Before I continue, here are some of the facts about abortion in this country:
"Abortion in Canada is not limited by criminal law but by the Canada Health Act. While some non-legal obstacles exist, Canada is one of only a few nations with no legal restrictions on abortion.
"Abortions in Canada are provided on request and funded by Medicare, to Canadian citizens and permanent residents (as with most medical procedures) in hospitals across the country. Abortion funding for hospitals comes from the various provincial governments (their overall health expenses are however paid for in part by the federal government). One-third of hospitals perform abortions, and these perform two-thirds of abortions in the country. The remaining abortions are performed by public and private-for-profit clinics." *
And so what exactly goes on in the womb?
At the moment of conception, the moment that sperm and egg have joined to become one entity, a completely new set of DNA is created. Half of this genetic information is from the mother and half is from the father, so that both equally participate in the creation of this new life-form. But yet it is completely distinct from it's parents, and from the the rest of humanity. The new being has a entirely unique genetic code that never existed before and will never exist again.
By 5 weeks after conception the brain, heart, spinal and digestive system have begun to develop. By the 7th week the brain has developed five separate areas, nerves and blood vessels begin forming, and the heart now has a steady beat while starting to pump blood through the body. By the 8th week the child has fingers and toes and within a few more weeks the distinct facial features are fine tuned. By 11 weeks the baby can make a fist and by 20 weeks the baby can hear and move around. At week 26 the little being has eye lashes and and fingerprints. The development continues to unravel at this stead pace, week by week new traits become expressed. **
I find this unfolding absolutely incredible. The fact that the initial single cell is designed to divide and differentiate, specialize into specific organs and tissues, and that from the beginning it has human genes and left to it's natural process quickly develops into a human being, puts no doubt in my mind that this little being is in fact a person from it's conception. There is no magic minute in which this creature goes form being a non-person to person. Is there much difference between 5 minutes after the baby's birth to 5 minutes before? What about 5 hours, or 5 days or 5 weeks before that?
These scientific facts are things to consider. Of course there are other factors that play into pregnancy in the nitty-gritty reality of life. And certainly an unexpected new person growing inside a woman can be a scary thing to face. That is, besides finding pregnancy fascinating from a scientific point of view, I wholeheartedly believe that it has to go beyond cold-hard facts. There must be compassion and understanding for mother and child, two vulnerable people. I really believe that defending life in the womb and the well-being of women can be effectively combined, as seen in such examples of Sisters of Life, Campaign Life Coalition, and Secular Pro-life.
But my point in this reflection is actually something a little different. I wanted to share my experience at the rally and other such events I've been too. To be honest, I've often found being there difficult. I've been afraid to engage with passers-by, especially ones that held a very different perspective. I've felt hesitant to face the outdoor elements and make the effort to go out and stand on the street with controversial signs. But as the old saying goes, we have to face our demons, our fears, our insecurities and recognize that there are bigger issues that are worth fighting for. Defending life, especially the very innocent such as the unborn, but of everyone, young and old alike, is a sacrifice for me. But sacrifices are the things in life which bring on person growth, and build "character," as people call it, and, in turn, build a better future. I really believe that seeking personal growth and that promotion of the growth and care of others, and of society is much of what life is all about. I was especially struck and convicted of this today, especially when I read the Gospel Acclamation: "I give you a new commandment: love one another as I have loved you." I'm not at all perfect at this, but caring for others is a daily goal worth working on.
Mother Theresa with a Baby
*From http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abortion_in_Canada, and in turn from Canada Health Act Annual Reports 2010-2011. Government of Canada. 2011 and Abortion Policies: Afghanistan to France. United Nations Publications. p. 84
** "Fetal Development." Medline Plus. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002398.htm