9 1/2 Weeks

Despite the title, this isn't a film review. Rather, it is approximately the point into a pregnancy where abortion should become illegal.

Now, I should explain that my view may be out of step with many (vast majority?) of the contributors and readers of Catallarchy. So, as always with any post, my outlook here doesn't represent anyone's views but my own. That said...

Since the dawn of the abortion debate, which spans back an untold number of years, the central lightning rod has been viewed under the umbrella of religion and religious beliefs, i.e. Pro-life = Christian Right. However, a case against abortion can certainly be made without referencing religion, Catholicism, spirits, souls, etc, even once. The question of when "life" begins and ends can be purely viewed from a biological and scientific angle. Life, in a physical sense, is generally determined by a beating heart and brainwave activity, the telltale signs of we count as a living, breathing homo sapien. Without these, you are not living.

By Week 9 in a pregnancy, the fetus' heart is beating. Also by Week 9, brainwaves are being detected in a fetus. The exact timing may differ slightly in each baby's case, but generally, these two functions are operational by this point in time. According to a survey, 54% who have abortions have them done by 8 weeks, 23% during Weeks 9 and 10, and the remaining 23% after 10 weeks. This is only one survey, but from what I've read elsewhere the percentages generally follow these. So I would say that 54% of the abortions were "allowable", 23% depend on what the ultrasound shows, and the later 23% should've been denied an abortion.

Here are some of the counterpoints I may receive on this topic:

"Mr. Allen, how dare you push your beliefs on others."

As stated earlier, this has nothing to do on a belief system or on my religious affiliation. I'm basing it off a scientifically accepted idea at what constitutes a human life: beating heart, brainwave activity, active nervous system. It's accepted in both the theological and secular communities that when these cease, we physically die. Why not apply it to the other end of the lifespan spectrum?

"You are imposing your will on others via force."

If a fetus is showing the same signs of life you and I do, then an abortion would be imposing our will on the pre-born baby (An aside: It's always amusing when left-of-center folks bring out this charge, ignoring the countless government programs and regulations that fuel its engines using force). Because the baby is in a cognizant haze with the intellect of a rock is irrelevant.

"I find it obscene that you're telling a woman what to do with her body. Keep your laws off my body"

I'd defend a woman's right to smoke doobies, tattoo herself silly, engage in all sorts of kinky sex, and even end her own life if that's what she really, really wanted. But once a fetus' engines are revved up, it's really no longer 'her body', much like West Berlin was never really part of East Germany from the 1940s through the 1980s, even though it was completely surrounded by it (OK, not the greatest analogy, but bear with me here). If we are to assume the libertarian position of property rights, then let's use this analogy: Assume I have a 90-year-old grandmother, who's crippled, staying with me. She's alive, but doesn't exactly have a good memory nor is she very attentive to anything around her. I own my home, own the bedroom she's using, own the food and water I provide to her. She'd be helpless outside my walls. Do I have the right to shoot her? After all, the grandmother (baby) is inside my house (body), and she's totally dependent on my support.

I think the pro-life crowd has been misguided using the "Religion" angle as a means to an end. It's not so much about when a newborn is annointed with a spirit or something similar. A pro-choice proponent will correctly claim that everyone has different ideas as to if/when "life" (in a spiritual sense) begins, thus abortion laws are futile and judgmental. However, an atheist can't kill a 30-year-old man in the street, then in a court of law claim that since he doesn't believe in a soul, the victim was therefore no more "living" than a 2-day-old embryo. But the scientific definition of Life is hard to argue. Currently, I am alive. The Pope is still alive. Johnny Carson is not alive. Yasser Arafat is not alive. There is an undisputed barrier that separates life and non-life at the dusk of our journey. There is also an undisputed barrier that separates non-life from life at the dawn of our journey.

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That doesn't sound like

That doesn't sound like we're very meaningless.



Are human beings meaningful

Are human beings meaningful in and of themselves? Inherently?

No. Nothing has intrinsic

No. Nothing has intrinsic meaning. There is only the meaning we choose to give things.

