Abortion. Is it human?

Scientific arguments to justify ‘freedom of abortion’ always sound hollow. This article is largely a quotation from a book we came across on the web entitled ‘The liberal case against abortion’ by Vasu Murti (see: all-creatures.org). The title would probably have been more accurate if it had been ‘The secular case against abortion’, because liberalism is not by definition non-religious or a-spiritual. On the contrary. Liberalism springs from spirituality.

Nevertheless, Vasu Murti makes a strong case: “When does human life begin? “At conception”, states Professor W. Bowes of the University of Colorado. Prof. M. Matthews-Roth of Harvard writes: “It is scientifically correct to say that individual human life begins at conception”. Dr. Mary Calderon of Planned Parenthood in the 1960s, wrote: “Fertilization has taken place; a baby has been conceived.”

Vasu Murti continues: “Everything that defines a person physically is present at fertilization—only oxygen, nutrients and time to develop are required. The unborn child has his or her own genetic code, EEG trackings and circulatory system. Often, the blood type and sex of the unborn child will also differ from that of the mother. The heart of the unborn child begins beating at 18 days, and is pumping blood at 21 days. The brain is functioning at 40 days—EEG trackings have been made at less than six weeks gestation. The unborn child responds to stimuli by the sixth to eighth week. Rapid Eye Movements (R.E.M.s) characteristic of actual dream states, are present in 23 weeks. There are clearly two distinct individuals (mother and child) present during pregnancy”.


Still quoting from Vasu Murti’s site: “Philosophical debates about the “personhood” of the human unborn resemble the old, medieval arguments about ensoulment. Dr. J.C. Willke, former head of National Right to Life, summarizes the case against abortion as follows:

“Ask the question, is this fertilized ovum alive? Yes, by any dimension of that word, this fertilized ovum is alive, growing, replacing multiplying cells, life. Is this fertilized ovum human? How can you tell a human from a rabbit, from a carrot? Genetic chromosomes. Take a look, 46 human chromosomes, this is a member of the human species. This is human, growing, intact, programmed from within, moving forward in a self-controlled ongoing process of maturation, development, sexed male or female, replacement of his or her own dying cells, within ten days taking control of the host body that this little being grows within, controlling physiologically the host body for the balance of that gestation time, enlarging her breasts, softening her pelvic bones, setting his own birthday, all this controlled by the developing baby, this is alive, human and sexed”.

Biological measurement

Vasu Murti: “That’s the biological measurement. Total intactness from a single cell. You’re 40 million million cells, but every single cell is the identical replication, genetically speaking, of the first one. Nothing was added to that single cell, who you once were, nothing but nutrition. Biologically, there isn’t a perception, there isn’t an opinion, biologically, it’s absolute…” In other words, according to Vasu Murti (and we think he is right), genetically speaking a single human cell is ‘human life’. There remains the question whether the fertilized ovum is a separate human life, or whether it is part of the mother’s human life. We would surmise it is separate.

Other yardsticks

Following Vasu Murti’s argument: “What are the other yardsticks? They all fall into a category that can be described as philosophic theories. This is not human until an exchange of love, until a certain degree of consciousness, until a certain degree of maturation, until a certain degree of independence, viability, until birth…certain IQ, whatever. Now, all of those are used as yardsticks to define the word ‘human life’ or if you please, ‘person.’ Now the question is, what do they all have in common? Not one is subject to natural science and proof. They are all beliefs or theories. People of good will differ diametrically upon these and if you put six such people in the room, you might get six different answers”.

In other words, the question whether a fertilized human ovum constitutes ‘human life’ should be answered scientifically and not philosophically. And if we do that, the conclusion is that biologically and genetically the fertilized ovum is ‘human life’. This squares with the simple thought that ‘if you don’t interfere, the fertilized ovum will – sure as daylight – become a human being, so in essence it must be a human being as from the moment of fertilization. The only factors are time and nutrition, neither one of which is really relevant to determine whether the fertilized ovum is ‘human life’, or not. For the born child also needs time and nutrition to grow into an adult, but we would not argue that therefore the baby is not yet ‘human life’.

Vasu Murti’s point of view has many consequences, social and behavioral (particularly with respect to sexual morality and behavior). These cannot be discussed in this article. But when discussing those, we should start from clear and correct thinking. Vasu Murti’s point of view has a deep moral undertone, which resonates positively. ‘Difficult consequences’ should not deter us to think right and especially to think ethically right.

One conclusion is better to go for birth control, abortion not being a legitimate form of birth control. But then again, even the forms of birth control should be considered in light of ethically correct first principles. And we should also keep in mind the principle that all extreme principles lead to impractical and sometimes even counter-productive and ethically wrong results. In German the saying is that ‘every principle results in the devil’.

Whoever has viewed today’s video, will probably never contemplate abortion again.