Human nature

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On the subject of abortion, Martin Conroy (Letters, 3 December) misunderstands me, I think because he mixes up two senses of the word “human”. An embryo is “human” (adjective), made up of human cells.

The question is: is it “a human” (noun), meaning a human being? What is a human being?

As criteria, I have suggested a mental life and the ability to live outside the womb. Mr Conroy thinks the fertilised egg qualifies. This seems to me a stretch, his argument for it weak.

It is a potential human being – but then we are all potential cadavers.

From his other writings on abortion, I gather Mr Conroy’s ideas are rooted in Christianity.

It is a doctrine I admit I do not understand.

God said: “Thou shalt not kill.”

But did He not create our reproductive system, which causes half of all human embryos to abort spontaneously, mostly before the woman is aware she is pregnant?

Simply redefining “child” and “human being” so they apply to the foetus will not do. One’s reasons must be coherent.

George Byron

Comely Bank Avenue

Edinburgh

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