New Page -- 9 September 2005
If "Pro Life Choice" sounds a bit confusing, it's probably due to the fact that the abortion issue is complicated by its own form of confusion. And while the various extreme factions on both sides of the issue might be enthusiastically striving for a much more simplistic viewpoint, the reality exists that there are inevitably some deeper issues underlying those positions. The typical extremist positions -- if the truth be told -- are better suited as "sound bites" rather than intelligent arguments or rational discussions.
For our purposes, Pro Life Choice can be defined as choosing life for its best and highest potential. It is a combination of being much in favor of life in all of its forms, but also insisting upon the highest quality of life and the highest possible good that might derive from having lived. Pro LIfe Choice is also an attempt -- possibly a vain one -- to rationalize the discussion concerning the pros and cons of abortion. To do this, it might behoove us to go back to the very basics.
A fundamental flaw (pardon the pun) in the arguments of when life begins is that life does not begin with conception, birth, some point in between, or when the kids move away and the dog and the cat die. Life has been there in a continuous stream since it began a long time ago (perhaps in a distant galaxy far, far away?). Life has been there either by supernatural (and/or divine) intervention, extraterrestrial intervention, intelligent design, intelligent major foul up, or by the random chance combining of just the right chemical compounds (known in scientific technical circles as the theory of "Is it soup yet?").
For the moment, the reader can choose whichever option is more probable, preferable, or sufficient to allow one to cause great consternation with one's spouse, parents, or enemy of choice. One can also choose the time scale for the creation of life -- which currently ranges from roughly four thousand years to some where in the neighborhood of fifteen billion years.
No matter the choices, the point to be made is that life is a continuation. As John Majka  has pointed out, human eggs and human sperm come from live humans, are themselves alive in the strictest sense of the word, and will produce a live human embryo. "If either is dead, no viable embryo is produced." Life didn't just begin; it's been around for a long time now!
Accordingly, the acrimonious abortion debate is not about when life begins, per se. It's about when human life begins! This fact may be understood by the proponents on either side as an unstated assumption or underlying paradigm, but sliding on by it tends to avoid a critical issue or two. Thus, it might be worth stating the assumption and thereby establishing a bit more clearly just what the abortion argument is all about.
If, for example, we make it a point to talk in terms of aborting a human life, then the essential question becomes: What exactly constitutes "human life"? This question is considerably more than when does human life begin. This is more on the order of what makes one form of life human and another not? In other words, what does it mean to be human? (Other than to err.)
The average dictionary artfully dodges the issue by defining human as: "of or belonging to the genus Homo."  That doesn't exactly tell us a lot concerning the characteristics of being human. Meanwhile, science would assume that humans are those who can be qualifed as Homo sapiens sapiens. Is this helpful? Well, maybe.
The word sapiens derives from sapient, which in turn is defined as "wise, aping wisdom; of fancied sagacity." Sagacity is, of course, not from the blockbuster movie, Saga City, but implies instead mentally penetrating, gifted discernment; practical wisdom, or even shrewd thinking. When applied to an animal, it suggests "exceptionally intelligent; seeming to reason or deliberate." 
Hmmmmm... As we reason or deliberate on this concept, we might also note that our same dictionary defines a human being as "any man or woman or child of the species Homo sapiens."  This may actually give us a couple of clues.
One: All of the wise, wisdom, shrewd aspects associated with being a human imply intelligence, thinking, and/or consciousness. Such an association doesn't necessarily bode well for a human fetus in terms of its claim to be a human being. Not just yet, at any rate. (Of course, it doesn't bode well for the average talk show host either.)
Two: The distinction between an animal and a human is allegedly the intelligence level. The fact that there are pigs with more social graces than some politicians confuses the matter somewhat, but not irretrievably. We can, for our porpoises... purposes... oh darn! Well, there goes that argument!
But maybe not. It's becoming ever more apparent that animals, foul, fish, and so forth have some form of intelligence. The question is whether or not the non-human species have consciousness, or more pointedly, awareness of self. We're not just talking ego here, but rather some sense of these animals, foul, fish, and so forth being animal, foul, fish, and/or a combination. Take a particular love bird, for example, who has periodically showed moral outrage at being left alone for a week or two by biting with a vengeance the hand that feeds her. Is there something there beyond mere instinct?
Almost certainly. As the essay on Cats, Dogs, and other Deities might suggest, the animals appear to have an intelligent which -- while different from humans -- is not necessarily inferior. The same might be said of carrots which have little to say on the subject -- but mostly because of a lack of lips, vocal cords, and so forth.
The point of this slight tangent is that intelligence, consciousness, and so forth is unlikely to provide the distinguishing characteristic between human and non-human forms of life. Accordingly, if we can slaughter and eat other forms of life -- pretty much without any compunction about ending their lives -- then we will need something pretty nifty as the distinguishing mark between Homo sapiens and other species to say that we mustn't end one form of life, but its okay to end another. And this same nifty response will need to be somewhat more rational than it's okay to kill foreigners, but not one's own kin.
