we unloving, rigid, and discriminatory. This is what relativism has done to our culture...
    There is absolute truth, and unpopular as it may be, following it is the only way to true freedom!

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  12. Wasn't that the best class ever Megan?? I'm so glad they offered it and we took it!

    In the class, they gave stats on how many abortions are for rape, incest, etc. I don't have the number right now... But it was TINY!! But, yet that is always the first response from those who are pro-abortion. Also, we cannot just go out and kill the rapist... So why do people think it is ok to kill the innocent life that resulted from that horrible situation!?

    Also... I agree with Lauren... Leila, you have reached superstar status!

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  13. Great post Leila! I will beg to differ about the death penalty, though. The Catholic Church has supported the death penalty as moral since the beginning. In the New Testament, at no point does Jesus deny that the State has authority to exact capital punishments. St. Thomas Aquinas himself invoked Scripture, tradition and reason alike to defend the State's right to execute.
    In 1995, JPII declared that "the direct and voluntary killing of an innocent human being is always gravely immoral", but he was careful to insert the word "innocent".
    Pope Pius XII said, "Even in the question of the execution of a man condemned to death, the state does not dispose of the individual's right to life. It then falls to the public authority to deprive the condemned man of the good of life in expiation of his fault after he, by his crime, has already deprived himself of his right to life."
    The Council of Trent decreed that [Well founded is] the right and duty of legitimate public authority to punish malefactors by means of penalties commensurate with the gravity of the crime, not excluding, in cases of extreme gravity, the death penalty.

    The guilt of the prisoner should be certain, the crime must be of major gravity, the penalty must only be inflicted by state authority (not private individuals) after due process, and the prisoner must be given the opportunity to make his peace with God.

    That's not to say that the death penalty HAS to be used. Just that it is not immoral to do so.

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  14. callmemama, thank you for that.

    I wanted to spend more time elaborating on that very issue, but the post was already so long. I would sum it up by saying that while abortion is always intrinsically evil, the death penalty is not, and Catholics are free to debate the issue. The Church says, essentially, the death penalty should be a last resort. It still defers to the state as being the final authority on this.

    But no Catholic I know would ever condone the execution of a teen girl for having an abortion. What Christa doesn't understand is that in Catholicism there is no "absolute" position on the death penalty as there is on abortion.

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  15. Gotcha, and I meant to add that as well in my comment but forgot. I cannot ever imagine (and would never support) a teenager being put to death for having an abortion!

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  16. Lauren, I know! HA!! I am honored!!

    And The Mom, you are SO worthy. You are way ahead of me. :)

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  17. Jenny, I agree! It was awesome, and I learned so much about logically defending life!
    Callmemama, good points, but I agree with Leila that the death penalty should be a last resort. It is my understanding that the church only condones the death penalty if the public cannot adequately be protected from the criminal. In our society, our prisons are more than adequate to keep the offender away from society.
    Also, while I have faith in our justice system, I'm think that in many cases people are wrongly convicted, and since we have no way of truly knowing if a person committed the crime, unless of course they were caught red handed, it seems that we stand a fair chance of killing an innocent person. This has been proven over and over by advances in DNA evidence in recent years.
    Since innocence may be in question in most cases, is it not better to sentence them to life in prison?
    In fact, this is the cheaper option at the end of the day after all the appeals of a prisoner on death row.

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  18. Megan,
    The teaching of the Church on the death penalty is that society has the authority to inflict punishments upon it's members and even to deprive a criminal of his life, for the necessity of the common good:
    1) primarily, to vindicate the moral order and expiate the
    crime, (2) secondarily, to defend itself, (3) to deter other would-be offenders, and (4) to reform the criminal or deter future crime.

    As I said before, the guilt of the prisoner MUST be certain. Just proving that the prisoner is no longer a threat to society is not the only reason to not employ the death penalty, as it is moral to use it as a deterrent to other offenders or to "vindicate the moral order".

    The state always has the right to commute death sentences. I guess my main point in arguing for the morality of the death penalty is for those who use it as a vindication for their position on abortion. "If it's sometimes okay to kill, then why is it not sometimes okay to have an abortion." Or something to that effect. Obviously, we understand that the criminal has already deprived himself of his right to life by his crimes, whereas the unborn child is a complete innocent and the two cannot even be compared.

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  19. To Christa and Anyone Else on the Fence about Abortion:


    The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral,
    begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy.
    Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it.
    Through violence you may murder the liar,
    but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth.
    Through violence you may murder the hater,
    but you do not murder hate.
    In fact, violence merely increases hate.
    So it goes.
    Returning violence for violence multiplies violence,
    adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars.
    Darkness cannot drive out darkness:
    only light can do that.
    Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.

    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

    The reason why Catholics (I will speak for me) this Catholic sometimes we appear rigid about this is because this is a fundamental issue: it is not a matter of a preference or a inclination towards liking or disliking one thing over another, it deals with ANOTHER HUMAN BEING ITSELF. And, this is why we (I) appear so passionate. Because, we know if LIFE at its beginning is not valued then a slippery slope takes over and all of human life can and does become dehumanized.

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  20. Awesome!! This was simply awesome!! ;)

    This is part of why I struggle with some far left liberals-they don't really base their argument off of any sort of teaching or fact, but rather a feeling, thought or self motivated way of life. Usually while in the midst of these debates, there's little listening going on and I get overwhelmed and frustrated and it ends with, "agree to disagree" sort of thing.

    My biggest annoyance, here in the blogging world and in real life, is when people call themselves Catholic (or anything really) but do not follow the teachings and laws if what they say they are representing. It's not about picking and choosing. The teachings are there for us to follow, not to bend and manipulate into what we want. Simple as that. If you don't like it DO NOT call yourself Catholic -it makes us other real Catholics look bad *cough, Pelosi, VP Biden, *cough.

