Sunday, May 3, 2009

What does it mean to be "alive", and more about abortion.

From a scientific standpoint, something is "alive" if it consumes sustenance, is capable of reproduction, et cetera. According to this definition, FIRE is technically "alive". So are microorganisms, such as bacteria and viruses. Naturally, living breathing people are also considered to be "alive".

But what does it truly mean for a person to be "alive"? In my personal opinion, you are not truly "alive" unless you are in possession of enough cognitive ability to know that you exist. It's really not that difficult to have that much brainpower. Cats and dogs have it. Even the lowly little cockroach knows that it exists, even if its brain can't function much farther beyond this.

The reason I am bringing this up is the fact that certain questions were posed after relatives had read my last blog regarding abortion, and other philosophical questions were brought into the discussion, regarding an uncle who was left with massive brain damage after a motorcycle accident.

I am of the opinion that, no matter how bad it really sucks, being "brain-dead" is still dead. Period. If you are unable to know that you exist, and will never regain the ability to know you exist, you are not alive. You may eat through a tube, breathe through a machine (or even on your own, for that matter), et cetera...but if you cannot understand the basic concept of "I am", you simply aren't.

My father watched his oldest brother go from being one of the brightest men on this planet to being a "vegetable", after a serious head injury stemming from crashing a Harley-Davidson. At the age of 25, I purchased my first motorcycle while in college. Shortly after, I had a very long discussion with my father concerning what we would do in the event of any injury that ever left either of us without a functioning mind. Apparently, I'm not the only one who feels the way I do.

Much like my father, I have also lost a brother on the road. On my 17th birthday, my brother was traveling home from a New Year's Eve party with his fiance when she lost control of her Toyota pickup. She was ejected from the vehicle, and is still alive to this day. Brandon, on the other hand, was wearing a seatbelt. His head was crushed by the roof of the cab when the truck flipped over repeatedly, but was still technically "alive". Alive in the sense that certain vital organs were still functioning, even though the majority of his brain was shredded apart by shards of metal. He technically "died" three and a half hours later, in an emergency room, when these organs finally gave up.

In my opinion, however, my brother died on a deserted highway in East Texas.

Had it not been for the massive amount of blood loss, there is a possibility that he might still be "alive" today. There is, of course, also the possibility that his brain was so ripped apart that he would never actually know it.

Had his vital organs been able to make it through such trauma, our mother and his father would also be faced with a very challenging question... "Should we pull the plug?". It's a question no one wants to be forced to answer, because it is only asked in cases where a loved one is lost.

It still doesn't change the fact that the basic underlying question is also there. What does it mean to be "alive"? Again, I don't think one is truly "alive" unless one is capable of knowing that one is "alive".

The human body is, in my opinion, perhaps the greatest of all God's accomplishments. The human mind is the most important feature of that body, for it is the essence of the soul.

I can use my legs to run, or use them to sit myself down. With my hands, I can either destroy or create. I can open my mouth to speak or close it to remain silent. Without a functioning mind, I can do none of these things. Without arms, legs, or a tongue, I can still engage in philosophical introspection, as long as I have a functioning mind.

This opinion of mine, that states a person is not truly alive without a functioning mind, does not mean that I care any less for the person who no longer has merely means that I accept death as the natural end of life, no matter how or why the death of a loved one may occur. My grandmother fought hard against breast cancer that spread throughout her entire body, and up to her last breath had a functioning brain. My brother had a body that fought hard for more than three hours, against all odds, but had a brilliant mind that was destroyed by an automobile accident. I loved them both dearly, as my father loved his father and brother. Accepting a loved ones' status as being dead or alive holds no bearing on this love, as it will endure forever.


Now, moving right along to the original discussion of abortion. First off, let's go over some facts. These facts are from an ANTI-ABORTION website, so you can be assured that it's not "just a bunch of liberal propaganda".

1) In the average human pregnancy, the gestation period is 39 weeks...or, roughly, nine months. The gestation period is typically broken down into "trimesters" of 13 weeks. This stuff isn't actually from the website, it's just a refresher course of basic knowledge for those of us who slept through junior high science class.

