I found this article intriguing: Apologies for not posting it via a link.
Life does NOT begin at conception. Presidential candidate Rick Santorum likes to say that he doesn't BELIEVE that life begins at conception - he KNOWS it begins at conception. And his radical view on this and on contraception in general reminds me of the quote by Mark Twain. "It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so."
Life, of course, begins long BEFORE conception. The egg that eventually became Rick Santorum was ALIVE and well in his mother's ovary before SHE was born... That tiny, LIVING cell had to go through critical developmental changes before it would even be ready to be fertilized at conception. Then it had to go through many additional essential developmental stages after conception before Rick would become a living, breathing, thinking, human being.
Some will say that fertilization is THE critical step that forms a unique individual human. But we know that is also not true. It is not uncommon for a developing, fertilized egg to divide for awhile and then split completely into two separate blastocysts, which go on to each become separate unique individuals even though they share the same DNA. Anyone who has known identical twins, knows that they are not the "same." Something AFTER conception makes them unique individuals.
There are a myriad of essential developmental changes that the embryo MUST go through in order to survive. This tiny little ball of cells has to fold and refold over and over like a wonderfully elegant origami project in order to even get to the stage where it can START to develop a nervous system and a brain, heart, lungs, limbs and other organs that we recognize as human traits. If the fetus is female, the ovaries will develop, before birth, with the rudimentary eggs that will eventually become the next generation, but only if EVERY developmental stage, including fertilization, comes to pass.
The real ethical question that is being posed is not when does life begin, but when does personhood begin? When do we recognize a developing embryo or fetus to have full Human Rights?
Now, Mr. Santorum wants to prohibit people from using birth control because he has drawn his line in the sand at fertilization. But that is a radical notion. Hormonal birth control (the "pill") and the IUD work by multiple mechanisms, one of which is to block the implantation of a fertilized egg, thereby killing it. The implications of Mr. Santorum's belief would be that any couple using the "pill" or an IUD would be committing murder or be an accomplice to murder. Very few people actually believe this. Effective birth control has been incredibly successful in alleviating human suffering and has reduced abortions worldwide by tens of MILLIONS! This is a good thing.
On the flip side of this issue are people who want to become pregnant and can't. In-vitro fertilization involves fertilizing multiple eggs, outside the womb, and then selecting one, or a few healthy embryos to implant in the uterus. The unselected and/or "defective" embryos are either frozen or discarded. In Rick Santorum's world this process of in-vitro fertilization would be immoral and illegal. Tell that to the more than 3 million people alive today because of in-vitro fertilization. Consider the joy it has brought to so many families.
Of course abortion would be illegal as well in Rick Santorum's world. But I have a friend who would never have been born if it weren't for the availability of safe abortion. Her mother had a serious chronic illness but wanted to become pregnant and have children. She only was willing to become pregnant, however, if she could be assured that she could have a safe abortion if the developing fetus became a threat to her life during her pregnancy. She ended up having two beautiful babies that never would have been born if abortion had not been available when needed.
Now, there may be people who are inclined to consider that a fertilized egg, with no brain, heart, lungs, or any other organs is the equivalent of a living, breathing, thinking human being. Rick Santorum can BELIEVE that if he wants, but he can't KNOW that. Most people certainly DON'T believe it. Rick and his wife can choose not to avail themselves of birth control, in-vitro fertilization or abortion and that is certainly their right. But he wants to deny, to the rest of us, the right to these very same choices. This extreme position, in-and-of-itself, should disqualify him from serious consideration as a candidate for leader of the free world.
My fear is that Rick Santorum's popularity among Republican voters may prove Mark Twain to again be correct when he said, "All you need is ignorance and confidence and then success is sure."
Posted on March 1, 2012 - 10:04 PM