Thursday, March 31, 2011
New Human Life -- When Does Life Start?
I was born in 1943, though, I have to admit that I don't remember a thing of the event. My first memory was an incident that happened with my cousins when I was probably about age 6. But is that REALLY when "I" came to be myself? According to LDS theology, we lived as spirits before being born on earth. Although there is no official doctrine about exactly WHEN we change from a spirit to a human, it is assumed that our birth date is the crucial event that changes us. I know some people believe that if unborn children, for any reason, stopped living for one reason or another that they are accorded the status of live persons, but this is especially true of unborn babies who are at least several months old.
I had an older brother fetus that died while inside Mom's uterus. The umbilical cord became wrapped around his neck. He was never named and did not get a certificate of birth because he was not alive when "born". I have sometimes wondered if "He" was "Me" -- when I came along. Maybe somehow the "spirit" that was in his tiny underdeveloped body was "Me" just trying to finally get born "right" and it took me two tries to get the job done. Nothing is known of "children" who last only a few minutes, hours or days after conception. I know that many are fetuses that had something physically or mentally seriously wrong who natural selection has limited in their ability to have a normal life, or even a normal childhood. I know that continuing to carry the dead fetus till expelled was very emotionally difficult for Mom.
I have read of newly-born infants who, even after they are born, are not named in their culture because many die in the first few days or weeks after birth, due to one reason or another. I also have read that as many as 1/2 of the "babies" who are conceived do not survive long enough to be born.
Some people use their religion to try to define when a baby is "human".
I remember being taught as a child, that it was our Christian "duty" to have as many children as possible. If we used any form of birth control -- social, drugs, abstinence or otherwise -- that it "killed" the children that were waiting in heaven to be born and get physical bodies. The example was given of a man named Onan (in the Bible) [Genesis 38:8-10] who refused to allow his sperm to get his brother's widow pregnant and was killed by God for this wickedness. I have never received an adequate explanation HOW this thwarted God's eternal plan. One study found that 62% of ALL conceptions are not born alive -- and most of these happen prior to 12 weeks gestation [normally referred to as a miscarriage]. This means [if you believe in God] that God "kills" more children before being born than He allows to be born! To make it all the more confusing, in most of these cases, the pregnant women do not even know that they were pregnant!
Another aspect of the beginning of "life" is the use [or non-use] of viable female "eggs". All the eggs a woman will ever have are present in her body when she herself is born. This amounts to about 1.5 million eggs! It is impossible to consider all of these eggs as "human" and thus capable of being born into a living, breathing person! [Compare this reality with the 300 million sperm that a male adult ejaculates each time]. The sheer numbers of this prohibit the possibility of considering each reproductive cell as a human being.
So, the question still haunts us, "When does human life begin?" When is it wrong ethically to take action to terminate continued "life" in a growing, but as yet un-viable fetus -- particularly when there are obvious ethical reasons to do that very thing -- to preserve the life of a woman, end the suffering of a malformed fetus or stop the chain reaction set in motion due to rape, incest or other reason? A separate ethical or moral question is whether terminating a pregnancy that was started due to rape or incest is any different from any other elective abortion?
Most of the Christian [including the LDS church] opposition to abortion is based on the scant Biblical admonitions "Thou shalt not kill" "or do anything like unto it" [which, by the way would include playing "cowboy and Indians" where actors are killed -- or photographing or painting images or murder and death]. Abortion is not mentioned in the Bible AT ALL!
To me, after a lifetime of thought and serious reflection, human life begins, for all practical purposes, at birth! I cannot believe that we must have all the children humanly possible or thwart eternal laws. Neither can I believe that stopping the life of a embryo that will in all likelihood kill the mother if carried to term is in any way wrong [along with all the emotionally-charged stuff that goes with it].
To me, it is best to think about and talk about what is the most ethical thing to do -- considering everything, not label everything relating to human eggs, sperm, zygotes, birth, abortion, etc. etc., as inherently wrong! And then allow the people involved the maturity to make their own decision -- without involving their church, their neighbors, their religion. To allow religions to dictate our laws regarding the beginning of life is equivalent to allowing a type of Christian Sharia law into an otherwise free country.