Life Begins Before Conception? You Zygote to Be Kidding

Posted on August 25, 2012

Huffington Post, August 25, 2012 by Jack Matthews

With delegates to next week’s Republication National Convention getting set to vote yay or nay on a party platform that includes a call for the legal recognition of zygotes as U.S. citizens, with all the rights and privileges thereto pertaining, it might be good for them to also consider the costs and consequences thereto attached.

Let’s start with the most obvious questions relating to “personhood.”

How will anyone know when a zygote has been created, thus establishing its legal residence, when neither it nor its parents can pin the moment down? If we’re going to change the definition of the life cycle from birth-to-death to conception-to-death, accuracy is essential.

OBGYNs will tell you that nine months is merely an average gestation period for humans and that counting back 275 days, adjusting for leap year, is not a reliable way to establish the instant of conception. And memory is even worse. Did the gametes meet after that candlelight dinner and the warm toddies, or was it the night the creators — and, of course God — stayed home and watched porno?

This legislation is going to make birth leave a lot of wiggle room, both in the womb and in the courthouse. I don’t know how a zygote will go about finding a lawyer, but if it were to learn that it’s becoming a zygote was the result of an inconvenient accident, and its post-birth accidental status caused it emotional distress, won’t it be able to sue the makers of the contraceptive foam that had failed its mom?

Will a zygote that is the result of rape or incest and comes to regret his life as the son or daughter of a monster be able to sue the government for banning the procedure that his mother, in a more enlightened era, might have sought? The GOP will be reinvigorated in its pursuit of tort reform.

One thing we can for sure: Donald Trump will be right in saying that Barack Obama’s birth certificate is meaningless. Where were his parents when the sperm hit the egg?

As for birth certificates in general, they may still be valid in bars, but otherwise they’ll be like bar mitzvahs, anniversaries and the first paragraphs of obituaries, merely markers along a continuum of life from conception to brain death (and the GOP may get around to redefining that, too). So, schedule your kids’ conception day parties accordingly.

By now, you can see the necessity of pinning down the moment when two gametes come together to form a U.S. citizen. And with the anti-science movement gaining moment along with the personhood movement, there will be no federal funding of research into home pregnancy testing, which at the moment cannot narrow the event down to less than a few days. That won’t begin to dampen the voices of critics who say that if God wanted us to know the exact moment of conception, he would have affixed a bell to a woman’s womb. (That would get cowboys out of the bunkhouse faster than a call for supper.)

It may be that in vitro fertilization is the only way to know exactly when conception takes place. Doctors take good notes. But most couples, given their choice, would prefer old-fashioned rutting to visits to cold hospital labs, even, I suspect, most Republicans.

Of course, people in gay marriages who want children would still have to make those visits to the labs, which they would probably be glad to do if the GOP that wants to grant complete citizenship to zygotes would extend the same rights to them.

As for the costs of this amendment, they will be staggering. With people being approximately nine months older than we think we are, we should be able to apply for Medicare when we are 64-1/3 years old. We’ll get the same jump on Social Security, and pensions for government workers — military, police, firemen, members of Congress — would be advanced nine months, less for preemies.

There is some risk in the GOP plan. The voting age would have to be moved up nine months, as well, and given the predilection among young people to vote for the other party, it could cost Republican candidates at the ballot box.

If reasonable heads were to prevail in Tampa (insert guffaw here), the GOP might realize that they would have a better chance of passing an amendment that states their actual purpose — the criminalization of all abortions — than one that makes germinated eggs more important than even their mothers’ lives.

But for now, every little zygote is their political football.