Instigator / Pro

Is abortion murder from the point of conception?


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This debate will cover all stages of pregnancy but will not cover cases of rape, the removal of ectopic pregnancies, or abortions performed to save the life of the mother. It will also not cover legality. Murder will be defined here in the moral sense. The burden of proof is shared.

Round 1
I would like to thank all of you for reading this debate. I also encourage you to vote afterwards.

In this debate, I will attempt to emphasize one central point: that killing a baby is a bad thing. Perhaps I will have more difficulty than I  expect in establishing this point, as the killing of babies is often convenient to justify. I expect we will hear many arguments that justify murder for the purpose of economic convenience. I expect I we will also see babies and human beings referred to as something other than babies and human beings. But if we are to discuss abortion, it should be defined in simple terms, and abortion is best defined as killing a baby. When a woman goes to a clinic for an abortion, the doctor's job is to kill the baby, and if the baby is somehow alive by the end of the procedure, an abortion has not been performed.

Therefore, I hold that abortion constitutes the killing of an innocent human being. But when do human beings become human beings? The pro-choice camp does not provide us with a singular answer, but science does. In Essentials of Human Embryology, Keith Moore writes the following [1]:

Human development begins after the union of male and female gametes or germ cells during a process known as fertilization (conception). Fertilization is a sequence of events that begins with the contact of a sperm (spermatozoon) with a secondary oocyte (ovum) and ends with the fusion of their pronuclei (the haploid nuclei of the sperm and ovum) and the mingling of their chromosomes to form a new cell. This fertilized ovum, known as a zygote, is a large diploid cell that is the beginning, or primordium, of a human being.

In Medical Embryology, Jan Langman writes:

The development of a human being begins with fertilization, a process by which two highly specialized cells, the spermatozoon from the male and the oocyte from the female, unite to give rise to a new organism, the zygote.

Note that the aforementioned zygote has its own unique human DNA. A Japanese zygote implanted in a Ukranian woman will always be Japanese, not Ukranian, because the identity of a fetus is based on his or her genetic code, not that of the body they occupy. Furthermore, if the woman’s body is the only one involved in a pregnancy, then for most of the pregnancy, she must have two brains, two circulatory systems, two noses, four legs, two sets of fingerprints, and two skeletal systems. Half the time she must also have male sex organs. To deny that abortion is killing a baby, my opponent must reject the overwhelming scientific consensus that life begins at conception, agreed on by 95% of biologists [2].

The most common method of abortion involves sucking the fetus out of the womb with a vacuum hose [3]. Another common method, known as D&E, involves ripping the baby's limbs off and removing them from the womb one body part at a time [4] [5]. Dr. Martin Haskell, an abortionist, states the following [6]:

The more common late-term abortion methods are the classic D&E and induction. [Induction] usually involves injecting digoxin or another substance into the fetal heart to kill it, then dilating the cervix and inducing labor...Classic D&E is accomplished by dismembering the fetus inside the uterus with instruments and removing the pieces through an adequately dilated cervix.

To argue that abortion is not killing an innocent human being, also known as murder, my opponent must establish that an unborn child is not human, that an unborn child is not innocent, or that abortion does not involve killing an unborn child.
It is universally understood that murdering babies is wrong. That’s not being contested at all. 

The question that remains is whether or not abortion is murder.

The Definition of Murder
The description refers to murder in the moral sense, not in the legal sense and that’s where the lines get blurred because morals differ by culture. Since Pro doesn’t define which version, that raises questions.: 
  1. How does the moral version differ from the legal version? 
  2. Are we extending the moral version to include stepping on an ant-hill as an act of genocide? 
Even if the wording differs, the concept of murder in legality is semantically the same even in a moral context. The only difference being in whose life has value and whose does not. 

Murder - The crime of unlawfully killing a person especially with malice aforethought.

I’ll propose this definition be used for now, unless Pro wishes to contest it with a superior one. 

The Concept of Life
Pro mentions that life begins at fertilization which is backed by the support of 80% of scientists. That is too overwhelming to refute. 

