The Myth of the Femuncula

Listening to MSNBC, Planned Parenthood, and other devout partisans of the new American sacrament of abortion rant about the reignited War on Women (if I have to hear Rachel Maddow repeat, grim frown in place, “THE GOP IS FORCING WOMEN TO BEAR THEIR RAPISTS’ BABIES!!!” one more time . . .), one claim stands out: No man has a right to tell a woman what to do with her body. Funny thing is, it’s a claim with which I agree 100%, even when I’m not crazy about some of the things we women choose to do with our bodies. Wanna get a tattoo, acquire Barbie boobs, paralyze your wrinkles away, have your stomach stapled, wax yourself as smooth as a bowling lane all over, have your fat cells vacuumed out, get more back than you were genetically endowed with, buy a new nose, ditch that old appendix? Go to, ma’am. As long as you’re an informed adult, it’s between you and your doctor / aesthetician / inker / beautician, and maybe your shrink if the problem’s not really physical.

But when it comes to abortion, it’s not only—in fact, not even largely, except in cases of a pregnancy’s causing an imminent threat to your health—your body we’re talking about. It’s the body of a child, a unique human person made up of two people’s DNA, yours and a man’s. That’s the thing nobody will talk about. I’m not even going to get into the whole gestational age thing, or talk about potentiality, or even speak here of my Church’s teaching (and that of basic biology) that a human life begins at conception. I’m not even going to go anywhere near the absolute disconnect in this country that leads us to believe that it’s defunding Planned Parenthood, and not having unprotected sex, that results in “unplanned” pregnancies. The point is, once you are pregnant, it’s not your body alone that’s involved.

That we’ve come to this place in society—the place where there’s a consensus among those who consider themselves educated and unsuperstitious and enlightened and liberated that pregnancy is simply a bodily process that occurs in human females alone and involves their bodies alone, or even more bizarrely, that it is a violation of a woman’s bodily integrity—is a real irony if you know anything about the history of science. Because for good long stretches of human history, the prevailing consensus was that the only way a woman’s body was involved in a pregnancy was as an oven, a crucible. It was thought to be all the man’s doing, and that each sperm was literally a seed containing within itself an entire copy of the man himself, which would express itself as either a male or female child after having been “planted” in the womb and brought to term. The little preformed child, known as a homunculus (Latin for “little man”), might occasionally pick up maternal traits like hair or eye color, but that was by simple environmental transfer in the womb—the way you might pick up a stripe of green across your backside from sitting on a freshly painted bus bench. Now THAT was a man controlling what a woman does with her body, using it as a flowerpot or a slow cooker.

We’ve evolved, of course, to use the President’s favorite word. Science long ago disabused men of the notion that they alone were responsible for shaping a new human life. We’ve lost some other misguided notions along the way, too: that an unborn child does not begin to live until the point of quickening (the first time the mother can feel the child move, usually around 4 months’ gestation), that a woman who looks at something frightening during her pregnancy will bear a monster, that a child born pre-term cannot survive, that genetic defects such as Down syndrome result in subhuman creatures who can never function or thrive, and yes, Mr Akin, even that women’s bodies reject the seed of “real” rapists.

One thing science hasn’t done, though, is validate the notion that an unborn child is part of a woman’s body, with no independent life or genetic profile of its own. As a matter of record, every new discovery takes us as far from that femuncula nonsense as from the homunculus theories of years past. The father’s contribution is not simply a passing irritant like ragweed pollen. A fetus that has implanted itself in the womb (at the very least) is not a piece of stray tissue, a lump of cellulite. Something that is a child when desperately wanted does not become a disposable body part when it is desperately unwanted.

In all the arguing, I’d just like somebody to admit that reality. I am not among those who think it would be right for my Church’s understanding of the beauty and wonder of God’s gift of sexuality to be made the law of the land, with punishments incurred for those that violate it. I would love, as Mitt Romney said (and was immediately branded as an extremist and misogynist for so doing), to have a consensus in this country that abortion was regrettable, and to have in place systems that would assure no woman ever felt she had to kill a child in order to live. That’s a big wish, but I’ll settle for people simply admitting that when we’re talking about terminating a pregnancy, we are talking about ending a unique human life to which both a man and a woman contributed equally. We should be having a conversation (all of us, left and right, Republican and Democrat, men and women, religious and atheist) about when, if ever, that’s the right decision to make—not denying that that’s the decision at all.

