Tuesday, February 17, 2009

The beginning of "Life": what it is NOT (part 1)

Enough with the sissy stuff, today we take on the Big One: when does "Life" begin?

Today and tomorrow, I'm going to explain when "Life" does NOT begin. Thursday I'll tell you when it DOES begin. Friday we'll go out for fairy cakes.

When "Life" does NOT begin: the science

Scientifically speaking, "Life" began with that first amoeba. Since then, life is a continuation, a cycle: every living thing is born out of another thing that was already living.

The egg is part of the woman, and, like her, it is "alive;" same goes for the sperm. Each was "alive" before they joined, so, scientifically, you cannot say that "Life" begins when the sperm fertilizes the egg, when both sperm and egg were already alive before joining. If we're talking science, then "Life" has no beginning; it is, as they say, one big cycle... cycles are circular, and circles have no beginning.

When "Life" does NOT begin: the Bible

While I have not read the Bible cover to cover (I grew up Catholic, remember? We're not allowed to read it for ourselves), I have looked for references to abortion (as in, looked in the Teen Issues Bible's index page, and also done online Bible verse searches by topic). I have found no references to abortion itself (willfully terminating a pregnancy), but there are two verses that I find pretty significant. And I have not found any verses that contradict or trump these verses.

As a Christian, I would say "Life" begins when God gives one a soul. The soul is what has Eternal Life, that's the part that goes on to Heaven. We Christians believe that "Life" does not end when our body (the physical mass of cells) "dies;" our soul continues living, because that is the part of us that makes us a Person (not the scientific mass of cells).
Genesis 2:7 "-- then LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being."
So when does God say we become "a living being"? With the first breath of Life. Which takes place outside the uterus.

The verse that shocked me, though (and that's probably more relevant in this day and age, since God no longer molds us out of clay), is from Exodus.
Exodus 21:22-25 "When men strive together, and hurt a woman with child, so that there is a miscarriage, and yet no harm follows, the one who hurt her shall be fined, according as the woman's husband shall lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine. If any harm follows, then you shall give life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, stripe for stripe."
The famous "eye for an eye" passage, that so many people like to quote, is the one passage of the Bible that talks about pregnancy and miscarriage in a way that answers our questions: if a man hurts a woman and causes her to lose the baby, then the aggressor owes the woman's husband a fine, because he caused the husband to lose property.

However, if a man hurts a pregnant woman in a way that causes harm to the woman, then the aggressor must be punished: "life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth."

The woman is a life.

The unborn fetus is not a life; it is merely property.

Yes, I know this is in the Old Testament and when Jesus came He said to pretty much forget that other stuff, to follow what He said instead. He specifically addressed the "eye for eye" thing, saying we should instead turn the other cheek.

I'm sure you realize that when Jesus refuted the "eye for eye" thing He was saying we should not seek revenge (you hurt me I hurt you), and instead we should learn to forgive.

He does not in any way address the definition of "Life" established earlier in that passage; and this definition is not modified or amended or refuted anywhere else in the Bible, that I can see. (If you've seen it, please share it with me.)

According to science, "Life" has no beginning, it is an eternal cycle. Also, according to science, the zygote/embryo/fetus is a parasite (scientifically speaking), and I'm sure the host's needs trump the parasite's needs.

According to the Bible, "Life" begins at birth. Terminating the pregnancy is not "murder," since the only indication or guidance the Bible gives us clearly states the embryo/fetus is not a "Life."

For further reading on abortion and the Bible you can read this article.

EDIT: Completely forgot to include mention of this article. Given what I've written above, this new law is pretty ridiculous. Perhaps you could make a case for "double-murder" if the fetus was past the point of viability, but "at every stage of fetal development"? No, sorry. That's not going to fly. If you want to pass a law for a higher penalty for pregnant women, that's fine. I'll agree to that. But don't give me this "double-murder" thing, which is a not-even-thinly-veiled attempt to create an anti-choice precedent.


  1. Haven't ever seen anyone come at this quite from this angle before. Interesting. Curious to read others' comments...

    (BTW word verficiation = "oxists" almost relevant)

  2. Well this post blew my mind! I love your points about life being a cycle - I truly never thought about it that way, but it is absolutely accurate, and, in fact, really beautiful.

    I know that historically a lot of societies believed that life began at "quickening," or when a woman first felt a baby move inside of her. I know that I would have a great deal of difficulty terminating a pregnancy past about 23 weeks (the earliest point at which a baby has been born and survived), but I don't know if that's because I believe that at that point it is a life, or just owing to some more visceral reaction.

    Interestingly enough, the government issues birth certificates only to babies who breathe at least once after birth (so babies born alive), indicating that they take a similar stance, regardless of the many attempts to the contrary.

  3. @In The Meantime: in the comments of another blog, a woman wrote about her stillborn child (I can't remember how far along she'd been, but it was definitely past viability). Her husband was in the military, but did the Army issue the family any benefits for the loss of the child? NO.

    When we're talking about bereavement leave or paying out benefits, the fetus is -- as in the Bible -- mere property. When we're talking about a woman's right to decide what happens to and inside her body, the fertilized egg is a full-blown person.

    I wonder if these factions have ever sat down and worked the logic out? What's going to happen is a state really does succeed in passing a law that claims the "unborn" is a person?

    Is every miscarriage going to also be a murder investigation? If not, why not? Don't we have to investigate WHY a person died? Or will we just investigate the "suspicious" ones, where the mother did not want the baby?

  4. @Criss: I've talked with several friends about the implications of making it governmental policy that life begins at conception, and they're all basically what you suggested. Every time there's a miscarriage, the "cause of death" would have to be reported, and it would make concealing pregnancy and miscarriage illegal. I mean, that is ABSOLUTELY ridiculous - women would have to report pregnancies and officially identify them in the same way we do for births of live babies.

    You mentioned in another post that miscarriages probably occur in about 40% of pregnancies - I wonder if the government has considered what mortality rates like that would look like to the rest of the world, not to mention how much MORE horrifyingly traumatic this would make pregnancy and miscarriage to women who are already suffering enough. It's terrifying to think of.

  5. Flat out awesome writing. Cheers to you, you are a seeker of truth and it vibrates through your intellect. A4O