1. Genetic Identity
Let’s start with the most basic observation. It is biologically false to say that the unborn is not an individual. In living things, the instructions for their physiological makeup are embedded within each of their cells. Simply put, the mother and unborn child are both genetically unique individuals. It always bugs me when people refer to a zygote or an embryo as a “fertilized egg”. It’s incredibly misleading. A fertilized egg is not an egg cell anymore. A zygote may be a single cell, but it’s an entirely new organism. A gamete is a haploid cell, meaning it carries half the genetic code of its source. But a zygote, the new, single-celled organism that comes into existence after fertilization, is a diploid cell, meaning it has a full and unique genetic code. Even identical twins are not even completely identical. Each has a unique code, due to epigenetic factors and the way DNA is transcribed and translated. Mother and child are genetic individuals.
Because the genetic identity of the zygote is not that of the mother, the zygote can even be a different sex than the mother. Sexual identity is determined by the chromosome carried by the male gamete (sperm) in fertilization. Because it is haploid, the ovum always carries only one half a chromosomal identity, an X chromosome. If the sperm cell, also being haploid, also carries an X chromosome, the resulting zygote, being diploid, will have an XX chromosomal identity, making it female. If the sperm cell carries a Y chromosome, the resulting zygote will have an XY chromosome, making it male. Sexual identity, genetically speaking, is determined at conception.
3. Blood Type
Contrary to popular thought, the unborn does not share a circulatory system or blood with the mother. Oxygen is diffused through the placenta into the unborn’s bloodstream and circulated through its body and to its tissues and organs by its own heart. In fact, Rhesus disease occurs when a mother’s body recognises the presence of the unborn as a pathogen because of the difference in blood type and produces antibodies to attack it. Difference in blood type indicates that the unborn is an individual distinct from the mother and is therefore not a part of her.
4. Transitive Possession of Body Parts
The unborn is itself composed of parts. At eight weeks after conception, all the major organs we normally think of as body parts are present (even if not yet functioning). Now if the unborn has parts and the unborn is itself a part of the mother, then the parts of the unborn would have to be called parts of the mother. If A is part of B and B is part of C, then necessarily, A must be part of C. This is called a transitive relation. But this leads to obvious absurdities. How many feet does a mother have at, say, 12 weeks gestation? If we say that the unborn is a part of the mother then we would have to say four. We would also have to say that she has a penis, if she’s pregnant with a boy. But this is absurd. The only possibilities then are to deny the logical principle of the transitive relation or to deny that the unborn in a part of the mother. Logic suggests we deny the latter.
5. Shifting Dependence
As evidence that the unborn is a part of the mother and not an individual, some will point to the fact that the unborn is dependent on the mother for nutrition and for survival. But “dependence” is a nebulous concept and is marked by degree. Every born person is dependent in some way on others, but they’re still individuals. There is no other case where one’s degree of dependence causes us to recognise them as a non-individual, so as a justification for abortion, dependence already seems to be a kind of non sequitor. It’s true that the unborn depends on the mother for nutrition before birth (as it will after birth), but the way in which the unborn depends on the mother shifts depending on the unborn’s stage of development. In fact, very early in development, the embryo is nutritionally self-sufficient. The mother does not provide nutrition to the unborn prior to implantation in the uterine wall, and after implantation, the yolk sac provides nutrition and serves as a rudimentary circulatory system for the developing embryo for a short time. If nutritional dependence means the unborn is a part of the mother or is not an individual, then this would mean that the unborn shifts from being an individual (prior to relying on the mother for nutrition) to not being an individual (after it does rely on the mother for nutrition) and then back to being an individual (at some point after birth, presumably…teenager?), which is absurd. Hence, the unborn is not a part of the mother.
6. Meaning of individual as self-contained whole
The unborn may be small (like many of us) and in varying ways dependent on the mother (like many of us), but this doesn’t take away from the fact that even the zygote, that single-celled new little individual, is in fact a whole individual. There is a tendency to think of the unborn as not whole individuals because they are in an early and rapid stage of development. But living things are not constructed the way inanimate objects are. For example, a carpenter builds a chair by assembling its parts—legs, seat, back, etc. It’s not really a chair until it has all the essential parts. But living organisms are not constructed, they develop. A single-celled zygote may not have all the parts it may later come to develop, but it is nonetheless a complete organism. It is whole from the time it comes into existence, which biologically speaking is at conception. The mother’s body does not construct the unborn, rather, the unborn self-develops with the mother’s assistance, just as infant, toddler, adolescent, and adult human individuals develop with assistance from one another and from the world around them. The unborn is whole and therefore not a part of the mother.
