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Fetal Personhood: Is An Acorn An Oak Tree?
by James W. Prescott and Edd Doerr
The Truth Seeker, May/June 1989
Part I: Historical, Religious and Legal Perspectives
Fetal Personhood? This final frontier on the abortion controversy was explored in a one day conference on "Fetal Personhood, Brain Development and The Abortion Rights Issue: Scientific, Ethical and Legal Perspectives" that was sponsored by Americans For Religious Liberty and held in Arlington, Virginia on May 30, 1987.
This three part article is a brief summary of the highlights of a conference which attempted to integrate contemporary thinking on the concept of "Fetal Personhood;" as viewed from the perspectives of History, Religion, Law, Neuropsychology of Brain Development and Cultural Anthropology. Multidisciplinary conferences of this kind usually take at least a weekend and the one day schedule was insufficient to give full merit to the substantial contributions made by the distinguished conference participants.
Given the wealth of material presented in this conference, it is necessary to divide this summary into three parts. Part I will summarize the Historical, Religious and Legal Perspectives of "Fetal Personhood"; Part II will summarize the issues of "Fetal Personhood" from the perspectives of the Neuropsychology of Brain Development and Behavior; and Part III will summarize "Fetal Personhood" from the perspectives of Cultural Anthropology.
Edd Doerr, Executive Director, Americans For Religious Liberty, opened the conference with greetings and a brief historical review of the issues leading to this conference. He noted that from its very beginning the Americans For Religious Liberty conceived freedom of conscience with respect to reproduction as an essential religious liberty and, thus, its sponsorship of this conference.
Dr. John Swomley, President, Americans For Religious Liberty, provided a brief overview of the conference and introduced the first panel of speakers who addressed the Historical and Religious perspectives on "fetal personhood." Fredrica Hodges, Executive Director, Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights, was Moderator for this panel which consisted of Marjorie Reiley Maguire, Ph.D., Catholic Theologian, Catholics For a Free Choice; and Paul Simmons, Ph.D., Professor of Christian Ethics, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
Dr. Maguire provided a historical overview of the variable history of the Roman Catholic Church's teachings on fetal "personhood" or "ensoulment"; the dangers of the concept of fetal "personhood"; the role of symbiosis in defining fetal personhood from a personal moral/ philosophical perspective (not legal perspective); that sociality is the touchstone of personhood which may exist for the fetus, if conferred upon it by the will of the mother; and that, in accordance with Martin Buber, it is participation in a personal relationship that constitutes a Being as a THOU rather than an IT.
The history of Roman Catholic thought and teachings on when "personhood" or "ensoulment" begins was shown not only to be variable but lacking in agreement, even today. The Early Church Fathers, e.g. St. Jerome (347-419); St. Augustine
"Abortion, if early, is not homicide."
(354-430); and Cyril of Alexandria (c. 444) held that "Abortion, if early, is not homicide." Delayed hominization or ensoulment was an accepted principle. St. Augustine stated:"The great question about the soul is not hastily decided by unargued and rash judgment; the law does not provide that the act (abortion) pertains to homicide, for there cannot yet be said to be a live soul in a body that lacks sensation when it is not formed flesh, and so not yet endowed with sense." (On Exodus, 21.80) (CSEL 28.147).
(This issue of "sensation" or "sense" will be given relatively specific time periods during fetal brain-maturation and will be discussed in Part III.)
St. Thomas Aquinas (1227-1274), the teaching authority of the Roman Catholic Church, taught the Aristotelian concept that male fetal matter was not fit (not sufficiently developed) to become "ensouled" until 40 days of gestation; and female fetal matter did not become fit for "ensoulment" until 80 days of gestation. Following Aristotle, St. Thomas Aquinas taught that the fetus is first endowed with a vegetative soul, then an animal soul, and then, when the body is appropriately developed, a rational soul. Each soul was replaced by each succeeding "soul" until the final "ensoulment" takes place. Clearly, "personhood," which does not exist until the final "ensoulment" with the rational soul takes place cannot exist at conception.
Historically, Papal concern about abortion was limited to prescribing penances because it was de facto evidence of illicit sexual activity, viz. fornication and adultery. In 1869 Pope Pius IX declared excommunication for abortion under any circumstances. This Papal action contradicted the history of Roman Catholic teaching on delayed "hominization" or "ensoulment," i.e. "personhood".
The Vatican has taken no position on when "personhood" begins.
Dr. Maguire noted that even today in a 1974 document against abortion and in its recent document on reproductive technology "Instruction On Respect For Human Life In Its Origin and On The Dignity of Procreation," The Vatican has taken no position on when "personhood"begins. Specifically, the Vatican stated: ". . . the magisterium has not expressly commited itself to an affirmation of a philosophical nature concerning the presence of the spiritual soul and personhood;"
"...the magisterium has not expressly commited itself to an affirmation of a philosophical nature concerning the presence of the spiritual soul and personhood;"
and "no experimental datum can be in itself sufficient to bring us to the recognition of the spiritual soul." In addition, Dr. Maguire emphasized that the Roman Catholic Church's teaching on abortion has never been taught as an ex cathedra infallible teaching nor would it be—given the historical inconsistency of Church teaching on the subject.
Dr. Maguire then reviewed the role of symbiosis and its relevance to fetal "personhood." Symbiosis describes the integral living together of different organisms of which there are three kinds:
- Commensalism: where the host organism is neither benefited nor harmed by the symbiosis;
- Mutualism: where host and dependent organism are mutually benefited;
- Parasitism: where there is injury to the host organism and benefit to the dependent or guest organism.
Dr. Maguire argued that human pregnancy can fall under any one of the three forms of symbiosis but it is only the conditions of a mutual symbiotic relationship that the human fetus can be considered to acquire personhood. This is accomplished by amoral decision of the woman to become pregnant and, thereby, admit the fetus into a personal relationship with her—physically, psychologically and spiritually. This condition of mutual symbiosis between mother and fetus fulfills the terms of Martin Buber where participation in a personal relationship is essential for a Being to be a THOU, rather than an IT. For these reasons, "sociality (becomes) the touchstone of personhood and allows that sociality my exist for the fetus, in utero."
Dr. Maguire was quick to emphasize that this was a moral/philosophical definition which should not be incorporated into civil law. Dr Maguire further asserted:
"The law of our land has an obligation first and foremost to the woman who is already a citizen and it cannot speak of any obligation, I believe, to the fetus, even if the fetus is a person while the fetus is in the woman's body, because if the law is to protect fetal life it has to transgress the rights of the woman to self-determination." and,
"Our body is the very fabric of our personhood. If we have no control over our body we have no control over our person. We have no self-determination. And the law, I think, has a primary obligation to help each of its citizens to be able to determine themselves. So it the law can violate a woman's body, l believe it violates its most basic obligation to her. And this is true even if the fetus is a person."
Only the mother in concert with God (and no other person or institution) can confer personhood upon fetal life.
Perhaps Dr. Maguire's most seminal contribution was the affirmation that it is woman's consent to become pregnant where her willed consent is essential for personhood to be conferred upon fetal life. Only the mother in concert with God (and no other person or institution) can confer personhood upon fetal life.
Dr. Paul Simmons addressed the dangers of the new evangelicalism where militant fundamentalists have made alliances with conservative Roman Catholics and the new political right. The purpose of this alliance is to encode in civil law conservative sexual ethical dogma of the Vatican and the moral fundamentalists. This quest for political power by the militant fundamentalists to impose their conservative minority religious dogma upon the religious and civilian majority of this country was viewed as one of the most serious and dangerous threats of recent history to the separation of church and state; the religious liberty of a free people; and basic human rights of privacy and self-determination. The conservative moral-political agenda was noted by Dr. Simmons to include many issues of human sexuality where abortion and contraception dominate the field of confrontation.
