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A reader recently commented in one of my posts that he does not agree with my definition that abortion is killing a baby. What is being discarded, he says, is merely a “clump of cells.” He says that we cannot call a clump of cells a baby. 

In that post, the term “baby” was used in the context of a mother terminating her pregnancy. After all it is common usage to say…mother-baby, mother-child and never mother-zygote or mother-embryo, …never! The terms zygote, embryo and fetus are all scientifically neutral terms to classify a stage in the development of an organism hence, human zygote, human embryo, human fetus is a classification of the stage of HUMAN development.

In my more than twenty years that I have been involved in the medical profession, not counting the eight years spent in school, I have never encountered the term “clump of cells” (COC) in any textbook of the biological and medical sciences. In the book Dehumanizing the Vulnerable: When Word Games Take Lives, William Brennan shows that groups who want to implement a genocidal ideology will invent and propagate terms that will dehumanize that particular group which it seeks to destroy. Human Zygote = Clump of cells, Human Fetus = Parasite, Jews = Sub-Human, clear? One cannot possibly call discarding a “clump of cells” or getting rid of a “parasite”, killing. It’s like removing an ingrown nail, plucking out hair or squeezing a pimple which are just “clumps of cells.” However, when we use the scientifically acceptable term like, Human Zygote or Human Embryo, it does not sound pleasing because after all, who wants to kill anything human be it a zygote, embryo, handicapped or elderly? 

This is why in many debates about abortion, advocates of that position no longer use the stage of development of a human being since a human is a human at any stage of its development. Rather, they talk about the “completeness”, viability, appearance or functionality of an organism at each specific stage and work their way down from there. It is far easier to debate and say, “cells don’t look human” …the argument for appearance, (fill in the blank) “embryos have no (functioning) _____ …the argument for completeness and function, “fetuses below ____ weeks cannot _____ (feel pain, think, emote, act, survive) …the argument for function, “fetuses cannot survive without the mother” …the argument for viability. The problem with all these arguments is not that they are false, some of them are actually true. Zygotes are cells and early embryos really don’t look anything like babies and fetuses do not have fully developed organs and body parts and will not survive outside the womb below so many weeks but this detracts from the real issue of what being human is. Being a human does not depend partly or wholly on equipment, ability or lack thereof but on its nature or being. The definition of whether a human embryo or fetus is human was never called into question until the ideology that drove the legalization of abortion was being fought. Just like there was never any doubt that Jews and the handicapped are human beings until the genocidal ideology of Nazism called it into question. I think the straightforward answer to the question; “what is it?” is probably the most objective way of getting at the heart of this issue because it imposes no utilitarian, ideological or sociological bias. It is merely telling it like it is. 

Speaking of telling it like it is, a big surprise was the recent European Court of Justice ruling regarding embryos used in stem cell research. Secular as that court is, it does not try to escape the ethical and moral ground that embryos from the point after fertilization are human and should not be subject to any form of commercial gain. It is worth quoting them on this: “any human ovum must, as soon as fertilised, be regarded as a ‘human embryo’ if that fertilisation is such as to commence the process of development of a human being.” How much clearer is that coming from a secular court? The ruling therefor recognizes the oft used atheistic phrase “clump of cells” to refer to a human being. The common sense argument is simply that post-fertilization events are merely stages of human development and may not be exploited. The German Medical Association came out with a resounding approval of the ruling. Remember that the Germans know what they are talking about, their society lived through this kind of barbarism during Nazi rule. 

When my children do something wrong, they, like most normal (cornered) people, will give me the verbal runaround. I simply ask them one thing “was what you did right or wrong?”  because deep down, I know (everyone knows) right from wrong. Just like everyone knows deep down that from fertilization to birth, a human is a human because it will never be anything else.