- With the discovery in 1827 of the human ovum, many scholars with an interest in pinpointing the beginning of human life considered the question closed. When the sperm fertilized the ovum, nothing further was to be considered. Later discoveries in genetics seemed to confirm this notion, but not to the point where any official statement by the magisterium indicated that animation1 occurred at fertilization.
- The long debate over mediate vs. immediate animation2 is too well known to be recounted here, except for the remark that not even the welter of biological facts discerned since 1827 has brought rational psychologists any closer to a certain identification of the precise time of ensoulment. Speculations on a time of animation3 have, from several viewpoints, little applicability to the recent events which have caused a reopening of the question: when does an individual homo begin?
- Western law identified abortion as a crime against the person, as contrasted with crimes against the king or the state. The begotten but unborn child was identified as a person, first from "when a woman is large with child," then from "quickening," and finally laws were written against abortion at any time. Potional, physical, and surgical attempts upon the life of the unborn were variously punished, occasionally allowed to go without prosecution because of evidentiary problems, occasionally minimally punished, and occasionally punished with the severity meted for murder. The wide disparity of penalties, prosecutions, laws, and practices was quite similar to the disparities seen in cases of infanticide of already born children.
- It is easy to suggest, but difficult to prove, the reason behind this disparity, and the best explanation may lie in a conjecture that by some sort of distillation or titration man tends to carry out the proportionate valuations cited in Leviticus 27:1-7, i.e., men are worth more than women, adults more than the young, and those in their prime more than the elderly.
- This disproportionate valuation of human beings achieved official jurisprudential recognition in the United States in the Roe v. Wade decision of January 22, 1973. Unborn children are not accorded full constitutional protection as "persons" until they are born, and may be slain for virtually any reason or no reason at all.
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