Go Know Roe

I’m late to the discussion, sorry. To try to answer the question posed in the post: : … what in your educated scientific opinions, is wrong with Roe"?

I think what is wrong in the first place is legal/Constitutional. The opinion relies on “rights” which are not included in the Constitution. They are, thus judge-created out of whole cloth and ought to have no place in Constitutional construction. An honest opinion would have said this is not a matter of Constitutional interpretation, since the document is silent as to abortion and the science is not within this Court’s competence. There is no federal question. It is therefore a matter for majority rule within the legislative power of the several states.

Strictly scientifically, “viability” is dependent on the state of medical knowledge and expertise, constantly in a state of change. The notion that a right conferred by the Constitution can in any way depend on the state of medical art is cognitively dissonant, to say the least. Such a decision trivializes the very concept of what a “right” is.

When legislatures wrestle with these issues, they may be well advised to explicitly recognize the arbitrariness of limits they set as to the stage of pregnancy beyond which abortion is not permitted. Among the considerations is the extent to which such rules are enforceable, when early abortions may be accomplished by simply ingesting an oral abortifacient.

As well, legislatures ought not permit rare exceptions - like pregnancies resulting from rape/incest - to swallow the rule. There are virtually no valid medical indications regarding health of the mother which require abortion after 15 weeks. The demand for abortion at term is absurd. Most of the risks to the mother have already been incurred by merely carrying the pregnancy to term. Either a vaginal delivery or Cesarean section adds de minimus additional risk compared with delivering the head (the most risky part of vaginal delivery) and performing a “fetal craniotomy” i.e. killing a fully-formed human infant by sucking its brain out of the cranial cavity. I submit that one single video depicting this procedure - shown to the public - would be seen as so shockingly gruesome, inhumane and evil as to immediately eliminate all such demands - no matter how loudly it is depicted my the MSM as “disinformation”.

As to the question of when a fertilized ovum becomes a human individual to which legally -cognizable rights ought to attach, I think the spectrum in which this must be analyzed is in the dimension of information content. A zygote has the entire genetic information required to form a unique human person. It is thus a unique potential person. With in utero development over time, that genetic information is expressed as tissues and organs develop, including the brain which begins to accumulate and process information. This organ informs that particular individual’s life experience by recording information and eventually making much of it accessible to awareness. This is a continuous process and birth - leaving the womb - merely allows the new person a wider variety of sensory input.

In terms of accretion of the information which confers non-genetic individuality on this individual, the notion that birth is the major milestone it has heretofore been seen to be, loses much of its power. From a rational, informational standpoint a unique series of life experiences adds to the new individual’s already unique genetic structure and thereby it IN - FORMS that individual. Birth permits a quantitative - but not qualitative (all the sense organs are working to some extent in utero) - increase in the diversity of that input to the brain. In sum, the uniqueness of an individual begins with the genetic information of the zygote and grows continuously throughout succeeding development, indeed throughout the entire life of the individual. Scientifically, I believe it is essential to consider the informational content as of the essence as to what constitutes a unique individual. Further, this occurs on a continuum and the only landmark which withstands rational analysis, in that regard, is development of the brain which stores and processes the individual’s unique experiences of life. Once that brain becomes even minimally functional, the gathering of individual information increases exponentially. Now, heartbeat is more easily observable and measurable (and emotional). The heart is just a pump, however, whose function is hardly unique. Initial function of the brain, by comparison, is a far more rational definition of the beginning of a unique human individual life. This may or may not be presently amenable to remote sensing from outside the mother’s body. If not today, then likely it will be in the future. That may be a better answer as to “when does ‘life’ begin”? That question, thus, has layers of answers, as a zygote is already alive and it is obviously human. That’s all I have to say about that.


Uh your honor, we rest our case. Thank you.


So CW, ?when do you believe a “person” learns the difference between good and evil. Because if you are of the Judeo-Christian faith, it is inherent in each of us. One can wonder what serial killers and other inherent psychopaths think, but if you have faith, you know Exodus holds that Adam learned of it by eating the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Since this country was formed upon Christian ethics and understanding, ?would not some of that also apply to this discussion.


