A recent post about the idiocy in Fairfax County regarding a student who was expelled for two weeks because she took birth control pills during school received some great comments. But as you might expect, with enough comments, one of the ‘contraception is abortion’ morons showed up (can’t you morons leave me alone during my vacation?). Ordinarily, I would have let the commentors administer an ass kicking (which they did very well). But when the commenter wrote:
I just wanted to remind readers that some believe life begins at conception (and that it doesn’t get a postmodernist exemption to protection of an individual’s right to life)
…you don’t get to bring that kind of garbage here without a response.
First, thanks for ‘reminding’ us: because no one who has been sentient during the last three decades is aware that some people think abortion is wrong. Really. What would we do without you?
Anyway, onto the whole “life begins at contraception” hooey. The short version is: no, it doesn’t–eggs and sperm are alive you twit. It’s not like the egg is dead, and only Magic Sperm Power is able to bring it back to life. It’s alive. In fact, many organisms spend most of their time in the haploid phase (half of the ‘usual’ chromosome complement), just as eggs and sperm do. Clearly, they’re not dead (or stunned).
When you hear someone claim that “life begins as contraception”, what they really mean is that ensoulment–the entry of the ‘divine spark’ to use Emerson’s phrase–occurs at contraception. Of course, like most theopolitical conservatives, they lack the balls to admit that they are trying to force specific sectarian dogma down others’ throats* (actually, it’s not the throat, is it…). Instead, they use phrases like “life begins at contraception” that sound good, but, upon further examination, really make no sense at all.
The religion issue brings me to the next claim of “it doesn’t get a postmodernist exemption to protection of an individual’s right to life.” I find this rather ironic–it definitely puts the lie to the phrase “Judeo-Christian.” In Judaism, all denominations and rabbinic opinions are absolutely clear: for the first month, the embryo is considered “as water.” Moreover, ensoulment does not occur until quickening. Again, this is not a debated point (some of the circumstances under which abortion can occur are debated**, but this debate occurs in the context that ensoulment does not happen until quickening).
These theological underpinnings are centuries old. They are certainly not ‘post-modernist.’ Hell, by definition, they’re not even modern. I realize that for theopolitical conservatives ‘post-modernist’ is the new secular humanist, but, believe it or not, religions actually have different opinions on when ensoulment occurs.
This, of course, leaves only one option: extermination of the heretic apostates.
(Kidding. The Mad Biologist definitely does not approve of such things.)
Which leads to a final point. “Life begins at contraception” is a metaphysical concept (and if one doesn’t believe in metaphysics, this is akin to the Easter Bunny, except that there’s no chocolate involved). Of course, one could attempt to ‘modernize’ the notion of ensoulment by arguing that a rudimentary nervous system might constitute human life in some sort of experiential sense. Incidentally, that means ‘life begins’ at around the third trimester, which is kinda like that whole Roe v. Wade compromise (and, yes, it is a compromise). But I can come up with reasons for why that’s a poor definition too.
But the point is this: “life begins at contraception” is a religious phrase, the goal of which is to hide that it is based in sectarian dogma.
And it’s pretty fucking ignorant of biology too. On that note, I leave you with this:
*If you hold this belief, and only think it should apply to you–that is, you don’t want to use government coercion to impose this religious belief on others, I have no argument with you. I disagree, but that’s your business, not mine.
**What many theopolitical conservatives don’t realize–and, again, there is uniform halachic consensus on this–in Judaism, there are situations where the ethical position is to have an abortion. To not do so (i.e., if a doctor were to choose the fetus over the mother) is tantamount to murder of the woman.