The appeal of the moral fundamentalists to biblical infallibility to support their Puritanical sexual ethic on abortion came under severe criticism by Dr. Simmons. As he and other biblical scholars have well noted and commented upon there is an extraordinary silence of the Bible in both the Old and New Testaments on the abortion issue. Dr. Simmons reviewed several biblical texts that have an indirect bearing on the abortion debate, the most significant passage being Exodus 21: 22-25.
There is an extraordinary silence of the Bible in both the Old and New Testaments on the abortion issue.
In that passage, a pregnant woman inadvertently became involved in a brawl between two men and had a miscarriage. As the story continues, different penalties were assessed for injury to the fetus and the woman. For loss of fetal life, a fine was imposed which is determined by the husband and the judges (v22). If the woman is injured or dies, lex talionus, is applied: "thou shalt give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burning for burning, wound for wound, stripe for stripe" (v. 23-25).
Although, this event deals with accidental and not intentional pregnancy termination, there is a clear difference of protection afforded the woman vs. the fetus: The woman has full standing as a person under the covenant where the fetus does not and which is clearly subordinated to that of the woman.
Leviticus 24:17 was cited which required the death penality for anyone who "kills any human life." It was abundantly clear that this penalty was not applied to the killing of a fetus in Exodus 21. Ergo, a fetus was not considered "human life."
There is no clear and direct biblical passage that specifically addresses the issue of elective abortion, let alone its prohibition,
Dr. Simmons continued to emphasize that there is no clear and direct biblical passage that specifically addresses the issue of elective abortion, let alone its prohibition, despite its apparent practice of the time, particularly in neighboring cultures that provided severe penalities for abortion. Citing Dr. Roy Bowen Ward, the Assyrian Code (c. 1500 BC) declared that:any woman who causes to fall what her womb holds—shall be tried, convicted and impaled upon a stake and shall not be buried"
and the Code of Hammurabi, 209 and 210 states:"If a seignor struck a(nother) seignor's daughter and has caused her to have a miscarriage (lit. caused her to drop that of her womb), he shall pay ten shekels of silver for her fetus. If that woman had died, they shall put his daughter to death."
and in the Hittite Laws, 1.17:"If anyone causes a free woman to miscarry (lit. drives out the embryo)—if (it is) the l0th month, he shall give 10 shekels of silver, if (it is) the 5th month, he shall give 5 shekels of silver and pledge his estate as security."
Dr. Simmons contrasted the significant status given to women in Hebrew law and custom with the rather harsh, repressive and punitive treatment given to women in surrounding cultures. This difference was attributed to the women being considered as equal bearers of God's image and equal shareres in the task of stewardship (Genesis 1:28-30). Dr. Simmons concluded that under Hebrew law and custom abortion was considered a private, personal and religious matter, not subject to civil legislation.
With respect to the New Testament, Dr. Simmons observed:"Why did Paul nor condemn it (abortion)? Paul certainly traveled in the Greco-Roman world where we know that abortions were practiced, as was infanticide. He did talk about murder bv which we might reasonably include infanticide, but he never once mentioned abortion. Now why? Jesus never commented about it. But Paul seemed never to have missed an opportunity to polemicize against immoral practices of which he was aware. Not even in Corinth did he have anything to say about it, though he had very long lists of vices that Christians are to exclude from their lifestyles. I think that the most plausible explanation for this is simply the fact that the biblical writers felt that this was a matter of such sacredness of choice that those not intimately involved ought to have no comment upon it ... There is no place in the Bible that gives us a definitive description either of personhood or of the circumstances under which abortion might be practiced, especially for elective reasons.
There is no place in the Bible that gives us a definitive description either of personhood or of the circumstances under which abortion might be practiced, especially for elective reasons."
In overview, Dr. Simmons drew the distinction between "attributed fetal personhood" (subjective) and "actualized fetal personhood" (objective) where the former characterizes the personalized state of mutual symbiosis between mother and fetus, as proposed by Dr. Maguire; and the latter which characterizes unresolvable differences of belief systems.
Dr. Simmons related the biblical/theological perspectives on abortion to the U.S. Constitution that protects liberties of conscience:
"Conscience is important as a constraint to law. It establishes the outer limits of state coercion in that our belief about human rights says that states ought not coerce people to violate the integrity of their conscience. Conscience is that name that we give to those fundamental or governing principles to which we are committed in conscientious belief."
"That's what the First Amendment is all about, that State Laws ought not force us to believe another person's dogmas, or that when we hold conscientious beliefs, those beliefs ought not be violated, for to violate those is to violate the integrity of personhood, and that's what is at stake in the whole proposal of the human life amendment and similar proposals." (and)
"Now a final word. It seems to me that those of us who are committed to biblical authority have a very wise and authoritative pattern to follow and that is the SILENCE OF THE BIBLE."
In the discussion that followed these two papers, Buddhist and Judaic religious beliefs were discussed. Buddhist opposition to abortion was based on their religious belief that persons came into being before conception and that rebirth is a process to deal with one's Karma which is prevented by abortion that returns the soul to a free floating spirit. There was neither time nor the religious specialists in the Eastern religions to discuss these varying perspectives on abortion.
Judaism permits abortion. It permits abortion because it does not see abortion as murder.
A brief review of Judaic law and custom concerning abortion was provided by citing the writings of Rabbi Balfour Bickner where he states:
"Judaism permits abortion. It permits abortion because it does not see abortion as murder. In Judaism, the fetus is not considered a full human being and for this reason, has no juridical personality of its own. The fetus in the womb is not a person (lav nefesh hu) until it is born into the world." The basic Biblical text from which the Jewish position derives is found in Exodus 21.22-25. (and quoting from Rabbi Robert Gordi's Love & Sex):
"The law on abortion is and should be liberal, to meet genuine cases of hardship and misery that are not soluble in any other way. But, society has an obligation to educate its members to ethical standards that rise above the level of abortion on demand. In other words, abortion should be legally available but ethically restricted, to be practiced only for very good reasons."
"Then Yehweh God formed the earth creature of dust from the earth, and breathed into its nostrils the breath of life: and the earth creature became a living nephesh." Since a fetus does not breathe, it is not a "nephesh" or a person.
Dr. Simmons provided additional comment on the Hebrew term "Lav nefesh hu" where Old Testament scholars have agreed that the most significant Hebrew word that describes a human being or more generally "a creature that breathes" is "nephesh" or "nefesh," re Genesis 2:7:"Then Yehweh God formed the earth creature of dust from the earth, and breathed into its nostrils the breath of life: and the earth creature became a living nephesh."
Since a fetus does not breathe, it is not a "nephesh" or a person.
(Note: Fetal lung development does not permit "breathing" before 24 weeks of gestation.)
In concluding the discussion on Historical and Religious Perspectives, Harriet Pilpel provided the following comment:"And, finally, I would like to say that it seems to me that we have just heard two of the best speeches I've heard on this subject and I, for one, am very grateful."
Harriet Pilpel, Legal Counsel, Planned Parenthood of America and Moderator of the Panel on Legal Perspectives opened the session with some personal historical footnotes before introducing the panelists.
