Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Human Life is Precious in All Forms

Abortion is a hot button issue, no doubt about it. Many people shy away from talking about it, and with good reason: this issue blends two controversial topics - politics and religion - and has the potential to destroy personal relationships. Nevertheless, people feel compelled to argue their side because it is too important to ignore.

The first, most fundamental disagreement has always been the answer to the question, “when does human life begin?” There are three popular answers to this question: conception, viability, or birth. Let’s work our way backwards.

Birth: there is little argument that once a baby is born, he is a separate, whole human being and is entitled to all the same legal rights and protections as the mother who carried him. Unfortunately, supporters of partial-birth abortion draw a horrifying conclusion as to the exact conditions that constitute “birth.”

Viability: there is at least a legitimate argument to be made - however weak - that if a being cannot survive outside the womb, it is not a “life” yet. The problem is that this boundary is constantly being pushed earlier by technology. Does this mean that life begins earlier today than it did 10 years ago? Will it begin earlier 10 years from now than it does today? The fact that this line moves means that it can never be the right answer.

Conception: a fertilized egg contains a full compliment of human DNA. Some consider this single, unspecialized cell to be a part of the mother’s body. It is, however, a separate individual. Some conclude, because it is completely dependent on the mother’s body for life, that it is naught more than a parasite or a cancer. The difference is what it will grow into.

This single cell contains a complete human blueprint. The only thing remaining is gathering the right materials under the right conditions. For these, an embryo is completely dependent on his mother. I believe that a mother has no right to deny these conditions; in fact, she is already responsible for providing them.

I am against in vitro fertilization and embryonic stem cell research because embryos are destroyed in the process. While sacrificing life in order to create, save or enhance other lives may present a gray area for some, the difference is who is making the choice. An adult can choose to be an organ donor or take part in a drug trial or other medical research; embryos destroyed through research or IVF are not given that choice.

Are there any exceptions? I leave only one: the life of the mother. When faced with a painful decision on which life to save and which to sacrifice, there can be no wrong answer.

Unfortunately, even some conservatives leave the door open in cases of rape or incest. To them I ask: how is a life conceived through rape any less valid than one conceived through love or lust? While the choice was not made by the victim, the new life inside her is no less precious. As for incest, I will concede that the risk of birth defects is higher, but this is no different than any other baby found to have birth defects in utero. Perhaps, in both of these cases, the children can become wards of the state paid for by the guilty party. They certainly need not be destroyed.

That is my lay opinion. It guides my view of all related issues. Note that none of it requires the endowment of a soul or any other theological position as I am not a believer. Even without God – I would say especially without God – human life is precious in all forms.

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