    Thanks again for posting. Although it is stuff I already know, it's great to have it presented in such a simple way! You def rock!!!

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  21. When you have to start throwing out insults to the person you are debating ("simple" minded, uneducated Republican, etc.), it is clear your side of the debate doesn't have a leg to stand on.

    I'm surprised you even bothered responding, Leila. To me, being a Christian means loving your neighbor, even if they don't "think" like you. Not sure what type of Christianity Christa has been exposed to, either.

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  22. You are right of course, TCIE. Christa has been insulting and even calculatingly cruel on more than one occasion. I actually should have exposed her cruelty to a wide audience, but I thought better of it.

    In the end, I realize that Christa will not be persuaded by anything I have to say, no matter the facts of it. I addressed her points so that those on the fence can see that her points are largely nonsensical and can be exposed as erroneous and then refuted.

    I like your brand of Christianity, TCIE. You have been nothing but loving and kind in every interaction I have seen you in. You are an amazing Christian who loves deeply despite a very heavy cross. I always see Christ in you, and that is true Christianity.

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  23. Leila... SERIOUSLY. You're unbelievable... PLease write a book. PLEASE???

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  24. One more point on the death penalty is that it must only be used if there isn't a more humane way to protect the public. Most argue that we can keep them in prison with our current technology and resources and so, generally speaking, in our current culture and country, the bishops are opposed to the use of the death penalty at any time. I would be in agreement with that assessment. Things may be different in Haiti or a war zone, for example, but here in America it's feasible to keep them locked up.

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  25. Callmemama, I read your comment and initially thought, "hmm, I learned something new." But then something wasn't sitting right so I looked in the Catechism, and this is what it says: 2267 "Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor.
    If, however, non-lethal means are sufficient to defend and protect people's safety from the aggressor, authority will limit itself to such means, as these are more in keeping with the concrete conditions of the common good and more in conformity with the dignity of the human person.
    Today, in fact, as a consequence of the possibilities which the state has for effectively preventing crime, by rendering one who has committed an offense incapable of doing harm - without definitively taking away from him the possibility of redeeming himself - the cases in which the execution of the offender is an absolute necessity 'are very rare if not practically non-existent.'"

    That last little quote in the Catechism is from John Paul II. So that seems pretty clear to me, and I'm a little confused how that jives with what you are saying about it being justifiable to set an example for society etc.

    You seemed to have several sources for your position so maybe I'm missing something... would you mind clarifying?

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  26. Sure, Megan. The sources of my information above are from the works of St. Thomas Aquinas (Summa Theologica, IIa IIae, Q. 64, A. 2), St. Alphonsus Liguori (all
    Doctors of the Church), as well as in the Encyclical Casti Conubii of Pope Pius XI, and Pope Pius XII's statement at "Ce Premier Congress" (Acta Apostolicae Sedis XLIV (1952), p. 787).
    I guess the only argument to getting rid of such a punishment completely would be this from Pope Pius XII. "It should be noted that to vindicate the moral order means not the taking of vengeance upon the criminal, but imposing upon the criminal some act or loss or suffering as a form of compensation to right the
    balance of justice. Of such "vindictive" punishment, Pope Pius XII stated: "It would be incorrect to reject completely, and as a matter of principle the function of vindictive punishment. While man is on earth, such punishment both can and should help toward his eternal salvation, provided he himself raises no obstacles to its salutary efficacy" (Discourse of December 5, 1954, Acta Apostolicae Sedis, XLVI, p. 67).
    Again, I'm not some crazed person wanted to put everyone to death without just cause, I just wanted to make the point that the Church has said it is not immoral to use the death penalty when necessary.

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  27. Callmemama, thanks for clarifying! I hope I didn't annoy you by asking. I was just trying to make sense out of all of it since your sources are excellent, but they seemed to be at odds with what the catechism said. However, I understand your point, and I never thought you were strongly pro death penalty or anything. I hope I didn't come off as rude, and thanks, again!

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  28. No problem, and you're welcome :).

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  29. What a great post. And I've learned so much from the comments too! This is my favorite blog now... possibly the reason I'm not reading the other ones nearly as much. ;)

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  30. Forgive my lame comment, but awesome, just awesome post Leila. I agree with the mom (she is SO worthy) that the crap I am posting compared to this...lol Wow. And can I just say way to make a defense of your faith! Being on the front lines seeing women go in for abortions at Planned Parenthood as a sidewalk counselor, can I just tell you how ninety percent or more have no idea what they are doing or the consequences and feel absolutely miserable and trapped? A women on Sat who already had a four year old said she had no idea her baby had arms and legs. Um, yes, at 9 weeks there is that and a whole lot more! We need to educate and support mom and baby. My fav bumper sticker says "pregnant women need support, not abortion."

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  31. Leila,
    I love how you've answered these questions.

    Just to throw my two-cents in:

    I think abortion (that does not meet the doctrine of double-effect, that is just truly a sad situation, and is extremely rare I know) is a horrible evil.

    I also believe, that unless we are going to step up and truly help women in crisis pregnancies (for whatever reason they may perceive their pregnancy as a crisis) by supporting them and easing their 'crisis' making abortion illegal will not solve anything. If we don't have social programs and solid families in place to support women with unplanned pregnancies then we aren't doing anything better than we are by leaving abortion legal. Until it's easier to get counseling and feel accepted and helped through an unplanned (perhaps unwanted) pregnancy as it is to have an abortion, we will continue to do a major disservice to women.

    Just my 2 cents.

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  32. Leila,
    I am pretty stunned that you chose to lead your post by stating I called you both simple and uneducated. It's your blog, and obviously I knew I ran the risk of having things taken out of context when I emailed and gave you permission to post it as you see fit. Still, I don't agree with your characterization of my email.

