Pro-Choice versus Pro-Life

Thomas L Wayburn

Table of Contents

On Choice

A Note About the Bold-Face Type Above

A Note on the Potentiality of an Unborn Human Being

Additional Discussion on Abortion

Excerpt from a Letter to Prof. Leo L. Kelly

The Relation of “Pro-Life” to AEC


Remark.  I need to get this book finished sometime before the end of the century or my own death, whichever comes first.  Therefore I shall impose upon the reader to the extent of presenting a series of little writings, written at different times, to express my thoughts on the Pro-Life vs. Pro-Choice debate, after which I shall say why I don’t think this debate would be going on after artificial economic contingency (AEC) were abandoned.  Alternatively, I could leave that as an exercise for the reader.  AEC is defined at .

On Choice

The pro-choice position is unassailable on the grounds that every adult human being is the sovereign lord of his or her own person, body, or self.  Even if the lord and master wishes to pass the death sentence within his domain, he may not be prohibited.  Interference within his realm would be an immoral act of war.  He may retaliate in any way he chooses.  Even the charge that the death sentence is immoral may be dismissed, provided the difficulty of the potentiality and sentience of the unborn can be overcome.  One might argue that every sperm that does not penetrate an egg is a loss of a potential human being and vice versa*, which means that those who use the potentiality argument must reject abstinence.  Also, unless one believes that a less sentient human has more rights than a more sentient nonhuman, which might be termed specism, one must believe that the killing of an adult ant is a greater breach of morals than the killing of a day-old fetus and the killing of a mouse is a greater breach of morals than the killing of a three-month-old fetus.

But, no such difficulty arises in the case of the individual’s right to take drugs.  Thus, logically, all pro-choice people must be pro-legalization.  Please, pro-choicers, actively support drug legalization and decontrol.

November 13, 1989

Revised August 10, 1992

* By vice versa I mean, of course, every egg that is not penetrated by a sperm is a loss of a potential human being.

A Note about the Bold-Face Type Above

By chance I was near a clinic about to be attacked by pro-life zealots.  The defenders asked me to join them; but, since I had agreed to meet my wife momentarily and I was concerned about my own personal safety, I declined.  I said I was sympathetic to their cause, but one woman said, “It’s not good enough to be sympathetic; you have to be committed.”  I wonder, though, how many of those women would risk personal harm to defend me in case violent people wished to come into my home and stop me from taking drugs.  I am willing to fight to the death for freedom, but not in the ranks of those who are not committed to freedom in every case.  The situation ended without confrontation when a sympathetic woman excused me from personal risk because (i) I was not prepared for it, (ii) I might be too old, and (iii), most important, I had promised my wife I would not get involved.

August 21, 1992

A Note on the Potentiality of an Unborn Human Being

Let us consider for a moment the philosophical meaning or status of an unconceived human being.  Upon reflection, we agree that, even taking into account the quantum theory, an unconceived human being is a meaningless concept in the context of the pro-choice/pro-life debate.  He lives in a so-called parallel universe.  The understanding of the universe in which we actually live is proving to be an insurmountable task.  We have no basis for making the first judgment in a parallel universe as everything there might be different.  To say that, “If Einstein’s parents had not met, the theory of relativity would have been discovered by someone else” may have meaning to me; but, “If Einstein’s parents had not met, the universe would have no planetary systems that could support life” is just as meaningful philosophically.  The point is: Einstein’s parents did meet.  The statement, “If Einstein’s father had conceived a child of Marie Curie, we would have a Grand Unified Field Theory” is meaningless too.  The unconceived child of Einstein’s father and Pierre Curie’s wife has no status philosophically.

I would like to show that, if one is concerned about the potentiality of a human zygote, one must be nearly as concerned about the combination event of a sperm about to collide with an egg, shown in the small box in Fig. 3-1.  This event may evolve into a zygote or, with a much greater probability, it may evolve into a reflected sperm and an unpenetrated egg (a “miss”), which is philosophically equivalent to an unconceived human being.  Thus, the formation of a zygote is an event that is close to an imminent collision between a sperm and an egg in space-time, but the two events may not be close in terms of potentiality.  Nevertheless, what is taken to be close in terms of potentiality is arbitrary and the two events in question may be close enough in the judgment of a reasonable person that he makes no moral judgment.  (As in the well-known joke, the million-dollar prostitute and the five-dollar prostitute differ only in degree not in principle.)  Once we have established that the potentiality of an imminent collision is close to the potentiality of a zygote, we may dismiss our concern over the potentiality of the zygote because the potentiality of the imminent collision is even closer to the potentiality of a “miss”, which has no human potential at all.  (If A is close to C and B is close to C, then A is close to B.)  An imminent collision is also close in potentiality to all of the unejaculated sperm and unovulated eggs until the end of time.  The situation is represented in Fig. 3-1.  It would be madness to be concerned about their potential humanity because the number of potential humans lost would be an astronomical number that would dwarf in magnitude the sum total of all other events in the history of humanity.