I don’t hold a lot of hope for that conversation, not in an election year when men (including the one in the White House) are shamelessly exploiting women’s bodies for votes. Not when the remarks of a man who holds insanely incorrect ideas about reproductive biology (and who—dear God!—serves on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology!) can be used to shut down the truth that a life is a life. Not when I’m having coffee with my best friend, who agrees that abortion is regrettable but thinks that without unlimited access to it women would be back under the thumb of the Big Oppressive Homunculus, forced to breed and go barefoot.

So I vent here. Thanks for listening.

  • Karen

    Okay, I’ll join yr conversational, but I would like answers to some questions as well , specifically how will y enforce an abortion ban? Will the simply prohibit termination of pregnancy or do y support “personhood” laws? The effects of the two are very, very different. For example, a 16 year old pregnant leukemia patient died this week because the authorities, including yr church, refused to allow her chemotherapy because it could harm the baby. They are both dead now. How will miscarriages be treated? Will a miscarried fetus be allowed to sue its mother for negligence? Will other people be allowed to prosecute suits on behalf of miscarried fetuses in the same manner as the estates of dead people can pursue lawsuits? What about miscarriages that occur before the woman knows she’s pregnant ? Will women be permitted any activities that can cause miscarriages, including vigorous exercise and breastfeeding? Please do me the courtesy of explaining why those thing won’t happen – if indeed you do believe that prohibiting women from joining gyms is a bad idea – and dont just dismiss my concerns.

    • joannemcportland

      It’s not a conversation if you don’t actually read my post. If you had, you’d know I am against a legal ban, and therefore against all the nightmare sci fi Handmaid’s Tale scenarios you want to dream up. Your citation for the leukemia story references a tragic case in the Dominican Republic, and the ban was a blanket no-exceptions state law, not Catholic policy. (Cases like this are why I am against such a ban.) Catholic teaching would most certainly allow chemo in this case, as saving the mother would be the only way to save a child at 10 weeks gestation; if the child died as a consequence, it would be regrettable but not abortion. If the cancer were so far advanced that chemo would have no chance of success (which may have been true in this case) and the child were viable, everything would be done to save the child. But that’s just exactly the kind of triage doctors practice all the time. If two people are injured in a car crash, and one is more able to survive with treatment than the other, you help the person with the best chance first. But you don’t shoot the other person in the head to get to them, even though it’s quite probable they will die soon. In terms of miscarriage, don’t be sillier than you have to be. No religion or state law has ever equated miscarriage (spontaneous abortion) with elective abortion (killing a child).

      • Karen

        You are against a legal ban, but the Catholic Church is emphatically in favor of such actions, so it’s easy to get confused. Also, I repeatedly ask antiabortion advocates these questions and rarely get an answer. If a legal ban is enacted there will be, and as the Dominican case illustrates, already are Handmaid’s Tale consequences. There was the case in Arizona recently where the hospital administrator was excommunicated for allowing an abortion on a woman with pulmonary hypertension, which can kill in seconds and is exacerbated by pregnancy. There was a case in Florida a couple of years back where a woman was incarcerated on bed rest because she was pregnant and consequently lost her job AND the pregnancy. Those two instances happened under the current legal regime allowing abortion.

        I’m very glad you oppose a criminal ban. Fines and prison sentences are the bluntest of instruments to use to address social problems. (The Drug War is another instance of using a 50 caliber tank cannon where a scalpel is required.) That said, again, criminalization is what most pro-life groups want. I concede that a fetus is alive and that it is genetically distinct from the woman carrying it. So far, so easy. What I cannot concede because to do so will lead to Handmaid’s Tale nightmares is that a fetus before viability should have any legal status distinct from the pregnant woman.

        Your writing is what I would expect of a genuine feminist. You, as we say, “get it.” If most pro-lifers were like you, I wouldn’t use “antiabortion” so much. Please, if you can’t answer my questions can you refer me to someone who can?

