Giving Birth to a 27-Year-Old

Giving Birth to a 27-Year-Old January 26, 2021

The one issue that has become the make-or-break issue for not only Catholics but also Evangelicals in recent years, turning them into single-issue voters prone to manipulation by the Republican party, is of course abortion. It continues to come up in connection with Joe Biden and I will return to that topic below. But first I want to address the more basic issue of whether the opposition is based in convictions that make logical (to say nothing of scientific) sense.

In the past I have tended to focus on identical twins when seeking to challenge the notion that human personhood begins at conception. Life is there even before conception, before the egg is fertilized, so “life” is not the issue. A fertilized ovum can become identical twins (or triplets or whatever) and so claiming this is one person with a single soul seems problematic.

Now, however, thanks to the wonders of IVF technology I can ask a different question. I can ask instead how old Molly Everette Gibson is. She was born from an egg that was fertilized and then frozen. The embryo thus dates from 1992. This sets a record, and that could easily be where we focused all our attention. But it seems worth asking the question explicitly and directly of what those who insist that abortion is murder, that life begins at conception, have to say about this.

The average age of embryos that are implanted is 10-12 years, according to one article about this case, and so the broader issue remains. This is not a question that applies in only one exceptional instance. If you say “life begins at conception” (meaning the life of an individual human being) then you should view all those born by this method as being as old as they are calculated from fertilization, and not from birth. That they were in cryogenic suspension, as it were, doesn’t matter. Buck Rogers was (according to that famous science fiction story) frozen for 504 years. He may have appeared youthful, but he was old. Does time spent frozen not count? If not, then a theology that addresses the issue needs to be developed. But that doesn’t mean that everyone else can or should be compelled to agree.

That would be my more general point related to those who say that President Biden is somehow compromising his Catholic faith by not working to outlaw abortion. The objection is problematic. Worship of other gods and of idols is much more fundamental, at the top of the ten commandments, and yet no one expects Catholics to defend monotheism by outlawing Hinduism (which would also obviously entail repealing the first amendment to the Constitution which safeguards freedom of religion). In essence, those who hold these views either think that Catholics and other devout religious people cannot be politicians who serve on behalf of all the people in the community or nation they represent, or they believe that such politicians are to be radical crusaders for theocracy.

They should think of that. But first they should ask themselves how old they think Molly Everett Gibson is. That might be enough to prompt a rethinking of the issue, or at least the arrogant certainty they feel about it.

Of related interest:

Book Recommendation: Human Embryos, Human Beings

The American Myth of Pro-Life Republican Christians


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