Could expand on what you mean when you say Republicans are more tribal than Democrats? I’m interested in hearing that argument.
As for the topic of when life begins, I think the basic question makes no room for equivocation in the way racism does. Racism is a term that received its fullest development in mid-twentieth century, but only because Nazi Germany incorporated the idea of race superiority so thoroughly into the foundation of its regime. The scattered origins of race superiority can be found in the nineteenth century, but the term “racism” had not yet been invented nor did any such thing exist as a thoroughgoing ideology. I suppose the various ways in which race superiority was expressed during that century could plausibly give us competing understandings of the nature of that sentiment, but I take the Nazi-borne version to be definitive.
Re: When Life Begins
In any event, to the extent that the question of life is biological and not linguistic in nature, I think it is indisputable that life begins at conception. The union of sperm and egg is a unique symbiotic relationship that has one and only one end: the creation of a human being. The successful fertilization of the egg results in the immediate sharing of the mother and father’s DNA, which is the complete set of building blocks for producing that particular child and not some other child or some other thing. It is not only uniquely human but a unique individual as well. Moreover, the zygotic stage is not a dormant stage at which additional human action is required to serve as a catalyst. The process is officially begun, and, barring spontaneous accidents of nature, only human intervention can stop it.
Some people deliberately employ clinical vocabulary—zygote, embryo, fetus—to frame what millions of ordinary people call “babies” in morally neutral terms for the simple purpose of making their destruction less problematic for the conscience. (Some go even further in these efforts to denigrate humans at the neonatal stage of life. I know a woman in Oregon who refers to them as “parasites” and “tumors.”) But in reality, this clinical vocabulary was originally intended as nothing more than a scheme of categorization for labeling the different stages of human development. A fetus is no more non-human than an infant, a toddler, an adolescent, or an elderly person.
Yet those with political motivations will often say that the prenatal terminology designates a collective stage of development during which the baby is only human in potentia. In other words, the child is not truly human, or even fully alive, because its survival depends on a parasitical relationship with an actual human being capable of supplying it with essential resources. This of course raises a number of questions, not least of which is why humans in potentia exist only in the prenatal stages of life. Infants, toddlers, invalids, and the very old also depend on others to keep them alive; yet we hesitate to classify these creatures as disposable bloodsuckers. Lastly, if a fetus is in fact nothing more than a nonliving, non-human cluster of cells, I wonder if those who support abortion would find anything morally unsettling in watching a physician dispose of a fetus by holding it aloft while shouting, “Hey, Mom and Dad. Watch this!” before tearing off its head and hook-shooting it into the nearest waste bin. Would any negative reaction we experience be limited either to our aversion to unprofessionalism or to the nausea we would feel had the fetus been merely a blood-soaked appendix? According to the pro-abortionists, our feelings should not go beyond this. The doctor’s use of the names “Mom” and “Dad” are simply bad labeling; no human being is the parent of a nonliving, non-human thing. And while the doctor’s bizarre actions may be off-putting for their unprofessionalism, he certainly could not be accused of acting inhumanely, but at worst unsanitarily.
Still… I wonder. I know a couple women who have had abortions and I know several women who have had miscarriages, and all of them were deeply and adversely affected by the experience of loss. There are some who argue that these feelings are merely socially constructed irrationalities that need to be trained out of women, to make them confident in the “ownership” of their bodies over which the fetus has no more claim than a hangnail. But I do not buy that for a minute. If anything has been socially imposed on women, it is the callousness with which they are encouraged to treat the child within them. Unless, of course, you happen to want the damn thing, in which case you are free to fantasize to your heart’s desire about how it is a “baby” and not a loathsome zombie clinging to your insides.
Regarding Sister Chittister’s discussion of what it means to be “pro-life,” I disagree with her that being pro-life means seeking to eliminate hardship. Not only is hardship one of the defining features of human life as such, but I agree with Machiavelli, Rousseau, and others who insist that the experience of hardship is not only not a net negative but is actually desirable for creating a foundation on which virtuous traits—industry, courage, fortitude—can arise. Indeed, Machiavelli went so far as to say that any founder of a political community, whose settlement rests on fertile soil, must consider instituting laws that will impose hardships on his citizens in order to prevent them from becoming soft and idle. I don't know that I would go so far as to legislate hardships into existence, but I do agree that no injustice necessarily occurs simply because such hardships exist.