Upper Left Coast

Thoughts on politics, faith, sports and other random topics from a red state sympathizer in indigo-blue Portland, Oregon.

Monday, November 28, 2005

When does life begin?

After I wrote my post about abortion and Down Syndrome, I got a response from someone named Sam Canfield. He and I traded comments, but I wanted to respond again and write a bit more to make several points. Thus, this post.

Sam wrote:
I would like to see evidence that the child could live outside the womb without the mothers life support system. if it could, well i apologize. i'm no apologist for those who support late-term abortions. i don't believe life begins at conception though. i don't care if a peanut has a heartbeat.
Sam, I appreciate your comments about refusing to be an apologist for late-term abortion advocates. That, at least, tells me you're willing to discuss and contemplate the issue without the blinders of the radical pro-abortion forces.

However, your comment demands a multi-faceted response, the most important of which addresses those last two sentences. It's really interesting that you "don't believe" life begins at conception. But frankly, what you "believe" in this case is irrelevant to the discussion. I could say I don't believe in the laws of gravity, but I'd still break my head open if I tried to jump off the roof.

My question to you is: at what point do you believe it's a human life? Let's make a quick run through the first three months of a typical pregnancy, shall we?
  • At the moment of conception, your parents contribute 300,000 genes to determine your unique physical characteristics, intelligence and personality. You have your own set of DNA from the first minute, a DNA that tells any scientist that you are a human being. Do you believe it's a human being yet?
  • Within three weeks, your heart has begun pushing your blood — often a different blood type from your mother — around your body. Do you believe it's a human being yet?
  • Within four weeks, your eyes, ears, arms and respiratory system have begun to form. Do you believe it's a human being yet?
  • Between day 31 and 33, the brain becomes 25 percent larger. Brain waves, as measured on an EEG, are present 40 days (less than six weeks) after conception. Your fingers start forming at six weeks. Do you believe it's a human being yet?
Out of the 1.37 million annual abortions in the United States, 300,000 are done by this point in the pregnancy.
  • Before seven weeks, your jaw has formed and includes 20 "pre-teeth." Your tiny mouth has lips and the beginnings of a tongue. Tear ducts are forming in your eyes. Your completed skeleton begins to harden with its many complex links and joints. Your reflexes are present. Do you believe it's a human being yet?
Another 240,000 annual abortions are done by this point in the pregnancy. That's more than half a million total.
  • By eight weeks (pictured below), all your bodily organs are present and functioning. Do you believe it's a human being yet?
Another 250,000 annual abortions are done by this point in the pregnancy, bringing the total to almost 800,000.
  • Before 10 weeks, if the sole of your foot was touched, you would curl your toes and bend your hips and knees to move away from the object. You squint, swallow, move your tongue and make a fist. Your fingerprints and footprints are evident. Do you believe it's a human being yet? At what point are you finally convinced? How do you establish an arbitrary cutoff where it's OK to abort before the date, but not after?
With another 275,000 annual abortions by this point in the pregnancy, the total pushes past 1 million children.

I could go on into the fetal development calendar, but I'm not trying to belabor the point. I'm trying to get you to think about a statement that is made by millions of pro-choice folks every year without thinking about what it really means. You don't believe life begins at conception? On what do you base that belief?

It all comes back to the question I keep asking: Is it a human life or not? If not, no justification is needed. If so, no justification is adequate.

In my next post, I'll deal with a couple of other issues you raise.

"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 and any interruption at any point constitutes a termination of a human life."
- Dr. Jerome LeJeune, genetics professor at the University of Descartes in Paris and the discoverer of the Down Syndrome chromosome

"The beginning of a single human life is from a biological point of view a simple and straightforward matter — the beginning is conception."
- Dr. Landrum Shettles, discoverer of male and female producing sperm

"By all the criteria of modern molecular biology, life is present from the moment of conception."
- Dr. Hymie Gordon, chairman of the department of genetics at the Mayo Clinic


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