First on her mind was Andrea Dworkin's new book: INTERCOURSE, which expressed the theme that all of the disadvantages and discrimination against women have occurred as the result of women submitting to sexual intercourse, with men and that without such submission women would, presumably, achieve their rightful place in society. Harriet Pilpel was quick to reject this thesis: "This book did not appeal to me."
Recognizing that it is now technically possible for women to propagate the species without sexual intercourse with men, this issue led her to the following observations:"Men, pardon me, have used women's reproductive capacity and the disadvantages of menstruation, reproduction and her sexuality as a way of ruling women, and that's what I think is behind the anti-contraceptive, anti-abortion and anti-sexuality laws. If we could persuade Andrea Dworkin of that maybe she could write another book."
The early victories on contraceptive freedom in 1965 applied to only married women and this basic freedom was not won for unmarried women until 1972, a year before abortion rights were won for women.
Noting that she was "involved in this movement since before it was a movement which makes me feel terribly old," Harriet Pilpel recalled her meetings with Margaret Sanger in the early 1930s; when the Connecticut birth control clinics were all closed because it was a crime in Connecticut to use contraceptives; and her involvement in the legal battles that finally declared laws against contraception and abortion unconstitutional in 1965 and 1973. She reminded us that the early victories on contraceptive freedom in 1965 applied to only married women and this basic freedom was not won for unmarried women until 1972, a year before abortion rights were won for women.
Harriet Pilpel observed that many of the younger generation feel that there is a great danger threatening contraceptive and abortion rights but that she had good reasons to be very optimistic about the outcome of this struggle. This statement was given before the resignation of Justice Powell and the nomination of Judge Robert Heron Bork to the U.S. Supreme Court by President Reagan, approximately one month after this conference. It is well known that Judge Bork holds that the U.S. Supreme Court decision of Roe vs. Wade was unconstitutional and should be reversed.
The extraordinary national upheaval that accompanied the U.S. Senate confirmation hearings of Judge Robert Heron Bork to the U.S. Supreme Court and its refusal to give such a confirmation reflected the very deep divisions and polarizations that exist in this country on the abortion issue. These writers are somewhat less optimistic than Harriet Pilpel on the future of abortion rights and the broader rights of women and her sexuality in our society, given the alliance between the Republican conservative political agenda of the Reagan-Bush Administrations with the fundamentalist religious right of this country.
These issues and concerns were the subject of the legal panel which was introduced by Harriet Pilpel. The first to speak was Judith C. Rosen, Attorney at Law, Private Practice and Volunteer Counsel, ACLU, San Diego who expressed her concerns about the mis-stated legal arguments surrounding the abortion issue; the increasing threats to the bodily integrity of pregnant women by the State which is proclaiming protective interest and custody of the fetus (and, therefore, the body of the woman) to prevent fetal "neglect"; and the need to educate the courts and the public to provide for fetal and newborn health and well-being through pre-natal/postnatal care, courses in parenting, nutrition and child development.
In her opening remarks, Ms. Rosen made a plea that it is the responsibility of all of us working together to teach the courts and society about the realities of women's lives from our various discipline. perspectives and that the "status" ofthe fetus must not be merely framed in the limited abstract legal questions of what do we value most: the woman's right to personhood and privacy or the fetus's right to life. She argued that "the answers have to reflect the moral and ethical dilemmas: the place of women in society; and how we can help individuals resolve some of their most pressing dilemmas, choices and responsibilities that they have to make."
Women may avoid seeking prenatal care for fear of being prosecuted for "fetal neglect" if they do not follow all the advice of the physician.
Ms. Rosen then reviewed her representation of Pamela Riggs Stewart, a San Diego woman who faced jail and criminal charges for failing to follow her doctor's advice during her pregnancy and was charged with fetal abuse because the San Diego district attorney believed that fetuses are persons. Ms. Stewart's child was born with severe brain damage consequent to placenta privia (abnormal premature separation of the placenta) and subsequently died. The uniqueness of this case was further marked by the prosecution of Pamela Riggs Stewart under California Penal Code #270 which governs financial responsibility for child support. Although, Ms. Rosen and her associates were successful in winning dismissal of this case, it represented the tip of the iceberg in the violations of woman's bodily integrity and paradoxically, fetal health and the future well-being of the newborn. Ms. Rosen warned that women may avoid seeking prenatal care for fear of being prosecuted for "fetal neglect" if they do not follow all the advice of the physician.
Ms. Rosen cited other court actions that are forcing women—against
Courts are taking physical custody of the pregnant woman and district attorneys are persecuting and prosecuting women for fetal neglect and abuse.
their will—to undergo Caesarian sections where some 21 such cases have been reported in eleven states. Courts are taking physical custody of the pregnant woman and district attorneys are persecuting and prosecuting women for fetal neglect and abuse. Although, women are being charged with failure to obtain pre-natal care in San Diego County, Ms. Rosen pointed out that some 4,800 women were turned away from San Diego County Clinics who wanted pre-natal care. This number does not include those women who did not bother to apply because of anticipated rejection. Additionally, she reported that there were only 12 physicians who are willing to see Med Cal eligible patients and this may be an overestimate. Added to all ofthis is the established right of children to sue theirmothers for civil damages because of pre-natal negligence. Where does all of this lead, asked Ms: Rosen?
Some 4,800 women were turned away from San Diego County Clinics who wanted pre-natal care.
Answering her own question, Ms. Rosen noted that historically the fetus was never considered a person under American civil or criminal law; nor under English Common Law; nor Greek or Roman Law. If these legal traditions were reversed, it would cause havoc to woman's basic rights of liberty and equality.
Historically the fetus was never considered a person under American civil or criminal law; nor under English Common Law; nor Greek or Roman Law. If these legal traditions were reversed, it would cause havoc to woman's basic rights of liberty and equality.
Ms. Rosen expressed grave concern for the increasing persecution/prosecution of women for fetal neglect/abuse which will compel women to go "underground—without prenatal care"—to avoid prosecution. The damaging effects of such maternal stress; lack of prenatal care; and absence of a nurturing and caring environment for the pregnant woman upon fetal and post-natal development are all consequences that are well known. Further, this process could create an artificial and damaging adversarial relationship between mother and fetus which would impair affectional bonding between the two. Such events would place both the mother and her fetus/newborn at risk for normal healthy biological, emotional, intellectual, psychological and social development.
In concluding, Ms. Rosen stated:"We must change the words of the debate and thereby its focus. We must speak a common language, a language of inclusion, a language of caring and feeling. We must advocate for a healthy, safe next generation without sacrificing this one."
Janet Benshoof, Director, ACLU Reproductive Rights Project reviewed changes over the past decade concerning the issue of "fetal rights," in both abortion and non-abortion contexts, that have alarming implications for women's rights. She noted that the issue of women's rights vs. fetal rights under the Constitution, a non-abortion context, has yet to come before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Several legal cases were cited that documented how the fetus, in a non-abortion context, was receiving more and more recognition within the context of civil rights. For example:
- The issue of wrongful fetal death results in proper compensation to the woman for loss of her pregnancy. Such compensation has encouraged, incorrectly, the view that the fetus is a person.
- A recent interpretation of a Massachusetts Vehicular Homicide Statute was held to apply to fetuses and, there-fore, a person who was held criminally responsible for the death of pregnant woman was also criminally charged for the death of a fetus. This action established a new legal precedent.
- Increasing recognition of fetal rights vs. woman's rights, re. enforced caesareans; enforced blood transfusions, drug treatment, surgery, etc. with criminal charges against women for fetal neglect/abuse were again emphasized, as they were in Judith Rosen's presentation.
