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04 December 2011

FollowUp 1: Personhood Amendments

Jack Tapper of ABC News interviewed Newt Gingrich on Friday in Iowa regarding when life begins.  This was not a big issue until recently when the Personhood Amendment people moved the debate from which trimester does life begin to which moment after sexual intercourse.Mr. Gingrich's answers are not going to make the Personhood extremists happy.
TAPPER: Abortion is a big issue here in Iowa among conservative Republican voters and Rick Santorum has said you are inconsistent. The big argument here is that you have supported in the past embryonic stem cell research and you made a comment about how these fertilized eggs, these embryos are not yet “pre-human” because they have not been implanted. This has upset conservatives in this state who worry you don’t see these fertilized eggs as human life. When do you think human life begins?
GINGRICH: Well, I think the question of being implanted is a very big question. My friends who have ideological positions that sound good don’t then follow through the logic of: ‘So how many additional potential lives are they talking about? What are they going to do as a practical matter to make this real?’
I think that if you take a position when a woman has fertilized egg and that’s been successfully implanted that now you’re dealing with life. because otherwise you’re going to open up an extraordinary range of very difficult questions
The question of viability of the fetus is no longer on the Republican table.  The only question is a cell count and determination of implantation for their debate.  I'm sorry, but this still leaves women with no choices when they should have control of their own bodies.  With apologies for repeating some of what I wrote last time ...

Mr. Gingrich's position still does not allow for any abortions, including those needed for medical reasons.  So, a woman with an ectopic pregnancy would be prohibited from getting the medical care that she needs to save her life.  In other words, the attempt to prevent her from aborting a doomed zygote (by definition, there is a conception resulting in a zygote, but not a properly implanted embryo) would not save the zygote but would kill the woman.

A woman who is raped and conceives would be forced to carry and give birth to the child of her rapist.  In a sense, she would be raped a second time and not be allowed to leave the rape behind her short of giving the child that she did not choose away for adoption.

Aside from those very real issues, there is a theological dichotomy between religions that should have both of the Republican positions as unconstitutional because of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.  There is no agreement as to when a cluster of cells becomes a person.

Those in the anti-abortion movement claim that as soon as the sperm and ova combine, there is a human person deserving of all rights of any citizen.  They base this claim not upon science but upon the Bible.  In particular, Psalm 139:16 speaks of how God knew David while his body was unformed.  They interpret this to mean that the spirit is formed immediately upon creation of the zygote.  An alternate interpretation is that the spirit, separate from the physical body, is known by God long before it is part of any human flesh.

Similarly, Jeremiah 1:4-5 talks of how God knew Jeremiah before he was in the womb.  Note, this does not mean in the womb, but prior to conception.

There are additional passages in the Prophetical Writings that have a similar vein.  In Judaism, these are not part of the Bible.  These are written by humans, not by God.

The writings of God, for Jews, consist of exactly five scrolls or books.  The germane verse is Genesis 2:7, where God breathed the spirit into Adam.  The spirit is associated with birth, not with conception.  The two Hebrew words that may help understand this distinction are ruach and nephesh.  The Christians think of the soul in terms of ruach.  The Jews think of the spirit in terms of nephesh.  Click on the links for some details.

The debate is also fueled by the first commandment in Genesis 1:28, where God tells Adam and Eve to be fruitful and multiply.  We have done so.  Their descendents include more than seven billion alive today.  We exceed the number of stars that can be seen with the naked eye.  We exceed the number that our planet can sustain without environmental degradation.

Thanks to Think Progress for the heads up.

11 November 2011, Original Pedantic Political Ponderings post.

19 January 2012, FollowUp 2.

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