Why Does Life Have Intrinsic Value?
The heart channels emotion. When facing a dark cavern, the heart drums against its cage with ferocity. Get out of here, run! It flutters and hiccups when a man hears the gentle laughter of the girl in blue dancing to his right. Isn’t she beautiful? A woman stares into the hazel eyes of the one whom she called friend, and her heart stomps on her eardrums. What did I ever do to her?
When the heartbeats pass through the muffling medium of amniotic fluid, it howls like a hurricane.
My nine year old self watched, buggy-eyed as the nurse glided a gelled probe across my mother’s swelled abdomen. The nurse kept her eyes on the ultrasound screen. With a soft exclamation, she froze the probe. “I see a head!” I turned my eyes to the gray screen as well and gripped my father’s hand. “It’s the baby!” I cried, my own heart leaping. Unable to contain myself, I blurted out my burning question to the nurse. “Is it a boy?” After a moment, the nurse looked down at me. “I think so.” Filled with joy, I linked hands with my younger sisters and together we danced beside the hospital bed. My baby brother, Josiah, was God’s answer to a year of prayers. An acorn sized heart whooshed through the ultrasound machine’s speakers. Here I am! Hear the sound of life!
I believe life is intrinsically valuable. Defining a concept as miraculous as life often proves a daunting task, however, a Christian will draw this definition from the Bible. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was the life, and the life was the light of men” (New King James Version, John 1:1-4). Here the apostle John, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, gives a concrete image of the Maker—Christ. The Word of God, who preexisted all things, poured life into creation. He is the life source; without his breath the body decays, and without his presence in one’s heart the spirit faints. Life belongs to God. He alone directs and remembers all creation. In the Psalms, David declares his gratitude that God loved him even before his birth. “I was cast upon You from the womb, from my mother’s womb You are my God” (St. Athanasius Academy Septuagint, Psalm 21: 11). God claims His own while they yet remain inside their mothers. And He gives the human preborn something that sets them apart from the rest of creation. “Then God said, ‘Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness…’” (Genesis 1:26). All human life holds intrinsic value, because God gave a part of Himself to each person.
On August 24th, 1977, a broken woman lay on a sterile operation table in Iowa. A doctor inserted a long needle through her abdomen and plunged the corrosive salt solution into her uterus. Mixing with the amniotic fluid, the saline nearly suffocated the baby and burned her skin black over an hour long period. But five days later, there was still a heartbeat. Melissa was delivered alive, weighing less than three pounds, but completely still. Left for dead, her delayed squirms and whimpers encouraged the nurses to intervene. An adoptive couple gave her a home in Storm City and despite her horrific beginnings, Melissa thrived.
In God’s eyes, as the previously quoted Bible verses testify, both Josiah and Melissa possessed full personhood while in the womb. God does not differentiate between the preborn and the children who have entered the world. However, according to the Iowa Legislature, personhood does not begin until birth. The law frequently uses the word “fetus” to describe the preborn. This demotes the preborn child to something other than a full person, thereby subjecting him or her to subhuman treatment. In Iowa code 707.7, “feticide” holds a separate definition from “homicide” and a lesser punishment for the criminal. “Nonconsensual termination” is described in Iowa code 707.8; “A person who terminates a human pregnancy without the consent of the pregnant person during the commission of a forcible felony is guilty of a class “B” felony.” The second highest degree of felony, class “B” circumscribes second-degree murder, but not first-degree. An interesting overlap appears between the definitions of nonconsensual termination and first-degree murder. “A person commits murder in the first degree when the person commits murder under any of the following circumstances: The person kills another person while participating in a forcible felony” (Iowa code 707.2). If the law recognized the true value of preborn life, then first-degree murder would envelop nonconsensual termination. However, missing from the definition of the latter, is the word “person”.
Underneath a crisp blue sky, a mother leads her two young boys into a field. A cold, northerly wind rustles the surrounding trees of yellows, oranges and reds—sparrows call from nearby—but the boys do not see the colors. Their eyes carefully shut beneath duck-tape, the mother pulls out a small knife. Securing the eldest son’s head, she slashes his neck. Then, while the bleeding boy listens, she repeats with his crying brother. After a failed attempt on her own life, the mother leaves the youngest—dead—outside her van and the weak oldest, inside.
Following the broadcasting of this story, known as the Kehoe murder, the people of Iowa rightly berated the injustice. Any murder is a wicked act that spits in God’s face—the forcefully taken life was His gift—but the brutal killing of a child by his or her own mother ranks as the most appalling. Such an act shatters the very framework of motherhood: selfless love, nourishment and gentleness. It remains the job of the mother, and all others who interact with the child, to defend the child’s life and preserve his or her right to personhood. The personhood of the Kehoe children was never challenged by those who read the story in the news. Their right to life was wrongfully and violently stolen. However, our laws overlook and blatantly deny the personhood of the unborn.
There really is no debate, when one rationally considers biological fact, regarding when human life begins. Whether or not the nurse at my brother’s ultrasound supported abortion, the biological evidence of life manifested in his moving image and howling heart. Instead, Christians must fight for a legal right to personhood for the preborn. A “person” as defined in Iowa code 216.2, “one or more individuals, partnerships, associations, corporations, legal representatives, trustees, receivers, and the state of Iowa and all political subdivisions and agencies thereof” appears vague enough to exclude the preborn. If an amendment recognizing personhood at conception was enshrined in Iowa law, then all children in the womb would receive protection under the 14th amendment, which states, “…nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” All law allowing for abortions would collapse beneath this rightly extended definition of what it means to be a person.
To enshrine this proposed amendment in the Iowa constitution requires a fairly long process, but is by no means impossible. If I chose to pursue this path, I would first need to establish contact with individual legislators. I would work to convince as many legislators as possible to vote for the amendment’s placement on a statewide ballot during two consecutive general assemblies. If the amendment wins its position on the ballot, it must pass a majority vote by those in the general assembly. The amendment will then be accepted as law. Despite the length of the process, the preborn deserve this vindication, because beyond the definitions of human law, God upholds every human life as precious.
Will’s palms began to sweat despite the September chill. He walked at a brisk pace to an unoccupied pavilion in the city park, his feet loudly crunching brown leaves in the morning quiet. Looking around for any sign of her, he reluctantly sat down and waited. His mind raced like an impending storm. What will I say to her? Will she want to sit and talk for a while? How can I explain how I feel? A few minutes later and a woman with wispy blonde hair approached him. “Will?” Standing, he nodded. “Yeah…and you’re Lucy?” The woman’s lip began to tremble. Slowly she sat down on the wooden bench across him and offered a brave smile. Will struggled to think of something to say. The words of his adoptive mother from earlier that morning passed through the forefront of his mind; “I am so proud of you Will. This is a hard thing to do, but you can do it. Let her know how much you mean to us. Tell her thank you.” Will quietly crossed the pavilion until he stood a few feet from Lucy. A powerful thumping of his heart testified on his behalf. He said a silent prayer before looking into her eyes. “Thank you for choosing life, Mom.”
Every human who is given life touches others in some fashion. Life has a ripple effect, and choosing to abort will not only bare consequences for the mother, but future children, spouses or adoptive parents as well. Christians must do all that is in their power to protect the preborn, the most innocent. God calls for a stand to fight for the helpless ones who bare His image. I am ready to respond.
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“Iowa Code 707.” Iowa Code 707. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Apr. 2014.
“Iowa Code 707.8” Iowa Code 707.8. N.p., n.d. Web. 12 Apr. 2014
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