On Human Life

Hi! My name is Meg. I’m 29 years old and, by many definitions, an adult.

Yes, that’s me headbanging and playing the shovel. You really wish we were friends in real life.

Before I was an adult, I was a teenager.

Here I am at my senior prom–how cute!

Before I was a teenager, I was a tween.

Leotard and a kilt. At least I’m not rocking Rosie’s floral print and vest.

Before I was a tween, I was a child.

A grimacing child with awesome lopsided pigtails.

Before I was a child, I was a toddler.

I learned to talk before I was a year old. Here is photographic evidence that once I started, I never shut my mouth again.

Before I was a toddler, I was a baby.

The earliest baby picture I’ve ever seen of myself, courtesy of my lovely Aunt Miriam.

Before I was a baby, I was a fetus.

Clearly, none of the rest are pictures of me. My lame parents don't have any pictures from before I was born.

Clearly, none of the rest are pictures of me. My lame parents don’t have any pictures from before I was born.

Before I was a fetus I was an embryo. EmbryoBefore I was an embryo, I was a blastocyst.

The next three images are from the Yale Fertility Center.

Before I was a blastocyst, I was a morula. Morula Yale

Before I was a morula, I was a zygote.

Zygote YaleBefore I was a zygote, I was nothing. I was never an egg. I was never a sperm. The creature that I am began at a very specific moment in time. I began the moment my DNA began–not at birth, not at viability, not at implantation. I began at my conception.

You see, there’s no ontological difference between a fetus and an infant. The only real difference is location. A baby at 9 months gestation and a full-term newborn are exactly the same in every way except location.

before birth after birth

And while viability might sound like a firm line–saying that those who can survive without help are people and those who can’t aren’t1–we can’t actually know which babies will survive. I know a man born at 22 weeks who’s perfectly fine. He even has a master’s degree. But most laws set viability at 24 weeks. And, of course, viability varies from place to place–how could we possibly say that one fetus is a person and the other isn’t simply because one is in Brussels and the other is in Brazzaville? It’s a fuzzy line at best and a heinously immoral one at worst.

Neither birth nor viability is a moment at which a lump of tissue changes into a person. The person you are now is the same person you were in your mother’s womb. There’s no genetic difference, no difference in anything but accidentals.

When you were in your mother’s womb, you were genetically human–and a different human from your mother. You were biologically alive.2 You were you when you were a fetus. You were you even when you were one tiny little zygote, smaller than the head of a pin. We can trace your existence back in time all the way to your conception and no further. You began at your conception. Your life began then–not at birth, not at viability. At conception. You were already you.

And so is every baby, wanted or unwanted. She already has a soul, a future, a place in the world. If you know she’s there, she may already have a heartbeat (22 days) or even brainwaves (40 days). But whatever stage that baby is at, she has her very own unrepeatable identity. She will grow and develop and become more and more herself. But her self does not begin at self-awareness or birth or viability or implantation or any other arbitrary line. Wanted or unwanted, she was herself from the moment of her conception. Would that we had the courage to love her just as she is.

*************

If you’ve had an abortion, I ache for you. I don’t judge you or hate you or condemn you. I love you. Really, I do. I am so, so sorry that I couldn’t help you. But I want to help you now. Project Rachel is a post-abortive healing ministry–no judgment, just beautiful women who will weep with you when you are ready to weep. Please know that your Church loves you–your God loves you–and we want you back. More than anything, he wants you back. He has already forgiven you, even if you haven’t yet asked.

And if there is anyone who makes you feel unwelcome in the arms of Mother Church, you let me know. I’ll kick butt and take names. You are my sister and I want you home with me.

  1. You can tell that’s a problem already, can’t you? []
  2. Walker Percy–who apparently was a doctor? Who knew?–explains this in an interesting way here. []

About Meg

I'm a Catholic, madly in love with the Lord, His Word, His Bride the Church, and especially His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity in the Eucharist. I'm committed to the Church not because I was raised this way but because the Lord has drawn my heart and convicted my reason. After 2 degrees in theology and 5 years in the classroom, I quit my 9-5 to follow Christ more literally. Since May of 2012, I've been a hobo for Christ; I live out of my car and travel the country speaking to youth and adults, giving retreats, blogging, and trying to rock the world for Jesus.
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14 Responses to On Human Life

  1. Melissa says:

    I’m there kicking butt with you. Also kicking the butt of anybody who judges you for being unmarried and a mother. (Not you, Meg. We know that you are not anybody’s legal or biological mother.)

  2. Beth Turner says:

    Can I just say that I totally knew that was your nephew before I read the caption? I saw the picture and thought, “Oh, wow! She used to look just like he did as a baby!” Makes me feel like I’m a part of your family. 🙂

    • Meg says:

      You totally are–we’re like God-sister-wives 🙂 I updated the pictures so now this comment isn’t going to make any sense.

      • Rosie says:

        That baby picture of you looks just like Mary Claire & Cecilia. And the toddler picture looks like Charlotte! It’s like we’re all related!

  3. Beth Turner says:

    And not to mention, some of the materialists among us might say you and I are just large clumps of cells…a really, really BIG clump of cells…so if I’m worth protecting, so is a tiny clump of cells in my belly!

  4. Shannon says:

    I am soo soo glad u posted this! It was one of my favorite “lessons” from your talks! Really puts it into perspective 🙂 thank you so very much!

  5. Meg, you know, i do really wish we were friends in real life. your words are
    so true, so true. i am so glad that abortion is illegal here in the Philippines.
    we are praying it stays that way.

  6. Jamie says:

    This is excellent.

    And first picture….aweeeeesome 🙂

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  9. Renee says:

    This piece is excellent, Meg.

  10. Caroline says:

    Thank you for this simple and straightforward post.

Comments are closed.