        • joannemcportland

          You bring up cases worth talking about. The hospital administrator in Phoenix has been restored to full communion, and in any case her status did not affect the care the woman received. I am not familiar with the case of the Florida woman, although I cannot envision a scenario in which any authority in this country could incarcerate a woman and force her to attempt to carry a pregnancy to term, without any other extenuating circumstances such as an order from Child Protective Services if she were engaging regularly in behaviors harmful to her children. I will research it further, though.

          I am a feminist, genuinely, if that means believing men and women are equally, if differently, created. I am feminist enough to loathe the notion that women’s rights have now come down to nothing more than the right to be sexually available to men 24/7 without even having to think about pregnancy and the right to kill their children as Plan B. What about health care that doesn’t define pregnancy as a disease to be prevented at all costs? What about jobs, real jobs, for women and men so that if they decide to have children they can afford to? What about access to quality education for women and their children? What about preventing rape and domestic violence? Those are “women’s issues,” too.

          I’m glad you came back at me, but I don’t think I can answer your questions if the answer you want is agreement that women’s only freedom lies in abortion. There are a lot of people who share your fears about what might happen if the conversation about abortion were seriously reopened, but all I can say is that I do think there’s a place in the middle we might meet, if we could acknowledge one another’s good intentions.

        • Joseph H. M. Ortiz

          Actually, in the Arizona case, such conservative pro-life Catholic moralists as Michael Liccione have questioned the bishop’s position, inasmuch as he may well have misapplied the Church’s teaching, which indeed condemns abortion in which the child is EXPRESSLY killed, but does not condemn indiscriminately any and every termination of pregnancy. See on this matter Liccione’s article in First Things, “Excommunicating Intentions”, dated May 21, 2010.

    • Ted Seeber

      I’m for personhood laws- precisely *because* they respect the life of the mother equal to the life of the child.

  • Karen

    Also, my apologies for failing to type “y o u” every time. I’m typing on an iPad with a lot of screen glare.

  • Jackie D

    Unfortunately, admitting the reality of the child’s body is so closely tied to admitting the child’s right to exist that I doubt we’ll ever see abortion supporters freely offer up that much honesty or attention to science. It’s a good place to start though!

  • Nina

    I’m not really sure what’s superficial about having one’s appendix removed — is this some new fad — just randomly having one’s appendix removed?

    That an unborn child is a human being from the moment of conception still doesn’t address the main question Akin’s comments raised — how do you justify telling women they must carry and deliver the child forced into their uteruses by a violent criminal act which has already stolen their body, their DNA, their mental, emotional and physical well-being? And if she dies as a result of this forced pregancy, what then? Are prolifers willing to be complicit along with the rapist in the woman’s murder? Is the unborn child also complicit in murder should a woman die under those circumstances?

    Yes, the baby is a baby is a baby, but in rape cases, is this just not collateral damage, as the death of innocents is during war? How can anyone deny a rape victim the choice to abort? Once again, she becomes the least valued person in the entire situation — if social conservatives have their way, even the rapist will have more rights than she does.

    • joannemcportland

      I wasn’t calling appendectomy superficial. I was saying an appendix, unlike a child, is part of a woman’s body. I am happy to entertain the collateral damage argument for abortion in cases of rape, because at least it acknowledges that damage has been done to someone other than the woman. But the larger question is why the case for abortion always comes down to the (statistically small) number of cases that involve rape or incest, because these are cases in which the pregnancy was clearly and unequivocally unwanted and unchosen, as opposed to pregnancies that involve unprotected sex, where agency (choice and precaution, including recognizing the failure rates of contraceptive methods) is involved. To assume that a child conceived by criminal assault is automatically less worthy to live, less capable of being loved and raised by adoptive parents, than any other is problematic, but at least we can discuss it without going straight to the hyperbole of the child’s being a tiny assassin implanted in the woman.

      • Nina

        First, adoption has to stop being the knee-jerk solution to abortion. Adoption and abortion are two very separate things. Adoption does not address the pregnancy and delivery in rape cases, anyway — or in any case, for that matter.

