Monday, January 26, 2015

Abortion: How to bypass the conscience

On January 22, we marked the bloodiest anniversary in our nation's history: 42 years since the legalization of abortion. Over 55 million irreplaceable, unrepeatable human beings directly killed. But how? How did we get here? How is it even possible?

Back in June 2011, I wrote about a phenomenal book called What We Can't Not Know, by Professor J. Budziszewski, former atheist. The book is a primer on Natural Law, and it covers a lot about the human conscience, including how we can circumvent it, ignore it, dull it, lull it, or trick it, but how we ultimately cannot escape it.

In a section called "Denial", Budziszewski hits specifically on the topic of abortion:
We can't not know that it is wrong deliberately to take innocent human life; parsing the rule, we find only six possibilities of rationalization.
To follow, I condense and paraphrase the six possibilities he lays out, beginning with what we all know through the light of human reason alone (i.e., the Natural Law):

"It is wrong deliberately to take innocent human life." 

So, in order to give ourselves permission to take innocent human life deliberately, we play with the rule.

1)  It is wrong deliberately to take innocent human life.

"I didn't want to get pregnant/didn't want my girlfriend to get pregnant, I didn't ask for this baby, so I'm not responsible for the abortion. The circumstance forced me to abortion. The circumstances are responsible."

2)  It is wrong deliberately to take innocent human life.

"I'm not taking this life, the doctors are doing it. I'm not really involved in this act, it's on the abortionist."

3)  It is wrong deliberately to take innocent human life.

"The fetus is not innocent. It is an aggressor, an intruder, an uninvited parasite, practically a rapist."

4)  It is wrong deliberately to take innocent human life.

"The embryo or fetus is a thing, not a human person with human rights. It's too small, it's not sentient. It has the potential to become a human."

5)  It is wrong deliberately to take innocent human life.

"It's not really alive. It's just a blood clot or a blob of tissue."

(This one is harder to slip by the conscience in the age of ultrasounds.)

6)  It is wrong deliberately to take innocent human life.

"But sometimes we have to do what is wrong."

Budziszewski's take on #6 (emphasis mine):
This is the most disturbing rationalization of all, because it embraces the wrong with eyes wide open. The temptation is ancient: "Let us do evil that good may result." .... [I]n the present state of the revolution that began with sex we go on past abortion and explore other kinds of killing, like infanticide and the slaying of the weak, the old, and the sick. You cannot justify one evil yet expect the others to keep their place. The cloth of the moral law is too tightly sewn for that; it is made of a single strand. Pluck loose one stitch, and the rest unravels too.... If we have already reached killing, what comes next?

I would argue that what comes next, specifically within the human psyche, is not a pretty place to be:

Please read it. It's so important. And it all makes sense, doesn't it?

It's often only after we fall into that dark and terrible place that we are moved to turn around again and face the light. Thank heavens for the workings of the conscience (however terrible), the truth of what we can't not know, and the severe mercies of God.

It is wrong deliberately to take innocent human life.


  1. Or, with #6 - "It's not wrong, people who claim it is are just trying to make women feel guilty."

    Excellent as always, Leila.

  2. Thank you, JoAnna! And to which I would reply: "Why isn't it wrong?" (and they would refer then to one of the other five points).

    The weird thing is this idea that we want to make women feel guilty (for nothing, if you hold the other side's position). Why would we want to make them feel guilty? The majority of the pro-life movement is run and fueled by women. Why do we want to just arbitrarily put all this energy and time and money into a cause simply to make other women feel guilty? It makes zero sense. I'd be interested in their take on that.

  3. Hi Leila
    Do you know anyone who believes in legal abortion whom you believe has a conscience? Thanks.

  4. Johanne, the best way I can answer that is that I know people who are pro-"choice" who have consciences that are rightly formed on other issues, but not on abortion, no. So, yes they have a conscience, but no, they do not have a rightly formed conscience on the issue of abortion.

    Do you agree that we all know "It is wrong deliberately to take innocent human life"? Isn't that something we all know in our core, no matter how we justify abortion?

    1. Meaning, leave the issue of abortion aside. Don't we all know that this principle is true:

      "It is wrong deliberately to take innocent human life"

  5. "It is wrong deliberately to take innocent human life"---I would say yes, but what is left out of this discussion (always) is that, in some instances, continuing a pregnancy to term can take an innocent human life. The entire picture, looked at realistically, is not nearly as tidy and the "pro-life" movement makes it out to be. Life and death are not necessarily binary conditions--which is why these right-to-life discussions don't go much of anywhere for me. Whose right to life are we talking about? The arguments like the one in your post are very simplistic and don't sway me much.

  6. But Johanne, if you agree with the principle, then how do you square your stance? It either is wrong, or it isn't. And if it is wrong, but you think sometimes we must commit evil to bring about a good, then your philosophy falls into "ends justify the means". But isn't that how almost all evil acts are justified?

    And if you are concerned about the very tiny number of women whose health is put at risk by a pregnancy, what do you say about the other 55 million or so children who were put to death when their mothers' lives were not in peril? You say you are for legal abortion. Are you for legal abortion as it stands? Or do you want to limit it to abortion when the mother's life is endangered? What do we owe the other 55 million? Who is responsible for their killings?

    When you say "whose" right to life are we talking about: EVERY human being. Every single one. We don't pit one life against another, and we certainly never pit a mother against her child. And what of the fact that abortion is not a cure for any terminal illness or condition? Early delivery, perhaps (where we work to save the lives of both mother and child).

    We may never deliberately take innocent human life. That is simple, yes. Not simplistic. Simple. Simple doesn't mean easy to live out. We are complicated. Emotions are complicated. Situations are complicated. But truth is not complicated.
    We apply the simple truths to complicated emotions and situations, and then we know what to do. Or at least, we know what we may not do. Simple. Not easy.

  7. The key is the term “Non-Person”. Beware of it!

    If I have some of your skin tissue in a petri dish that is both alive and human I could argue that it is of human origin, alive (and innocent), but is not a person. If I ask a pro-choicer “when did YOU become a person?”, it gets into a ridiculous discussion about thresholds that is based on opinion. From here you can discuss if the beginning of ones “personhood” should be based on opinions about viability or consciousness or should it be based on a scientific, objective and observable fact (like conception).

  8. This is great Leila. And I have Budziszewski's book, purchased, sitting on my bookshelf, and you're making me want to GET TO IT MUCH SOONER than I anticipated!!! I think I'll attach it to my 2015 reading list because it sounds really appealing.

  9. Johanne, you say that you do believe that "it is wrong deliberately to take an innocent human life." Yet you then put the condition on the statement, referencing the relatively small possibility of risking the life of the mother, as if these things are equal. They're not. One deliberately and intentionally ends the life cycle of an innocent human being - a deliberate taking of an innocent life. The other allows the life cycle of both to continue as they should, the fact that the mother *might* die in the process (or even if the mother does die, God Be With Them) is not a deliberate taking of an innocent life. All that can be done to save the mother should be done, unless it requires doing something wrong - because the mother dying (God Be With Them) is not wrong as a moral absolute. A tragedy, yes; unfortunate, most definitely; a reason for sadness and lamentations, yes. But it is not wrong in the way deliberately taking an innocent human life is. Gosh I hope that makes as much sense to everyone else as it does to my sleep deprived self.

  10. Ben, exactly! That is the insidiousness of the "personhood" argument! But here's the thing: Science is clear that a new human being is begun at conception (heck, even Peter Singer, champion of infanticide, acknowledges the truth of it). And so, the only reason that one questions the "personhood" of an actual human being is because they seek to be allowed to harm that human being. It's the only reason. I wrote about that here:

    Questioning another's personhood (just like questioning humanity, frankly) is only done if one is looking for permission to harm or kill the other.

  11. Agnes, it's so good. The later parts are the best. The section "How the Lost World Was Lost" is so powerful!

    Bethany, exactly, and thank you!

  12. And Johanne, even if I agreed to the fact that some women's lives could be saved by killing their unborn children, which I don't, I want to ask you: in what other situation can you imagine yourself being okay with a law that allows the killing of an entire group of human beings, up to 55 million of them, to save the lives of a few? Can you see yourself being okay with such a thing in any other situation?

  13. 4) It is wrong deliberately to take innocent human life.

