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A pregnant woman is not autonomous.

Her pregnancy is not “a cancer.”

And the placenta knows it!

When serving as president of National Lutherans For Life, I had long discussions with my Ob/Gyn friend, Karen Rehder, M.D. I’ve never forgotten what Karen told me: “Birth is a miracle. Were it not for the placenta, the mother would reject the baby as something foreign to her body just like a transplant patient rejects a liver or kidney.”

Two separate entities—baby and mother—are attached by umbilical cord and placenta. The placenta tells us that a pregnant woman is not autonomous.

The placenta “is the only organ made in cooperation by two people,” explains Dr. Kristin Collier. It is “the organ through which the baby and mother interface.” Dr. Collier is Assistant Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Michigan Medical School and practices general Internal Medicine. She also serves as Director of the U of Michigan’s Medical School program on Health, Spirituality, and Religion.

The placenta, “made from the growing baby’s tissue and the mother’s tissue together . . . is known as a ‘feto-maternal’ organ . . . [that] helps provide nutrition, produces hormones, and protects the baby against infection.” This “purposely transient organ” acts like “a lung, kidney, gastrointestinal tract, and the endocrine and immune system.”

The placenta is so important that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in the U.S. has a research arm called the Human Placenta Project. A “healthy placenta is not only crucial for healthy development of the prenatal child, but also affects the health of the child and mother for years to come.”

There is “a unique transfer of cellular materials that happens across the placenta. In science, microchimerism refers to the presence of a small population of genetically distinct and separately derived cells within an individual. In pregnancy, small amounts of cells travel across the placenta. Some of these cells are the prenatal child’s cells that travel from the baby into her mother, and some cells also pass from the mother into her child. The cells from the prenatal child into her mother are pluripotent, which means they haven’t yet differentiated into the type of cell specific for one organ or tissue in particular. These cells find their way into mother’s tissue and start acting like the tissue in which they find themselves. This process is known as feto-maternal microchimerism.”

Scientifically, we can say that mother is helped by her unborn baby. “For example, these [fetal] cells have been found in Caesarean sections incisions helping to make collagen to help mom heal after a surgical delivery. These cells have been found in the maternal breast and have been hypothesized to help reduce mom’s risk of breast cancer in her later years.”

The “gift of these cells from the baby, entering into mom’s body and helping her heal and protecting her from cancer, is amazing to think of and really challenges our ideas of people as autonomous beings.” Just as amazing is the fact that “these cells that enter the mother are allowed to survive and are not attacked by the mother’s immune system, even though they are somewhat ‘foreign.’ This again speaks to a cooperation, at the cellular level, between mother and child.”

This science sheds new light on the abortion debate. “Every dehumanizing ideology succumbs to the same temptation—to see the undesirable other as a non-person. In the abortion debate, as in similar debates around marginalized vulnerable populations, language is used when describing the undesirable other that is dehumanizing. In the abortion debate, the prenatal child is referred to as a ‘clump of cells’ or even a ‘parasite.’” We must “resist appeals to individual autonomy that detach us from our duty to aid others, and resist language, practices, and social structures that detach us from the full reality and dignity of . . . marginalized [persons]. A radical view of autonomy that leads to the end of another human life is one that is anti-life and oppresses the rights of another in the name of ‘freedom.’”

Dr. Collier admits that she is not a theologian, but she encourages us to think of biology “in a relational sense that mirrors the nature of God. The scriptures speak of a God who is in relationship with his people. We then would only expect that God, being the author of biology, would create our bodily nature in a way that was also relational—even down to the level of the cell.” Dr. Collier draws our attention to the “cells from the incarnate word of God, Jesus Christ, in his mother, the Virgin Mary [who] not only carried the Son of God in her body when he was in her womb, but . . . likely carried his cells in her body throughout her life . . .”

It is a loss to the human family when we pervert the language of conception and pregnancy. May we instead share God’s hope for mother and child revealed through the miracle of the placenta. A baby in the womb is not “a cancer”—and the placenta knows it!

