Richard Nelson

Richard Nelson

BBC Science Correspondent Jonathan Amos recently asked, "What chance has NASA of finding life on Mars?" He's referring to the Mars 2020 mission whose purpose is "to determine if life ever existed on Mars."

Scientists studying the geography of Mars believe there's evidence of a lake, now dried up, called Jezero Crater. It's a 28-mile geologically rich terrain and Amos reports that NASA scientists believe "It could be easier to detect the signs of ancient life on Mars than it is on Earth." The relatively undisturbed terrain makes this speculation plausible and NASA is spending more than $2 billion to help answer mysteries of the universe and the origins of life.

It's fascinating that we can successfully launch space missions 33.9 million miles away to explore the possibility of life on the Red Planet, but amidst the anticipation a terrible irony comes into focus. As we search for life on other planets, we ignore the tiniest and most significant formations of life here on Earth, more specifically, unborn human life in the womb.

A mission of another kind will descend on Washington D.C. January 18. Thousands of Earthlings will come from across the country to protest the culture-rocking Roe v Wade ruling handed down 46 years ago when the U.S. Supreme Court legalized abortion on demand by declaring a new right found in the "penumbras" of the U.S. Constitution.

A penumbra is a shadow cast by a heavenly body. It's another twist of irony that the author of Roe, Justice Harry Blackmun, used an astronomy term to justify the right to terminate life while pioneering astronomers and scientists invest their lives and talents in the idea that life may have once existed on Mars.

Which brings us to human life here on Earth and efforts to protect it. Last week, State Sen. Matt Castlen (R-Owensboro) introduced the fetal heartbeat bill (SB 9) which bans abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, usually around 6-8 weeks.

Brigitte Amiri, an attorney with the ACLU said, "It's blatantly unconstitutional" and called it, "the most blatant attempt to take aim at Roe vs. Wade.” Amiri claims, “It's extreme. It's yet again anti-abortion politicians trying to push abortion out of reach for women in this state."

Amiri doesn't say that this thing called abortion results in the deliberate ending of normally healthy human life. The fetal heartbeat bill aims to put an end to that but allows an exception for pregnancies that threaten the life of the mother. 

SB 9 is consistent with another Kentucky law that acknowledges and protects unborn life in the womb. It's called the fetal homicide law and says if a pregnant woman is assaulted and her unborn child is harmed, then there were two crimes committed because two people were involved.

The fetal heartbeat bill is a principled position that gives the Commonwealth a more precise benchmark regarding the existence of new human life and when the state should step in to protect it. Of course, this human being is difficult to see and not yet fully formed but it is a human life nonetheless. 

It has a heartbeat, which is the indication of living being—and not just any being, but a human being of infinite value—the same kind of value inherent in the lives of the scientists exploring Mars and in the life they seek to find there. Regardless of whether they find traces of life on Mars, scientists must affirm that the heartbeat of the tiniest humans are an indication of life on Earth.

Richard Nelson is the executive director of the Commonwealth Policy Center. He and his family reside in Cadiz.