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There is no way to be rational with people who refuse to abort fetuses that kill the mother (Ireland), people who refuse abortions to 11 year old incest victims (Brazil), people who let women be crippled by pregnancy (Central America).

So, I am forced to speak in their own fantastical language with the question that is the title of this diary. I am posing a serious theological question that must be answered by the theocrats who propose the criminalization of miscarriage as government policy. Such policies have been implemented - with disastrous social outcomes - for example, by via the "menstrual police" of the Romanian dictator Ceaucescu (see note at end).

Why is this a serious question? Because a non-trivial percentage of early term embryos are cancerous. Depending on the seriousness of the chromosomal and mutational damage, many die immediately. More die soon after; some die around three months, as the development program turns on new (but broken) genetic systems.

Mutations that yield activated oncogenes are likely to arise with some frequency during gametogenesis and thus are likely to be trasmitted to fertilized eggs...These mutant alleles are likely to...disrupt normal development. Consequently, embryos carrying these mutant oncogenes are unlikely to develop to term. For example mouse embryos...carrying a mutant, activated K-ras oncogene develop only to the time of mid-gestation, at which point they die because of placental and intra-embryonic developmental defects.

Robert Weinberg, The Biology of Cancer

More biology below the orange zona pellucida.

As genetic testing continues to improve, scientists are studying exactly what genetic abnormalities cause miscarriages (a.k.a. spontaneous abortions). (In fact, Googling: miscarriage oncogene will turn up a large number of papers of very recent vintage.):

It is estimated that 10–15 % of all clinically recognised pregnancies results in a miscarriage, most of which occur during the first trimester. Large-scale chromosomal abnormalities have been found in up to 50 % of first-trimester spontaneous abortions...In this study, we investigated the possibility that submicroscopic chromosomal changes, not detectable by conventional cytogenetic analysis, exist in euploid miscarriages and could be causative for the spontaneous abortion

- First-trimester euploid miscarriages analysed by array-CGH  
 Journal of Applied Genetics, August 2013, Volume 54, Issue 3, pp 353-359

So one of six pregnancies that was actually detected (by some kind of test) miscarry. Extrapolating to even earlier, undetected, spontaneous abortions, we come up with a total percentage of miscarriage of fertilized eggs of 75%:
It is estimated that 3 out of 4 eggs that are fertilized do not fuse their DNA correctly, and therefore either do not attempt to implant or fail at implantation.

The less dramatic way to say this is: the majority of early pregnancies miscarry, i.e., these oncogenic embryos self-abort because their scrambled, oncogenic genes are incapable of carrying out the program of cell differentiation that turns a single cell into a functioning body.


Now, the fundies object when people want to abort children with horrible genetic problems, like Tay-Sachs. But, here is mother nature herself aborting because of  genetic problems so bad that the fetus is incapable of turning itself into a functioning human being.

But the fundies dare not admit that there is a huge distance between even an eight week fetus and a viable human being. Because their simplistic, counter-factual, rigid, dogmatic argument of having a soul since conception allows them zero wiggle room. And, non-theologically,  because that distance of eight weeks is already a good distance to the original first trimester benchmark of Roe V Wade.

The fundies have decreed that a single cell - no matter how genetically compromised - is the total equivalent of an adult human being, so they must ask themselves the question: does a tumor with a damaged genetic program have an immortal soul?

A tumor's gene set can be far more different from a functioning human being than a human being's gene set is from a monkey. The fundies got started denying science by saying monkeys had no soul; but they now seem happy to confer souls on tumorous growths that are far more alien than a monkey.

Oh, and another question: God decided that 75% of all these "pre-born children" are going to die. Doesn't that make God evil?


There is no reasoning with these fanatics; but maybe we can induce them to short circuit by asking these science-based theological questions. Of course, this approach has been tried before with no good outcome. Even when confronted with their own theology, these nasty misogynists ignore it.

But, its all I've got. And it gives me a talking point.

Footnote: Romanian Pregnancy Policy

Women under the age of 45 were rounded up at their workplaces every one to three months and taken to clinics, where they were examined for signs of pregnancy, often in the presence of government agents - dubbed the "menstrual police" by some Romanians. A pregnant woman who failed to "produce" a baby at the proper time could expect to be summoned for questioning. Women who miscarried were suspected of arranging an abortion.

Overplanned Parenthood: Ceausescu's cruel law

Don't forget the diary about inducing abortions (Numbers 5, 11-31)

Originally posted to SciTech on Thu Sep 26, 2013 at 07:22 PM PDT.

Also republished by Street Prophets and Feminism, Pro-Feminism, Womanism: Feminist Issues, Ideas, & Activism.

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