Walking Our Faith: What is the meaning of ‘life?’

“For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.“ — Psalm 139:13

When Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, I was 11 years old. When I left home to attend the University of Michigan in 1979, Roe was very relevant to women of my generation. On the other hand, I am now 60 years old, and Roe is nearly 50. Much has changed in the years since Roe was decided and how abortion rights are interpreted.

To be honest, I’m glad that the case before the Supreme Court is causing a new generation of women to reconsider what Roe means to them, because I believe it’s crucial for each generation to contemplate what the arc of life means and what our responsibility is to each life that enters our world.

It seems obvious to me that life begins when an egg is fertilized by a sperm. And having watched my mother die I understand what death looks like. According to my religious faith, life must be honored and protected from one end of the spectrum to the other, not only because every moment of life is precious but because my faith compels me to “love my neighbor as I love myself,” no matter what the age of my neighbor. But living these elegant concepts gets messy.

For pro-choice proponents the slogan is “my body, my choice.” But what are the rights of the life growing within that body? At what stage of development is the baby considered an individual with rights of protection? The answer to that question is not the same today as it was in 1973 because measures of viability outside the mother’s womb have shortened thanks to advances in medical technology. While at the same time, laws in some states have extended the time to which a mother can choose to abort a child all the way to the moment of birth.

The question we must ponder is when do the rights of the unborn child begin and when does the mother no longer have the right to choose what happens within her body? Who has the right to make those life-changing decisions on behalf of the mother and child? And if the decision is in favor of the child’s life, whose responsibility is it to provide care for the child once it leaves it’s mother’s womb?

It would be shortsighted to look at the answers in a vacuum because babies are born as wholly dependent upon the care and nurture of their mother as much outside of the womb as they were inside.

If we choose to prioritize the life of the child over the decision-making right of the mother, what is our moral responsibility to help the mother provide a safe and healthy start for the life of the newborn child?

For instance, we know the crucial importance of mother-child bonding, should we not make sure that there is paid family leave so that mothers don’t have to fall into economic insecurity or choose between their career and their child’s emotional well-being? Shouldn’t we provide affordable childcare and affordable and safe housing so that children can get the nutrition and security they need to develop strong minds and bodies?

Because if we truly believe that every life is precious, shouldn’t we work hard to help our young mothers and their babies get the best start in life?

These are honest questions because the United States is one of the few first world countries that doesn’t provide these safety nets for children and their mothers.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have equally serious considerations about how and when death should come to us.

If we believe that each life is precious, shouldn’t we support lifetime imprisonment and ban capital punishment?

If we believe that every life has value until the moment of death, shouldn’t we invest more thought and resources into the quality of life for the elderly and the dying?

It’s easy to take to the streets with slogans and banners, whether we are pro-choice or pro-life. It is more difficult to consider how our definition of life may or may not have evolved in the last 50 years and what our responsibility is to those we choose to live or die.

I hope this pivotal moment in our country’s history will inspire us to ask difficult questions about who we are and what we are willing to do with the consequences of our decisions.

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

As a Summit Daily News reader, you make our work possible.

Summit Daily is embarking on a multiyear project to digitize its archives going back to 1989 and make them available to the public in partnership with the Colorado Historic Newspapers Collection. The full project is expected to cost about $165,000. All donations made in 2023 will go directly toward this project.

Every contribution, no matter the size, will make a difference.