include_once("common_lab_header.php");
Excerpt for Abortion--Analyzing arguments Old and NEA by , available in its entirety at Smashwords




ABORTION




ANALYZING ALL THE OLD & NEW ARGUMENTS




Pro and Con



Dr. Robert O’Connor


Total Health Publications


2019




THE AUTHOR

Bob O’Connor is a retired professor who obtained his doctorate in the philosophy of education from the University of Southern California with an emphasis on political theory, ethics, and religion. He is also a licensed Marriage, Family and Child Counsellor in California. He has taught philosophy and ethics as well as health education, including marriage and family issues, including parenting.

acknowledgements

A hearty “thank you” to my clients, students, friends, and acquaintances, who have forced me to think more deeply about the issue concerning this topic. The pros and cons, the present and the future, the joys and sorrows of parenthood—are among the questions and concerns of many of the youth and mature citizens. It is not a simple proposition. Strongly felt needs and the counterbalancing traditions—make abortion a complicated ethical and moral hot potato. I hope I have clarified some of the options.

And a special thanks to Hanne Overlier for editing the text and suggesting many useful avenues to address and pursue.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

THE AUTHOR

acknowledgements

CHAPTER I—INTRODUCTION TO ABORTION—SOME ARGUMENTS PRO AND CON

What if—???

Faith

Who Holds What Opinions?

Stages of Pregnancy

So When Does Life Start?

So, when does life start?

Before Conception

At Conception

At Implantation

During Pregnancy

When Born Alive

Other Possibilities for Determining the Start of Life

What About Personhood?

Ensoulment

SO, Let’s Look a Bit Deeper at the Assumptions and Facts That Confuse Us on This Question

Self-centered assumptions.

God based assumptions.

Society-based Assumptions

The Assumptions We Use May Vary with the Value We Are Considering

Let’s Look at Another Value Question in American Society

Now Back to Abortion

SELF-CENTERED REASONS FOR WANTING AN ABORTION

SELF-CENTERED REASONS FOR NOT WANTING AN ABORTION

GOD BASED REASONS FOR WANTING AN ABORTION

GOD-BASED REASONS FOR NOT WANTING ABORTIONS

SOCIETAL REASONS FOR WANTING ABORTIONS LEGAL

SOCIETAL REASONS FOR NOT WANTING ABORTIONS LEGAL

MORE CONFLICTS IN VALUES

Some more Statistics

CHAPTER 2 A BRIEF LOOK AT ETHICS

Ethical Precepts

What Is Fair

Happiness

The Will of the Superior Person Should Be primary

What Do These Ideas Have to Do With Abortion?

What Do Some Smart People Say?

Intention or Consequences—Which Determines the “rightness” of the action?

Basic Assumptions

CHAPTER 3 CONFLICTING DEFINITIONS AFFECTING OUR ARGUMENTATION

Propaganda and semantics

What is a Person?

Definitions are not necessarily true

Life

Before Conception (Pre-existence)

Conception

Implantation

 When are you a person?

Meaningful Human Life

Personhood and Rights

Effective parenting.

And so—

Chapter 4 Looking at the Self-Centered Reasons For and Against Abortion

Is My Concern “Now” or the Future?

Which “Self” Is of Primary importance—the Mother or the Embryo?

What is love?

Developing a Child’s Potential

Power Over

Power To

Does a Child Deserve a Loving Parent?

LET’S LOOK AT THE POSITIONS PEOPLE TAKE DEPENDING ON THEIR DIFFERENT BASIC ASSUMPTIONS.

How true is the evidence we hear?

Abortion is HAS VALUE from the Self-centered Viewpoint of the Woman

Safety—Danger to her health

Health problems

Abortion does not have VALUE) FROM a SELF-CENTERED point of view

What About Possible Mental Problems as a Result of an Abortion?

