If it is argued (and agreed) that there is new life immediately at the moment of conception (albeit very primitive but nonetheless life as opposed to no life) then the point of the article is to recognize that unlike other circumstances when the civic authority authorizes the taking of a human life – war, capital punishment, medical grounds – in the case of abortion it is largely unregulated; each individual left to make her choice. It in no way approaches a pro-life stance (nor counsels any curbs on the status quo), but is about the recognition that in a civilized society, complicated, moral issues need to be addressed and openly discussed by that society. How we accommodate what might often be a morning-after whim weeks after the morning after is of fundamental importance.
Society’s greatest aspiration should be to live with intention. We exist as a society because, collectively, we join in a pursuit of personal freedom which balances delicately between anarchy and social servitude. Evincibly, we set up a cannon of laws by which to live, in order to maintain that personal freedom, justly, fairly, methodically. And for the most part, those laws reflect some sort of national moral code, the general consensus of why things are the way they are, and what they should and should not be. Every law has a backstory, a provenance that aligns with the population’s code of ethics. This backstory is evidence of society’s intent, or the intent of a succession of generations that end with us in the present.
But in an age of instant gratification and convenience, this Fast Food Nation sometimes forgets the overarching framework that ties our values, and therefore our laws, together. Yes, the regulations that govern our fickle freedom should be just, should be upright, should be equitable. But in addition, they need to work the same way across the board. No redefining the code to suit the situation. There may be exceptions to the rule, but can we have a rule that is an exception in and of itself?
We should live with intention. And for the most part, the intent is to live. When it comes to Life, the legislature is as fragile-yet-bold as the subject it addresses. A nation of life-preservers, we do not only account for liberty and the pursuit of happiness in our implacable justice system. We uphold Life itself with the greatest reverence.
It’s an overwhelming human impulse to preserve life. Yes, America sent troops into the Middle East, time and time again, to preserve and defend the ideal of Liberty. But the more recent media buzz around Gadaffi’s crimes against humanity in Libya appeals to something that runs deeper than even patriotism. Ignorance to the Great Western Way of democracy is one thing, but genocide is quite another. And why? Because the issue isn’t just freedom to live life as one so chooses, but the ability to live, period.
Ironically (and what law surfacing after a pock-marked history of mankind isn’t ironic in one way or another?) we have laws about going to war to defend life. We have laws about going to war with any objective. You see, we can’t just have a few Toms, Dicks, and Barrys deciding to send the infidels to their eternal reward. (That’s how the other side does things, isn’t it?) So we set up barriers of protocol, checks and balances, the are-you-quite-sure litany of requirements to be met before wings hit air and boots meet ground. If these laws are slighted in any way, there is considerable general uproar. Because life is precious, and it should not be taken lightly.
On our own shores, within our punitive system, we have capital punishment. We’ve come a long way from lynchings, firing squads, and hangin’ ‘em high. While still a retentionist nation (unlike most 1st world countries), the United States has girded the use of the death penalty with so many laws, restrictions, and commutations, that, in most states, capital punishment is dying out. Because life is precious, and it should not be taken lightly.
When it comes to individual instances of taking life, we have even more legal and social laws and fewer exceptions to the rule of preservation. Euthanasia is a no-no. Assisted suicide is unconscionable. Suicide itself has none of the romantic trappings of Romeo and Julietting. And you can forget about murder. Because life is precious, and it should not be taken lightly.
It isn’t hard to see the overarching ethics, the code, the rule in regard to life. Preservation seems to be the order of the day, in support of which come bastions of laws, regulations, checklists, budding and established legislature to protect those with life. But none of it addresses when life begins. There are two camps when it comes to life’s commencement: conception and viability. The former asserts a pretty basic, no-wiggle-room, keep-it-simple-stupid argument: Life begins at the moment of conception. Sperm+Egg=Baby. Granted, the little creature hasn’t yet grown to its full humanity, but it has all the building blocks and it’s on it’s way. Besides, it could be argued that some adults haven’t yet grown to full humanity.
Camp the Latter adheres to a more tenuous belief, one that is so case-by-case and flocked with maybes that it’s hard to ever have an answer: Life begins when the previously mentioned little creature is viable, meaning it can live outside of its mother’s body either with or without the aid of machines. In the last 30 years, that moment of viability, though virtually impossible to conjecture even for an individual case, has changed considerably. Once upon a time it was roughly 28 weeks after conception. Nowadays it’s more like just shy of 22 weeks. That’s a 25% extension of “life”, and makes for a less than tenable guideline for the beginning of personhood.
Regardless of your camp, there is a clear question of continuity. Let’s pretend we can sidebar the issue of Pro-Choice vs. Pro-Life. Whether “creature” becomes “child” at 22 weeks or “creature” is “child” from the get-go, herein lies the problem: how is the execution of an abortion so unguarded by legal and social gates? Here we have a taking-of-life issue, (because, even in the camp of Viability, the discussion of “is-it-alive” is inherent), and therefore a moral issue, that has none of the trappings and accoutrements of every other life-yielding moral question addressed by legislature in this country. Here, America has fallen short of living with intent. Here she asserts, “I want this the way I want it, when I want it. My whim is law.” We have stumbled upon the rule that is the exception. And even if it forever stays this way, shouldn’t we at least recognize that this is the square peg among the round holes? That here, and only here, an American can assert, my life is precious, so someone else’s can be taken lightly.”