Roe v. Wade Turns 40
The beginnings of human life, as I understand it (and I am no scientist), are understood to occur when the genetic material of the sperm and of the egg form in one single-celled zygote. This zygote represents the earliest developmental stage of the embryo and, containing 46 chromosomes of genetic material, acts as a blueprint for the individual’s development (determined, for example, are features such as sex, blood type, eye, ear color [and so on]). That zygote, upon implantation in the uterus, will eventually become a fetus of billions of cells, and at a certain point in its future will be birthed.
Destroyed at any stage (12 weeks, 16 weeks, 20 weeks … ) and a developing human being is being destroyed. Believing this to be wrong is my reason for opposing abortion. It is the only reason I need.
Those reminding of a certain imprecision in determining when conception occurs (on account of a sperm’s capacity for survival inside a woman’s body or on account of the time it sometimes takes for an implanting to occur in the uterus … ) employ the vocabulary of days and weeks but what of the months and months in which that life will thereafter develop?
Several years ago, the man who is now the Vice President of the United States described Roe v. Wade — whose fortieth anniversary is today — as discriminating between various moments in pregnancy. Of nine months of pregnancy, in the first three the fate of the fetus would be left to she who is pregnant while in the last three, Mr. Biden noted, the “weight of government input is on the fetus being carried”. Clearly choice is not understood as absolute here (a subject about which I have briefly reflected upon elsewhere) and I confess that I fail to see the rationale for Roe v. Wade: Is not destroying the 8-week old fetus, on one hand, and the 32-week one, on the other, both acts of destruction committed against a developing human being? The grounds for opposing one but not the other are precisely what, exactly?
The Vice President, in a debate during the campaigning of the past year, identified his own acceptance of the Roman Catholic position on abortion. I accept it in my personal life, he stated. Look, abortion occurs with alarming frequency. A not insignificant number of occur annually. That this is not near the pinnacle of general concern is alarming. This is a violence inflicted upon those who have no ability to resist. Precisely because of this, opposing such violence can hardly, merely, form part of a litany of acts to which I am personally opposed.
I also write at Musings on Film.