In what has become an annual ritual on January 1, the mainstream media shared the unique story of twins born on different days and different years. This year, ABC News highlighted Lorraine and Brandon Begazo who were born in Washington, D.C., three minutes apart, but in different years. A rare occurrence and feel-good story, it will eventually become a neat bit of trivia that at the very least serves as an icebreaker in social settings.
But might the rare event of twins being born on different days provide more than just trivia?
Consider Maria Jones Elliot who, pregnant with twins in 2012, went into preterm labor and gave birth to her daughter, Amy, 23 weeks into pregnancy. Amy was a tiny 1 pound 3 ounces and was immediately whisked off to NICU in order to save her life. Unexpectedly, contractions stopped and Amy’s twin sister, Katie, decided she wasn’t ready to be born! While tiny Amy fought to survive, her twin sister was doing very well in Maria’s womb where she continued to mature and grow. Eighty-seven days later Katie was born with a clean bill of health! These beautiful twin sisters are recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records as twins with the most days between births.
Putting aside the feel-good elements of the story, consider for a moment the status of these sisters under the law in America. While Amy was recognized as a human being whose life was protected and worth fighting for, in most states her twin sister would be considered a mere fetus with no rights—a potential victim of abortion.
Here we see plainly the ruthless arbitrariness of abortion: one twin could legally be killed but the other is protected by law. Is location so determinative? This common-sense example is indicative of how laws that leave any unborn child unprotected are discriminatory and assume a fanciful and contrived essential difference between living human beings.
The science, after all, could not be clearer; the union of two human gametes brings into existence a whole and unique member of the human species who is undergoing organized and self-directed development and growth. So the question then becomes, does this human being possess rights as do all other human beings? And what do we owe this human being? Is it even remotely sensible that one twin is protected by her mother, the law, and by the wider human community while the other twin is left unprotected?
When the scientific facts are acknowledged, and when the right questions are asked, the answer seems plain. All human beings are and should be treated as the bearers of rights, deserve a “fair shake,” and ought to be protected by society and her laws. This is the intrinsic duty of individuals and of society—to protect the innocent and to cultivate justice. What kind of society is it that can confront both the impersonal science and the very real unborn twin in the face, and say, “Yes, she is a female human being but we don’t have to treat her justly; this one has no rights and does not deserve protection under the law.” If the right questions are asked and honest answers given, the matter is shown to be clear as day. Perhaps this is why the modus operandi of abortion-rights activists is to focus on difficult cases that pull at the heart strings all within the context of an imaginary “war on women.”
The common objection tends to arise: “But a woman has a right to do with her body as she wishes.” Yes, a woman—and in this she is no different from a man—has freedom and the ability to do what she wishes with her body. But this freedom and right is not absolute, and is rather a limited freedom or a conditional right. The just limits of that right include not causing harm to another innocent human being when exercising one’s bodily freedom. So while a woman can do with her body as she sees fit, she cannot do whatever she wants to another human being’s body without his or her free consent. Since the embryonic or fetal human being is a member of the human species, she cannot justly cause harm to that child. As the popular retort to this objection goes, “Her rights end where another person’s body begins.” Ultimately this objection is both a red herring and non sequitur.
The reasoned and honest answers to the most appropriate questions make the abortion advocate appear monstrous. And history has always judged, as monstrous, the caprice and arbitrariness of a society that demands some human beings have rights and others can simply be thrown away.
Such a society is being judged even now by Pope Francis’ oft-used description of ours as “a throw away culture.” As he recently lamented, “Unfortunately, what is thrown away is … often human beings themselves, who are discarded as ‘unnecessary’ … It is frightful even to think there are children, victims of abortion, who will never see the light of day.”
The refusal of our laws to acknowledge modern science and honor the basic ethical demand to recognize the rights of every human being, and the stubborn refusal to answer the right questions honestly has created countless victims “who will never see the light of day.” Shouldn’t both twins and every human being be treated equally under the law? That they are not is a radical inequality, a grave offense, and a tragic poverty.