Abortion and Science


There is a very simple question that pro-choice people wish to avoid: When does a person become a person? They prefer the vague idea that things evolve into people and, in some cases, that people devolve into things. There is certainly no arguing with this position. It might even seem to agree with my subjective view of things. My problem with this concept is that I am the measure of all things. I am the being that all values and all truths are measured by. All other things may be in flux, but I am real. Whatever changes I have been through, I am always what I am: a human being.

Religious thinkers can be just as subjective as pro-choice people in establishing when a thing becomes a person. At one time the Catholic Church did not regard the fetus to be a full person until a certain number of weeks after conception. There’s nothing surprising about this fact. After all, God can instill the soul into the body whenever he feels like it. Ministers, priests, rabbis, and other professional religious men tell us that they have special knowledge. Why shouldn’t they declare that God creates people at 6 weeks after conception or at birth or a month after birth?

Nevertheless, a consensus is forming among certain groups that human life begins at conception. The legality and popularity of abortion have caused many people to ask questions that didn’t bother them 50 years ago. The belief that life begins at conception has been bolstered by another late 20th century trend: increased knowledge about the physical world, science.

Now we have pictures from the womb and can look back in time. Here’s the infant a week before birth: certainly human. Go back in time and see the tiny fingers. Here’s the point where his heart started beating. Back, back further. Here’s a cluster of cells: Is that a human? We arrive at that point immediately after conception and see a single cell, but it’s a diploid cell. Science instructs us that it will change and change, but it is destined to change into what we call a person. Can we call it something else now? The other cells, over there, are haploid cells; unless they are fertilized they will never become humans.

Change, change, and more change. But who can say that I will not change more in the next 9 months than that cell? That fertilized cell is Brother Blob or Sister Sphere; the rest are roe. To say anything else is to introduce some artificial, unscientific standard into the question. Those who wish to justify abortion may take a diffferent view. Religious thought may change and declare that human life does not begin at conception. But what I have seen and what I understand is not subject to those political vagueries. I can’t imagine anything that will persuade me to alter my view and I believe that there are millions like me.

I’m about as spirtual as a hog, but even I know what it real and what is not. Human beings are the reality of the world. Sometimes, when I’m riding my bike on the road, I’ll see an 18 wheeler and think, that guy better be careful so that I don’t hit him and destroy his truck. The rest of the universe is made of cobwebs. A man and his wife drinking coffee at the kitchen table, an old

woman warming herself by the fire, a child playing in the mud: these are the

only reasons governments exist. All the giant industries and superhighways, the wonderful technology, and fabulous medical knowledge, the great religious and philosophical systems, everything that seems to stand so loftily above us is only there to serve these people and their desires. Those people who understand what is real and what is illusion approach other human beings with the greatest trepidation.

And yet, sometimes, I feel as fragile as an eggshell, as helpless as that tiny zygote. My mind tells me that I am mistaken at such times. Some ignorant blowhard may ask, "Who do you think your dealing with here? I think then, "Are you a colonel? Don’t you know that not even all the armies of the Earth can destroy what I am? Are you personal friends with the judge? St. Paul saw a little of reality and he said that we would judge angels. Do you own that shopping center? There are more galaxies in universe we can see than all the people that every lived, and I own the universe." The pompous fool asks. "Do you know who I am?" I think, "You are a million times greater than you think you are; if you only knew who you were, you wouldn’t say such stupid things."

Believing all this, I am still what people call pro-choice (I only wish the word choice weren’t reserved for that single decision: whether or not a pregnant woman could opt to have an abortion from a government approved doctor). Violence is not the proper tool to set against violence. I am not an absolute pacifist; as long as we are physical beings, the use of force is always an option. But we are talking about changing people’s minds. The pro-life movement has recently come up with a new phrase; some pro-lifers urge everyone to "set another place at the table." They give their cause a domestic reality and remove it from cold, theoretical considerations.

On a personal level, I am selfish and fearful. I pray against unwanted pregnancy. I’m too fearful to deal with abortion and too selfish to welcome another person. I don’t want to set another place at my table. "Who do you have for me, God? Bill Gates? Demi Moore? Howard Stern?" I’d rather dine alone. I have enough riches and beauty and laughter. Who needs more joy? "Please, God, no more responsibility. Just let me eat my taco alone." That’s the sort of person I am.

The doors are closed;

My dinner’s ready.

Your knocking bothers me.


Just go wander

Under the moon

On the other side of truth.