Letter: Defining Life
To the Editor:
I am writing in response to the Philadelphia Daily News columnist Christine Flowers’ recent article “There Should Be No Limits on My Right to Protest Abortion.” In that column, she asserts: “To me abortion is murder pure and simple.” I appreciate that in the real world rights often are relative; that is, “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” may play well in the United States, but may not play out well in countries like Syria.
In full disclosure, I am a Lutheran, but I do not claim to have a monopoly on morality. Although I take a strong personal position on the issue of abortion, I realize that it is my position. Defining when human life begins is the essence of the abortion debate, with some religions proposing fertilization of the egg with a sperm, other religions when the child takes it first breath, and others somewhere in between.
Interestingly, St. Thomas Aquinas, an early Roman Catholic theologian, believed that God infused the fetus with a rational and human soul when the mother felt movement. It was only in the 20th century that the Roman Catholic Church proposed that life began at conception. It is not an infallible teaching of the church.
Since the 1980s, things have really gotten complicated with advances in biology. A living human cell in a cell culture has the same DNA as every cell in the donor’s body. Does that cell or a surgically removed viable human kidney, destined to be transplanted, deserve the same rights as an intact individual? Since identical twins start out as one embryo with a unique soul, where does the second embryo’s soul come from? If we were to clone a human, no sperm would be required; would that individual be somehow less than human?
I think before Ms. Flowers takes up the first stone, it might more be more humane to hate the sin and love the sinner.
Paul Manganiello, M.D.
Emeritus Professor Obstetrics and Gynecology
Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth