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Thread: Abortion-relevant science

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    Abortion-relevant science

    This is NOT a thread to debate whether abortion should be legal or is moral, b/c any such debate ultimately rests upon subjective moral values.

    Rather it's a thread about establishing the scientific facts that have some logical relevance either to the arguments made about abortion or that help explain what might motivate those who oppose abortion. Let's keep the debate to whether the enumerated facts are true, and thus proper for the "Natural Science" area.

    That said, I think some context is important to motivate why establishing these facts is important and what my motives are.
    I saw a social media post by a person who is studying genetics in college, seems generally smart, but made a rather unscientific argument in defense of abortion. The comment was highly supported by others, many of whom generally claim to be supportive of science and rationally based policy, and I've seen similar comments, including on this board.
    They said "What's to debate? It's a simple medical procedure that makes no more sense to debate the legality or morality of than any other medical procedure, including having an appendix removed."

    I find this quite simply absurd, despite me being not only pro-choice, but pro-abortion (I think its a wise choice that many more women should consider and the world would be better with more abortions). I state my position on abortion just to clarify that my motives for rejecting this person's argument have nothing to do with trying to weaken the case for legal abortion.

    So, here are some scientific facts that I think this person's argument implicitly denies. Part of my goal is to make sure I am correct about these facts.

    1. The vast majority of abortions occur after week 4 and most after week 6, when the odds of the fetus naturally maturing to a live birth are above 80% without abortion (in the US).

    2. Abortion is the killing of a living organism with a full human genome.

    3. Though rare, and almost always done when added health risks are involved, late term abortions are often the killing of a fetus whose only meaningful biological difference from a newborn is it's current location.

    4. Combining the above facts leads to the logical conclusion that most abortions are killing an organism with a full human genome that will likely mature and be a live birth if not killed by an abortion, and sometimes is biologically no different than a newborn other than it's location.

    This logically makes abortion scientifically closer to killing a human than any other medical procedure or any other action that is currently legal. That is what makes this person equivalence to other medical procedures like appendix removal absurd, and what makes abortion a particular medical procedure that is more reasonably subject to moral/legal considerations than any other.

    For the record, below are the basic scientific facts that, despite the above facts, I think are sufficient to protect abortion rights, when combined with the basic principles of individual rights that rest upon bodily autonomy:

    5. 100% of abortions are the killing of a fetus that is inside the mother's body.

    6. A fetus formed and still inside another's body is, by definition, not an individual organism, especially if it cannot survive outside that body.

    7. Fetuses inherently impact and pose risk to the mother's body.

    8. Actions a mother takes on her own body can have inherent impacts on anything inside that body, including a fetus.


    Again, please center your replies on whether or not you accept the enumerated facts and/or offering new abortion-relevant facts that are well supported by consensus biological science.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ronburgundy View Post
    1. The vast majority of abortions occur after week 4 and most after week 6, when the odds of the fetus naturally maturing to a live birth are above 80% without abortion (in the US).
    I can't confirm the 80% number but I will agree with the rest of it.

    2. Abortion is the killing of a living organism with a full human genome.
    So is any tissue sample--including blood draws.

    3. Though rare, and almost always done when added health risks are involved, late term abortions are often the killing of a fetus whose only meaningful biological difference from a newborn is it's current location.
    Late term includes a bit of time before the earliest point the brain might be switched on. And 24 weeks in is awfully premature, survival usually means birth defects.

    4. Combining the above facts leads to the logical conclusion that most abortions are killing an organism with a full human genome that will likely mature and be a live birth if not killed by an abortion, and sometimes is biologically no different than a newborn other than it's location.

    This logically makes abortion scientifically closer to killing a human than any other medical procedure or any other action that is currently legal. That is what makes this person equivalence to other medical procedures like appendix removal absurd, and what makes abortion a particular medical procedure that is more reasonably subject to moral/legal considerations than any other.
    It depends on what you care about. To me the important part is the mind--and that definitely does not exist before the 7th month. I only consider it worthy of protection from first consciousness to last consciousness.

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    You should clarify and specify what you mean by abortion. Abortions can be spontaneous or induced. Please specify which type of abortion you mean.

