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posted: 5/14/2014 5:01 AM

Not all life-or-death cases are clear-cut

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Mr. Lorimer (Your Views, April 24) invites reasoned discussion of the contentious topic of abortion. Wonderful. First things first: Abortion is serious, and the fewer there are, the better. Thus, the importance of health care contraceptive coverage.

Further discussion seems to hinge on this: Dividing, functioning cells are living -- but is it human life?

End-of-life medical discussions led to legal guidelines. They guide humane care based on presence or absence of higher-order brain function, not just reflexes like a beating heart. Although Terry Schiavo blinked, had a beating heart and breathed, her autopsy showed a shriveled, nonfunctioning brain incapable of higher-order function.

Two sides of her family had very different views for treating living cells and human life. Those difficult decisions were only complicated when politicians and outsiders injected themselves into the argument.

Brain research currently detects reflexive embryonic neuron development around the sixth week -- higher-order functions start around the third trimester. Current laws, backed by science, rightfully regulate third-trimester abortion. Abortion is most often a wrenching health decision at this stage.

So, what is the difference between situations cited by Mr. Lorimer? In one case a decision had to balance the needs of the mother, the living humans already here, and living cells at a developmental stage equivalent to an end-of-life Terry Schiavo -- and what needed to happen for the good of all. In the other case he mentions, a Utah woman birthed, then allegedly killed, a fully functioning human life. Different people have different answers to the former very personal decision -- politicians and outsiders don't belong in it beyond the boundaries of current law. The latter is murder.

Barbara Muehlhausen


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