Essay Prompt: How Old are You?

A meme is going around Facebook highlighting a draft HHS Standard that supposedly defines life as beginning at conception. As Snopes notes: “Conservatives and pro-life organizations have welcomed the change as a much-needed corrective to Obama-era policies, but women’s health and pro-choice advocates see it as a harbinger of future federal efforts to restrict access to medical services such as contraceptives and abortion.” As an example, Snopes quotes the document’s second paragraph: “HHS accomplishes its mission through programs and initiatives that cover a wide spectrum of 61 activities, serving and protecting Americans at every stage of life, beginning at conception.

I was thinking about this proposed definition this morning. In many ways, it struck me as lip-service to the notion of life beginning at conception, just as the whole abortion debate is lip-service concern about life (for, after all, if there was real concern about life, then that concern would continue after the child is born — ensuring health care and minimal living standards).

Just like we know that a concert isn’t over until the instruments stay off the stage and the house lights come up, “life begins at conception” won’t be the real until there is elimination of the birthday. After all, why celebrate the day you were born if that isn’t when your life began. Being born becomes just another milestone, like starting kindergarten or going to college. Get rid of the birthday entirely. Put the date of conception on the drivers license. All those age based limits — those are based on birthday, not conception day. You should be able to vote at 18¾. Drink at 21¾. Collect social security at 65¾.

But as long as our society remains centered around the birthday, the whole notion of “life begins at conception” is bullshit. In society, life begins when you are born or able to live independently from your parent’s body. Earlier than that, and you are theirs to do with. You are, pure and simple, a body part. You are like a fingernail, or a finger, or excess belly fat. It sounds crass, but that’s what it is. If you are unable to get a government ID card or a social security number, are you alive?

 

I’m not saying this all to be silly. There is a reason that the Supreme Court decided as they did in Rowe v. Wade. If the foetus cannot live independently, the mother must have the right to treat it as any other part of their body. Once it can live outside their body, it can apply for a social security number and get a birthdate. Conception date is not a birthday.

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