Instigator / Pro

Abortion should, in most cases, be illegal.


The debate is finished. The distribution of the voting points and the winner are presented below.

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After 9 votes and with 27 points ahead, the winner is...

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Contender / Con

I hold that abortion should always be illegal except for in those rare cases when an abortion is the only way to save a mother's life and the child cannot be saved.

1. forfeit=autoloss
2. no new arguments shall be produced by either side in the final rounds.

Round 1
My case will be made up of a two-pronged argument. One scientific and one philosophical.

First is the scientific prong.

the eight characteristics of life

It is a scientific fact that life begins at conception. Life is defined in biology as anything that fulfills eight requirements. These requirements are as follows

1. displays cellular organization. From the moment of conception, a human child is made of at least one cell. This requirement is fulfilled.
2. Maintains Homeostasis. Homeostasis means that a living thing maintains a constant internal environment that keeps it alive. a human embryo performs operations such as waste removal, transforming energy, and taking in nutrients from outside of the cell through constructs such as the sodium-potassium pump. This requirement is fulfilled.
3. grows and develops. It is an obvious truism that a human embryo grows and develops and begins to do so from the moment of conception. This requirement is fulfilled.
4. Displays metabolism. Metabolism is converting fuel (like food) into energy. From the moment of conception, a human child displays metabolism. This requirement is fulfilled.
5. Displays heredity. From the moment of conception, the first cell (the zygote) has the capacity to divide into more cells and pass a copy of its DNA onto those other cells. This condition is fulfilled.
6. Responds to the environment. The zygote will perform tasks such as pulling nutrients into itself through active transport and maintaining an internal environment responding to any change therein. This condition is fulfilled.
7. Adaptation through evolution. As a member of the human species, the zygote is subject to prior evolution. And, if not killed, will contribute to evolution through reproduction. this requirement is fulfilled.
8. Can reproduce. It is an obvious truism that the zygote can reproduce. dividing into more cells in order to develop into a fully formed baby. 

as we can see, from the moment of conception a zygote fulfills every single one of the characteristics of life and is therefore alive.

the humanity of the zygote

The next question that needs to be answered is whether or not the zygote is indeed human. When the two haploid (containing 23 chromosomes) cells (sperm and egg cells) come together during fertilization the diploid (containing 46 chromosomes) is formed. This diploid zygote contains a complete copy of the human genome. Thus making the zygote human. Note that the zygote's copy of the human genome is genetically distinct from both the mother and the father and is the same set of DNA that they will carry for their entire lives. 

I have therefore proven that a human child, from the moment of conception, is a living human being.

My body my choice

One of the more infamous arguments from the pro-choice crowd is that a fetus is a part of a woman's body and can, therefore, be killed at will. This argument displays basic scientific illiteracy. Only two types of things can be biological parts of your body. 1. Things made of cells that contain your DNA, or 2. Things made of cells that contain NO DNA such as hair for example. Nothing can be a part of your body that contains DNA distinct from your own. a baby from the moment of conception, as I've already proven, is genetically distinct from both the mother and the father this argument can be shown to be scientifically invalid.

the philosophical prong

the personhood of the child

After being forced to retreat on the scientific front, many pro-choicers will attempt to hide behind the following statement: "Well, the fetus may be a human being, but they're not a human person."

This is a purely philosophical contention that needs to be defined further. This statement raises the question: When is personhood conferred? Birth? Is personhood then based on geographical location? Nothing changed between those few inches of movement through the birth canal. Why then has personhood been conferred? Since most people find it unpalatable to argue in favor of abortion up to point of birth, a more common line is drawn at a heartbeat. The problem with this is that this trait can be removed. Not every adult has a heartbeat of their own. Can I stab Granny because she has a pacemaker? I sure hope not. Is the line drawn at sapience? What does that say about those born with cognitive defects and no sapience to speak of? can I stab them? I sure hope not. Or what about people who fall into a coma and have their sapience removed. We aren't allowed to kill them. Why is a fetus different? I could go on and on. The point is that wherever you draw the line (except for at conception or birth) you create an inconsistency wherein we should be able to kill adults who don't meet this criterion for personhood. If you tie moral value to a heartbeat then I should be able to stab pacemaker granny because she has no intrinsic value.

the rights of man

As Thomas Jefferson famously and eloquently put it "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness." The Enlightenment gave us the idea that each individual has inherent worth and is therefore entitled to certain rights. The most critical and primal right that all humans are entitled to is that of life. To strip away the right of the human being who is growing in their mother's womb, to violently dismember them and snuff out their life constitutes a gross violation of these intrinsic, inalienable rights. These rights exist only if they are inviolable. If they don't exist for a fetus, then they don't exist. Period.

To wrap up this first argument I would like to say that the question of whether or not abortion should be legal is a very simple one that all too often becomes overcomplicated in political discourse. The dichotomy is self-evident, inherent in the philosophy of our society, and overwhelmingly simple. Either the fetus is human. Or, it isn't. If it's not, then removing it up to the point of birth should be no more morally problematic than extracting a tooth or a tumor. But if it is, then killing that child constitutes a heinous act of evil that infringes upon the most fundamental of the rights of man.

Please vote pro.


Campbell Biology: 11th edition. (The beginning of life of a new human being from the scientific biological perspective and its bioethical implications Patricio Ventura-Juncá and Manuel J. Santos)


The Eight Characteristics of life, The humanity of the Zygote

I have no intentions of rebutting whether a fetus has the characteristics of life or humanity. The Fetus being alive or not has no effect on my argument. I shall combine these two for the sake of simplicity.

