Abortion: When Is the Beginning of Personhood?

Topics: Abortion, Human rights, Abortion debate Pages: 7 (2411 words) Published: December 12, 2000
When is the Beginning of Personhood?
During the past quarter century, abortion has joined race and war as one of the most contentious subjects of controversy in the United States. It discusses human interaction where ethics, emotions, and law collaborate. Many have contemplated upon the meaning of abortion. One argument is that every child born should be wanted. The people in lieu of this theory are often referred to as Pro-choice activists. The opposing argument is that every child conceived should be born, this theory epitomized by Pro-life activists. A public consensus exists that when human personhood starts, that the law must protect person. Many religions, organizations, and individuals have fervently held conflicting beliefs about when this transpires. This naturally leads to differing policies on whether a woman should have access to abortion or not.

This brings us to the scientific aspect of the controversy. The interminable question surrounding the controversy is this: When does a baby actually become a baby? A female's ovum (egg) and a male's sperm are both clearly alive. They are living organisms ready to be joined as one to form a baby. It is pointed out, however, that women release a few hundred eggs in a lifetime (Religious Tolerance). Almost all of these eggs are destined to die and be ejected from the body. Little thought is given to these hundreds of deaths. The same idea goes for the sperm. Hundreds of million of male sperm are liberated during a typical sexual encounter—an adequate number to theoretically double the earth's population in a week or two if each were used to fertilize a separate ovum (Religious Tolerance). Again, little consideration is given to these deaths. Yet, a public consensus exists that they are not yet human persons.

So is that essentially when a human life begins? Or is it when the sperm and egg meet, causing the conception of the baby? It is broadly believed, generally by the pro-life activists, that this is fundamentally when a human begins to form. Among women, approximately 50% of their fertilized eggs develop into babies, which are born, more or less, nine months later. The remnants are aborted or are lost due to a miscarriage.

An innate public agreement exists that an infant is the most precious form of life on earth, and needs to be protected under law. The philosophical and religious principle behind the pro-choice versus pro-life argument is when does human personhood begin? After that event occurs, termination of that life is a form of murder. Many people believe this form of murder can only be acceptable if used as a means to prevent the death of the mother, prevent extremely serious injury to the mother, or in cases of rape or incest. Approximately 14,000 women a year have abortions subsequent to rape or incest (Be Fearless). The whole controversy of abortion is based on the non-existent consensus as to when personhood in point of fact begins.

There is plenty of scientific evidence detailing the processes that start with a sperm and end up with a newborn baby. Yet, some people believe although it is scientifically an actual life, a baby forming, it is still not significannot enough to allow the law to make its murder unlawful. In spite of the evidence science can make available to us, it still cannot tell us whether or not the fetus has a soul, or if a zygote has a full set of human rights. Nor can it tell us whether or not an ovum or sperm are people, or when the products of conception become a person. Most importantly, science cannot tell us if abortion is murder.

Most people in the pro-life faction believe that at the point of conception, a human being is formed. A just fertilized egg is a full human being and should be protected as one. Some believe this because of their religion. The views of the Catholic church strongly oppose abortion, as a violation of the sanctity of life. Nonetheless, Catholic women have abortions at the same rate as the...

Cited: Religious Tolerance. Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance. 2000. 25 Sept. 2000
CNS News Online. "Poll shows many Americans conflicted over abortion." 19 June
2000. 24 Sept. 2000 .
Jussim, Daniel. Medical Ethics: Moral and Legal Conflicts in Health Care. New York:
Julian Messner, 1991.
Mabie, Margot C.J. Bioethics and the New Medical Technology. New York: Macmillan
Publishing Company, 1993.
Tribe, Laurence H. Abortion: The Clash of Absolutes. London: W.W. Norton &
Company, 1990.
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