Friday, May 27, 2011

Ended up posting this someplace today.

This is my obligatory reminder to the internet that I am an angry feminist madwoman who believes that the person who has the final legitimate say on whether a pregnancy continues is the person who is pregnant.

Why people need to stop telling me that life begins at conception because that's when babby gets soul.

Being pro-life is a position I understand completely. It's a personal choice for many women that they would never get an abortion and can't understand how anybody else could. These women should not ever be forced to get abortions, which is why pro-choicers (and I think that doing a lot of activism for Planned Parenthood, I can speak with some authority on what pro-choicers tend to argue for) disapprove of compulsory sterilization and compulsory abortion. A woman whose personal convictions are strongly against abortion should never be forced to get one, because that is what informed consent is all about. That is what bodily autonomy is all about.

When it verges over into anti-choice territory, though, things start getting dodgy. When we start arguing that a pregnant woman is not morally mature enough to be trusted with the decision of whether to stay pregnant? Dodgy.

Furthermore, as far as the whole "life begins at conception" thing, that's not a scientific or medically-founded point. How do I know this?

Obstetricians define a pregnancy as starting at implantation (which is the point when the zygote sticks to the inside wall of the uterus). They do this because this is the point at which the woman's body acknowledges that it is pregnant and that it needs to start adjusting.

This isn't a political stance on their part so that they can help Planned Parenthood get women their whore pills. This is a medical judgement based on when a woman's body begins to behave "pregnant." The pregnancy doesn't start at fertilization, because in many cases the zygote will fail to implant and the woman won't even know that the egg she's flushing with this period was fertilized. Spiritual life as you define it begins at fertilization, but the pregnancy doesn't start until implantation.

I suspect that the medical argument isn't your primary point, though, so I'll address the theological angle.

I am always sort of puzzled by the whole allegedly-Biblical view that life begins at conception. I've been giving it some thought based on what I remember from the Bible study I did in college and looked some stuff up and wanted to bring what I pulled together.

RE: Life beginning at conception. Yes, I realize that it is Catholic dogma that this is the case. The Catholic Church also only admitted about forty years ago that the Earth revolves around the sun. Are we really going to use them as a science authority? I mean, I guess you can. I won't be. But this isn't even a scriptural or Biblically-founded point they are making. That stuff is NOT in the Bible.

So what's actually in the Bible? When does a human acquire a soul? Well, let's ask when Adam was alive. When God breathed life into him.

Genesis 2:7 “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.”

This is why, for a very long time historically, a woman's fetus was not considered an autonomous human being until it took its first breath. It's only when science gave us a view into what actually happens in the uterus that Christian churches had to start figuring out when this thing became a human with a soul.

At no point does any secular governing body have any call making law based on who has a soul and who doesn't. I certainly hope that in this thread we can agree on that much. However, for those Biblical literalists who care more about getting on Santa's Nice List than they do about what godless obstetricians say, I refer you back to Genesis. A fetus is a baby when it takes its first breath. Even Adam wasn't human before that.

Surprise surprise, Bible-thumping anti-choicers need to lern2Bible before pulling out their half-understood regurgitated dogma. Unless you're a Roman Catholic, your own Iron Age obstetrics manual (harr harr) points out that breath is life. Even the word "spirit" in Hebrew means "breath."

“There is a spirit [Hebrew, ruach, breath] in man: and the inspiration [breathing in] of the Almighty gives them understanding. ... The spirit [Hebrew, ruach, breath] of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty has given me life.” -Job 32:8 and 33:4.

So seriously, to the "life at conception cuz YHWH said so" regurgitating fundies: go get some formal Bible education and then come back and tell me what it says.

It's probably obvious that the Biblical view doesn't actually hold any water with me. I prefer to use obstetrics texts that were written after the advent of modern medicine. However, I know there are a lot of people who do care about what the Bible says about what we are, who we are, and how we should live. I also know that many such people haven't had opportunity to actually sit down and do formal study of this book that rules their lives, and have to simply believe what church authorities and their parents tell them is true.

So yeah. If you want to decide how to live based on what the Bible says, I'm gonna think you're a little nuts, but at least find out what's in the book before you start making decisions and constricting the decisions of others and make sure that it's really telling you what you've been TOLD it tells you.


Kai said...

It is a pretty tenuous precedent, given that Adam was never gestated and did not start life as with any other man. He started as dust in a form, into which god apparently breathed life.
Every person since then has had rather different beginnings, and isn't all that comparable to life breathed into dust.
There are, on the other hand, many passages throughout the bible that suggest that the god of the bible considers a child to be a person, even within its mother's womb.
Job 31:15
Psalm 22:10

Psalm 51:5-6 (NIV):
5 Surely I was sinful at birth, sinful from the time my mother conceived me.
6 Yet you desired faithfulness even in the womb; you taught me wisdom in that secret place.

Psalm 139:13 (NIV)
13 For you created my inmost being;
you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

Isaiah 44:1-2
Isaiah 44:24

Isaiah 49:1 (NIV)
Listen to me, you islands; hear this, you distant nations: Before I was born the LORD called me; from my mother’s womb he has spoken my name.

Isaiah 49:5

Jeremiah 1:5 (NIV)
4 The word of the LORD came to me, saying,
5 “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”

Hosea 12:3
Galatians 1:15

I do not happen to believe in the god of the bible, nor take it as my moral guidance, but I think you are drawing your conclusion based on a single example of questionable relevance, and ignoring a number of examples that seem to me more relevant, since they talk about people who actually were born in the typical manner of pregnancy.

Cobalt said...

It's not a simple example; it's a relevant linguistic and cultural observation.

Furthermore, I didn't think of this all by myself because I was pissed at fundie Christians. I'm drawing my conclusion from the same scriptural precedent used by reform Jews, who are well known in my community for standing up for women's reproductive rights. A representative of a prominent local Jewish organization made this point in front of a meeting of our state legislature's public policy committee, so it's not like I'm citing an obscure bit of scripture that no religious person actually cares about, y'know?

Cobalt said...

Sorry I meant to say "single example."