Child’s Point of View—Abortion HAS VALUE

Wrongful Birth

Abortion DOES NOT HAVE VALUE from the Potential Child’s Viewpoint

The Question of Pain

Chapter 5 RELIGION AND ABORTION

ABORTION HAS VALUE FROM A GOD-BASED VIEWPOINT

Ensoulment Is a Key to Personhood and the Morality of Abortion

Non-Christian Ideas of Ensoulment

Propagating the Faithful

Abortion Before Viability May Be Moral

The Mother’s Life As Superior to the Embryo or Fetus

Humans in the Image of God

The Scriptures and Abortion

Overpopulation As a Threat to Life and to the Opportunity to Achieve Holiness

And What About Religious Women?

ABORTION DOES NOT HAVE VALUE FROM A GOD-BASED POINT OF VIEW

Catholic Thinking Has Influenced Protestants

Original Sin

CHAPTER 6 ABORTION CAN HAVE VALUE OR NOT FROM A SOCIETAL POINT OF VIEW

Abortion is VALUABLE From a Societal Viewpoint

Human Rights and Freedom

Financial Reasons


Positives for Society

Climate Change and Overpopulation

Tradition

Separation of Church and State

Health of the Pregnant Woman

The Potential of the Future Child

ABORTION IS NOT VALUABLE FROM A SOCIETAL VIEWPOINT

Should Religion Be a Concern in Societal Decisions?

CHAPTER 7 SOME IDEAS POINTING TO POSSIBLE solutions

Let’s start with a global view

Greater knowledge is needed by leaders and judges

The problems are compounded

How much freedom should we allow the individual?

What about societies?

Accepting working immigrant—rather than adding to the native population

Liberal religions

And Then there are the religious fundamentalists.

What does the supreme court rule on cases involving religion?

Some options

How about letting the courts re-settle the issues?

The Constitution—including its preamble!

BUT THE SUPREME COURT CAN IGNORE THE INTENT OF THE constitution

THE MEANINGS EXPRESSED BY THE CONSTITUTION’S FRAMERS ARE NOT ALWAYS FOLLOWED BY ITS JUDICIAL INTERPRETERS

A COMPELLING STATE INTEREST

THE SUPREME COURT IS SOMETIMES TOO CONSERVATIVE



CHAPTER I—INTRODUCTION TO ABORTION—SOME ARGUMENTS PRO AND CON

Nearly 54 percent of black women reported an unintended pregnancy, compared with 43 percent of Hispanic women, and about 31 percent of white women. How many might think they are not ready for parenthood when this pregnancy “appeared?”

What if—???

A woman whose religious views makes it clear that she will not terminate the pregnancy under any circumstances. However, the Angel Gabriel felt obliged to visit her. He told her that the life of her child, once born, would be that of a serial rapist-murderer, killing over a hundred people. Additionally, he would torture and kill all the members of her family. Would this persuade her to change her mind?

On the other side of town, an hour later, another pregnant woman, who had no qualms about aborting her embryo, was visited by the same busy angel. He told her that the embryo that she was intent on aborting would grow up to be a humanitarian and a loving person like Albert Schweitzer, and an intelligent and financially able person like Bill Gates--the world’s greatest humanitarian, and the child would be a constant joy to her life. Would this persuade her to change her mind?

We all have opinions on which we lead our lives. Are we willing to change our minds as new and true information becomes available? After all-- a mind made up, ceases to exist! If we have a mind, it is to determine truth—not to rationalize groundless opinions.

Faith

Much of what we do in life requires faith. We usually have faith that we will wake up tomorrow morning. More than 150,000 people a day are wrong in that faith. They woke up dead!

How many German and American women in 1928 thought that there would never be another world war? After all, the war to end all wars had been finished only 10 years earlier. But in another 10 years, the German woman would be involved in war preparations and in 15 years both the German and the Americans would be involved in a greater world war.

Faith is essential in our lives. But it is often wrong.

Do the anti-abortion people have faith that a pregnant alcoholic woman will not have a child born with fetal alcohol syndrome? Do they have faith that the heroin addicted mother will not give birth to an addicted child who will have to suffer the pains of withdrawal? Alcohol, opioids, cannabis, tobacco, cocaine, and many other drugs can have severe, often lifelong, effects on the embryo or fetus. West Virginia is the most heavily affected state from opioid abuse. At one hospital, Cabell Huntington Hospital, one in five newborns has been exposed to opioids in the womb.

