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Culture

When Does Life Begin?

As states like Georgia consider "heartbeat" abortion bills, that's the only question that matters.

Robin Smith · May 13, 2019

Americans honored moms on Mother’s Day yesterday, as we’re all thankful for the significant roles that mothers fulfill in our society.

Yet, in today’s political climate, the value of mothers has been cheapened by the heralding of access to abortion on demand. After rebranding the practice as some type of health procedure that women must have as a right, abortion has become a foundational issue that unites leftists in the belief that motherhood is, somehow, equated with being a burden and a disruption to a professional pathway to success.

Interestingly, the divide politically is seen most vividly among the states on the issue of abortion. The ease of ending life in the womb ranges dramatically in various states, reflecting the political partisanship of the elected governing bodies.

In an October 2017 Washington Post fact-check of a statement by President Donald Trump applauding the House’s Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act, a stunning fact was revealed as true. It’s a fact that of 198 nations reviewed, only seven permit elective abortions after five months, or 20 weeks, of pregnancy. Listed in alphabetical order, these nations are Canada, China, Netherlands, North Korea, Singapore, the United States, and Vietnam. That’s it. Of the almost 200 nations that permit abortion, 3.5% of them still think it’s a good idea to end the life of a baby after 20 weeks of gestational age, and three of those nations are repressive communist regimes.

To put that gestational age in perspective, an intrauterine heartbeat is typically detected around six weeks of pregnancy. By 90 days after conception, a heart with four distinct chambers has formed, permitting blood to enter and exit a baby’s tiny circulatory system. By 20 weeks of gestation, not only is there a beating heart, but there are other vital organs and functions supporting the science of life in the womb.

According to its “Pregnancy Week by Week” posts, the world-renowned Mayo Clinic notes that by week 20, a baby in the womb has formed urine, has eyes that move and ears that hear and is more than six inches in length. The information includes the observation that the baby’s development “takes on new meaning in the second trimester” with “functioning organs, nerves and muscles.”

Not only does the U.S. stand apart alongside a small number of nations permitting the ending of life after 20 weeks of life in the womb, but some states showcase the extremes of abortion.

In recent months, the matter-of-fact manner in which some politicians have discussed, advocated, and defended abortion has been stunning. Americans witnessed the jubilant Democrats champion legislation that permits an abortion up to the moment of birth. Even more horrific was the live talk-radio broadcast of Virginia’s Governor Ralph Northam not only advocating abortion after 20 weeks and up to birth but addressing post-delivery abortion or the termination of life. Third-trimester abortions are “done in cases where there may be severe deformities,” he said. “There may be a fetus that’s nonviable. So, in this example, if a mother is in labor, I can tell you exactly what would happen. The infant would be delivered. The infant would be kept comfortable. The infant would be resuscitated if that’s what the mother and the family desired. And then a discussion would ensue between the physicians and the mother.” Not only do Virginia’s Democrats want to offer abortion up to the minute of birth, its governor — a pediatric neurologist — plainly walked through the process of the murder of a child already born.

That completely mirrors the practices of Communist China, Vietnam, and North Korea!

In a few states, there are no real abortion laws. Oregon, Vermont, Colorado, New Hampshire, and the District of Columbia have no meaningful limitations on abortions at all. These bastions of abortion are joined by Alaska, New Jersey, and New Mexico, where abortion is also permitted up to the moment of birth.

Yet, the laboratories of the states are providing hope for the defense of the pre-born babies. Currently, six states have passed “Heartbeat Bills” that prohibit abortions after an intrauterine heartbeat is detected, with Georgia being most recent. Its neighbor, Tennessee, passed the same bill in the State House with the support of the governor, but the State Senate failed to support the proposal due to concerns about costs in fighting lawsuits. Right next door, Alabama’s vote on the Senate floor was delayed last week after a provision was added that removes abortion in the case of the life of the mother or rape as a protected procedure. That resulted in heated exchanges and shouting around what could become the nation’s strictest abortion law.

One fascinating aspect of Georgia’s law is its definition of a person. The bill says that “unborn children shall be worthy of recognition as natural persons under the laws of this State.” As the Washington Examiner explains, “If it the fetus inside the womb is a person, it doesn’t matter whether the woman already knows she’s carrying it. In fact, Roe v. Wade even confirms this point. ‘If this suggestion of personhood is established, [Jane Roe’s] case, of course, collapses, for the fetus’ right to life would then be guaranteed specifically by the [14th] Amendment,‘ the Supreme Court case reads. Georgia’s new 'heartbeat’ law doesn’t fly in the face of Roe v. Wade. It accepts the case’s own logic and simply defines a human being how it should’ve been defined all along.”

No wonder Hollywood is so upset with Georgia.

The “Heartbeat Bills” seem reasonable since the absence of a heartbeat is a determinate of the absence of life and, conversely, the presence of a heartbeat is a characteristic of life. George Will argues that those who base their pro-life stance upon viability outside the womb are “prudent.” But there’s a slippery slope. If, as Will declares, viability is the benchmark for life — meaning one can exist without dependency upon another or heroic measures, please prepare to apply that standard to the severely disabled and seniors nearing the end of their life. Care will be “justifiably” rationed or withheld since, clearly, these individuals are dependent upon the care of others, and yes, even the support of interventions such as feeding tubes and ventilators.

That’s prudent, don’t you know?

In short, the debate roiling state legislatures these days isn’t about how many weeks gestation is long enough, or how many roadblocks to put in front of abortion on demand. The real question is life itself. When does it begin, and when does a human have a right to it? Everything else is semantics.

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