The following is a written version/adaptation of Trent Horn’s short 6-minute video “When Does Life Begin?” on Catholic Answers. (There is an even shorter version HERE.) I have attempted to maintain the integrity of that video, presenting it here in written form for those who like to have the text available. While this may not be a word-for-word reproduction, it’s fairly close.
The question of why abortion is wrong is tied directly to the question of when human life begins. When asked when life begins, abortion advocates will give any number of answers: “Once the baby has fully formed organs”; “…when it has a heartbeat”; “…when it’s identifiable as a human”; “…the moment a baby can breathe”; “we can’t really know when life begins”, etc. (In fact, I have even heard similar answers from pro-life advocates.)
‘Because we can’t really pin-point when life begins’, so they say, or ‘because it begins at [some random point selected by any given person]’, the imposition of pro-life views about life beginning at conception is seen as a religious imposition. But it’s not.
It is a scientific fact that life begins at conception/fertilization. At the very moment of fertilization, the result is something that is 1) alive, 2) human, and 3) a whole organism.
It’s alive! The unborn take up nutrients and grow via cellular reproduction. These are signs of life.
It’s human! The unborn organism is the offspring of human parents and has human DNA. Left alone to grow, it can become nothing other than a grown human with the same potential as any other human to become a mature member of its species.
It’s a whole organism! Just like you and me, the new life is a whole organism with human tissue. It is not “tissue”, itself, like a sperm cell or egg cell, but is comprised of tissue, just like us. Just like adults and infants, the unborn are human organisms with an intrinsic capacity to develop as human organisms. Body cells (sperm, egg, or other body cells) do not have that capacity.
These facts are true even if we die before becoming mature members of our species. No matter how much time and nutrition is given to body cells, they can never develop into a mature member of the human species. That’s because they aren’t organisms. Rather, they are body parts which belong to a larger human organism. It is the human organism which, provided nutrition and time, has the capacity to develop into a mature member of its species. And it is this human organism that deserves the right to life. From adult, to child, to zygote, humans in every stage of development deserve to be treated equally, because they are all human beings, regardless of the developmental milestone they have reached.
Experts, including those who believe in a right to abortion, agree that life begins at conception/fertilization:
The standard text, Human Embryology and Teratology, states, “Although human life is a continuous process, fertilization is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is thereby formed”.
Keith Moore and T.V.N. Persaud’s textbook, The Developing Human, states, “Human life begins at fertilization”.
“Development begins with fertilization” according to Langman’s Medical Embryology.
Chapter 4 of Scott Gilbert’s Developmental Biology is simply titled, “Fertilization: Beginning of a New Organism”.
In A Defense of Abortion, Philosopher David Boonin states that “the most straightforward relation between you and me on the one hand and every human fetus from conception onward on the other is this: All are living members of the same species, homo sapiens. A human fetus, after all, is simply a human being at a very early stage in his or her development”.
“It is possible to give ‘human being’ a precise meaning. We can use it as equivalent to ‘member of the species Homo sapiens’. Whether a being is a member of a given species is something that can be determined scientifically, by an examination of the nature of the chromosomes in the cells of living organisms. In this sense there is no doubt that from the first moments of its existence an embryo conceived from human sperm and eggs is a human being” according to pro-choice philosopher Peter Singer’s Practical Ethics.
When does life begin? For humans, it begins at fertilization/conception. After fertilization, body parts (sperm and egg) cease to be, and in their place is a new whole body/human organism. This raises the question:
Should ALL human organisms, regardless of how able-bodied they are, or how mentally developed they are, regardless of their age, race, sex, or any other factor, be treated equally and have a basic right to live?
The reason abortion is wrong is because it violates the right to life of these very small human beings who are simply waiting to be born.
Many thanks to Trent Horn and to Catholic Answers for their hard work in protecting the right to life of all humans. For more information, resources, or help with your own struggle, visit Arizona Right to Life's resources or visit the Brazos Valley Coalition for Life at http://www.coalitionforlife.com/