Do they have faith that women, or their partners—if they have one-- will always be loving and caring for their children who were unwanted?

We tend to think that everyone thinks like we do. If I am a caring and loving mother, all women will think as I do. This is of course, absurd.

I remember a woman, in my practice who was severely neurotic. She had multiple personalities and satisfied her power drive by believing she was unusually holy. She wrote letters to priests and ministers whom she wanted to follow her. None of them answered her. In one session, she brought a few friends and her adult daughter. One friend asked her if her religious beliefs were not secondary to the love of her daughter. She said that her beliefs were primary. Soon after, her daughter disowned her.

Many years earlier, the father of the child had divorced her. She didn’t want the child, but he did. A neighbor, assuming that the mother had the same ability to love that she had, told her that she should have the child since she was the mother. It is quite common for people to hide their personality problems from acquaintances. And, of course, much of our belief system is based on our traditional beliefs, and what we see and hear. Then, we all have great faith that our beliefs are true.

At that time, as today, mothers usually get custody—and the mother did. About ten years later, other neighbors were exposed to the multiple personalities (St. Paul, a prostitute, and a housewife). They prevailed on her to give up her 14 year-old child, which she did. But there had been almost a decade of psychological and physical trauma that the daughter had to deal with. It took years of counselling to eliminate most of the effects of living with her neurotic mother.

It is unlikely that any of you readers have such a strong neurotic faith. You may not be able to understand how a mother can place her daughter in such a secondary role. You may not also understand how a terrorist can drive a truck down a crowded roadway with the intent on killing and injuring as many people as possible. This idea does not “compute” for most of us.

Most American readers would not understand the principles of Buddha. So, would not have much faith in his principles. Most people in Thailand would not understand the religions of Abraham, so would not put much stock in them. But they would believe the principles of Buddhism. So, the origins of our faiths are generally based on the traditions of our geographical placement. Being born and bred in a farm in Iowa will probably give you quite different aspects of your faith than if you were born in a ghetto in Los Angeles.

So, if we are to be intelligent about our views on abortion, we must realize how our opinions developed and that they may not be verifiable except in our limited experience.

Who Holds What Opinions?

According to a Pew report in October 2018, 58% of Americans believe that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, while 37% say should be illegal in all or most cases, these percentages have stayed relatively stable for 25 years. 61% of Evangelical Protestants said it should be illegal in most cases. 51% of Catholics think it should be legal in all or most cases, while 42% say it should be illegal in all or most cases. 59% of Republican respondents said it should be illegal in all or most cases, while 24% of Democrats say it should be illegal. 60% of women and 57% of men say it should be legal in all or most cases.

When we look at it from an educational perspective, 48% of those with high school educations approve of abortion, 63% of those with some college education and 71% of college graduates approve of it.

You might be interested in the educational backgrounds of people, in general, when looking at their abortion views. In the U.S., we find that Hindus have the highest level of college graduation at 77%. Unitarians are at 67%, Jews at 59%, Episcopalians at 56%, atheists at 43%, Muslims at 39% Mormons and Lutherans in the low 30s, Catholics at 26%, Baptists at 19%, and Jehovah's Witnesses at 12%.

These rates do not tell us the quality of the college education. Certainly, Harvard and the University of California rank much higher than most other universities. The highest rated schools with the backing of a religion are: Notre Dame at 18 and Pepperdine at 46. Many don’t make the top 200, like Liberty Univeresity. So, college diplomas are not equal—in fact there can be huge differences in the knowledges of college graduates, depending on: the college, the academic level of the graduate, the college major, the quality of the professors, and the quality of extra-curricular activities, such as travelling.

We would certainly expect that an economics professor from Stanford would have a more informed view of the benefits and costs of socialized medicine than would a farmer in a small village in India. For people concerned with thoroughly understanding the issues of abortion, more information and more questioning of the advocates is essential—whether you are for, or against it.

The Platonic views of how Socrates searched for truth are crucial. Ask a question, then question the answer, then question that answer, then question that new answer. When examining opinions and definitions, as we do with value questions, like abortion or capital punishment or equality. These value questions can be clarified, questioned, and debated—but seldom, if ever, are settled. They are based on assumptions and are seldom subject to empirical verification—although often empirical evidence can be used to attempt to verify or criticize evidence offered to support a position taken by those who support one position or another.

