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Journal of No. 118

April 11th, 2012

Riddle me this @ 09:29 am

Q: When does life begin?

A: Three and a half billion years ago.

In the abortion debate, there's a lot of talk (on one side, anyway) about 'when life begins'. But life is continuous. You're alive, your fetal self was alive, your zygote-y self was alive, your parents' gametes were alive, your parents were alive, and so on, back a few billion years. At no point in this history is everything dead, with life beginning anew.

The same goes for 'human', which is sometimes substituted with pseudoscientific authority. The fetus is human. Well, so are the egg and the sperm. They're not gibbon sperm, or lizard eggs. That only goes back a million years or so, of course, but the point is that humanness does not spring de novo from something non-human every time someone is conceived.

The question is about legal personhood. And this is not some sort of debating shuck and jive. The debate is about legal issues, and the Constitution refers to the rights of the people (aka persons).

And what makes a legal person is not immediately obvious. Since a corporation is a legal person, we can say that personhood begins (I suppose) at the ratification of the articles of incorporation. It is difficult to see how to apply this to people-persons, er... human-persons, er... biological-persons.

Here endeth the blogging.
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Date:April 11th, 2012 05:20 pm (UTC)

Q: When does life begin?

Religiously speaking, there are elements to this debate that hearken back to the question of when the *soul* enters the child. The ancients were seriously concerned with this sort of thing, naturally.

The Ancient Greeks concluded that spastic, cross-eyed, drooling newborns were obviously not fully human yet. Therefore it was acceptable to leave children exposed in the wilderness if they were unwanted.

An Ancient Greek campaign of a similar type would have said, "Life Begins at Birth" and have been controversial.
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Date:April 11th, 2012 05:47 pm (UTC)

Re: Q: When does life begin?


Just digging deeper... ancient exposure was more broadly practiced than for just 'imperfections'.
After a woman had a baby, she would show it to her husband. If the husband accepted it, it would live, but if he refused it, it would die. Babies would often be rejected if they were illegitimate, unhealthy or deformed, the wrong sex (female for example), or too great a burden on the family. These babies would not be directly killed, but put in a clay pot or jar and deserted outside the front door or on the roadway. In ancient Greek religion, this practice took the responsibility away from the parents because the child would die of natural causes, for example hunger, asphyxiation or exposure to the elements.

The practice was prevalent in ancient Rome, as well. Philo was the first philosopher to speak out against it.[30] A letter from a Roman citizen to his wife, dating from 1 BCE, demonstrates the casual nature with which infanticide was often viewed:
"I am still in Alexandria. ... I beg and plead with you to take care of our little child, and as soon as we receive wages, I will send them to you. In the meantime, if (good fortune to you!) you give birth, if it is a boy, let it live; if it is a girl, expose it."

So for them, it would appear, legal personhood (or at least, the right not to be exposed) occurs upon acceptance of the father.
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Date:April 11th, 2012 06:24 pm (UTC)
I'd think the required official documentation being received and acknowledged by the appropriate governing body would be the beginning of corporate personhood: it's not only an agreement among the various partners who form the corporation, but a recognition on the part of "society" that you are this thing (and not that thing) and are subject to these rules (and not some other set of rules).

Which is one reason it makes a decent parallel to the abortion debate. There is no agreement on the part of "society" that a fetus is a human person, so all the rhetoric about "beating hearts" is rather beside the point. Not all creatures with beating hearts are human, and up until recently, Dick Cheney was an example of a human without a beating heart. Until the pro-life faction obtains the legal acknowledgement of "fetal personhood" they are seeking in many localities, they are unlikely to be able to make much change to the settled law regarding abortion.

--- Ajax.

Journal of No. 118