The October 2, 2012 edition of Newsday, Long Island's major newspaper, featured a letter-to-the-editor from a Marc de Venoge, who decried what he refers to as "[d]ecades of values-free... government and school policies" that "fail to treat the root cause" of teenage pregnancy.
The solution, according to de Venoge, is "to teach the basic notion that...any pregnancy is a God-created gift from the moment of conception." (Emphasis mine). Of course, what de Venoge means by "any pregnancy" is every pregnancy, even if it results from rape or incest.
This echoes what former senator and failed Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum said in an interview with CNN's Piers Morgan earlier this year:
"I believe and I think the right approach is to accept this horribly created — in the sense of rape — but nevertheless a gift in a very broken way, the gift of human life, and accept what God has given to you."
Let's set this straight right away. Pregnancy is not a "gift from God," it's the consequence of a biological process. Here are a few excerpts from WebMD's slideshow on conception:
"A man may ejaculate 40 million to 150 million sperm, which start swimming upstream toward the fallopian tubes on their mission to fertilize an egg. Fast-swimming sperm can reach the egg in a half an hour, while others may take days. The sperm can live up to 48-72 hours. Only a few hundred will even come close to the egg, because of the many natural barriers that exist in a woman's body."
"The fertilized egg starts growing fast, dividing into many cells. It leaves the fallopian tube and enters the uterus three to four days after fertilization. In rare cases, the fertilized egg does not leave the fallopian tube. This is called a tubal pregnancy or ectopic pregnancy and is a danger to the mother." (Emphasis mine).
Does de Venoge believe that God is monitoring the progress of each sperm cell and intervening where necessary so that the favored sperm reaches and fertilizes the egg? And if it is such a divine gift, what divine purpose is served by an ectopic pregnancy?
There's also a flip side to this "Gift from God" argument. According to the CDC, as cited in this pregnancy fact sheet, "About 10 percent of women (6.1 million) in the United States ages 15-44 have difficulty getting pregnant or staying pregnant." de Venoge and his ilk are basically saying that women who are unable to conceive apparently are unworthy of such a gift from the Supreme Being.
Well, thankfully, at least for some women who have trouble getting pregnant the old-fashioned way, there's help that does not require divine intervention.
From the same fact sheet:
"Infertility can be treated with medicine, surgery, artificial insemination, or assisted reproductive technology. Many times these treatments are combined. In most cases infertility is treated with drugs or surgery."
That's right. Where God fails, human ingenuity can sometimes fill the gap.
But even if I were willing to entertain the claim that human pregnancy is a gift from God, what about pregnancy that results from sexual reproduction in other species? Or does it only apply to humans?
Todd Akin, Republican nutbag member of the House of Representatives from Missouri, who is currently running to be a Senator from that state, not long ago notoriously said that during a "legitimate" rape, a woman's body has the means of mounting a biological defense against the rapist's sperm to prevent a pregnancy.
Seriously though, if our anatomy was truly the result of the handiwork of an Intelligent Designer, then the human female could have been designed to either accept or reject a man's sperm regardless of whether the sexual encounter was consensual or coerced. Just imagine, there would be no problem of teen pregnancy or abortion! Now that would be a really useful gift.