Sunday, April 29, 2012

And You May Ask Yourself...

Life, death and human rights. Somewhere in the world right now, all of these lofty concepts are being debated, and in some cases redefined. It's part of the human search for truth and meaning and relevance. Some look to Holy texts, some to science and nature, and still others look to the arts. Increasingly, we all look to the media to help us find our reference points.

In the midst of these individual journeys comes two stories, each so extreme as to extend the definition of human life. 

Sydney's Daily Telegraph is reporting that Egypt's fundamentalist Muslim-lead government is looking at making it legal for a man to have intercourse with his deceased wife up to six hours after her death. 

Meanwhile, conservative Christian-lead Governments in two American states are moving to amend pro-life laws to redefine pregnancy as beginning two weeks prior to conception.  

A quick Google of the Internet - that font of all knowledge - suggests that only one of these stories is true. 

Several sources are reporting that the Egyptian Embassy in London has denied the story, and others report 'Farewell Sex' story is a hoax, although, the most respected source for debunking urban myths, doesn't mention the story at all. The UK edition of the Huffington Post, has amended its original story. 

Editor's note: Since the "proposed law" was first reported in Al Arabiya, questions have arisen over the validity of the claims. The Christian Science Monitor is just one of several outlets that have questioned whether the reports are true or indeed if any such law would be able to gain traction in the Egyptian parliament. Since first published, this article has been amended to reflect those concerns.

Update: Several Egyptian sources are claiming via Twitter that the story below is false. It has been suggested by some that a rumour may have been placed by sources loyal to former dictator Hosni Mubarak.

If true, it's a far bigger story than that, involving conflicting definitions of life, death, marriage and human rights, and the relationships between religion and government. Those issues aren't being covered; all I've seen is a series of cookie-cutter stories about the more sensational aspects. If the aim is to throw another unflattering story about Islam into the media, mission accomplished.

Yet the story hasn't been widely reported. The absence of traction in most respectable mainstream media around the world is another factor in support of giving this story the status of hoax, or at least, unconfirmed.

Meanwhile, in the USA, Arizona and Georgia, both states with pro-life Governors, are in the process of redefining life as it relates to pregnancy and abortion. The change is based on the way in which doctors calculate gestational dates. New Scientist has a great explanation:  

The bill bans the abortion of a fetus that is at or over 20 weeks of gestation, except in cases of medical emergency. It also states that gestational age should be defined as "the age of the unborn child as calculated from the first day of the last menstrual period of the pregnant woman.
That starts the fetal clock an average of two weeks before the fetus actually exists. The purpose of a menstrual period is to get rid of an unfertilised egg, plus all the tissue that has built up in the womb to support it. A new egg typically reaches the uterus two weeks later. In practice, the law therefore bans abortions as early as 18 weeks into the fetus's development.
If I understand this correctly, it would be possible to be legally pregnant for a fortnight prior to losing your virginity. According to this law, life commenced two weeks before sperm met egg: legal life is now possible prior to physical life...and why? To allow a pro-life government to tighten the period of time during which a woman can obtain a legal abortion.This story is horrifying. Sickening. Unthinkable. My first reaction is to dismiss it as a truly warped hoax, probably designed to see just how many media outlets are naive enough to publish it. That the Telegraph ran it is unsurprising; it isn't the first time that News Limited tabloids have run stories that appeal to an Islamophobic audience. Despite the doubts surrounding the story, it's still there, doing its damage via social media.

The actual moment when life begins has been the subject of debate for as long as abortion has been around. Having said that, surely we can all agree that life cannot exist prior to conception. Equally, and irrespective of religion, death must surely equal the end of physical life? 

Can't we at least agree with these basic definitions of life and death?

* Acalculia is the acquired inability to perform arithmetic functions.

Talking Heads - Once In A Lifetime by hushhush112

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