    I also didn't see the last part of your email asking if I was Catholic until tonight. Yes, I was raised Catholic. Do I consider myself a practicing Catholic (after the last few weeks on the blogosphere? No. I guess not. I definitely wouldn't feel comfortable attending mass on Sunday now.) And to clear up any confusion, I was exposed to several faiths growing up (although I was raised in the Catholic church). And yes, approximately half of my closest friends/families are both republicans and catholics. As for what you were going to "expose" about me...hmmm, not sure what you mean about that. Did I say anything "worse" than bloggers have recently posted/emailed to me?

    Best,
    Christa

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  33. Christa, I am surprised you claim I misrepresented you. I would never misrepresent anyone on purpose. I will blog again, to clarify and provide direct quotes.

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  34. Instead of blogging on it, I will just repost Christa's entire email to me, below. You can be the judge as to whether or not I misrepresented her in any way. I will have to cut this up into different comments, to make it fit, but it's all here.



    You [Leila] repeatedly stressed your need for simplicity and clarity…and I will answer your questions in simplistic terms and then elaborate.

    Question #1
    'You began life as a single cell.' Do you agree with that statement?"
    - No.


    Question #2
    Can you tell me on what specific issues conservatives keep moving significantly to the right?"
    - Yes.
    - Immigration. Unemployment benefits. The Environment. Health Care. [this is obviously an abridged list]

    You then mention gay marriage. I don’t see a direct question…so I will answer a question you may ask:

    Given the definition of the word “marriage” is “gay marriage” possible?
    - I am not an etymologist and will defer semantics to the better qualified.
    - Yes. I do favor civil unions [or gay marriages or domestic partnerships…whatever term is least offensive to sensitive conservative folks].


    Elaboration

    Question #1
    - God trusts women with their bodies and so do I. Abortion is a difficult, graphic and emotional topic. It is an intensely personal decision and I believe individual women, not big government, should make that decision.

    - The point at which “life” begins is a question that remains unanswered. The Catholic Church’s answer evolved significantly for a thousand years. The scientific community cannot come to an agreement either. I believe a “soul” or “spirit” emerges at some point during the gestation process, but I do not know the timing. I do, however, believe that the single cell of a recently fertilized egg is not a human being.

    - I do not believe abortion is murder…and I suspect you don’t either.
    § If a 16 year-old high-school girl is kidnapped and raped by a serial rapist, gets pregnant and gets an abortion, should she get the death penalty? If not, why not? It was premeditated. According to your beliefs, it ended a “life.” Should the young girl get the lethal injection? Should the doctor? If you truly believed it was murder, you would not accept any exceptions and you would support the teenage girl’s execution.
    § This is the problem with ‘simple’ minds that require ‘clarity’…life is often complicated. Regardless of your opinions on abortion, the issue has inherent ambiguity [see execution of rape victim…]

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  35. Christa's email, continued...


    Question #2
    - The timing of this question borders on comical given the Tea Party’s increasing prominence in the Republican Party.

    - Today’s Republican Party is unrecognizable relative to the GOP during most of the post-war period. Sarah Palin and Rand Paul would be offended by Reagan’s immigration bill in the 1980’s. A formerly proud “maverick” [John McCain] is overtly playing to the immigration fears of the uneducated Republican base in his primary against Arizona Tea Party opponent J. D. Hayworth.

    - All serious economists, including conservatives, moderates and liberals, understand the economic imperatives of unemployment benefits in the current economic environment. This is particularly true given the US economy’s consumer-driven GDP. In this context, conservatives like Senator Kyl say unemployment benefits encourage unemployed workers to remain unemployed. With ~10% unemployment, this argument is deliberately illogical and absurd. It is another example of extremism hijacking the Republican Party.

    - President Nixon favored health care legislation to make health insurance available to all Americans. Thirty-plus years later, today’s conservatives believe a 5 year old child’s access to necessary medical attention should depend on their parent’s income.

    - President Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency. Today’s conservative leaders think it is “cool” to loathe the environment. How do Sarah Palin and Michael Steele feel about their “drill, baby drill” chants during the 2008 Republican National Convention? How do you, as a self described conservative, feel about Congressman Barton’s apology to BP on the floor of the US House of Representatives?

    - The dichotomy between traditional “county club” Republicans and today’s Tea Party driven extremism is striking. Yesterday’s conservatives used thought and intelligence to advance their agenda. Today’s conservative leaders rely exclusively on fear and anger. The instant you crowned Sarah Palin, Dick Cheney, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, etc., as your conservative leaders, you surrendered your opportunity to be taken seriously.

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  36. Christa's email, continued...

    Question #3
    - Conservatives’ preoccupation with homosexuality is extraordinary to the point of bizarre. I cannot understand why a ‘devout’ Catholic, dutifully rearing eight children, cares if two women buy a house down the street? A certain percentage of human beings are wired such that they are attracted to the same gender. It is a scientific fact. Get over it and move on.

    - Extreme social conservatism is a relatively new phenomenon…both within the Republican Party and traditional conservative thought [I can’t picture Edmund Burke insulting gays?]. However, the crippling fear that occupies the hearts of modern conservatives- when they think of two male interior decorators moving in the house around the corner- has been harnessed by the Republican Party to leverage fear and generate anger. [I don’t recall parable of ‘gay bashing’ in the New Testament]

    - While this forum of “Catholic” bloggers whip themselves into a hysterical frenzy about hypothetical “gay” questions, I find myself overcome with indifference. I think we are all better off when we mind our own business.

    My reaction to this specific right-wing forum is unique. I see a group of “Catholic” women hiding behind the cloak of “Christianity” expressing very un-Christian positions. I think it is sad because you have intentionally insulated yourselves by seeking others who think like you.