    "The embryo or fetus is a thing, not a human person with human rights. It's too small, it's not sentient. It has the potential to become a human."

    Ben stole my thunder on this point. Regarding this illogical angle on "personhood":
    There is zero reality for a human cell to morph into any other species "potentially" or actually.

    At the very instant of fertilization, metabolism begins. The single cell is fully human (full human genetic code) and the subsequent cells are human.
    Repeat: They *are actually* human, not *potentially human*, therefore, there is zero logic in trying to argue that a fully human cell will "potentially become a human". It. Already. Is. It will only further develop into what *it already is*. No room for argument here.

    When people use the term 'potential' to argue pro-abortion, it conveniently makes the truth of the present full genetic code suddenly relative.

    We'd all do well to read the critiques of RvW. It was a decision that was handed down subjectively. It had nothing to do with objective standards which were already in place at the time, as pertains to "personhood". This is exactly why the decision should be reversed.

  14. @Nubby. There may be some justification for the term "potential human" in regards to a fertilized cell since about one-third of fertilized cells are miscarried.

  15. Hi Johanne,
    Miscarried or not, the cells are *actually* human. The potential to be anything else is non scientific.

  16. A fertilized cell contains the full human genetic code and immediately begins metabolizing. No matter the percentage that fully develop (or are allowed the chance to fully develop), the fact remains, we are not going to morph into another species. So the whole "personhood" debate is only subjective and doesn't hold up to objective reality.

  17. Johanne,

    "Fertilized cell" (or "fertilized egg") is actually a misnomer since once an cell (or ovum) has been fertilized, it is properly termed a zygote. However, the zygote stage is very brief (perhaps 24 hours), and then it becomes a blastocyst. Once it has implanted, it is commonly termed as an embryo, although techically the embryonic stage lasts from conception to 8 weeks gestation (6 weeks after conception). So, all zygotes are embryos but not all embryos are zygotes.

    Zygote, blastocyst, embryo, fetus, neonate, etc. are all developmental terms for the same entity: a human being. And that entity is a human being its entire lifespan, regardless if it lives for one day or one hundred days or one thousand days, or longer.

    You'll find that, as Leila already noted, those who use the incorrect terminology of "fertilized egg" or "fertilized cell" are those who are attempting to dehumanize human beings so that they can advocate for the legal destruction of said human beings, whether by abortion, embryonic stem cell research (note it's not "fertilized egg stem cell research"), or discarding of embryos after IVF.

  18. I did a quick google search and came up with the CDC numbers for infant mortality in the US. In 1900, the infant mortality rate (death before 1 year old) was 100 per 1000 live births and 30% in some cities. Would it have been appropriate to consider children up to 1 year old as merely "potential humans"?

    The miscarriage rate is tragic but I don't see how it can have any bearing on the fundamental humanity of the child.

  19. "Zygote, blastocyst, embryo, fetus, neonate, etc. are all developmental terms for the same entity: a human being. And that entity is a human being its entire lifespan, regardless if it lives for one day or one hundred days or one thousand days, or longer."

    Yes, it's a continuum of the life of a human being. Some other stages: Infant, child, teen, young adult, middle-age (ask me how I know!), elderly.

    Johanne, do you see that human life has a beginning and an end? It's a continuum of development that every single human being goes through.

    Funny story: I know where I was conceived. I won't go into details, ha ha. But we all understand what that means as far as "when I (not someone else) was conceived". It means, when my human life, me, started. When I began. At conception. At my conception. We all understand this. Why is it suddenly necessary to deny that we were ever conceived? Johanne, were you conceived? I know that you were conceived in your mother's womb.

    Let's not shy from truth.

  20. Johanne, the line of thinking you present leads to the kind of tortured logic that we heard from Michelle (an atheist and now a medical student):

    A science major at the time, she told me that although “it’s true” she started life as a single cell, “that zygote that I started out as wasn't me."

    Ruminate on that statement a bit. It's nonsensical. But that is what one must do to deny the truth of science and what we all know. I like Michelle personally; she's a sweet young woman. But she really exposed the pretzel logic with that one.

  21. Applying the word "simple" to anything connected to abortion makes me think you are completely out-of-touch on why abortions happen.

    You barely mentioned the mother in your post. We can feel so pious and wonderful if we talk about the babies. It should be all about the girls/women that are pregnant. If it were all about them, I doubt abortion would have ever become legal. Until the focus is on the mother and the whys are answered, thousands of babies are going to die each year.

  22. LizaMoore, deliberately misconstruing Leila's comments doesn't speak well for your intelligence. She said the *moral principles* were simple, and she specifically clarified that simple =/= easy:

    "We may never deliberately take innocent human life. That is simple, yes. Not simplistic. Simple. Simple doesn't mean easy to live out. We are complicated. Emotions are complicated. Situations are complicated. But truth is not complicated.

    We apply the simple truths to complicated emotions and situations, and then we know what to do. Or at least, we know what we may not do. Simple. Not easy."

    And no, it should not be "all about the girls/women who are pregnant." Nor should it be "all about the babies." It should be about them BOTH. Not either mother or child, but BOTH mother AND child. They are both human beings with an inalienable right to life.

    The issue is that no one is trying to claim that mothers have no right to life and that it should be legal to kill them with impunity. That is, sadly, the case with unborn children.

    1. also, above, all bolding is mine, not Leila's. Just wanted to clarify.

  23. Hello all. I am a person who is not sure that a two week old blastocyst is a person (it is definitely HUMAN), but I err on the side of thinking it is and that abortion is wrong, although I do think it is more abhorrent to murder a 36 week old developing baby than a 2 week old fetus, particularly because the former has the capacity to suffer.

    That said, as a biologist, I am intrigued by the mystery of the uniqueness of human beings and by the fact that as the egg lays waiting inside the woman's ovary, it is stalled in a holding pattern of meiosis (the process that reduces the number of chromosomes in the egg from the full 46 to the half-number (23), so it can combine with the sperm to make a full genome for the new person. For some time it was thought that meiosis was complete upon ovulation, but now we know that the last stage does not occur until later (the stage where the definitive chromosomes coming from the mother that will actually make that new person are divided out from the ones that (by chance or providence or both, however you look at it) are discarded and never make it into the person. In fact, that last stage occurs only the MOMENT the one sperm among millions makes its way through the protective egg outer zone to unite with the egg. Amazing! That means you could not take and egg and determine its genes and then get a sperm and determine its genes and predict a person....The egg has not finished meiosis UNTIL the sperm enters. How unreal is that?????

  24. I am a person who is not sure that a two week old blastocyst is a person (it is definitely HUMAN)

    Question 1: Since the full genetic human code is present upon fertilization, why are you sure of the "humanness" but unsure of the "personhood" of a two week old blastocyst?
    Question 2: Isn't the criteria of what "makes a human person" the full human genetic code being present at fertilization, according to science? The criteria "of what makes a human a real person" isn't a developmental stage, right?

    Actual "personhood" is not contingent upon any part of development after fertilization (well, pre-RvW it was clear anyway), because from Moment # 1, the cell is metabolizing, thus a human person is developing. There's no question, at any stage of development, that what we have under the microscope is a human and a person. A human person. Age or development isn't a determiner of objective fact.

  25. LizaMoore, I have to say I was stunned by your comment in light of what I actually wrote (thank you, JoAnna, for repeating it for her with the emphases you included). It makes me wonder if you read my comment at all?

    And if I had said, "We may never rape another person. That is a simple principle. People are complicated, situations are complicated, but the truth is simple", I somehow doubt that you would ever say the following (word substitution, using the evil of rape, not abortion):

    Applying the word "simple" to anything connected to [rape] makes me think you are completely out-of-touch on why [rapes] happen.

    Please tell me you understand that a moral principle (even an inviolable one) can be quite simple for the mind to understand, even as situations in this fallen world are complicated. You are in favor of legal abortion, yes? If so, how do you justify it?

    And, are you involved in the pro-life community and crisis pregnancy centers and homes for pregnant women, etc? If you are, you would never have implied that the pro-life movement today is only thinking of the babies. It's like how I recently saw Yahoo News talk of the "so-called Rhythm Method" when they meant NFP. It's like they are four decades behind.

    What is your involvement in the pro-life cause?


  26. "I do think it is more abhorrent to murder a 36 week old developing baby than a 2 week old fetus, particularly because the former has the capacity to suffer."