CW’s speculation about what it would mean if we could eventually perceive fetal brain activity is the first comment addressing the question i was trying to pose. What if we knew that, just like the heartbeat, the activity of the fetal brain in the womb is the same as at birth? Whatevwr that is. But anyone who has dealt intimately with a newborn knows it isnt nothing. The infant is forceful, goal-oriented. Yes i think that would change the entire debate.


Okay i just re-read the Constitution, Art I sec 8. “Codify Roe”? I dont see any enumerated power of Congress which gives ‘em authority to regulate human reproduction. They cant just criminalize or de- criminalize actions at random. Murder, f’rinstance, isnt a federal crime (unless you do it in DC.). The Defense of Matriage Act is unconstitutional though nobody’s gonna bother with it after Obergefel.


Well, we do know that, and have for many years. There is nothing magical or physiological that happens at birth other than the oxygen supply to the baby’s blood being transferred from the mother’s bloodstream via the placenta to the baby’s own lungs. Brain activity is unaffected, and continues to develop along the continuum which began months before as the brain began to develop in the womb. Since we know that children born prematurely prior to 22 weeks can survive and grow into completely normal adults, we know that the brain of an unborn child from that point on is fully functional and able to develop normally. Nothing changes at birth other, than as Civil Westman noted, the stimuli presented to the developing child.

Does a newborn child react to pain? Yes. Then so does a child in the womb before birth. When does the perception of pain begin? Again, that’s a continuum, and not a step function. Is inflicting pain upon a living organism tortuous or sinful? Ask the lawyers and theologians. Ask the people who eat lobsters (some of whom live longer than humans) dropped alive into boiling water.

As one who has ventured into the dangerous and fringy territory of consciousness studies, I believe that a large part of what defines higher life is consciousness, even though, as Nick Herbert said,

Science’s biggest mystery is the nature of consciousness. It is not that we possess bad or imperfect theories of human awareness; we simply have no such theories at all. About all that we know about consciousness is that has something to do with the head, rather than the foot.

But it appears that the cerebral cortex in mammals has a lot to do with consciousness (while neuroscientists argue over trying to localise it more precisely), so I’d say we’re probably safe in saying an embyro which has not yet developed that part of the brain is unlikely to be conscious.

But from the moment of conception, every cell of the embryo carries the unique genetic code which will develop into a unique organism. Killing the embryo loses that information. For now—but we already have the ability of extract the DNA from a cell of the embryo, sequence it, and back it up on a USB stick or the cloud. In a few years, we’ll probably be able to synthesise the DNA from that sequence, put it in an egg, and create a clone (or as may as you wish) of the embryo, so the information will not be lost.

The law, with its its step functions, binary tests, and word salad definitions, is utterly inadequate to handle this level of complexity.


Yeah….that raises the queation of how it coulda been a sin, or been wrong, to eat the fruit, when our first parents didnt KNOW good from evil until after they ate it. Is your dog a sinner if it poops on the rug or steals food from the table? It may have known it has been commanded not to do so. But that isnt the same thing as knowing good and evil.


Thats what i meant when i posted. This isnt a question of , or for, law. I meant, physiologically, does Roe make any sense?
If we know that before 12 weeks there is no consciousness, then is whatever is being eliminated in any way human (except in its potential to become one)?
We humans can also conceive beings whose lifespan is only about 8-10 weeks. Then the being will die and be expelled from the womb, having lived as long as its chromosomal makeup could sustain it. Or so i was told.


Well, the developing embryo may be expelled from the womb for a multitude of reasons, only some of which (and probably a small minority) are due to its genetic makeup. Sub-optimal implantation, developmental problems unrelated to genetics (a bad fold in one of the early events), etc. can render the embryo non-viable and lead to an early termination of pregnancy, in many cases before the mother is even aware of it.

Biology is hideously messy and complicated, and the more you learn about it, the more messy and complicated it gets. It is not just true that a single-cell bacterium is more complicated than a star, it is trillions of times more complicated than a star, and a multicellular organism with a nervous system and self-awareness is probably trillions more (just based upon the number of synapses in the brain).

This is why those who wish to make black and white (can I still say that?) tests should be laughed out of the arena.


I think John may have hit it. The law ALWAYS needs absolute lines, but those aren’t always possible.


