Monday, 25 January 2010

Sanctity of Human Life Sunday

There was a moment recently when I glanced over at our new little boy, laying on his back happily flailing his arms and legs, and I was overcome with awe at the idea that this amazing human being resulted from the physical union of my husband and I. One day he wasn't...and then, at that moment of conception, he was.

It is the only definable and unarguable line between nothing and life. It is at that moment that a human being is created. All other measures are subjective and unsubstantiated - heartbeat, viability, x number of weeks, stage of development, and so on. Conception is the only solid, objective point that marks that distinction.

And from that single moment grows this incredible human being. We carry that life inside of us for a time and then we nurture it through the years, stopping every so often to marvel over tiny pink toes, sleeping cherub faces, a child's perspective, the thrill of new discoveries, the joy of growth, and the ever-evolving relationship between a mother and child. It is a journey not without hard times, but ultimately filled with unspeakable joy and love, stretching us, shaping us, changing us for the better.

This is what we are robbing women of when we tell them it is acceptable to take the life of a child growing inside of them. We are hurting our own. We leave behind not only the bodies of countless babies, but a lifetime of pain for the women who were lied to, who were told their actions were okay because it "wasn't really a baby" and it was the "best decision given the circumstances", who live with the pain and regret as they realize, too late, that you can never forget the child who would have been.

I have never heard someone say that they regret the choice to carry their child, whether they decide in the end to raise the child themselves or place it with someone who can.

But over and over I hear women say that they do, deeply and daily, regret the choice they made to end that life - and yet, illogically, often continue to support the right of other women to make the same painful and irreversable mistake. Why do we continue to lie to women, telling them it's okay, even after realizing for oneself how horrifyingly untrue that is? We support them and support them and support them in their decision to take the life of an unborn child, and then leave them to pick up the pieces, floundering in the painful aftermath of their tragic decision.

Yesterday was Sanctity of Human Life Sunday, a day set aside to celebrate the intrinsic value of all human life. January is recognized as Sanctity of Human Life month, with SOHL Sunday held on the Sunday in January that falls closest to the day on which the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion was handed down by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1973. President Ronald Reagan declared the first SOHLS in 1983.

But the sanctity of life doesn't end when a child is born. Life should be valued not only in the unborn child, but in babies, children, adults, and the elderly. This should give us pause to consider not only the travesty of abortion, but that of child abuse, inadequate health care, domestic abuse, elder abuse, and euthanasia. It should be reflected in the way we care for orphans and widows, for our children and our aging parents, for the homeless and victimized. It should affect our buying practices and the use of our money, time, and skills. It should be blind to borders, race, gender, age, religion, health, incomes, and lifestyle.

Our respect for the value of a life should show in the way we treat others, extending love and charity to all.

For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother's womb.

I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made;
your works are wonderful,
I know that full well.

My frame was not hidden from you
when I was made in the secret place.
When I was woven together in the depths of the earth,

your eyes saw my unformed body.
All the days ordained for me
were written in your book
before one of them came to be.

~ from Psalm 139


  1. I love that you took the time to broaden sanctity of life to all of the other issues regarding life.

  2. I agree with Nicole. I don't agree that it is a lie to tell women it's okay to make choices regarding their own bodies and their own lives. Every woman has her story. Many women find themselves in situations that are difficult for the outsider to fully understand. The right to choose is about granting women our trust. Trust in them to make the best decision they can.

    You say women are lied to when they are told they can make a choice. I say women are betrayed when they are told they do not understand conception, pregnancy and birth enough and must let the government take control for them.

    Because I am not as elegent a writer I refer you to this

    "As for me, I support choice for a very simple reason: I want it. I want choice—for myself, and for other women. And I trust women to make the best choices for themselves. That's about the long and the short of it.

    All the rest—the hand-wringing, the shaming, the religion, the science, the assertions of certitude about when life begins—is just so much noise, is just so many different ways of qualifying why, exactly, women aren't fit to make decisions for themselves about their reproduction.

    I trust women, and the only question I have for someone who rejects choice is: Why don't you?" - Melissa McEwen

  3. This was really lovely. I agree with you as far as life starts at conception. I don't support abortion, I know it's something I will be declining to do as a medical professional. I just don't want to be a part of it.

    The legislation though, is frustrating to me. It seems like it's one extreme or another. Since I'm big on natural child birthing I'm a part of a few groups and this video was sent to me (it was actually posted on my blog).

    Anyway after watching it made me really on the fence because I want to be able to guard and protect life but at the same time women being persecuted in this way seriously scares me and disturbs me. I just pray there can be a reversal of Roe V. Wade but with specific guidelines put into place to prevent what this video discusses.

  4. @Olivia: I understand what you are saying, Olivia. You feel women are betrayed when they do not have full control over their body. I feel they are betrayed when they are told it’s okay to kill their child. They’re told it’s just a mass of cells (I remember my 10 week ultrasound with my first son – a tiny little baby, arms, legs, heartbeat, the works, bouncing around inside me). They’re told that difficult circumstances warrant it (but not of how it will affect them afterwards). They’re told it’s their body (but not that it’s their child whose life they are taking).

    Not only can you not take a life and go on unaffected, but no one should have the right too, either – male or female. Either that “mass of cells” is a human being, or it isn’t. It doesn’t just become human somewhere along the way. It is human, from the beginning, and no one should have the right to kill another human. When a pregnant woman talks about her baby, she calls it just that – her baby, her child. Not her “mass of cells” or her “fetus”. And when a woman has a miscarriage, she experiences the pain of having lost a child. A life is not determined by whether or not it is wanted! An unborn child is just that, a child, regardless of difficult situations or its mother’s wishes.

