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Salient. Victoria University Student Newspaper. Volume 36, Number 9. 1ts May 1973

When does human life begin?

When does human life begin?

One of the two most basic questions involved in the abortion issue is "When does human life begin?" In answering this question we must observe the source of knowledge upon which the opinions are based.

The most noteworthy scientific body within the last decade to consider this problem was the First International Conference on Abortion held in 1967, U.S.A. The decision of this conference, (of which 20% were Catholic with the ratio being worked out proportionately on academic discipline, race and religion) was 19 to 1 in support of the following statement: "The majority of our group could find no point in time between the union of sperm and egg, or at least the blastocyst stage, and the birth of the infant at which time we could say that this was not a human life. The change occurring between implantation, a six weeks embryo, a six months foetus, a one week old child, or a mature adult are merely stages of development and maturation."

Since this is the most qualified body ever to discuss the question and come to a conclusion, from a scientific standpoint the abortion debate must proceed on the assumption that this is human life. As this is human life we can say therefore that an infant once was a foetus but not that it has come from a foetus. (In the same way, an adult once was a child but has not come from a child.)

The other basic question in this debate is centred around the saying, "A woman has the right to control her own body". (Just as a man has the right to control his own body.) While people agree that every person has (or should have) the right to control her/his body, is the foetus part of the woman's body? The organs within the woman's body e.g. the heart, the lungs etc. all have cells which carry the same genetic code as the mother and therefore are very much part of that women's body. However, the new living being within the womb of the mother has a genetic code that is totally different from each of its parents. It is in truth a completely separate growing organism—this is not part of her own body but rather it is another person's body and as such the mother has no right to exercise control over it.

Who is to say that the mother's right to control her own body is greater than that of the unborn child to life? These rights are equal coexisting rights and so neither is greater than the other.

Does a woman have the right to privacy over her own body? Yes she does, but if she does something to surrender this right, (e.g. she may be bashing some of her children) then the law will not protect her. The right of the child to life is far greater than the right of a mother to privacy.

There are many other issues in this debate that have not been dealt with here because I feel that these two questions are the most crucial to the whole question. Having dealt with these I will leave it to others to argue the remainder.

Petra Van Den Munckhos

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