Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Is the fetus a "blob of tissue"?

anne cameron, a Bread n Roses regular, asked some interesting questions in my combox regarding the fetus.

I thought I’d use a blog post to answer her question—not to pick on her—but because the answer is longer than the typical comment. And some visuals might help.

“How is it every time you refer to a fetus you call it "him"? I very seriously doubt that at that early stage of development there is even a hint of a particular genitalia.

Is there any particular reason you call a blob "him"? Does the blob resemble some particular male in your family or your close circle of friends?


So why call a blob "he"? IT is a blob.”

There are many layers to this question.

First, let's get the most obvious errors out of the way.

A fetus is not a blob of tissue.

Below are some images of the fetus. Strictly speaking, an unborn child becomes a fetus at 8 weeks gestation. But human embryos are not "blobs of tissue" either.

5 weeks

7 weeks

8 weeks

10 weeks

As you can see, they are hardly "blobs". "Blobs" don't have anatomy. They don't have a cardiovascular system, a neurological system; they take in nutrients etc.

Human beings, with few exceptions, are endowed with either an XX chromosome or an XY chromosome. This is what determines the sex of the baby. Not the actual genitalia. In rare instances, that genitalia fails to develop properly. The fetus in question is not any less male or female.

As for the use of "him". I use a personal pronoun because I wish to emphasize that the fetus is not an "it", like a chair or a dog. The fetus is a human being. He merits a personal pronoun like any other human being. I choose the masculine because traditionally, that is the gender used for the universal, i.e. "all men are created equal".

It is also helpful to use a masculine pronoun to distinguish the fetus from the mother.

She writes:

Thousands of born children died today. They died of war, starvation, drought, disease, infection, and want.

What have you done for, or about, those thousands of children? Do you actively participate in anti-war demonstrations? Do you send $$ to help feed the starving? Do you work on behalf of refugee mothers and their suffering kids?

I do. All of the above. And I support the right of any woman to choose whether or not she will bring into an already overcrowded and very unwelcoming world, another child who well might suffer and be a victim of a capitalistic society which is systematically slaughtering off the poor people of the world.

The majority of which are female.

I chose to go into politics to help the marginal. I got involved to help the weak. The suffering and exploitation of children upsets me. But this is precisely why I choose to defend the unborn. Just because you choose to defend one cause for children doesn't mean you are opposed or insensitive to other causes.

The cause of children has many defenders in this world, and they have powerful people backing them. The dead bodies of children, their crying, the fact that we can all relate to being a child are all things that make people more ready to help them.

But the unborn do not cry. Their dead bodies are hidden from view. Nobody remembers being an unborn child. Their lives are completely dismissed.

And that's why I choose to defend that cause-- the cause of the most vulnerable people in our society. Because if I don't do it, not many other people will.

The world is not overcrowded. We are perfectly capable of feeding the world.

I do grant that it can be very unwelcoming. Beginning with the contraceptive mentality, which labels a child a burden, not a blessing. When a new human being is not loved in the womb, it's not surprising that that attitude projects itself onto other human beings. When you're ready to kill human beings, you're not ready to help them. That's what makes the culture of death so frightening. When some human life is deemed a burden, then there develops a sort of "means-testing" for who should live and who should be killed or left to die. If the unborn can be killed in the name of convenience, why not the "vegetable" in the hospital bed? And if the "vegetable" in the hospital bed is deemed killable, why not the profoundly disabled?

And so on and so forth.

Sustaining human life requires effort. Of course it's easier to allow abortion, euthanasia and various kinds of killing. But that's the point. It's done in the name of convenience. The value of human life is no longer absolute. The dignity of the person is no longer the standard by which we judge what's right and wrong. Other things of lesser value come into play, so that we're able to rationalize killing.

We have designed the notion of "personhood" to make killing acceptable. Biologically speaking, all human life begins in the womb. That's obvious. But to make sure that some killing is allowed, some human beings are deemed persons, and some are not.

Some humans have rights, and some humans don't.

That's the history of oppression right there.

And that's the form of oppression that I have chosen to fight.

And about the poor people of the world.

Our enlightened western society is keen to bring abortion to the rest of the benighted unwashed masses so that the unborn can be more easily killed. In the name of "female empowerment", the abortion lobby is trying to allow for unborn *citizens* of Latin American countries to be killed.

Because it is oh-so-important that they kill their offspring, and their wants not be a burden on the rest of the world. Because the wants of the poor are a threat to the riches of the wealthy.

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