PolySciFi Blog

Friday, March 11, 2005


A Good Entry in the Abortion Debate

For a while now, I've believed that the abortion debate turns on a lack of an agreement on when (human) life begins as I think there is a broad consensus that human life trumps choice when the life of the mother is not in the balance. Accordingly, I've felt that offering up times when we could say that life has begun would be the most productive thing we could do with respect to the abortion debate.

As such I was happy to see (via Jane Galt) this post by Doug on Catallarchy which proposes what I think is a neat conceptual definition of when life begins - the same definition we apply to determine when life ends. Specifically, Doug proposes that we use the same definition we apply to determine if someone is alive/dead even when on life support - the absence or presence of brain activity.

According to Doug's link, this occurs towards the end of the 9th week, though I have also seen the 6th week cited as well. I like this definition of the beginning of life (whether week 6 or week 9/10), particularly because of its symmetry with the end of life.

I'm not particularly interested in a discussion of the morality of abortion in this post, because once we get rhetoric out of the way, I think most people - even those ardently pro-life or pro-choice - have a similar moral interpretation of abortion. If you want to debate the morality of abortion, go post it on Jacqueline's site. She seems to like that discussion.

However, I am interested in a discussion of definitions, in particular the "the presence of brain activity" definition for the beginning of life. So if you like this definition or would like to suggest a different one, leave a comment.


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