Similarly, there is no such thing as an "intrinsic name." There are only the names we choose to give objects and concepts. Humans themselves have no intrinsic names, but we have the capacity to give ourselves and other things names. Same with meaning.

[...] dicine is starting to

[...] dicine is starting to catch on. Medrants thinks it’s a good thing. In light on the recent debate here about abortion, Glen Witman puts and interesting spin on abortion [...]

[...] | Cosmos Ok, I’m

[...] | Cosmos

Ok, I’m kidding. I’m referring to the 13th Amendment and abortion, two recent topics here that are addressed in an interesting manner by Glen [...]

Ok, Micha, but a human is

Ok, Micha, but a human is capable of giving himself meaning, is he not? Everyone means something to himself. Doesn't that mean that all humans have meaning? That one couldn't be human without meaning something? Is there some definition of intrinsic that this doesn't meet?

Andy, Yes, a human is


Yes, a human is capable of giving himself meaning. But that doesn't mean that if I give myself meaning, I necessarily have meaning to you.

For example, a certain breed of radical environmentalists attributes great meaning to the existence of certain inanimate objects like trees. While they acknowledge that humans have their own desires and needs, these interests must be balanced with the interests of the trees themselves.

But just because these environmentalists attribute meaning to the trees doesn't mean that these trees have any special meaning to me. I have no desire to respect the rights of a tree, so why should I care what these crazy environmentalists think?

However, that doesn't mean that other people's meaning is entirely irrevelant to my life. Even if I conclude that a fetus or an infant or a chimpanzee or a coma patient doesn't have the capacity to deserve my moral consideration, I still might grant these things moral consideration, either because they are the property of someone else or because I know that they provide great happiness to friends, family, and other interested parties. This is essentially the same argument philosopher Mary Anne Warren makes against infanticide. Since both fetuses and infants lack the characteristics Warren believes are necessary for moral consideration, it would seem to follow that if abortion is permissible than so too is infanticide. Not so, says Warren.

For, Warren claims, once a human being is born, there is no longer a conflict between it and the mother's rights, since the human being can be given up for adoption. Killing such a human being would be wrong, not because it is a person, but because it would go against the desires of many people willing to adopt the infant and to pay to keep the infant alive. Nonetheless, Warren grants that her argument implies that infanticide is morally acceptable under some circumstances, such as those of a desert island.

"For, Warren claims, once a

"For, Warren claims, once a human being is born, there is no longer a conflict between it and the mother’s rights, since the human being can be given up for adoption. Killing such a human being would be wrong, not because it is a person, but because it would go against the desires of many people willing to adopt the infant and to pay to keep the infant alive."

If that's the case, why don't those people simply offer to pay for the baby? "Hey lady, before you kill that thing, let me make you an offer."

Because it's against the law, I suppose.

I don't like the government.

And I find the argument that the worth of someone is his worth to others suspect.

Scott, Lots of libertarians


Lots of libertarians have argued that liberalizing adoption law and making trade in adoption rights legal would go a long towards reducing the number of abortions.

I'm not sure what argument you are referring to in your last sentence. Warren is arguing that moral consideration requires a number of characteristics, which she lists. I am arguing the contractarian line that moral consideration requires the ability to contract and respect the rights of others. Other than that, I'm not sure what you mean by a person's "worth." The universe/nature/God/metaphysics doesn't care about us, so that leaves our worth to be determined by ourselves. To paraphrase the great Rabbi Hillel, If we don't do it, who will?

Micha: "Killing such a


"Killing such a human being would be wrong, not because it is a person, but because it would go against the desires of many people willing to adopt the infant and to pay to keep the infant alive."

It is this line I find suspect. It is, from my reading, an equation of the morality of killing someone with the amount of value he provides to other people.

By such logic, if nobody wanted to adopt a child and the mother did not want it, it would be fine to kill it.

I have trouble accepting that stance.

Back in the 60s, there was a

Back in the 60s, there was a (now illegal) psychology experiment where volunteers were recruited to assist with an experiment that tested the effects of electrical shock on a person's motivation or responsiveness to such stimuli. The idea was that the person would be asked a question and, if they answered correctly, there would be no shock. If they answered wrongly, they would get "zapped".