    “Bubble” is an appropriate description for this blog. To each their own…but I am grateful the Christianity to which I’ve always been exposed doesn’t require such a narrow, limited and restricted life.

    Sincerely,
    Christa

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  37. Now everyone can judge whether you were implying that I and others are "simple" and "uneducated" (remember, I am a Republican from Arizona, a group you referenced as "uneducated"... if you'd like my educational background, Christa, I am happy to tell you, but I generally don't like to brag. ;)

    Anyway, if you wouldn't mind answer the questions I posed to you on this blog post, we can continue the dialogue.

    Also, you said that some of the bloggers "emailed" nasty comments to you. How did they get your email address? It's not possible to access your email address from the blogs or comments, and I didn't give your address to anyone (you emailed me, and I didn't share your information).

    Also, how did you happen upon these blogs anyway? Just curious.

    Blessings,
    Leila

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  38. PS: Excuse my poor grammar! It's bath and bedtime around here and I'm distracted. :)

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  39. Rebecca, when I read your comment about keeping abortion legal for the time being, I immediately thought "this sounds like it came straight out of Obama's mouth."
    While I understand the plight of women facing a crisis pregnancy, the fact is that this is about compassion for the unborn children who are being slaughtered on a daily basis. I agree that we need to have greater support systems in place if Roe v. Wade is ever overturned, but these could be part of a legislative package designed to ease the blow of such a drastic change. However, I think that people don't realize the resources that are already out there for pregnant women. Our parish already has several ministries devoted to helping women facing unplanned pregnancies as do many many others!
    If we sit back and wait for society to improve itself before we make abortion illegal, we are turning our backs on the thousands of babies that will never have a chance at outside the womb.

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  40. Rebecca, I wrote that last comment late last night, and when I reread it this morning, I felt bad that I compared you to Obama. Considering my feelings about that man, my comment was extremely harsh. I still stand by the second part of what I said, but I felt at I owed you an apology. God bless!

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  41. Me again. So, Christa might not be persuaded, but you have put you have finally moved me firmly from the camp of I-would-never-do-it-but-women-should-have-a-choice to Pro Life. Seperating the questions of life and personhood really helped me evaluate both, and conclude with *at conception* for both. Thank you.

    BUT...
    Please read this post, written by an OB nurse http://atyourcervix.blogspot.com/2010/07/peace-love-and-death.html

    I realize that this type of abortion is some miniscule percentage of the whole, but I'd like to know what your stance is on abortion to save the mother's life. I'm not talking about loopholes about saving the mother's "lifestyle", but true medical emergencies that will result in either one death (through abortion) or two deaths (mother's death leading to death of child as well)

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  42. Monica, thank you for this! I am so happy I was able to help in some small way! It makes all the blogging worth it!

    I have read the link (such a sad story!), and I will be back with an answer. Stay tuned.

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  43. In a tiny bit of fear of the wrath I will incur for saying this, I'm going to say it anyway...

    (and please read as I wrote it, with a smile on my face and no snark or nastiness)

    Megan,
    I appreciate your apology, but it is actually unnecessary. I am a registered Democrat and proudly voted for President Obama.

    I do agree it could be part of a legislative package, but until society COMMITS to the supports, it would be a waste. I also agree that people don't realize the resources out there - and why is that? It's because women are still shamed (by family, their work place, whatever) for having an 'inconvenient' pregnancy. I have absolute compassion for the unborn children, that is why my first words were that abortion is evil. However, I also have compassion for the woman. I think it's easy to say 'there are resources out there', but I think that {sadly} an abortion clinic is more accessible than real help (both medical, financial, and emotional). Just google 'unwanted pregnancy' (The only sponsored links are to abortion resources and the first three links are to abortion resources.) Until that changes, and I mean drastically, to immediately overturn Roe v. Wade does a disservice to both the unborn children and their mothers.

    Finally, I'm not suggesting we sit back and wait for society to improve itself, I'm suggesting we get our butts in gear and improve it! I, personally, just don't think Republicans have the right way of going about it.

    Again, thank-you for your apology (though, I won't be offended if you take it back now :)).

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  44. Monica,

    The Doctrine of Double Effect (which basically says that a procedure that results in the death of an unborn child is permitted, so long as the intent of the procedure was not to kill the unborn child) would apply in the extreme (and extremely rare) case of true medical emergencies that would result in either one death (the child) or two deaths (mother and child).

    I'm sure Leila will have a more articulate, detailed answer, but that is the short one as I understand it.

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  45. Monica,

    The Doctrine of Double Effect (which basically says that a procedure that results in the death of an unborn child is permitted, so long as the intent of the procedure was not to kill the unborn child) would apply in the extreme (and extremely rare) case of true medical emergencies that would result in either one death (the child) or two deaths (mother and child).

    I'm sure Leila will have a more articulate, detailed answer, but that is the short one as I understand it.

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  46. http://www.ncbcenter.org/NetCommunity/Page.aspx?pid=482&storyid1277=80&ncs1277=3

    Monica, this statement from the National Catholic Bioethics Center speaks to your question. I believe (not knowing the full diagnosis of the mother in distress) that her early induction may fall under the principle of double effect. (Great job with that, Rebecca.)

    I believe the short article (and examples) will be a big help. Let me know if you still have questions.

