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Just how precious is human life?

With religious contraints removed, what now guides our ethics regarding protection of human life. Believers have concepts like sanctity of life, the existence of a soul (whatever that is), all life a gift of God. only God can take away, etc etc. So what guides agnostics in deciding when, if ever, to allow termination of a developing life? Where to draw a line on terminations is obviously a serious issue and it would be interesting to see where Agnostics draw a line. And precisely why.

Human babies start to interact at about three months, at which point they are just starting to behave like humans rather than being just cute feeders. Which seems like a sensible upper limit.

So my question is:

If, before birth there is a medically proven risk of, or after birth there are obvious signs of, severe genetic defects, AND the mother wishes it, up to what point should we legally allow life to be humanely terminated?

(I'm restricting it to genetic defect issues, which incidentally affect about 5% of embryos, I know there are others like rape, economic, social etc but let's keep it focused on defects)

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alangodless 4 Feb 19

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I'll be the monster because I'm pro euthanasia and I won't back away from that just because we are talking about an infant and I would support termination both before and after birth in the case of severe genetic and congenital defects.
I've known people who have given birth to babies so severely compromised that the doctors made no effort to get them to breath. I have also known people who have had everything done to keep their baby alive and have ended up with a child so compromised and distressed that they don't think they did the right thing. In a third case the child died before age three after a myriad of surgeries and medical procedures.
It sounds harsh but not all conceptions lead to a person with an acceptable quality of life and if a mother decides her child's life would be a living hell then yes she should have the right to request it be terminated in a humane manner. Just because we can keep someone alive doesn't mean we should.

Kimba Level 7 Feb 19, 2018

You aren't a monster. Far from it.

@TheIrishTexan That you "can't handle" it doesn't give you any right to interfere with what any woman chooses to do.

@TheIrishTexan why not i don't understand. what the h-- difference does it make to you ?

@TheIrishTexan See? That's just it. Life really isn't valuable at all. There are individual lives which are precious to individual people, but overall, life isn't precious in and of itself. Further, there are more pregnancies that terminate all by themselves than there are abortions. No pregnancy, in the history of pregnancy, has ever been guaranteed to result in a live birth. Even though women give birth every day, it's still a major undertaking, never promised to be successful. Pregnancy is usually the most dangerous time in any woman's life. It could kill her in any number of ways. The risks are ALL hers. She should be the ONLY one making the decision whether to follow through on that process. When a man can grow a uterus and ovaries, and can face the prospect of an unwanted, unintended, or unsafe pregnancy, then he can make the decisions for himself. No amount of caterwauling and righteous indignation will ever change that.

I agree 100%. Not only should we consider the mom, but consider the PAIN that child will endure in life from being poked and prodded with needles and medical procedures.

@Lewellyn3 As a pediatric neurologist I have seen some of the most horrible diseases that gradually (or not so gradually) suck the life out of babies and children. It's always emotionally hard when parents refuse a DNR order and we have to keep poking and prodding them.

@TheIrishTexan - my question to you, since you feel life is precious, is who takes care of the baby? If you don't think the woman should be allowed to terminate the pregnancy, she knows she doesn't have what it takes to spend 2 years, every penny, and every minute of her time just to watch her child slowly fade away, leaving her exhausted, broke, and heartbroken and taking her away from her other making that unborn child's life so precious, the quality of life for that child, the parents, siblings, family, and friends are all affected. The parents are exhausted from hospital stays and rough nights and 24 hour care. When do their siblings get to be kids when they're growing up in the shadow of their brother slowly dying right next to them? Are you Pro-life or Pro Fetus? Are you going to start volunteering to adopt or donate your time to the people who have to take care of these babies? Genetic deformities, babies born severely addicted with brain damage, babies who will never know life without pain and suffering...will you take care of those babies you don't have the mercy to let die before the hell begins? Why should a parent be forced to do that when they know there is no hope? How is that Pro-life? It's not. It's pro pain and pro suffering and pro life destroying. You have your opinion, and I respect that. My opinion is that Pro-life is not pro life at all. It is selfish. It is pro fetus and pro pain and pro screw you now deal with it. It is not good and pro choice is not evil, it is punishment dealt on people who, especially in the case of genetic deformities, did nothing wrong.