        Advocating for abortion in cases of rape allows her to regain some autonomy over an already hellacious situation. Regardless what her choice is, _that_ she is able to choose, to regain some control over her body, her life is important.

        The rape cases throw into instant relief and all at once all the grey areas involved in the abortion debate. People pay attention.

        • joannemcportland

          I do understand and agree that rape is a horrific crime that destroys trust and the sense of control. And that is why most Americans who want to restrict access to abortion make exceptions for rape, incest, and medical threat to the life of the mother. But to use these rare incidences to make the case for all abortions is as emotionally manipulative as the prolifers’ waving mangled baby pictures. What concerns me is the mentality that pregnancy is, in itself, a disease rather than a natural process, that a woman who carries a child to term is punished by doing so.

          • Nina

            I don’t think pregnancy is a disease — but the notion of pregnancy as a health problem began when we started to medicalize pregnancy and childbirth in the first place, so prochoicers aren’t entirely to blame for that notion. What would be a punishment of sorts, or a continuation of the original violation, is forcing a woman into a pregnancy and birth that was violently imposed on her in the first place. It’s not the pregnancy that’s the punishment, it’s the removal of her autonomy. A forced pregnancy is every bit as much a perversion of natural law (in the Catholic sense) as rape.

            People bring up the rape cases in response to the prolife extremists, the ones who really are all about a baby at any cost, and have no interest whatsoever in the mother, or the ones who insist the reasons women have abortions are all shallow and superficial.

        • http://jscafenette.com Manny

          Nina, I acknowledge it’s a difficult situation for the woman, but among choices available one has to decide which tips the scale in the most ethical direction. If it were a perfect world all choices would be black and white, good and bad, painfull and pleasurable. But we are faced here with two tough choices. Which is more ethical, for the poor woman to suffer anguish another nine months or kill the innocent child? You tell me.

          • Nina

            Manny, it’s not just nine months of anguish. To say that is to reduce women to incubator status. Only the woman can know how many days, months, years of anguish a forced pregnancy and delivery will cause. “We” are not faced with any choices at all. The woman, already violated, should have a choice regarding any further violation.

    • AnonoMom

      Nina,
      I don’t know if you’ve ever been raped, I sincerely hope not. I have. And from that vantage I have to tell you that I am 100% positive that the ONLY thing that brought me out of drinking, self-medicating, staying-in-bed-all-day and about-to-lose-my-job depression was finding out a few months later that I was going to be a mother. The ONLY thing that allowed me to move on, find hope and find my own strength was knowing that something good can come from something that evil. Making a choice to be a BETTER person than the man who raped me, not playing to the lowest common denominator is where healing starts. Now I won’t claim it works that way for everyone, but I’ve read enough testimonials from people in similar situations to know it happens a lot.

      I won’t claim that I know what’s best for everyone, and in that I can’t advocate an across the board ban. But I am sick to death of abortion advocates pushing the idea that they do know what’s best for women like me, creating a world where my son should feel like a horrible freak instead of the amazing gift and redemptive force that he his. If you have become pregnant as a result of rape or even as a result of a lie, which I understand can feel almost as bad, and you really do believe that you needed to “reclaim” your body somehow to become whole, then talk about that. I honestly don’t know anyone though who can ever feel like she has her original body back after a rape, and doubly so after an abortion. (an extra knife doesn’t heal many wounds). But if I’m wrong about that then I’m wrong. But if you haven’t been there, and you want to advocate for women you don’t know… women like me, then advocate for US, not for abortion. If you want to advocate for abortion, please find another leg to stand on. Using us, without knowing us, HURTS us. Please stop.

      • Dan Berger

        In support of AnonoMom, see this article:
        http://georgetownlawjournal.org/files/pdf/98-3/Prewitt.PDF
        Prewitt, Georgetown Law Journal, 98:827 (2010)

        It discusses the way that the meme “products of rape should be aborted” casts suspicion on the women who keep such children; “it couldn’t really have been rape because she kept the child.”

        • Nina

          Dan, advocating for choice in cases of rape/incest is not telling women what they _should_ do. It’s advocating for choice, nothing more, nothing less.

