When Life Begins
Copyright © by Len Holman, 12/13/12
“Life begins at conception.”
It is an article of faith among conservatives, a mantra which is repeated over and over to explain and justify their lack of interest in women’s health care and their constant attempts to shred protection of a woman’s right to choose what happens with her body. It seems that what is meant by this expression is that once sperm and egg unite, presto! there is a human being and any attempts to purge this being from a mother’s womb is murder, the same as if someone walked up to Warren Buffet and shot gunned him in the head. It is a puzzle to me what this expression actually means, even apart from the political, social, and religious meanings ascribed to it. Louis Pasteur proved long ago, in a simple but elegant experiment, that there is no “spontaneous generation,” that life can only come from life.
Sperm is alive (ask any teenage boy) and so is the ovum. If they were not, there would be no babies, no human race, and this planet would be home to cockroaches and creatures which now only appear in issue of science journals and in sci-fi movies. So if the basic ingredients of a baby are ALREADY alive, then—by the definition of the holy among us—it would be a mortal, unforgivable, and heinous sin to destroy, even inadvertently, either sperm or egg. By this logic, women all over the world, all women, are potentially guilty of destroying life because eggs deteriorate over time. If a woman doesn’t use her eggs to procreate—which, according to the faithful, she is on this mortal coil to do—then she is wantonly destroying life by omission, by neglect.
This line of thought can only lead to a lack of conservative females who would be acceptable to the Tea Party gaggle. Post-menopausal women would be allowed in the meetings, but would carry that stigma of killing life by not properly using their eggs. If they HAVE procreated, but no longer do so, then they are partly absolved and after a suitable penance, may vote for Rick Santorum. But what about those swimmers? Any emissions, hand-delivered or just the normal wear and tear on the male body, which don’t result in a fetus, must be considered a crime (see Genesis, among other Bible books). These destructions of life are, by definition, actually destructions of pre-people, incipient humans, unborn children, future citizens, and potential producers of carbon dioxide.
If life cannot begin without life to begin it, then those who adhere to the mindless doctrine of life beginning at conception either need to read some biology books or take a course in critical thinking, because they need to go back to the life components of life to protect life (wore myself out just typing that). But if these folks DO go back, they’ll be stuck in an eternal regression: protecting life that leads to life means getting to the source of all that life and protecting IT, which means Homo erectus or Neanderthals or…whoever pops up at the beginning of the human tree first.
But wait: there is more to life than just we mere humans. What about all that life that stretches out for millions of years before we came along? All that flora and fauna which led to the Tea Party; life would be in need of preserving so that WE could be preserved. It’s that regression again. And there is no help for it. That Jain-like slogan the hard conservatives mouth is so much air: continent-less and empty. At least Jains don’t just pretend to be concerned with life; they ARE concerned with it; it’s part of their very core, not some political gambit to net non-thinkers and the collectors of bumper stickers and take them into the fold.
Even if we allow for the idea that life starts at conception, how does that contribute to the discussion (what there is of an ACTUAL discussion) of what a woman can do with her body and what responsibilities she has to the fetus she is carrying? If life begins at conception, then it would be good to know EXACTLY when that conception took place. Exactly. This will lead to invasive, but necessary, methods of viewing the arrival of sperm and the struggle to enter the protective coating of the egg. Then certain measurements would have to be taken to decide when conception actually occurs. It’s too late to decide when there are already two cells forming. I see some fancy high-tech jobs in the making of the instrumentation to do all this. This would be tricky. Those “personhood” laws certain states have put on the ballots are an illogical—I mean, logical--extension of this idea.
If life is so damn precious, why are there no real attempts by conservatives to shore up the safety nets in public policy? Why are there no concerted attempts to make sure everyone can go to a doctor, including babies? Why is only life, as defined by religion and unthoughtful dogma, to be protected? Those hard-line, “principled” life-protectors would be in REAL trouble if it turns out that life—original life—on our planet came from some outer territory of the Cosmos. There would then—to be consistent—have to be a new war cry once this pan-spermic theory were proven true: “Life Begins With Aliens.” But where did THEIR life come from?
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