@Amy0825 😟


I would argue that that religious don't believe in the sanctity of life. They're very protective of the fetus, but once that child is born, they're on their own. And if they're born poor, then they deserve every horrible thing that happens to them. As to who gets to decide when life ends, that again they don't care about so long as it's not you making a decision to end your own life. Get killed by guns? That's the price of freedom. Die from starvation or disease, that's what you get for being poor. Get sick, don't see a doctor, and die? That's your lack of faith.

As to the actual question, I think this is a difficult question to answer. We see in nature that it's willing to sacrifice the week to protect the herd, but humans now have a conscious. That means life takes on a more complicated aspect to it. Then there's the added aspect that we cannot ask the actual person which they prefer. They are given no voice in their future.

We've seen babies born that weren't expected to live and end up being great additions to their families. Others suffer horribly. In my mind, this isn't a subject I can answer. It is one I have to leave to the parents and their medical team. I also think it's dependent upon what the medical team thinks is possible. These people have a lot of education on the subject, and they don't take decisions lightly (most of the time).

I realize that the media shows "the religious" in only a negative light. As my mom used to say, "The squeaky wheel gets the grease", so we're all portrayed alike. But there are some of us - the ones who don't make the news - that honestly DO care about life. I have struggled with abortion for many years, and it has taken me decades to sort through all the dogmas and information that are repeated over again to us to learn how I feel about it.

Do I think life begins at conception? Yes. If we can bring an organism from Mars and call it life, then, yes, I believe a fetus is indeed life. A human life. In only a few weeks, I regard it as life because anything with a heartbeat is alive.

Do I think abortion is wrong? That's a harder question. While the concept of taking an innocent's life is abhorrent, envisioning a young teen dying from infection or blood loss from an unsterile abortion performed by an unskilled doctor (if a doctor at all) is equally abhorrent. So is forcing a child into giving birth to a baby that is a product of incest or rape; or risking the life of a mother because she's too young to give birth or when she already has children at home depending on her. Forcing the life onto a weak baby that is pathetically unable to sustain life because of a birth defect is cruel. Some deformities, such as crie du chat, condemns the infant to a life of severe pain for the short life it has. So, while I'm very much Pro Life, I am also for euthanasia when it is more merciful. I hate abortion; I also hate the death penalty for the same reason - it takes the choice away from an individual. I don't condone abortion as a method of birth control, due to the effects it can have later when the woman wants to carry her fetus to term. But abortion, until science finds a better way, must be allowed. There simply isn't a better solution. We can't generalize when abortion is acceptable or necessary. Each case must be considered by the mother and her physician. Its a difficult decision already on when a pregnancy should be ended. Therefore those of us who don't like the idea must choose compassion over judgement, for we really aren't qualified to judge a woman for choosing it in the first place. Choose comfort over scorn, love over hate, and well find we'll all be better for it.


"Society" shouldn't even be permitted to have any kind of say. It's no one's business.
If it's not your body doing the gestating, you have no business interfering. You don't get a vote on what any woman should or shouldn't do. No one is remotely qualified to determine the validity of any woman's decisions regarding HER own body. Butt the fuck out.

@TheIrishTexan He had his chance to choose by deciding whether to have a vasectomy or wear a condom. After that, he has no say. Nor should he.

@TheIrishTexan Contraception fails. Why on earth should any woman be forced to gestate and bear a child when she was actively trying to prevent it in the first place?

@TheIrishTexan "It came from him first"??? You have got to be kidding with that bullshit.

