Tomorrow, my littlest sister, Bridget, turns five. Tomorrow marks the day her first diminutive cries were heard by the world, the day she first beheld her siblings, and the day she first clasped my own finger with her tiny little hand.
Bridget was a bit of a surprise for our family, arriving when I was a freshman in high school, my elder brother a junior. However, I’m sure we can all agree she has been the best surprise any of us has ever received. Not only is the girl a hiking fiend (she’s already been to the bottom of the Grand Canyon on a backpacking trip with the fam – and no she wasn’t carried), but she’s a fair genius as well, already tearing through chapter books and pronouncing words including Tyrannosaurus and Pennsylvania. I’m certain she will grow to become the smartest, most athletic, and best looking of the five of us.
Bridget’s taught me much already over her almost-five-years, but with her birthday tomorrow, I’ve been thinking about the greatest lesson she’s taught me thus far, which she accomplished before she even made it out of the womb. This is a post I’ve been pushing off for a while, mostly because I’m well aware of my own paper-thin skin, but I’m adopting Bridget’s fearless attitude for today and getting it done.
As a cradle Catholic, I was taught from my toddler years about how abortion was wrong. I knew the catechism behind it, understood the science and the reasoning, and yet inwardly I was extremely apathetic about the subject. I remember thinking from a young age, “Sure, killing babies is wrong, but it just does’t really feel like abortion is really killing a baby”. I’ve always possessed a pretty strong sense of empathy, and I could understand and sympathize with the fear, desperation, and panic that women might find themselves in during an unwanted pregnancy. I never mentioned my personal doubts or concerns, but I carefully avoided having to ever discuss the topic. As much as I logically understood the moral severity of the issue, emotionally I just didn’t really feel like the tiny blob of cells that a baby originates as mattered that much.
This is where Bridget comes in. After my parents made the announcement, I felt dazed and shellshocked for weeks afterwards. I couldn’t really comprehend the idea that I was going to have another sibling. The first person outside my family who I told was Lauren Woeste, my table buddy, during first block Geophysical Science the day after the announcement. Absolutely unable to contain such a gargantuan and bubbly secret, I breathlessly divulged my life-altering news to her, to which she replied eagerly, “Are you excited?” I gave the obligatory, “Yeah so excited!” answer but my mind was simultaneously blaring: THIS IS SO STRANGE WHAT IS HAPPENING IS THIS REAL LIFE.
It finally became a reality for me when my mom showed me the pictures of her very first ultrasound. At first I had no idea what the heck I was looking at (it just looked like black and white blurs) but the specifics of my newest little sibling were soon pointed out to me: her arms, her head, even her toes. The crappy photo was blowing my mind; my mother was two feet away, looking no different than normal, no baby bump or weird pregnancy glow or swollen feet, and yet their was an actual little tiny bean sized person in there! My sister had before been a phantasmic idea, a ghost that crept vividly into my weird dreams in the form of a tiny flower child wearing a petal dress or a long-haired toddler that later gets kidnapped by a witch and locked in a tall tower. But that one fuzzy picture flipped a switch, and suddenly she was concrete to me.
That night it clicked and suddenly I got it, that across the country everywhere were tiny bean sized babies who weren’t gonna make it through the next day because others weren’t aware that although they were bean sized they were still real babies! I was in a miniature state of panic, unable to stop imagining my own bean sized sibling not making it through the next day, vaporizing before I ever got to actually hold any of her tiny fingers! I felt acutely aware of how tiny and fragile and defenseless all these little guys across the globe were. I was also acutely aware of how drastically my heart had changed towards the topic of abortion that day.
Bridget the bean has now grown to become Bridget the four-almost-five-year old, and despite her incredible hiking skills and proficiency at pronouncing Tyrannosaurus Rex, she’s worth the exact same today as she was back when she was a bean. And when she’s 100 and can’t go to the bathroom by herself and moves maybe a total of 20 feet throughout her day, she’ll possess the exact same priceless worth as she did in her bean and five-year days.
I think our culture often makes us feel like our worth stems from what we do; it becomes all about the grades we get, the times we run, our relationship status, our number of friends, the job or internship we’re able to pull, or how many likes we get on our Instagram photos (I’m looking at you Amanda), but this is a distorted view of human value. The worth of human life does not come from our degree of consciousness, our capacity to feel pain, our capability to live autonomously, or our ability to contribute to human society. Human life holds an inherent value that is intrinsic to that life, not extrinsic. We wouldn’t murder a patient in a coma if we knew they would wake up in a matter of months; we wouldn’t justify the killing of a sleeping person because they weren’t able to feel pain; we don’t classify those with handicaps who depend on others as disposable; we don’t toss away children who annoy us because they don’t yet contribute any form of production to society. So how can we use any of those parameters to justify the killing of a little bean-sized baby? Why are these little guys, the most helpless and fragile members of humanity, lesser human beings whose right to life can be denied?
Dr. Seuss said it simply and superbly, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.”