To the editor: A recent letter boldly stated that “The latest technology proves without a doubt that a conceived child is a human being,” but it stopped short of offering any proof of that assertion. ("Letter: Reaction to Carole Owens' column on abortion legal battle," Eagle, Jan. 14.)

Reality is much more nuanced because “life” isn’t an absolute, and where it begins is much more philosophical than factual. The courts have currently set viability as the standard for the origin of life, meaning the child must be able to carry out basic life function (circulation and respiration) independent of the support of the mother. Granting personhood in-utero ostensibly means granting rights in-utero, which sets up a potential legal conflict between the rights of the mother and the rights of the fetus. That situation is a legal quagmire waiting to happen.

At issue is the mother's right to self-determination. Prior to viability, the mother shouldn’t be required to carry a child to term. The writer attempts to soften the issue by raising alternatives, such as adoption to couples who are infertile, but that is disingenuous. That is, in effect, chattel slavery. Should a woman choose to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term and offer the child for adoption that would be wonderful, but no one should be required to do so.

It is critical that we firmly establish the legal point at which personhood, and thereby rights, are established. It gives one pause to think that this would begin at the joining of two cells or even several dozen. The current standard that requires the body to have formed to the point of being able to independently carry out life function is an entirely rational one.

Too often the debate on this issue is mischaracterized as pro-life or pro-abortion. While I am for a woman’s right to choose, I firmly wish that no one would have to. I would prefer that this would be unnecessary, and that people would take appropriate precautions. That said, we live in the real world, and ideal circumstances aren’t guaranteed. Often, abortion bans will carve out an exemption for rape or incest, but this lays bare the hypocrisy of the argument that life begins at conception. If one argues that the fetus is a person with rights, the fact that they were conceived under a condition of rape or incest should not negate those rights.

The rights of women to self-determination must be preserved.

Brian W. Barnett, Glendale