I can assure George Byron (Letters, 4 December) that my approach to the abortion debate is not based on religious doctrine but biological science.
Physicians, biologists and other scientists agree that conception marks the beginning of the life of a human being – a being that is alive and is a member of the human species. There is overwhelming agreement on this point in countless medical, biological and scientific writings.
Mr Byron suggests “a mental life and the ability to live outside the womb” as criteria for personhood. How does it follow that just because the unborn cannot survive where born people live they are not persons?
Unborn children don’t have reasoning skills, but why does that matter? Newborn infants don’t have rational thought and rely entirely on the help of their parents to survive outside of the womb.
We consider newborns persons just because they are human. Can’t being human be a good enough reason to value unborn children?
All human beings differ in size, intelligence, skin colour, gender, and physical ability so we must ground human equality in the one thing that is truly equal about all of us: our human nature.
Even if we can’t function rationally (such as when we are infants), we are still members of a valuable kind that deserves respect and protection under the law.
Since we remain members of the human kind throughout our entire existence, it follows that through every stage of our existence we deserve the respect and protection humans normally receive.
“The argument regarding abortion simply rests upon one question: when does life begin?
And the pro-lifers and pro-choice groups will never agree upon the answer. We need to accept that we can never agree.
My understanding, for obvious physical and medical reasons, is that life begins at conception. From that point the organism commences its development to eventual adulthood.
It seems very straightforward to me. It would seem that most parents-to-be instinctively feel the same, for the loss of a foetus at a very early stage provokes an emotional reaction way beyond what one would expect if this was simply a non-human being, a “bunch of cells”.
I understand that pro-choicers think differently. My question would be, why? Is it because, as a society, we are now motivated by the fact that choice is the ultimate target to aim for?
I realise that this is a very sensitive subject, and that some women, because of abusive relationships, or hardships of many kinds, feel that the only way forward is to abort.
I am not in the business of condemning others for their actions, as I have not walked in their shoes, and many feel trapped by circumstances beyond my experience.
My next statements are therefore broad generalisations regarding our society, which has come to see abortion as totally acceptable.
Is it not true that the only way our society can cope with the enormity of “taking the life of an unborn child” is by redefining “life”, or disputing what has always been regarded as the onset of life?
In so doing we tie ourselves in endless arguments about “consciousness” and “personality” etc. Meanwhile, we devalue many unborn lives, and that is the only way we can remain sane, for this “devaluing” allows us to feel less guilty about taking away this “non-life”.
In other words, we want to take an action that suits us, so we construct arguments that allow us to do this with minimal conscience, for we have a sneaking feeling all along that these foetuses are much more than a “bunch of cells”.
As a society we have persuaded the vast majority of people that this is OK, indeed, our right.
I would venture that perhaps it is not OK, and we have led generations up the garden path, and in so doing have devalued life itself.
Alasdair H B Fyfe