But the whole test was a setup. The person getting zapped was not really getting zapped... that person was an actor playing the part. The actual volunteer had a knob that could be turned to increase the voltage. A supervisor of the experiment would look over the volunteer's shoulder and give instructions.

Here is the interesting part. The instructor would keep telling the volunteer to turn the knob and increase the voltage. But, with each successive turn, the actor answering the questions would start responding to the voltage in increasingly dramatic ways. But no matter how bad it got, the instructor would say "don't worry. This is normal. We must continue with the experiment."

The idea was simply. How far would the volunteer be willing to go until he finally said "I quit. This is wrong. I can no longer follow these sadistic instructions. We are really hurting the guy."

Sadly, often the experiment would go until the actor was (quite convincingly) foaming at the mouth, screaming in agony... saying stuff like "please stop... I didn't know it would be like this"... violently convulsing... "I'm going to die..." etc.

Likewise, there are so many on this thread (but not all) who have been manipulated by a culture of deviancy for so long that we've dumbed down the value of life... to a point where it is shocking how far we've come.

I would suggest that some here ought to read more Dostoevsky. Dostoevsky captures in his novels his personal debates with "progressives" in his day who were precursors to the Marxists revolution. These Marxists had killed off God and had their own relativistic morality. (sound familar?) The debates seem foolish but harmless at the time... but little did anyone know that a few decades later a Russian government based on this philosophy would kill more of its own people than the number of Jews murdered by Hitler in the holocaust.

(Better yet, some ought to try, for once, to read the Bible! There are stories and underpinning to the phrase "do unto others what you would want them to do to you"... these have more profound meaning if you have actually, at least once, read just 1 of the 4 gospels.)

A second common (related) theme I find here on this thread is a unspoken but implied belief in Evolution. I'm currently in a debate over Evolution/creationism here. Check it out. You might be surprised at what you discover.

Scott, It definitely


It definitely conflicts with some of our moral intuitions (which we should not be too quick to disregard in favor of theory). It is the logical outcome of the most persuasive moral theory of personhood I have yet encountered. Which may itself be an argument against moral theorizing in general rather this specific argument in particular.

But from a realist, amoral sense, and especially when looked at from the perspective of polycentric law, Warren's claim is persuasive. Protection will only be given to those entities we are willing to pay to protect. If infants, fetuses or chimpanzees aren't among those entitites, so much the worse for infants, fetuses and chimpanzees.

Better yet, some ought to

Better yet, some ought to try, for once, to read the Bible!

What makes you think we haven't?

A second common (related) theme I find here on this thread is a unspoken but implied belief in Evolution.

A third common (related) theme I find on this thread is an unspoken but implied (isn't that redundant?) belief in a spherical earth that revolves around the sun. Isn't that just bonkers? Crazy athiests with their Copernican Revolution. That way leads to communism and Hitler.

Godwin's law, officially broken. And on an abortion thread to boot! Who would have ever guessed?

I'd agree with that

I'd agree with that Micha.

But I don't see how that answers the issue of abortion. It is one thing to hypothesize about efficient law: it is quite another to predict just what law will be efficient.

I may very well be willing to pay to keep mothers from killing their infants, both in the utero and out of it. I suppose many others would be as well.

“For, Warren claims, once

“For, Warren claims, once a human being is born, there is no longer a conflict between it and the mother’s rights, since the human being can be given up for adoption. Killing such a human being would be wrong, not because it is a person, but because it would go against the desires of many people willing to adopt the infant and to pay to keep the infant alive.”>


This is how you propose we decide whether something is wrong? That it goes against the desires of many people? Not your words, I know, but it appears that you subscribe to the argument.

Jason, Warren is saying that


Warren is saying that killing infants is wrong not because it is murder, but rather because it is wasting something that is very valuable for others. Personally, I wouldn't use the word wrong in this case; I don't think it would be wrong to purchase a Picasso only to have it burned. But this is a good explanation for why we shouldn't worry too much about infanticide being all that popular, for the same reason we shouldn't worry about the popularity of Picasso destruction. People are not likely to destroy something they can trade to others for a large profit.

