[Note: Today is day 4 of 10 in our annual Guest Blogger Series. Please remember: the Intramuralist may or may not agree with the opinion(s) expressed. The goal is respectful articulation.]
So, I’m pretty much just a kid. I just graduated from high school in May, and now I’m gearing up for college in the fall. I’m buying sheets and a Brita filter and all this grown-up stuff I always took for granted. It’s a weird time. What’s even weirder was when the Intramuralist asked me to be a guest blogger on her blog. She told me she’d had a few thousand hits on her blog, so people would actually be reading it. My first thought was, “oh hey! I’ve had 3,000 views on my blog. That’s not that big of a deal.” Then my second thought: “Oh wait, this week alone you say? Most of mine were probably my mother.” Needless to say, I’m honored to write for the Intramuralist. I’m honored to be included in such an exciting blog with so much discussion (and so many readers… I’m starting to feel stage fright), especially at such a young age. You all have probably had your Brita filters for years.
While I may feel like a little kid most of the time, I’ve got passion to make up for it. This passion started 3 years ago while I was writing a research paper my freshman year. My teacher assigned me a paper on a woman named Margaret Sanger. I researched the heck out of that paper. While I did find the topic interesting, I felt drawn to the subject in an unprecedented way. Sanger and her life work, an organization called Planned Parenthood, are interesting. But what caught my attention the most was abortion.
Abortion was so much bigger than me. The more I research it, the bigger it seems to get. I started as a 15 year old with no personal connection, and now I’m 18 and starting to understand how abortion has changed my life. Abortion has changed everybody’s life. No matter the side, pro-life or pro-choice, rights are threatened by the opposing side. Either you’re pro-life and you believe abortion is legalized murder, or you’re pro-choice and you believe abortion is a vital step in the emancipation of women. The sides are becoming fierce. You could be called “anti-women,” “anti-women’s health,” or “anti-choice” for opposing abortion. You could be called “pro-death” or “anti-life” for supporting abortion rights. It’s fierce because both sides realize that not only rights, but our very lives are at stake.
If what pro-life (or anti-abortion) people say is true, then 1/3 of my generation has been aborted and is thus dead. If what they say about “Post Abortion Syndrome” is true, then 1/3 of my parents’ generation is mourning the death of a child. If what pro-choice people say is true and thousands died obtaining illegal abortions, then reversing abortion laws would kill thousands more. Abortion effects everybody.
So here comes the big question: Which side is right? Should abortion be legal and on-demand, or should it be criminalized?
There is so much to consider when speaking about abortion. Rights of the woman, rights of the man involved, and rights of the zygote/blastocyst/embryo/fetus. There are privacy rights, conscience rights, right to life, equality between men and women… the lists go on and on. So what is the heart of the issue? Is there one question that goes deeper than the rest, that would determine the rest of the issue?
I believe there is, and that question is simply when life begins. The law largely exists to protect life. That’s why we have laws against murder, mugging, and rape. We have traffic laws to prevent car accidents, hospitals to protect life, and firemen to save lives. We have gym memberships and vitamins to take care of ourselves, doctors to help us stay healthy, and we give special honor to people who have saved lives. I’d even say that’s why we all love superhero movies. All that to say, if we can determine when life begins, then we will protect it from that point on.
People have different beliefs as to when life begins. Some say conception. Some say fertilization. Some say when the heart or brain or when vital organs begin working. Some say life begins when the baby could survive outside of the womb. Legally, life begins when the mother chooses to keep the baby (which explains why the murder of a pregnant woman is double manslaughter). One of the most common stances is that the beginning of life can’t be determined, so it doesn’t matter. If a person gets thrown from a car in a car accident, the rescue workers will absolutely check the person to see if they are alive. Even if there is little hope for the person to survive, they will do everything to preserve that life. Why cannot we do the same for potential life?
Scientifically, the beginning of life has already been determined. Life begins at fertilization, when the sperm fertilizes the egg and creates a new cell with complete DNA that is unique from every other DNA that has ever or will ever exist. There are some objections to this claim. Some say that even a hair has DNA in it, but that doesn’t give it life. However, the incredible process of implantation disables the woman’s immunities so that her body will nurture the baby. This wouldn’t be necessary if the baby was just another part of the woman’s body.
The second common objection is that identical twins share DNA because when the fertilized egg begins to split into multiple cells, it divides completely and becomes two separate organisms. However, saying that life begins at fertilization does not say how many lives begin at fertilization; it may be more than one life.
A common way of showing that life begins at fertilization is called the SLED argument —size, level of development, environment, and dependency. It compares the differences between a fetus and a human already born. Beginning with size, every organ in an adult human being is already developed and functioning in the fetus just 8 weeks after fertilization. The level of development — just as an adult is more developed than a teenager — a newborn is more developed than a fetus. As for the environment — going down the birth canal does not transform a potential human into a human, just as moving from one country to another does not give humanity. Lastly, the level of dependency — a fetus depends on his or her mother, just as a baby depends on his or her parents. Since when does dependency determine value?
People are beginning to agree that life begins early on in pregnancy, but “personhood” begins later on. When it becomes evident that someone is alive but people do not want to give him or her the same rights as themselves, they decide to make a distinction between life and personhood. This means they are claiming the right to take value from some people. The exact same thing happened in the U.S. in 1857 when the Supreme Court ruled that a slave named Dred Scott could not have the rights of a citizen because of his race. While they admitted he was alive, he was not given the same rights, or personhood, as the whites because of his race. The same thing happened in Germany when Hitler created the “Final Solution,” his attempt to exterminate the Jewish race completely. He convinced a nation that the Jews were less human and needed to be killed.
Saying that life may begin during pregnancy but personhood begins later is no different than taking away somebody’s rights in order to legally kill them. Most people are horrified by comparing abortion to the holocaust or slavery, because we are horrified by genocides against humanity. I believe everybody does value life to some extent, but our culture is just losing sight of how much value life deserves. What person would not protect themselves when put in harms way? What person would not attempt to save loved ones in danger?
So here I am. A little kid with some big beliefs about some big things. I have my little blog, the book I’m writing about abortion for teenagers, and my passion, all for the sake of defending life. Abortion has been said to be the dividing factor of our nation. While it becomes muddled with politics and slogans and rallies, it effects every one of our lives. I believe that one day the “abortion problem” will be faced head-on and resolved. I believe this day is soon, and we need to be ready. We need to think through these questions, research our answers, and act on our conclusions.
[Intramuralist Note: More thoughts from Becca and the hope-filled, wise perspective she represents can be found at http://beccafrench.blogspot.com/. Way to go, girl. I’m proud of you. You are brave.]