Life (and worth) Before Birth

On this, the 40th anniversary of the infamous Roe v. Wade and Doe v. Bolton decisions (Jan. 22nd 1973), which together led to abortion on demand as the law of the land, it would do us well to reflect on the humanity of our pre-born fellow humans; whose voices we must be.

The Supreme Court, when deciding on the legality of abortion in the early 1970s, explicitly declared that if the unborn is indeed a “person,” or living human being, then the woman has no right to an abortion. The lawyer from Texas, hoping to keep abortion illegal, was asked by the Court whether there was any substantial scientific testimony that the unborn was really a person, he was woefully unprepared to provide any such evidence at the time.

And we can never forget how, then Sen., Barack Obama answered when asked explicitly, “At what point does a baby get human rights in your view?” He said “Well, I think that whether you are looking at it from a theological perspective or a scientific perspective, answering that question with specificity, you know, is above my pay grade.”

Since Roe v. Wade, and Pres. Obama should have known this, many in whose “pay grade” making such judgments fits, have clearly ruled that an individual’s life as a human begins when they are conceived.

Let’s consider the official, professional medical testimony of these witnesses.

The late French geneticist Jerome LeJeune, of the National Center of Scientific Research and the scientist who discovered the genetic basis of Down Syndrome, made it very clear in 1989:

Now we can say, unequivocally [without question], that the question of when life begins is no longer a question of theological or philosophical dispute. It is an established, scientific fact . . . All life, including human life, begins at the moment of conception. . . Each of us has a unique beginning; the moment of conception . . .” Testifying in Davis v. Davis Blount County, Tennessee Circuit Court, 1989

Even before that, in a Senate Report on Senate Bill 158 in 1981 several credentialed scientists and physicians made it clear that there is no question that the unborn, beginning at the moment of conception, are individual human beings. These quotes completely destroy the pro-choice claim that the unborn zygote, embryo or fetus is nothing but tissue, a clump of cells or a “part” of the woman’s body.

Dr. Alfred M. Bongiovanni, professor of pediatrics and obstetrics at the University of Pennsylvania, explained,

I have learned from my earliest medical education that human life begins at the time of conception…. I submit that human life is present throughout this entire sequence from conception to adulthood….”

Also, according to the testimony of Professor Hymie Gordon of the Mayo Clinic,

By all the criteria of modern molecular biology, life is present from the moment of conception.”

Professor Micheline Matthews-Roth of Harvard University Medical School said in that same hearing,

It is incorrect to say that biological data cannot be decisive…. It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception….”

Finally, Dr. Landrum Shettles, who discovered the XY factor in sperm and was the attending OBGYN at Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York for 27 years said this about those Senate meetings:

Pro-abortionists, though invited to do so, failed to produce even a single expert witness who would specifically testify that life begins at any point other than conception or implantation. Only one witness said no one can tell when life begins.”

Well, “no one can tell when life begins” is a cop out and ignoring of facts only when you want the convenience of its not beginning at conception.

This information clearly supports that a living human being is present in the womb of a pregnant woman, or a petri dish in a lab when conceived by IVF, and that this is a scientific, medical matter, not a religious or philosophical one.

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Susan HaackWill HoneycuttSteve Phillips Recent comment authors
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Steve Phillips

While it is true that it is clear biologically that an individual human life begins at conception, the question that needs to be answered is more complex. The question that underlies the issue of abortion and other beginning of life issues is when that human life becomes a person with full moral status. Even more basic than that is the question of how we define who is a person with full moral status. Those are the essential questions which science cannot answer. We can make a good argument from a Christian worldview that full moral status should belong to every… Read more »

Will Honeycutt
Will Honeycutt

Thank you, Steve. I spoke in generalities and was only focused on the medical/biological aspect of the debate because that seems to be what the SC was looking for and what has been provided by scientific experts since the challenge was made, and not met, resulting in abortion on demand and the onslaught of wholesale disregard for embryonic life. I agree though, that this is a multifaceted question, especially when the world attempts to make clear distinctions between biological life and personhood. When I have the time to really teach this issue I encourage students to think in terms of… Read more »

Susan Haack
Susan Haack

I was going to make the same comments as Steve: the issue is not when life begins, which is irrefutable, but when that life becomes “a person” with sufficient moral agency to warrant protection by the state. For many, an identity exists between human being and human personhood, but for many others of differing persuasions, these are distinct ontological categories. And the concept of personhood is nebulous, defying consensus. And so we continue to talk past one another. It would be interesting to know precisely how the Supreme Court framed their decision: did they explicitly mix these conceptual entities, declaring… Read more »