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  47. Rebecca,
    I'm glad I didn't offend you, and while I disagree with you politically, I would never retract my apology.
    You mentioned that if you google unplanned pregnancy you get results for abortion procedures. I did google that phrase, and I got some informational pages about options before I saw abortion providers. However, if you google crisis pregnancy, you immediately get phone numbers and location for crisis pregnancy centers who are prepare to offer their support to women.
    Also, you said that you have compassion for the woman, but let's look at the facts here. A woman makes a choice to have sex, and I know that this has become a foreign idea to society, but if a woman isn't prepared for a pregnancy, then she shouldn't be having sex. She made the choice to put herself at risk for an unplanned pregnancy. She should also be prepared to accept the consequences of her actions.
    The tiny little baby that has been created, has absolutely no voice and no choice in the matter. He depends on his mother from the point of conceptions to make choices for his well being. He doesn't know that he wasn't wanted, and all he wants to do is grow and have a chance at life.
    Between the two choices, I will always have a greater degree of compassion for the innocent child.

    I also think that people rarely realize how much abortion truly hurts women. It is not the quick fix that it is advertised to be! So many women find themselves dealing with depression and regret after an abortion.
    Also, women are at a higher risk for breast cancer, they are a higher risk for future miscarriage, ectopic pregnancy, and premature delivery of future pregnancies.

    The following link goes to an article, and if you click the link at the bottom, you can watch a video detailing the abortion/breast cancer link.
    http://www.lifesitenews.com/ldn/2009/feb/09020616.html

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  48. Hi Again Megan,
    Interesting the different results - I wonder if it's Geographic 'smarts' making the difference? I never thought that something googled in one place might result in different results than the same thing googled somewhere else, but I assure you, I googled 'unplanned pregnancy' before I wrote about it (I was actually curious to see what I got).

    I totally agree that a woman makes a choice to have sex and that she shouldn't be doing it if she isn't prepared for a pregnancy (no matter how effective she believes her birth control to be). That is why I think abortion used as 'after the fact' birth control is horrible - I just go back to the fact that it IS happening and that if we want to stop abortion we have to create an environment that women feel supported in to a) be confident to not engage in sexual activity until they are ready for a pregnancy and b) for those women who don't wait and find themselves pregnant to feel supported and have a viable option of adoption or raising the child themselves.

    It seems that we agree on the fact that abortion needs to be stopped, we just can't agree on which comes first the chicken (outlawing abortion) or the egg (establishing social programs to help women).

    I truly appreciate the respectful dialogue we are having - if only those who make the decisions could do it this way...

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  49. Rebecca, I look at it this way: There are two prongs to protection of the unborn. One is keeping them safe under the law (all people deserve equal protection under the law), and the other is help and support for women in crisis pregnancies and their babies (we do that very well here, as do most places... we run into a lot of Planned Parenthood types and politicians who want to discredit and destroy pro-life crisis pregnancy centers, which is a shame).

    So, it's not an either/or decision. We must work for both "chicken" and "egg."

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  50. Leila,
    And we agree :)! Now to just get the lawmakers to agree...

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  51. Rebecca,
    I was actually about to say the same thing as Leila. The pro life movement is absolutely about what is best for both the unborn child and the mother. As I mentioned earlier, abortion is never good for the mother contrary to popular thought.
    I think that if Roe v. Wade is ever over turned, more programs to help support women will inevitably follow, and until then, the pro life movement is absolutely about supporting women to help them choose life for their babies. It goes hand in hand!

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  52. Rebecca, please read this article, about a bill before Congress. I guarantee that the bill was proposed by liberal Democrats, and it is outrageous, because it targets crisis pregnancy centers, to destroy them (while Planned Parenthood gets MILLIONS of taxpayer dollars).

    Let me know what you think:

    http://mychocolatehart.blogspot.com/2010/07/babies-go-to-congress-to-defend-crisis.html

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  54. Paul, forgive me, I am not trying to be difficult, but it does seem like you are giving me your subjective opinion. Can you look at the science of it (there is a link to books on human embryology in this post) and tell me where those professors and scientists have it wrong?

    Isn't "when human life begins" a scientific issue, and isn't "what is 'personhood'?" a philosophical question?

    If you are not 100% sure about when human life begins (and as you can read in the link, science is sure), then shouldn't you err on the side of life?

    Or, is your opinion the last word on when another human being exists?

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  55. I'll ask the question more clearly.

    Here's what I wrote:

    Thank you for your direct and honest answer, Christa. The full question was posed like this, by the way: "When I was homeschooling my sixth-grade daughter a few years ago, her secular Harcourt science book began its chapter on human biology with the following sentence: 'You began life as a single cell.' Do you agree with that statement?"

    So, my question is if you agree with the science book's statement that you began life as a single cell. Your answer was "I don't know" which to me means you are confused about the question of when life begins. If you are confused about when life begins, how can you say without doubt (just a few sentences later) that "a second or a day or a week after conception, it's definitely not human."

    Wouldn't that mean your answer should be "no", that you don't agree with the science book?

    I hope I am making sense.

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  57. Paul, here is one of the questions from above:

    Christa said: The point at which “life” begins is a question that remains unanswered.

    I said:
    Unanswered by whom? In fact, medical science answered that question long ago. Go to this website (http://www.abort73.com/abortion/medical_testimony), scroll down, and see quotes from no less than nine secular teaching textbooks on human embryology/prenatal development, two National Geographic prenatal development videos, statements from medical doctors and professors from institutions such as Harvard, the Mayo Clinic, UPenn, etc. After you have researched, please respond: Unanswered by whom?


    Okay, so that's what I asked Christa. Now, I am asking you. Do you disagree with all those textbooks (please look at the link)? FYI, the one I used to teach my daughter was saying the same thing as those teaching textbooks.

    You are right, there is no "test" for "personhood" since that is a philosophical question that, when applied to humans, was muddied by abortion advocates to dehumanize the smallest, youngest of our species.

    You cannot pinpoint the exact moment when an embryo suddenly "becomes" a person with a right to stay alive, right? So it's your opinion, and it's arbitrary, right? That just seems not quite good enough when we are talking about human life.

    But as to the science of when life begins, you can look to those teaching textbooks. It's pretty basic stuff.

