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Qualifying as a “properly developed” human being obviously will have something to do with the assignment of personhood to the individual in question. Merely being in possession of human DNA cannot possibly suffice, else we’d be assigning personhood to hair follicles and epithelial skin cells such as we are constantly leaving behind as, for instance, at crime scenes, where these can be used as evidence. But that evidence is not put on the witness stand and interrogated by opposing attorneys. It has no agency, no personhood. So it is taken to a lab where it can be assessed and interpreted. It is the scientists and technicians who perform that assessment and interpretation who are put on the witness stand.

Which brings us to one of our main points: a blob of protoplasm – a fertilized human ovum, for example – is devoid of any shred of agency, and hence is not a person of any kind. Therefore, there is no logical basis of any sort for pretending that blob of protoplasm has “rights” which somehow trump the actual agency of the actual person where that blob of protoplasm happens to be wandering around. Bear this in mind: at conception, that ovum is not yet implanted on the woman’s placenta, and there is something like a 50% chance it never will be. Rather, it is going to be disposed of the next time the woman takes a piss. So much for “life begins at conception.” (In fact, according to Genesis 2:7, one only becomes a living being after taking their first breath.)

Fun fact #1: somewhere between weeks 18 and 23 of pregnancy, the fetus begins flushing all of the non-functional nerve cells – whose only purpose has been to inflate the skull like a balloon – out of the body and replacing them with real nerve cells that are (ultimately!) interconnected enough to arguably qualify as an actual brain. Prior to the (successful! It isn’t always) completion of that process, the fetus has less cognitive capacity than a cockroach.

Fun fact #2: at six weeks of pregnancy there is no such thing as “fetal heartbeat.” there is a barely observable patch of cells that begin to twitch. But those cells have no valves, have no chambers, and are, therefore, not a “heart” (much less a beating one) by even the most reckless stretch of the imagination. (In point of fact, there is nothing that might even possibly be described as a circulatory system.)

But the thing about anti-choice ideologues is that they don’t give a damn about facts; they don’t care, in point of fact, about logic, principles, evidence, or facts at all, or at any level. They have been instructed what lies to swallow, and they’ve dutifully swallowed those lies without so much as a first, never mind a second thought. And those lies fall out along the lines of (1) a blob of protoplasm is an agent that trumps the actual agency of the woman carrying it, (2) the blob of protoplasm is a “potential” agent and that somehow trumps the actual agency of the woman carrying it, and (3) overarching all is the biggest lie of all, that the anti-choice hypocrites actually give a shit about babies and children.

As we’ve seen, #1 is absolute nonsense. Anyone so grotesquely infantile as to swallow that lie is altogether beyond even the abstract possibility of reason. A fertilized ovum has less agency than a dandelion. Per #2, this again is complete twaddle. We don’t – or, at least, are not supposed to – send people to prison for the bank they could have potentially robbed (and when we do, it is considered an inexcusable miscarriage of justice.) The moral status of criminal is only to be assigned to persons for the actual crimes (if any) they have actually committed; by the same token, the status of person is assigned to actual persons, not to “maybes” or “what ifs.” The penumbra of potentiality always informs our understanding of the actual, but out judgments are always grounded upon that actuality. (This is a point that Whitehead repeatedly made, I might add, albeit in words different from my own.)

Which brings us to lie #3. The gross, malignant hypocrisy of anti-choice zealots in their disgusting self-caricature as “pro-life” is so pathetically wretched as to gag a maggot. If these people genuinely cared about human life, especially the lives of babies, then they would be noisily demanding sweeping reforms to medical care in this country. They would be protesting for free and universal pre- and neo-natal care for every pregnant mother and new born infant in the country. Instead they are protesting the one organization that is out there actually providing such care (at least at reduced cost), namely Planned Parenthood. Only a small percentage of PP’s funds go to abortion, and none of those latter come from the government. But the anti-choice hypocrites do not actually care about life, they care about posturing. And the animals who whip those pathetic buffoons into a frenzy care about nothing but power: power to dominate, control, and effectively dehumanizing – by denying basic agency and personhood to – the 51% of the population who are actually female, by spewing infantile twaddle about “potential” humans about whom they do not give a shit.

(One quick parenthetical word about things like climate catastrophe and our “debt to future generations.” But we don’t need an abstract appeal to abstract possible people to recognize that we have an actual problem facing actual people, and that actual climate catastrophe is actually on us right now. Again, the moral/ethical issue we face is not about how what “might be” “might effect” what “might be”. It is about what is, and how that is – and will continue – to effect actual, as opposed to merely potential, people. Our understanding of the potential informs our analysis, but our concern remains firmly rooted in the actual.)