    Mary, is it more abhorrent to kill a seven-month-old fetus, then, than a fully unconscious adult, because the fetus can feel pain and the unconscious adult will not? If not, why?

  27. Leila, thank you so much for writing this awesome post!

    When I was a little girl (five or six), I heard abortion mentioned on TV and asked my Mom what it meant. She tried to explain it. All I heard was it had to deal with killing babies. This greatly disturbed me. Still does to this day.

    I have been praying the rosary for years for the end of abortion and for all Mamas and Dads to choose life. When I hear about someone choosing abortion, I am horrified. I do not understand how people can kill their precious babies in the womb. How can they do that? When there are so many of us out there like me who can't have babies and want one so bad? If they don't want them, why can't they give them up for adoption? I do not understand.

    I have had three situations so far where younger girls I've worked with have became pregnant or thought they were pregnant and had abortions. The first young lady seemed excited about the pregnancy, brought in the ultrasound picture to show everyone, but then decided to have an abortion. I do not remember speaking up or saying anything to her. I was afraid. Back then I was very shy and speaking up about anything was not my strong point. The second time was a few years later and another young lady thought she was pregnant and talked about having an abortion. That time I did speak up, but it was so difficult for me and I think I was shaking the whole time. I simply went over to her and offered to adopt her baby. A few weeks later she found out she wasn't pregnant, but came over to me and thanked me for offering to adopt her baby. You see, she had an abortion in the past and didn't want to have another one. She really appreciated me offering to adopt her baby.

    The third time was years later after I was a few years married and working in a different city, a different place. The third young lady also suffered from endometriosis and was told she never would have children. It was a miracle she was able to get pregnant. Unfortunately, her boyfriend was NOT understanding of the situation and she felt she had no choice, but to have an abortion. At the time this happened, I was still reeling from my own endometriosis/infertility diagnosis at age forty one. Again, I offered to adopt her baby, but she just smiled at me.Another time, I asked her: "But what if you can't have another one?" She told me she didn't want to talk about it. I remember praying hard for her to change her mind, but she ended up having the abortion. A couple of months later, she was pregnant again. I remember when I heard she was pregnant again, crying in the kitchen at work with the cook trying to console me. I couldn't understand. Why can't I be blessed with even one? Why is it that someone is blessed with a new life, they have an abortion, and they are able to have another one, but I can't have even one? Why, God? I am confused. I didn't understand. I still don't understand that one, but now several years later I am able to accept God's will better. God has a reason why He blessed her with two babies and one in Heaven and why I remain childless still.

    We must pray for pregnant mothers and dads to choose life. We must pray for these unborn babies. We must pray for the end of abortion.

    When I pray for pregnant mothers and dads, for the unborn babies, ect. I receive some peace. Still, I wish I could be a Mama, but adoption is so expensive! Praying for a miracle and for Roe vs. Wade to be overturned!


  28. LizaMoore, here is something I wrote earlier:

    I hope that should be a satisfying response to this comment you wrote:

    "You barely mentioned the mother in your post. We can feel so pious and wonderful if we talk about the babies. It should be all about the girls/women that are pregnant. If it were all about them, I doubt abortion would have ever become legal. Until the focus is on the mother and the whys are answered, thousands of babies are going to die each year."

  29. Nubby, by "person" I mean a human with a soul. Before there were Homo sapiens of the modern day there were many hominids. When one of these, or indeed the first Homo sapien became ensouled to make the first person must have occurred at some point. However, the difference in species between Homo sapien and its immediate predecessor would have probably been minor, so I figure that "person" does not always equal "human" in the scientific sense. A person has an eternal soul, as I understand it.

  30. But the "soul angle" should add that much more weight on the scale of the pro-life side for the scientific mind. Science says "this is a human, a person". The exact time that the soul animates the body doesn't detract from that.

    Also, I quickly looked up "human" and "person".
    adjective: human
    1. of, relating to, or characteristic of people or human beings.
    "the human body"

    And "person" was listed as a synonym. And, inversely, "human" is listed as a synonym for "person". Interchangeable.

  31. Maria Therese! That is a very beautiful and heartfelt meditation. Great mysteries that we cannot yet understand. Your prayers are powerful because of the cross you bear. Keep praying; you are amazing.

    And as to the "person" debate, it's so interesting that the whole concept of "person" is a Christian thing, as that is how the Church fathers and theologians were working out the concept of the Persons of the Trinity. So, the people who want to use "personhood" as a marker are actually using a term that is based in a metaphysical discussion. Metaphysics is something that atheists don't subscribe to, as they usually stick to science (as we are told time and again), but they suddenly fall back upon metaphysics when the subject turns to the "right" to kill certain innocent human beings. I find it fascinating, because why would they break their own belief system to "go there"?

  32. Johanne, I keep coming back to your statement that you agree with the moral principle, but...

    "It is wrong deliberately to take innocent human life"---I would say yes, but ...

    Essentially, you think it's wrong to deliberately take innocent human life, except for the 55 million lives that were the exception. Do you see how that does not make sense to me? Even if you are not happy that 55 million had to die, you are in support of the law that stripped all rights from this group of humans and that allowed those killings to go forward.

    So doesn't that mean you really don't believe in the principle at all? I truly don't understand the logic.

  33. Hi Leila
    As I said, to me the issue is not nearly as tidy as it is for you. Understanding each others' logic requires we agree on a number of premises, which we never will. I understand that you see my viewpoint as flawed, illogical, immoral, etc. And I don't think that will ever change. I have been reading your blog for almost four years now (oy! time goes by quickly), and occasionally Jill Stanek's blog; I've read thousands of impassioned comments by pro-lifers; I'm an intelligent, informed, compassionate person who has been intimately involved with the abortion issue for a number of years. ----- and I disagree with you I assume that will never make sense to you.

    I understand the pro-life position better than I used to, and I have more understanding of why Catholics believe what they do, and more respect for them. But I spare no regard for the larger political pro-life movement whose proponents have little respect for life.

  34. Here's the thing, Johanne. Nobody is saying that the issue is neat and tidy. The right or wrong of the issue is, in fact, black and white (see my above comment). But all that is involved with the issue is certainly NOT neat and tidy, it is messy, it is difficult, it is agonizingly painful. The difference is that messy, difficult, painful, these are not reasons to do wrong. There is NEVER a good enough reason to commit a wrong. This is where a proper understanding of suffering and sacrifice is paramount.
    I understand that you don't see it that way. Correct me if I'm wrong... but you see a situation that is messy, difficult, and painful and think either: those are good enough reasons to do wrong, or rather I suspect what you believe (again, correct me if I'm wrong) that those reasons nullify that which is always wrong. In other words, if something is messy, difficult and painful, those are good enough reasons to change what would normally be wrong to right.

    But Truth doesn't change based on circumstances, even bad circumstances. What it does mean, is instead of all of us bickering over whether the messy, difficult, painful circumstances allow us to commit a wrong or change the wrong to a right... what we need to do is address the circumstances and help women carry those crosses.

  35. Leila wrote, "Mary, is it more abhorrent to kill a seven-month-old fetus, then, than a fully unconscious adult, because the fetus can feel pain and the unconscious adult will not? If not, why?"

    By abhorrent I mean to make a distinction between the nature of a grave act. Just as we distinguish between a person who would kill an individual by shooting them in the back of the head while they slept, from a person who tortures a person by strangling them with piano wire and then revives them multiple times before finally murdering them so as to exact the most pain (like the Nazis). Both are evil acts, but one is far more evil, and could never ever be justified, while I could imagine a scenario where one might possibly make a justification for the first. Say for example, you were the mother of a child who was certainly about to endure the second horrific method of death. In that instance the first action might be construed as less evil, moral even.

    A doctor or mother who is complicit in the dismembering of a 7 month gestation baby is inflicting great pain, as well as death. I fear a person who can rationalize that, as they are well aware that this baby can feel pain. The only way I would ever consent to that if the life of the mother were at imminent risk and the baby had to be induced far too early.
    For a person who takes the morning after pill to prevent the implantation of a 1 week old embryo, I would personally, again, err on the side of caution and call that an abortion and consider it wrong, but I do not find that person's mindset as objectionable as the first.

    Dialing back abortion to the early weeks would be an achievement I would support.

