Balancing act

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Martin Conroy (Letters, 5 December) says his views on abortion have nothing to do with God. This is good. As a disputant, I am not in the Almighty’s class.

“Human being”, “member of the human species”, “person”, “unborn child” – Mr Conroy’s argument is now a web of labels which hide the hole underneath.

He assumes a definition of the word “being” in his wish that a fertilised egg shall count as one. He would like the law to reflect this, and seems to think his morality is higher than that of those who disagree.

He recruits science to his side. Science does not pronounce on ethics, but it has shown us what the fertilised egg is – a recipe for a human being (its DNA) plus the mechanism for building one.

Few would say a cake recipe is the same as the cake.

Only a tiny fraction of possible human recipes ever come together. Still fewer result in births. Nature does not care. Only we care – because we recognise that our fellows are conscious and feel as we do. This is what makes a human being.

If we forbade the egg’s destruction, this would stop not only abortion but also IVF, which creates surplus embryos. We should deprive the childless of children, and those children of their lives.

Absolutism is easy, balancing the rights of all human beings much harder.

George Byron

Comely Bank Avenue

Edinburgh