    One last question, and this is a silly one, but it's for my own curiosity. Were you ever conceived? Was anyone ever conceived in his or her mother's womb? When people say things like, "I was conceived in that house"... is that possible? What is a conception? What (or who?) is being conceived? What does "conception" even mean? (Interesting etymology.) Okay, I will stop now. :)

    Thanks!

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  59. Paul, you keep mentioning the one textbook, but did you go to the link and check out the teaching textbooks (college level and up?). Or the statements from the Harvard doc, Mayo, UPenn, etc? I am confused why you haven't addressed what they all say. It's very basic, elementary science.

    If it's common sense that an embryo is not a person, then a whole lot of really bright people have no common sense. Personally, I think it's just your opinion that the embryo is not a human person, because most people I know think the opposite. Who is right? Why not let science decide (and then I refer you back to the link with the teaching/medical textbooks).

    What I mean by human life is "a new human being" ... when is a new human being here, scientifically? The textbooks say at conception. That is common sense.

    We define life's beginning the way the scientists do: When the sperm and egg meet. A new human life is begun. It's very basic science. Did you check the link? It's what everyone used to learn in biology, before abortion advocates started to "redefine" what "life" is.

    I don't get the "sloppy" charge. It seems extremely crisp, succinct, and clear to me, that statement.

    Were you ever conceived?

    Thanks.

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  60. http://www.abort73.com/abortion/medical_testimony

    Again: "scroll down, and see quotes from no less than nine secular teaching textbooks on human embryology/prenatal development, two National Geographic prenatal development videos, statements from medical doctors and professors from institutions such as Harvard, the Mayo Clinic, UPenn, etc."

    Are all these statements "sloppy"? What would constitute a "non-sloppy" statement, if so?

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  64. It's a serious question. If an embryo is not a person, then "you" weren't conceived. Not sure what was in there, but it wasn't Paul.

    As for your assertions that terms are not defined, not clear, etc.... I must be very simple-minded, as I find the statement as crisp and clear as can be. It is not hard to understand, but then again, maybe I am just not a deep thinker. Even my kids can understand that when a sperm and egg merge, a new life is created.

    Honestly, it is pretty simple, and I think you are making it way too complicated and fuzzy. Biology facts are stubborn things, but I believe them when they tell me how babies are made. :) Again, I may be a simple-minded lady.

    Anyway, as I always say, I prefer clarity to agreement (thanks Dennis Prager), so I think I am clear on what you believe (that we cannot know when life begins, but you think it's when brainwaves are present) and I believe that life begins at conception. I am using science textbooks for my conclusions, and you are giving me your opinion.

    That's how I see it, but let's let the readers of this (if any are following) decide for themselves who they think has the stronger case.

    Thanks, Paul! Please feel free to comment more, but forgive me if I move on to the next post.... So many posts, so little time, ha! :)

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  66. Clearly you know more science than I do, but I must say, if a newly conceived embryo isn't a human life, then neither is it a human life when a brain wave kicks in. It's the same entity, just a smidge more developed. It's a spectrum.

    Conception starts a distinct human life, which is not the mother, and which is not the father: Different DNA, different sex, even. It starts the spectrum, which spans until it dies, either a minute later or 100 years later. I hate to say it, but this is really not rocket science, even if you want it to be.

    If you know more science than the folks who write the medical textbooks, then my hat's off to you. I can't say if you have some greater understanding than the authors I linked to (I have no reason to believe that you do, but I am willing to hear your credentials). I don't have any trouble defining the moment a new human life begins, and neither do those scientists (even those who are pro-abortion). Ultimately, it's either we who are in the wrong, or you. And again, it's much more problematic for you if you are the one who is wrong, because then you have denied humanity in a fellow human being.

    I can't remember if you are religious? Just curious.

    Thanks again for a good exchange!

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  68. "I would hazard a guess, out of pure blind intuition, that what many of those scientists think is human life is different than what you think it is."

    Okay, I'll go with the way they mean it. I stipulate. :) My point still stands, as they say that a new human life begins with the merging of the sperm and egg.

    I'd love for you to tell me more about what makes a "person" (it can't be just the ability to write, right?). There is a post on Singer on this blog and you might want to add your thoughts there....

    Thanks!

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  71. "I know some basic things all people have, like brain waves"

    Sorry to keep pressing, but how do you "know" this? I think some people (embryos) don't have brain waves. There are many scientists who think a human life has begun before brain waves have. So, is this simply your opinion?

    I guess I'm just trying to get you to say that this "brain wave" definition of "personhood" is as arbitrary as the "viability" definition of "personhood."

    I hear people say all the time, "Well, we have to draw the line somewhere." My question is "Why do we have to draw the line at all?"

    Let's grant personhood at the beginning of a new human life. To draw any "line" after the point of conception is arbitrary. It's simply opinion. Am I totally wrong?

    Thanks Paul, and I'm going to sleep now. :)

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  72. Hi Paul, hi Leila,

    Wow, I missed a lot while I was sleeping! I'm sorry I'm coming into this so late...
    First- Is it really common sense that an embryo is not a human life? http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Societal_attitudes_towards_abortion It's not really clear-cut according to this article, which finds that large portions (though not always the majority) feel abortion is morally wrong.
    Second, does it matter what common sense says? I sure hope not. Common sense, in our recent history, *proved* that blacks were not human, that women were unequal intellectually to men, that Jews were unequal to Germans, and so on, and so on. Common sense is most definitely NOT a valid criteria on which to hang a moral decision. So let's take it out of the equation.

    Now we have two choices. We can trust what science has shown (that new human life begins at conception) or we can each have our own opinion on it.

