The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #63369   Message #1029870
Posted By: Nerd
05-Oct-03 - 02:19 AM
Thread Name: BS: No 'right to choose' this...
Subject: RE: BS: No 'right to choose' this...

Two things come to mind first of all. First, when you say that "deciding an issue purely in terms of what is the right thing for the people involved is the most equitable way to proceed," you seem to think that the father is not one of the people involved. Why is it more equitable for her to get her way, than for him to get his way? Personally, I think that the most equitable solution for the people involved (including the theoretical child) is that there be no pregnancy, given that one partner is unwilling to be a parent.

Second, in legal matters you simply cannot proceed as you suggest, discounting any wider issues. Every legal decision, particularly in a new area, sets a precedent that may have wider ramifications. It is not simply that by claiming the zygote has human rights you suggest that abortion is murder; it is that by granting the zygote human rights in a court of law you can actually MAKE abortion legally murder, if another lawyer in another court finds a judge willing to use your precedent.   

Furthermore, you're engaging in sophistry when you say that "Because she wants to" and "up to a stage in development" are the "certain circumstances" which currently apply in the USA. So abortion on a woman who did not consent, or where the "certain stage" has been reached would be illegal. I was arguing that abortion is not limited to certain circumstances as a consequence of the fetus being considered a human being in an early stage of development, which was what you claimed on 03 Oct 03 - 05:45 PM. In the US, the fetus is not considered a human being. "After a certain stage" merely kicks in because at that time it is considered a human being and therefore the procedure ceases to be an abortion at all.

In the US, at least, the fight on abortion rights is very much tied into religious belief and the question of when a human acquires a soul. This is made tricky by our "separation of church and state," which theoretically makes it illegal for the government to make any judgment on the very issue that many people see as crucial to the question! As this church-state separation is eroded by the right wing Christian zealots in power now, there is a real danger that abortion will one day be outlawed again. The same issue could easily underlie this case of frozen zygotes.

As NicoleC points out, the mothering arrangement I was speaking of above is not a science-fiction situation. Women can be surrogate mothers to children not biologically theirs, by having already-fertilized zygotes placed in their wombs. In fact, the arrangement you suggested, with an incubator, is science fiction; currently, babies can only gestate in a woman's womb (but give the doctors time!) It would be stretching to say that surrogate motherhood "happens all the time," but it is increasingly common. (In the USA many laypeople are familiar with this procedure through the popular TV show "Friends," in which the character Phoebe carried and gave birth to her brother and sister-in-law's babies some years back.)

This makes my question above valid, not ridiculous as McGrath would have it: if the zygote is able to survive in other women's wombs, and the zygote is not physically connected to the mother, and the zygote has no rights of its own such as the right to be with one's parents, and the zygote is not anyone's property, then what is the parents' legal claim to it? It must be legally "theirs" in some sense, or, having no rights of its own, it could be claimed by anyone, or what is worse, a corporation or government. I therefore (still) agree with NicoleC that this is essentially a property issue, because these are not human beings but a certain kind of human tissue which happens to belong to two different people. I see no reason why a zygote cannot be the joint property of the parents. I think nothing should be done with it without the consent of both parents, including moving it to the mother's womb.