    An unconscious adult who is temporarily unconscious (as opposed to one who is permanently unconscious...and there's the rub, because our science is poor, and more than a handful of people thought to be lost forever as vegetables have come back to tell us they could perceive far more during their coma than was ever thought.) will regain consciousness, and even while unconscious, they have dreams and vivid brain activity and can store memories. A blastocyst has great potential but it cannot even be called unconscious, as it has no brain, and therefore no brain activity whatsoever. Although we are not our brains, our personess is dependent upon our brain to some extent. I believe that is why it took so long for people to evolve...we had to evolve long enough for this complex brain to develop so we could be rational and have the gift of Free Will.

    Now, some will say that a newborn has a very immature brain and cannot possibly have free will, so by my definition it would be just as licit to murder a newborn as a blastocyst, but you have to draw the line somewhere, and although I would rather draw the line at conception, I can support those who draw the line at the onset of a beating heart, or the development of the nerve chord.

  36. Hi Johanne,
    Can we go about ten steps back from the emotional summation (of things being neat or tidy) and consider the RvW decision itself and the flawed criterion the Court implemented to arrive at its decision?
    Do you find the decision flawed, judicially speaking?

    If you find it flawed, on that logic alone, wouldn't you agree that it should be overturned?
    Do you agree that if we don't have a legal system that upholds unalienable rights that we're at the mercy of a majority vote to determine who is now considered a "person"??

  37. A blastocyst has great potential

    Mary, This use of "potential" makes me wonky. The only "potential" we have is what *kind* of human we're going to be (star athlete, concert pianist, moral louse, upright citizen, fully developed or not, etc.) There is no "potentiality" in what already *is*. One fertilized cell is fully human. There is no more potential to be reached, biologically speaking. This is the only criterion the Court needed. It had it, it chose to ignore it and rewrite new criteria to determine who, exactly, had the right to life. Faulty decision, yes?

  38. I would love the answers to Nubby's questions about the decision itself (how weird that the justices used ancient speculations rather than modern science... truly bizarre. And we accept that?).

    Also, Mary, yes, torturous murder is much more hard to take, emotionally, than painless, quick murder. But the principle still stands, right? We may not deliberately take innocent human life.

  39. Johanne, but let's put aside the abortion debate for a minute and just talk general principle and philosophy. You said that you believe in the principle, "It is wrong deliberately to take innocent human life." But in practice, you don't believe it. Or, you believe it's wrong, but believe that certain wrongs can be done anyway, depending on the circumstances (I think Bethany explained it better than I did!).

    You also say that we have different premises. That leads me to ask: What is the premise you hold? Whatever it is, it leads you to violate the principle that you stated you believed in.

    I am asking you to reconcile your own stance and stated philosophy with the other things you stated (that contradict it).

  40. Now, some will say that a newborn has a very immature brain and cannot possibly have free will, so by my definition it would be just as licit to murder a newborn as a blastocyst, but you have to draw the line somewhere, and although I would rather draw the line at conception, I can support those who draw the line at the onset of a beating heart, or the development of the nerve chord.

    By saying the line has to be drawn somewhere... means that the line is arbitrary and can be moved by whoever makes the rules. It becomes a might makes right/whoever has the most gold and guns makes the rules. In reality, there is no line to be drawn by us. There is a living human being, in the earliest stages of it's developmental life cycle. If an arbitrary line can be drawn by other human beings at a random stage of development for it to be "okay" to end the life cycle process (to abort = to end the process of), it only takes someone with more might, more gold, more guns, to move that line to a different stage. Euthanasia advocates are already trying to move the line at the other end of the cycle. Folks like Peter Singer are trying to move the beginning line to some point after birth, as well.
    Either we accept the Truth of nature /biology and the life cycle of a human being, or we continue to delude ourselves that we have any control or say so over nature/biology, when we really don't.

  41. Yes the blastocyst IS a being, but is it ensouled? I'm not certain. However, nobody would argue it can experience pain or that it has a brain. Is it special and amazing and worthy of reverence? Yes. However, I am not willing to say that it is without a doubt, an ensouled person.

  42. Although we are not our brains, our personess is dependent upon our brain to some extent

    How does "brain" determine presently "full human genetic code"?
    Brain is not equivalent to single cell full genetic code, nor is it the determiner.
    The brain doesn't determine anything about "humanness". It is not the determiner. The determiner is the coding in the single cell, yes?
    And the code is there or it is not, right? The code is there in a single cell, right? I mean, I am talking to you as a scientist here; asking you to supply the realized data.

    However, nobody would argue it can experience pain or that it has a brain.

    Again, a brain is not the determiner of what is human. The fertilized cell is that determiner, right?

  43. Well, as God knows the moment, the very exact milisecond that we are conceived, I have no reason to believe that He is not part of that equation, bestowing the soul upon the newly formed human being.
    BUT (and that's a HUGE but) if by chance the soul comes later the question is not, "does it have a soul?" Rather it's "Will it have a soul if allowed to develop as biology/nature/God intends?"

    The truth of the matter is "ensoulment" is another attempt to justify controlling that which we can't control. We don't control biology or nature, which is to say we don't control God. If God allowed this human being to be created, whether He has bestowed upon the human being a soul or not yet, who are we to interfere in God's plan.

    Gosh I'm not use to discussing this topic with someone who believes in ensoulment. I'm usually debating atheists. So forgive me if my explanations lack the theology for Christian discussion.

  44. Sorry that last comment was delayed.
    Bethany, I agree with you, but I think there is a good chance of moving the abortion line back based on pain science etc., and I think there is almost no chance of convincing most Americans both privately and publicly that the morning after pill is murdering a person. Even I have doubts about this. The zygote is unique and amazing, but a large majority of people do not consider it a "personality". Their belief is on a sliding scale of development so that I bet most would consider a 6 week old embryo as more of a person than a zygote but less of a person than a 6 month old developing baby.

    I think the morning after pill has other problems too (makes people more careless about sex etc.) so there are several reasons to be against it, but mainstream America will never accept this. Where I come from, Rick Santorum is the poster child for Idiocy. If you were to say you supported him in any fashion, even if you clarified your position, it would be akin to saying you were keen on imbeciles. Remember when Romney was careful to clarify that he was not against contraception? He had to strongly mention that, almost nobody would vote for someone who was "crazy enough" to say they were against artificial contraception.

    I am guessing a large amount of my aquaintances have used the morning after pill. They do not consider it wrong, and they do not consider it murder. I realize this does not impact the immutable truth of the matter, but moving the abortion line back is success, and getting a more pro-life, pro-family, pro-Christian candidate in office and on the benches is success, and I hate to think we are going to lose the moderates in that fight if we keep insisting that gestational age is basically irrelevant.

  45. Nubby you are correct that the zygote has the full set of DNA for a unique new person, but so do the stem cells in your body. Actually all the cells in your body have this info, it is just not expressed, and nobody would take a cell from your left toe and consider it a person although they would consider it as being human in origin. Human is a science term and person is science and theology/metaphysics mixed in my view. Having all the DNA in a cell does not make it a person. So we have to ask, what is a person? A blastocyst will become a person if in the right environment and given time. However, soon they will figure out how to nudge a pluripotent stem cell into being a person by giving it the "right" environment. The science starts to get very scary actually. So again, for me, more reason to consider the zygote sacred, but I just feel you will never be able to convince most people of this because they do not consider it a person. Really, the beating heart is something that we have a chance at using as a drawing line...I think most people can intellectually grasp the significance of that.

  46. Gotta go to bed! Good night Ladies!

  47. Actually all the cells in your body have this info, it is just not expressed, and nobody would take a cell from your left toe and consider it a person although they would consider it as being human in origin.

    "Human in origin" is the key phrase, exactly. Organically human. This is the million dollar phrase that the Court trashed when it redefined what makes a person a person. When talking unalienable rights, we are most definitely talking "origin". No one gave those unalienable rights, so no one has any right to take them, right?
    The fact that we exist as humans means we have dignity. The Court knew this and had this always as their standard. Do you think the decision was faulty because the Court redefined personhood?

    Having all the DNA in a cell does not make it a person.

    Actually, it means exactly that, when talking a single fertilized cell. A full human genetic code is supplied. There is no doubt.
    A human and a person are interchangeable terms in the dictionary, why they wouldn't be interchangeable in the course of normal conversation (scientific or otherwise) is confusing.