The positions that people take on abortion, pro or con, have arguments that can be rationally understood. They are more subject to analysis than some of the Medieval theological arguments such as: how many angels can dance on the head of a pin? So we will flit back and for between science, philosophy, and religion in our attempt to understand the various arguments and to look deeper into them. Such analysis may upset some people who haven’t thoroughly understood the opinions that they fiercely defend. But understanding the issues is the task of this treatise!

So, we had better start at the beginning. Sadly, many, who will not read this book, will start at the end. They start with an opinion, then look feverishly for ideas that will back up their opinion.

Stages of Pregnancy

So, a major question is “at what point do we define life as existing?” Often this question is posed as, “when does personhood begin.” Let us look at the stages of pregnancy to see the many points where people have said that life begins.

To get a clearer picture of what happens during pregnancy, most high level authorities (i.e., The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists) mark pregnancy as beginning at the date of the last menstrual cycle. Most doctors (57%) say that pregnancy starts at fertilization. So, when life begins and when pregnancy begins are really two different questions let’s look at it week to week.

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists’ position is the timetable we will use.

Weeks 1 & 2. The ovum is released during this time.

Week 3. It will be fertilized in the fallopian tube (it is now called a zygote) and immediately begins dividing. It implants in about a week and the group of cells is now called a blastocyst. Further division makes it into what we call an embryo, then eventually a fetus. The blastocyst will probably implant into the wall of the uterus, about 10 days after fertilization. Some of these will never implant in the uterus and the woman will probably never realize that she had carried a fertilized ovum. Sometimes a developing zygote or blastocyst splits during this period and identical twins result.

Week 5. The developing cells are now in the embryonic stage, so the growing cells are called an embryo. Here the cells begin to differentiate into specific organs such as: blood, kidneys, and nerves-- the brain and spinal column, as well as the heart, begin to differentiate from the original generalized cells. (This is the time that the embryo is most likely to be affected by infections, drug or alcohol use, certain medicines, etc.)

Weeks 6 & 7. Buds appear on the embryo which will become the arms and legs. The brain is beginning to develop, the heart beats, blood begins to move through the tissues, and the eyes and ears begin to develop.

Week 8. The lungs begin to form. The arms and legs continue to grow. The hands and feet are like little paddles,

Week 9. The hair follicles begin to form and the organs are beginning to grow.

Week 10. The ears begin to take shape, the facial features continue to form. At this point the embryo is now termed a fetus.

Weeks 11 to 14. The liver is making blood cells, the face is pretty well formed, the genitals begin to form. The head is about the size of the rest of its body.

Weeks 15 to 18. Muscles and bones continue to form, the liver and pancreas begin to produce secretions, the skin is somewhat transparent, the fetus now begins to stretch and move.

Weeks 19 to 21. The fetus can hear. It continues to be active.

Week 22. The hair and nails grow. There is more fetal activity. It may be able to survive outside the body.

Weeks 23 to 25. The bone marrow begins to make blood cells, the lower airways of the baby's lungs develop.

Week 26. The air sacs begin to develop in the lungs. The eyes are developed.

Weeks 27 to 30. The brain grows rapidly, eyelids can open and close. The lungs continue to develop.

Weeks 31 to 34. Fetus gains a great deal of fat; the lungs are not yet mature but breathing occurs. The bones are developed but are soft. The body begins storing iron, calcium, and phosphorus.

Weeks 35 to 37. The fetus weighs about 5 1/2 pounds. It develops sleeping patterns. The heart and blood vessels are complete.

Weeks 38 to 40. Breast nipples are seen in both sexes. Hair on the head appears course and thicker. The fetus now can be born at any time.

So When Does Life Start?

Does life start: when the ovum is released (the ovum is alive), when it is fertilized (the sperm was also alive), when it implants, when the heart starts beating, when brain waves start in the brain stem, when brain waves start in the cerebrum, when it is born—or sometime later. Whichever time you choose it is merely an opinion or a definition. Even if you have a democratic vote on it—it is merely an opinion.

