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Mavis Mathews

It is commonly believed that the soul is able to separate itself out and withdraw from the body when that body dies. If that is so, if a soul can exit the physical body at the end of life, then it must also be able to enter the body at the beginning of life. But when is that? Well, nobody knows, exactly.

Some believe that the body can exist and continue to perform physical functions after the soul has withdrawn. This would explain the pitiful condition where we find people who can't seem to die but whose personalities are no longer recognizable as the person we knew.

It is common knowledge that the physical body is dead when it has exhaled for the last time. We refer to death as expiration (from the Latin ex = out of or from and spiritus = breath) and we know that the last breath marks the end of life. Is it not reasonable, then, to consider the possibility that the soul may enter the body and that life may begin, with the first breath?

That initial, painful inhalation of air into the lungs is the first, involuntary and independent act of the just expelled fetus. It breathes in and it cries out, in that order. In Genesis 2:7 we read, "And the Lord God created man from the dust and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul." Perhaps that first breath of life and "becoming a living soul" do, indeed, mark the beginning of a human life. Perhaps not.

It is possible that the independent entity we call the soul, has some rights of its own; that it has the right to choose where and when it shall begin life. It is even possible that the soul is influenced and directed by events and changes that occur in the life of the intended mother, during the term of her pregnancy. We don't know that, of course, but neither can we prove otherwise.

Suppose, for example, that the pregnant woman is stricken with an incurable disease or that she suffers a fatal accident. Is the inhabitant in the embryo or the soul waiting to inhabit that embryo, as the case may be, "stuck" with this sudden, unexpected turn of events? Does that soul never get another chance at life? Can that be?

There is no way that anyone who has not conceived can possibly comprehend the significance of learning that you are pregnant with child; that something is growing inside your body that will eventually escape in the throes of labor; that you will be responsible for another human being's care, custody and control. Learning that you are pregnant is overwhelming news that will affect every hour of every day of the rest of your life--regardless of the outcome.

There is an abundance of muddled thinking about the abortion issue. Surely any thinking person will have asked himself or herself: What constitutes human life? When does a human life begin? Is it at the moment of conception? sometime later? at birth? Science has never established when a human life begins or proved that an embryo contains a conscious soul. The actual beginning of life, the moment in time when a conscious, animating, individual personality takes up residence in a physical embryo has never been, and may never be, authenticated. So by what authority does one claim to know whether a life is blotted out or simply postponed when an embryo is aborted--either naturally or by induced abortion?

The most significant question that surfaces when we truly seek to understand abortion is this one: if there really is an irreversible permanence about an interrupted pregnancy, if this singular pregnancy is the one and only chance that a particular soul will ever have at life, then how do we explain the phenomenon of miscarriages and still births in nature?

It makes you wonder if the embryo may be nothing more than a potential vehicle for a soul; if an embryo can be "vacant" until some point? It makes you wonder if a disembodied soul may have rights of its own; whether a soul may be able to choose to enter a particular embryo or, by the same token, to reject it.

In the latter case, we would find ourselves once again concerned about a miscarriage or an abortion that has taken place. But can we be sure that it was fatal? Only God knows for sure.

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