May 12, 2006

When is a Life a Life?

I think it's time for me to tackle the subject every woman who calls herself a feminist must discuss sooner or later.


Here's my take on it.

First of all, I must say it's highly unlikely that I'll ever need an abortion, due to the fact that I had myself sterilized a little over ten years ago. So if I was to become pregnant, it would be something akin to the Second Immaculate Conception. Nevertheless, I think this is one situation where you'll never know what you'll do until it actually happens. For instance, if I became pregnant as a result of rape, I believe that, calling myself a Christian or no, I would still make a beeline for the nearest Planned Parenthood clinic. I dislike children enough that the idea of a normal child growing inside me is sufficient to give me the heebie-jeebies, much less a rapist's child.

This is despite the fact that I do believe God values life highly, being the Originator of it. Psalm 139:13-15 expresses this very well.

"You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body, and knit them together in my mother's womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! It is amazing to think about. Your workmanship is marvelous--and how well I know it. You were there while I was being formed in utter seclusion! You saw me before I was born and scheduled each day of my life before I began to breathe. Every day was recorded in your Book."

I read this, and I believe it. I believe God would be displeased if I had an abortion, since after all, it's not the child's fault how it was conceived. I believe some punishment would be in order, from God in the future and my congregation at present.

Yet, knowing all this, I would still not have that rapist's child, and would be prepared to accept the consequences of my choice.

To look at it purely from a scientific point of view, a first trimester fetus is not human, because it has no functioning brain. Yes, its heart is beating, but since we do not use a mere heartbeat as a determination of life when someone dies ("brain death" is legally death, no matter if the heart is still functioning), I cannot see how we can use it at the beginning.

This article from Religious Tolerance supports that view. I find the comments by a medical ethicist very interesting.

"So when does life begin?," she answered: "If we’re talking about life in the biological sense, eggs are alive, sperm are alive. Cancer tumors are alive. For me, what matters is this: When does it have the moral status of a human being? When does it have some kind of awareness of its surroundings? When it can feel pain, for example, because that’s one of the most brute kinds of awareness there could be. And that happens, interestingly enough, just around the time of viability. It certainly doesn't happen with an embryo."

As far as the question of "being alive," well, bacteria and viruses are alive, in the most basic sense. Yet no one complains when we have an infection and down those nasty antibiotics, because the living human being is more important than the living bacteria.

So, taking all this into consideration, in the narrow circumstances I mentioned: yes, I would have an abortion.

If you think that makes me a hypocrite...well, that's fine. You have to live with your choices, just as I do. However, under no circumstances do I think your choice supersedes mine, or you have any right to dictate it.

I believe I'll leave that subject for my next post.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

I know it's shamefully nitpicky, and doesn't detract from your actual point, but viruses are not really alive, since they're not self-sustaining (they need to infect something else in order to reproduce).