Yes, there are lots of missing people if a zygote is really a person

It took some research, but I think I tracked down the correct e-mail address for the author of the editorial referenced in the first paragraph of my letter, below. I sent this letter to him today, but I am publishing it here as well. 

Dear Dr. Nash,

I'm hoping you're the same Dr. David A. Nash who wrote the following editorial in the Lexington Herald-Leader ("Lots of missing people if a zygote is really a person"), found here:

If not, feel free to ignore this e-mail. If so, however, I wanted to share my experiences with you.

First of all, I absolutely agree that there are a lot of missing people if a zygote is really a person. Death has always been a part of life. In years past the death rate, especially for infants, was much higher than it is now. For example, in 1850, the mortality rate for infants was 216.8 per 1,000 babies born. (Source: Do you think that infants weren't people back in 1850 since so many of them died of natural causes in their first year of life? 

Secondly, in your editorial you said the following, "We do not designate the results of such spontaneous abortions as 'persons' nor grant them the respect routinely given 'persons,' by naming them, providing a respectful burial or including them in our population and mortality statistics."

It's interesting that you say they are not including in mortality statistics after quoting pregnancy loss statistics! Those seem to be mortality statistics. However, the fact that they are not included in infant loss statistics does not mean that unborn children are not actually persons -- it only means that they are not (yet) considered persons by our government. That was also the case with slaves in 1835 (they were only considered 3/5ths of a person for tax purposes), but I think you would agree that they were, objectively, persons even if the government did not legally regard them as such at that time.

I have had one spontaneous abortion and three missed abortions (or, as I prefer to call them, miscarriages). All of my deceased children have names, Dr. Nash. They are Noel, Chris, Francis and Jude. Noel, Francis, and Jude died at 12 weeks gestation. Chris died at 5w6d. Three of them (Noel, Francis, and Jude) we saw via ultrasound. Two of them (Francis and Jude) had strong heartbeats at 8 weeks gestation, but had inexplicably died at 12 weeks.

Three of my children are buried in cemeteries, with grave markers. Noel is buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Fargo, North Dakota. Francis and Jude are both buried at Holy Cross Cemetery in Avondale, AZ. We had funeral services for all three. We weren't able to bury Chris, as my miscarriage happened late at night in the emergency room and my husband and I were too shocked and overwhelmed to attempt to save his or her remains (that miscarriage remains my only "natural" one  -- I've had D&Cs for the other 3, as their deaths were diagnosed via ultrasound). But we had a memorial service for him or her, anyway. I've uploaded several pictures of the graves and funerals we've had for our miscarried children so you can see that they were, indeed, mourned and buried: 

Noel's grave, Holy Cross Cemetery, Fargo, ND
Francis' burial, June 2015
Jude's burial, October 2015
Francis' gravestone
(added 5/9/16) Jude's gravestone, next to Francis'
Also, miscarried children are provided a respectful burial. At the time of my most recent loss, my husband and I were given a paper stating that we had three options when it came to the disposition of Jude's remains. We could let the hospital handle the disposition and choose to have the remains cremated and interred either at the local Catholic cemetery – in fact, in the exact same section in which we had buried Francis – or scattered in the Superstition Mountains. The paper stated that this would be done in 30 days’ time. We could also choose to have the remains released to a local funeral home, or we could choose to have the remains released to us (we chose the latter option so that we could have private services).  

It's not true at all that miscarried children aren't given proper burials or funerals. Many are, and many parents wish they could bury their children but don't know how. However, a proper burial isn't what determines whether or not humans are persons. Even genocide victims thrown into unmarked mass graves were persons, even if their oppressors did not believe so (and even if the oppressive government did not legally consider them persons). 

There's objective criteria for personhood (see here, for example), and unborn children meet that criteria even if our legal system hasn't quite caught up to that fact yet. 

My lost children were people, Dr. Nash, just as much as my five living children are people. I mourned their deaths when they happened, and I still mourn them every day of my life. They were human beings by all scientific criteria, and they were persons by all subjective philosophical criteria. The fact that they were unborn and not born doesn't change that fact. 

If you'd like to engage on this topic further, I'm more than willing to do so. I think it's an important discussion to have. But if not, that's all right too. I just wanted to set the record straight regarding some of your comments.


JoAnna Wahlund

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