While the abortion debate, like many other ongoing controversies, becomes entangled with an endless number of opinions and arguments, it behooves the serious thinker to take a step back and reconsider the most foundational elements of the issue in order to shed a little light of rationality on an already emotionally charged argument. Perhaps the most important question in this debate, then, even preceding any ethical considerations, is the actual identity of the unborn. In other words, “Are the unborn actually and wholly human, or are they potentially human and a mere extension of the mother’s body?” The question’s relevance arises from the fact that those who believe the fetus to be actually and fully human, are more likely to develop a pro-life stance, while those who believe the unborn to be either “potentially” human, as Planned Parenthood does, or a mere extension of the mother’s body, tend to take a “pro-choice” posture. This paper, then, will argue for the full humanity of the unborn and the fact that science and logic lends credence to that proposition.
How does the scientific consensus help us answer such a question? Science certainly has a place in this study, and according to Bruce Little, PhD and Director of the L. Russ Bush Center for Faith and Culture of Wake Forest, NC, “no doubt” exists in the scientific community “that human life begins at fertilization.” Even the single-celled human zygote contains “46 chromosomes…. (the number specific for members of the human species) and those ‘46’ chromosomes are mixed differently from the ‘46’ chromosomes as found in the mother or in the father….” In other words, at its earliest stage, the fertilized egg is not only human but individually human, because “everything essential to human life is present at the point of fertilization.” (Little) Of course, the “National Human Genome Research Institute” concurs. “The typical number of chromosomes in a human cell,” per the research, “is 46 – two pairs of 23 – holding an estimated 25,000 genes. One set of 23 chromosomes is inherited from the biological mother (from the egg), and the other set is inherited from the biological father (from the sperm)” (National Human Genome).
This particular number of chromosomes is significant, because it verifies two relevant points this writer will make here. First, it confirms that the zygote, at least normally, possesses the number of chromosomes found even in adult human beings, but also, and more importantly, that the zygote possess its own chromosomal composition which distinguishes it from the chromosomal makeup of both the father and mother. It is, therefore, distinct at the moment of conception and chromosomally distinguishable from the mother’s body, a fact that argues, basically, against the idea that the zygote exists as a mere extension of the same. The mother may, in fact, house and nourish the zygote to maturity, but it is not part of her body as such. Hence, all of the information necessary for one’s individual human characteristics is inherent at the moment of conception, and the logical conclusion is that the zygote is, at least chromosomally, individually and fully human.
While science lends its support to the original proposition; namely, that the unborn, at any stage, are fully human, we must now turn our attention to another indispensible component in a discussion of this nature, logic. While a broad term and discipline, logic will be defined here as “right thinking,” and right thinking is determined by the normal laws of logic. In other words, this section will address the laws of non-contradiction, excluded middle, and another law known as Leibniz’s Law of Indiscernability. These laws, in fact, serve as gauges for determining actual reality, and in this context, the will aid in establishing the actual identity of the unborn as actual and full human beings. The first indispensable law of right thinking is the law of non-contradiction, and this simple but indispensible law tells us that something cannot be “A’ and “non-A” at the same time and in the same relationship. As a basic law of logic, it reminds us that my wife cannot be pregnant and “not pregnant” at the same time. If someone, for example, were to ask me if my wife were pregnant and I said yes, and someone else asked her the same question with the answer being no, the assumption would not be that she was pregnant and not pregnant at the same time, but instead, that one of us were mistaken about her condition. In other words, in compliance with the law of non-contradiction, she cannot be pregnant and not pregnant at the same time. Applicably, then, the same is true of the unborn. They cannot be human and nonhuman at the same time, because noting defies the laws of logic. It is possible that one is mistaken about the unborn’s identity, but one cannot logically claim that it is human and subhuman at the same time and in the same relationship.
The second law of “right thinking” is the law of excluded middle, and, like the first, it helps see the issue with a little more clarity. This law tells us that something either is or is not true, and in doing so, reminds us that there is no middle ground. If I say, that a car is in the driveway, for example, one would naturally, and logically, conclude that a car either is or is not in the driveway, and there is no way possible for my car to be in my driveway and not be in my driveway at the same time. Simply put, it is there or it is not. In relation to the unborn, the same law applies. There is no middle ground as supposed by the popular argument of “potentiality,” as espoused by Planned Parenthood. In other words, while many refer to the unborn as “potential” human life, the law of excluded middle renders such an assertion illogical. The zygote, then, is either human or not human, and there can be no time, at least logically, when it is neither. Attempts to deny the unborn’s humanity at earlier stages and then ascribe “humanity” to them at some other stage in the their development, is mere conjecture and a departure from the facts as logic dictates. With human parents, then, the only logical conclusion is that human offspring are fully human as well, and that there is no time when they exist in some intermediary stage.
The final law of right thinking in relation to the actual identity of the unborn is “Leibniz’s’ Law of Indiscernability of Identicals.” This law, despite the technical jargon, tells us, simply, that if any differences exist in two realities, then they cannot be identical. If Joe and Jim, for example, possess characteristics that are true of one and not of the other, then those discernable differences logically differentiate them from one another. In other words, they are, logically speaking, not identical but actually different. In relation to the identity of the unborn, the chromosomal distinction between the zygote from the mother’s chromosomal make-up, distinguishes the unborn from every other human being, at every stage in gestation, including the mother. The zygote, therefore, is not, as popularly supposed, a mere extension of the her body but a distinct and different human being. This logical delineation between non-identical entities becomes the logical companion to the above science, particularly the chromosomal distinctiveness, and militates, significantly, against one of the most wrong-headed assertions made by “pro-choice” proponents.
In relation to the abortion debate, then, it behooves the serious thinker to discard the emotionalism so often accompanying the abortion issue and put on, instead, the cloak of science and reason. As noted in the opening paragraph, no issue is more pivotal to the abortion debate than perceived identity of the unborn, and per the science and laws of right thinking presented in this study, the unborn are actually and wholly human, and cannot exist, in some intermediary or subhuman stage. These disciplines, i.e. science and its rational companion, logic, aid in the cultural identity crisis we have created for ourselves, and militate, quite significantly, against all other popular views that, in some form or fashion, dehumanize the unborn. Any other conclusion takes a philosophical stab in the proverbial dark and scorns the evidence in the process. The unborn, then, from the moment of conception, are actually and wholly human.
Little, Bruce. “History of Christian Thought.” Piedmont Baptist College, Winston-Salem, NC. Spring 1988. Class Notes. Print
“National Human Genome Research Institute.” Retrieved February 10, 2010, from <http://www.genome.gov/11508982>.