    A human embryo is distinctly human, and distinctly alive. These are provable points. A human embryo, subjected to tests, is objectively different than a chicken or pig embryo. A human embryo is also objectively alive, bearing qualities of "lifeness", vs not alive (inanimate) For life, I am using this dictionary definition: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Life, specifically, "Living organisms undergo metabolism, maintain homeostasis, possess a capacity to grow, respond to stimuli, reproduce" as opposed to inanimate objects (rocks, books) which do not. Is an embryo more like a live thing to you, or more like a book or a shoe?

    I think the scientific evidence is overwhelming that an embryo, from conception, is both alive and human- do you agree with both of these things?

    Next, personhood. Absolutely, this is a philosophical question that science cannot answer. You seem to be saying that since science cannot answer it, you will assign your own definition of personhood by brainwaves based on (your own definition of) common sense. Is this correct?

    Are you willing to either kill or not kill (or condone the killing of) a living human being, based on your opinion, based on (your own personal definition of) common sense of whether or not the living human qualifies as a person (a decision you admit is not based in any science)?

    Would it not be more prudent to err on the side of caution here, since we are talking about LIFE and DEATH?

    50 years ago, we had no idea of knowing when an embryo began to emit brainwaves. 100 years ago, we had no way to save a baby born before about 35 weeks gestation. In 100 years, we might have a clearer answer to the question of personhood, though I doubt it. Our ability to observe the developing fetus will get more and more exact, and if the trend continues, we will be able to attribute more and more person-like qualities to younger and younger embryos. What a shame to choose an arbitrary thing like brain-waves simply because it is the newest discovery we've made about human embryonic development.

    I have little doubt that science will continue to reinforce the pro-life position, as it already does. However, if science were to one day prove (I cannot imagine right now that this is possible) that human life and personhood begain at X days of age of an embryo, then I will change my opinion. Until science clearly PROVES to me that a newly conceived embryo is NOT alive and human, however, I will continue to defend it, because when dealing with a matter of life or death, we should always err on the side of caution.

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  73. Also, Paul you said, "But the issue of personhood isn't science. It's just common sense."

    If so, why do you continually defend your definition of personhood (as opposed to "human" and "alive") with a scientific measure (brain waves)? You can't have it both ways. Either personhood is a philosophical question that cannot be clearly answered by science (and therefore the ultimate caution of assigning personhood at conception is required, in order to not unintentionally kill an innocent person) or it IS a scientific question, and a person with a degree in astrophysics should probably leave it to human embryologists to determine, rather than to his own common sense based on his admittedly limited understanding of the human mind and its workings.

    Susie might say that common sense tells her a human is a person when it is capable of independently sustaining its own life, at around 24 weeks, and so abortion should be permissible until this date based on this "common sense" that you or I, clearly human, are not attached to placentae which are still inside our mothers. Peter Singer might further point out that a baby is actually not capable of surviving without a caregiver for several years, meaning small children are not yet people, and can also be "aborted" (euthanized) according to the whims of society, and that this, too, is common sense, since obviously a small child is not capable of buying his own groceries, preparing his own food, and dressing himself in a warm coat in the winter.

    Now your common sense is more conservative than Susie's, and hers is more conservative than Peter's, but they are all utterly non-scientific ways of attributing to an entity the Right to Live, which is really what this is all about.

    Whose common sense is really correct? I have an opinion on that, and so do you, but should we be deciding life and the right to life based on opinion? Or should we, as you mentioned once yourself, be conservative on this question considering the gravity and what is at stake? Is it not more prudent to be as conservative as possible? Isn't conception the earliest and therefore most conservative moment at which to assign the qualities of life, humanity, and personhood?

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  74. Monica, thank you for the great contributions here! I thought I would also point Paul to this post, by a woman who was a pro-choice atheist till recently. She discussed the issue of "personhood" quite cogently, and her thought process on that:

    http://www.conversiondiary.com/2008/01/how-i-became-pro-life.html

    I think you will enjoy it, Paul. It's stated better than I could have possibly stated it.

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  77. Hi Paul,

    I do agree that the way to abolish abortion completely will start with limiting its use, step by step. I doubt that a flat-out ban will get enough support to make it illegal, unless that ban comes from the Supreme Court, which it probably won't based on the judges in that Court at this time.

    In addition to philosophical problems with your stance, there are some practical ones. I state these from the position of my profession, which is a childbirth educator and labor support coach (doula). Does EVERY single embryo start brain-wave action at 6 weeks, or do some of them start at 5 weeks and 5 days, and some at 6 weeks and 2 days? Can we accurately date a pregnancy down to the day? (the answer here is no, we can't- an early ultrasound can be off by as much as a week) So should we move the brain-wave cut-off date back a bit, to say, 5 weeks, just to be really, really, REALLY sure that the embryo is not yet a living human with brain-waves?

    You may not know this if you have not gone through a pregnancy with a loved one, but the earliest possible moment to detect a pregnancy is at around 4 weeks. Pregnancies are dated from the first day of the last menstrual period, NOT from ovulation, meaning that a woman who is *4 weeks pregnant*, if she is paying VERY close attention to her cycle, has *just* discovered she is pregnant.

    Because we cannot date pregnancies to the day through ultrasound, and because we cannot be absolutely sure that brain wave activity happens at 6 weeks and not 5 weeks 5 days or 6 weeks 2 days, how do we implement your suggested policy of no abortions after 6 weeks?

    Should each woman desiring an abortion get an MRI scan of her uterus, to check for brain waves? Is Universal Health Care going to cover this cost? I wonder how much 850,000 MRI scans per year would raise our taxes?

    There is no practical way to implement a brain-wave-is-a-person policy. So what should we do? Move the date later to a more easily defined moment in the pregnancy (you name it- quickening, viability, end of first trimester, ...) or should we do the common sense thing, and just make abortions illegal across the board?

