Where does life begin? That’s the wrong question!
When I enter discussions regarding whether abortion is murder or a medical procedure, the discussion inevitably lands on how to draw the line to mark where life begins. This post is not to persuade to one side or another. It’s a plea for intellectual honesty.
No matter which side you argue, the line is arbitrary. The line exists so one side can claim it’s ceding ground to the other. Either argument taken to its logical end erases the line.
What is Life?
First of all, the question “Where does life begin?” is meaningless unless you define your terms. What do you mean by “life”? How does the dictionary define life. First definition:
1. The condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change preceding.
By this definition, life certainly begins immediately but this would be a meaningless victory for the pro-life side. This definition lends nothing to arguments against ending life. Just because something is alive, it doesn’t mean it’s wrong to kill it. I would be committing a crime every time I walk out in my yard and feel that telling crunch that signals the demise of an unfortunate snail in the wrong place at the wrong time. Perhaps when asking “when does life begin?” we are using the second definition:
2. The existence of an individual human being or animal.
This definition moves from the realm of the scientific to the philosophic. When did you become you? Is it really a trip through a magical birth canal that causes a human to begin to exist? Is that when your person-hood is bestowed upon you? (And by whom?)
I’ve been pregnant four times. I did not wait until any of my children were born to talk to them, to love them. I was impatient for their exit from their hiding place so I could finally hold them and meet them. Was I being foolish?
If this definition of life is the one we’re supposedly arguing, then there is absolutely no point in bringing scientists into it, right?
It’s all in the presuppositions
The only true ground gained or lost in this battle for “choice” or “life” comes when people move to a different world view. One, when held to honestly, will never cede ground to abortionists, and the other holds no true argument against continuing to move that line.
The view that will truly never cede ground to abortion are those who believe humans are better than animals, that we were made in the image of God and have a spark of the divine, that we have a soul and no one can prove when that enters.
If you believe, however, that people are just evolved animals, then it’s unclear where the line will eventually end. This philosophy potentially allows any treatment of human beings that are allowed to animals, or even plants.
Ultimately, if you argue that one can kill a baby before it’s born, the same philosophy eventually justifies killing outside the womb, as long as you can prove the creature is “less than human” (suffering from birth defects, mentally deficient, incapacitated by Alzheimers.) Or if we are just animals, do you even need to prove “less than human”? Isn’t that a human-centric way to talk?
Is their a third option, another way to look at your unborn child that falls outside of either human or animal? The most popular justification is that, before a certain point, the womb holds less than an animal, a “ball of goo”, a collection of chemical compounds. If this is your argument, you need to explain what makes a grown adult or a small child more than a “ball of goo”. What exactly makes us more than a sum of our organic make-up?
If you instead move to the argument that humans are just another animal, then what makes us better and more deserving of protection from another taking our life, inside or outside the womb? Perhaps you answer this objection with veganism. Tell me then, what makes animals more deserving of our protection than plants? If you say it’s an animal’s capacity for suffering, then why not just argue for anesthetizing a cow before its slaughter? And can you prove a tree can’t feel pain?
Christians, and many other people who hold to religious faiths that include a higher power who honored human beings with a special position in creation, have a world view that also doesn’t allow for the drawing of any line. Those who believe, like me, that we are created in the image of God believe that’s what makes us special. Only God knows when you become you. According to God’s Word, he knew us before we were even conceived and knit us in our mother’s womb.
A Christian world view, and many other world views that come from the religious side of things, also see the life of a child, the conception of a daughter or son, as a blessing for which we give thanks. Not a burden and a curse to be flushed like a disease. But that’s a whole other post.
So neither side can argue for a line until one side or the other can give me a good argument for there even being a line. What makes human life sacred, or not, cannot be measured or proven by the scientific method. It’s a matter of faith. (Jeremiah 1:5, Psalm 139:13,14)