- Occupational Safety Regulations where women can be regulated in the workplace because of pregnancy or potential pregnancy. An OSHA case was cited where five women in Virginia were represented by the ACLU who hid become sterilized against their will. in order, to keep their jobs at American Cyanamid Company. Another case cited involved an AFL-CIO union suit to stop the use of a certain pesticide because of its harm on farm workers. The judge permitted continued use of the pesticide but ruled that pregnant women could not be workers.
Increasing sophistication of tort law and of medical technology, e.g. embryo transplant and surrogate motherhood have also given impetus to increased recognition of fetal "status."
Ms. Benshoof emphasized that as the legal status and "humaneness" that is given to the fetus under these case laws increases, the greater is the potential for ultimately passing a human life amendment. Increasing sophistication of tort law and of medical technology, e.g. embryo transplant and surrogate motherhood have also given impetus to increased recognition of fetal "status."
Ms. Benshoof cited a pending "living will" or "surrogate medical person" law in New Jersey where the "living will" becomes inoperative for pregnant women who become comatose. The State takes over the body of the pregnant woman and maintains its life so that the fetus can continue to grow and be delivered. In short, pregnant women are not allowed the benefits of "living wills."
The provisions of Roe vs. Wade that permit the State to prohibit third trimester or post-viability abortions except where the woman's life or health is endangered was then reviewed by Ms. Benshoof where, in a review of the literature,
99% of all abortions occur before 20 weeks of pregnancy.
she and her associates could not find evidence of any post-viability elective abortions, i.e. where the fetus was considered "viable." She reported that 99% of all abortions occur before 20 weeks of pregnancy. Current statistics on abortion by gestational age, race and age of the woman can be obtained from Planned Parenthood Federation of America.
A very dangerous trend identified by Ms. Benshoof is the readiness of judges to extend the right of the State to compel live birth of the fetus.
A very dangerous trend identified by Ms. Benshoof is the readiness ofjudges to extend the right of the State in regulating certain post-viability abortions to the regulation of fetal "status" in non-abortion contexts, e.g. enforced medical treatment of pregnant women in 2nd or 3rd trimester to compel live birth of the fetus. Thus, "abortions" (expelling the fetus) without harm to the fetus or mother could be compelled by the State.
if the State assumes the right to compel "safe abortions" in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters what would prevent the State from assuming such rights during the first trimester?
Ms. Benshoof speculated that if the State assumes the right to compel "safe abortions" in the 2nd and 3rd trimesters what would prevent the State from assuming such rights during the 1st trimester? Medical technology now permits safe embryo transplants which in the not too distant future will be extended to "pre-viable fetuses." What is to prevent the State from forcing women seeking elective abortions to submit to "embryo/fetal transplant operations" (no longer called abortions) to save the embryo/fetus, in the name of embryo/fetal rights or the overriding interests of the State and Society?
What is to prevent the State from forcing women seeking elective abortions to submit to "embryo/fetal transplant operations" (no longer called abortions) to save the embryo/fetus, in the name of embryo/fetal rights or the overriding interests of the State and Society?
For the above reasons and others, Ms. Benshoof concluded that the "viability" criteria should be abandoned in the abortion rights controversy. The abortion argument must be
the "viability" criteria should be abandoned in the abortion rights controversy. The abortion argument must be restated in terms of women's personhood rights to privacy, equality, bodily integrity and religious liberty.
restated in terms of women's personhood rights to privacy, equality, bodily integrity and religious liberty.
4th President of the United States
...The religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate.
...It is proper to take alarm at the first experiment on our liberties ... Who does not see that the same authority which can establish Christianity, in exclusion of all other Religions, may establish with the same ease any particular sect of Christians, in exclusion of all other Sects?
...While we assert for ourselves a freedom to embrace, to profess and to observe the Religion which we believe to be of divine origin, we cannot deny an equal freedom to those whose minds have not yet yielded to the evidence which has convinced us.
... Experience witnesseth that ecclesiastical establishments, instead of maintaining the purity and efficacy of Religion, have had a contrary operation. During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution...
...What influence in fact, have ecclesiastical establishments had on Civil Society? In some instances they have been seen erecting a spiritual tyranny on the ruins of Civil authority; in many instances they have been seen upholding the thrones of political tyranny; in no instance have they been seen the guardians of the liberties of the people. Rulers who wished to subvert the public liberty, may have found an established Clergy convenient auxiliaries: A just Government instituted to secure and perpetuate itneeds them not. Such a government will be best supported by protecting every Citizen in the enjoyment of his Religion with the same equal hand which protects his person and his property; by neither invading the equal rights of any Sect, nor suffering any Sect to invade those of others.A Memorial and Remonstrance (1784)
Part II: Developmental Neuropsychological Perspectives
This article summarizes the major address of Dr. Michael Flower, Department of Biology, Lewis and Clark College and the introductory remarks of Dr. Michael Bennett, Professor and Chairman, Department of Neuroscience, Albert Einstein College of Medicine to the address of Dr. Flower.
In his opening remarks, Dr. Bennett noted that attending this interdisciplinary conference was much like going to a foreign country where you meet new people from different cultures with different languages, perspectives, values and customs. He observed that the "language of personhood," as expressed by the various disciplines in this conference, provided a rich "transcultural" learning experience that gave him new insights into the complexities of "personhood."
"the body is the very fabric of our personhood,"
Dr. Bennett returned to themes expressed by Dr. Maguire in the morning session that although "the body is the very fabric of our personhood ... personhood cannot be reduced to simply biological terms." He agreed with Dr. Maguire in substance, but emphasized the critical role of the brain, as the biological organ of "personhood.""...the brain is the only organ that we cannot live without or replace from somebody else or have a substitute for. The brain is the real seat of personbood. You cannot ever have a person without a brain. You have persons without hearts, livers, kidneys, etc. (artificial organ replacement or loss of a non-vital organ) but not without a brain. Thus, in any discussion of "personhood" from a biological perspective it is essential and mandatory to include the brain."
Dr. Bennett outlined the past half century's explosive growth of knowledge about how the brain works, yet noted that the brain is one of the last great scientific frontiers and much more needs to be learned. He pointed out that working neuroscientists assume with a sufficient knowledge of neuroscience it will be possible to understand how the nervous system works with respect to behavior, thought, values, emotions and consciousness and that, at the present time, it is not necessary to invoke a "supernatural" or non-scientific explanation of neural functions and behavior.
Dr. Bennett concluded his introduction, which was far more extensive than summarized hero, with the following observations on the relationship of the neurosciences to the abortion debate:"The neurosciences are fundamental to the abortion debate since 'personhood' arises in the nervous system and the nervous system is required for 'personhood.' I was delighted to hear what Dr. Maguire had to say this morning about 'ensoulment.' i.e. unless you have attained the proper 'matter' you cannot obtain the proper 'soul.' These concepts are congruent with my own thinking, as a materialist. You cannot have human behavior, thoughts, values, emotions and consciousness unless you have a developed human nervous system which then permits the existence and expression of personhood.'"
"When Does Human Life Begin?"
Dr. Bennett then introduced Dr. Flower who opened his address with the following questions:
"When does human life begin?" "When does human personhood begin?" Others have asked: "Is an Acorn an Oak Tree?" "When does the egg become a chicken?" "When does the fertilized human ovum (egg) become a human person?"
In response to his own questions, Dr. Flower noted that what is common to all of these questions and their answers is a developmental process. From a developmental biological perspective there are clear distinctions between an unfertilized egg, a fertilized egg (zygote), a blastocyst, an embryo, a fetus, and a newborn child. These various states or stages of development are clearly not equal with one another as neurobiological, psycho-logical, social, legal or moral events.