Laws are often based on the opinions of the legislators. These opinions may, or may not, be true. For example, if Congress passed a law that the Earth was flat, so long distance air carriers could no longer fly the polar routes, this would be legal—it would not, however, be true. Similarly, defining when life starts and codifying it as a law is merely codifying a definition. As we will now indicate, there are many criteria that might be used in determining when life starts. However, it is only an opinion of a definition that is based on one or several factors.

As an illustration, when an atom was found to contain one proton and one electron and was called hydrogen, we had a definition. You might want to call it oxygen, but there is universal agreement to call it hydrogen. We have therefore defined hydrogen as an atom with one proton and one electron. Defining when life starts is not quite that simple, although there are people willing to kill or be killed to protect their definition. How we define life does not make our opinion true!

So, when does life start?

Before Conception

The Mormon belief, based on Abraham 3:23 (a scripture limited to the Mormon faith), is that the soul existed before the physical body was formed.

In 2012, the Arizona governor signed a bill that pinpoints the start of life two weeks before conception—corresponding to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists position of when pregnancy begins. This had the effect of shortening the time during which one might opt for an abortion. It was struck down by the federal court.

Both the sperm and the ovum were alive before fertilization. In humans, non-living things cannot create living tissues. About 4 billion years ago, living cells evolved from non-living matter—but that doesn’t happen in the human body.

At Conception

The Catholic religion, since 1869, has had the belief that life starts at conception. Many Protestants also believe this—especially the evangelicals.

For “test tube” (in vitro) fertilizations, where the sperm and ovum are connected in a laboratory, we must assume that the soul is infused into that ovum in the laboratory before it is implanted into the woman’s uterus. So the soul will be in the laboratory containers for 5 to 7 days, before it is implanted. But what if the test tube breaks? Does the soul go to that Great Laboratory in the Sky, or does it just fly around the lab waiting for another test tube containing zygote?

In 1859, the American Medical Association published a statement strongly opposing abortion, particularly commenting on the independence of the zygote during the time between its formation and its implantation.

At Implantation

Although the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology in 1965 attempted to redefine “conception” to mean implantation rather than fertilization, medical dictionaries and even English language dictionaries both before and after 1966, define “conception” as synonymous with fertilization.

During Pregnancy

Prior to 1869 most Catholic thinking was that males got their souls 40 days after conception, about the time they were becoming fetuses and females got theirs 40 or 50 days later. Consequently, an abortion of a male fetus prior to that 40-day mark or a female prior to the 80-day mark might be acceptable. However, many Catholic theologians had always considered abortion to be immoral. (The term “conception” had been used since pre-Christian times, but it was not explained and proven until the late 1800s, so it was a meaningless concept before it was understood.)

On the other hand, embryos with developmental problems naturally miscarry, that is called a spontaneous abortion. For many who have strong God-based values, it can be explained as abortions caused by God. There are far more of these spontaneous abortions than human caused abortions.

When Born Alive

The Jewish view traditionally is that the child is a person when it is born and takes his first breath. However, there are rabbis who believe Aristotle's idea of ensoulment at 40 days, and others believe that it does not happen until the child can first say "Amen."

The United States Code, 1 para 8, as enacted in 2002 mentions “live birth” as the criterion for being human.

"Person", "human being", "child", and "individual" as including born-alive infant

(a) In determining the meaning of any Act of Congress, or of any ruling, regulation, or interpretation of the various administrative bureaus and agencies of the United States, the words "person", "human being", "child", and "individual", shall include every infant member of the species homo sapiens who is born alive at any stage of development.

(b) As used in this section, the term "born alive", with respect to a member of the species homo sapiens, means the complete expulsion or extraction from his or her mother of that member, at any stage of development, who after such expulsion or extraction breathes or has a beating heart, pulsation of the umbilical cord, or definite movement of voluntary muscles, regardless of whether the umbilical cord has been cut, and regardless of whether the expulsion or extraction occurs as a result of natural or induced labor, cesarean section, or induced abortion.

