Friday, Feb. 10, 2006 | 12:32 p.m.
Jay Harrell - in his Feb. 7 letter, "A fertilized egg - isn't that life?" - wants to be enlightened about life? His grasp of science seems limited. Life occurred billions of eons ago when elements previously inanimate became alive. Cells gathered together in such a way as to perform various functions. Organic forms must take in nourishment, excrete wastes, achieve some mobility and reproduce. Every cell in a living creature has a life cycle. It's created, it functions, it dies. Living functional cells are referred to as alive. Leaves on trees are alive. The hairs on our heads are alive, until they fall out and die.
Reproductive cells are part of living organisms. Nature is very generous with its little packets of potential life. Every acorn, every sun flower seed, every man's sperm and every woman's eggs are live reproductive cells capable, under the proper conditions, of maturing into an adult organism.
Nature is so generous because the majority of reproductive cells are destined to die. There is not enough room on Earth for every acorn to become an oak tree, for every apple seed to become a tree, every flower seed to become a plant, every fish's roe to hatch, every man's sperm to create a child.
I think what Harrell really wants to know is at what time can a woman be forced to remain pregnant against her will.
A woman has more than 200 chances to become pregnant in her lifetime. Modern science has blessed us with the tools to plan the best time to have a family and to have as many children as the parents feel they can support. The past dark ages of our great grandparents, when women had 11 to 22 pregnancies per lifetime in the hopes that three or four children would live, are over. Splitting hairs over the life cycles of reproductive cells is irrelevant.