|what we are talking about|
| Before we consider whether a choice is moral, we must know what we are talking about. If abortion is like removing an appendix, there is no reason for dispute.
Howard H. Hiatt and Cyrus Levinthal wrote in a New York Times article, “The assertion that life begins at conception can be made only on religious, not medical, grounds.” Let’s test that statement.
“When does life begin?” People want to treat this as a matter of opinion. “I think life begins at conception; you think it starts at birth. I like chocolate; you like vanilla.” With this reasoning, no one could be convicted of murder. If biologists can determine that something is alive, they can settle the question of when life begins.
“Does life begin at conception?” If we’re technical about it, the answer is “No.” Frank Zindler explains, “Human life is part of a long continuum stretching back to the dawning days of the planet.” Human life does not begin. It began, it continues, and some day it will end.
Okay, I know what you meant when you thought of that question. You meant: “When does an individual life begin?” The answer must be made on medical, scientific, not merely religious, grounds. If we find that abortion kills life, does that make abortion wrong? Not necessarily. We kill and consume living things every day. We swat pesky flies. We kill weeds. We shoot animals for food.
“Is a fetus human?” This question is relevant, but silly. Rephrase the question to make it easier: “Is a human fetus human?” Yes, it is. “Human” pertains to any part of the human species. Every part of your body is human. Your finger is human. The difference is that a human fetus is an individual human. Your finger is not a human. A human egg or a sperm is not a human being.
The central question is: “What value does that human life possess?” Pro-choicers believe that a human life attains worth. Some people have actually said that a child attains worth when it starts to breathe (at birth). Some believe a life attains worth when it reaches viability. Some believe it attains worth when it becomes self-aware.