The presence of a human life
Mark Anthony Falzon (June 19) makes a creditable argument in support of the introduction of the so-called ‘Morning-After Pill’ (MAP) in Malta.
I agree with his view on accreditation. I would go further, in fact, and lament the haste with which people seem to deliver themselves of their uninformed, often severely prejudiced, opinions, only adding fuel to the confusion of already-complex subjects, to the detriment of all involved.
The main problem with Mr Falzon’s perspective is that he makes the same error that hordes of others are making in the course of this discussion. This error centres on the acceptance of a tacit presumption that merely editing the definition of when a pregnancy officially begins has any bearing on the presence or otherwise of a human life. This detail is so exclusively crucial to the entire issue of the properties of the MAP that it must be looked at a lot more closely.
Years ago, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists chose to re-define the origin of pregnancy as the point at which the fertilised egg, following passage through the Fallopian tubes, is successfully implanted in the uterus.
This newly minted definition chimed so well with the emergence of the MAP that it remains anybody’s guess as to whether it was purely coincidental or not, but the fact of the matter is that it meant that this pill, from being something that could end a pregnancy, was transformed overnight into something that only ever prevented it from occurring.
The trouble began once the work of re-defining the initialisation of pregnancy had been completed. Little further thought seems to have been given to the status of the human embryo from the moment of its conception, through its lonely journey down the Fallopian Way, up to the point of implantation.
Consequently, it was left to a universal audience to subconsciously infer that this entity had ceased to be of significance. In fact, the entire construct of the pill’s modus operandi is predicated on an insidious suggestion that the state of pregnancy and the existence of a human life are co-dependent and interchangeable terms. This is, quite simply, untrue.
At the beginning of fertilisation, a new human being begins to exist
So-called ‘test tube’ babies are living proof of the presence of a newly created human life independent of any pregnancy.
The point is that the definition of the commencement of pregnancy may be tinkered with from time to time but the moment of creation of a human life is scientifically beyond dispute.
The ‘Carnegie Stages of Early Human Embryonic Development’ are often referred to as “the Bureau of Standards” of human embryology. They are verified and documented by the international Terminologia Embryologica committee, which consists of more than 20 experts, academically credentialed specifically in human embryology, from around the world. After reviewing the latest research studies in human embryology, their deliberations are published in the international Nomina Embryologica, part of the larger Nomina Anatomica.
It is clearly acknowledged that at the beginning of fertilisation, when the sperm penetrates the oocyte, a new, living, genetically unique, single-cell human being begins to exist. This has been known scientifically for almost 130 years, (e.g., in the work of Wilhelm His.)
These are the long-known and long-acknowledged objective scientific
facts of when sexually reproduced human beings begin to exist. They have been and remain the international standards used today.
The notion that the very existence of a human life is dependent on the current definition of a pregnancy, and that the absence of one necessarily defines the absence of the other, is the core fallacy of the MAP campaign.
Broadly speaking, there are three mechanisms of action attributable to the MAP. Two are exclusively contraceptive in nature. The third, however, is abortive and it is this that is the focus of all objections.
Essentially, if it happens that fertilisation has already taken place, i.e., an embryo exists, the MAP prevents it from implanting – and death follows.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, professional opinions on this, the third mechanism of operation, are not unanimous. There seems to be evidence that it may not operate as claimed. But there is a whole lot more that indicates it does.
In conclusion, if you don’t have a problem with abortion as a form of birth control, then you won’t have a problem with the morning-after pill either. But if you do, then it’s a matter of very serious concern.
What does emerge clearly, however, is that if the principle of informed consent still has any meaning, then the least that the MAP’s manufacturers and proponents owe to society is a realistic confirmation of its full potential.
When all is done and dusted, it may well turn out that Gift of Life were nearer the mark than many were led to believe.
Dr. Ivan Padovani is a board member of Life Network Foundation Malta