Presidential candidate Mitt Romney was recently seen assuring his supporters of his anti-abortion stance with the standard line: it’s a “biological fact” that the fertilized egg is alive and that life begins at the moment of conception.
Sorry, Mitt, but when your mama or your daddy told you the “facts of life,” they got them wrong. Let’s get the biology straight, OK?
Life doesn’t stop and start. In all living organisms that reproduce sexually, life continues through the stages of a sexual cycle. Some cells in our ovaries or testes carry out a special kind of cell division (meiosis) to produce egg and sperm cells; and under the right conditions a sperm and an egg combine to produce a zygote, which then normally develops into a mature person who produces more sperm or eggs.
But all these cells are alive. And all the talk about how human life begins at the moment of conception is sheer nonsense and sheer distortion in the name of religion. You don’t think sperm and eggs are alive? You ought to watch sperm under a microscope and see how they swim! So if the religious zealots think human life is so sacred, why aren’t they concerned about saving the zillions of sperm and egg cells that get washed down the drains every day? (You say it’s because they don’t have souls? Is that another one of those “biological facts”? You’re sure, for instance, that sperm and eggs don’t have half-souls that form full souls during fertilization? Never mind.)
Once again we see the savants of the religious right trying to distort reality, making up “facts” of their own that are quite different from facts as established by science. Proudly calling themselves “pro-life,” they use their willful misunderstanding of biology to beat women over the head and the pelvis, to keep women In Their Place – pregnant and subservient – and to deny them the right to control their own lives, especially their own reproductive lives. It is incredible that we should be subjected to such an outrage in the United States of America in the 21st century, as Republican legislators in many states introduce bills to deny women their rights and threaten their health. Yet the major contenders for Republican leadership have been trying to outdo one another in their Good Ol’ Boy male-domination stance.
But reproductive rights are only part of the problem. The still-greater outrage is that the religious right has created a poisonous mixture of politics and religion. Extreme conservatives keep mouthing their quasi-religious love of the Constitution. But most of them, apparently, have never read it and don’t understand it, because they keep trying to violate its most fundamental principle of separating state matters from religion.
Instead, the Santorums, Romneys and Gingriches are trying to turn America into a theocracy and all politics into theopolitics. Shamelessly blending their religious ideologies with their political ambitions, these politicians are now theopoliticians – “Vote for me ’cause I’m on God’s side.” And it is frightening to see millions of voters – backed by the loud mouthed preachers of old-time religion – supporting these theopoliticians in their idiocy and in the danger they pose to America. For these are people who want to destroy America – to destroy the ideal of America as a nation in which people of all faiths, or no faith, can pursue their lives free of religious oppression.
Apparently the truly serious threat to the United States of America has not been external, from the foreign powers we have been arming ourselves against, but rather, internal, from citizens who do not understand the principles of a free, democratic society.
Burt Guttman, a professor of biology emeritus at The Evergreen State College, is a member of The Olympian Board of Contributors. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.