But then rises the question, alive in what way? 
Skin cells are alive and you kill them everyday. Are you guilty of murder? 

The answer to the major question is that the term ‘life’ is misleading. Fetuses are alive in the same concept of cells, not sentient creatures.

  • They behave like cells, not like organisms.

Round 2
Most of the arguments from my opening remain unchallenged, but my opponent does get a few things wrong, so I will dedicate this round to clearing them up.

First, I find it odd that my opponent agrees on using the moral definition of murder and then uses the legal one anyway. This definition doesn't necessarily even help their case because abortion is legally classified as murder in some places. Killing slaves used to be legal. Legality does not impact whether something is moral or not, so a moral definition should not depend on the law and change from one country to another. Therefore, I think we can reject my opponent's definition as self-contradictory.

A better definition will define murder as killing an innocent human being, regardless of immutable characteristics such as sex, race, sexual orientation, etc. My opponent has not contested that abortion fits this description, and so far, it's clearly the superior definition used in this debate. My opponent asks how the unborn child is alive, which I already answered in my opening; the unborn child has a distinct set of DNA. A skin cell has the same DNA as whoever it belongs to, proving that it is part of that person's body and not a separate organism. We know that an unborn child is a distinct organism and that they are biologically human. Because an unborn child is a human being, killing them is wrong.

Cells are parts of organisms or organisms themselves [1]. Different organisms have distinct DNA [2]. Because the cells that compose an unborn child have distinct DNA, they compose a distinct organism. So when my opponent says that unborn children do not behave like organisms, he is providing you with false information. What remains unchallenged is that the life of an individual human being begins at conception, as agreed on by 95% of biologists [3]. A skin cell is not an individual human being, making that comparison immaterial.

A baby is a young child, or a human at an early stage of development. Because we agree that killing babies is wrong (and murder, too, as I think my opponent conceded) the scientific evidence resolves the question posed in this debate. Abortion involves killing an innocent human being, and it is therefore murder from the point of conception. Again, this definition is clearly preferable to the one presented by my opponent, as well as the most morally equitable.

Therefore, as I stated earlier, my opponent must establish that an unborn child is not human, that an unborn child is not innocent, or that abortion does not involve killing an unborn child. In his first round, he established none of these things. Again, abortion involves ripping a baby's limbs off, which is obviously murder. It's very telling that my opponent ignores most of the scientific evidence in my opening and tries to obfuscate the issue. It's clear he's made a few biological claims that are patently false. So, while my opponent has failed to meet his burden of proof, the scientific evidence presented has made it pretty clear that abortion is murder from the point of conception.

I believe Pro’s definition should be disregarded, as it’s harmful to the spirit of the debate. Defining murder by morals is misleading because morals are inconsistent. 

Here is where I agree with Pro, that conception is the beginning of life. But it’s not life in the conventional sense. The fetus at this point has more in common with a cell than a fully grown human being or even a newborn. It hasn’t advanced to the point that we can refer to it as a ‘person.’

Sentience doesn’t start until the 18th week of the pregnancy and the abortion time-limit has expired by this point, meaning doctors won’t perform the procedure. 

Human consciousness is completely non-existent within the early stages of a pregnancy and the only time an abortion is allowed.
Round 3
I defined murder is accordance with the description of this debate, which states, "This debate...will also not cover legality. Murder will be defined here in the moral sense. The burden of proof is shared." I'm not sure how my opponent reads that and decides that a legal definition fits the spirit of this debate more than a moral one. Laws are more inconsistent than morality, because moral statements are true ("Slavery is wrong") or false ("Genocide is good") whether or not we believe them.

I agree that an unborn child is at a different stage of development than a grown adult, but this does not help my opponent's case. Infants haven't developed for as long as adults, but killing them is still murder. In fact, most people would save an infant rather than an adult because they have more of their life ahead of them.

