HomeoldThe scientific evidence regarding the unborn child is as follows

The scientific evidence regarding the unborn child is as follows

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Before determining the appropriate course of action regarding the treatment of the unborn, it is essential to have a clear understanding of what the unborn is. This is a matter of scientific inquiry, and the science of human embryology provides a definitive answer.

When sperm fertilizes egg

After fertilization, sperm and egg cells merge to form a single cell with 46 chromosomes. This cell is called a zygote. The zygote is the beginning of a new human life. The terms zygote, embryo, and fetus all refer to stages of human development.

Four features of the unborn

Four things about the unborn are important for its status as a human being. First, it is alive. It meets all the biological criteria for life. It is also growing. Dead things don’t grow.

Secondly, the unborn is human. This is evidenced by the presence of a human genetic signature, which is irrefutable. Furthermore, the unborn is the offspring of human parents, and it is well established that humans can only beget humans (they cannot beget dogs or cats, for instance). While the unborn may not appear to “look” human (at least in its earlier stages), it is evident that it does, in fact, look exactly like a human at that level of human development. The growth and maturation of living things does not result in a transformation into a different entity; rather, they develop in accordance with their inherent nature.

Third, the unborn is genetically and functionally distinct from the pregnant woman, although they are dependent on each other and reside within her body. Her growth and maturation is internally directed, and her DNA is unique and different from that of any other cell in the woman’s body. She develops her own arms, legs, brain, central nervous system, etc. To assert that a fetus is a part of the pregnant woman’s body is to imply that the woman has four arms and four legs, and that approximately half of pregnant women have penises.

A whole organism

Fourth, the unborn is a whole or complete organism, though still immature. She is not merely a part of another living thing; she is her own organism, an entity whose parts work together in a self-integrated fashion to bring the whole to maturity. The genetic information of the unborn is fully present at the moment of conception, and it is this information that determines the physical characteristics of the individual in question, including sex, eye color, skin color, bone structure, and so on. In order for the unborn to develop fully, it requires only a suitable environment and nutrition to progress through the different stages of human life.

Consequently, the unborn is a discrete, living, and complete human organism—a full-fledged member of the species Homo sapiens, analogous to you and me, but at an earlier stage of development. She is a human being.

Affirmed by textbooks, scientists

This is confirmed by leading scientists in embryology textbooks. In The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, Keith L. Moore and T.V.N. Persaud explain: “Human development begins at fertilization when a sperm and an egg join to form a single cell, the zygote. This cell is highly specialized and can become any type of cell in the body.”

The development of a human begins with fertilization, when the sperm and egg join to form a new organism, the zygote.

Dr. Micheline Matthews-Roth of Harvard Medical School says that life begins at conception, when egg and sperm join to form the zygote. This developing human is always a member of our species.

In 1981, a U.S. Senate judiciary subcommittee heard expert testimony on when life begins. The official subcommittee report concluded that life begins at conception.

The majority of physicians, biologists, and other scientists concur that the moment of conception marks the beginning of the life of a human being, a being that is alive and a member of the human species. This point is supported by a wealth of medical, biological, and scientific writings.

The report said that no witness refuted the biological fact that a human being is alive from the moment of conception. No witness challenged the scientific consensus that unborn children are human beings.

Evidence is decisive

The unborn is a human being from the moment of conception. Abortion and embryo-destructive research kill humans. This is not a moral claim, but a scientific fact.

Some people disagree with this because they don’t understand the science. I’ll explain some common objections below.

Objection #1: ‘No one knows’

The assertion that “no one knows when life begins” is a claim that is frequently repeated and therefore requires a response. While there is indeed debate about when a human being becomes (if she is not by nature) valuable and deserving of full moral respect, the strictly biological matter is clear, as I explain above. The life of a human being, a living member of our species, begins at conception.

(In contrast to the views of many pro-choice advocates, agnosticism regarding the unborn is a compelling reason to refrain from killing her. A hunter does not shoot into the brush unless he is certain that his target is not a person.)

Objection #2: Potential of sperm and egg

Some have argued that if the unborn is a human being, then we must (in an illogical manner) conclude that the sperm and egg are also human beings, given that they also have the potential to become a child, a teenager, and eventually an adult. This is a flawed approach to biology. The sperm and egg are simply parts of larger organisms. When the sperm and egg unite, they cease to exist and a new entity, the zygote, emerges. This zygote is a whole organism with the capacity to develop into a mature member of its species, provided it is given a suitable environment and nutrition. Each of us was once a zygote, but none of us was ever a sperm or egg.

Objection #3: Somatic cells

Some people say that the zygote and embryo are like regular human cells. These cells are alive and have a full genetic code. Since these cells are not human beings, the zygote or embryo is not a human being either. But there is a difference. The unborn is its own organism. The unborn is a distinct individual from the moment of conception. Its parts work together to develop the whole to maturity. This is not true of skin or other somatic cells, which function as parts of a larger organism.

Objection #4: Twinning

Some people who support embryo-destructive research say that because early embryos can split into two embryos, the early embryo must not be a single individual. But this is not true.

When a flatworm is cut in half or when an organism is cloned, a single organism gives rise to two distinct organisms. In both cases, the original entity is a single, self-integrating, whole individual. The embryo is an organism from the zygote stage onward, even if twinning occurs.

Objection #5: Brain death

Some people say that a human being can’t live after their brain stops working. But some of the body’s organs can still work after this happens. So some people think that a human being can’t live after their brain stops working.

It is important to note that brain death is accepted as a criterion because it signals the end of the body’s ability to function as an integrated organism, for which the brain, in older humans, is essential. After brain death, it is no longer possible to consider the body as a single, unified entity. In contrast, the embryo from conception is a single, unified organism, actively developing itself to the next stage of human life. At this earliest stage, the brain is not yet necessary for the embryo to function as such.

All, or only some?

Given the clarity of scientific facts, the permissibility of taking unborn human life is a matter of moral debate. It would be helpful to consider whether all human beings deserve full moral respect and protection, as you and I do, or whether this is reserved for some.


Daniel Miller is responsible for nearly all of National Right to Life News' political writing.

With the election of Donald Trump to the U.S. presidency, Daniel Miller developed a deep obsession with U.S. politics that has never let go of the political scientist. Whether it's the election of Joe Biden, the midterm elections in Congress, the abortion rights debate in the Supreme Court or the mudslinging in the primaries - Daniel Miller is happy to stay up late for you.

Daniel was born and raised in New York. After living in China, working for a news agency and another stint at a major news network, he now lives in Arizona with his two daughters.

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