7. Place does not equal part
It may seem obvious to say that the unborn is a part of the mother, since the child is actually inside the mother and is physically connected to her body. This does not make the unborn “part” of her though. Does X being inside Y make X a part of Y? It that’s the case, then you are a “part” of your car when you sit inside of it. Or consider a single brick in a wall. What makes this brick a part of this wall? Not merely place, but that the brick contributes to the wholeness of the wall and to its function. Place does not equal part.
What about physical connectedness? Is X a part of Y because they are physically connected? Consider the wall again. Posters and graffiti may be “connected” to the wall, but we wouldn’t say that they constitute the wall’s parts. Human beings are connected to different things all the time for myriad reasons (clothes, jewellery, cell phones, other human beings) and even for reasons of dependence. This doesn’t mean those things become “part” of us. So physical connectedness also does not make the unborn part of the mother.
8. Wholeness of a non-pregnant Woman
If the unborn were a part of a woman’s body, there would be two natural ways for a woman to develop this “part”. One possibility would be for her to be born pregnant, as women are born with other prenatally developed body parts, such as limbs, a brain, sex organs, lungs, a stomach, etc. Women are not born pregnant, and no one expects them to be. Another way we come to have organs or parts is to develop them postnatally. But some women never become pregnant. Clearly we do not speak of non-pregnant women as lacking something essential to womanhood or to her bodily integrity. A non-pregnant woman is not missing any of her organs or parts. And since we do not speak thus, the unborn cannot be said to be a part of the woman whenever it is present. This might be called the argument from the non-privation of a non-pregnant woman. A non-pregnant woman is not missing anything even if she never becomes pregnant. If the unborn were a part of a woman, non-pregnant women would have to be called “de-formed”. Non-pregnancy would be considered a pathology, which is absurd.
9. Argument from the Social Relationship Between Mother and Unborn
One of the most exciting aspects of being an expectant parent is developing a social relationship with the unborn while still in utero. Parents talk to and about their unborn child. They (may) name their unborn child. They may even play with their child, for example poking or tapping a little elbow sticking out of the mother’s belly. No one names, plays with, or sings songs to their body parts, at least not seriously. There is also ample evidence to indicate that there is a tremendous amount of social learning that occurs before a child is even born. Interactions between twins are especially interesting (and cute). The parent-child relationship exists before the child is even born precisely because child is an individual and only individuals can be social with one another. This reality is exactly the reason abortion providers want to avoid mothers seeing ultrasounds, naming their babies, or even referring to their unborn as “he” or “she”. So the unborn is an individual and not a part of the mother.
10. Meaning of Part to Whole-Mother as Part of the Unborn
The argument that the unborn is part of the mother suffers from a misunderstanding of what it means to be “part” of something. In an individual being composed of parts, the nature of the parts is that they serve the whole. This is the essential element in the relationship of part to whole, that the part exists and functions for the sake of the whole. But the unborn does not contribute to the whole functioning of the mother. True, pregnancy does provide some hormonal and physiological benefits to the mother, but these usually last only through pregnancy and seem to actually be for the benefit of the unborn and to the benefit of the mother only secondarily. In fact, while neither mother nor unborn are parts of the other, it is more correct to say that the mother is a part of the unborn. The effects of pregnancy on the body of the mother are more so directed to the functioning and development of the unborn than the mother. The changes a mother’s body undergoes throughout pregnancy—and even after—are the result of the mother’s body having turned itself into an extension…a part, so to speak, of the unborn, for the unborn’s flourishing. Even more amazing is the fact that whole organs of the mother exist for no other purpose than the functioning and development of the child, such as the uterus and breasts. The mother’s body behaves more like a whole part of the unborn rather than the reverse.
domingo, 1 de fevereiro de 2015
1. Genetic Identity