You pose questions I have struggled with since I was a kid. Though I am not presently confessing a particular faith (I went from nominally Jewish to Episcopal, to lapsed when that church took a radical left turn), I had a naturally-occurring Manichean worldview as part of my childhood operating system. Early on, as I saw it, the world was divided into good and evil. I think the way good vs. evil can be taken into account (consistent with liberty and moral agency of each individual) is through a fair political process.

When it comes to abortion, the least bad thing we can do is legislate by majority rule in the states. My own belief is that abortion is always a moral wrong, evil if you wish. However, it is unworkable for a modern society to attempt to ban all moral wrongs. Early abortion falls into this category, as the individual rights of the woman exceed those rights which may attach to the zygote. This is especially so since the advent of reliable abortion-inducing substances which permit a woman (my view does not allow for the existence of pregnant men) to abort without involvement of any third parties like doctors or nurses - thereby removing this issue from “medical care”. As the important scientific realities exist on a continuum - and the state’s interest in the life of the fetus increases as the pregnancy progresses - I think the best compromise would be to ban all abortion through legislation after 15 weeks, for now. It may be restricted to earlier, should new knowledge of fetal brain function suggest it ought to be banned earlier.

In any case, thinking of abortion as mere “birth control” should be strongly discouraged. If we had anything resembling what used to be journalism, videos (which would be called ‘misinformation’) of ultrasound of the killing of embryos/fetuses - showing them obviously trying to escape the killing instrument (called a uterine curette) - should be made widely available. In this case, a picture would be worth very few words; what would follow would be gasps of horror and much silence. A less zealous defense of abortion would likely ensue, were actual knowledge of this reality of this barbarity to become widespread.


A corpse becomes such not necessarily when the heart stops beating, but when the brain function ceases irreversibly (with no possibility of temporary cessations such as hypothermia or barbiturate overdose). Death today is brain death. At this moment, there are likely several hundred living adult and child human beings on heart/lung machines in operating rooms or ICU’s, who will resume normal life because their brains are still alive while their hearts are being repaired or replaced.

This is completely consonant with my suggestion we rationally define the meaningful and legally-defensible beginning of “life” as the beginning of brain function. As I said, detection of heartbeat is simpler, but not unique to the individual, as the ability to transplant hearts from one (brain dead) individual into another (brain alive) individual, who remains a unique individual based upon his/her genetics + neurological informational content.


Yes, there are exceptions to the beating of the heart defining “life” – although we should note that those exceptions involve massive 24/7 external inputs to maintain that life in the absence of a beating heart. It is the simplicity & observability of a fetal heartbeat that makes it an easy marker for setting a line for when a fetus should be considered “human”. But that is simply an observation and a suggestion, not a hill on which I would be prepared to die.

What I am prepared to die on is the hill of Responsibilities. The drafters of the Constitution in the 1700s knew all about responsibilities – they were responsible for keeping themselves and their families and their communities alive. Because those responsibilities were so obvious & pervasive, there was no need to mention them in the Constitution. Instead, they wrote about the Rights purchased by observing those responsibilities.

Rights & responsibilities are two sides of the same coin. The question is – What are the responsibilities that women are signing up for when they assert the right to an abortion?


That is a good question! Sadly, as you note, the responsibilities understood at the Founding, to exist in counterpoise to rights, have fallen into - shall we say - disfavor. Actually, they have been cancelled by our betters, like much else of value and actually essential if one hopes to maintain a decent society.

As this first entered my mind, for reasons which elude me, I thought of OPM - for “Other People’s Money”. Immediately, I then went to the zeitgeist of the times in America, a palindrome (an anadrome, really) describing the new tribalism, as it turns out: “My People’s Oppression” or MPO™. Entitlement, a potent societal centrifugal force, has thoroughly replaced the original social cohesion which an ethos of Responsibility conferred. This was undertaken several generations ago via the ‘long march’ through institutions with malice aforethought by the left for the specific purpose of divide and conquer. It has worked as planned.

Today’s ‘equity equation’ goes like this:

              equity = MPO™+ ∞∑OPM .

Received wisdom, we are told demands “equity” - i.e. soothing the pains of oppression requires a ‘green poultice’ of other people’s money in infinite amounts (along with political genuflexion). Here it is expressed in ‘scientific’ notation, so it must be true. Anything else would be a “hate equation” (though math, we are told, is racist, anyway) or ‘misinformation’.


