Do We Know When Life Begins?


October 25, 2012 by mattfradd

I want to thank my good friend, Stephanie Gray, for agreeing to write this fantastic post:

When Does Life Begin?

Have you ever heard someone who supports abortion claim, “No one knows when life begins”?

The funny thing is, these very individuals actually do claim to know when it begins.  If they ban abortion at 3 months, then they are implicitly saying life begins at 3 months.  If they ban abortion at 6 months, then they are implicitly saying life begins at 6 months.

The question is this: Is where they draw the line based on fact or convenience?

Moreover, abortion advocates are making an even greater concession than they realize.  Consider the labels “3 months” or “6 months”: these reveal the passage of time, and show that time is being “clocked” from a beginning point 3 or 6 months prior.

So wherever abortion advocates draw a line, they are unwittingly making this major admission: that life began where they started clocking the passage of time that brought them to 3 or 6 months. So what happened 3 or 6 months prior?  Fertilization.  And that’s when life begins.

According to Science…

Life begins at fertilization  but not because I say so; rather, because science says so.

Embryology texts repeatedly echo the sentiment expressed by Keith Moore in his medical textbook The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology: “Human development begins at fertilization.”

To paraphrase my friend and pro-life apologist Steve Wagner, consider these 3 questions:

1. If something is growing, isn’t it alive?

2. If it has human parents, isn’t it human offspring?  

3. And we humans are valuable, aren’t we?

Our society recognizes the latter—that’s why we are outraged when genocides occur.

As for the second point, as long as we don’t re-open the debate about the humanness of women, and as long as we don’t open a debate about the humanness of men, there is no reason to doubt the humanness of their offspring.

As for the first point, at fertilization, a one-celled embryo grows into two cells, then four cells, then eight and so forth.  Thus, he or she is clearly alive.

A Person’s a Person, No Matter How Small

That embryonic human may be smaller, less developed and more dependent than the rest of us, but let’s remember that a toddler is also smaller, less developed, and more dependent than us too.

We are labeled when we are certain ages (e.g., “embryo” or “toddler”) and as a result of our age, we may or may not be able to do certain things.  But regardless of which age category we fit into, we’re human beings at all stages of our development.

To allow those of us who are older to kill those who are younger is age discrimination.

But Embryos Don’t Look Human!

Actually, they look exactly as a human should look at that stage of development.  And that brings to mind an analogy from Richard Stith: consider a Polaroid picture.  Once you click the camera and the card comes out, what initially appears is brown/black smudges.  But within a few minutes the image appears with clarity.   The image is captured in an instant but it does need time to develop.

So it is with each of us—who we are as unique, unrepeatable individuals of great dignity is captured in an instant (fertilization); we just need time to develop.

In Conclusion

it’s worth considering that when scientists want to create human life in a lab, they don’t plead ignorance about when life begins.  On the contrary, they know exactly when it begins, for they aim to replicate not an individual at 3 or 6 months’ development, but rather they aim to replicate the moment of fertilization.

They aren’t satisfied with a sperm or egg by themselves, but they are satisfied with a one-celled embryo.

So why is it that when scientists, or others, wish to destroy human life, they claim to not know when it begins?

Perhaps it’s because we don’t want to know when life begins.  Because if we admit life begins at fertilization, then we have to admit our society is committing and permitting the greatest human rights violation in the history of the world when we allow for the destruction of the youngest of our kind.

Stephanie Gray is co-founder and executive director of The Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform:

16 thoughts on “Do We Know When Life Begins?

  1. Gretchen says:

    Thank you so much for this post! 🙂

  2. The bottom line, as Stephanie so aptly concludes with the full burden of truth, is that we will all be held to account for this atrocity. Whether the ones who cut and extract, or the ones who “who-knows when life begins” into oblivion, there is complicity in this horrific crime.

  3. Robin says:

    I’ve never met a pro-choice individual who claimed not to know when life begins. We all know when life begins. An amoeba is alive. A cell is alive. Bacteria are alive. People don’t get abortions because they want to destroy life. They get abortions because they don’t want to destroy theirs.

    • enness says:

      You may have never met one, but I have met plenty.

      Why should doing the right thing destroy a person’s life? Because people don’t step up and help them enough. So instead of being all laissez-faire about abortion, maybe we ought to quit shirking in our duty to help. I started volunteering at a crisis pregnancy center last year. What are you going to do to make things better?

    • enness says:

      Also, if you have ever met any teenagers you may be aware that parents can “ruin” their children’s lives by not letting them go to the party they very desperately want to go to. It can at times be a very subjective thing. Yet abortion clinics think teenagers have just as sound judgment as adults (there are biological reasons this is not true)…or at least, their money is just as green.

    • mattfradd says:

      Thanks Robin,
      As you know, an amoeba, a cell and bacteria is not a human life. But yes,
      I’d tend to agree with you, I suspect the explicit motivation behind an abortion is not to kill an innocent human life, though that is always the outcome, but because this parent, or parents, are afraid and abortion offers an apparent solution to that fear.

  4. Enness, we all are called to act for the pro-life cause. There are different aspects to winning this fight. Helping the women in crisis pregnancies is one very helpful thing that we can do. Letting women know that abortion is not the right choice is also crucial in helping those women. We can’t all do everything and we should accept what others are doing.

  5. […] Do We Know When Life Begins? […]

  6. Julia says:

    Of course life begins at conception. But we prolifers need to join forces and agree that we need a law. Let’s at least have a ban to stop SOME abortions. The ‘all or nothing’ approach Has Not Worked.

    • Rachel says:

      I agree with you there. Although i do want all babies to be saved, I do think its definateley a one step at a time race. It would be better to stop SOME abortions, as you said, rather than NONE abortions at all.

      • Nick says:

        As I would also prefer “some” babies to be saved, but I don’t think it is realistic. If the current laws are overturned it will be because science and reason shows that life begins at fertilization (is there another way to overturn these laws?). Either all unborn have rights or none. The courts appeal to reason, even if it is contrary to common opinion.

  7. […] few weeks back, guest blogger, Stephanie Gray posted her thought-provoking article, Do We Know When Life Begins? Today she addresses those who acknowledge what is scientifically undeniable (life begins at […]

  8. […] few weeks back, guest blogger, Stephanie Gray posted her thought-provoking article, Do We Know When Life Begins? Today she addresses those who acknowledge what is scientifically undeniable (life begins at […]

  9. Katie Taylor says:

    I’m sorry. I know you’re going to call me names like “cocky” when I say this but:

    I have a biology degree and you don’t. You don’t know anything about embryology or anything more than a tenth grade view of science. Exactly what point in the 3 million processes between the sperm hitting the egg does the soul enter? Confused? Yeah, that’s because knowing when life begins is a philosophical issue, not a biological one. I was never taught that “life begins at conception” because I would quite, frankly, be an idiot. Science does not point to a soul entering at any time. And guess what else? I’m pro-life. Confused? Get a dang degree and stop claiming to know anything about science.

    • mattfradd says:

      Not just cocky, arrogant.

      Your comment amounted to misrepresenting Stephanie’s argument (she never mentioned the word soul COUGHredherring) and committing ad hominen attacks.

      Why don’t you take breath, calm down, and try again. This time, keep away from red herrings and ad hominem attacks and deal with the points Stephanie raised.

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