Wednesday, February 16, 2005

"Unborn Child"--Arizona Style

Our favorite B.Ph.D. links to an article about an Arizona bill (SB 1052), and comments:

A bill, ostensibly to punish the killing of pregnant women, that makes a fetus legally equal to its mother. The law explicitly makes an exception for abortion.

After reading the bill, titled protection of unborn children, I'll have to disagree with her a bit. This is not a bill about pregnant women, but rather about "unborn children".

In case you're not exactly sure what "unborn child" means [I wasn't], the Arizona legislature provides the definition. Actually, they provide several definitions. Feel free to select the one that strikes your fancy [I'm going with B. I find not having to couple giving birth to uterine location (in utero, ex utero, makes no difference) irresistible.]:


B) unborn child shall be considered to be a child who is under twelve years of age (scroll to the middle of the page).

From the surface of the woman's and man's kidney (that's the area where the earliest sign of a gonad appears) when they are embryos themselves [the woman and man having gonads is an essential stage in the development of any child they might have], to a child under 12 years of age, it's all the same in Arizona.

See, this is what happens when you make up terms ("unborn child", "partial-birth" abortion)--reality tends to get in the way. In real life, a genital ridge, a fertilized egg (zygote), blastomers, a morula, a blastocyst, an embryo, a fetus, a neonate, and a child, under 12 years of age, are not interchangeable.

My take on SB 1052: There are enough reality-based problems we need to tackle, both in society in general, and in the reproductive health arena, in particular. It would be most helpful if assorted politicians would refrain from making up medical terms.


At 4:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You remind me of M. Homais from Madame Bovary--so self-satisfied with your little parcel of scientific knowledge. The "reality" is that all terms: scientific and legislative are vague and difficult.

For instance, terms that are at the bedrock of biological theory, like say "species," are, in fact, extremely vague and difficult to apply. As Kuhn reminds us, the concepts of science are often as much product of culture and received wisdom as they are of empirical observation.

When deciding the categories over which moral terms operate, doctors have no greater claim to reality than politicans.

At 5:32 AM, Blogger ema said...

Reality, and scientific knowledge and terms--precise, easy to apply, and the direct product of empirical observation--exist independent of me, you, and yes, even politicians [and/or our, or their, level of self-satisfaction, cultural backgrounds, wisdom, morals, and professions].

My point is that, before deciding the categories over which moral terms operate, politicians need to be familiar with said categories. [Why this should be the politicians' job is an equally interesting question, but I digress.]

Everyone is entitled to their own opinion/moral decision, however they are not entitled to their own facts.

At 3:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Reality, and scientific knowledge and terms--precise, easy to apply, and the direct product of empirical observation"

Really? Then what about such scientific terms of phlogisten, ether, the Freudian id, etc.? Many scientists believed (and with the id, still do so) that these terms are the "direct product of empirical observation." It's not so easy. Theory changes and the scientific terms that seemed so natural become absurd.

The point is that facts do not emerge immediately from reality; they are always mitigated through theory. You think that there is a world of medical fact that trumps all. Indeed, your blog is dedicated to the proposition. However, science, ethics,politics all fight over what "reality" is and all have a say in defining it.

At 9:50 PM, Blogger ding said...


'reality' aside, thanks for the post. the upsurge of these badly written proposed laws is disturbing.


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