Abortion legality varies by location, and it's not always as restricted as my opponent claims, but legality isn't relevant to this debate so I don't see a need to argue that point. My opponent appeals to human consciousness now as a standard for moral worth, which is quite different from their earlier definition based on legality. It seems that if it were legal to kill a conscious being, they should not consider this murder, based on their earlier definition.

But consciousness is not a good indicator either because grown adults in comas aren't conscious, and killing them is still murder. So I fail to see why unborn children not being conscious is a good reason to murder them.

I think I've made my case quite clear. My opponent's arguments are both contradictory and scientifically inaccurate. My opponent has failed to establish that an unborn child is not human, that an unborn child is not innocent, or that abortion does not involve killing an unborn child. Because my definition is more accurate and fits this debate better, that pretty much settles the resolution in my favor.

During the earliest stages of development, a fetus is on autopilot. It is not unconscious, it is pre-conscious. This means its consciousness does not exist. 
There is no sentience or autonomy. 

Defining 'murder' in the moral sense is both unclear and entirely subjective. But even if we were to define abortion as murder at this stage, then to be morally consistent, we'd have to consider every human being a murderer because they kill skin-cells every day. 

But consciousness is not a good indicator either because grown adults in comas aren't conscious, and killing them is still murder
Coma patients are unconscious. 

  • If the coma patient demonstrates a possibility for recovery, then terminating their life could be seen as murder. Because the patient was sentient before their unresponsive state and had intended to live for longer, and did not give pre-consent to having their life ended. It’s also likely they weren’t put into a coma voluntarily and after waking up, they will still want to live on. 
  • If the head trauma for a coma patient makes the damage irreparable and the life beyond saving, then euthanizing them makes no difference anyway. 
The fetus during conception does not process thought, emotion, or demonstrate the capacity for intention. So the comparison to a coma patient is moot anyway. 

Round 4
My opponent really doesn't seem interested in sticking to one basis for moral value, but I don't think I'll have a problem defending my case, especially since most of the scientific evidence I presented has gone unchallenged. We agree that unborn children are innocent human beings (skin cells aren't), so the only remaining question is whether killing human beings is murder.

My opponent seems to think that killing innocent human beings is not murder, morally speaking, if it is legal to kill them. In response to their biggest objection, murder in the moral sense is not subjective. The Holocaust is objectively evil whether any individual believes it or not. Killing newborns was always murder, morally speaking, even though it was legal in ancient Rome. The description also requires that we define murder in the moral sense, so my opponent doesn't have much ground to stand on here. They've already shown in a similar debate that they don't pay much attention to the description. I already explained why skin cells are not human beings, and my opponent seems to have dropped that point.

Being unconscious means that someone's consciousness does not exist at that moment. This is true for unborn children in early stages of development, and it's true for people in comas. Unborn children did not choose to be unconscious either, and my opponent's case here relies on the premise that being sentient in the past and wishing to live in the future gives coma patients moral value. But this fails for three reasons. First, my opponent immediately nullifies this point by saying that coma patients only have moral value if they will wake up—so my opponent actually thinks it is potential sentience that gives coma patients moral value, and this would apply to unborn children as well. Second, many disabled people and newborns lack the ability to contemplate their existence and specifically think, "I want to continue to live in the future." Newborns are not self-aware [1]. But killing them is still murder if they are in a coma. Third, if a baby is born in a comatose state, I think we can agree that it would still be murder to kill them, even if they were never sentient in the past.

The only definition left to accept is that killing human beings is murder, with the possible caveat that killing someone who will probably die anyway might not be quite as bad (which is irrelevant to this debate). I don't think my opponent really believes that murder should be based on a legal definition—otherwise they would defend coma patients by saying it's illegal to kill them, instead of appealing to sentience. If we agree that killing coma patients is murder regardless of legality, then my opponent's legal definition of murder becomes pretty much irrelevant.

As I said in my opening, killing babies is a bad thing. Ripping their limbs off or sucking them through a vacuum hose is definitely murder. My opponent's moral framework could easily be used to justify infanticide if it were legal or if a newborn was in a coma. Killing a human being is murder regardless of immutable characteristics such as medical conditions, disabilities, or stage of development. I think it's been made clear that abortion is murder from the point of conception.
I have to respect the exaggeration. 

