Intuition is a funny thing. There are some intuitions that all human beings share and which make a good argument, such as the intuition that morality is really objective. Even someone who denies it still has the intuition that some things, like rape, murder, and torturing children for fun, are always wrong and can't be gotten around by appealing to relativism. But some intuitions are not shared by everyone and are, in fact, influenced by our core beliefs and values. While Seidensticker may argue these are "intuitive" arguments, I would actually argue that for me, it is much more intuitive that all human beings deserve equal respect and merit as human beings, all the way from the point of fertilization. I think this is more obviously true than the position that abortion is never morally wrong.
So while Seidensticker may think these are intuitive arguments, I believe that once we unpack these arguments we'll find that the reason he finds them intuitive is because they are resting on unwarranted assumptions about unborn human beings and confusing basic ethical and philosophical principles.
He begins by alluding to his "spectrum argument," which I will be addressing in my next article. For now, he admits that these are not logical arguments but emotional ones. Let's see what they are:
1. Child vs. Embryos
This argument is just confused on all levels. First, I have addressed the Burning IVF Lab thought experiment (sometimes called The Embryo Rescue Case) in the past, so see that article for a thorough examination of this situation. In essence, the reason that pro-life people see this as an ethical dilemma is precisely because we consider human embryos to be full human persons. The "intuition" in this case does not support Seidensticker's position. In fact, it supports the pro-life case.
He then asks us to imagine the situation two years later. If you could save these same embryos when they're toddlers or one baby, you would save the toddlers. QED. But wait a minute...Seidensticker is talking about these same embryos two years later as toddlers. So Seidensticker (whether he realizes it or not) is assuming a continuity of existence between the embryo stage and the toddler stage, because he's asking us to imagine the dilemma of saving these same embryos as toddlers or saving one baby. Again, the intuition supports the pro-life side, not the pro-choice side.
He finishes off this section by claiming that no one equates an "invisible clump of cells" with a newborn or infant. This is just silly. Of course not. Nor do we equate infants with adults. They are different stages of development, and obviously an infant is less developed than an adult, as a human zygote is less developed than an infant. But they are stages of development of the same human organism. There is a continuity of human existence from fertilization to natural death, as Seidensticker, himself, assumes by making this first point.
2. Different reactions to abortion procedures
In this point, he seems clearly ignorant of the abortion debate in general. Of course late-term abortions are gruesome procedures, because you are cruelly killing a human child. This doesn't change the later you go. Pro-life people are just as vehemently against D&E abortions, which are the most common abortions performed and performed much earlier than late-term abortions.
So what about Plan B? Why don't we have the same level of reaction? That's because there's a debate raging about whether or not certain pills like Plan B cause an early abortion. In fact, most pro-choice people argue that it doesn't cause an early abortion (because it prevents conception, but doesn't prevent implantation once a human zygote is conceived). But pro-life people argue that it does make the uterus inhabitable to the zygote, so if one conceives it causes an early abortion by preventing the zygote from implanting. So again, this statement is either made out of ignorance, or out of dishonesty. I'll choose the former to give him the benefit of the doubt. If Plan B does cause an early abortion, the pro-life people would be just as vehemently opposed to it. There is no "spectrum" at play here, because pro-life people see the unborn as intrinsically valuable at all points of his/her development.
But the science is in. Not only does Plan B not work as a contraceptive, it actually does cause early abortions, as Dr. Rich Poupard tells us in this article (and has talked about it with Life Report for an upcoming episode).
3. Slaughtering animals for food
More confusion from Seidensticker. First, the fact that cows can experience pain and fear is exactly the reason why we have a stronger reaction against the death of a cow than the death of a human zygote. This does not mean the cow is more valuable, it simply means the cow will suffer and the zygote will not. This doesn't mean it's not wrong to kill the zygote, because suffering and fear are not morally relevant in the question of whether it's moral to kill someone. You can kill someone painlessly and without scaring them while they're asleep, yet it would still be wrong to kill a sleeping person.
Seidensticker mentions human potentiality, but we must be sure to respect the difference between passive potentiality and active potentiality. Four and sugar have the passive potential to become a cake. They have this passive potentiality because the flour and sugar can go in to make anything, and left on their own they will not become a cake. It requires a baker to put them together and make a cake. But the human zygote has the active potentiality to develop their human traits and personal abilities. They have this ability within themselves to develop it and if allowed to develop normally they will develop these abilities. This active potentiality matters because they are already full human persons, they are just immature human persons.
