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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Abortion law shows society’s ignorance

    In 1694, a French scientist claimed that inside every sperm cell, there was a fully formed and alive miniature human. In the years that followed, politicians used this argument to justify criminalizing harmless sexual acts such as male masturbation because the tiny humans would die if not used to create a child.

    We’d like to think that science and politics have changed since then. They have, right?

    By the late 18th century, scientists realized that this was a laughable idea. Although necessary for reproduction, we now know that sperm are cells, not fully formed mini people. In fact, unless combined with an egg, they can’t even grow into a person. Thus, modern science established cell theory, which we still use today.

    On Friday, in a backward leap 300 years into the past, Gov. Jan Brewer approved three anti-abortion bills, one of which claims that pregnancies start two weeks prior to conception. The legislation harks back to perspectives we abandoned long ago.

    The main purpose of the law is to prohibit abortions after the 20th week of pregnancy. However, the even bigger controversy stems from the phrasing of the law, which redefines gestational age. According to the law, pregnancy is “calculated from the first day of the last menstrual period of the pregnant woman.”

    This definition implies that the pregnancy began a full two weeks before the woman actually conceived, which in some cases, could be a full two weeks before she even had sex.

    This definition has roots in the way doctors determine gestational age. Because it can be difficult to establish the exact day of conception, many doctors estimate the duration of a woman’s pregnancy by referring to her last menstrual cycle. However, this method was meant to be used as a rough way of estimating the duration of a pregnancy — not as an infallible way of “knowing” when conception happened.

    In fact, although other states have passed abortion bans after 20 weeks, these previous abortion laws use the point of fertilization to determine gestational age, and with good reason. Just as we realized that sperm can’t turn into a person without an egg, haven’t we figured out that eggs can’t turn into babies without sperm?

    Of course, people are entitled to their opinions, whether they’re anti-abortion or support abortion rights. But if doctors can’t tell a woman the exact date that she conceived, the state has no right to claim that her pregnancy began before it was even physically possible.

    Believing that a woman is pregnant before she has even had sex is beyond pro-life; it’s just as ridiculous and physically impossible as some of the pseudo-scientific ideas we disproved back in the 17th century.

    — Miranda Butler is the assistant arts editor. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu or on Twitter via @WildcatOpinions .

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