Last week marked the 41st anniversary of Roe v. Wade; the 1973 Supreme Court decision that declared abortion constitutional. It is estimated that 55 million abortions have been performed since this landmark decision. If this is true, our country has aborted an average of 1.3 million babies every year since 1973. This is profoundly tragic.
I also find it tragic how we refer to children when they are in their mother’s womb. Politicians and journalists often use the term “fetus” or “tissue” instead of “baby” or “life” no matter how late-term the child is. I find this odd since even the scientific definition of life is satisfied at conception.
The embryo not only possesses a full complement of DNA, which is comprised of the genetic instructions used in the functioning of all known living organisms. But it also possesses a metabolism which allows the newly formed life to maintain structure, grow, reproduce and respond to the environment.
Scientifically, the embryo is not only “life” at 28 weeks; it is life at 28 seconds. Still, we can’t seem to find the nerve to refer to this newly formed entity for what it is. Ironically, we don’t have this same problem when it comes to Mars.
Ten years ago a NASA rover by the name of ‘Opportunity’ landed on Mars. Its mission was to seek out signs of past water activity. Recently, Opportunity identified rock laden with what scientists believe to be clay minerals. Since these minerals are thought to be similar to clay that forms on Earth when water flows through fractures in rock, it is believed to be an “indication that the rock has been altered at some point in the past through prolonged contact with water.”
Ray Arvidson, lead author of the new study and Opportunity deputy principal investigator suggests, “Life may have been able to survive on Mars for longer stretches than previously believed.”
I find it hard to believe that conditions on Mars could ever have created or sustained life. Considering its distance from the Sun, lack of evidence for any kind of life-sustaining atmosphere in the past, and Louis Pasteur’s Law of Biogenesis, it is hard to imagine how life could have been formed, let alone survive on Mars.
However, I find it equally curious how quick we are to declare past “life” on Mars with something as flimsy and primitive as this clay mineral. Yet, we get queasy when it comes to mentioning this word for a child inside the mother’s womb.
But doesn’t a woman’s body possess a much more plausible environment for life than Mars? Women have been marvelously designed with a reproduction system that is nothing short of a bona-fide miracle. So, why do we shy away from using the word life in this context?
One reason why we prefer terms like fetus, when it comes to children still living in their mother’s womb, is convenience. It’s not convenient to be reminded of the simple yet painful fact that we are talking about a real live human being when we speak of abortion.
Those in favor of abortion are keenly aware of this and choose their words carefully. And this is not only true with terms for the baby, but is also true with terms for advocates as well as the issue of abortion itself. For example, you will never hear someone identify themselves as “pro-abortion,” rather they are “in favor of reproductive rights.” And it’s never about the loss of a life, it is about the noble sounding pursuit of a “woman’s right to choose.”
This type of politically-correct language doesn’t serve our society well because it distracts us from the true meaning of abortion, as well as the life that is taken away.
Interestingly, more and more people are becoming pro-life; due, in part, to technological advancements. Today, ultrasounds provide us with the clear reality of the priceless living cargo developing inside a mother. It makes one wonder how history might have been different if we had this capability back in 1973.
As a minimum, let’s start giving life in the womb the same benefit of a doubt we do for Mars. We should use language that is not only more accurate, but will keep us remindful of the precious lives that are directly affected by our political decisions.