So his claim that the only trait a blastocyst shares in common with a person is DNA is clearly mistaken. It also share the inherent nature of a person, the rational nature, as well as the inherent capacity to develop human traits and personal functions (like rationality, consciousness, etc.). The only reason I have the ability to be rational now is because I had the inherent nature as a zygote to be rational. If I did not have that inherent nature, I would not now be rational. Flies are never rational creatures because they don't have the inherent capacity to be rational. This also accounts for why we are the same person through all points in our life. We change dramatically over the course of our lives, and we also temporarily lose our personal functions for roughly six to eight hours a night when we fall asleep. Yet we don't wake up as entirely different people as we would if personhood were tied to our present functions.
Also, the argument that spontaneous abortions happen is just silly (again). The fact that people die naturally does not justify murder. And his argument about the thousand dollars possibly not winning is a false analogy. One thousand dollars does not develop into ten thousand dollars on its own, whereas at all points in human development the entity is developing herself on her own into the next stage of development. All the human being needs to develop on her own is proper nutrition, a proper environment, and an absence of fatal threats. This is not a gamble, it's natural human reproduction and development. Besides, once the zygote implants in the womb, her chances of surviving to birth a dramatically increased. So even if Seidensticker's
argument succeeded, it would only justify a pill that caused an abortion before implantation, not surgical abortions.
4. Cloning and skin cells
Another confusion of a basic philosophical principle. Seidensticker's "intuition" here fails because he fails to make a distinction between active and passive potentialities. Human skin cells are only potential persons in the same sense that the flour and sugar are a potential cake. Left alone, they will die, not develop into a more mature human being. Conversely, the human zygote from fertilization has the active potentiality to develop herself into a more mature version of herself. There is a clear difference between a skin cell and a human zygote; it's just basic biology.
5. Saving another person's life
Finally, Seidensticker finishes by arguing that you might give up your life for a stranger, but you wouldn't give up your life for a blastocyst. But how does he know this? I think the question is confused as no one can seriously be expected to give up their life for a blastocyst, as the child is no longer a blastocyst when the mother finds out she's pregnant, or when she can first feel the baby kicking. If the blastocyst dies, no one will even know about it because at that point the zygote is still on her way to implanting in the uterus (and I refer to the zygote as "she" because her gender is written into her DNA, even though it's not visible yet).
So this question is just confused. First, not only would not everyone give their lives for a stranger (and I don't think we have a moral obligation to do so), but second no one could possibly give their lives for a blastocyst. But let's move the pregnancy forward a little bit. Would women give their lives for their unborn human embryo? I have argued elsewhere that a woman should not be legally compelled to continue a life-threatening pregnancy, if a pregnancy were ever truly life-threatening and if the child could not be delivered, but some women actually do choose to go through with a life-threatening pregnancy, choose to risk their own lives for the life of their unborn child. Here's one such example of a woman giving up her life for her unborn child.
It's ironic that Seidensticker would end his article with a quote by Martin Luther King, Jr., who surely would have stood up for the rights of the unborn today as he stood up for the rights of blacks in the 1950's and '60's. After all, the reasons that we should treat blacks as persons are the same reasons we should treat the unborn as persons. Every reason that blacks are equal to us are the reasons that the unborn are equal to us -- because of our common human nature.
Seidensticker's intuitions are clearly mistaken on this matter, and his arguments don't really support his case. In fact, they actually support the pro-life position, not the pro-choice position. Next time, I'll respond to Seidensticker's "spectrum argument" against unborn personhood. And now, I'll take the lead from Seidensticker and end with a thought-provoking quote.
"You say 'A' is white and 'B' is black. It is color, then: the lighter having the right to enslave the darker? Take care. By this rule, you are a slave to the first man you meet with a fairer skin than your own.
You do not mean color exactly -- You mean the whites are intellectually the superiors of the blacks, and therefore have the right to enslave them? Take care again: By this rule you are to be a slave to the first man you meet with an intellect superior to your own.
But you say it is a question of interest, and, if you can make it your interest, you have the right to enslave another. Very well. And if he can make it his interest, he has the right to enslave you."