Your criteria for life do

Your criteria for life do not apply to a fetus because your definitions are based on creatures already born. A fetus is inside a woman's body, not born and certainly not even alive. Proof it is not alive is rather simple. To be alive is to be able to self-sustain one's life, not by the criteria of whether or not one can feed oneself but by the requirements that the lungs can transfer oxygen, the stomach can digest food and the excratory systems can eliminate the waste onto the earth. Anything less is not life regardless of the flawed set of ideas that three or four processes out of many define life.

Your alleged criteria for life apply easily to a corpse on life support proving they are misinformed.

A fetus is sustained by a woman within whom the fetus is or by outside agencies if it is pre-born. A fetus is not self-life-sustaining

Life begins at birth, not when a heart begins to beat. The heart of a corpse can be induced to beat which does not make the corpse alive. One can easily make the argument that life support means the body is dead. A fetus outside the woman is close to the definitions of a corpse.

The arguments in favor of the woman deciding whether to keep or abort something inside her body are only being discovered because of the concerted actions and arguments designed to force her to endure pregnancy against her will. In that macabre sense, the anti-choice crowd is helping keep the womans rights movement energized by solving newly discovered situations related to the individual rights of women.

There are other ways to

There are other ways to prove that a fetus ia not a person. One of the more involved proofs is thru thermodynamics. In laymans terms the fetus requires energy from an outside source. For the thermo-hip crowd, the fetus is a net user of energy. Whether the energy balance is made of the entire system, the woman and the fetus together or of the isolated fetus, a fetus, like a corpse on life support, requires energy be added to keep the processes going.

The thermodynamic differences between a woman who is not carrying a fetus, a woman who is and a fetus seperately or with the woman all lead to the conclusion that the fetus cannot sustain it's own life.

When born, the fetus passes out of existence. In effect the baby destroys the fetus. Should it be held accountable for that? Of course not but it also means that neither the woman nor the doctor nor Vera Drake should be prosecuted because nothing alive ts harmed by birth or abortion.

if you brought a 9 week old

if you brought a 9 week old fetus into an emergency room (assuming for a moment that it looked like a normal human) they'd pronounce it dead, from what I understand. They'd do so because there's no deep brain activity, as measured by an electroencephologram. Doug's on the right track, but I think the relevent time period is 5 1/2 months, when the Brain Stem is formed in the fetus and when, as a result, deep brain activity can be detected.

The emergency room question is the relevent question for me; a way of testing our intuitions in a context removed from what's a very controversial issue. Therefore it follows that abortions should be legal for the 1st two trimesters or so, and then only legal thereafter when the mother's health is severely threatened.

Of course that's just my opinion; I could be wrong.


Mr. allen, could you give

Mr. allen, could you give some scientific sources for your assertion that a fetus produces brain waves in the 9th week after conception? Thanks.

Mr. allen, could you give

Mr. allen, could you give some scientific sources for your assertion that a fetus produces brain waves in the 9th week after conception? Thanks.

Dear God, please

Dear God,
please forgive your children, for they know not what they do. Children are gifts and some of us aren't so lucky. I thank you everyday that my mother loved me enough to save my life. For years you know I tried to carry a child, but for some reason it wasnt meant to be. Everyday women got pregnant and had abortions all around me. I questioned,cried and begged for the answers. Finally I gave up and decided the world was just cruel, but tonight I sit here in front of my computer to say thank you for giving me the gift that grows inside me. By your good grace I pray to carry this child and bring an angel in this world.
God please forgive the women who do not cherish these gifts. They may have problems or serious reasons as to why they choose to express their freedom of rights this way. As you taught I will not hate, but I will feel sorry for them and pray day in and out until this concern is answered. I believe in the power of prayer.

If abortion is something you
stand for, go into a doctors
office with a 16 yr old who
is told she will never carry
a child, or even better stand
behind the doctor who is performing
an abortion. When you see how
it is done you will be sick.