We should be able to view this scientifically. Science is very good these days. We can identify the species that human activity is driving to extinction with more accuracy than ever before.
So it must be possible for us to identify the precise moment somewhere after conception when your life ceases to be of any interest to the legislator who holds it so, so dear before it leaves the womb. I think it is important to identify that point so we may more efficiently legislate around it.
There is a timeline. Somewhere between conception and when you perish at age 26 after rationing your insulin, or at 27 after undergoing an unwanted Caesarean section, or at 32 in your car during a traffic stop, the moment comes. After that moment, preserving your heartbeat is a matter of total indifference. We must identify this moment. We must study it. We must see how long we can delay this moment’s unfortunate arrival.
When, exactly, do you stop being worth protecting? Is it when you turn 18 but before you can quite graduate when your life starts to weigh less than a gun? Or does your life cease to be worth protecting at 12, when on the playground you can be shot by a police officer?
It must be before 28, or we would not have let Sandra Bland perish in a cell. Maybe it is when your wisdom teeth come in. Or, no, I think, earlier. It must be before 7, or 6, rather, or Sandy Hook would have been utterly impermissible.
Or maybe there are many little moments. Maybe the passing of this law is one of them.
But is the law on a collision course with itself? On the one hand, we say we value each heartbeat, and on the other, we let an average of 700 women die each year from 2011 to 2015 from complications of pregnancy, often preventably, with women of color at a far higher risk of perishing? Lives are to be protected, yet we have let vaccinations drop to the point of bringing back measles?
It must be a when, I think. Could it be as simple as when you emerge from the womb? Or perhaps it is a whom, too — when you emerge from the womb, with a womb of your own?
Lives are so variably protected. Some data would suggest that a life’s value carries well into one’s 70s, 80s or 90s and that not only a life, but also a reputation, continues to be worth almost any sacrifice. That even one’s statue (heartless, metal) continues to be worth protecting. But most of the data — for whole cities, even! — says it’s much earlier that your beating heart ceases to be worth protecting, even to the degree of inconvenience involved in making sure there is not poison in your tap water.
Almost 250 years ago, the Declaration of Independence vowed the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, yet the phrase still does not seem quite big enough to wrap around everyone, certainly not those already born.
No, perhaps you had better stay in the womb, I think, just to be safe. It is the only place we can be sure that anyone will care to protect you. Once you are out, you will be on your own.