One day all humans will look Brazilian: Brazilian judge probed for blocking abortion for raped child | AP News


And this is why I hate both sides of this debate: if you’re so effing “pro-life”, who cares about rape or incest? And if you’re so effing “pro-choice”, why didn’t you exercise your precious judgment to prevent conception?

It seems to me our society used to feel, starting back in the 70s, that heterosexual coitus was so pleasurable it was …simply irresistible (like the song sez) and nobody could even be expected to think of the consequences at these moments of supreme abandon, and nobody SHOULD even hesitate when tempted to tumble into ecstasy—in fact, to do so would be a sign of “frigidity” and that was a bad, despicable way to be. It was wrong, cowardly, “uptight”, not to follow your desires.
(If you didn’t live through this period or you’ve forgotten it, please read John Updike’s “Memories of the Ford Administration”. )
Having sex, back then ,wasn’t seen as a “choice”, it was…”doin’ whut comes natcherly”, and that was a good thing. I think that’s why we got into the mindset that rational choice as to what to do if you conceive doesn’t become an option until after the fact.
But NOW, of course, heterosexual sexual relations are suspect ab initio. A mere “power play”. It is NOW despicable for a man to want sex, and it is naive for a woman to delude herself that she wants it. He thinks (or pretends) he wants her, but he merely wants to excercise dominance. She thinks she wants him, but she has no idea what she “really” wants because she is and remains a mentally defective incompetent well into her thirties.
Ditez-moi: if she’s so gormless she lacks the facility for agency to consent to, or refuse, sex, how come she’s the sole arbiter, (exclusive of even the father) as to whether the foetus lives or dies?
I’m really kinda surprised this is still such a contentious issue, when every societal attitude we now embrace is geared to DISCOURAGE and demonize heterosexual coitus. Gents, can you imagine wanting to get it on with any of those harpies wearing pants painted to look like theyre suffering a postpartum hemorrhage? Talk about a buzzkill…


It is a very difficult topic – probably because this is one of those situations in which we have to accept the “Least Unacceptable Alternative”, knowing that all alternatives are undesirable.

Perhaps one slightly less unacceptable alternative might be to require that – for any abortion performed after the fetus develops a beating heart – the mother is legally required to give the aborted baby a name and a decent burial; the aborted baby cannot be merely flushed down the drain or broken up for profitable parts. The woman’s responsibility for providing that decent burial is the counterpart to her right to demand an abortion. If the Supreme Court Justices look hard enough into the penumbra of the Constitution, I am sure they can find this provision lurking in there somewhere.


Gavin, your ability for clever sarcasm never fails to amaze and amuse me. LOVE the “If the Supreme Court Justices look hard enough into the penumbra of the Constitution, I am sure they can find this provision lurking in there somewhere.”

I don’t believe this is a “difficult subject”. We have had a “solution” for eons - that worked, and it is only the newly minted ”geniuses “ who can’t think their way out of a wet paper bag on a bright sunny day that have created the problem we never had.


I totally agree with your last sentence, Devereaux, but I’m wondering what, in your opinion, the time-tested solution is? The most obvious (do not f—uh, have intercourse) is kinda rough on married couples. So do you mean contraception?
(And BTW, I remember now that nobody who commented has answered any of the questions posed in my second-before-last paragraph of the OP: Should there be ANY time period, even a few minutes, after copulation, when the woman can legitimately seek to interfere with the zygote? And if there should be a longer period, should it depend on whether the woman knows, or thinks it likely, that she has conceived? Anybody? )


I think I answered that in the above quote. Scientifically, a unique individual becomes rationally as such and legally-cognizable when it has a functioning brain - specifically a cerebral cortex. That part of the brain arises over several succeeding weeks from the telencephalon, which, itself does not arise until the fifth week post-conception. So, to be conservative, there is no plausible individualized neural activity before the fifth week (and likely several weeks later).

Now, genetically, the individual is unique at conception. However, this is rather in the sense that blueprint or mechanical drawing is unique - not the unique structure or device drawn, however detailed the drawing. So, scientifically, I think there is a period before 5 weeks when a reasonable argument exists that - while it is still a moral wrong and given that enforcing a ban would be difficult, since the woman can take an abortifacient without any medical procedure requiring assistance - abortion could be deemed legal by state legislatures. That is my best, clarified, answer to this difficult question.