My Body my Choice

My opponent's main argument here seems to be that since the fetus carries traits from both the mother and father, the mother seems to have no say in the matter of what happens with her body. This is not an argument however. To say that a woman doesn't have a say over what happens with her body simply because a fetus carries traits of both parents, it not an argument. Even if the cells have nothing to do with the mother or the father, the right for a woman to decide what happens inside her body, should be solely her own. My opponents argument doesn't show why legally a woman shouldn't have a say in this.

The personhood of the child

Establishing what "person-hood" is, Is pretty standardized. When the human being takes physical form, is the current standard, and for good reason. The mother had 9 months to make the choice to abort the fetus, which is plenty of allotted time to make such a decision. Once the infant is born, it can now make formative memories, can become an individual. Technically the first year of birth is similar to many of the later months in the womb, however for the sake of standardizing rule-sets, it makes most sense to keep abortion in the legal realm of pregnancy, both for simplicity, and for the best subjective moral understanding of the situation. What we establish to be person-hood is widely subjective, however a fetus that does not have formative memories cannot be argued to be a person.

the rights of man

The best argument to this, is that rights simply don't apply to unborn infants. Not that humans shouldn't have rights, but they should be reserved for the physically born humans that have formative memories and the ability to grow and adapt. Rights shouldn't yet apply to the unborn fetus. 


Valuing subjective morality, we can easily choose what makes more logical sense to apply morality to, and what doesn't make sense. In this instance, it makes no more sense to apply rights to an unborn child than it does to assign rights to the veal we eat, or any other animal we choose doesn't deserve the same value of life as the unborn fetus, (much like we don't value the lives of pets the same as we do the life of a human). If you dog were to bite another human, there is a very good chance it would be put down. If your 5 year old child bit someone, nothing would happen. How then can we apply morals to one species differently than we can another? Truth is, we apply it subjectively. Society works best when a child isn't treated as being human until it has formed a physical formative being, and thus abortion should be legal in the same way we can put down a pet for biting someone (with potentially the best intentions). If morality can be subjectively applied in certain instances, it should be applied equally across the board. I await my opponents response. 
Round 2
Life and humanity of a fetus
My opponent concedes this point.

my body my choice
My opponent completely ignores and does not disprove my point that the child is scientifically NOT a part of the mother's body. He just says that a woman should have control over her body. Remember that I said that nothing can be a biological part of your body that has DNA distinct from your own. A child in the womb has distinct DNA and therefore is scientifically barred from being considered a part of the mother's body. My opponent didn't refute that at all.


Establishing what "person-hood" is, Is pretty standardized. When the human being takes physical form, is the current standard, and for good reason.
But you already conceded that human life "takes physical form" at conception. You said:

I have no intentions of rebutting whether a fetus has the characteristics of life or humanity. 
He then goes on to say that a fetus with no formative memories cannot be considered a person. 

1. I reject that notion entirely and he still hasn't explained why memories are what confers moral personhood.
2. I can apply the same logical conundrum that I described in my first post like this: there are people who are born with severe cognitive defects and can't properly create formative memories. Can I stab them? what of people who suffer severe traumatic brain injuries and get retrograde amnesia and lose all of their formative memories? can I stab them in the short time before they create new ones? Children cannot form lasting long term memories for a long time after birth. Certainly not "formative" memories. does that mean I can stab newborn babies? I sure hope not. You see how con has created a logical inconsistency wherein by his own framework for personhood we should be able to "abort" newborn babies, amnesia victims, and the cognitively impaired.

I also reject the notion that science and morality should be governed by "simplicity" as my opponent seems to suggest. I also can't say that I understand why it would be simpler to subjectify personhood making it conferred differently at different times for different people instead of just saying that all human lives have moral worth as personhood is conferred at birth along with membership in the Human Race.

The Rights of Man

The best argument to this, is that rights simply don't apply to unborn infants. Not that humans shouldn't have rights, but they should be reserved for the physically born humans that have formative memories and the ability to grow and adapt. Rights shouldn't yet apply to the unborn fetus. 

Why? If you're going to argue that there exists human life that is unworthy of human rights then you need to explain why that human life should be denied their rights. Moreover, by alienating unalienable rights you have effectively wiped them from existence. If an unborn human can have their rights denied by the State, then so can you. If human rights are natural as the European Liberal Tradition suggests, then all human beings are entitled to those rights from the start of their existence to the end. If those rights come into being only when government or society is willing to confer them, then they aren't natural. And what Man giveth, Man can taketh away. 


Natural rights exist only if morality is objective. If morality is subjective then rights exist at the pleasure of government and can be revoked at any time. If rights can be denied to one group of people born or unborn, then they don't exist for anyone. My opponent has failed to refute any of my scientific points and has been unable to set up a consistent and logically viable standard for personhood.

I am so sorry to my opponent, but I am going to have to forfeit this debate. I keep forgetting that I have accepted this debate, and submitted a rather poor first argument last minute, and now I have waited til last minute again, and I have worked a double at work and simply won't have the time to write a coherent argument. I had read my opponents other debate on abortion initially and was excited and had arguments prepared mentally, just not enough time/interest to type them out. I apologize for wasting my opponents time, and wish him good luck debating someone else on this topic who has a bit more free time for debating. 
Round 3
I accept my opponents forfeit.
Vote patmos!