    And, again, the soul angle definitely adds more weight to the pro-life side of the scales because we're talking a reality above mere evolution. If a person believes in a soul, then there is no sense in playing games by sliding the gestational age of abortion pre-or post-days or weeks.

  48. I understand what you're saying, Mary, in regards to small steps in rescinding legal abortion in this country.

    And I understand that there are many who don't believe that the Morning After Pill is murder. Prayer and Penance are our main recourse to change hearts and minds.

    What I'm having a hard time with is this notion of person. As if somehow a person is different from a human being. I would speculate the statement: a person is a human being, but a human being isn't necessarily a person - rings true. But to me that is simply an argument designed to justify a wrong and turn it into a right. Who gets to decide when a human being becomes a person, at what point, and isn't it all arbitrary anyway? What happens when someone with a lot of guns decides teenagers aren't persons either? A sliding scale of development can always be slid up to include anyone or everyone.
    "Wrong is wrong is even if everyone is doing it. Right is right even if no one is doing it."

    At any rate whether a zygote is a "person" or or just a human being, is irrelevant. God plans. For the life of each individual human being, before they are formed in the womb. Therefore leaving aside legality and focusing just on you and your statement: Even I have doubts about this. Can a human being that God created with specific plans be murdered? Or can only certain types of human beings (i.e. "persons") be murdered? And if only certain types, who gets to make that judgment? Is any person on earth truly capable of making that kind of judgement?

    Questions for all of us to ponder, I think.

  49. Mary, I think we might be talking about different things. I think you are talking about how to gain political advantage and cut down the number of abortions. But my piece (and what I have focused on) is about how we try to trick our consciences to be "allowed" to do things that are clearly wrong, and that we all know in our hearts are wrong (even if we have a "very good" reason for committing that wrong).

    So, when talking about killing innocent human beings (and one group has all the power, right? No unborn child can decide to murder a grown-up), we can't "draw the line somewhere" other than where human life begins. And we can't define human being differently than human person (they are synonymous; the only reason one questions "personhood" is to harm the human being in question).

    And I had to laugh when you said that in your part of the country (liberal, pro-abortion, pro-gay "marriage", etc.) people see those who believe in the sanctity of every single human life as imbeciles. So what? I am sure they would think Mother Teresa's ideas on human life and contraception are equally imbecilic. So what? As that great saint has said, we are called to be faithful, not successful. I promise that no one will be judged harshly by Christ on whether or not he looked like an "imbecile" by the voters of New England. ;) Heck, it'd probably be a badge of honor.

    Anyway, I guess I'm asking for you personally to stick with the topic at hand (as much as I love tangents). Forget politics and strategy (as worthy as those topics are). Let's just talk truth.

  50. And I keep coming back to the one thought (and it has nothing to do with the question of ensoulment which Bethany covered well):

    We all were conceived. Everyone knows it. You know you were conceived. Your mom knows you were conceived (she may even know where and when!). The life cycle of a human being (a person!) starts somewhere, and it's not arbitrary. We were begun at the beginning: Conception.

    It is so simple. You were conceived in a moment in time. You began then. And we can grasp this with our minds. Children can understand this. And unless we want to use the tortured logic of Michelle (“that zygote that I started out as wasn't me"), it's best to just acknowledge that we were all conceived and yes, that was really us! It was really me! It was really you! And at that moment, our lives were inviolable. No one has the right to take it from us. We are human, and we don't have to prove our worth (or have someone else decide our humanity) to have human rights.

    Is there anyone reading this who was never conceived? I want to meet you!

  51. Doesn't "potential" to be something stop the moment something "is"?
    For people to get so jacked up that they would consider someone an imbecile for their insane crazy idea that life actually begins at conception is a great example of the avenging conscience. All the BS beliefs floated out there pass muster to not be considered imbecilic. But life begins at conception?.....(add the Howard Dean scream here).
    Prager uses the line " people who won't fight evil, hate those who do" ...or something like that.
    Why else would an otherwise political/culturally moderate person get so bent on this one issue? There's only one other topic that draws the same wildly disproportionate response. I imagine it's very frustrating to try and force that square peg idea into a round hole of truth.

  52. Doesn't "potential" to be something stop the moment something "is"?

    Potential only defines qualities that may be developed, not inherent realities of what already is.

    And as far as "imbeciles" go, brutha, maybe what's needed is that mental sparring you mentioned previously in Leila's other thread.
    I vote you start that blog-gym. Call it Catholic CageMatch or Hammerin' Heretics - ya know, somethin' so the paypul knows whut they gittin'.
    The "imbeciles" could come from all over the world to read definitions ... "May the odds be ever in your favor, Katniss."

  53. Look at the abortion statistics. Most abortions are done in the first trimester to unmarried women who cite some type of dysfunctional relationship and can't afford to support a baby. Essentially, "they can't be pregnant." They easy answer to this is to say don't have sex. Unfortunately, many of these women have never seen a healthy relationship, let alone a healthy marital relationship.

    In order to eliminate 90% of abortions, we have to change the culture. Many girls see themselves only as sexual objects to make men/boys happy. They derive their self-esteem from this. Abortion is borne out of dysfunction. And the abortion industry feeds into this dysfunction by telling kids that sex is merely recreational. Getting a different message to kids before they hit their teens is crucial to changing the culture.

    The culture can change. I have a SIL who was the poster child for Planned Parenthood. She was "sexually liberated" as a teen and fell into an abusive relationship with an adult man. She's pretty pro-choice about abortion and contraception. Long story short, she married at 23 and has a son. Recently, she was telling me how much chastity makes sense to her now, and that she wants to teach her son to wait until marriage for sex. Knowing her, it was mind blowing.

    Change the culture.

  54. Priscilla, absolutely! I couldn't agree with you more. But as always, it's both/and, not either/or. We need laws that are just, in addition to changing hearts. Just like MLK said, we do not obey or accept unjust laws, i.e., laws that do not square with the moral law of God/natural law.

    And again, specific to this post is how the conscience works to avoid the obvious truth that we do not deliberately kill innocent human beings. The dysfunction you mention plays out in one or more of the six points. So important to form consciences well, and reinforce those truths in the culture.

  55. Yes, but to claim that people justify abortion (all abortions) because of the avenging conscious does not address or understand that not all people accept that the early embryos are persons, and although defining what a zygote "is" is problematic if you don't consider it a person, I think reasonable people who ARE concerned with truth can seriously question whether an early blastocyst is a person as opposed to a 6 month old fetus. They may falter when pushed to define WHEN personhood begins, (and this is a terrible quandry) but I don't think they are just moral cretins who need to justify evil because it serves them.

    The paradox put for by some guy I forget (and that has been discussed on this very blog) was this: If you were called to a fire at a burning building and you were given a split second to try and save ten people trapped in a burning room or ten 4 day old embryos sitting on ice in another room, it would be clear that you would save the people, and what would factor into that primal thought is the degree of suffering the born people would suffer and their "obvious" personhood, as opposed to the embryos on ice.

    Now, I agree fully with the Catholic Church that reproductive technologies that make that scenario even imaginable are fraught with immorality, as they introduce options and ethical quandries that are rather foreign to us, and that our senses are not designed/evolved to cope with. If those embryos were inside mothers there would be no quandry, as caring and saving the mother would automatically take care of the issue. The embryo is where it belongs, from conception to birth.

  56. Now, I agree fully with the Catholic Church that reproductive technologies that make that scenario even imaginable are fraught with immorality,

    Immorality of the technologies aside, with today's technologies your hypothetical scenario could actually happen, and I wonder what supporters of "personhood" would have to say about it? Of course, to make the hypothetical fair we'd have to have the same number of post-birth persons and pre-birth embryos--let's say 10 of each--or better yet, let's say 100 frozen embryos and 5 people. Anyone? What would you do?

  57. Why these distractions? Who'd have time to think about "personhood" if we're only given "a split second" to save anyone? Silliness. All of those in the scenario are "people", as defined scientifically. Considering the time of a split second, no one would be saving anyone... t - 1. "Capability of suffering" wouldn't be the criteria of who could be saved. "Time" would.
    Mary and Johanne, don't you find it outrageous that the Court had the audacity to change the very criteria of what makes a person a person?