Fig. 3-1.  Closeness in potentiality of five identifiable objects.

Let us estimate the number of lost potential human beings to date.  Suppose we assume that half the people who have ever lived are alive now.  Further assume, conservatively, that each human has only twenty years of potential procreativity.  Finally suppose that each female has 1 egg per month ´ 12 months per year ´ 20 years = 240 eggs and each male is capable of ejaculating two million sperm, five days a week for twenty years, i.e., 5 ´ 52 ´ 20 ´ 2.0 ´ 106 = 1.04 ´ 1010 sperm.  Since every sperm may have combined with any one of the eggs depending upon accidents of birth etc., we have 5 ´ 109 males ´ 1.04 ´ 1010 sperm per male ´ 5 ´ 109 females ´ 240 eggs per female = 6.24 ´ 1031 potential humans.  Suppose I am in error by four to five orders of magnitude.  We must still contemplate ten to the twenty-seventh power potential humans who could have been born but were not born.  That’s a thousand million million million million.  We don’t mean that they all could have been born, but that any one of them could have been born.  (We haven’t even taken into account all the possible ways in which the genetic material of the gametes may combine, each combination representing a different potential human being.)  We dare not be concerned about the loss of these potential lives.

I regret that I must leave up to human judgment the closeness in potential to becoming a human being of an imminent collision and of a zygote.  I suppose that this is at the cutting edge of the debate.  Some will say that the potentiality of the zygote is, in fact, certainty, i.e., that a zygote is a human being.  I find it far-fetched to imagine that a human being is a one-celled creature or that a one-celled creature is a human being.  If we could agree that it is not, it would be easy to argue that an extremely undeveloped fetus is not a human being either.  I believe that in order to have a soul one must have memories, hopes, dreams, and reflections; and in order to be considered a human being one must have a soul.  Thus, in my philosophy, zygotes and very young fetuses are not human beings.

The religionists, on the other hand, believe that the soul has supernatural origins and can be implanted in the fetus without the fetus having had experiences.  But, the imposition of religious beliefs upon everyone is precisely what is prohibited in the first clause of the First Amendment.  The second clause protects the free exercise of religion, which guarantees that no one may be required to have an abortion, but it also guarantees us the right to take the drugs of our choice.  In my opinion, the reason the nation is so screwed up is that people making important decisions have not taken enough drugs.  Imagine that!

August 13, 1992

Additional Discussion on Abortion

We must now explore the conclusion that a zygote differs markedly, in terms of potentiality, from the combination event of a sperm about to collide with an egg.  I shall confine this discussion to the aborting of a single-celled human zygote.  How this is to be accomplished is not considered.  Suppose that I agree that, from a mechanistic view, i.e., leaving out of account all spiritual questions, the human zygote is a human being, as thoughtfully pointed out by Leo L. Kelly in today’s Houston Post (Op-Ed page).  A person who opposes abortion for religious reasons would not appeal to a mechanistic argument, therefore Professor Kelly’s position is not a violation of the First Amendment.  The question is:  Should the spiritual development of the human being be taken into account?  If it is taken into account, I don’t see why the snuffing out of a single-celled human zygote is of any more concern than stepping on an ant.  I have not heard stepping on ants discussed in this debate.  Does the human being have some special status?  If so, where does he get it from?  Is it because man is made in the image and likeness of God that he enjoys special status?  The new-age idea that everyone can become  – or already is – God does not enjoy much support among those who most vehemently oppose abortion.  Certainly, man cannot lay claim to divine stature on the basis of behavior.  Almost no species is so badly behaved.