          There are a lot of stupid prejudices people hold about many things. Duh. Obviously there’s a guy in Minnesota who thinks if a woman was really raped, her magical vajayjay powers would see to it she wouldn’t get pregnant. We clearly do not make laws based on ignorant, backward thinking like that…oh, wait…

          Also, think about the ridiculous things people say on the other side — that God planned for that baby — do you realize that’s telling a woman that God planned her rape? What a horrible, stupid, vacuous thing to say, yet there are prolifers who say it all the time.

          • joannemcportland

            There is a deal of twaddle showing up here. Argue if you wish, but don’t tell me prolifers say God planned your rape. And no one has made a law based on magical vajayjay twaddle, so stop throwing that out as anything more than hyperbolic spin.

          • Dan Berger

            Nina,
            Perhaps you should read the article before sounding off.

          • Nina

            Wow. What I actually wrote was that prolifers say that God plans every child, which can _sound_ like “God planned your rape” to a rape victim.

            And if you read the history of Akin’s comments, there are several men who’ve advocated for criminalizing abortion who’ve relied on all kinds of sketchy, even superstitious, “medical” claims regarding rape victims and pregnancy — or just their own personal prejudices (think Bill Napoli — only good, religious virgins “deserve” abortions in cases of rape).

      • Nina

        You miss the point. It’s having the choice that matters, not what you choose. You chose what was right for you under those circumstances. Another woman may choose differently. But if there is no choice, if a woman is forced twice against her will, then there’s something very, very wrong with the society we live in. You have no more right to speak for them than anyone does for you. Speak for yourself, and let others speak for themselves.

        • joannemcportland

          I am speaking for myself. And simply asking that every person who chooses abortion do so admitting that it’s the termination of a life no one can speak for.

          • Nina

            Hmm, this reply is to AnonoMom, not you, Joanne, but I think these threads get tough to untangle, visually speaking.

            I’ve already admitted that abortion is termination of a life no one can speak for.

        • Dan Berger

          “It’s having a choice that matters, not what you choose.”
          Bullshit. The rapist chose to rape, too. He chose!

          • Nina

            Rhetorical tricks don’t help, Dan. Brushing my teeth in the morning is a choice, too. Let’s focus, eh? Let’s keep the comments contextual. Or do I have to write out every post as if I’m speaking to a particularly dimwitted ESL student?

            A rape victim has had her body violated, attacked, invaded. That’ was not her choice. And now you would force her to carry to term a pregnancy violently forced upon her against her will.

            And unless you are completely, totally, 100% against any act of war or self-defense, no argument you make to force her to undergo nine months of pregnancy and a delivery makes any sense or holds any water whatsoever. Unless you’re fighting with as much vehemence and rigidity for the cessation of all acts of war, you too are okay with murdering the unborn, the innocent, under certain circumstances — certain similar circumstances, actually.

          • joannemcportland

            OK, I’m shutting this comment thread down. If you two want to continue name-calling on your own time, fine, but this is not what my combox is for. PLease review the comments policy and try to stick to making your points without insulting each other.

    • Ted Seeber

      I justify it the same way I justify not executing a child because his father was a murderer. And not torturing a child because her father is a terrorist.

      In other words, the child is not guilty of the father’s crime, and it’s positively primitive and bloodthirsty to suggest otherwise.

  • Kathmanwho

    Joanne, That I came across your twaddly kitsch is beyond a blessing. Whether I completely agree or find a temporary question mark above my noggin makes no difference. You always challenge my myopic vision of life, liberty and the pursuit of the authentic life. Thank you for this well-considered, focused addition to the debate on what human life (regardless of gender, circumstances of conception, bodily ownership, desire for motherhood/fatherhood) really means. Keep up the great work. Pax Domini sit semper Vobiscum, KMW

  • Jo Ann

    Kudos on all your responses to the comments — they brought the hyperbole down to an actual discussion of the facts and concerns. Love your pieces.