The act of conferring "equality" upon these differing developmental states—seeing them as morally equivalent, for example—is dearly extrinsic to the properties of the developing organism. The criteria for making such a decision of "equality," however, must be dearly understood if any meaningful answer is to be given to the questions: "When does human life begin?" "When does human personhood begin?" It is dear that at some developmental point, biological changes may have occurred which enable us to take seriously the view that a moral difference also now exists and, thus, psychological, social and legal differences as well.
The only biological organ of the human body that makes possible the uniqueness of "humanity" is the human brain.
A consideration of the developmental neurobiological events that might serve as criteria for helping to define "personhood" and/or that developmental point that makes a moral difference is dependent upon the larger context of culture that confers moral, psychological, social and juridical meaning to life. Some of these cultural criteria that have been suggested as necessary to the determination of human personhood and/or when a development difference gains moral significance include:
- Awareness (especially of pleasure and pain)
- Sense of Self that includes necessarily a Sense of Personal Relationship
- Ability to Exercise Rationality
- Capacity To Choose Freely and Responsibly
- Capacity For Love and Hate
Given the above criteria it is possible to identify neurobiological systems and stages of development that are necessary to support or make possible the above psychobiological functions. These neurobiological systems or events involve uniquely the developing Central Nervous System (CNS) without which the above functional criteria cannot exist. The only biological organ of the human body that makes possible the uniqueness of "humanity" is the human brain.
In the identification of these developmental CNS neurobiological landmarks it is essential to note that it is not possible to identify exactly when a particular neurobiological function emerges that is sufficient for defining a moral difference or emergng personhood. It is possible, however, to identify developmental stages or points without which the properties or functions of personhood cannot exist and, thus, a moral difference does not exist, except by an arbitrary personal religious belief. In brief then, the developmental neurobiological criteria that can be identified as essential for defining "personhood" must be considered as a "necessary but insufficient condition" for defining "personhood." "Personhood" involves more than neurobiology but it cannot exist without neurobiology, viz. the human brain.
"Personhood" involves more than neurobiology but it cannot exist without neurobiology, viz. the human brain.
In this all too brief summary of Dr. Flower's contribution concerning the specifics of brain development, behavior and "persorihood," the following points are highlighted.
First, Dr. Flower noted that we need to avoid confusing lower/midbrain functions with higher brain functions since it is the higher brain structures (the cerebral neocortex) which makes possible those social-behavioral functions that we call uniquely human. The cerebral neocortex is the last brain structure to be developed and is the principal brain structure of interest with respect to the issues of "personhood."
The cerebral neocortex is the last brain structure to be developed and is the principal brain structure of interest with respect to the issues of "personhood."
He emphasized that the lower/midbrain structures provides some sensory-motor integration and contains the critical nerve centers for the maintenance of vital functions of the body, e.g. temperature, breathing, heart rate and blood pressure. These brain stem functions are developed and can be maintained without connections to the higher brain centers, viz. the neocortex. Thus, primitive motor "reflexes" of the. fetus prior to the time when the lower/midbrain structures become "connected" to the higher brain structures (neocortex) cannot be interpreted as reflecting "conscious" awarness by the fetus.
The point in time when the lower/midbrain structures becomes "connected" to the higher brain structures (cerebral neocortex) is perhaps the most important earliest landmark of fetal brain development that relates to the emerging possibility of "personhood" functions. This event occurs at approximately 22-23 weeks of gestation when the first connections of the thalamus (sensory relay station of the brain) begin to be established with the cerebral neocortex. Prior to this time the higher neocortical brain is simply not connected to the sensory systems of the body and is thus incapable of "awareness" of its sensory environment.
Perceptions of pain, pleasure, self-awareness, as we understand them, are simply not possible before the neocortical brain becomes connected with its sensory environment, i.e. when the thalamocortical connections are formed which begin at about 22-23 weeks of gestation.
Perceptions of pain, pleasure, self-awareness, as we understand them, are simply not possible before the neocortical brain becomes connected with its sensory environment, i.e. when the thalamocoriical connections are formed which begin at about 22-23 weeks of gestation.
Dr. Flower emphasized that even with the beginning point of thalamocortical connections at 22-23 weeks otgestation the development of the neocortex is so primitive that much more rteoconical development is necesary before the psychological perceptions of pain, pleasure and selfawareness, as we understand them, become possible—let alone the more complex human functions of thought, rationality, free will, love and hate that require an even more extensive neocortical development that is integrated with other brain structures.
This issue of "neurointegration" raises the next most important landmark of fetal brain development with respect to potential "personhood" functions. This is the development of"spines" which appear rather suddenly on the dendrites in the visual neocortex at about the 28th week of gestation. This development of"dendritic spines" permit a quantitative leap in synaptic connectivity in the cerebral neocortex that provides some of the structural hardware that is necessary for "neurointegrative" functions of brain cell communication to appear—essential precursor conditions before "personhood" fuctions can become possible.
Other important landmarks of fetal brain development involve the maturation of the electrical activity of the brain (the Electroencephalogram—EEG). Dr. Flower noted that the earliest recorded electrical activity of the brain is found at about 6-7 weeks of gestation. This scant and disorganized EEG continues until about 20-22 weeks of gestation when occasional patterned but intermittent EEGs begin (Pattern I).
Pattern II EEG begins at about 30 weeks of gestation where continuous EEG activity first begins and it is at this stage the EEG patterns emerge that can distinguish sleep from wakefulness. These sleep/wakefulness cycles do not become stabilized until about 34 weeks of gestational age (Pattern III EEG).
Some authorities orgue that it is not until 30 weeks of gestation the we can begin to think about the possibility of "personhood" functions and 34-36 weeks of gestational age is a more likely time when the emergence of "personhood" functions can be seriously considered as possible.
Dr. Flower concluded his presentation with the following statement:
"...We might be led to conclude that it is probably not until after 28 weeks of gestation that the fetal human attains. level of neo-cortex mediated complexity sufficient to enable those sentient capacities the presence of which might lead us to predicate personhood of a sort we attribute to full-term newborns." (and):
"Thus, we find, perhaps surprisingly, that the early events of human neuromaturation—as stated thus far—may have much to do with how we view and support full term pregnancies while having nothing to do with the morality of abortions."
It is the neocortical brain that brings uniqueness to the human brain and which makes human "personhood" possible.
We now come full circle to the relevance of developmental neurophysiology and neuropsychology to the philosophical/theological concepts of the "soul" and "ensoulment" advanced by Aristotle, St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas; that posited three different "souls" (vegetative, animal and rational) that are incorporated into the human body at varying times during it's progression of development from conceptus to full term infant. Within this context it is important to recall St. Augustine's summary of the issue:
"The law does not provide that the act (abortion) pertains to homicide, for there cannot yet be said to be a live soul in a body that lacks sensation when it is not formed in flesh, and so not yet endowed with sense."
Clearly, since there are three "souls," there must be three levels of sensation or "sense" that correspond to these three "souls." It is the "rational" soul (the latest soul to be "infused" in the human body) which confers "human beingness" (personhood?) to the human body which must correspond to the neocortical brain (the latest brain structure to be developed) with it's level of sensation or "sense," i.e. conscious awareness. It is the neocortical brain that brings uniqueness to the human brain and which makes human "personhood" possible:
Thus, it appears that we now have a firm minimal neurobiological criteria for St. Augustine's criteria of "fit matter" (endowed with sense) for animal "ensoulment," i.e. 22-23 weeks of gestation—the time of onset of thalamocortical connectivity. The state of brain development that would correspond to the infusion of the "rational soul" is unknown, as it is for when the "rational soul" is "infused."(J.W.P.)