 

by Linda Bartlett 2-16-20
(Source: “Together, baby; forever, baby,”
an interview by Carolyn Moynihan with Dr. Kristin Collier
in MercatorNet.com, 2-5-20)

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Maura, a young and spirited woman, invited me into her life.   She seems to welcome the experience of age and expresses the need for a “mother” figure.  Maura is intelligent.  More mature than most her age.  She has a tangible dream and works hard in college.  Maura displays all the normal feelings and emotions that come with being female.  But, there is more.  Wisdom speaks to Maura through her conscience.  The answers to my questions consistently reveal that Maura delights in all things of God… but, she is “hooked” to her boyfriend.

Her boyfriend’s words of love cause Maura to feel special.  He has demands.  She tries to please.    The warmth of his embrace encourages her loyalty.  But, his lack of commitment makes her vulnerable.  She isn’t sure how he really feels about her because his attention is easily distracted away from her.  She hopes the relationship will change.

Time passes between our visits.  We have talked at length about our identity as creations of God, so every now and then, I remind her of her value by mail or text.  Maura almost always responds with a request: “Can we get together?”  At lunch or on a walk, she brings me up to date.  She is busy with work and studies.  When the conversation turns to relationships, Maura smiles when she talks about her dad.  “I’m happy when I’m with him.  I feel safe at home.”  But, when I inquire about her boyfriend, Maura’s smile always fades.

During our last visit, Maura seemed less confident.  More sad.  She uttered not one positive or hopeful word about her boyfriend.  “So,” I asked, “why do you stay with him?”  Her shoulders drooped.  She stared past me for a few seconds.  Sighed.  Then shuttered.  “He isn’t good for me,” she confessed.  “But, it’s so very strange.  The more time I spend with my boyfriend, the more I need to be with him.”

The honesty of our friendship compelled me to take a deep breath… then look into her eyes.  “Maura, you’ve fallen into a bad habit.  You’re hooked.”  Tears that flowed were evidence of the tug-of-war for Maura’s heart.  Mind. And soul.

Maura is “hooked” not because she is uneducated, but because she is wrongly educated.  The culture has told her: “We are sexual from birth.”  (What does this mean?)   Maura is “hooked” not because she missed out on “Sex 101” but because she was encouraged at a young age to “be comfortable with” her “sexuality.”  Maura is “hooked” not because she is rebellious, but because she followed the rule: “Be responsible by practicing safe sex.”

Planned Parenthood-style sex education instructs in the act of sex, sexual fantasy, contraception, abortion, self-pleasure, gender role stereotypes, sexual diversity, HIV/AIDS and other sexually-transmitted diseases.  Maura’s well-meaning school, counselors, and adult mentors probably followed SIECUS (Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S.) guidelines, thus believing they had provided everything Maura and her peers needed to know.

Sex education seems comprehensive, doesn’t it?  Would appear to reveal all the facts, right?  Then why is Maura, like countless other young women, in conflict with herself?  Why is her soul troubled?  Does her heart ache?  Are her thoughts confused?   Because, observe physicians, psychologists, and biologists, some vital information has been kept from Maura and her generation.  I agree.  Truth has been withheld.  That truth is: Male and female are different.

Militant feminists deny this difference.  They’ve been working feverishly to repress this difference so that women can shed their role of “helper” and, instead, compete with men.   So, everything girlish and womanly is minimized, managed, and sadly misguided.  No one informed Maura that her female brain predisposes her to yearn for love, understanding, connection, and communication.  No one informed Maura that her chemistry promotes attachment and trust of her boyfriend.  No one told Maura that her female wiring causes her to take risks by overlooking her boyfriend’s shortcomings.  Maura’s unique physiological vulnerability to intimate behavior was never explained because that would be a “gender stereotype.”

Maura knows her relationship isn’t what it should be.  As a Christian, she knows it isn’t what God desires for her.  But, even if she wasn’t a Christian, she would sense that something was wrong.  What is wrong is that educators in “sexuality” have failed girls and boys.

As a “helper,” I have promised not to fail my young friend by fooling her.  Or manipulating her.  There is one truth for Maura… and all the rest of us.  It is the truth of our design.  Divine design.  This design by God is evidenced by our anatomy.  Pure biology and scientific study.

Sure.  This messed up world complicates everything.  We may be “hooked” into harmful relationships.  But, Maura matters.  So, we are discussing a new life — unhooked and set free.  Set free to be all she was created to be.

(Recommended reading: You’re Teaching My Child What? by Miriam Grossman, M.D.)

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