@TheIrishTexan No, the man should not have a say because it's not him that takes the risk of dying from pregnancy, which is many times the risk of a first trimester abortion. Both carry risk, abortion carries less when done in a safe, sterile manner. When the first man dies of pregnancy-related complications from what's growing in his uterus, then men can have a say. Now, I do think that if there is a relationship between the woman and man involved, they should discuss it, but if it was a rape, or a one night stand where they barely know each other, nope.


Your poll seems to be slanted to life beginning at conception. JMHO, but the way it is worded now it is not clear what you are really getting at. And some of what you suggest is actually murder though could be called mercy killings, and I am Pro Choice. I don't have good feelings about your poll and I don't think it reflects my thoughts enough for me to participate.


You can't just make blanket statements and judgements - it's not a matter of 'OK until a certain time has passed', it has to be individual consideration of individual circumstances.


there are some wicked defects out there . i voted post birth but realize the # of doctors that would oblige is very small. much like the ability to book out early. not all doctors will help


I don't really believe that any life is particularly precious and prioritize the life of a baby toward the bottom of the hierarchy.


After birth got three votes already? Well, Now I see that those votes pretty much were directed toward those born which have little to no chance of survival or a normal life of any kind. In that case, I would support it, understanding that it would be an incredibly hard decision.

I don’t think after delivery would be classified as abortion by any reasonable person. Like others, I am a bit confused by your poll.

seems pretty air tight to me


No one should be force to have or keep a Down syndrome kid or any other badly defective kid as they will continue to be a drain on society their whole life.

I'm slightly autistic. But so is bill gates.

@TheIrishTexan That would be a rare exception as I’ve known several and none of them could even take care of themselves.

Downs syndrome kids are getting more rehab now and can grow up to be independent in society. I know one that runs his own restaurant.

There is a charity that aids in the adoption of D.S. children in the U.S. Can't remember their name, though, but they've helped facilitate over 500 adoptions one year.


Wow, extremely thought provoking post. I can't answer, too many opposing thoughts in my minds.
I am in favour of the death penalty in some circumstances yet on this issue giving the ultimate punishment to another who has done no wrong. Then again, forcing someone to live in agony and such is also too hard. Medical intervention keeping someone alive when the body wants to die.
My comments are not just related to humans.

I think the flaw in your argument is that a baby won`t know its being killed, a mature human will.

@alangodless to me the issue is who has more right to be permitted to continue living, I don't care if mass murderers or child killers get a little scared because they are going to die, I hope they are terrified then maybe they will understand even briefly what they have done. Whether or not someone knows they are going to die didn't occur at all to me, it was the moments/time that they would not have.


While the unborn is dependent upon the woman as a life support system, no one should get a say but the woman and her doctor.

Men-- no say. You don't know what it's like to go through that. You don't know what it would cost you.


Once the baby is born and a name is given. I will vote for Life for that Individual with a Name. Otherwise I will be giving a Death Sentence to "Somebody" that never commited a Crime. Before is born, I need to know the circumstances in detail why can't be spared.

Why do you think you even get a say in the matter? What are you basing your right to weigh in on?

@KKGator The sperm donor right. Never did an abortion. Once one came pregnant according a doctor... I told her I will marry you and I spilled the beans to her there was somebody else and she will be dropped because of the pregnancy. Then turn out she wasn't pregnant. Eventually we got married with no baby involved. BUT THE QUESTION WAS NOT HAVING A RIGHT TO WEIGH ON THE DECISION. IF IT IS MY BABY AND SHE DON'T WANT THE BABY, SHE SHOULD HAD KEPT HER LEGS CROSSED. It will depend on who she is. I only sleep with those capable and worthy of my Seed. That is how I saw it then and now. I always been Selective. I don't know them, I know me.

@TheIrishTexan I am very sorry for your lost... we did lost one but was like 4-5 months. We never counted that one. We were told would had been a boy. We scratched that one from the books. But is the same way I see it. We are more than Donors.