DO YOU KNOW THE TRUTH—ABOUT FETAL BRAIN DEVELOPMENT—AND WHEN 'PERSONHOOD' BEGINS?
- DO YOU KNOW that because of immature fetal brain cell development that the organic capacity for human thought is not possible until sometime well after 28 weeks of gestation, i.e. in the third trimester of pregnancy?
- DO YOU KNOW that the fetal neocortical brain has no NEURAL connections to the sensory environment before 22-23 weeks of gestation, and therefore, no fetal conscious perception of pain is possible before this time?
- DO YOU KNOW that the answer to the question when 'personhood' or human life begins has no common agreement among scientists, philosophers or religious leaders?
Answers to these and other questions can be found in the book: ABORTION RIGHTS AND FETAL 'PERSONHOOD' published by AMERlCANS FOR RELIGIOUS LIBERTY which can be obtained by sending a check or money order for $14.45 to:
The National League For Separation of Church And State
P.O. Box 2832, San Diego, CA 92112
(PRICE INCLUDES SHIPPING; HANDLING AND
TAXES WHERE RELEVANT.)
DO YOU KNOW THE TRUTH—ABOUT UNWANTED PREGNANCIES—AND THE UNWANTED CHILD?
- DO YOU KNOW that there are approximately two million unwanted pregnancies each year in the United States?
- DO YOU KNOW that ifalloftheseunwanted pregnancies were forced into live births that there would be in 25 years 50 million children and youth who are born unwanted and mostly unloved (this statistic is uncorrected for mortality)?
- DO YOU KNOW that it is the birth of unwanted children who become the victims and perpetrators of child abuse/neglect; homicide; suicide; alcohol/drug abuse; sexual violence and other crimes?
- DO YOU KNOW that 50 million unwanted children and youth, which constitutes one cultural generation, would destroy America as a Constitutional Democracy and turn America into a police state?
Answers to these and other questions can be found in the book: ABORTION RIGHTS AND FETAL 'PERSONHOOD' published by AMERICANS FOR RELIGIOUS LIBERTY which can be obtained by sending a check or money order far $14.45 to:
The National League For Separation of Church And State
P.O. Box 2832, San Diego, CA 92112
PRICE INCLUDES SHIPPING/HANDLING & TAXES WHERE RELEVANT.
Part III: Cross-Cultural Perspectives
This article summarizes that part of the conference which addressed the questions of "fetal personhood" or "when does human life begin" from the perspectives of cross-cultural psychology and anthropology. The primary data base for this examination was the Human Relations Area Files, a repository of cross-cultural data on "primitive" or pre-industrial cultures; associated anthropological studies; and abortion/infanticide practices in 19th Century European countries. In addition, the "personality" structure of those "primitive" cultures that permit or punish abortion was identified and related to similar "personality" profiles of contemporary societies and individuals who support or oppose abortion rights of women. Specifically, the peaceful or violent character of cultures that permit or punish abortion was evaluated to answer the question whether abortion practices reflect a violent/murderous personality or its converse.
In his introductory remarks to this session of the conference, Dr. Prescott noted that, although, the human history of religion and law in combination with the contemporary neural sciences have provided invaluable insights into the variability and complexity of the fetal "personhood" concept, it is the disciplines of cultural anthropology and cross-cultural psychology that provide the "meaningful cultural context" within which the perspectives of religion, law and science can be properly appreciated and understood.
it is the variety of human cultural traditions that provide a common ground of experience to arbitrate any proposed absolutes of truth about human behavior
It was emphasized that it is the variety of human cultural traditions that provide a common ground of experience to arbitrate any proposed absolutes of truth about human behavior and also provide guideposts for the evaluation of such proposed "absolute truths" of human behavior. It is for these reasons that the cross-cultural perspectives on "fetal personhood" assumes such significant value.
The central question that was addressed from the cross-cultural perspective was whether there is any evidence from the rich variety of human cultural traditions to support a universality of belief in "fetal personhood" that would permit and justify the encoding of such a belief system into civil law of any contemporary human society. The answer to this question was dearly in the negative.
With these introductory remarks, Dr. Prescott introduced the panelists, Dr. Lynn Morgan and Dr. Leigh Minturn.
Overview of Dr. Lynn Morgan's Presentation
Dr. Lynn Morgan, Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Mount Holyoke College reviewed the extraordinary diversity of cross-cultural customs that define when a newborn, child or adolescent is formally accepted into the culture as a "person." She noted that the diversity of human cultural customs on this issue is so great that it precludes any absolute or fixed
"personhood" is a social and not a scientific construct.
definition of "personhood" and that the "assemblage of learned socially transmitted beliefs that anthropologists call culture affects how persons are defined." Thus, "personhood" is a social and not a scientific construct. She agreed with Dr. Maguire that persons are defined everywhere as members of a social group and concluded that "this is perhaps the most, maybe only, common denominator that we can apply to the definition of "personhood."
persons are defined everywhere as members of a social group
Dr. Morgan identified two cultures that reflect the extreme diversity of culturally defined "personhood." The first of these was the Chippewa Indians of North America who would bury a miscarried fetus even if it occurred at the very earliest stages of conception. In contrast, the Ashanti in Western Africa do not recognize a 10 year old child, as a person, and would not be formally buried if he died. She emphasized that "personhood" isn't conferred automatically just because one is born, is alive or even being a human; and that each society develops its own criteria for determining when a fetus, infant or child becomes a "person," i.e. a formally acknowledged member of the social group.
the burial customs of a culture often provide the cultural definition of "personhood."
Dr. Morgan emphasized that the burial customs of a culture often provide the cultural definition of "personhood." For example, the Chippewa Indians of North America give formal burial rites for miscarried fetuses of 2-3 months gestation. This practice is clear evidence for the recognition of "personhood" of the fetus in that culture. In contrast, miscarried fetuses under 500 grams in Catholic Hospitals are not baptized, are not given death certificates and are not buried but are disposed of by the pathology laboratory, along with other human tissue. Such practices in Catholic Hospitals directly contradict their belief that "personhood" begins at conception.
It is through "social birth rites" that usually involve "naming ceremonies" that an infant is formally regarded as a person
Dr. Morgan emphasized the importance of distinguishing between biological birth and social birth. "Biological birth is the moment when the child physiologically leaves the woman's body and enters the world, but social birth is when the child is accepted into the human community and this can occur sometime later after the biological birth." It is through "social birth rites" that usually involve "naming ceremonies" that an infant is formally regarded as a person and if it dies before the "social birth rite," it essentially has died before it was born.
She noted that many cultures who have a high infant mortality rate have "delayed personhood" where the infant is often considered a "visitor" or a "spirit child" (e.g. Ashanti) and if it dies, there is no weeping. "Personhood" is often granted after newborns have proven that they will live and thrive. Delayed "personhood" provides an "emotional insurance or buffer" to parents who do not want to become attached to an infant they know will die.
This emotional buffer does not exist in those societies where the biological birth is equated with the social birth. In such societies damaged infants are permitted to die a slow agonizing death rather than permitting an immediate peaceful and humane termination of a dying life. The prolonging of dying, often painful, has become an acceptable ethical alternative in many societies, e.g. the American society. (see p.27).
Dr. Morgan concluded her presentation with the following observations:
I think that the most important issue is that people define people and that there is no cross-cultural consensus which would support granting personhood to fetuses.
