Barry Saunders

Dealing with matters of life and, um, conception – Saunders

State Rep. Beverly Boswell had the right idea, at least for her pro-life constituents, when she introduced House Bill 163. That bill, filed in February, seeks to establish life as beginning at the moment of conception.

Boswell’s “Right to Life at Conception Act” bill would “implement equal protection for the right to life of each born and pre-born human person” and would declare that “the right to life is vested in each human being.”

OK, two questions:

What is a pre-born human person?

Who wears a vest when they’re fixing to conceive?

I never got a chance to ask Rep. Boswell those or any other questions, because emails and calls to her office weren’t returned and the place on her campaign web page that says “Contact Beverly” isn’t working. Boswell, a Republican, represents Dare, Hyde, Beaufort and Washington counties.

Since the bill has no provision for punishment or prosecution, is it merely one of those benign bills designed to raise a representative’s profile but which doesn’t bother anybody?

“There’s nothing benign about it,” said Paige Johnson, a vice president for Planned Parenthood of Central North Carolina. The bill, Johnson told me Friday, “could potentially interfere with fertility treatments, birth control and basic health care. I don’t know what her intent is, but it goes too far when you try to redefine what a person is. They put this same language before the voters of Mississippi, and Mississippians rejected it.”

Ah, but as we’ve seen in recent years, North Carolina sometimes is not as progressive as Mississippi. Still, one wonders which pro-lifers could oppose a bill that has seemingly covered every conceivable conception angle, even if it includes cloning and – gasp – “homo sapiens”?

Insinuating one’s self into a couple’s moment of conception seems like the ultimate intrusion, but it probably isn’t intrusive enough for some who feel that we need to change the U.S. Constitution and come up with a new definition of life and conception.

Life, we all agree, begins the first time a post-born person looks at her or his pay stub and shrieks, “Who is FICA and why is he taking home half of my pay?”

That’s life.

Defining conception is harder. For our purposes, let’s say conception is the culmination of the act itself. Some might also say it’s what the government did to that paycheck.

If that’s too narrow, Boswell should ask her biology experts – surely she used biology experts, right? -–to come up with a new definition.

Don’t look at me. The only thing I remember from biology class in high school was some experiment in which we turned cabbage into sauerkraut one day and Mrs. Richardson brought hot dogs to class and this pretty girl named Betty Jo actually shared a fork with me.

That was the most intimate moment I’d ever shared with a girl and would remain so for three more years.

Now, where were we?

Oh yeah, trying to decide when conception begins.

If Betty Jo and I had actually gotten together, some fundamentalists might conclude that eating off of the same fork leads to conception and seek to ban it. It didn’t.

So, can we – without formal biology training – decide when conception begins?

Does it begin the moment you ooze over to a woman at a bar and whisper, “Say, Sweet Thang. Can I buy you a car?”

How about the moment two people realize they’re both vegans and know every word to “The Rocky Horror Picture Show”?

Ah, I know: Conception begins the moment she gets a whiff of the Brut you splashed on so copiously or he catches the scent of the vanilla extract she dabbed behind her ears, right?

What about after that fourth bottle of Cold Duck?

Surely conception has taken place by the time side one of Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You” album has finished, right?

If not, forget it. You may as well go make some sauerkraut.

Barry Saunders: 919-836-2811, @BarrySaunders9