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Supreme Court's Response to the Question: When Does Life Begin?

 

Roe v. Wade 1973

Opinion of the Court written by Supreme Court Justice Blackmun

 

"We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man's knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer."[p160] . . .

"There has always been strong support for the view that life does not begin until live' birth."[n56] . . .

"Physicians and their scientific colleagues have regarded that event with less interest and have tended to focus either upon conception, upon live birth, or upon the interim point at which the fetus becomes "viable," that is, potentially able to live outside the mother's womb, albeit with artificial aid.[n59] Viability is usually placed at about seven months (28 weeks) but may occur earlier, even at 24 weeks.[n60] The Aristotelian theory of "mediate animation," that held sway through out the Middle Ages and the Renaissance in Europe, continued to be official Roman Catholic Dogma until the 19th century, despite opposition to this "ensoulment" theory from those in the Church who would recognize the existence of life from [p161] the moment of conception.[n61] The latter is now, of course, the official belief of the Catholic Church. As one brief amicus discloses, this is a view strongly held by many non-Catholics as well, and by many physicians. Substantial problems for precise definition of this view are posed, however, by new embryological data that purport to indicate that conception is a "process" over time rather than an event, and by new medical techniques such as menstrual extraction, the "morning-after" pill implantation of embryos, artificial insemination, and even artificial wombs."[n62] . . . 


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