Field of Science

Single-celled life for the win

Equal rights for fertilized human eggs. Save the blastula!

Another attempt at outlawing abortion - because we can pick and choose which parts of the Bible should influence modern society (at least stoning of cursing children is out).

The always odious AFA is pushing for redefining what it means to be a person.
In the Roe vs. Wade decision, Justice Blackmun declared: "If this suggestion of personhood is established, the appellant's case [the case for abortion], of course, collapses, for the fetus' right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the [14th] Amendment."

The California Human Rights Amendment will amend the California Constitution to define human rights beginning at biological development (e.g. conception), and it will ensure that a preborn baby of any age has the same equal rights and full protection under law as adults. This important initiative will defend and protect the most vulnerable members of our society - our preborn children.
Except that 128 cells inside a woman's womb can hardly be considered a member of society.

Does equal rights for blastulas mean that we cannot imprison pregnant women? Do we have to inform blastulas of their rights? Can a blastula have its own attorney?

And why stop at the "preborn"? Is the fertilized oocyte really the first home of the soul? How about punishment for spilling sperm?

Should we now have funerals for all the "preborn" who are spontaneously aborted?

And should this ridiculous idea - that a collection of cells growing in a human female's uterus is a person and member of society - be passed into law, then it will be a great advance for God, and a sad day the the rest of us.


  1. In The Blank Slate, Steven Pinker raises an interesting point, that even if you want to define life as beginning at the "moment" of conception, that's a pretty vague "moment". Multiple sperm can enter the egg and then it can take up to 24 hours for it to eject the extra chromosomes. There are other events as well, though I don't recall them all (hey, you're the biologist, right?) that can't really be pointed to as being a discrete point in time. Conception is a process, not an instantaneous event.

    And what of identical twins? When it is one fertilized cell, which one is alive? Or are they not alive until there are two fertilized cells? Or not until the cluster of cells starts to separate? Do we have to provisionally define each cell as a distinct human being until cell differentiation begins, lest we exclude a potential identical twin?

    And what of chimeras? If each fertilized egg has a soul, then does an adult chimera have two souls? Or was one of them killed?

    Even if one accepts the ridiculous concept of "ensoulment", to act like we would have any idea when this supposedly discrete event occurs is doubly insane.

    But then again, I assume that the vast majority of people who oppose abortion rights don't know jack shit about reproductive biology...

  2. The only statement that ever made sense to me in the whole debate was:
    No pain, no problem.

    And as unfortunate as it is, at 3 month there might be already a little pain. But not at 2, or earlier.

    Cheers Arend

  3. The problem with a "no pain, no problem" metric, or anything that seeks to establish a cut-off point after which it becomes illegal except in cases of medical necessity or rape or whatever, is that any kind of caveat like that will be used as a wedge by the dogmatically-driven to take away the right to an abortion of women who really need it.

    Who defines "medical necessity"? You and I might think that it was a legitimate medical necessity to terminate a fetus that had a congenital abnormality condemning it to a short painful life. Others might say that it's God's business to decide when the baby gets taken away, and demand that a woman go through with it. I can't find the link right now, but there's precedent even where people have argued that aborting a fetus where the "baby" was going to be born without a brain was not necessary. Egads.

  4. If believers take this non-interference seriously, why don't they include their own in other people's lives? If they think it's God's business to do one thing, then why not all other things? I expect some will say that the fetus can decide, but that the parents and physicians can, and that makes the difference?

    Btw, I'm having a long-term conversation on this post about Strobel's evidence for a creator, if anyone's interested (still can't get the damned sidebar application with recent comments to work).


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