How embarrassing it is to argue life does not begin at conception

By Dave Andrusko

Thanks go out to Life News which gave readers a heads-up to a commentary curiously titled, “Why life doesn’t begin at conception.”

The author is Richard Paulson, among other things the president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. So he’s obviously no dummy yet argues a position that is indefensible on multiple levels.

Before I go any further, it’s important to understand that the go-to argument for pro-abortionists always is a variation of the idea that pro-life positions are “religious” as opposed to “scientific.” The all-purpose slur “junk science” is often trotted out to persuade the reader that the case against pro-lifers has been made, as if name-calling is the highest form of Socratic dialogue. But, as we will see, the case that life begins at conception is not “our” case but the conclusions of embryology.

What drew Dr. Paulson’s ire is revealed in his first paragraph:

Recently, the Department of Health and Human Services released a draft of its latest strategic plan, which will guide the agency from 2018 to 2022. Near the top of the document, the agency presents its mission statement: HHS activities “cover a wide spectrum of activities, serving and protecting Americans at every stage of life, beginning at conception.”

And the problem with that is what exactly?

”This is a religious definition of life, not a scientific one. Health and Human Services is a government organization. Its actions should be evidence-based, not faith-based, and this decidedly unscientific language should be eliminated from its strategic plan.”

Really? Is someone of his stature unaware that there are loads of textbooks affirming that basic biological truism? In a story reposted at NRL News Today, Paul Stark listed just a handful of the many embryology books that affirm life begins at conception.

The real core of Paulson’s argument comes a few paragraphs later and springs from his observation that human reproduction “is a highly inefficient process.” Dr. Paulson writes

As women age, the proportion of eggs with chromosomal abnormalities increases dramatically. If such eggs are fertilized, they implant rarely, or result in a miscarriage. In vitro fertilization has shown human reproduction to be a highly inefficient process. Even a chromosomally normal embryo will successfully implant and result in a live birth only about half the time. This is true whether fertilization takes place in the body or in the laboratory.

But as Micaiah Bilger observed, “It appears that Paulson was implying that human life does not begin at fertilization because so many embryos die before implantation. But this is a value-based argument, not a scientific one. Some human beings are more likely to die than others, maybe because of their age or environment or even the point in history in which they were born. But these factors should not determine whether a human being is valuable.”

And note this hugely important distinction: what Paulson is emphasizing is not when life begins but when it ends.

One other important point. As we’ve written on many occasions, pro-abortionists are masters of misdirection (getting off on the “personhood” rabbit trail is a favorite) and mixing categories. They sound profound but in fact they are deliberately confused and confusing.

For example, a common retort is

“Just because something is alive and human does not give it moral rights. My kidney is alive and human, does it have moral rights?”

Mr. Stark offered a devastating response to that debater’s point made by Prof. David Schultz:

It’s true that merely being alive and human — like a kidney, or the skin cells on the back of my hand — does not say much. But Schultz misses one more biological fact about the unborn (i.e., the human embryo or fetus), a fact that makes the unborn radically different from a human kidney or skin cells: the unborn is a whole (though immature) organism, not a mere part of another.

When that doesn’t work, rather than retreat, pro-abortionists like Amanda Marcotte double down: “Actual biologists, for what it’s worth, argue that life is continuous and that a fertilized egg is no more or less alive than a sperm or an unfertilized egg,” she argues.

Stark responded

This is remarkably biologically uninformed. Life in general is continuous (sperm and egg are alive), but the life of an individual human being is not continuous. It has a beginning and an end. [My emphasis]

Dr. Paulson concludes, “We should insist that the Department of Health and Human Services be driven by science and data, not faith-based belief.”

Actually the “driver,” as it were for HHS’s strategic plan, is the ability to make distinctions and acknowledge the consensus of science.

Dr. Paulson has plenty of credentials, no doubt. But he is wrong for all the reasons I’m mention and many more.

Life does begin at conception.

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