Birth and death

I’d like to ask contributors to the argument concerning the vexed issue of abortion to consider the question from a different perspective.

Martin Conroy and Alasdair H B Fyfe (Letters, 5 December) both argue that, from the moment of conception, the embryonic life in the womb is human, and should therefore have its right to life respected, by virtue of that humanity.

Conversely, throughout the history of mankind it has been considered acceptable to send thousands of young men, who are self-evidently human, to kill or be killed in warfare.

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Since the beginning of time mothers have laboured to give birth to sons only to lose them to “glorious” deaths on battlefields when they’re barely out of puberty. Their dying is rendered more poignant because, as fully functioning, rational humans they know what they are losing: the sweet promise of a future now denied to them.

If the taking of human life at all developmental levels is morally wrong, then it would be logical to accord respect to those who conscientiously object to the taking of lives in warfare. In reality, society’s reluctance to accept their views owes less to moral considerations than to self-interest: we simply place a higher value on the lives of our own people.

Perhaps the difference in levels of acceptance of abortion has a more deep-rooted cause than moral and/or religious scruples. It’s ultimately about control over life and death, and about who should be allowed to exercise that power.

Carolyn Taylor


Broughty Ferry

Every time a sperm cell and ovum unite, a new being is created which is alive and will continue to live unless death is brought about by some specific condition.

If we can give this living thing time, nutrition and a proper environment, and it is able to develop toward becoming a mature member of its species, then it is an organism and not a mere body part.

To use George Byron’s analogy (Letters, 6 December), the ingredients of the recipe have already been mixed, the bun is truly in the oven and normally requires another nine months at 37C.

The cake mixture is a cake at the earliest stage of its existence just as the fertilised ovum is the earliest stage of a human being.

At fertilisation a person begins to exist, because at that time the unborn child’s parts work together to keep the child growing and living.

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When the child becomes so complex that he or she needs a brain to survive, they will simply grow one, because he or she is a person who can continue developing new organs and new abilities over time.

To return to my original point: if it’s growing, isn’t it alive? If it has human parents, isn’t it human? And human beings like you and I are valuable, aren’t we?

Martin Conroy


East Lothian