Life Begins Neither at Conception nor Birth

Ever since the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Norma L. Corvey (Jane Roe) in the now well reknowned court case Roe V Wade, conservatives have tried to strike down the landmark law. Abortion has now been legal in this country for since 1973. Conservatives have been at war with the ruling ever since, and have tried everything in their power to roll the law back. They have been unable to roll back the law through the courts. Instead they try to remove it using stealth and underhanded tactics.

The latest salvo against abortion rights was issued by Michigan, a state that voted for the President and yet has a Republican led legislature. They passed three bills aimed at curbing a woman’s right to get an abortion, a right that has been de facto law since 1973.

The first bill essentially bans abortion coverage in all state based insurance exchanges and in all private insurance plans in the state.

A second bill allows employers and health care providers from providing coverage for procedures that they find morally objectionable.

The third bill, rather like that passed in Mississippi, provides for building regulations on abortion clinics that will make it practically impossible for the clinics to obtain building permits. It regulates such things as the size of doorways and square footage, which would effectively shut many clinics in the state.

Unlike many measures that pass in mostly southern states, these bills do not provide an exceptions for abortions in the case of rape, incest or the health of the mother.

Republicans say that they support bills of this type because they allow people who have moral objections not to have to pay for those procedures. The bills do allow mothers to buy separate coverage for abortion, but insurance companies do not offer additional policies, and most mothers would either not be able to afford the coverage, or would just not take out coverage.

Republicans claim that the bills protect religious freedom, and they allow medical professionals to refuse to provide for abortion and contraception services. Employers would not be forced to pay for coverage of procedures with which they disagree.

These bills also end remote abortion services, by which women in rural areas are able to obtain services from urban centers without having to go into those centers. Doctors in urban areas can prescribe abortion medication to those women, since they do not have access to these services locally.

Firstly, contraception is a profoundly important medical necessity. Refusal to consider contraceptive services dramatically increases medical risks to the mother and increases the cost of medical services not only to those women, but to insurance customers who have to bear the cost of the mother’s pregnancy.

Deciding when and where to fall pregnant should always be a decision that ultimately is left up to the woman, not to the state. Conservatives often rail against state intervention in their lives, and yet when it comes to a womans body, conservatives want to govern what women do with their bodies.

Conservatives love to talk about people’s religious rights, and yet they are taking those very rights away from the woman by denying them care based not on the womans beliefs, but their own. That is profoundly violating the womans religious beliefs. It should not be up to the state, or the church to decide a womans religious beliefs in her stead. That takes us back to a paternalistic society in which women are second class citizens, relegated to the backwater of society.

It may be all very well for a medical professional to decide that they ought not to be morally obligated to provide care for a woman who needs an abortion. They should perhaps find another profession to pursue if they are unable to pursue this one due to their religious beliefs. The idea that a medical professional would be authorised to deny someone a particular procedure because of their beliefs is a violation of their Hippocratic Oath to save life.

What if I am taken into a hospital needing a blood transfusion and I am refused on the grounds that the doctor is a Jehovah’s Witness? Do I need to know which doctors will treat which emergencies based on their religious beliefs? Should I not be guaranteed medical services when I need them and not based on what the doctors religious beliefs might be?

Should I really be subject to my employers religious beliefs? Do I need to determine before taking employment what kind of religious bias I will face in the workplace? If an employer can discriminate against me based on his religious beliefs in medical cases, what about social interference. Can my employer then force me to attend religious services? Donate to religious charities? Read certain religious texts? Swear fealty to a God that may or may not be my own?

The whole idea of religious freedom is that no-one can impose their religion on you. The moment they begin to impose their belief on you, and denying a medical procedure based on their personal belief is an imposition, your religious freedom is lost. Religious freedom does not include the right to force others to adhere to your narrow religious views.

What if my religious belief said that if you fall pregnant during a full moon on a Sunday, my holy book specifically said that the fetus must be aborted? How would that square with your religious belief that specified absolutely no abortion under any circumstance? Whose belief would take precedence? That is what happens when others decide what we should do with our bodies.

Precisely what do building codes have to do with religious freedom? This is plainly just an imposition on the abortion clinic drafted specifically to make sure that the abortion clinic will close. It has nothing to do with religious belief.

National Public Radio did a segment on anti-abortion laws around the country, where conservatives have introduced more than 900 such laws. Increasingly, the precedent instituted by the Supreme Court has effectively been circumvented by these states, placing women’s health in jeopardy to satisfy a small, vocal minority.

Conservatives continue to place women’s health in a precarious state, producing potential insecurity and suffering for millions of women. The state is now involved in interfering with a women’s right to decide what she can and cannot do with her own body, and increasingly the state governments are physically violating pregnant women. In addition, by denying contraception to women to prevent unwanted pregnancy, the state often removes the availability of access to family planning, making abortion more and not less prevalent.

States are now forcing women who have been raped, sometimes by members of their own families, to bear the children of the people who physically assaulted, abused and humiliated these women. Why is it that rapists are extended greater rights than they women on whom they forced themselves?

Some of these laws inhibiting a womans right to a lawful and medically safe abortion, now want to criminalize abortion itself, violating the premise of the Supreme Courts ruling. The rapist can get away with a few years in custody, whereas the woman could potentially be charged with murdering the fetus. Some laws are so restrictive that a woman that goes for a run and spontaneously aborts, could be charged with a felony.

To many women around the country, abortion is now illegal by any rational test. If one cannot get an abortion anywhere in a state, it is illegal, and frankly, in violation of the Supreme Courts decision. No other medical practice is subject to the odious regulations to which abortion clinics are now subject.

In closing I would like to tackle something that conservatives love to bring up. According to their, somewhat limited, understanding of biology, life begins at conception. This is just such a startlingly biologically inept statement as to be rooted in pseudo scientific ignorance. I do not understand why this particular argument has any merit whatsoever.

I want to state unequivocally that I have no training in the biological sciences. However, it is not too difficult to understand at least a modicum of evolutionary biology using works produced by popular evolutionary biologists.

Consider this, in order for a female to produce a blastocyst, and later an embryo and fetus, a number of things must happen. The short version is that an egg containing, in the human instance, 23 chromosomes, and a sperm, containing another 23 chromosomes need to fuse. This fusing produces the familiar 23 pairs of chromosomes, half from the father, and the other from the mother. Given a successful fusing, the process of mitosis, or cell division, can begin.

Now, conservatives love to claim that this is when life begins. What they forget is that life produced that egg and that sperm. Life did not erupt spontaneously. There is no miracle here, God did not get involved in the process. Life existed before this new fetus began with the fusing of egg and sperm.

What we have here is not new life, it is the continuation of existing life. All animals, all plants, in fact all life, bacteria, fungi, archaebacteria began around 3.5Bn years ago. We are uncertain as to its precise beginning, but we are the result of 3.5Bn year of uninterrupted life. The fact that we are a cooperating group of genes does not mean that life begins with our fetus. We are just a continuation of a stream of competing genes operating in a cooperative sense in this body.

When we die, after we successfully procreate, which is the intent of evolution, our genes will pass on through other cooperative bodies. Those most successful will continue. Those that are not will be weeded out. Life does not start or finish with an individual, it is a continuum, a stream of genes that pass through all life.

It is only when conservatives understand this basic concept that they can stop complaining about when life begins, or ends. While it had some beginning in the dim and distant past, it does not end with our death. Perhaps conservatives need to educate themselves about the realities of life.

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