Member Rara Avis
The moment my hair or fingernails begin to have their own DNA, I will reconsider your point. Until then clipping fingernails and aborting unborn babies are still vastly different.
Unique DNA is both an arbitrary and a moving target, Stephen. It's arbitrary because there is nothing in the uniqueness of a DNA chain that defines human life. Many cancers carry a unique chain (i.e., mutated), yet I doubt anyone would argue against excising them. Simply being "different" from the host organism isn't enough, by itself, to grant rights. Uniqueness is a by-product of human life, not a definition of it. It is also a moving target because, in not too many years, the DNA may be much less unique. By your definition, a cloned fetus will be just a fingernail?
Abortion is essentially "active" in the sense that it involves taking measures to end a life which would otherwise continue to live and develop as long as the Mother reasonably cares for herself.
Ending life support is "passive" in the sense that it simply withdrawing any artificial means to prolong a life, which otherwise would not continue with ordinary care and sustenance.
It's not unusual to value "natural" over "artificial," but that is really the only distinction that can logically be made between pregnancy and heroic measures. Both are essentially life support systems, and the removal of EITHER is necessarily an active decision, not a passive one. The real issue isn't whether you (the generic you) agree with the decision being made, but rather whether you agree the decision should be made at all. Once a person is hooked to a machine for life support, are there any conceivable circumstances under which a doctor can justifiably remove the support? Once a woman is pregnant, are there ANY conceivable circumstances under which she is justified in removing her "life support?" I don't see how anyone can possibly answer Yes to one without answering Yes to both. And the minute you do, we are no longer arguing the sanctity of life, but rather the "circumstances" that lead to our value of life.
Stephen, you are trying to define a point on a continuum. What is the first numerical fraction between zero and one? No matter what number you pick, I can always find one both before and after it. And no matter how you want to define the moment of human life, there are compelling arguments that will move your point in one direction or the other. The alternative is to say that one second you're not human, and the next second you are. The Catholic church paints the point even before conception, recognizing that the potential for human life has intrinsic value. Others will place the point at viability. Every single point on the line is an arbitrarily chosen one. The conundrum is that none are logically wrong.
None of you, not ONE of you, has the right to interfere in my medical treatment.
But can't you think of instances, however unusual or rare, where such a right would be justified, Karen? What about twins, conjoined at birth and sharing the same circulatory system? Should one twin have the right to dictate medical procedures at the expense of the other?
Every single human right imaginable can (and usually will) be abused by someone sooner or later. That's why you can't yell Fire in a crowded theater. Taking your statement to the extreme, you are claiming the right to do anything you want right up until the moment of birth. Do you really feel society should allow the abortion of a nine-month-old fetus? If you have to answer No, then you just joined Stephen in trying to paint an arbitrary point on a very wide continuum.
It is tempting to argue, as Stephen has tried to do, for a "better safe than sorry" policy. But there is no "safe," and the only basis for such an argument is that human life, in and of itself, is sacred and must be preserved at any cost. Yet, I have never met anyone who truly believed that. Each of us acknowledges that at some point the cost of life becomes too high to pay. It always comes down to quality of life, rather than the sanctity of life. Whether you realize it or not, whether you like it or not, each of us places a value on life in ways not unlike we place values on cars and houses. Each of us can envision a point where we will pay "this much" and no more. Human life is a commodity.
It really doesn't matter whether the discussion centers on abortion, heroic medical treatment, suicide, war, or capital punishment. In my opinion, Jim is right to be concerned that justification for one will inevitably bleed over into other areas. IT HAS TO, because it's all about the same exact things. What is the price of human life? If you were to spend the next twenty years strapped to a bed and eating through a tube, would you contemplate suicide? Would you be willing to fight and die for the right to worship the God you choose? If so, you just set the price for your life. Would you send others to fight and die for that right? Is the freedom of a woman to choose, even at the expense of another human life, so very different? Is quibbling over the price someone sets on life really the same as arguing about the transaction?
I am not arguing pro-choice or pro-life, so much as I am arguing pro-logic. As a society, we must recognize that our policies on life and death are ALL inextricably connected. Until we do, we'll continue to face paradoxes that cannot be resolved through logic. Why should a woman who is raped be able to get an abortion? Should a woman be forced to carry a child to term if it means facing a real possibility of her own death? At what point does a fetus become human enough to be protected by society's laws? That arbitrary line on the continuum isn't being set by biology or science, or even by religious conviction or morals. It's being set by the value each of us, as individuals, is prepared to set on life.
It's being set by value judgements.