"'Personhood,' as we have seen, is a widely variable concept. 'Personhood' can be granted before birth, at the moment of birth, or sometime after birth. There are several lessons that can be drawn about this for those who are embroiled in the abortion debate going on in this country: I think that the most important issue is that people define people and that there is no cross-cultural consensus which would support granting personhood to fetuses. There can be no strict, absolute or unchanging definition of when "personhood" begins or what "personhood" entails. The criteria for assigning "personhood" varies from one culture to another depending on how that culture has organized its belief system to make sense out of nature."
Our society will probably never be able to agree on the question of when a fetus becomes a person.
"Science and religion cannot provide concrete unit dimensional answers to the question of when "personhood" begins. Science and religion have been used to justify our thoughts and actions when they support what we already believe. Neither scientists nor theologians have been able to arrive at any kind of consensus about the onset of fetal "personhood." Our society will probably never be able to agree on the question of when a fetus becomes a person. We need to recognize that the moral dividing line between persons and non-persons is a cultural construction."
Overview of Dr. Leigh Minturn's Presentation
Dr. Leigh Minturn, Professor of Psychology, University of Colorado reviewed her previous extensive cross-cultural studies on infanticide as a terminal abortion procedure and her current studies and those of others on "social birth" which is celebrated in virtually all societies. She emphasized that infants/children are not considered to be members of their social group and protected by its laws until after a birth
infanticide always takes place before a birth ceremony is performed, i.e. before the infant/child becomes a "person" in the culture.
ceremony has been performed; and that infanticide always takes place before a birth ceremony is performed, i.e. before the infant/child becomes a "person" in the culture.
it is the mother who is the first cultural agent that confers "personhood" upon infants and children.
Dr. Minturn also analyzed the history of infanticide in Christian societies which revealed the existence of a variety of beliefs and practices that evaded the Christian law which equated infanticide with murder. She concluded her presentation with an analyses of how the institutions of culture, viz, religion, law and science have displaced the inherent and cultural historical reality that it is the mother who is the first cultural agent that confers "personhood" upon infants and children. The consequences of this "displacement" for contemporary societies were summarized, e.g. socially mandated support and maintenance of extraordinarily defective infants who ordinarily would die without the heroic methods of modern medicine—often leaving them in a state of "living vegetables."
In her discussion of "social birth," Dr. Minturn identified three different aspects of the birth ceremony, viz. familial—acceptance of the child by parents and extended family; religious—acceptance of the child into the religious community; and civic—giving a child a birth certificate that confers citizenship upon the infant. All of these ceremonies are different rites of passage that separates the individual from a previous stage of social existence and provides a transition and incorporation into a new stage of social existence.
infanticide always occurs before the birth ceremony and in virtually no primitive society has infanticide been prosecuted as murder.
With respect to abortion and infanticide in primitive cultures Dr. Minturn noted that abortion practices are neither very effective nor very safe and, therefore, infanticide became an acceptable alternative to dealing with unwanted children, the most frequent reasons being illegitimacy; deformity/sickness; too many children; and wrong sex (being female). Again, she emphasized that infanticide always occurs before the birth ceremony and in virtually no primitive society has infanticide been prosecuted as murder.
in many Christian countries the newborn was not considered fully human until it was baptized. Unbaptized infants were still steeped in original sin and thought to be under the influence of the devil;
Simarily, in many Christian countries the newborn was not considered fully human until it was baptized. Unbaptized infants were still steeped in original sin and thought to be under the influence of the devil; they could not be buried in
sometimes unbaptized infants were buried with stakes in their hearts like vampires so that they could not arise to do the work of the devil.
the churchyard and when the mother died in childbirth the mother was buried in the churchyard but the baby was buried outside the churchyard.
Dr. Minturn noted that sometimes unbaptized infants were buried with stakes in their hearts like vampires so that they could not arise to do the work of the devil. Being unbaptized also meant that the child would not go to either heaven or hell but to limbo. An unbaptized infant/child was not fully a Christian and if "ensoulment" gave passage to heaven or hell, then "personhood" was defined by baptism.
The transitional state of the post-partum mother was also affected in medieval Christianity where "a mother who has just given birth is no longer a real Christian until she has been churched because she is despoiled of her Christianity by the child in the act of birth" (the child with the evil of original sin).
Dr. Minturn then described the belief and practice of "overlaying" in Christian countries where European law described the death of a newborn as "accidental" when the mother would roll over the baby during sleep and smother him. "Overlaying" became such a common cause of infant death that it incurred a three year penalty of penance that was reduced to two years if the mother could prove it was "accidental."
"overlaying" was a legal fiction that permitted infanticide under the guise of "accidental" death in Christian countries... Other Christian beliefs that permitted infanticide was the belief in the "Changeling Child."
Dr. Minturn noted that mothers sleep with their infants all over the world and nowhere in her research in India or the dozens of ethnographies that she has read has any anthropologist reported a single mother rolling over her infant and smothering it to death. She concluded that "overlaying" was a legal fiction that permitted infanticide under the guise of "accidental" death in Christian countries.
Other Christian beliefs that permitted infanticide was the belief in the "Changeling Child." "Changeling" children are fairy children where fairies would swap their babies for human babies. Fairy children were not only soulless, they were little demons that were described as being thin, wrinkled/wizened and dark—i.e., a sickly infant/child.
If it was suspected that the child was a fairy child it was held over a fire. "Changelings" were expected to scream, while human children were expected to remain silent. Since "Changelings" were "soulless," they could be killed!
If it was suspected that the child was a fairy child it was held over a fire. "Changelings" were expected to scream, while human children were expected to remain silent. Since "Changelings" were "soulless," they could be killed!
Other facts of 19th century infanticide that came with the advent of the population explosion were cited by Dr. Minturn, e.g. English Christian law which stipulated that infanticide must be tried with the same rules of evidence as murder, i.e. with witnesses, etc. English law at the time also stipulated that the entire body of the child had to actually be born into the world in a living state and the fact of its having "breathed" was not conclusive proof of it's being born. There had to be independent circulation in the child before it could be considered alive. Thus, if the child's head was crushed when it was "half-born" or before the severing of the umbilical cord it would not be considered infanticide.
CHILDREN BEING COOKED. Parental infanticidal acts were usually projected onto Jews or witches, as here in Guazzo's Compendium Malificarum. From Foundations of Psychohistory. The Institute for Psychohistory New York 1982
DO YOU KNOW THE TRUTH—ABOUT VIOLENCE AND ABORTION
- DO YOU KNOW that most human cultures that punish abortion also engage in human torture and mutilation?
- DO YOU KNOW that most individuals who oppose abortion also support capital punishment?
- DO YOU KNOW 95% of Congressmen who consistently oppose abortion voted against the use of medical heroin to eliminate agonizing pain in dying cancer patients?
- DO YOU KNOW that most individuals who oppose the right of women to be mothers by choice DO NOT respect human life nor have compassion for human pain and suffering?
- DO YOU KNOW what is the real driving force behind the violent anti-abortion movement?
Answers to these and other questions can be found in the book: ABORTION RIGHTS AND FETAL 'PERSONHOOD' published by AMERICANS FOR RELIGIOUS LIBERTY which can be obtained by sending a check or money order for $14.45 to:
The National League For Separation of Church And State
P.O. Box 2832, San Diego, CA 92112
PRICE INCLUDES SHIPPING/HANDLING AND SALES TAX WHERE APPLICABLE.
