I believe that life begins at a single, unrepeatable, magical moment—the moment of conception. I came to this conclusion sitting in Mary Kay Clark’s seventh grade religion class. Now, Mrs. Clark knew more than a little about conception. I think she had had about six kids and she was pregnant a seventh time when I first knew her. She was one of the few pregnant ladies I had ever known, so she was a bit of a mythical figure to me. I couldn’t quite understand, in my seventh grade brain, how you could be the keeper of an unborn child and a grader of student essays at the same time. Her multi-tasking seemed mind-boggling to me.
On January 22nd , 1978, Mrs. Clark led our class of 13- and 14-year-olds down to the Ohio Statehouse in Columbus for a protest. We turned out to be the only protesters. We each held signs and stood silent for about an hour. It was my first actual demonstration and it seemed nothing like the anti-war protests I had seen on TV, when I was about six years out of my mother’s womb. It seemed quite a bit less dramatic, and I don’t recall any television crews chronicling our activities.
As we left the Statehouse, I had a strange sensation. It was something I had never experienced before but, based upon a fifth grade health class, I immediately knew what it was. I was having my first period, on the same day as my first pro-life demonstration.
The worlds of biology and ideology had converged. I had officially become a woman—and an activist as well. I thought there was a great deal of significance in the fact that puberty had arrived close to the same moment as my first public defense of the sanctity of human life from the moment of conception. I felt proud to be a woman—a pro-life woman.
My teacher, Mrs. Clark, had inspired me to become completely counter-cultural. Abortion, after all, was legal, no matter how much I disliked the fact. My belief that life begins at conception was in stark contrast to the feminist belief popular at the time. I was at cross-currents with current political and even scientific thought—and I relished that fact.
During my 7th grade year, I remember, at one point, Mrs. Clark drawing a line across the black board that began at the word “abortion” and ended with the word “euthanasia.” Mrs. Clark taught that, if you disrespect a human being at the front end of life, you’ll disrespect another at the back end of life. Life had a definite beginning and a definite ending, and it was important to honor that fact.
This I believe—that life begins at conception. And I have a former pregnant lady to thank for it.
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