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Page history last edited by PBworks 14 years, 10 months ago

RhetoricAndComposition > SectionSixtySeven > YourBlogs > FreeSpeech > FreeFinalDefinition

There is a great debate going on about the reproductive rights of women versus the fundamental human rights of unborn children. Advocates of the former, who are generally left wing politically, claim the title “pro-choice.” The latter, more conservative group assumes the name “pro-life.” This title alone is sensational; nearly all rational people are “pro-life.” The label, of course, refers to the claim that an unborn child is alive. For many, a problem arises here being how one defines human life, and how this definition can be applied in the law according to the constitution. Before any legal decision is made in this matter, a concise definition should be established that can be practically applied to law and society.


The bible mentions the start of life several times, once in the book of psalms Psalms , where King David claims that God knew him while he was in his mother’s womb. A similar situation occurs in Jeremiah, where he describes his life in the womb. Examples seem to show the idea of life starting at conception pretty clearly. God created King David and Jeremiah at the time of conception and therefore obviously considered him life. However, we are referring to how life pertains to American law, not God’s law. The constitution of the United Stated clearly defines a separation between church and state. Thus the idea of birth at conception given by the bible or any other holy book is not relevant and is not what we are looking for.

But if that's true, then why bring up biblical references in the first place? Maybe there's a deeper debate going on, namely whether political secularism should be maintained!


Life is defined in Webster’s Online Dictionary first as the quality that distinguishes a vital and functional being from a dead body. This definition does little to create a final rigorous definition, but it gives us a starting viewpoint; the child must not be dead in order to be considered alive. ?? This is somewhat common sense, but nonetheless important. It says that an unborn child is has life simply because it is not dead. Although this is a more than acceptable truth, it is too vague for the purposes of this debate. A statement of “and is not dead” in a definition of life would be completely arbitrary. What we're after, I suppose, is saying when life begins; though I wonder how gettting clear on that solves the issue at hand. How does establishing that something is or isn't alive solve the abortion debate?


A later definition in the Webster’s Online Dictionary entry on life, however, is more specific in the manner of how the organism is alive instead of the fact that it merely is. It reads: “an organismic state characterized by capacity for metabolism, growth, reaction to stimuli, and reproduction.” This creates the supposition that the organism can act on its own. In a way, this disqualifies our example of a fetus, or at the very least, an embryo. So, you're claiming that a fetus isn't alive in the relevant way. Why draw the line here? Just saying the dictionary says so isn't going to be persuasive! In most cases, these things cannot metabolize, grow, react to stimuli, or certainly not reproduce without a host or womb. However, there is a time in the development of a child, around 28 weeks after conception, when a baby is very often able to survive with treatment from modern medicine. After this point, somewhere in the third trimester, a baby can survive by itself. It fulfills all the required attributes for this definition. Clearly, a clause “can metabolize, grow, or react to stimuli on its own or with proper provided healthcare” must be included in a proper definition. Of course, 28 weeks is a general, hypothetical guideline. Babies have been born successfully before that point, and most are born much later. Whether a fetus can be considered alive by this time must be considered at great length by a medical professional, someone who could give a medical opinion on the child’s potential for life independent of the womb.


Notice how you're no longer arguing for a definition, but taking one from a dictionary and applying it. But surely, if it were that simple, then there'd be little debate.


What is important about the specificity of the above clause is that the organism in question has the potential to survive on its own. After all, a tumor can grow, metabolize, and often react to stimuli. However, without a host, such a thing cannot persist, and certainly is not alive, much less human life. On the other end of situations, this definition is expanded to include coma patients. These people can, with the proper healthcare, metabolize, grow, and potentially react to stimuli. Notice also that this does not include any kind of specification on where the child is when it starts independent living. A child may not yet be born for it to be alive. This is important because at this point, the child is very much alive and any time after potential growth independent of a womb. After this time, a termination would be murder by legal definition.


The bolded claim is an enthymeme. The hidden assumption is that ending a life is equivalent to murder, but that's not true. The law allows for executions, for example.


Given all these reasons, I shall define human life for legal purposes as follows:

“The quality belonging to all human beings, involving any potential for metabolism, growth, and reaction to stimuli independent of living host, including life supported by modern healthcare. This quality is a matter of medical opinion by a qualified doctor or medical professional after a thorough examination, and is regardless of whether said organism is born of a mother or similar human host.”

It's not entirely clear that you've argued for a definition; though, you've certainly utilized a dictionary source.

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