Eggs are people, too

The North Dakota House passed a bill "very simply defining when life begins." Very simply, indeed.

By Kate Harding

Published February 19, 2009 3:16PM (EST)

If a bill that passed the North Dakota House on Tuesday also makes it through the Senate, the state's population is about to expand substantially overnight. According to that bill, "any organism with the genome of homo sapiens" should be considered a person deserving of Constitutional protection. Translation: Fertilized eggs are people, too.

Rep. Dan Ruby, sponsor of the measure, says, "This is very simply defining when life begins, and giving that life some protections under our Constitution -- the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness." Well, he's right that it's a very simple definition of when life begins. Unfortunately, the question is tremendously complicated, no matter how forcefully you insist that it isn't.

Over a year ago, Jill at Feministe offered 12 excellent questions for pro-lifers who believe life begins at conception, and I'd really love to hear the representatives who voted for this bill answer them all. Or even just a few of them. Such as, shouldn't miscarriages be investigated like any other deaths, then? ("And if we find a fertilized egg, should the police be called? I mean, if you find a baby in a dumpster, you call the police. If you find a used tampon in the trash, should you do the same thing?") Should the state step in if a pregnant woman does something known to be potentially damaging to the full legal person in her womb -- like, say, drink coffee or eat cold cuts? What do we do with all those fertilized eggs sitting around IVF clinics? "Is it morally acceptable to leave those egg-people in a freezer for their whole lives, or should we compel some people to carry them to term?" 

As always, the most important and most rarely answered question is: If abortion is murder of a full human being, how much time should women do for it? Regular old murder is illegal everywhere, but people still do it, and we prosecute them. So how's that going to go when a woman goes to a different state for an abortion and gets caught? Should she get at least the minimum sentence for murder? If she and her partner decided together that they couldn't have a baby, should he be arrested for conspiracy? Between that and all the miscarriages that could now be classed as negiligent homicides, I sure hope North Dakota has the budget to build more prisons. Or that the state Senate sensibly shoots this bill down. You know, either way.

Kate Harding

Kate Harding is the author of Asking For It: The Alarming Rise of Rape Culture--and What We Can Do About It, available from Da Capo Press in August 2015. Previously, she collaborated with Anna Holmes, Amanda Hess, and a cast of thousands on The Book of Jezebel, and with Marianne Kirby on Lessons from the Fat-o-Sphere. You might also remember her as the founding editor of Shapely Prose (2007-2010). Kate's essays have appeared in the anthologies Madonna & Me, Yes Means Yes, Feed Me, and Airmail: Women of Letters. She holds an M.F.A. in fiction from Vermont College of Fine Arts and a B.A. in English from University of Toronto, and is currently at work on a Ph.D. in creative writing from Bath Spa University

MORE FROM Kate Harding

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Broadsheet Health Love And Sex