Biology teaches us about living organisms and contributes to our view of the development of human beings from conception to death. Living organisms respond to their environment, grow and change, have a complex chemistry, are built of structures called cells and
have the potential of passing traits onto their future offspring. These biological characteristics of living organisms are as true for a developing baby inside the womb as they are for a baby outside of the womb.
At the moment of fertilization, the developing baby's genetic make-up is complete, including its sex. If a Y sperm fertilizes the egg, the developing baby is male; if an X sperm fertilizes the egg, the developing baby is female. By any definition, the fertilised egg contains all the genetic material to become a complete and unique human being. Within the first day after fertilization, the egg begins dividing rapidly into many cells.
The fertilized egg continues to divide and produce cells as it passes slowly through the fallopian tube to the uterus where it attaches to the endometrium (a process called implantation). Within three weeks, these living human cells ultimately form an embryo, and the developing baby's first nerve cells have already formed.
The developing baby is called an embryo from the moment of conception to the eighth week of pregnancy. The term embryo literally means ‘young one’. After the eighth week, the developing baby is called a foetus, which literally means ‘bringing forth’.
Given this scientific knowledge, we can better appreciate life as a developmental journey and understand the sanctity of life inherent in a faith perspective. Indeed, many people now recognise the totality of our lives as a spiritual journey. It is incorrect to assume that our physical or spiritual journey begins at birth for human beings encompass both physical and spiritual realities.
Some pro-choice posters display the phrase ‘Our Bodies, Our Choice’ hoping to focus on the mother who may be struggling and bolster the modern move towards extreme individualism. However, it is strange that the pro-life proponents do not seem to understand the true meaning of ‘Our Bodies, Our Choice’. This phrase is correct because there are two bodies involved in pregnancy, that of the mother and that of the developing baby. Just because the developing baby is unable to communicate in the same way as the Mother does not mean that the ‘young one’ is without significance or does not constitute a ‘body’ in their own right. Therefore, we have a clear example of the confusion and misrepresentation at the core of the pro-choice argument. However, we must also realise that mothers need support.
From both a scientific and Christian spiritual perspective, everything in the world is connected. We are all connected to our families, our communities, the world around us and to all of creation in countless and very often invisible ways. These visible and invisible connections are vital for our continuing development and survival. We do not sever these connections lightly. Let us think very carefully about repealing a law that protects the first connection between a ‘young one’ and a Mother, a vital link that bridges the connection of the ‘young one’ to all of creation. Instead, let us focus on ways of improving the connections between us so that we are each given the opportunity to flourish.