According to adherents of the Christian religion, the entire bible is the immutable, unquestionable, and infallible word of god regardless it is rife with contradictions that are mysteriously invisible to its devotees. For America’s evangelical followers of Christ, the gospel accounts of the life of Jesus do not exist because his teachings are contrary to their worldview that aligns with the Hebrew Scriptures detailing god’s vengeance, anger, and strict demand of absolute obedience on pain of death. However, there is one particular concept in the so-called Old Testament that pro-life evangelicals refuse to acknowledge because it eliminates their sole reason to control women and dictate when they give birth. Over the past few years there has been a well-organized and frenzied crusade to define a human being as the instant a living sperm punctures and enters a living ovum, and the pro-life movement’s goal is banning abortion as well as most forms of contraception.
According to the Hebrew Scriptures evangelicals claim represent the “mind of god” and the basis for their belief system, the personhood and “life begins at conception” movement are wrong because god says life begins at first breath. The distinction of when a living being comes into existence is central to a criminal case in Mississippi where a 23 year-old woman faces a charge of “depraved heart murder” and life in prison because a discredited medical examiner (MA) determined she murdered the fetus in her womb when she prematurely gave birth seven years ago. According to the medical examiner’s autopsy report, the 16-year-old black teen committed murder because he claims to have found traces of a cocaine byproduct (benzoylecgonine) in the dead fetus’s blood leading him to rule death by homicide caused by “cocaine toxicity.”
According to experts who examined the medical record, the stillborn fetus’s cause of death was “umbilical cord compression” (umbilical cord wrapped around its neck). Experts claim the toxicology results did not support the MA’s finding, and although there were traces of benzoylecgonine, cocaine was “not detected” according to the lab that did the tests. A forensic pathologist in Atlanta associated with Emory University, Kimberly Collins, said in an affidavit: “It is impossible to conclude from the very small amount of benzoylecgonine that the stillbirth was caused by cocaine toxicity” and two other experts concurred with her finding. Putting aside the folly and injustice of charging the then-sixteen year old teen of murder and possible life sentence if convicted, it is the ridiculous idea that a fetus is a human being that could be murdered. The pro-life movement hopes a conviction of the 23-year-old will set a precedent deciding the personhood question once and for all to allow their advocates to charge women across Mississippi with murder in cases of miscarriage and abortion.
This one case covers a wide range of issues that, although not unique to Mississippi, highlight the justice system’s disproportionate treatment of poor people of color, the evangelical push to strike down Roe v. Wade, and the religious right’s effort to establish “personhood” for fetuses to abolish abortion and most forms of contraception. According to PersonhoodUSA, it is a “movement working to respect the God-given right to life by recognizing all human beings as persons who are ‘created in the image of God’ from the beginning of their biological development, without exceptions.” It is apparent that the Personhood movement, like all pro-life activists, either have never read their precious bible, or they dispute god’s utterances and are blasphemers and heretics. According to their Old Testament, god says despite how fully formed, or from the “beginning of their biological development, without exceptions” a collection of living tissue is, it is not a living being until it draws a breath.
For example, in Genesis 2:7 it says that god “breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and it was then that the man became a living being” clarifying that although god fully formed the man in all respects, he was not a living being until after taking his first breath. In Job 33:4 Job said, “The spirit of God has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life.” In Ezekiel 37:5-6 the prophet wrote, “Thus says the Lord God to these bones: Behold, I will cause breath to enter you, and you shall live. And I will lay sinews upon you, and will cause flesh to come upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live.” According to the bible, destroying a living fetus does not equate to killing a living human being even though a fetus might become a person after it breathes, it is impossible to murder a fetus that has not been born and taken a breath. It means the Mississippi 16-year-old’s stillborn could not be considered a human being according to god’s word and she should have never been charged with murder regardless if the fetus had high concentrations of cocaine, heroin, or opium in its blood.
There are “feticide” or “fetal harm” laws in several states in America that have been responsible for outrageous miscarriages of justice due to pro-life Christian legislators and rabid personhood advocates frantic to abolish Roe v. Wade and restrict contraception use. For example, in Indiana a distraught pregnant woman who attempted suicide spent a year in jail before murder charges were dropped last year. A woman in Iowa was arrested and thrown in jail after she fell down the stairs and suffered a miscarriage, and a New Jersey woman who refused to sign a preauthorization for a cesarean section ended up not requiring the operation, but she was still charged with child endangerment and lost custody of her baby after it became a living being when it emerged from the womb and drew breath.
It is an outrage of epic proportion that a 23-year-old woman is charged with murder and faces life in prison for delivering a stillborn fetus seven years ago, but that is the peril of being Black in uber-religious Mississippi where lawmakers do not know the difference between a collection of living tissue and a human being. However, Mississippi is not unique and there are states across America implementing “personhood” laws under the guise of fetal harm, feticide, fetal pain, and most recently in Ohio a pending “fetal heartbeat” law. It is still confounding that no-one in states like Mississippi, Ohio, or any other state pushing various iterations of fetus or personhood laws opposes them on the grounds they are founded on religion even though the religion’s deity clearly refutes their claim that a fetus is a living person. One would think the least Christian fanatics seeking to ban abortion and contraceptives could achieve was finding even one “utterance from god” that substantiated their claim a fetus is a living human being worthy of rights exceeding those of the woman carrying them, but they have as much knowledge of their god’s word as they do the Constitution they claim affords them dominance over America.
Audio engineer and instructor for SAE. Writes op/ed commentary supporting Secular Humanist causes, and exposing suppression of women, the poor, and minorities. An advocate for freedom of religion and particularly, freedom of NO religion.
Born in the South, raised in the Mid-West and California for a well-rounded view of America; it doesn’t look good.
Former minister, lifelong musician, Mahayana Zen-Buddhist.