Welcome to 2019! A new year brings new possibilities, hope and of course for many…resolutions. As I have reflected over my life in 2018 and write a list of things I want to work towards achieving this year, I am reminded that my life, like everyone’s, has purpose, meaning, and value. But I must be careful not to fall into the trap of believing that my life’s meaning is wrapped up in what I can achieve and add to society. A life’s meaning is not dependant upon its usefulness to others but rather our personhood has an intrinsic value which comes from being a member of humanity.
In the United States in 1973, during the Roe v Wade court case, the Supreme Court asked a question, “Do the unborn have ‘meaningful’ lives?” (I paraphrase!). Now, I want to graciously ask a question, do you consider your life to be meaningful? And I’ll ask further, do you think your life was any less meaningful when you were in the womb?
Questioning the value of a life is nothing new. Racism says one person’s skin colour makes their life more meaningful than another’s of a different skin colour, sexism says one gender is more important than another, sectarianism says my religious background makes me better than you. The sad fact is, often seemingly powerful people decide whether weaker people’s lives are meaningful.
So, it should come as no surprise that for many decades there have been voices in our society, that are now becomingly increasingly louder, that say the unborn aren’t meaningful enough to have rights. One such voice is that of Peter Singer, an ethics professor at Princeton University who argues that “the life of a fetus is worth less than the life of a healthy adult, and the life of a handicapped child is not as valuable as that of a healthy child. Neither the fetus nor the newborn baby can be regarded as a person…” (Rethinking Life and Death by Singer, P., paraphrased in Matters of Life and Death by Wyatt, J.).
What do you consider to be a meaningful life? As a person of faith I consider life to be meaningful because all life, whether immature and still growing or fully formed is created by God in His image and therefore, has value. But whether you are a person of faith or not, science supports the fact that the unborn child demonstrates the characteristics of what it is to be a person, a part of humanity.
The development and capacity of the unborn is extraordinary and has been well documented for many years. But I have recently found these facts which have once again reminded me of the humanity of the unborn. For example, unborn babies start learning about their native language by hearing and perceiving something of the acoustic structure of their mother’s language, and scientists have detected self-awareness in the unborn in the second trimester. By early in the second trimester, babies can move their hands to protect their eyes from bright light coming through their mother’s body, they cover their ears when there are loud noises in the outside world. By seventeen weeks a baby produces rapid eye movements when they are sleeping which indicates REM sleep, but also that the unborn baby is dreaming, and by reason capable of thinking (Why Pro-Life?, by Alcorn, R., 2012).
Another voice that calls in to question the rights of the unborn is an abortionist called Jim Newhall, he said, “Not everybody is meant to be born. I believe, for a baby, life begins when his mother wants him.” (WorldNetDaily.com, November 2003, quoted in Why Pro-Life?, by Alcorn, R., 2012). This is contrary to scientific evidence and the experience of countless women across this globe, a human life does not become real only when and if another person acknowledges and values it.
The extent to which a baby is wanted does not determine his or her value, I believe every life is meaningful, whether within or outside of the womb, regardless of what it can or cannot give to me.
In this new year, as we stand at a crossroads in Northern Ireland in relation to our laws on abortion. Our neighbours in the Republic of Ireland have chosen the road of allowing for widespread access to abortion. As a society it is our choice whether or not we follow suit.
As I think about my own contribution to this debate, I am choosing to reflect upon whether how I live my life, the choices I make and the words I speak demonstrate how meaningful the life of every unborn child is. We all have a responsibility to use our voices to speak with compassion and clarity to protect the right to life. So please, let’s be resolute in 2019 in standing together and raising our voices to protect the meaningful lives of potentially the most vulnerable members of our society; the unborn. Our sons and daughters, sisters, brothers, and grandchildren.
With thanks from all of us at Both Lives Matter to our guest author, Hannah Arnold. Hannah is a member of the CARE NI Advisory Group and a qualified teacher.
The views and opinions expressed, are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Both Lives Matter.