    We all have difficult situations, and unfortunately many things happen – even to our own bodies – that we don’t like or that we would change if we could. But that’s not always possible. We don’t always have the right to take a certain action that we feel would improve our lives. Taking the life of another human is one of those, and why shouldn’t it extend to a woman’s unborn child?

    The quote you mentioned talks about making choices for oneself and making decisions about one’s own reproduction. It is always, however, directed towards the reproductive rights of a woman. Where is the equality in that? If the father wants the child, the woman can kill it anyway. If the father doesn’t want the child, the woman can sue him for child support anyway. So regardless, men have absolutely zero reproductive rights. Even if he doesn’t want the child, he can be forced to support it. But a woman who doesn’t want the child can kill it??

    I truly do understand where you are coming from. I am very much against government intrusion in our lives. But that doesn’t, to me, rule out basic rights of life. I do believe that life, in this case, overrules reproductive decisions – just as one’s right to life overrules many other decisions we might otherwise make.

  5. @Korey: That is such a valid concern, Korey, and something I have spent a lot of time going back and forth on. I get the whole “slippery slope” argument – if they take “control” in this area, how far are they going to extend that control? There have actually been a few case-in-points. A woman was legally ordered to go on bed rest at a hospital and undergo any and all medical treatments her doctor decided were necessary (link). A boy was ordered to undergo chemotherapy against his and his mother’s wishes (link). A woman was ordered to undergo a c-section because her doctor expected the baby would be “too big” for her to deliver (link; left column). It is a very real risk and even something that seems to be happening already – it is legal to directly kill an unwanted child, but to “endanger” (in the opinion of the doctor) an unborn child you have chosen to carry is, apparently, something else entirely.

    Where does it stop? Do we charge women who continue to smoke or drink throughout their pregnancy? Do we force them to undergo medical treatment that they don’t want? Do we force them to give birth in a hospital because it’s “safer”? Do we force them to vaccinate their children? What about medical treatment for a sick child, do we force them to submit to that? How far, exactly, do our rights over our children extend? It is a huge grey area and there aren’t any easy or clear answers. As a woman who has had a homebirth, who would decline certain medical treatment, who chooses not to vaccinate her children, who intends to homeschool her children, I absolutely recognize that need to prevent government intrusion in our lives and instead uphold our parental rights.

    The difference to me comes into play when the attack on the child is direct. A woman having an abortion is directly attacking and killing an unborn child. A woman who, for example, declines vaccines for her children is (one could argue – obviously I would disagree) potentially placing her child at greater risk – but she is not taking direct action against her child’s life. I too hope to see safeguards be put in place in regards to the concerns you mentioned.

  6. Frankly, I did call it a fetus when I was pregnant until 5 months or so. The trouble I find with your argument is that it assumes that all women are unaware of how a zygote develops into a fetus, and that all women view it as a "baby" from the time of conception. In fact, many women who have had an abortion already had children so they know exactly what is at stake. Sometimes the choice is made because another child would impact the overall well-being of the other children.

    Your feelings and beliefs are not universal. Not every woman feels the same after a miscarriage or abortion.

    And men's reproductive choice is whether to wear a condom or not. If he doesn't want a child (doesn't want to pay child support) he should wear a condom. If he does want a child, then he should discuss that with the woman. If they are in agreement, then aborting a child he wants shouldn't be an issue unless there are medical concerns. And if there are medical concerns, I would think any decent man would prefer to keep the woman he loves alive.

  7. @Olivia: I don’t think that calling an unborn child a baby automatically precludes also knowing the biological/medical terminology nor understanding its development. The fact that it is a zygote, blastocyst, embryo, or fetus, depending on the physical developmental stage, doesn’t mean it isn’t also a human life. And I’m not even looking at it from a religious/moral standpoint – just from the most basic biology, that embryo/fetus has its own unique DNA right from the beginning, and there is no objective way of determining where along that path of physical development it suddenly becomes “human”. Either it’s human all along, or it isn’t.

    While I understand that there are many different reasons women feel that choosing to end that life is ultimately for the best, I don’t see why the laws we already have in place regarding murder should not extend to that unborn child. (You mentioned medical concerns, but medical termination of pregnancy is something entirely different, and often extremely difficult and deeply personal as a family decides the best course of action, and not something I see related to the topic of abortion in general. There is not right answer when it comes to one life versus another.) If a mother is unable or unwilling to raise a child, there are many other families who would love to take that child in and raise it as their own.

    I know it’s certainly not your responsibility to answer for the entire pro-choice movement, nor to answer to me for anything at all, but…really? That’s your answer for reproductive equality between the sexes? A woman who doesn’t want a child can kill it. A man who doesn’t want a child should have used a condom? Even considering that a condom is not 100% effective as birth control? Why does that not also apply to women? If a woman doesn’t want a child, she should abstain from sex or use birth control. That would be equality.

    And if he does want the child, he should just “discuss that with the woman”? He’s still entirely at her mercy. She always has the final say. If he wants it and she doesn’t, she can still have an abortion. That leaves men with absolutely zero reproductive rights. Sure, “if” they are in agreement, there won’t be an issue. But if they aren’t? Too bad for him and his child.