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Morgentaler’s abortion of logic

APOLOGIABy Hendrik van der Breggen
(The Carillon, September 4, 2008)

Morgentaler’s abortion of logic
Abortionist Henry Morgentaler is apparently going to receive Canada’s highest honour, the Order of Canada. I don’t intend personal disrespect in saying this, but in Dr. Morgentaler’s case, the award must not be for logical merit.

Early in his career while visiting the University of Alberta, Morgentaler justified his abortion practice by arguing as follows: “One brick is obviously not a house. A human being is made up of billions of cells. How can you consider that one cell is a whole house?” (Medicine Hat News, January 18, 1985; a similar justification occurs in his 1983 book, Abortion and Contraception.)

In his argument Morgentaler compares the single cell of conception with a single brick. He then enlightens us with the insignificance of the single cell’s destruction. Just as destroying a single brick is not the same as destroying a whole house, so too destroying the single cell of conception is not the same as destroying a prenatal child, which is a human being. Thus, abortion is permissible.

Morgentaler’s argument has at least four serious problems.

First, it’s false that the single cell of conception isn’t a human being, at least if we’re talking biology. When human sperm and a human egg unite, a new life form begins. This life form is neither mere sperm nor mere egg; it’s a new entity. Nor is it canine or feline; it’s human. It’s a new human life form, a new human entity—a new human being. In fact, it’s the first stage in the series of subsequent developmental stages of being human.

Second, it’s false that all human beings are made up of billions of cells. Only later developmental stages of human beings have such high numbers. Earlier stages are human beings, too.

Third, it’s false that abortion destroys single-celled human beings only. Most aborted fetuses are highly complex, multi-million celled human beings.

Fourth, the analogy between the single cell of conception and the brick is faulty. In reality a single brick does not grow into a whole house, but the single cell of conception does grow into its later stages.

The question arises, then: Should we destroy a brick that has its own blueprint and, when given shelter plus shovels full of building materials, grows itself into a beautiful and unique house, complete with modern heating and plumbing (sometimes leaky), the latest in computer technology, and, say, blue curtains? Probably not.

The Order of Canada for Dr. Morgentaler? Surely not.

(Hendrik van der Breggen, PhD, is assistant professor of philosophy at Providence College, located in Otterburne, Manitoba, Canada.)

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