In regards to the debate about the ethical use of discarded frozen embryos for stem cell research:
I find it obscene that many do not respect freedom of religion as guaranteed by the First Amendment. If one doesn’t support the First Amendment, perhaps they should move to a country that is controlled by religious zealots.
That is why I consider both the pro-life and pro-choice terms to be toxic and unconstitutional if used in the wording of law.
Many do not believe that a frozen embryo is “life”. It is religious faith that says life starts at conception. We don’t live in a country where religious dogma is allowed to be shoved down one’s throat.
I think all would agree that life occurs when a fetus is viable outside the womb which certainly happens at about 22 – 25 weeks gestation with intensive medical care. In the first eight weeks before the body is physically though not functionally partially formed, this is a matter of religious faith. It should not be a matter of law unless you want to revoke the First Amendment right to freedom of religion.
I do not believe life begins at conception. Although retired, I have practiced neonatology and my patients are in the Guinness Book of World Records 1997 ed (the Vincent triplets) as “the lightest set of triplets in the world” – combined weight 4lb 2oz. They are now healthy productive adults. Therefore, I believe I have a better understanding of biology concerning development than most people. I respect freedom of religion or faith. This means that I respect those that believe life begins at conception, but also expect them to respect those, like me, who believes that it does not. I don’t believe there is a human being with a soul until there is a thinking functioning brain.
Electroencephalography suggests the capacity for functional pain perception in premature infants probably does not exist before 29 or 30 weeks; this study asserted that withdrawal reflexes and changes in heart rates and hormone levels in response to invasive procedures are reflexes that do not indicate fetal pain. Lee, S. J. (2005). “Fetal Pain: A Systematic Multidisciplinary Review of the Evidence”.JAMA: the Journal of the American Medical Association 294 (8): 947–54.doi:10.1001/jama.294.8.947. PMID 16118385.
The following gestational ages mentioned are just estimates as some development can be speeded up or slowed down depending on exposure to steroids or due to variable gene expression. Development is a continuum, not a discrete process where you can say for sure that in every case the stage was reached at the same time – so you may have a good looking heart that is not fully septated without a properly functioning conduction system at 18 wks for example. The heart is not septated and functioning as a mature heart with a mature conduction system other than a beating tube until around 20 wks. The lungs are not fully canalized until 26 wks – this varies according to how stress hormones of mother as lung development is speeded up with steroids (tubes start out as solid, then form a lumen, then the air sacs develop). The brain does not show reaction to pain until close to 29-30 wks and the movement, sucking, reflexes that are seen are primitive – some from the spine and some from lower brain levels. Thought processes in a primitive way, not yet mature evolve in a continuum and take the longest with the higher thinking brain even developing continually until past the teen years (that’s why children age five don’t understand time and teens have poor processing of consequences and control of impulses).
Therefore, there is a gray area between about 18 weeks and 25-26 wks where there is a very big question as to when a thinking, feeling brain actually is achieved. I have no problem or concern about abortions before about 20 wks or at any time if severe defects incompatible with life such as anencephaly (no brain above spinal cord or behind face) or extreme spina bifida with empty skull and brain sticking out of back of neck. I think therefore, that there should not be legislation dictating faith as science cannot answer the question of when life begins concerning the 18-25 wk period. I would for sure allow abortion before 20 wks. As brain development is a continuum, why should a woman not be allowed to abort a fetus with congenital defects that are NOT compatible with life at any point in the pregnancy when the defect is discovered. I certainly would prefer an abortion at 35 wks in such a case than bringing a baby to term who is likely to suffer more while dying because the brain is more developed.
The only area where there should be some debate before laws are revised is the question of life between 18- 25 weeks of gestation. That is why I am pro-religious choice (including respecting atheism or no religion) and oppose both pro-choice and pro-life groups.