Dr. Minturn contrasted that history with some current history in the United States, specifically the Denver General Hospital where a baby was born with Downs Syndrome and Spina Bifida where the parents refused surgery to avoid raising a Downs Syndrome baby. The hospital staff said they could not kill the baby; so they let it starve to death. Dr. Minturn commented: "Now that's infanticide. At least in most traditional societies, where termination of the life of the baby was necessary, it was done swiftly and painlessly."
Dr. Minturn concluded her presentation with the following comments:
"I believe very strongly with Judith Rosen that when the law, the church, the bureaucracy, anybody, starts acting in loco parentis to try and protect the unborn they don't protect the unborn. They persecute the unwed ... Society must not act in loco parentis until the mother who is in loco maternis had decided that she's going to turn that infant's life over to you."
"I do not think that scientists have any more right than the law or the church to decide for individual women what the child's "personhood" means. I support Dr. Maguire in her position that the matter is between a woman and her God. I do not see how the legal system of a society that advocates separation of church and state and wants to respect religious freedom, can do otherwise.
"If you stop contraception you get abortion, if you stop abortion you get infanticide. If you stop infanticide, you get child abuse/neglect and child homicide."
In summarizing the implications for contemporary societies that have seized from women their maternal rights and traditions associated with pregnancy, child birth and care of the newborn, Dr. Minturn concluded:
"If you stop contraception you get abortion, if you stop abortion you get infanticide. If you stop infanticide, you get child abuse/neglect and child homicide. Perhaps it should not be surprising that the primary cause of death of children in the United States before the age of ten is parental abuse and neglect." (Note: see page 40.)
"Not those who die, but those who die before they must and want to die, those who die in agony and pain are the great indictments against civilization."Herbert Macuse
Eros and Civilization
Overview of Dr. Prescott's Presentation
The research strategy that governed Dr. Prescott's research over the past fifteen years was to address empirically the claims of the anti-choice movement that they represent a respect for "right to life" and that abortion is "murder." Specifically, Cardinal Bernadino has claimed that the "anti-choice" position is derived from "seamless garment" of "respect for life" and a compassion for human pain and suffering.
Thus, the basic hypothesis to be tested can be formulated as follows: If abortion is murder then cultures and individuals who support abortion should manifest other social-behavioral characteristics that are akin to murderous behavior. If, however, opposition to abortion is a manifestation of authoritarian control over the lives of individuals and society, then it could be expected that such cultures and individuals should manifest a variety of social behaviors that can be classified as authoritarian and punitive in nature.
Three different data bases were developed over the past fifteen years to assess the above relationships. These were: a) primitive cultures that supported or opposed abortion practices; b) legislative voting patterns in the United States Congress (Senate and House); Canadian Parliament; and the Pennsylvania Senate and House; and c) psychometric studies in the United States and Canada that evaluated social behaviors and values associated wtih "pro-choice" and "anti-choice" positions.
In brief, the assumptions of the benevolent personality character structure of the "anti-choice" person and culture have been invalidated by all three data bases cited above. The "anti-choice" personality and culture was demonstrated to have a consistent profile of tolerance and support of human pain and violence in conflict resolution; authoritarian control over the personal liberties of the individual, particularly women and children; and low nurturance of children and families. These data provide no support for Cardinal Bernadino's claim that the "anti-choice" ethic is derived from "seamless garment" of "respect for life" and "compassion for human pain and suffering."
Summarized below are the statistically significant characteristics of the "anti-choice" culture and/or personality:
- Support of Slavery (primitive cultures)
- Support of Killing, Torturing & Mutilation of Enemy Captured in Warfare (primitive cultures)
- Support Exploitation of Women and Children (primitive cultures)
- Punish Pre-marital and Extra-marital Sexuality (primitive and contemporary cultures)
- Kin Group is Patrilineal (primitive cultures)
- Support Capital Punishment (U.S. Senate and Canadian Parliament)
- Support Vietnam War and Contra Aid (U.S. Senate and House, respectively)
- Support "No-Knock" Laws (U.S. Senate)
- Oppose Hand-Gun Controls (U.S. Senate and House)
- Oppose Medical Heroin to Relieve Pain in Dying Cancer Patients (U.S. House)
- Support Fornication and Adultery as Felonies (Pennsylvania House and Senate)
- Have Approximately 50% Less Family and Child Nurturance Scores Than "Pro-Choice" (U.S..Senate and House)
- Prostitution Should Be Punished By Society (Psychometric Studies)
- Sexual Pleasures Help Build A Weak Moral Character (Psychometric Studies)
- Society Should Interfere With Private Sexual Behavior Between Adults (Psychometric Studies)
- Physical Punishment and Pain Help Build A Strong Moral Character (Psychometric Studies)
These data provide no support for Cardinal Bernadino's claim that the "anti-choice" ethic is derived from "seamless garment" of "respect for life" and "compassion for human pain and suffering."
Additional findings that need to be emphasizcd is that the violence and sexual repression that was found to characterize the anti-abortion primitive cultures, i.e. support slavery; killing, torturing and mutilation otenemy captured in warfare; and punishment of pre-marital and extra-marital sexuality was not found to characterize those primitive cultures that are known to have infanticide practices. These findings are consistent with Dr. Minturn's report that in these primitive cultures infanticide practices are not considered murder nor do they reflect a violent and murderous culture.
The driving force behind the authoritarian ideology of the "anti-choice" movement is embedded in a moral concept of "sexual sin."
It is concluded that the "anti-choice" cultures and personalities are characterized by an authoritarian ideology that attempts to subordinate the individual to that ideology and will use violence (fire-bombing abortion clinics, for example). if necessary, to accomplish that objective. Further, it is transparent that this authoritarian ideology is not governed by a "seamless garment" of "respect for life," and that the driving force behind the authoritarian ideology of the "anti-choice" movement is embedded in amoral concept of "sexual sin" where "illicit" sexual pleasures of the body must be denied, controlled and punished.
Tolerance of abortion represents a de facto recognition of "a sexuality for pleasure ethic" that is disassociated from procreation. This moral view of human sexuality is unaccep-table to the patristic, authoritarian moral fundamentalists who believe in "sexual sin;" and the subordination of women and her body to men (the denial of true human equality between men and women); and who fear the full sexual equality and autonomy of women. (See Francoeur, page 31.)
It is of more than passing interest to note the parallels between the co
Ad Extirpanda in 1252.) (See page 29.)
The above findings and historical event further invalidate the claim that the psychology or motivation underlying "opposition to abortion" reflects a "Seamless Garment" of "Respect for Life."
Second President of the United States
The Church of Rome has made it an article of faith that no man can be saved out of their church, and all other religious sects approach this dreadful opinion in proportion to their ignorance, and the influence of ignorant or wicked priests.February 16, 1756
(Diary and Autobiography)
...This would be the best of all possible worlds, if there were no religion in it.Letter To Jefferson, 1916
(Quoted by Jefferson in a letter.)
Third President of the United States
In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot ... they have perverted the purest religion ever preached to man into mystery and jargon, unintelligible to all mankind, and therefore the safer engine for their purpose.March 17, 1814
Letter To Horatio Spafford
They (the clergy) believe that any portion of power confided to me, will be exerted in opposition to their schemes. And they believe rightly: for I have sworn upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man.September 23, 1800
Letter To Dr. Benjamin Rush
Republished with the kind permission of James W. Prescott and Edd Doerr. OCR, proofreading and HTML by Joel Schlosberg. Please inform us about any errors you find. If you want to write a translation, please contact Erik Möller.