(c) Nothing in this section shall be construed to affirm, deny, expand, or contract any legal status or legal right applicable to any member of the species homo sapiens at any point prior to being "born alive" as defined in this section.

Other Possibilities for Determining the Start of Life

We might start with when does life end. If death occurs when the heart stops, then we should probably say that life starts when the heart starts.

If we use the idea of brain death as the criterion for dying then the brain waves’ beginning would be the start of life. If we believe that death occurs when the brain waves in the cerebral cortex, where the higher human mental functions occur, cease to exist, then we would see life beginning around the 23rd week after conception. If we use the death of the total brain, including the brainstem, as the criterion for death, then the beginning of brain waves in the brainstem would be the beginning of life. This would occur around seven weeks after conception.

So, when does human life start?: At conception, at implantation, at ensoulment, when consciousness begins, or when reasoning ability begins-- as philosopher Immanuel Kant believed. There is certainly a continuum of beliefs, from conception to reasoning ability.

We will look at this in greater detail in later chapters.

We might ask whether a potential person has the same value as an existing person. In legal wrongful death cases, a father who is killed in an accident is worth much more money than his child who was killed in the same accident. The father was more valuable to his family, and to society.

What About Personhood?

Personhood is the status that has the pro- and anti-abortion groups arguing. When does it occur? When life starts? When meaningful life starts? When pregnancy begins? When the soul enters the body? When the newborn is recognized as a potentially useful citizen? When the adult actually becomes a useful citizen?

The Stoics and the Jews believed that it happened when the baby took its first breath.

We may well have different definitions of “life” or “meaningful life” and therefore different points along the continuum of human development at which our personal definition fits. But we must recognize that it is only an opinion and a definition—even though it may be written into law, or accepted by a religion as a profound belief or dogma.

Becoming an individual separate from one's parents is a key factor. This individualization may be seen as occurring by different people at: fertilization, implantation, when it is a separate person or twin sometime within the first 14 to 20 days of existence, when the heart begins to beat, when the central nervous system matures, when the fetus can first feel pain, when it first shows movement, when it is able to recognize people.

The word "person," as used in the Fourteenth Amendment, does not include the unborn. This is in accord with the results reached in those few cases where the issue has been decided in courts.

Ensoulment

Even though it is not always mentioned in the arguments against abortion, the Western idea of soul is implied, and usually assumed, by the pro-life people. Most are pro-human life. Some are pro-any animal life. Some members of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and Jains, an ancient Indian religion, whose followers do not eat meat, would be examples of people believing in a “soul” or “life force” that is similar in all of us “animals.”.

Western monotheistic religions are likely to believe that human life, or even personhood, begins when the soul enters the body. If the zygote, embryo, or fetus is a “person,” killing it would probably be called “murder.” Throughout history, this “ensoulment” has been believed to happen at different times, such as: at conception, when the fetus has developed human features, or when it is born and takes its first breath. Religions of the East, like Hinduism, Shinto, or Buddhism have quite different views.

Each of us tends to believe what our parents told us—and what is commonly believed in our society. So, our opinions and definitions are developed locally. They are not universal opinions shared by all people. And, of course, many people do not believe that such a thing as a soul exists.

In the arguments for and against abortion, the critical questions are: whether or not a soul exists—and if it does, when does it enter the body. To study the question in an historical context, we must look at the appropriate religious scriptures and at the philosophical arguments that lend credence to them-- or question them. Since today’s philosophers are more likely to be influenced by empirical science, that is facts or theories that are highly probable or “true,” we must return to the early days of philosophy when what seemed reasonable was accepted. This was the time that it was obvious that the Earth was flat and that the sun revolved around the Earth.

Since “personhood” and “soul” are concepts that cannot be proven, we must look to pre-scientific “rational” thinkers—like the Golden Age philosophers of Greece. Some of the ancient Greek writers thought that "soul" was a life force that was totally extinguished on death. This would be the position of today’s atheists. Other ancients thought that it was the entity which would live forever in the underworld. For those in the Western religions, it would be the entity that would live forever in Paradise or in Hell.

The word “soul” is generally used when translating the Greek term for the “life force” that causes growth in plants, sensation and movement in animals, and the ability to think rationally in humans. This is quite a different meaning than the current religious concept used in the West for the last 2000 years.

