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What Is This Thing Called Life?

photo of a newborn baby
(Photo: Pixabay)

The State of Alabama’s legislators recently voted to essentially ban abortion, leaving much of the nation’s mouths agape.

A lot changes in one lifetime.

My grandmother was raised without the car, the radio, or the television. I grew up without a computer. Transistor radios were the first portables, the size of a human hand; early televisions were sold in black and white and the term “wireless” originally applied only to morse code and telegram.

Technology has advanced our civilization like no other force on the planet. We can do things, and interact, in ways which were unimaginable just fifty years ago.

But, one thing hasn’t changed.

Humans are still required to reproduce themselves.

Whether we engage in sex or not, sperm and egg must converge in order for conception to occur, and female bodies must be their host.

At present, fertile women hold an immense amount of power. They endure pregnancy and bring into the world the next generation. Until the day when alternate hosts for gestation are provided, women alone will carry to term every conceived life.

Or, not.

My elder brother is an expert witness. He possesses the qualifications to serve in court. Attorneys hire him to comment on the facts related to scientific inquiry, because he is a chemist with a Ph.D. While not required to have been present at the scene of either a crime or as yet unexplained death, he is permitted to speak with authority as to its evidentiary details. Growing up at his elbow, I learned to pay attention to what science teaches us.

Now, while scientists irrespective of gender across the nation remain in hot debate over which of them has the authority to determine the origin of life, society and its politicians are now re-visiting when life begins.

Here is what can be clearly understood. Millions of sperm are observed under a microscope swimming like tadpoles. Furthermore, the human egg does appear to burst from the ovary of its own volition, spurred by the follicle stimulating hormone. A single sperm is known to penetrate the egg, and a merger of the two produces a zygote which immediately begins to divide, cell by cell. Cell division is the natural process of what is called growth within an organism and an organism, by definition, is alive.

Nature is our reliable educator. All we need do is become its attentive student. The female body signals its every cyclic phase, and the process by which these phases can be observed has been called the Sympto-Thermal Method*.

As fertility approaches, both the basal body temperature changes and the vagina begins to secrete an opaque solution; once the solution becomes clear and viscous (like egg albumin), this indicates that the mature egg has exited the ovary and is traveling down the fallopian tube to the uterus. During this phase, should sperm be introduced into the vaginal canal (or, already be present in waiting), conception becomes increasingly likely. Once the egg has reached the uterus, there is a precise 24-hour period during which basal body temperature remains elevated and the egg will remain viable, able to be fertilized by one sperm.

If a male sperm reaches the egg first, a male child is conceived. Female sperm swim slower and live longer; perhaps a female sperm will penetrate the egg by the next day, if the egg does not begin its own demise. But once penetrated by a sperm, if sufficient progesterone is present the fertilized egg attempts to nest in the wall of the uterus. If successful, the zygote begins to grow; if conception and/or nesting does not occur, the egg dies and the basal body temperature descends. Once this temperature returns to normal, conception can no longer occur until the cycle repeats.

Nature also has its own means by which unviable fetuses are dismissed. This is called miscarriage. The relative health of the mother as well as the fetus usually determines this involuntary outcome but, one thing is certain: this decision is made by the body, itself, and not the mind of the person dwelling within it.

The act of disturbing any living fetus to the extent that it can no longer continue growth is called abortion. Is there a species from within the animal kingdom on our planet which has demonstrated voluntary interruption of fetal growth? If so, what are the conditions which predicate the act?

Put yourself in the following position. A female kangaroo is within arm’s reach. Inside the kangaroo’s pouch is a gestating fetus. What would happen, were you to attempt to reach into the kangaroo’s pouch?

Women are entitled to three humanitarian options. We have the option to conceive. We have the option to gestate and give birth. And, we have the option to let nature take its course. Anything else is in violation of the living organism our bodies are capable of producing.

And, women, because we are currently the hosts, must take full responsibility for the potential of life in the womb. We must educate girls and women fully, both in the area of pregnancy health as well as pregnancy prevention. The Sympto-Thermal method can be taught, and should be a requirement within every public and private school curriculum. Even very young girls, regardless of socio-economic background, can be given a thermometer and shown how to take their basal body temperature in preparation for puberty. As for the small number of those who remain unteachable, great care of these should be taken by the entire society’s watchful and compassionate eye and any children they bear should be cared for accordingly.

Each of us has been given life, entirely outside of our own choice; as such, we should respect this involuntary gift, and sustain life by choice.

And, this would render the agonizing and impossible abortion argument null and void, forever.


Because in spite of life’s endless changes, living itself is precious.

Ruth Scanzillo

Ruth Ann Scanzillo is a free-lance professional cellist/pianist, early-retired public school K-12 music teacher, visual artist, and avocational whistleblower.

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