Life Does Not Literally Begin

Stephen Woodworth MP (Member of Parliament) with the Conservative Party of Canada wants to debate when life begins and expressed a hope science could provide a definitive answer. This shows a woeful lack of understanding of how human reproduction works. To science, the question is meaningless because it is a metaphysical question. Contrary to religious teaching, life does not begin with each new child! For life to begin, non-living ingredients would have to spring to life. This does not happen. Reproduction is a dance of already living cells splitting and recombining. The cells themselves are as old as life itself. A new human gradually comes into being, is born and continues development outside the womb.

Bestowing upon a fetus the status as a human being is an arbitrary legal or religious rite, like being assigned a SIN (Social Insurance Number) number, a bar mitzvah or attaining the right to vote. Different cultures celebrate attaining human status ranging from the date of the mother’s last period to the child’s 21st birthday. For Conservatives, it marks the date when contraception/abortion/infanticide is no longer legal. What the Conservatives are doing is like asking when the continuous cycle of seasons truly begins. It is a meaningless question. The cycle does not begin. You can assign an arbitrary point, like Jan 1, in the cycle, but you could just as well pick any other day.

My own way of looking at it is this. Becoming human is not a single definite event. It is something that gradually evolves over decades. As this process progresses we accord more and more privilege to the being. The exact dates when we provide protection from abortion, allow the vote, parental emancipation, the right to consent to sex, the right to marry, the right to drive, etc. are all just approximations to what the consensus feels they should be.

As to the particular question about when contraception/abortion is permissible I am more liberal than most. To me, considering a blastula holy is like considering a facial mole (which is much bigger) holy. They are both just tiny masses of cells. Neither can think or react as if feeling pain. It is much more primitive than a jellyfish at that stage. It does not even have any nerve cells. Treating these microscopic blobs of cells as equivalent in importance and privilege to full grown humans is a crazy religious idea, dependent on the belief in souls and as such should not be imposed on non-believers. It is as silly as worshiping clams.

I think a practical dividing line that even pro-choice people would find acceptable would be Could this fetus/infant survive outside the womb? If it can, it deserves protection. As technology develops, the protection would be extended to younger and younger infants.

~ Roedy (1948-02-04 age:70)