Life Begins at Conception and Roe v. Wade was Correct
If I invite you to dinner and for dessert, serve you raw eggs on a bed of flour and sugar, do you you say “Oh, what a delicious cake!” or “What kind of joke is this?”
It has all the ingredients of a cake, but it’s not a cake. And similarly, a zygote is not yet a blastomere or a blastocyst or a fetus or a baby. The cake takes a while to come into existence, and so does the infant.
Every time we name something, we know in general what it applies to, but when we look closely at its boundary, the drawing of a bright line becomes difficult. When does death occur? Is it when the heart stops beating, when pupils no longer dilate, when brain activity is undetectable? What counts as theft? Taking a paper-clip from the office? Borrowing your neighbor’s lawnmower when he is out? Taking food from a store after a natural disaster?
Sharp lines and clear differences make for clear-cut situations: if I park three feet from the curb, I am illegally parked; if I am within eighteen inches, I am safe. But again, on looking closely, the distinction becomes unclear. What if only one wheel is within that distance? What if I have long lug nuts or curb whiskers?
The claim that life begins at conception is perfectly reasonable, but the debate is distorted by the misuse of language. Beginning is not completion, and even that beginning is not a bright line. Is it when the sperm breaches the ovum? Is it when the two RNA strands start to join, or is it only when the last AT/CG bond forms? If, when there are 8 cells, they split into 4+4 and form identical twins, when does the second life appear? And so on. The difficulty in deciding when the baby comes to exist goes away when we say that it happens gradually. Life begins at conception, but comes into full existence over a period of time. (Nine missing periods, give or take.)
Our desire for simplicity make yes/no decisions attractive, but in practice, the world is not that way. One thing the law has to do is draw lines that follow, as far as possible, the distinctions that exist, and Roe v. Wade was an honorable effort. Do not insult me by serving an unbaked dessert.
Photo credit: Natallia Nagorniak, Unsplash