  • http://jscafenette.com Manny

    I completely agree with your vent. I don’t really have anything to add to your points but I did want to highlight this:

    “Wanna get a tattoo, acquire Barbie boobs, paralyze your wrinkles away, have your stomach stapled, wax yourself as smooth as a bowling lane all over, have your fat cells vacuumed out, get more back than you were genetically endowed with, buy a new nose, ditch that old appendix? Go to, ma’am. As long as you’re an informed adult, it’s between you and your doctor / aesthetician / inker / beautician, and maybe your shrink if the problem’s not really physical.”

    LOL, I love a good list that pushes the envelope with each successive item. And then you have a second list there at the end that complements the first. That’s good writing. It brought a smile.

  • Mike Blackadder

    Joanne, thank you for your post. I think that your friend’s view is probably representative of a lot of people. There is a sort of knee jerk response to the topic of the humanity of the unborn and the obvious negative consequences of abortion and the perception is that women are being attacked. I can understand that to a degree, but in the end still expect that intelligent thoughtful people ought to be willing to acknowledge the points you make in this article, simply because what you say is true. I also agree with you about not imposing our moral views through legislation. We’re talking about normal perceptions of all women and isn’t something that is to be corrected by criminalizing what many would see as normal behavior. It is sad though when Mitts comment about abortion is perceived as extreme and hateful against women. Who in their right mind doesn’t agree 100% with what he said?

  • ace

    Who holds the hand of the unborn child during an abortion?
    Why can a rapist not receive the death penalty when an unborn child can?
    Why is the democratic convention making it next to impossible for nursing mothers to bring their infants on to the convention floor? Or their toddlers or young children?
    Why should a woman even consider having an abortion when it puts her at an increased risk of having breast cancer later in life?
    What is the number of children who have been killed by abortion in the U.S.?
    What is the number of people killed during the Jewish Holocaust?
    Did you know the Nazis first began their extermination of people by advocating and putting disabled children to death in hospitals?

    • Niemand

      Why should a woman even consider having an abortion when it puts her at an increased risk of having breast cancer later in life?

      Because it’s not true. There is no correlation between breast cancer and abortion. Early studies looked like there might be, but later, more carefully designed, studies did not confirm the association and meta-analyses land right on a relative risk of one. There is a slight suggestion of a decreased risk of uterine cancer in women who have had abortions, although I’m skeptical of that association: it might be the same thing all over again, although at least there’s a plausible mechanism. I’ll provide links, if you’re interested.

  • Gégé

    It’s just genetic : even in the womb of their mother, babies bodies are not their mothers ‘one …

  • ace

    From the Didache or Teaching of the Twelve Apostles [ca A.D. 140] For those unfamiliar, parts of this work were thought to originally be a Jewish work for the instruction of gentile proselytes to Judaism [including the part quoted below]. Later pieces of this text were added by a Christian, producing a work which was used for the instruction of catechumens. (I am quoting below from a source-book called Faith of the Early Fathers, Volume I, selected & translated by W.A. Jurgens, copyright 1970).

    “The second commandment of the teaching: You shall not murder. You shall not commit adultery. You shall not seduce boys. You shall not commit fornication. You shall not steal. You shall not practice magic. You shall not use potions. You shall not procure abortion, nor destroy a new-born child…” [from 1a]

    As Catholics, we do not believe in “sola scriptura” (the Bible alone), but rather in what it says in
    2 Thessalonians 2:15 ” Therefore, brothers stand firm and hold fast to the traditions that you were taught, either by an oral statement or by a letter of ours.” [NABRE translation]. [The canon of the New Testament was approved by the third Synod of Carthage (397 CE)]

  • http://ascribeinthekingdomofheaven.wordpress.com jeff

    I hesitate to throw anything into this conversation as I am a man. Of course that does not mean I cannot have an opinion but how can I pronounce upon a situation I will never find myself in? As a gay man it is highly unlikely that I will father a child so am even further out on a limb. A a gay guy I know that I become furious when straight people calmly discuss issues which are life and death for LGBTQ folk but are an abstract conversation for them.

    Although I see some intense passionate thought and feeling here (and how wonderful it is to see people who care rather than the almost universal apathy on so many significant matters). Everyone here I read cares about the experiences of women and the sometimes agonising decisions they have to make. No one here is suggesting that abortion is taken lightly or as a neutral form of contraception.

