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When Life Begins

Post originally written by Spencer Price. ———————————————- It is the most fundamental question about life itself ‘“ ‘When does life begin?’ And though some offer myriad arguments based upon political, ideological, or emotional grounds, the answer is actually quite simple, obvious, and indisputable ‘“ life begins at conception. The contrapuntal question, for those who oppose that notion is, ‘If not then, when?’ There are many reasons why some people argue against such an elemental biological truism concerning the beginning of life ‘“ political expediency, ideological conviction, or the cognitive and emotional discomfort experienced by many supporters of abortion on demand when forced to face the reality that abortion results in the termination of innocent human life. The question of when life begins can be posed in both a biological and theological context. In either case, however, the answer is the same ‘“ life begins at conception. Of course, theological constructs can be readily discounted by those not ascribing to similar religious beliefs. On the other hand, biological constructs, being based in reproducible science, cannot be as readily ignored. The notion that life begins at conception is a fundamental precept of the biological sciences disputed by few, if any, scientists. In fact, the dispute over the question of when life begins originates not within the scientific community at all but, rather, among non-scientists possessing purely personal, non-objective, motivations. Those who argue against conception as the beginning of life suggest that a newly conceived embryo cannot live outside the mother’s womb and, therefore, is not a separate entity. The embryo, according to their reasoning, isn’t a separate life but, rather, simply a part of the mother herself and, therefore, not sufficient to constitute life. However, the birth of Louise Joy Brown on July 25, 1978 irrefutably disproves this argument. Known as the world’s first ‘test tube’ baby, Ms. Brown was conceived in vitro (in glass). This process, referred to as in vitro fertilization, has since been repeated countless times resulting in the births of many thousands of healthy babies. In spite of the obvious evidence, however, many critics continue to argue against conception, known as the genetic theory, as the beginning of life. Emerging from these myriad arguments are alternative theories of when life begins: Embryologic theory (14 days) ‘“ the idea that life begins at gastrulation ‘“ the point at which the embryo forms two distinct layers, one of which yields the internal organs with the other yielding the placenta. Neurologic theory (6 ‘“ 24 weeks) ‘“ the idea that life begins when the brain produces measureable brain waves. Ecological theory (25 ‘“ 27 weeks) ‘“ the idea that life begins when the fetus can live outside the mother’s uterus. Birth theory (28 ‘“ 36 weeks) ‘“ the idea that life begins at birth (also known as parturition). Awareness theory (18 months) ‘“ the idea that life begins only when an infant gains self awareness, usually by 18 months of age (after parturition). Most of these theories are espoused not by scientists but, rather, by non-scientist advocates of abortion. Though many activists dismiss conception as the beginning of life, a newly conceived embryo possesses most of the generally accepted criteria that describe life ‘“ it has organization, undertakes metabolism, maintains homeostasis, grows, responds to stimuli, and adapts to its environment. The truth is that the core of the abortion advocacy argument isn’t scientific at all but, rather, political and philosophical. Abortion advocates support an essentially untenable position ‘“ that abortion on demand is perfectly reasonable, moral, and without emotional and social consequences. However, the fact that most , if not all, people inherently believe life begins at conception whether or not they are willing to admit it means that individuals and society in general must bear the tremendous burden that comes with knowing abortion results in the termination of innocent life. It is important to note that, although abortion advocates have made progress through the U. S. court system, the majority of Americans are now pro-life. A Rasmussen poll released on May 5, 2009 demonstrated that 58 percent of Americans now believe abortion is morally wrong most of the time. Recently released polls by Gallup, Pew, and Fox News yielded similar results. Still, it should be remembered that the abortion debate is not a question of science, but of morality and, therefore, that particular debate continues. The notion of when life begins, however, is a question of science and it is a question that science has been able to answer conclusively ‘“ life, says science, begins at conception. But, then again, that’s the same thing Christianity has been saying all along. To read a more detailed discussion of this topic, please visit Spencer’s ‘Essay’ section at

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