I am not trying to put the best face on the killing of the single-celled human.  Killing is killing.  And, if killing be immoral at all times, then killing a one-celled creature is immoral.  But, one must then be concerned about sneezing, an event that involves the death of myriad primitive organisms.  Of course, in the case of sneezing, many may die so that one or two may find a new host.  Similarly, if every potential human were born, no one could live.  I could weep when I see the dead animals that litter the sides of our highways, victims of a madness in which they share no blame.  Humans killing humans is horrible, but not so horrible as humans killing animals.  I think abortion is horrible.  I would do everything in my power to prevent someone I know from undergoing such a procedure, but I really don’t care as much about a one-celled zygote as I do about a fly.  I’m sorry, but that’s how I feel.  Ban the automobile if you want to ban something worth banning.

It has been argued that the zygote has rights.  Supposing that it does, I find it hard to see how those rights may be exercised independently of the choices of the mother, who may, after all, elect to take her own life regardless of the law.  Rights that may not be exercised are less useful than other rights – to say the least.

I have already said that I do not believe the law of the land may be applied within the body of an individual human being.  Now I want to go further and say that I don’t think laws should be applied anywhere.  In any case, they are the method of last resort for the control of human behavior.  We have laws against murder backed up by the death penalty in Texas, but not a day goes by without at least one murder.  Does anyone really believe that the laws are preventing even more murders?  On the contrary, I imagine that some murders are committed by people who wish to be punished – as in Dostoevski’s Crime and Punishment; so these murders are actually caused by the laws.  I offer the following conjecture without proof, namely, all crimes are caused by punishment.  I shall be contemplating this conjecture during the coming months.  If I could show that all punishment derives from AEC, I would be done.

I think Professor Kelly’s motives might be worthy, but, in the typical case, I believe that proponents of the pro-life position don’t give a damn about human life.  They merely want to establish a totalitarian theocracy throughout the world with themselves in positions of privilege.  They are not against competition for wealth and power, which is responsible for millions starving to death now and, by 2050, will be responsible for billions starving to death – if they have not been killed by the other evils of capitalist imperialism by that time.

August 16, 1992

Excerpt from a Letter to Prof. Leo L. Kelly

Your Op-Ed piece is the best defense of the pro-life stance I have ever read.  You proved beyond a doubt that the zygote is a human being – at least from a biological perspective.  I am taking the liberty of enclosing three pieces.  Two of them written hastily, the last in response to your essay.  You have exposed a number of fallacies and you have changed a person’s mind, which, as you must have noticed, rarely occurs.  Normally people are not swayed by reason.

All that said, I still oppose a law against abortion, but for slightly different reasons than one normally hears.  First, I don’t think laws are the way to ensure good behavior; they may even exacerbate bad behavior.  Second, I don’t think killing a one-celled human being is such a big deal; I see nothing especially sacred about human beings – as opposed to other animals.  Even if all life were sacred, the difficulties of preserving it in every case would be insurmountable.  A third reason is that the government of the United States has disqualified itself from the right to make laws, but I need to say why I believe that  – unless you have already come to the same conclusion.

August 16, 1992

The Relation of “Pro-Life” to AEC

Obviously, I believe that the imposition of anti-abortion laws upon the nation is one of the first steps to imposing all of Christian taboo morality on the rest of us.  Christian leaders hope to establish a worldwide totalitarian theocracy.  Of course, it is difficult to prove intent, but we can establish certain facts with high probability by making predictions, observing their accuracy, and determining if the actions are consistent with the intentions ascribed to them, that is, appropriate.  We must then ask why Christians want to establish theocracies.  Clearly, if Christian leaders are in power, we have artificial economic contingency (AEC) – by definition.  Also, we must struggle (compete) to regain our liberty.  Moreover, I believe that the actions of Christian leaders indicate convincingly enough that they are, indeed, the front men for Capitalism with its concomitant competition for wealth and the inevitable losers in that competition.  The Christians who denounce capitalism in all of its forms are a rare species indeed and are not accepted among the mainstream churches.  Further, Christianity promotes the Doctrine of Original Sin and the work ethic and it seems unlikely that AEC can be transcended while these influences are prevalent.  In the chapter on religion, I shall summarize the evidence that points to my conclusion that Christianity is an obstacle to the abandonment of competition for wealth, power, and fame in all of society and the establishment of rational morals in place of violations of the Freedom Axiom.

Houston, Texas

Date unknown