    Likewise no one is denying a woman’s right to make decisions about her own body.

    I would like to share my experience. A friend of mine had three abortions. She had somewhat severe mental health issues thorough her young adulthood and she and her partners made some poor choices re birth control. Her partners who she had long relationships with just assumed she would have an abortion and did not support her one iota in coming to the decision which was right for her. They didn’t even accompany her to the clinic on the day of the procedure! For them an abortion was a mere nothing!

    But later in life she came to a place of deep regret for what she had chosen. She often thought of what would have happened if she had gone to full term and now had three children. This was a deep tormenting emotional wound form which she could find no release. She was of no religious affiliation and didn’t believe in God so her despair did not have a religious origin.

    My sense is that there needs to be an opportunity for women to talk in in depth about the possibilities open to them if they find themselves considering a termination. Not from some ideological position but an opportunity to share the experiences of others who have taken a variety of paths. Someone who really showed them love and care and complete respect. This exploration would include the practical, emotional, spiritual dimensions of the path ahead of her.

    Also and I speak from ignorance here but I hear very little about the spiritual care of women who have terminated their pregnancies. The debate in general seems to be about what happens to a woman during her pregnancy and the decisions she makes then. What solace is offered to those who have had terminations? That is, solace without condemnation? Solace without sweeping away their pain as nothing?

    All I could do for my friend was listen, communicating love and care and assuring her that she was completely and utterly loved by God without any reservation. (not sure the God bit helped).

    I offer these more as questions rather than statements.

    Jeff

  • http://ascribeinthekingdomofheaven.wordpress.com jeff

    I also meant to say that we need to listen, really listen hard to those who have taken the various different paths re their pregnancies. For me their experiences are ‘holy ground’ not to be trodden on carelessly. Can I take off the protective shoes of my religious, ethical and political arguments and stand in solidarity and humility beside them, asking them to teach me?

  • Niemand

    I don’t believe your claim that you think that zygotes are people for one simple reason: you show no interest in preventing the deaths of the majority of them. Most fertilized eggs don’t implant or fail shortly after implantation, up to 85% in some series, although the accepted estimate is around 60%. So, where’s your interest in these “babies”? Do you support redirecting the NIH’s funding towards finding a cure for miscarriage? Do you support increasing taxes to pay for this funding? Surely the death of the majority of babies in the first two weeks of life is important enough to warrant a little tax increase. Does the Vatican fund research into what causes miscarriage and how to prevent it? Would it be more interested if I used the medical term of spontaneous abortion? If any self-proclaimed pro-life group has ever so much as held a bake sale for the prevention of spontaneous abortion, I’ve never heard of it. And yet normally empathetic people usually express a large amount of concern at the death of a baby. We spend a lot of money trying to prevent SIDS, for example, which is a rare cause of infant mortality. Most people consider the money well spent if it prevents SIDS deaths and don’t say that there is no need to control SIDS in a world where infanticide still occurs. The parallel or lack thereof is striking. The “pro-life” movement is not about saving “babies” and never has been.

  • Niemand

    my Church’s teaching (and that of basic biology) that a human life begins at conception.

    I don’t know about your church, but this is certainly not the “teaching” of “basic biology”. The sperm and egg (actually oocyte, but that’s more advanced biology) are both alive. They’re both “human” in the sense that they’re human cells, not the cells of a plant, microbe, or non-human animal. Just like the fertilized egg. Anyone with the slightest knowledge of biology should understand that spontaneous generation hasn’t been a current hypothesis in biology for quite some time and therefore your statement is nonsensical. The fertilized egg, like every other cell in the modern world, came from other living cells.

    a unique human life to which both a man and a woman contributed equally.

    Also not true, no, not even genetically. Women contribute more than 50% of the genes in the embryo. Do you have the slightest idea what I’m talking about here?

    “Unique” is problematic as well. Ever heard of identical twins? Then there are chimeras: sometimes two fertilized eggs fuse and form a single embryo. Do you consider a baby with chimerism to be two people? If not, why not? Your logic would suggest that s/he is.

    If you want to make the case from religion, fine, do that. But if you want to invoke biology, you might want to learn a little more first.


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