In a Western religious sense, “soul” is usually used to mean the essence or the image of God. In Genesis (1:26-27), it says, "So God created man in his own image." If we are to move a thousand or more years later, we find in the New Testament that God is spirit. (John 4:24) One might ask if we are being rational when we connect the first book of the Bible to the last of the gospel writers. There would be about 1300 years that had elapsed between the two authors. For those who believe that the Bible is “the inspired word of God,” it is not a problem. For those who see the Bible as a collection of writings illustrating historical, ethical, and often conflicting ideas about the Supernatural and Jewish history, they might be skeptical of the connection.

This semantic change tends to confuse those who think deeply. Aristotle did not mean that the soul was the image of God. This was a Biblical idea. He thought of it as the essence that gives life, then eventually, the ability to reason. For him, there were evolving levels of this life force.

As Christianity developed, it looked more and more to the various philosophies of ancient Greece to clarify the meaning of the Bible. Aristotle was the most far-reaching thinker of the Golden Age of Greece. Plato, his teacher, was probably second. Some of the early church fathers used Plato, as did St. Augustine. More often, it was Aristotle who was the chosen model. Thomas Aquinas, the leading theologian of the Christian (Catholic) Church used Aristotle almost exclusively in his works summing up Christian theology.

The definitions of soul, meaning life force, used in the translations of Aristotle, contain three different meanings of this life force. Humans first become like plants in early pregnancy and have the vegetative soul that is merely the factor in growth, reproduction, and nutrition. Later, the life force develops as in animals, and is the factor influencing perception and movement. The human life force develops about the time of movement of the fetus. This would be about 40 days after conception for males and 80 to 90 days after conception for females. This would be the “soul” that senses things. The last stage of soul, according to Aristotle, was the development of the ability to reason. Only humans have this. Christian thinkers, like Aquinas, felt that this was the "image of God" that the Bible had mentioned.

We will look at the writings of Aristotle for a few minutes. Aristotle’s ideas were fundamental to Christian (Catholic) ideas from the Middle Ages. His thinking became very important in the Middle Ages with both Christian and Muslim thinkers.  Towards the end of the Middle Ages, some Islamic writers downplayed the influence of Aristotle because his rationalism (using the power of human reasoning to direct one’s life) might result in a loss of faith.

In the mid-13th century, Thomas Aquinas, the leading Christian (Catholic) thinker, Christianized Aristotle. In his books, Summa Theologica, He continued the reasoning of Aristotle while applying it to Biblical teaching.

When the soul enters the body is a major question for some religions. The ideas in the Western religions generally begin with the writings of Aristotle from a few centuries before Jesus. He wrote, as we mentioned, that male babies received their souls about 40 days after conception, while females received theirs about 50 days later. He believed that females were inferior to males.

Pope Gregory XIV, in 1590, eased the prior papal decrees that would excommunicate any woman who had an abortion at any time, changing it to abortion only after the fetus was formed. In fact, aborting a female fetus prior to the 80th day of pregnancy could be acceptable as long as there was no soul yet infused. Others thought that because a fetus in the uterus does not have the ability to reason, that is, it does not have a rational soul, abortion could be possible. But Pope Pius IX in 1869, removed all doubt about when the soul was infused. It was at conception. 

Muslim thinking on ensoulment has ranged from the soul being infused at any time from 40 to 120 days. The Sunni belief is generally that no abortion should be allowed at any time.

Looking at the Hindu idea of the supernatural, all of the universe is God. Consequently, nothing can be created or destroyed.

SO, Let’s Look a Bit Deeper at the Assumptions and Facts That Confuse Us on This Question

In any controversial question, there are at least two sides to the story. People’s views on abortion often stem from their traditions. They might be religious. They might be financial. They might be the needs of a society. Thinking will start with a non-provable basic assumption as to which entity is primary—

  • Oneself,

  • What one believes that his or her God wants,

  • What is best for one’s ideas of what an ideal society should be.

Once that basic assumption is determined, empirical facts, strong opinions, and plausible theories must be brought into focus. We will still have disagreements because basic assumptions cannot be proven-- and facts, no matter how probable, will be countered with strong opinions. Which do I believe?

