The unborn is obviously living in a biological sense, exhibiting metabolism, cellular reproduction, reaction to stimuli, and rapid growth. Indeed, the unborn is not only living, but is a distinct, complete, self-integrating, self-developing organism, and a member of the human species. He or she (sex is determined from conception) is a living human being.
|An actual living, respiring human being|
What about breathing? Breathing as we usually think of it, using the lungs, does not begin until birth (or shortly after). But the biological process of respiration, involving the transfer of oxygen, begins long before birth. The means of respiration is different for human beings still in the womb, but the fact of respiration is the same. The late Dr. Bernard Nathanson, a prolific abortionist and co-founder of NARAL (before he famously changed his mind), explains:
[A]t the end of pregnancy, [the fetus/newborn child's] growth needs simply outstrip the ability of the placenta to supply food and oxygen, so the lungs and mouth must take over. The organism is put into a different physiological milieu -- and nothing more. It is like switching from AC to DC current; the energy connection changes, but the basic mechanics remain the same.The change in the mode of respiration obviously does not change the kind of thing the unborn/newborn is (a living organism of the human species). No scientifically informed person would ever say so. Nor is it clear how such a change could possibly be relevant to whether someone has fundamental dignity and basic rights. Indeed, I have never seen anyone seriously argue that it is. A person who has become dependent on a medical ventilator, for example, is still a person who may not be killed without just cause.
So: The being killed by abortion is a living, respiring, fast-growing organism, a human being, a member of our species, like you and me, only at a much earlier stage of life. Defenders of abortion favor denying unborn human beings the kind of moral respect and legal protection that are owed to human beings at later developmental stages. They are free to make their case. But it simply will not do to claim that human beings in the womb are not "living and breathing."