  58. The "fire in an IVF clinic" has been discussed before. It's an emotional issue, not an issue of human rights or objective truth. We will naturally save the ones we are drawn to emotionally. For example, I might work harder to save my own child in a fire, rather than the seven people who are easier for me to save. That says that I am more emotionally attached to my children, and it says absolutely nothing about the worth of the other seven people. In fact, we know that their lives are just as valuable! If I could reasonably save them all, then I must. If not, I will go for the one(s) that I am more emotionally attached to.

    1. It doesn't mean that the other seven people in the fire (grown or otherwise) are not human beings, or not people, or not equally valuable. Can we agree on the logic there?

  59. The flawed assumption in (and an underlying elephant of the whole issue) the "fire scenario" is that some how people have the ability to determine whether or not another human being is a human being/person. The humanity/personhood of a creature is based solely on biological factors, nature, and ultimately God. We have no say in the matter. So what we might choose under duress in a stressful situation is ultimately irrelevant. We don't determine ones humanity/personhood. In fact every time people have tried to do this in history, it has ended horrifically. It's time we learned.

  60. @Bethany

    No, it's not irrelevant at all. Leila has been known to present impossible scenarios as a moral compass (i.e. would you kill a child if it meant it would save the lives of many others)

    So let's assume that you knew there were 100 frozen embryos in one room--and you in fact knew they were embryos. The "personhood" ethic dictate that these embryos are full human beings, only "younger," (as Rebecca Kiessling is fond of saying). Would you save the embryos as readily as you'd save post-birth people? It's an important question to answer.

  61. Johanne, the question has been answered. The answer is that you save whoever it makes most sense to you to save, whether logically or emotionally or both. For a longer answer, see here:

    Let's say you're in the clinic and your choice is between a newborn baby or a 70-year-old janitor. If you choose to save the baby, does that mean you think that 70-year-old janitors are not humans or persons?

  62. And just in case you choose not to go to the link, I'm going to quote the key portion here:

    "When it comes to a flash decision, then, as the fire rages in the clinic, this hypothetical case misses the essential question of what our moral obligations really are towards the human embryo. Instead, we are facing a hopelessly artificial and improbable triage situation, which can never be a legitimate basis for determining or deducing moral principles. In a frightening and difficult moment, it involves making split-second decisions, rather than engaging in calm, principled moral reasoning.

    As we proceed to make that awful decision, we may instinctively sense how the newborn baby is already moving along a path towards becoming an adult member of society. Saving the newborn thus contributes to a reasonably certain future outcome -- whereas saving the embryos does not raise such practical certainty about their future or their ultimate fate.

    Some embryos from the tank might end up being implanted into their mother's womb, but still die or undergo "selective reduction"; some might be destroyed because they are deemed "unfit" by clinic operators; others might be handed over to researchers for embryo-destructive experiments; many might still remain in the deep freeze indefinitely.

    If I were to grab the newborn out of the fire, that action says nothing meaningful about my thoughts on the moral value of human embryos trapped in the freezer, but speaks more to a snap judgment about foreseeable outcomes in a crisis or triage situation."

    Does that answer your question, Johanne?

  63. Hi! Long-time reader, but not a commenter. I'm logged in as my son for some reason. Sorry about that. What caught my attention is what Mary said about whom to save in a fire. Towards the end of her comment she mentions that if the embryos are in the mother's womb there is no quandary...take care of/ save the mother and you save the baby. And that's it right there.

    Last week after returning from an awe-inspiring day at the March for Life with some good friends we all (two families of six) sat down for a meal. My friend's mother joined us for dinner as she was not up for the trip this year. She listened as we re-hashed the day and she filled us in on the news coverage of the event. Then she leaned in and quietly said, "the truth is, the way to make a real difference is to reach the mothers. Take care of the mothers. Love them and speak to their hearts." I've been thinking about that as I've been reading here. Yes, logically, morally, biologically the argument is won by the pro-life side. And yes, it will take a true culture shift but in the meantime, there must be a better way to reach the mothers and care for them. Really care for them.

    Just wanted to share those thoughts...

  64. No it is not relevant at all. As Leila pointed out, in a situation as such described, is an emotional one. The choice I would make does not give nor take away the humanity/personhood of another. If a fire breaks out and I have time to save my 7 children or 7 other people, choosing to save my children does not mean the 7 other people aren't people. That's ridiculous, at best.

    I could go for emtions too. Let's say a fire breaks out and you have the ability save frozen embryos in a storage facility (we can even up the emotional ante and say they've been adopted by various infertile couples who have been waiting decades to have a child) or a group of child sex traffickers who rape their young victims 30+ times a day. Which would you save?

    To answer your question: If I have the ability, yes I will. Would I save those in the later stages of development first, yes, for multiple reasons. One being, as Leila pointed out in split-second decisions, we gravitate towards emotional connections. The second being presumably, "post-birth" humans would be capable of helping, at least to some degree, extract themselves, leaving more time over all, for an attempt to save both. There is also, the problem that if there is a fire, and you're dealing with frozen embryos, presumably the storage container is not going to be moveable, but removing the embryos from the storage container would most certainly cause their deaths, being exposed to harsh changes in environment.
    However, as I pointed out above, my split-second, emotionally-based, decision made under duress to save the "post-birth" human beings first, does not negate the humanity/personhood of the embryos, just as my decision to save my children doesn't negate the humanity/personhood of another group of people, just as my potential decision to save embryos scheduled for adoption doesn't negate the humanity/personhood of child sex traffickers (no matter how vile their choices and actions may be).

    In other words, their humanity/personhood does not depend upon whether you or anyone else in the world thinks they're persons or not.

  65. Thank you, JoAnna.

    And Johanne, I am still interested in how you reconcile the contradiction in your philosophy.

    You hold at the same time:

    "We may not deliberately take the life of an innocent human being."
    "We may sometimes deliberately take the life of a human being."

    These two sentiments are mutually exclusive. You can hold one, but not both. You have said explicitly that you hold the former, but you have acted as if you believe the latter. Which is it, and I'm not trying to be rude or tricky or snarky. I really do not understand what your thinking is, and how you can hold to two contradictory sentiments.

    1. Sorry, that second sentiment should read,

      "We may sometimes deliberately take the life of an innocent human being."

  66. Thank you, Bethany! Exactly!

    And Katie (Patrick G), thank you. Absolutely! You are so right. That's why we are a "love them both" movement, and why the crisis pregnancy centers that my husband and I support are fully supportive, in a beautifully nonjudgmental way, of the mothers. Each mother, no matter the circumstance, is treated with supreme dignity (many for the first time in their lives). They are loved, they are cared for, they are provided for (including clothes and diapers even for the older kids the moms already have, parenting classes, free medical care, etc.). The First Way Clinic on whose board my husband sits also has begun to serve the fathers of these crisis situations, including male mentoring, and again, treating the men with dignity. It is nothing short of miraculous! When people say that pro-lifers care only about the unborn, it just makes me crazy. They should try touring or investigating just a little bit about what the pro-life movement does for women and their children, and not just in the crisis but after the immediate needs are met (again, for free).

  67. Pricilla I agree with everything you said. I have three sons, and raising them in a technological culture of pervasive onscreen violence and sexuality terrifies me. You simply cannot block it all out if you have not dropped out of the culture.

  68. Hi Joanne,

    You've been reading this blog longer than I have and have been a much more active commenter than I have, so I apologize if you've been down this road before, but I'd really like to understand where you're coming from. A grand treatise on your personal philosophy of course is beyond the scope of comments like this, but yesterday you mentioned that there were a lot of premises you and Leila disagreed on. Did you have any specific ones in mind?

    I ask because I honestly don't see the relevance of some of the things you bring up (e.g. The miscarriage rate). I'm missing the reasoning context or something. I know our world views are radically different, but I'd really like to try to understand some of the first principles you're working from.

  69. And Johanne, I am still interested in how you reconcile the contradiction in your philosophy.
    I doubt anyone is still on this thread but I wanted to get back to you, Leila. Again, it comes down to premises. I don't see a contradiction in my philosophy. You see your viewpoint as simple but I see it as simplistic. We won't get anywhere by exploring it further, I'm afraid.

    And to sarahcecelia
    Thank you for your respectful inquiry. The comment about miscarriage rates was an aside, in reference to something Nubby said, it wasn't part of my discussion with Leila.

