The right to life

March 19, 2014

An individual’s life is a continuum. If there is anything after death, I don’t know, but when does life begin? At conception? At birth? This seems to be the crux of the problem regarding both embryonic stem call research and abortion.

On the most basic level, what distinguishes one individual from another? I think most would agree that, biologically, each of us is defined by our genetic code — our DNA. So, perhaps the question should be, when does an individual’s DNA first appear? The answer is that each person’s DNA is formed when the egg is fertilized at conception.

If, in addition, life is defined as self-generated action, then it’s clear that the embryo represents an individual life. There are no little fingers in the mother’s womb sculpting a being out of clay. The mother provides the environment and the materials (food, oxygen) from which the embryo creates itself. It makes no sense to argue that, since the embryo is not physically apart, it is not a separate entity. A newborn child is just as dependent on others for survival; it is only the way that it acquires the food and air it needs that is different.

Of course, women have the right to choose what to do with their own bodies, but that right does not extend to destroying the life of another for mere convenience. There are no special women’s rights (or men’s rights, black rights, white rights, etc.). Only the individual possesses rights — the most basic of these being the right to life.

Michele Alice
Williamstown, Mass.

From the March 19-25, 2014, issue

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