Earlier, Pro mentions that a fetus is a "human being." But the term "human being" is used so loosely, that including a collection of cells in the definition, to which the word itself fundamentally has no meaning.

Firstly, there's a significant difference between being preconscious and unconscious.

  • Preconscious- Occurring before the existence of a consciousness. 
  • Unconscious- The part of the mind which is inaccessible to the conscious mind but which affects behavior and emotions. Or not conscious.
  • Conscious- Aware of and responding to one's surroundings; awake.
Preconscious means there is no consciousness. Which is why the life of a fetus is more equivalent to that of a cell than an infant.
Unconscious means a consciousness is present, but it is turned off. (Implying that it was conscious prior to becoming unconscious and will likely become conscious again.)

Just because a person has a disability that makes them unresponsive is not justification to kill them. But a person in a comatose state with zero chance of recovery is delaying the inevitable. 
The description also requires that we define murder in the moral sense, so my opponent doesn't have much ground to stand on here.
Extend argument in the first Round about how the legal definition and moral definition are the same, but the difference being in what life holds value.

Also, no specific moral definition is listed in the description and there is nothing in the rules saying we have to abide by Pro's version. I suggest we go with mine, as it's currently the most objective and consistent one. 
Round 5
Unfortunately, it seems that my opponent has just restated his arguments without addressing any of the obvious problems with them that I pointed out. He hasn't responded to my argument supporting my moral definition over his; he's extended his previous argument which I already debunked. They seem to imply that not all human beings have moral value, but whatever other moral standard they argue for (level of development, sentience), they're not really willing to commit to it when I point out it would strip rights from newborns or coma patients.

He also seems to dispute my definition of "human being," even though it is scientifically accurate. Earlier, we both seemed to agree that science is relevant in determining whether a particular organism is a human being. When I used DNA evidence and the scientific consensus to show that an unborn child is a human being, my opponent switched his argument. His newest fallacy is believing that just because an unborn child is a collection of cells, they can't be a human being. But all humans are made up of cells, so this hardly supports his case.

Many people in deep comas cannot think, reason, or feel emotions at all. It depends on the level of brain damage—many have "no meaningful motor or cognitive function and a complete absence of awareness of self or the environment" [1]. My opponent has redefined the word "unconscious" to make it seem like they can think, just not respond to the outside world. Obviously, it's wrong to kill these people even if we're certain that they cannot reason at the moment. Regardless, I've already shown three problems with the preconscious/unconscious distinction. If someone's brain is "turned off," they are unable to reason. The consciousness is not "there" because the person's brain is incapable of reasoning due to their current condition.

If my opponent thinks it is significant whether a coma patient can reason in the future (because their brain could potentially generate consciousness), then they should allocate moral value to unborn children, who can reason in the future. The only justification my opponent gave for this distinction was that coma patients might have wanted to continue living, but we've already established that infants and mentally disabled people who cannot consider their future still have a right to live. Furthermore, an infant born in a comatose state is "preconscious" by my opponent's definition, but it would still be wrong to kill them. Regardless, killing someone is not affecting their past, it is affecting their future. So if my opponent wants to appeal to sentience, future sentience is much more relevant than past sentience.

We've seen many moral definitions and standards for murder in this debate that clearly don't work. The only consistent one would hold that it is wrong to steal the futures of innocent human beings. I think this was made clear in my opening argument, and my premise seems to be just as obvious now as it was then. Abortion involves killing an innocent human being, and it is murder from the point of conception.
  • Demonstrated that Pro's definition of human is too loose to be of any real meaning and proven that defining murder by morality is too subjective, when morality is too inconsistent to be reliable.
  • Demonstrated that fetuses do not have a conscience or sentience.
For Pro to win this debate, he needed to prove that a fetus is a person and that abortion is done out of malice. As he has not done so, I believe voters will know how to judge.
Vote Con.