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    Abortion is not a scientific question, it is a moral and philiswophical question.

    Where a boundary is set to say when a fetus is a functional human is subjective interpreting of science.

    The boundary runs from moment of conception to just as the fetus is being delivered, late term abortion. The RCC says condoms are immoral, they interfere with the natural process of conception.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Toni
    You should clarify and specify what you mean by abortion. Abortions can be spontaneous or induced. Please specify which type of abortion you mean.
    I am referring to induced abortions and the deliberate killing of the embryo or fetus, not the spontaneous death of a fetus that is typically referred to as "spontaneous abortion" or "miscarriage" and rarely referred to simply as "abortion".


    Quote Originally Posted by steve_bank View Post
    Abortion is not a scientific question, it is a moral and philiswophical question.

    Where a boundary is set to say when a fetus is a functional human is subjective interpreting of science.

    The boundary runs from moment of conception to just as the fetus is being delivered, late term abortion. The RCC says condoms are immoral, they interfere with the natural process of conception.
    Whether we should abort or should allow abortions are moral/legal questions. I am not asking those questions here. What abortion entails and it's relative degree of similarity to killing a human infant are scientific questions. Those are the questions I am addressing.
    That an 8 week fetus has 80% probability of being a live birth human being if not deliberately killed is a scientific fact.

    It's also a scientific fact that all other tissues and organisms that are legal to kill have a 0% chance of being a live birth human if not killed. That includes sperm and unfertilized eggs which are not the same organism and have a different DNA composition than a fertilized egg.

    That makes the killing of a fetus objectively and scientifically closer to (though not identical to) the killing of a human infant than any other legal act besides euthanasia where consent is given or capital punishment where a person has been stripped of their human rights.

    Note that I did not refer to any specific point at which the organism has sufficient developed traits as to qualify as "fully human". That is a purely "philosophical" and largely arbitrary and a rational consideration. It depends entirely upon what arbitrary definition one wishes to construct for the concept of "fully human". I am referring only to the facts regarding the DNA the organism contains and what it will develop into and be indistinguishable from (a live birthed infant) if not deliberately killed by an induced abortion.

    Note that, as per my OP, I am NOT arguing that any of this makes abortion morally equal to killing an infant or anything that should be illegal. I'm merely trying to establish facts that make abortions objectively closer to the act of killing an infant (killing an organism that will very likely become an infant) than any other currently legal act.
    Last edited by ronburgundy; 02-25-2020 at 11:04 PM.

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    Again, the arguments comparing abortion to killing an infant is a moral/legal issue. Personaly I oppose late term abortion. It just does not feel right to me.

    The question is where to set the boundary. How the abortion is done is irrelevant.

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    Quote Originally Posted by steve_bank View Post
    Again, the arguments comparing abortion to killing an infant is a moral/legal issue.
    No it isn't. I am not comparing the acts in terms of their level of morality. I am comparing them in terms of the objective properties of the actions. It's no more a moral issue than to say that the action of cutting celery has more in common with the action of cutting broccoli than it does to the action of hitting a rock. IOW, if the concept of morality did not exist, a meaningful comparison could still be made in terms of biology and physics about the relative similarity between various actions and the objects impacted.
    The fact that a fetus is likely to become a human infant if not killed before hand, while nothing else we kill has any chance of doing so is a scientific fact establishing an objective similarity between those actions that is not shared by killing of other living organisms.

    Those objective similarities can and do have moral implications for people, but that is a separate issue. Also, moral implications are themselves separate from the questions of legality, since the law must always balance often conflicting ethical concerns and goals. Facts, morals, and the law are potentially related but fundamentally distinct aspects of any action and any similarity between actions. I am only trying to discuss the former in this thread.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ronburgundy View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by steve_bank View Post
    Again, the arguments comparing abortion to killing an infant is a moral/legal issue.
    No it isn't. I am not comparing the acts in terms of their level of morality. I am comparing them in terms of the objective properties of the actions. It's no more a moral issue than to say that the action of cutting celery has more in common with the action of cutting broccoli than it does to the action of hitting a rock. IOW, if the concept of morality did not exist, a meaningful comparison could still be made in terms of biology and physics about the relative similarity between various actions and the objects impacted.
    The fact that a fetus is likely to become a human infant if not killed before hand, while nothing else we kill has any chance of doing so is organisms. a scientific fact establishing an objective similarity between those actions that is not shared by killing of other living

