, I was telling you about a conversation I had with a friend. The “Pro Life” conversation is probably one of the most important ones that we should be able to have. But, most of us do not have the facts or the confidence to do so. So, here’s part three of that conversation:[singlepic id=14 w=320 h=240 float=right]
Then I asked, “So it’s alive and human, but not a life?”
Silence. She was thinking about it too. I continued, “But it’s not a human person?”
“No”, she answered.
"Because it's inside the woman."
"And so, is it your environment that determines whether you are human person or not?"
“Yes.” She said without thinking.
"So, if you are in your room, or if you are in the kitchen, or if you are in China, maybe you are not a human person?"
"Don't be stupid, you know what I mean."
"Actually, I don't. What you are saying is that environment doesn't determine whether you are a human person, only if that environment is a womb."
I continued, "Do you know that an embryo, from the moment of conception is completely distinct from its mother. It has its own DNA, its own set of chromosomes and all the information that is going to be in those chromosomes for the rest of that person’s life, is already there, at the moment of conception? And if you took all that information and printed it out, it would take the space of about 8 sets of Encyclopaedia Britannica?"
“I get it,” she said condescendingly.
"And while we’re at it, do you know how many cells you get when you combine one sperm cell with one egg cell?"
She looked confused. “One sperm cell plus one egg cell?” She asked.
“Yes,” I answered. “How many cells do you get?”
“Two cells,” she said confidently.
"Wrong. You get one cell. Isn’t that amazing? One sperm, which is only one cell, and one ovum, which is only one cell, when they combine, they form just one cell: a whole completely new organism, one with 52 chromosomes, 26 from the sperm, and 26 from the ovum."
“Look,” she said, “that is amazing, I agree, but still, a fetus is dependent on the mother for survival."
"So, does dependency determine whether someone is a person? According to that definition, then all severely disabled people are not human persons. Actually all babies? All toddlers? wait, all children are dependent on their parents. Most university students are still dependent on their parents, or the government -- should we kill them?"
"No. It’s not the same."
"What’s the difference?"
"A fetus is attached to the mother."
Siamese twins are attached to each other. Should we kill them?"
"C’mon! A fetus is so small. It’s not the same!"
"Does size determine whether you are a human person? I am bigger than you, does that mean that I am more of a human person than you?"
"A fetus doesn’t have a concept of itself. It doesn’t have... what do you call it... cognitive ability."
"How do you know that?"
That was a good argument. I continued, “And even if that were the case, then are disabled people who have no cognitive ability, not human persons? Should we kill them? What about a newborn baby? They don't know their elbow from the side of the bed. Should we kill them because they can't "think therefore I am”? Let me ask you something else. Suppose you are hit by a car tomorrow and you are left in a coma. Today you are a person, according to your definition, because you have a concept of who you are. But tomorrow, all of a sudden, you no longer have any brain activity of any significance. But your heart is still beating and you are still breathing, so the doctors put you on a feeding tube to keep you alive. Are you no longer a person?"
She was not quite sure. Still, she said, “No.”
“Ok,” I continued, “Next week, you come out of your coma, and you are fine. You just have a massive head ache. But you are fine. You have regained cognitive ability. You have awareness of who you are. Are you back to being a human person?”
She understood where I was going. She didn’t say anything.
I continued, “Do you know why the doctors didn’t let you starve to death while you were in a coma?” No answer. “Because they could see that you still had the potential to get better. So, medically, you had the potential to be again, as you would say, a ‘person’. This is why the newborn baby is considered a person, even though she is not aware of herself. She has the potential of being aware of herself.”
She suddenly jumped in, “Are you saying that maybe a fetus is not a human person, but it has the potential of becoming one?”
"Are you saying that?"
"No, I am just trying to follow your argument. You just said that it wasn’t a person, just that it had the potential of becoming one."
"No. I said that a human embryo has the potential of becoming aware of herself. I think that a human being is a human being from conception to natural death. No matter what. An embryo doesn’t have the potential of becoming a human person. It is. A sperm has the potential of creating a human person. An embryo and a fetus have the potential of having cognitive ability, the same way a baby does."
To be continued...
CNS photo/Leslie E. Kossoff