2) In America, all but 1% of abortions are performed prior to the beginning of the third trimester. As a matter of fact, these 99% are performed prior to the 20th week of gestation. 95% are performed prior to the 16th week, and 89% are performed prior to the 13th week. 77% of all abortions in America are performed before the tenth week of gestation, which is the point where medical science begins to call it a "fetus".

3) Those who consider themselves to be "Christians" represent 75% of all women who have had an abortion in America.

Okay, so we've got those facts out of the way. Now, let's look at basic biology. As with any other living organism, the human body begins development of its most essential features first. The abilities of the five basic senses are considered necessary for survival (yes, you can get along without them, but having all five sure does help!).

The human body has many INVOLUNTARY reactions to the world around it, which are completely independent of the cognitive human mind (the doctor kneecapping you with the little hammer to check your reflexes is coming to mind here).

The basic building blocks of the human body are put together long before the non-essential features, and this holds true with the human fetal brain as well.

Prior to the 25th week, the fetal heart should be adjusting itself to outside stimuli (sound, temperature, pressure, et cetera). Much like your own heart rate self-adjusting without control from your mind, cognitive awareness is not necessary for this to occur.

As early as the 9th week, fetal muscular movement is possible. Until near-term, however, these are involuntary responses to stimuli. The forebrain, responsible for cognitive thought, simply has not developed until that point.

Is a fetus "alive"? Of course it is. It has its own DNA, blood type, heartbeat, and brain. It does not, however, at the point where 99% of abortions are performed in America, have a functioning mind that is capable of self-awareness.

Now for my family that felt the need to blast me for my opinions earlier (as well as any others who might think I'm promoting "baby-killing" or something similarly retarded!), I'll say this:

I AM NOT PRO-ABORTION. I am pro-choice, and choose to look at this matter from an objective view. My cousin's wife is going to have a baby in the near future, and I couldn't be more proud. Two of my dear friends just recently gave birth to their babies (in Kim's case, a pair of them!), and I couldn't be happier for their addition to humanity. At some point in my lifetime, I also hope to have a child of my own.

That still doesn't change the fact that I have the opinions I have. Of course I don't walk around asking my pregnant friends "how's your fetus doing?". I understand that having a baby is a very personal thing, as it is the creation of a life.

What I DON'T understand is how people can honestly say that you were a "person" from the moment the sperm fertilized the egg, if they understand anything at all about basic human biology. How is a cluster of cells considered a "person"? That's what an embryo is. If abortion is murder, is a miscarriage considered "involuntary manslaughter"?

At some point, we as a society need to overcome our personal beliefs and look at the law from an objective point of view.

At the time of my birth, and ESPECIALLY during the time of my father's birth, countless mothers smoked like a worn-out Chrysler while they were pregnant...and most of us came out just fine. My mother's "anesthesia" during childbirth, according to those who were there in that apartment, was a joint and two glasses of red wine.

Today, under Texas state law, you can legally be prosecuted for "endangering the welfare of a child"...for smoking a cigarette while pregnant. And yes, it's happened before, believe it or not. Sadly, this is what happens when THE MAJORITY of society becomes completely entrenched in their personal views that they feel the need to spread them to everyone else...even those who don't agree with the views of the majority.

Just for the record, there is only ONE passage in the bible that mentions the death of a fetus through causes unnatural.
"And if men struggle and strike a woman with child so that she has a miscarriage, yet there is no further injury, he shall be fined as the woman's husband may demand of him, and he shall pay as the judges decide. But if there is any further injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise."
Exodus 21:22-25
If I didn't know any better, it would seem that even the bible doesn't define a fetus as a "person", if it declares in the same passage as the famous "eye for an eye" law that the punishment for killing a fetus should be a fine set by the father...instead of the penalty of death, which was proscribed for the crime of killing a person.

It's quite simple...if you oppose abortion, don't get one. I don't agree with the practice of abortion, therefore I do what is necessary to prevent myself from impregnating anyone. If those steps are not enough to prevent the pregnancy, I still have no right to make a choice for another person, until that fetus becomes a "person"...and, at 13 weeks of gestation, it just simply isn't.

God gave us all a brain. Let's start using them in an objective manner, m'kay?

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