The"nifty" response we are perhaps searching for, of course, is that a human has soul. Of course, that same human may also have blues, blue grass, rap, and whatever.
On a slightly loftier scheme, there is -- allegedly -- the human soul, i.e., "the spiritual or immaterial part of a human being, often regarded as immortal."  While the definition of human also includes "mortal", the soul apparently is well able to transcend the human physical form and continue merrily along, with or without the human's physical body. The body may die, but not the soul.
It follows that abortion does not kill an innocent soul, even though it might stop a beating heart. That is to say, stop a beating heart in much the same way as slaughtering a pig or blowing a rabbit's brains out with a 12 guage shotgun.
[Who is to say, by the way, that the rabbit does not have a soul? Perhaps a furry one, but a soul nonetheless. Has anyone asked? Is Elmer Fudd a murderer?]
Actually there is no way with certainty to conclude that we do in fact have souls. This is because we are now entering the arena of religious beliefs, faith, and philosophical leanings. The matter becomes moot. Except possibly...
For the moment, let us assume that the only thing that really separates a human being from an animal, foul, fish, dingbat, or reptile -- besides an allegedly higher level of wisdom, intelligence, and shrewdness (like how to believe that we're special and they're not) -- is the possession of a soul. All of the other stuff is varying degrees of... well, stuff. But the soul idea could be the long sought after black and white, dualistic answer, a yes or a no -- the sort of thing upon which computers and a fair number of people thrive.
If we then assume that our human souls are immortal -- or at the very least independent of their physical bodies -- then the destruction of a physical body in the embryo stage does not result in the destruction of the soul. We're simply destroying a potential life vehicle, converting the life form into other less complicated life forms. And if we can slaughter animals for food, sport, entertainment, and chicken fodder, then life in and of itself is clearly not the issue. Of course, by that token the destruction of a physical body in the human child or adult form would also not result in the destruction of a soul.
The concern, instead, becomes the thwarting or elimination of the ability of a soul to do its thing in human form. It's the right of the soul, perhaps, to have a vehicle for its next incarnation so that it can procede with whatever divine plans it has for the expected life. Taking away that physical vehicle via abortion and/or murder is thus infringing upon that soul's rights with respect to its next incarnation.
However, if a soul misses the first taxi, surely there will be another along shortly. In other words if reincarnation is reality -- even marginally so -- a soul can always find another incoming human body the use of which the soul can do its thing. In this reckoning, the act of abortion is thus vaguely equivalent to someone stealing the taxi you've been waiting for. There is the distinction that (hopefully) you have not been waiting months for the taxi -- as in the development of an embryo -- but nevertheless there is no killing or the ending of life.
Strange as it seems, there is no death. There are a lot of vehicles being scrapped: some after substantial mileage, and some having never been taken out of the garage. As Benjamin Franklin is reputed to have observed in his famous epitaph, written when he was only twenty-two years old:
While Dr. Franklin may for obvious reasons have likened the physical body to a book edition, the point remains that despite his not living in our modern technological age, he still believed in the concept of a soul making numerous forays into being a human. It then follows that the lifetime of any such vehicle -- of edition -- is not all that relevant.
This argument, of course, assumes a philosophical basis, i.e. that of reincarnation. If reincarnation is not valid as a part of reality, if we only go around in life once, then the destruction of a life vehicle may have somewhat more serious consequences -- like missing the last taxi out of town such that you're now about to miss your flight into the heavens... so to speak.
But then... aren't new born babies given special license for entry into heaven with or without their having lived the sought after righteous life? Better yet, if one assumes the religious belief or faith that embryos are equivalent to babies, then logically, such embryos would also be given the same special license. The fact that many extremists would not condone such logic -- logic being diametrically opposed to faith -- suggests that this might never be used in an argument of this nature. Especially if one has no interest in the truth, honesty, or the wisdom implied in being human.
Of course, religious faith being fundamentally anathema to life, one rather suspects that such faith never be considered as a basis for making any life and death decision. Better to forget the taxi, buy a car, and thereafter leave and arrive when you choose. If the world is a stage, then make your entries and exits whenever you like. It may confuse some of the other actors, but such intrusions may be what life's all about.
In conclusion, one might strongly suspect that with regard the abortion there are no conclusions to be drawn -- at least hard and fast ones, or worthy of being cast in stone, bronze, or silly putty. One can always return to the quality of life argument, but if this same argument were applied to the human condition worldwide...
Perhaps in the end we simply have to accept that the immortality of the soul and the soul's ability to choose its own destiny (including death as an embryo, an old fart, or anything in between) makes almost everything else just stuff. In effect, there is no death, there is no hell (other than that temporarily sponsored by extremists on both sides of any argument), and there is no Easter Bunny. Well... maybe the furry one's a possibility. Provided of course it did not meet its maker prematurely in order for some human to find out whether or not it's pregnant.
 John Majka, "Life Before Birth", letter to the editor, Invention & Technology Magazine, Spring 2005, Volume 20, Number 4.
 Reader's Digest Oxford Complete Wordfinder, The Readers' Digest Association, Pleasantville, New York, 1996.
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