Definitions of "life" vary over time and cultures.
Those folks who refer to themselves as “Pro-Life” and state that those who do not subscribe to their views “kill babies” are hypocrites. They, themselves, have been known to kill doctors who perform abortions. They have been known to blow up clinics to “save” fetuses. These action make “Pro-life” words arbitrary and suggest that they get to decide who lives and who dies.
Scientists are not certain when life begins. A heart beat? Pulsing cells are observable in tadpoles! Many cultures believe that we are alive when we can breathe on our own, as in “the breath of life.” Others believe life begins when we are able to think. Brain waves in six month fetuses indicate some activity is occurring, but not thought.
The Talmud recognizes no rights for a fetus. Abortions were common in ancient Greece and Rome. For another view, in ancient Assyria, a woman who attempted an abortion, was impaled! Whose life was valued? How did killing the woman save a fetus? The old and new Testaments say not one word prohibiting abortion. St. Augustine and St. Thomas Aquinas did not consider an abortion to be homicide.
When microscopes first allowed sperm to be seen, early scientists thought they looked human and called them “homunculus” and thought they were tiny people. Does that mean every drop of semen contains people? Science tells us that a healthy young man produces enough sperm in a week to double the population of the world! The old Testament condemns Onan for “spilling his seed on the ground.” He was willing to have sex with his dead brother’s widow, but not to support a child if he impregnated her. According to Genesis 38:9-10, God killed him for his refusal.
If we look at the chain of life, life began millions of years ago---“in a galaxy far, far away.” We know not where or how. Life is a long, long chain of events and changes. We, the living, are kin to ALL of life, past and present. We are composed of the same elements, mostly carbon, hydrogen and oxygen. During fetal development, we pass through stages from being the size of a dot at the end of this sentence, to floating in amniotic fluid, to having gills, to developing a rudementary brain at about three months of gestation. So, when are we human?
Chimpanzees and people share 99.6 % of our genes in common. Chimps use tools, learn sign language, live in families. Humans kill chimp mothers to get the babies to sell as “pets,” or in some places eat them, and in more “advanced” places keep them in cages for years and perform painful experiments on them. Since we share 99.6 percent of the same genes, are chimps 99.6 % human?
Are legislators wise enough to decide 1) what is “life” 2) when “life” begins 3) who/what is “human” 4) and when does life” end? But that is a topic for another time…