    I appreciate your interest, but you're right, a treatise on my personal philosophy is beyond this blog; if we met in person I'd be happy to share it with you; but what I've learned on this blog is that a devout Catholic can't consider any ideas that are outside of Catholic theology, because Catholic theology is the word of God. So, though I appreciate your statement that you'd like to understand where I'm coming, I don't think it could ever happen. I should know better by now than to enter into some of these discussions, but I enjoy the Bubble family and occasionally can't help but enter in. :-)

    Though I can't imagine I will ever share a lot of the viewpoints expressed on the blog I appreciate what I learn about Catholicism and I continually admire Leila's ability to be gracious and welcoming to people with viewpoints different than the ones she holds passionately. She is model for others in that way.

    Best to you.

  70. Johanne, thank you for the kind words! You know that I think the world of you. I have to admit to being frustrated and even sad that you won't tell us what the premises are, or what the philosophy is to which you subscribe. I don't think anyone here expects you to suddenly accept Catholicism and her tenets. But I can honestly say that we want to hear what your philosophy is, and what those premises are, and how you reconcile it (what seems like contradiction, but you don't think so because of premises that you won't name).

    I am frustrated because there is not one question that you ask about my own beliefs that I will not share, or at least try my very best to answer. It's your prerogative not to answer questions from folks of good will (I hope you consider us such), but I hope you will reconsider.

  71. HI Leila
    I think the answer to your frustration is simple. You have a huge army of fellow Catholics, with your same philosophy, same beliefs; and when you express them there will be dozen of people who enthusiastically agree with and support what you say.

    Wheras when I express my beliefs it means automatically, without question, that pretty much everyone reading the blog will not only disagree, but see my viewpoint as immoral--as in outside the word of God. And I have had many experiences on the blog where I really try to express myself and feel very slighted--one time responded to cruelly, and its extremely hurtful to me, as I have a fondness for many of the regular contributors. I see no reason to express ideas that are very important to me to have them treated with derision by some. Often I don't experience people here as having good will towards me. Thanks.

  72. Leila, Katie(Patrick G) here. What you and your husband are doing is amazing and I'm so happy you shared that with us.

  73. Wheras when I express my beliefs it means automatically, without question, that pretty much everyone reading the blog will not only disagree, but see my viewpoint as immoral--as in outside the word of God.

    Hi Johanne,
    Is it ok to disagree with thoughts? This gives readers the chance to examine the ideas, which is actually the goal of Leila's blog (clarity, not agreement).
    I don't think it's fair to say that contributors here are judging you. If anything, some of us like to be challenged by the logic. There's nothing personal involved in looking at ideas.

    As for being treated harshly in the past in the comments, maybe consider that as a done deal and give the person (people) a chance to redeem himself/herself?
    Jerky behavior (directly or indirectly, as we interpret it) happens everyday - but it's forgivable, no?
    Several of us have been insulted time and again on here, and even lost our own cool and had to apologize (hi there), yet here we are... the discussion continues. Idk, I think that is healthy, despite the bruises.
    I think there is good will directing it, even if it sinks time to time. Maybe just keep the door open?

    I know on this thread I just asked about your opinion on a court case, so there is no religious aspect to that (nothing "Catholic" in it). I was wondering what you or Mary thought of the RvW decision based on the change in criteria of what defines a "person". The question has not (ever) been answered, despite the number of times I ask pro-aborts on here, and yet there's no emotionalism to it. It's not loaded with judgment.

  74. And Mary, there are a lot of readers who probably relate to you, they may be reading but not commenting. I view you as somebody who has one foot in the "Bubble" and the other in the real world...the non-Catholic or culturally Catholic world. And that's how a lot of people are.

    I hope you hang around.

    The question about embryos vs. born people being rescued in a fire has caused me to think. I consider myself to be pro-life from conception to natural death but I will be honest. I would save the born person. I would even walk past the embryos to get to the born person. And this bothered me. I say that all life matters, but it seems as though I actually believe that some life has more value than others.

    But the more I thought about it the more I realized, that's not really it. I think it is because the question doesn't determine whose life matters more but highlights what we are fundamentally as people. We are created for love and to be loved. But I can't relate to someone in a petri dish. Intellectually I recognize that the embryo is a someone but that someone is unrecognizable to me as someone. And if you think about it, an embryo should be unrecognizable...embryos are meant to be safely stored in the womb, not a vial.

    Additionally the thought of the excruciating death by fire of a born person is something I can relate to but I can't know what the embryo would experience. If anything, this has brought me to realize just how de-humanizing it is to have embryos outside where they naturally belong. It occurred to me that if there were a fire and there were two people in the fire and one was pregnant, I'd rescue the pregnant one.

  75. oops, I think I got Mary confused with Johanne.

  76. @Nubby. I didn't respond to your question about RvW because I don't know much of anything about the law itself--how it was written-plus I'm not sure what you mean by "change in criteria" about what a person is---obviously I am ignorant of the legal issue you're addressing. I also didn't think it was possible to throw out a decision made by the Supreme Court.

    @Katie. Hello! I'm not sure what you mean about "having one foot in the bubble." I enjoy reading the bubble but I am nowhere near culturally Catholic!! I am a Buddhist, a radical feminist, and on most issues left of liberal. I think relating to people who have ideas radically different from our own is very important--it's very important to me.

    embryos are meant to be safely stored in the womb, not a vial. I agree with you on this. Even though the child I am closest to in the world was created with a harvested egg and an anonymous donor's sperm. I think all the reproductive technology has gone too and far and is a bit creepy. I also wonder if it plays a part in the rise in autism, etc. Nothing whatsoever to back that up--just a question in my mind.

    Additionally the thought of the excruciating death by fire of a born person is something I can relate to but I can't know what the embryo would experience.
    And this plays into my feelings about abortion. I've experienced the horror of or pregnancy by rape, and have counseled so many women whose lives would be devastated by continuing a pregnancy to term, and have known of young women who committed suicide because they faced an unwanted pregnancy and didn't have safe access to an abortion. Judging this kind of pain as less significant than a zygote is completely beyond me and I can never see it otherwise.

    Someone on the bubble once responded to me repeatedly that there was no trauma whatsoever in continuing an unwanted pregnancy to term. It infuriated me and I had to stay off the bubble for months. I am unmoved by people's pleas for zygotes when I see and have experienced the pain unwanted pregnancy. To me the "pro-life" movement is not compassionate.


  77. Johanne, Supreme Court decisions can be overturned. For example, Dred Scott v. Sanford and Plessy v. Ferguson are both examples of Supreme Court decisions that have been overturned by the action of a later court.

    Someone on the bubble once responded to me repeatedly that there was no trauma whatsoever in continuing an unwanted pregnancy to term.

    I've been reading the Bubble for 2010 and I don't recall this comment at all. Are you sure the person wasn't saying that such trauma could be *treated,* not that it didn't occur at all?

  78. Here is the thing. It is very dangerous to make laws based solely on emotion and how we'd feel about a situation. Our laws need to be based on logic, reason, and truth (both philosophical truth and scientific truth).

    It is biological truth that a human being is an organism of the species homo sapiens. It is biological truth that zygotes, blastocysts, embryos, and fetuses are all human beings, since they all fit the scientific criteria for being an organism of the species homo sapiens.

    So the question is should all human beings be considered persons, and I've yet to hear any pro-choicer make a decent argument as to why some human beings should be persons but not others. It's all based on arbitrary, subjective criteria which would also exclude certain born human beings from being persons, or criteria that makes no logical sense whatsoever.

    If we determine logically and scientifically that all human beings are persons, than no amount of emotional pain or trauma justifies deliberately killing them. We wouldn't allow a rape victim, for example, to kill her born child if she suddenly decides that he or she reminds her too much of her rapist, so why would we allow her to kill her unborn child for that reason? And we don't allow rape victims to kill their rapist if it's not a situation of imminent threat and immediate self-defense (e.g., we wouldn't allow a rape victim to stand up at the criminal trial and shoot her rapist between the eyes). Yes, it's horrible and awful that things like rape happen, but two wrongs don't make a right. Can we do better as a society offering support and help to rape victims? Absolutely! But "support and help" shouldn't include allowing anyone to kill an innocent human being just because that human being's existence causes emotional trauma to someone else.

