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Life Begins At Conception. That's Not the Point.

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Written by Editor-in-Chief Jodi Jacobson for RH Reality Check. This diary is cross-posted; commenters wishing to engage directly with the author should do so at the original post.

"Life begins at conception."

This is perhaps the favorite phrase of anti-choicers seeking to eliminate women's basic right to control over their own bodies. It is, for example, the premise of policies pushed by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) and fundamentalist evangelicals. It is the cornerstone of the so-called personhood laws defeated by large margins in ballot initiatives undertaken in both Colorado and Mississippi. And it is the basis for the "Sanctity of Life" bill co-sponsored by Congressmen Paul Ryan (R-WI) and Todd Akin (R-MO) in the House of Representatives. The end game in all of these efforts is a radical shift in women's lives, including a total ban on abortion without exception, and bans on many forms of contraception, in vitro fertilization, and health care for women who are or who may be pregnant.

"Life begins at conception," is repeated incessantly by politicians such as Richard Mourdock, as though this were a revelation, something not previously known, that should inform our thinking on whether women are people with the same fundamental rights as men, or if they are essentially incubators whose ability to participate in society and the economy, and, quite literally, whose ability to live is dependent on whether they are, might be, or might become pregnant.

But the phrase is highly -- and purposefully -- misleading because it confuses simple biological cell division both with actual pregnancy and with actual, legal personhood, which are all very different things.

 

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