    I tend to believe that the best way to end abortion will not be fought in the legislation, but will be changing the culture from one of sexual gratification and pleasure above all else, to one of Love. But because that is a change that takes time, we must ALSO fight to limit and then abolish abortion legally.

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  79. Hi Paul,

    (I am really enjoying your discussion on suffering, by the way)

    I think we have reached our point of mutual clarity, and will leave it there. I will say that your last sentence: "There's no question about 1 week" is your opinion, not mine. (Not regarding brain waves, but regarding personhood.)

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  80. Oh wow, I posted come comments on the wrong thread, ha! Hard to keep it straight late at night. Anyway, I agree with Monica here, that it's Paul's subjective opinion about personhood, not an objective fact.

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  81. Hi Paul,

    I just read this entire thread of comments and can not possibly respond to everything. But I do see one common theme popping up in this discussion and the discussion going on at the suffering post. It's one that you've continually avoided and I think it's a very, very important question.

    You choose to classify life as having brain waves. You said "The earliest I've ever heard brain-waves being detectable is 6 weeks. If it's sooner, or depending on how likely it's sooner, I'd want to move the time up or down, depending. The more we know, the better we can do this."

    If there is even a REMOTE possibility that the time brain waves can be detected is earlier than 6 weeks (5 weeks, 6 days, and 23 hours-just for kicks)why would you EVER be ok with killing this little embryo? Several people have asked you: isn't it better to err on the side of caution? But I haven't seen your response.

    If you truly believe that someone in the womb is a person and worthy of life-and you admitted yourself that your own classification of life is brainwaves-and you admitted that's it's possible for science to make changes in what we know about brain waves-then why on earth are you NOT coming to the conclusion that we need to protect embryos because we can't be sure when their brainwaves start to exist?? I'm really really baffled (but respectful, just in case this response sounds like it isnt)

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  84. We women can find out when we are pregnant now quite early. By six weeks, I knew every time. Usually I had a confirmation at 4 weeks (which is two weeks gestation). My question to Paul: When your wife was six weeks pregnant, who or what was she gestating? Was that your son? If not, what was it? And, was it the equivalent, morally, of medical waste? I'm just trying to wrap my mind around how you viewed your son in those first weeks.

    And I keep going back to the idea of, "Were 'you' ever conceived?" Is wrong to say that "I conceived a child"?

    Also, when Mary went up to the hill country and met her cousin Elizabeth, and when John the Baptist lept in Elizabeth's womb in the presence of Jesus (presumably then an embryo), what was that all about? Why did he leap?

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  85. Paul--

    OK, this all seems so simple to me, which perhaps reflects more on me than the situation...

    Once a sperm meets an egg, something begins. Unless the newly created "thing" (call it whatever you want) decides for itself that it is not viable, or the womb is unable to sustain it, or a traumatic injury or illness occurs to the woman, or an outside force interferes through abortion or the morning after pill, then that "thing" will, within 9 months, be a human baby living outside of the womb. At 1 second after conception life has been set in motion.

    After all of the IVF chatter, I think this would be obvious. If a sperm and egg are joined through IVF, a BABY has been created. I read just now online (American Pregnancy Association) that the "thing" can be implanted from 1-6 days from joining of the egg and sperm.

    It seems to me that we could reasonably say that a pregnant woman is pregnant with a baby. Thus, a pregnancy means that a woman has a baby inside her. Following that logic, a termination of a pregnancy means that a baby is being terminated, no matter how many days/weeks the baby is.

    I know from personal experience that you can be pregnant and that the baby can be so tiny (DAYS old!) that a vaginal ultrasound, if the doctor is not looking for a baby, cannot detect the baby. But guess what... I have an almost-one year old who can attest to the fact that, left undisturbed, that "thing" will most definitely grow into a baby (as opposed to a cow or a rock or a bicycle).

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  88. Actually, Paul, nothing but nutrition is added to an embryo. A sperm cell (which is not human life -- only having 23 chromosomes -- can do nothing on its own. Same with an egg. Together, well then, there are 46 chromosomes, new DNA, and even a sex, eye color, height, hair color, etc.

    One day, science will find a way to gestate a baby in an artificial womb. If you put a sperm cell in an artificial womb, it will go nowhere. If you put an embryo in an artificial womb, it will keep growing (as humans are wont to do).

    I can't understand how you would think a sperm cell is similar to an embryo. Truly, scratching my head here.

    I used the Bible reference because you indicated your Christianity.

    More in a bit.

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  89. Paul-- my husband is the doctor, not me. But I'm 99.9% positive that a sperm is not on it's way to becoming a baby. An embryo, on the other hand, is.

    When I make cookies, the flour is not on it's way to becoming a cookie. The prepared dough, on the other hand, is. It won't turn into a pizza, no matter how much I crave pizza that day. When the dough is in the oven, it's well on its way to becoming a cookie... and along the way, it's an unbaked cookie, a partially-baked cookie, and a completely-baked cookie (and sometimes a burnt cookie). But it's never NOT a cookie. :) Simple.

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  93. Paul, yes, we have reached a point of clarity.

    You see "personhood" as distinct from "human life" (which is not defined satisfactorily for you to be clear when it begins).

    We see "personhood" and "human life" as existing simultaneously, as being inseparable, and we believe that human life begins at conception, both biologically and morally.

    Tristan is a great name, by the way! I love the movie Tristan and Isolde. And, I have a son named Paul. :)

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  94. did Christa ever respond? and did you ever post on her other points? =D

    It's too bad that all of Paul's comments are deleted by him...I think they would be interesting to read. ;)

    ~Myn

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  95. Myn, nope, Christa never responded. :( I always held out hope that she would.

    Yes, it's sad that Paul deleted everything. It still sort of baffles me, but he has his reasons.

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