How people regard the start of life is complicated, polarizing and worthy of exploration.
This past year, I’ve reported frequently on the topic of abortion when it intersects with my beat as the national religion correspondent for The Times. In the months since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, one question has come up over and over: When does life begin?
This question is simultaneously elemental and complicated. It has also become so politicized that thoughtful engagement is difficult. Even the question itself can be confusingly broad. In biological terms, when is an organism an organism? Or philosophically, what makes a human a person? And spiritually, when does a human being have a soul?
Humans have wrestled with the question of when life begins across time and cultures. For the past few months, I’ve spoken with scientists, philosophers and spiritual leaders to explore the question and to learn how people think about it. The resulting story published online here.
One mother I interviewed told me that the question of life and when it begins seems so much bigger than the fights we hear about in politics — and she is right. This question also pushes past the limits of law and science and gets to the heart of human experience.
When journalists report on a piece of legislation or investigate a specific event, there are some answers that are clear and able to be found. Exploring a question itself isn’t quite like that. My reporting doesn’t answer this one. Instead, my hope is that by writing about the quest for an answer, I offer you some space and ideas to reflect on your own views and maybe even start a conversation with friends and family about a topic that can feel taboo.
Last year at this time, I explored how people make sense of time. The year before, as Covid deaths rose, I wrote about how we survive winter. I’ve reported about the value of life in America, the cycles of apocalypse in the human story and what it means to be personally and culturally transformed.
These are all questions of spirit. And they are questions that humans across divides share.
Read Elizabeth’s latest story on a question that “goes far beyond politics, law and science into the heart of human experience.”
THE LATEST NEWS
Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva took office as president of Brazil in an elaborate inauguration, but a key guest was missing: the outgoing president, Jair Bolsonaro. (He’s in Orlando.)
Russia hit Kyiv with another night of drone attacks.
The Russian blockade of most grain shipments from Ukraine has made global starvation worse.
India’s power is rising as the war in Ukraine shifts international alliances.
China’s economy is struggling to recover after years of severe Covid restrictions and a recent surge in cases.
Activists have been blocking traffic in Germany, placing attention on a global crisis while angering the public.
California residents raced to clean up from days of flooding before another storm expected later this week.
Poisonous algae is blooming on Cape Cod, but a cleanup could force some people out of their homes.
The average U.S. household wastes nearly a third of the food it buys. One community in central Ohio is nudging its residents to change their habits.
Kathy Hochul became the first woman sworn in for a full term as New York’s governor.
George Santos, a Republican from New York, is set to take his House seat tomorrow even as it has emerged that he told more lies about his background.
Other Big Stories
The graduate student charged with four murders near an Idaho campus had been studying forensics and DNA in the weeks before the killings.
An ex-nurse in Colorado recorded himself sexually assaulting unconscious female patients, according to the police.
Officials in a small Arkansas city imposed an emergency curfew after a wave of crime.
An earthquake rattled Rio Dell, a town in Northern California, for the second time in two weeks.
A heavily armed man caused panic in an Atlanta supermarket, but Georgia’s permissive gun laws make prosecuting his behavior difficult.
Pope Benedict XVI’s legacy will be felt across decades or even centuries, Ross Douthat writes.
Dr. Anthony Fauci quietly helped AIDS activists at critical junctures, Peter Staley says.
“Barbara created her own good fortune”: Katie Couric reflects on her mentor and competitor, Barbara Walters.
There has never been a better time to be short, Mara Altman argues.
Street style: Dakar is a kaleidoscope of fashion.
Ice baths: The hottest place to network.
Santos, Brazil: Where Pelé became Pelé.
Revenge travel: TikTok trends provide a picture of the forces reshaping the economy.
Metropolitan Diary: Broke window shopping and free drawing at the Frick.
Advice from Wirecutter: The best men’s button-up shirts.
Lives Lived: Anita Pointer was the lead vocalist for many of the Pointer Sisters’ Top 40 hits and helped define their pop sound in the 1980s. She died at 74.
SPORTS NEWS FROM THE ATHLETIC
Defying the odds: Tom Brady and the Buccaneers overcame two double-digit deficits to lock up the N.F.C. South. Aaron Rodgers’s Packers stayed in the playoff hunt.
Nets’ long run: Brooklyn hasn’t lost in almost a month (11 straight games). Will player chemistry follow?
49ers’ win: San Francisco beat the Raiders in overtime yesterday for its ninth straight win, jumping to the No. 2 seed in the N.F.C. Rookie quarterback Brock Purdy and the 49ers defense cracked at times.
ARTS AND IDEAS
2023 in culture
Welcome to a new year of culture. Among the releases that Times critics are most looking forward to:
Margaret Lyons can’t wait for “Succession” Season 4: “Oh, I can hear the jangly piano theme now, and just knowing that the bereft and broken Roys, their gorgeously cruel dialogue and endless, joyless quests for power will be back on my screen soon fills me with elation.”
Mike Hale is eagerly awaiting two crime dramas that take different approaches to a venerable format, the mystery of the week: Fox’s “Accused” and Peacock’s “Poker Face.” Both premiere this month.
Zachary Woolfe recommends a production of Wagner’s “Lohengrin,” which has been absent for a while from the 25 or 30 titles at the center of the Metropolitan Opera’s history. “It’ll be a major event when, on Feb. 26, the opera finally returns to New York in a new staging.”
Browse all our critics’ recommendations, including dance, art and more.
PLAY, WATCH, EAT
What to Cook
Try white beans with onions and tomato. (And read Melissa Clark’s ode to canned beans.)
What to Listen to
These five podcasts explore the British royal family’s stories and scandals.
What to Read
Elinor Lipman’s latest novel, “Ms. Demeanor,” brings charm and clever high jinks with a dose of wry social commentary.
What to Watch
After years of supporting roles, Giancarlo Esposito is the main attraction in Netflix’s “Kaleidoscope.”
Now Time to Play
The pangram from yesterday’s Spelling Bee was allowance. Here is today’s puzzle.
Here’s today’s Mini Crossword, and a clue: Spurt (four letters).
And here’s today’s Wordle. After, use our bot to get better.
Thanks for spending part of your morning with The Times. See you tomorrow.
P.S. Help from The Times’s annual Neediest Cases Fund has bolstered recipients as their journeys continue.
Here’s today’s front page.
Lauren Hard, Lauren Jackson and Claire Moses contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.