human life

Dodged Electing a Personhood President!

First, hats off to reproductive rights supporters who won last night!

If we had elected a “personhood” President, there would be cause for great concern.  While personhood and abortion were hot issues during the campaign, one aspect related to both that didn’t seem to come up like it could of, at least in my observation, is the discussion of the definitive answer to the question, When does human life begin?

Anti-abortion factions are stuck on “the moment of conception” as the answer.  But as Tamara Mann writes in her Huffpo piece, “Heartbeat: My Involuntary Miscarriage and ‘Voluntary Abortion’ in Ohio:”

“There is little consensus among biologists, doctors and ethicists on when life begins. The language here can be tricky. There all sorts of things they agree are alive — from cells, to animals, to people. But that is not what they mean when they discuss life in utero. In this case, they mean life as something endowed with humanness, and worthy of rights…”

It is not just about whether something is “alive,” but at what point is it human life, or the term that has now been used in many of the legislative attempts to prevent abortions – personhood.

As Mann points out “…the literature reveals a litany (italics mine) of standards for determining personhood: conception (day 1), implantation (day 6-7), detectable heartbeat (approximately week 6), detectable brain activity (approximately week 8), quickening (when the mother can feel the fetus moving), development of the cerebral cortex (at the end of the first trimester), viability outside the mother’s body (now as early as 24 weeks with medical support), when the head is visible during labor, and when the baby takes its first breath. Smart, thoughtful people genuinely disagree.”

supreme courtAnd really smart people in the highest court in the land have not come to the answer. Even as far back as 1973, the Supreme Court indicated that people trained in “respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus” and the Court itself “could not resolve the question of when life begins.”

Where do many people go for the answer to this question? To their church. When her doctor told her fetus was “not compatible with life” – that  it would not “survive the pregnancy” and that it should be removed, this is what Ms. Mann did.

The fetus had a heartbeat, she was not sure what to do, and went to a rabbi for counsel. She learned that “In Judaism, the dominant metaphor for life is not the heartbeat — it is the breath. In Genesis 2:7, God breathes life into man: ‘Then the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man become a living soul.’ Even that final word, soul, nefesh, can be translated as breath.”

Jewish law errs on the side of the mother’s health, and does not see a fetus as “a life.” As Jodi Jacobson, Editor-in-chief of RH Reality Check describes it, Jewish law “does not recognize an egg, embryo, or fetus as a person or full human being, but rather ‘part and parcel of the pregnant women’s body,’ the rights of which are subjugated to the health and well-being of the mother until birth.”

The Vatican disagrees, and see the fertilized egg is a “person” with full rights under the law.  The United Methodist Church – it sees it differently and “recognizes the primacy of the rights and health of women.” And “Islamic scholars, like Jewish scholars, have debated the issues of ‘ensoulment’ and personhood, and continue to do so with no over-riding consensus.”

There is clearly not one answer to the question of personhood.  The problem is the “Moment of Conceptionists” do not accept this, and feel so right about their religious position they want all of us to follow it.

As we head into the next four years, expect this contingent to continue to attempt to make personhood, not Roe v Wade, the law of the land. Expect them to try and chip away at this law any way they can.

However, we will have a president at the helm who can make sure the highest Court continues to see the answer to “when life begins” for what it is – a matter of personal belief, and the right to privacy to make personal choices based on those beliefs.

Laura Carroll

Happy World Contraception Day

Today is World Contraception Day (WCD). It’s been organized by the European Society of Contraception since September 2007.  According to WomanCare Global, it is a global campaign that recognizes the importance of access to contraception for women around the world” and has a “mission to… Continue reading “Happy World Contraception Day”

An Inconvenient Abortion Truth

On August 28th, the 2012 We Believe in America Republican Platform was approved. It supports a human life amendment to the Constitution, which would ban all abortions, even in the case of incest and rape. The problem with this part of the platform is Continue reading “An Inconvenient Abortion Truth”

reproductive injustice

Reproductive Injustice in the Doctor’s Office

Pronatalism is all around us…and in the doctor’s office.  Many women who seek sterilization face doctors who are unwilling to do the procedure, whether it be a tubal ligation or essure. Why do docs create roadblocks to sterilization? Here are three reasons – Continue reading “Reproductive Injustice in the Doctor’s Office”

Challenging the Pronatalist Offspring Assumption

It has been 20 years since the first Earth Summit in Rio, and the next one, the Rio+20 Conference, is about to occur, June 22-24.  Government delegates from all over the world will be talking about findings from an analysis done by a group of international scientists that just came out.  But the findings deserve all of our attention. The scientists report that the Earth is in a “critical transition,” and reaching a “tipping point”  when it comes to irreversible destruction of the global environment.

Continue reading “Challenging the Pronatalist Offspring Assumption”

The Many Women in History Who Got It–that Motherhood is Optional

Have you seen the collage of never-mom women from history (and some still alive) on pinterest? Olivia Reading has done a great job. It’s Women’s History Month, and I find it inspiring!  Check it out, and maybe it will inspire your answer to this month’s On-the-Ground Question.   Simone de Beauvoir (pictured) is one of mine… Continue reading “The Many Women in History Who Got It–that Motherhood is Optional”

Some Excellent Questions for Abortion Opponents

In a recent piece on Ms. Magazine‘s blog, Holly Derr asked some provocative questions for anti-abortion Presidential candidates.  I too would love to hear their answers to these questions, and actually from anyone who is anti-choice.  Here they are. If abortion was illegal: Continue reading “Some Excellent Questions for Abortion Opponents”

What’s Scariest About Proposed Pro-Life Bills

The recent number of proposed anti-abortion bills is alarming.

Not only does the House want to go after all funding for Planned Parenthood even though by law no government funds can be used for abortions services already, but… Continue reading “What’s Scariest About Proposed Pro-Life Bills”

reproductive injustice

The Real Reason for the Attempt to Cut Planned Parenthood Funding

The House recently debated an amendment that would severely impact family planning our country. It would cut off funding for Planned Parenthood. But the bill would do more than this–it would kill “Title X” … Continue reading “The Real Reason for the Attempt to Cut Planned Parenthood Funding”