    Those objective similarities can and do have moral implications for people, but that is a separate issue. Also, moral implications are themselves separate from the questions of legality, since the law must always balance often conflicting ethical concerns and goals. Facts, morals, and the law are potentially related but fundamentally distinct aspects of any action and any similarity between actions. I am only trying to discuss the former in this thread.
    You are making a moral argument not a scientific argument.

    Objectively the process begins with conception with sperm and egg, the process ends when the fetus is delivered and is then call an infant or baby. It is a biological process start to finish objectively and scientifically well understood.

    The question is where in the process is it acceptable to abort. That is not a scientific problem. It is a subjective moral problem.

    Does life begin at the moment of conception the position of the RCC on abortion. If not at conception when is the fetus an independent living thing with rights and not just an appendage of the mother. Science can provide objective information on the stages of development, but science can not make the decision.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ronburgundy View Post
    They said "What's to debate? It's a simple medical procedure that makes no more sense to debate the legality or morality of than any other medical procedure, including having an appendix removed."
    While I would not necessarily agree, this is no more absurd than some ethical debates that have actually been had (e.g., Jehovah's Witnesses and blood transfusions).

    So, here are some scientific facts that I think this person's argument implicitly denies. Part of my goal is to make sure I am correct about these facts.
    1. The vast majority of abortions occur after week 4 and most after week 6, when the odds of the fetus naturally maturing to a live birth are above 80% without abortion (in the US).
    I would like references for these claims.

    2. Abortion is the killing of a living organism with a full human genome.
    First you would have to define a "living organism". Is a sperm cell a living organism? Is a white blood cell a living organism? Then I would like you to address the point that Loren raised: "So is any tissue sample--including blood draws."

    3. Though rare, and almost always done when added health risks are involved, late term abortions are often the killing of a fetus whose only meaningful biological difference from a newborn is it's current location.
    This is so vague as to be essentially meaningless (not to mention self-contradictory): how can something "rare" happen "often"? If you wish to deal with 'scientific facts', exactly what do you mean by a "late term abortion", exactly how often do they occur, and what would constitute a "meaningful biological difference"?

    4. Combining the above facts leads to the logical conclusion that most abortions are killing an organism with a full human genome that will likely mature and be a live birth if not killed by an abortion, and sometimes is biologically no different than a newborn other than it's location.
    This is not a 'fact', it is apparently an attempted conclusion based on previous alleged facts.

    This logically makes abortion scientifically closer to killing a human than any other medical procedure or any other action that is currently legal. That is what makes this person equivalence to other medical procedures like appendix removal absurd, and what makes abortion a particular medical procedure that is more reasonably subject to moral/legal considerations than any other.
    This is not science, this is ethics.

    For the record, below are the basic scientific facts that, despite the above facts, I think are sufficient to protect abortion rights, when combined with the basic principles of individual rights that rest upon bodily autonomy:
    5. 100% of abortions are the killing of a fetus that is inside the mother's body.
    6. A fetus formed and still inside another's body is, by definition, not an individual organism, especially if it cannot survive outside that body.
    This seems to contradict your 'facts' 2 and 3 above.

    7. Fetuses inherently impact and pose risk to the mother's body.
    So do children.

    8. Actions a mother takes on her own body can have inherent impacts on anything inside that body, including a fetus.
    Again, please center your replies on whether or not you accept the enumerated facts and/or offering new abortion-relevant facts that are well supported by consensus biological science.
    Fair enough.

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    Quote Originally Posted by ronburgundy View Post
    The fact that a fetus is likely to become a human infant if not killed before hand, while nothing else we kill has any chance of doing so is a scientific fact establishing an objective similarity between those actions that is not shared by killing of other living organisms.
    Oh, fuck!

    It's the only think with any likelyhood of creating a human infant.

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