Here we go again…

Posted on January 20, 2013

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First, I know I promised to write more. My thought was that I could get a post a day completed during this month. However, real life again intervenes: between job searching and taking care of a sick family (myself included) for the past two weeks, I haven’t found the time to accomplish my resolution. That doesn’t mean I won’t strive to reach my goal. It just means I may have to modify my timeline…

In the meantime, has anyone properly addressed the fetus as parasite issue? I mean, let’s think about this: the abortion debate has been raging for years and the internet has made it possible for people to be more vocal about it. But it also lets less rational ideas creep into the arena. Seriously, who actually believes that an unborn child is a parasite? And before you try to rationalize this, please consider the following…

par·a·site

/ˈpær əˌsaɪt/ noun

  1. an organism that lives on or in an organism of another species, known as the host, from the body of which it obtains nutriment.
  2. a person who receives support, advantage, or the like, from another or others without giving any useful or proper return, as one who lives on the hospitality of others.
  3. (in ancient Greece) a person who received free meals in return for amusing or impudent conversation, flattering remarks, etc.

We can ignore the third definition because it’s pretty much a subset of the second. By the first definition, a creature can only be a parasite if it has attached itself to a different creature. As a fetus is a human being and as the mother is a human being, a fetus cannot be a parasite (according to the first definition).

I can only assume that advocates of this position will cite the second definition. There are two problems with this.

First, let’s address the issue of “useful or proper return.” The point of having children is to perpetuate the species. Actually, there’s more to children than that: they’re innocent, fun, cute and amazing to have around. But I’m speaking as a parent. Even if I grant that not all people feel the same way about children that I do, they still serve a purpose. Without them, we wouldn’t exist in this world. Ergo, they provide a useful return for our investments.

Second, the definition uses the term “person.” If we accept this definition, we must accept that a fetus is a person. This suggests that a fetus should receive certain (logically possible) benefits of personhood, such as a right to life (but not a right to own property).

Further searching for definitions reveals variations of the above. When I went to TheScienceDictionary.com, the first website that came up was Wikipedia. There, parasitism is defined as only occurring between creatures of different species. And it really didn’t take long to search for this information.

The bottom line: anyone who argues that a fetus is a parasite doesn’t know what they’re talking about. (The last link is the best because it appears to be an article by someone with actual medical and scientific knowledge, as the author lists a ton of symptoms and links them, conceptually, to the idea that a fetus is a parasite. However, the author also admits that her article is an opinion piece, it’s published on the Daily Kos (not exactly a reputable medical website) and a close reading of the article reveals that the author has a very personal reason for writing it. Bias can be a terrible thing…)

Here’s another thought: all mammals, humans and animals alike, reproduce by basically the same method. A male and a female mate, their DNA mixes and they produce a fetus (or multiple fetuses in some cases). Are we suggesting that all fetuses are parasites? If that were the case, why would a cat or a dog care for its parasitic growths like it does? Are cats and dogs more compassionate than humans?

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