Where does life begin? I often see people protesting to keep access to abortion, but no one is making a sound argument as to why such a thing is morally right in the first place. “It’s a woman’s right to choose” or “it’s a woman’s body” are about the extent of their arguments. Both of these are predicated on the idea that an unborn child–call it a fetus if you want–is not a unique person, but is simply part of a woman’s body. Like an odd form of uterine cancer that gains consciousness.
One of the earliest arguments I was taught for why an unborn child is not a unique person is that the human embryo looks no different than an elephant embryo or a giraffe embryo. Having seen the images side by side, I must admit that similarities do exist. A spine is there, head is at the opposite end of the hind quarters, and all three are a shade of x-ray translucent. For us seventh grade students, I believe the intended response would have been; “because my eyes cannot distinguish this elephant embryo from this human embryo, is it all right to cast it into the trash or sell its appendages for research?” I had never heard of a woman giving birth to an elephant or a giraffe before, so I failed to see how all embryos were all the same.
A few years later, in a debate class at a Christian college, I argued the pro-choice position in front of a panel of extremely conservative church leaders. The point on which I built my entire argument was this: if you have never had to make the decision yourself, then you have no right to make that decision for anyone else. However, I felt this argument was weak and it stood on no ground whatsoever. There was not an ounce of reason in it. I have never had to choose whether to shoot someone, and I am as certain as all of us are, that murder is wrong.
Is abortion murder?
Some readers would be quick to say “of course it is,” while others would say “you cannot be killed unless you are first born.” But birth itself cannot be the start of life, can it? Many arguments about the right fetal age to limit an abortion talk about viability. Whether or not the fetus can survive outside the womb. This is nonsense. With enough technological and medical advancement–and I’m sure we’re not far off–a fetus could be viable from conception outside the womb. Moreover, even a newborn is not viable on its own. Place an infant in the middle of a forest and I guarantee its viability drops to that of a fetus or an embryo very quickly. Therefore, viability is based solely on a support structure; whether it be parental or doctoral.
Why, then, does life start at conception? In this age of such scientific progress, conception and only conception can be the beginning of the journey of life. Our unique, personalized genetic code is our passport to life. The creation of a unique genetic code tells the world that a new and unique life is here. All other statements concerning where to place the start of personhood are mere opinions not grounded in any science or reason.
You can call a fetus a clump of cells. It absolutely is. What we have in common is that we have a unique genetic code informing those cells how to grow and develop and age. Through the course of natural selection, it is ordained that females were to carry another human life—not their own—inside their own body for nine months. This natural responsibility seems to be what many are trying to escape.
As humans, we are born with two very powerful and sublime abilities. One is to take away life, and the other is to create a new one. Both occur as the natural consequences of specific actions. The natural consequence of shooting someone, or beating them with a bat, is death. These actions do not always cause death, just as the action to create life does not always create life. However, as anyone with a mind will tell you, the wise choice is always made knowing all possible outcomes of the action undertaken. So too with the action undertaken which creates unique DNA. The natural consequence of sex is life. Just as you cannot unkill someone, you can only unmake by killing.
At this point, some readers may be asking things like “what about rape and incest?” or “how would you plan to legislate such a radical idea?” My response to both is that we have not yet got that far and we should not jump to those points until we have firmly grasped the foundation of what we are talking about.
You may notice that the conclusions I have arrived at need nothing further than the knowledge we already have as an explanation. The things learned in middle school about genetics and how to become pregnant are enough to arrive at the same conclusions I have. Futhermore, you may have also noticed that I have no religious arguments either. That is because it is unnecessary. This is a very simple issue that self-titled intellectuals try to complicate. I see people arguing so much today without first establishing a right and true foundation.
I will not say what we should do in cases of rape or incest or how to legislate abortion. I will simply ask this: if it is true that a unique genetic code is the sole scientific way to measure personhood, and that nature has ordained that a woman must carry this unique person to the fruition of birth, what do you think is right?