@TheIrishTexan I remember my wife almost 9 months pregnant crying while taking a shower because her baby wasn't moving and our first was a constant kicker. It was tough... the moment we got to the hospital... she started kicking. But it is hell on a woman thinking her first born she carried for 8 months has died. WE ARE A LOT MORE THAN JUST HEARTLESS DONORS.

@TheIrishTexan And exactly how would you propose forcing anyone to do any of that?

@TheIrishTexan Why do you have this punitive attitude toward women?

@TheIrishTexan You want to punish all women for having sex by forcing them to carry an unwanted pregnancy. Call them "hoes" if they enjoy sex and don't want to be pregnant. BTW, I have yet to see one argument for personhood prior to 12 weeks(when the cerebral cortex starts to develop)that isn't based on religion. What's yours? What makes you so sure that a single cell or blastocyst is a person that you would deprive a known person of liberty and sometimes life to benefit it?

@KKGator Because we were asked to respond in the poll, we should ALL have the right to discuss this issue. None of us brought this issue up; the person who devised the poll did. Why are you so against men expressing an opinion, even if only rhetorical? Your abortion rights aren't being threatened by having a simple discussion.


If only god can take life he would have made murder and accidents impossible. Human life has no intrinsic value. People value, or not, others lives based on their own beliefs. That doesn't change the fact that once born a person has the right to live if they do not take actions that infringe upon others right to live.

I've never gotten a good explanation for that one. If god let them kill you, doesn't that mean he wanted you dead? How can a person be punished for a crime against a religious person if it only happened due to "God's Will"?

@PhoebeCat I think you have a misconception on God's will. Abortion wouldn't be God's will, theoretically speaking, as God doesn't condone man to decide who lives and who dies. Abortion is an act of someone's free will, just as any decision we make, not God's will. If my murdering someone meant it was God's will, murder couldn't be classified as a crime.


Tough decision. I think up to 6 months for termination in the womb,,,but if the mother does give birth, and the defects are too horrific, a week after to decide to take off of life support.

I think if life support is needed at birth, it should never be initiated. The kiddo was born dead.

I get where you are coming from but it assumes perfect knowledge, some horrendous metabolic defects do not even begin to develop until after birth because up until that point the mother's body was doing the work. Parents then spend months after the baby becomes noticeably unwell with a continuously worsening condition to get a diagnosis.


Hm, this is a hard one. I feel it is wrong to keep children alive with everything medicine can throw at them, when they are clearly severely compromised. But I would not count down syndrome as such. It is a really heavy topic. But I thought if I had a severely disabled child, I would wish for it to leave the wreck of a body it's in. For both our sake. So ... assuming serious disability, I would not be totally opposed to some sort of mercy killing even after birth. And yet, writing it sounds kind of awful. Hitler-esk.


There wouldn't be identical twins and sperm wouldn't swim if they had no life in them so by not getting pregnant you kill babies by default. there is being alive and living so every pregnancy should be sorted out on its own merit after all look at all the children who just die because they're starving or poor water.


Well since you've included up to 3 months post-partum, I can't quite respond as KKGator has, because it's a bridge too far in my view for a woman to have the right to decide if her child should live or die, following birth. We have a word for that, it's murder. While I believe a child receives autonomy gradually, as it matures, and therefore has very few rights of self-determination in the early months of life, it is sentient and has the right to be safe and to the extent possible, not in pain. That means it has the right to be nurtured.

What guides an unbeliever in such matters is a rational consideration of benefits vs harms to society as a whole, to the mother, and to the (prospective) child, and balancing the rights of those beings given the circumstances. Just because we lack comforting lies and platitudes doesn't mean we can't think, or make difficult moral or ethical decisions.

As to the role society plays, it should be minimal -- just enough to satisfy some identifiable compelling interest of society as a whole. Since society aims for civility, I think it has a compelling interest that murder is not committed, particularly not against the most vulnerable among us; also, that we encourage primal maternal impulses rather than counterimpulses such as those that sometimes arise out of, say, postpartum depression.