  • What I think the Bible says, or

  • The proven, or incredibly probable, theories of Darwin or Einstein.

With these thoughts in mind, let us look at the issue of abortion and how it may affect our societies—both pro and con.

All of the arguments about abortion, and most other value choices, deal with both values and the wider field of ethics. In the following chapters, we will look much deeper into the general area of ethics and the specific values choices that are possible with the issue of abortion. The two traditional positions—a woman’s right to choose and the religious idea that abortion is murder—are only two possibilities. And, they may not be the most important reasons that might be given.

As mentioned, our values come from three sources: self-centered values, what we believe are God based values, and what we believe are values for the best society. Obviously, in arguments used in the above paragraph, those women who wanted an abortion were in the self-centered value area, and those who were against abortion were in the God-based area.

In the Roe versus Wade case, the Supreme Court ruled for the self-centered desires as being primary for freedom. As you can see, making a better society has not been a reason for abortion in the US. However, some significant research indicates that the drop in crime 20 years after the Roe decision was the result of unwanted babies not being born.

Abortion was considered a social necessity in China 40 years ago. By adopting the “one child policy” and requiring abortions of additional pregnancies, the Chinese government reduced its population explosion. 400,000,000 fewer babies were born in China during the years of the one child policy. This allowed more money for the expansion of business and trade and more money for education. Some of the Chinese universities are now among the best in the world.

These basic reasons for choosing our values are considered to be "basic assumptions." "Basic" because they are at the rock-bottom level of our thinking on an issue, and "assumptions,” because they cannot really be proven to be true. We can’t empirically prove that a creating and all-knowing being exists. We can’t prove what type of society is best. Some philosophers of the past even doubted that we existed as bodies—they thought that we are merely ideas in the mind of God. But I assume that you will agree with me-- that we do exist as real bodies!

Self-centered assumptions.

We certainly assume that we exist, and there is good reason for it. In philosophy, this would be a belief in materialism or realism. Real objects exist. But there are some, including very important philosophers, usually in the past, who believed that ideas were the primary stuff of the universe. Bishop Berkeley, an Anglican bishop and one of the greatest thinkers of the past, made a very strong case for everything being idea. Of course, God would be the major idea. In fact, he made the case that we do not exist, we are all ideas in the mind of God. So, if philosophers like Berkeley are right, we can question the first basic assumption, that our desires are worthy of consideration. But I suggest that we forget thinkers like Berkeley and assume that our desires come from real people—like you and me.

God based assumptions.

While a great many people believe in some sort of a supernatural being, the characteristics of that being very considerably. And even when there are similarities in what that being is like, there are huge disagreements. There are several ideas of what that being is like. Today, the Christians, Muslims, Jews, and Baha'is believe in a theistic God. This God created the world and is involved in the world. It may or may not answer prayers. But it is, or should I say He is, the ultimate lawgiver and the all-powerful and all-knowing being that provides for heaven and hell in the afterlife.

A second type of God idea is the deistic being. This God created the world but is not concerned with what goes on in the world. So people who would believe in this type of God would not use God-based values or God-based assumptions. It was this type of being that many of the Founding Fathers subscribed to, like: Thomas Jefferson, George Washington, and Benjamin Franklin. There is no afterlife.

Another concept of a supernatural is the pantheistic god—the whole universe is god. The Hindu and related religions believe in this. The afterlife may be a series of reincarnations—and eventually when the person has lived a perfect life his essence will become an indistinguishable piece of the pantheistic whole.

Then there are the older, and often primitive beliefs, in polytheism. A god for the hunt, another for fertility, another for rain, and another for war. So, their beliefs were polytheistic. The afterlife can be in any number of pleasant environs, like a happy hunting ground.

The God based assumptions are much more complicated than the self-centered assumptions because there are so many ideas of supernaturals—and their varying powers and whims. Different religions have varying ideas of what the primary god or gods have done, what they require, and what their penchants for justice, mercy, or retribution may be.


Purchase this book or download sample versions for your ebook reader.
(Pages 1-23 show above.)