  79. Johanne,
    The Court had necessity criterion in place before RvW. That meant simply and truly that the Court acknowledged that single fertilized cell as a human (based on science) and that the human being (in any developmental stage) had the unalienable right to life. This was never arguable under the law.

    At the decision, the Court implemented clarity criterion which is a subjective criterion. In one swift motion, our unalienable right to life became an extrinsic right (a right to be vote upon). It took what was very clear, never arguable, and always protected, and determined for itself who is now a person.

    Extrapolate that out for all kinds of circumstances and see how faulty that is. Courts can be persuaded and influenced, Johanne. They can determine who lives or dies by vote.

    You're slightly mentally slow? Oh, we voted you're not a person.
    You're not musically inclined? Oh, we voted you're not a person.
    You're not a logical thinker? Oh, we voted you're not a person.
    You're not 6'1", dark curly hair, hazel-eyed? Oh, we voted you're not a person.
    We've disposed of your right to life ... by a majority vote. Do you agree this is faulty?

  80. Someone on the bubble once responded to me repeatedly that there was no trauma whatsoever in continuing an unwanted pregnancy to term.

    I'm with JoAnna. I have never read or heard of anything like this. Not only on this blog, but in the pro-life community. The pro-life community (in which I am deeply involved) is all about helping a woman through the trauma of an unwanted pregnancy.

  81. I'm curious, Johanne. Is this the conversation you're referencing?

    If so, I read through the entire comment thread and I didn't see a single person state that there was "no trauma whatsoever in continuing an unwanted pregnancy to term."

  82. I have never read or heard of anything like this. I have heard it.

    @JoAnna. I can't remember and don't feel like rereading the entire thread. It wasn't you personally who made the comments; I can't remember who it was.

  83. JoAnna read the whole thing and you can't recall the comment or the person who made it (though you mentioned 'you were responded to repeatedly'). What's the use of nursing a grudge over an apparently imagined slight?

    Is it okay to move forward and discuss your principles now? I mean, we're all open to discussion, no closed doors here.

  84. "but what I've learned on this blog is that a devout Catholic can't consider any ideas that are outside of Catholic theology, because Catholic theology is the word of God. So, though I appreciate your statement that you'd like to understand where I'm coming, I don't think it could ever happen."

    Ouch! Good thing my profs didn't know this when I was in college! (I was a philosophy major). I certainly get it if you don't want to get into that kind of discussion, but that's a pretty big swipe! :-)

    I'm smiling because I'm assuming you weren't *really* saying I'm not capable of understanding a point of view I disagree with because I'm Catholic. ...were you?

  85. Johanne, I most certainly mixed you up with another commenter! But wow! I give you credit for seeing the value of relating with others of different views and even more credit for jumping in where you are definitely in the minority.

  86. What's the use of nursing a grudge over an apparently imagined slight? It wasn't imagined, Nubby. I have no idea if it was in the thread that Joanna referenced. There have been many many threads regarding abortion in the time I've been reading the Bubble. And yes I remember the comments (more than one) and no I didn't register the person's name.

  87. I'm assuming you weren't *really* saying I'm not capable of understanding a point of view I disagree with because I'm Catholic.

    I apologize saracecelia. That was poorly worded. What I mean is that a Catholic could never be swayed to a point of view that opposed their theology (not that they couldn't "understand" it).

  88. Shew! Thanks, Joanne!

    I agree there's not really a chance I'd be swayed, but I'd like to understand anyhow. :-)

  89. Ok, it wasn't imagined. But you can't quite recall the details. My only question pertains to now. Can we get passed it to talk now?

    I get the feeling the answer is 'no' because your assumptions about Catholics equates to your not being able to sway us (see your comment to saracecelia right above). It's not about swaying. It's just about talking aloud, at least I thought. Anyhow, maybe some other day.

  90. Sarahcecelia, Thank you! Yes, it's about wanting to understand, or wanting to make both sides (or all sides) clear, not about being swayed. I am pretty clear about that on my "Please Read First" post, and we are all here to learn something. And, hopefully, we are all truth-seekers.

    Johanne, I promise you that if anything as absurd as "no trauma in carrying an unplanned pregnancy to term" was said her, I would have been all over it. It's the most illogical thing I've ever heard and it would have driven me batty. It's ludicrous for someone to have said that, and maybe I miss comments here and there (it's possible), but I have never heard such a silly comment. You would be right to be upset, because that is nonsensical.

    Anyway, now that we are all in agreement about the trauma of unplanned pregnancies, can we carry on to the discussion at hand? I'd love to know how you reconcile two conflicting principles. My guess is that you don't see the unborn as human beings with human rights, and if not, then I think #4 addresses that.

    Bottom line, as others have said: When is the determination of another's humanity or value based on the emotions or feelings of those who have the power to kill that person? Isn't that the very definition of oppression? Radical feminism (as you identify, Johanne) should never be about oppression of ANY human beings, and NEVER about the oppression of the weakest human beings, and NEVER about pitting women against their own offspring in some kind of death battle. It's the opposite of feminism.

  91. The pro-life community (in which I am deeply involved). Hi Leila. I've said this before--I may be wrong but I think you're mostly involved with Catholics in the pro-life community and the attitude of Catholics is very different than the pro-life movement as a whole which cares very little about women (IMHO).

  92. Johanne, I will absolutely admit that there are callous and even cruel people in the pro-life movement, just as there are in any movement, including in the radical feminist movement. I stipulate. And yet, that fact does not in any way bear upon the merits of the argument at hand (whether we may kill the innocent). That is what I wanted to address with this post.

  93. Also, I know it's been talked about in other threads, but I want to repeat that the reason I'm not likely to be swayed isn't because of a blind adherence to theology but rather because I appreciate the consistency and logic and compassion of the Church and its theology. If I come across an idea that appeals to me (that makes sense and seems right at first glance) that seems to contradict the Church's teachings, my first step is research not rejection of either! Chances are good that either I misunderstand the Church's teaching or I don't understand the implications of the idea. Through many encounters with such challenges, my personal experience is that I come away each time with a deeper and more profound respect for and love of the teachings of the Catholic Church. So, while I'm very doubtful I'll be swayed, I welcome the opportunity to see the world from a different perspective.

  94. I think when it comes down to it, for the 90% of early abortions mentioned earlier, the situation is like the embryo vs. a born person in a fire scenario...but the born person is the mother herself. The mother views her life as being destroyed or the mother believes with her whole heart, every fiber of her being, that she CAN NOT be a mother at that moment. Or the mother knows that she could never give away her own flesh and blood. So, just like in the fire, if you can only save one who do you save? The mother or an embryo? An unrecognizable, unknown embryo?

    People who don't recognize the embryo as a 'someone'...a real live person who only gets one shot to exist on this earth, who matters as much as anybody else, will choose to save the mother every time. 50+million times.

    I'm guessing that even though Johanne probably sees that her statements contradict themselves, her compassion for women simply will not allow her to impose suffering on them. Correct me, Johanne if I am wrong, here. I don't want to put words in your mouth. But a contradiction in principles is easier to put aside than the idea of further hardship for women/girls.

    The truth is, both can be saved, and both should be saved. Like Leila said, love them both. Easier said than done.

  95. Katie, I agree with you. That makes sense. But one things is off a bit that struck me. Abortion is, 99% of the time, not about one person's very survival against another. The crazy scenario in the IVF clinic is comparing certain death to certain death (and then an emotional decision is being made that does not touch the question of whether or not the embryonic life is of full human value). But in the scenario of 99% of real-life abortion, there is no "certain death vs. certain death". It's instead that "one person suffers (to greater or lesser degree) and one person dies to end first person's immediate suffering". Not equal. One person's avoidance of suffering cannot be the justification for an innocent person's complete annihilation. (I know you are not arguing that.)

    But you are right about the compassion for women part. I believe that is right. I believe that Johanne and others (correct us if we are wrong, Johanne) cannot bear to think of the suffering of women, such as she experienced herself (although most do not suffer that extreme of trauma as she did). And yes, that would make it easier to put aside the principle of "It is wrong to deliberately take the life of an innocent human being."

    And Sarahcecelia, thank you for that insightful comment! Yes!

  96. Yes, Leila. The difference is that in one scenario it's about choosing who to save while in the second case (abortion) it's a choice to kill. Big difference.


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