As for the rights of the mother vs the child, I do not believe that a child is a person with the full rights of a person until birth. The moment of birth is somewhat arbitrary but it's a practical, intuitive marker that has to be put down somewhere and I am not fool enough to think more than a handful of people would accept it being somewhere AFTER birth, and, I'm not reckless enough to think it SHOULD be.

Since the decision to abort is highly subjective and personal, it should be left to the mother to make that decision for herself and her fetus. There should ideally be loving community input, especially from the father, but the decision is ultimately hers alone. While I would hope that most women would be more and more reluctant to abort a fetus past six months or so absent severe deformity or severe risk to the mother, I'm not going to thread that needle for mothers and I don't think society should either. I don't know what's more sacred to a woman than her womb.

I don't know what you think you read, but I said nothing regarding post-partum.

@KKGator No you didn't. The original poster did, and I thought it should be addressed as part of the total answer, that's all.

My brain is more sacred to me than my womb. I had the latter removed, I hope the former stays as long as possible.

@Amy0825 Like the women in my life, you value your mind, and I respect that ... but if you are by nature a "momma bear" and your womb is something a man doesn't have ... no man should be telling you what to do with it. Or some other woman for that matter.

You use the word murder for emotional effect. You really should stick to the non-emotional word terminate.

@Amy0825 Lol, same here, Amy! I had to remove mine at a very young age due to a class 5 pap smear. I hope my brain lasts longer!


I chose C+3 mos. because it minimizes the trauma while allowing time for that "sober second thought" necessary for making such a decision. Frankly I know I don't have a dog in this fight but I am interested in other POVs.


"at what point do WE ALLOW.... (abortion)"
Beware thisTroll...rey osts this poll


Mine is pretty fucking precious!


All life is precious. But I do not believe in keeping miserably sick people alive against nature and their will. And I do not believe in forcing a woman to be pregnant against her will. If you do, you better take on that baby. Same with miserably deformed babies. Not letting nature abort a deformed baby is cruel to the survivors. And, also, endangering a woman's health when abortion would save her is stupid and cruel.


I think this has run its course so maybe as I initiated it, I can finish it.

First off I'm surprised and reassured at the profile of the answers, I'd expected a far more conservative result. I have a picture of the US being very hung up over right to life issues. But then this group, devoid of religious baggage, is hardly Middle America.

The topic certainly flushed out the reactionaries, who tend to have fixed opinions they can't explain and won't question. Just like having religion really! Instead of contemplating, they bully with shouting, bad language and insults. I now know who I'll be avoiding contact with in future πŸ™‚

And for the record, I voted C+3. I've not seen a single argument in the many posts that has caused me to question this choice. So I'll stick with it.

One last point - it seems to me there are far too many humans trashing the planet already so a slight reduction in growth by weeding out the defective ones early is good sense. We are now 7.6bn with a predicted 11.2bn by 2100, by which time it's highly likely, on current trends, that global warming issues will be very severe. Nature will then be 'terminating' far more than we can manage.


Wow! You are a true abortion hating troll, aren't you? Quote: "at what point do WE abortion to take place"???????!!!!!
Who is this "We"? Oh, right, the Abortion Police.
Behold, fellow agnostics/atheists: this one has attempted to slither on in under false pretenses! The ONLY answer to this Crapola "poll" is, when the gestation host (and her doctor) decide what is right for her!!!!!!


I keep my stance on up to 3 months for this reason as well. It gives one time to fully consider all angles; considering the "cost", if you will

And it gives more time for less obvious defects to emerge.


Human life is precious only to us, Individually or collectively.
Societies and individuals have a power to determine what is of value and what is not and of what value one thing is vs. another.
Society has a power to support its members as that body chooses.
Women have the power to choose what they wish to do with their own bodies and lives.
Societies oblige themselves to support or quash that which individuals and subgroups may do.
Right and Wrong, Without an evolutionary context will become moot, Inevitably.

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