When does life begin? Back when I was pro choice, I used to field that question in debates all the time.
I knew that the people asking the question meant human life. When does human life begin?
The answer is no use to us in the besetting questions of our age. Life, human life, doesn’t begin. We pass it from one to another like a baton in a relay race.
The reason for this largely useless answer is that the question itself is poorly worded. We don’t really mean When does life begin? What the questioners were trying to ask was, When does human life that we owe legal protection begin?
Unfortunately, even that question begs the underlying issue. Individual human life, with all its complexities, begins at conception. This is not theology. It is simple and obvious science. A human conceptus is a unique, perfect human being. So is a human embryo.
I was a human embryo. I do not mean that I was the makings of something that would become me. I, myself, was a human embryo. I was just as much me then as I was me when I was a six month unborn baby and when I was a 5-year-old kindergartner and now that I am a rambling, writing, mom, state legislator and all-around trouble maker.
I was always me at each one of these stages of my life. Life is something we pass from one another like a baton in a relay race. But our lives, our individual existences as persons, begins at conception.
You were an embryo, too, you know. In fact, you still are that embryo, only in another stage of life. Your life began at conception. Your earthly life will end at your death. But you will go on after that, and then, as now, you will always be you.
A reader who seems intransigent in his advocacy for killing little humans ranging from unborn late-term abortion victims back to the earliest conceptus, commented “I just can’t get worked up about microscopic embryos.”
Is that the reason so many people are willing to denude human beings of their humanity early on in their lives? Is it a matter of size?
It is important to remember that calling someone an “embryo” is an entirely arbitrary designation that people created for convenience. As it is used in practice the designation of this stage of a person’s life lasts from shortly after conception up to about 8 weeks. The person is, admittedly, tiny during this whole time, but they aren’t always microscopic. The question still remains: Would their lives matter more if they were the size of dinner plates?
I’m being a bit facetious here to make a point. Size shouldn’t be a death sentence. But when we begin to deny the obvious fact that these are human lives we are taking, we find ourselves in the conundrum of defining what makes the rest of us safe from the long knives of science.
The same science that gives you central heat and air can snuff you out like the flame on a match. The only thing holding it back is law.
The legal barriers we erect around human life are our only protection from the rapacious disregard for human beings that sits at the base of every godless philosophy. Science itself is neutral on the issues of God and morality. It is not inherently moral or immoral. It is, rather, amoral.
Our safety and security rests, not in the self-defined great minds of scientists, but in the little minds of politicians. It is politicians who have kept us from destroying every bit of life on this planet with the scientist’s great gift of nuclear weapons. It is politicians who erect the walls of legal safety behind which we hide against the darker impulses of those who have no regard for us at all. Politicians and the laws they write are the method we have for keeping the monsters beside us at bay.
Make no mistake about it, science has acquired the power to be a death-dealing monster that can destroy us all.
Are human embryos human beings? Of course they are. There isn’t any question about that. The question is, do we think we are capable of creating, exploiting and killing whole classes of human beings and not letting this death-dealing disregard for human life spread to the rest of us? The answer for any thinking person who has the least knowledge of human history is, no.
We already kill human beings throughout their pre-born life. We kill them because they are disabled. We kill them because they are “unwanted.” We kill them because they — unlike us, we seem to say — are going to die soon anyway.
Is that the new value on human life? To have a right to life, do you have to be “wanted,” or physically perfect, or not be going to die?
By that logic, there is no person on this planet who has a right to life.
Do you realize that? By the logic we apply to embryos, who are killed because they are too small to have a right to life, and for all unborn babies, who are killed because they are unwanted-disabled-going-to-die-anyway there is no person on this planet who has a right to life.
Is that exaggeration? I think not. The agitation for euthanasia is growing. Already several nations and a few of our states have taken down the wall to killing people who are a burden to others, in pain, mentally ill, depressed, etc. They pass these laws under the guise of — you guessed it — they will be dead soon, anyway. We’ll just kill the terminally ill, they claim. Nobody will die except those who volunteer for death, they tell us.
Why? Because if any group of people may be legally killed for reasons of their murderer’s devising, then all our lives are forfeit.
The selling of death by those who want to kill has become slightly more subtle than it times past, but the underlying message is the same.
It’s only a small over-simplification to say that all these people at the vulnerable stages of life are dying because of money. Those who kill human embryos to harvest their body parts promise us miracles in a test tube that will give us cures for every dread disease. But what they are really about is massive amounts of government funding. Unborn children die because abortion is marketed by those who make money off it. They die because we would rather become murderers of our own children than write laws that protect women’s ability to have children and hold jobs, get educations and walk the streets without fear of rape. We kill the infirm, the depressed and the elderly, so they won’t be a “burden” on our health care industry.
We kill for money. We lie and twist the facts to claim that we are killing them for kindness’ sake. But in truth we have done away with the legal protections of the basic right to life of whole classes of people largely for money.
Does size matter? In the case of human embryos, size is a death sentence. But for other people we kill, it is just a matter of getting rid of what bothers us.
I haven’t mentioned theology or even morality as a reason for not killing whole classes of people with impunity. I don’t need to. There is an entirely secular reason for granting a universal right to life to all human beings at every stage of our earthly existence. That reason is self-preservation.
Unless you are one of the gods of our little earthly universe — one of the powerful, the wealthy, the “decision makers” who live in shadowy enclaves inside super zip codes and pull the strings on the rest of us — unless you are one of them, you need this wall of law to protect you.