Sat | Jul 21, 2018

Peter Espeut | Genuine debate about abortion

Published:Friday | June 15, 2018 | 12:00 AM

I really appreciate the article by Dr Horace Levy (PhD philosophy) in Wednesday's Gleaner, which makes a genuine attempt to further the national abortion debate.

I have been frustrated by the refusal of pro-abortion campaigners to engage the issues raised by anti-abortion activists like myself, which means that, for the most part, there is no debate - only a restatement of entrenched positions, which does not advance the discussion at all!

I have made the scientific and logical argument that "the foetus in the womb of the mother has 46 chromosomes, and therefore is a human being with the inalienable right to life, and therefore abortion is murder". If someone wants to debate me, they need to prove my science wrong (to prove the foetus is not a human being); or they need to expose the flaw in my logic (to show why the foetus has no human rights, or why killing the human being inside its mother is not murder).

The typical response to my assertions has been to reassert that women have the right to terminate their pregnancies because they have rights over their own bodies, making no effort to engage my assertions.

Then I make a further scientific and logical argument: that "the foetus is not a part of the mother's body, because it has different DNA, and an entirely separate blood system, which may contain blood of a type different from the mother; if it is true that a woman has the right to do with her body what she wishes (and I neither confirm nor deny that), since the foetus is not part of her body, that line of argument is irrelevant".

If someone wants to debate me, then they need to prove my science wrong (their DNA are identical, or their blood types are always the same); or they need to expose the flaw in my logic (to show why different DNA, and possibly different blood type, can still mean that the foetus is part of the mother's body).

Last Wednesday, Dr Levy introduces a new element into the debate: that human beings have a soul, which he equates to the human spirit. This is the major source of his confusion, as the soul (psyche in Greek) is quite different from the spirit (pneuma in Greek).




Horace says: "The human embryo reached its level of development through an evolutionary process", and therefore he confuses evolution with embryological development. He argues that just as the body of the human foetus develops inside the womb - and indeed throughout life - so does the human spirit.

He asserts: "Naturally, we are cautious about terminating the life of a being on its way to full humanness. And the closer it gets to that goal, the more we respect it. Terminating its existence at an early stage cannot rightly, however, be described as murdering a human being with the full human spirit of a newborn, adolescent or adult."

If it is true that as the human spirit (pneuma) evolves along with the body, the entity becomes more human, it is also true that at no time is the entity not human. Horace, I argue that in the womb, the foetus has enough humanity to demand the right to life.

When the body dies, so does the spirit (pneuma), but the soul (psyche) lives on. The foetus, with its immortal soul, has the inalienable right to life, and that is why abortion is inherently wrong.

Over to you, Horace.

- The Rev Peter Espeut has university degrees in philosophy, theology, and the sciences. Email feedback to