when does human life begin?
for a husband and wife who want a child together, a pregnancy test is key. if the test says that the woman is pregnant, the couple celebrates. if the test comes back negative, they would have to try again. would that couple answer that life has begun already if the test is positive? would they wait to tell the good news to family members and friends who had been accompanying them in their desire to get pregnant? or would they share the good news as soon as possible?
every couple is different. no one knows how a hypothetical couple might respond? depending on specific circumstances, there are a whole range of the timed responses and sharing with others that a new life in a womb can bring.
would this couple wait until they found a heartbeat of the new life within the woman to celebrate a pregnancy? maybe
which brings us back to the initial question: when does human life begin?
in our catholic faith, human life is a gift from God. our lives begin at the moment of conception. even more miraculous is that God knows us before we are even conceived! the whole of psalm 139 is a testament of God’s beautiful love for us; here are verses 13-16
You formed my inmost being;
you knit me in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, because I am wonderfully made;
wonderful are your works!
My very self you know.
My bones are not hidden from you,
When I was being made in secret,
fashioned in the depths of the earth.
1Your eyes saw me unformed;
in your book all are written down;
my days were shaped, before one came to be.
life is wrapped up in the love that God has for all creation. human beings have a unique place in God’s heart.
but the civil law in the usa still grapples with that initial question: when does human life begin?
yesterday, the supreme court let stand a texas lower court decision that says that any pregnancy in which a heartbeat is detected cannot be aborted. a baby’s heartbeat can be detected at about six weeks. essentially, the texas court defined that the baby’s life begins at six weeks. therefore abortion is unacceptable when there is a heartbeat.
i believe that life begins at conception therefore i disagree with the texas court’s definition. but what the ruling attempts to address is the initial question of this post: when does human life begin?
will we ever get a definitive answer to this question from those who support abortion rights? probably not. i suppose that there is a range of responses possible. for those focused on the civil law, there is fear of a legal slippery slope scenario. that once there are concessions to legal abortion, more will follow. this slope would eventually lead to the total abolishment of legal abortion. therefore, oppose all legislation that limits abortion. they do not want to see illegal backroom abortions in our society again. for most who support abortions, the focus is on a woman’s right to choose. rights language in the usa is very powerful as none of us want rights taken away or even limited. any restrictions on abortions would put limits on what a woman could choose. lastly, to focus on individual rights exclusively marginalizes the notion of the common good for society. the privatization of morality has societal consequences. this area rarely gets discussed in depth by pro life/ pro abortion factions.
but if life begins at conception– or in texas when the baby’s heart begins beating– what about the rights of this new and vulnerable human being? who will advocate for his or her right to live?
how can discussions about abortion broaden our understanding of what is really good for us? as a culture who values the egalitarian nature of life, how can we better appreciate life that is waiting to be born? how can we be examples of the respect for all life so that we can end abortions? do we really believe that God gives us life as gift?
let us pray