When Does Life Begin?


How do scientists distinguish between life and non-life?

A scientific textbook called "Basics of Biology"1 gives five characteristics of living things; these five criteria are found in all modern elementary scientific textbooks:

  1. Living things are highly organized.
  2. All living things have an ability to acquire materials and energy.
  3. All living things have an ability to respond to their environment.
  4. All living things have an ability to reproduce.
  5. All living things have an ability to adapt.

According to this elementary definition of life, life begins at fertilization, when a sperm unites with an oocyte. From this moment, the being is highly organized, has the ability to acquire materials and energy, has the ability to respond to his or her environment, has the ability to adapt, and has the ability to reproduce (the cells divide, then divide again, etc., and barring pathology and pending reproductive maturity has the potential to reproduce other members of the species). Non-living things do not do these things. Even before the mother is aware that she is pregnant, a distinct, unique life has begun his or her existence inside her....Read More

Medical science already refers to a spontaneous heart rhythm and the presence of brain waves to determine whether someone is alive at the other end of the spectrum of human existence. In simplistic terms, if an organ donor is in an automobile accident and is on life support in a hospital, the physician cannot "pull the plug" and donate the patient's organs to others unless the patient is "brain dead" and his heart is not beating on its own. If the medical community maintained consistency with this generally accepted medical definition of human life, then we would condemn every abortion after the time when the average woman discovers she is pregnant. Every abortion, by the generally accepted standards of medical science, kills an innocent human life.

  1. Basics of Biology, Carol Leth Stone, Greenwood Publishing Group, January 1, 2004, ISBN: 0-313-31786-0
  2. American Life League, Retrieved: July 31,2013,

Are There Rare Cases When an Abortion Is Justified?

"What About an Ectopic Pregnancy?"

This excuse for allowing abortion sounds reasonable. If the pregnancy is threatening the mother’s life, it would seem that lethal force —an abortion —would be a permissible form of self-defense. The child is not really "attacking" the mother, but his presence puts her at risk. It sounds like a good argument, but it simply isn’t true.

Hundreds of doctors have a signed a statement that puts the situation in perspective. The statement reads, "There is never a situation in the law or in the ethical practice of medicine where a preborn child’s life need be intentionally destroyed by procured abortion for the purpose of saving the life of the mother. A physician must do everything possible to save the lives of both of his patients, mother and child. He must never intend the death of either."2

A tubal (or ectopic) pregnancy, for instance, can indeed be life-threatening. But the treatment, even if it is fatal to the child, is not a "procured abortion." The doctor wants to save the baby, but knows that is virtually impossible. The baby’s death is an unintended consequence of the physician’s effort to save the mother. Indeed, if the physician did nothing and the mother died, her unborn child would die also. There are similar cases involving the treatment of cancer in which the baby’s death can be an unintended consequence. But again, these are medical treatments, not abortions.

It is important to distinguish between direct abortion, which is the intentional and willed destruction of a preborn child, and a legitimate treatment a pregnant mother may choose to save her life. Operations that are performed to save the life of the mother-such as the removal of a cancerous uterus or an ectopic pregnancy that pose the threat of imminent death-are considered indirect abortions.

They are justified under a concept called the "principle of double effect." Under this principle, the death of the child is an unintended consequence of an operation independently justified by the necessity of saving the mother’s life.

Essentially, both mother and child should be treated as patients. A doctor should try to protect both. However, in the course of treating a woman, if her child dies, that is not a deleberate abortion.

"Today it is possible for almost any patient to be brought through pregnancy alive, unless she suffers from a fatal disease such as cancer or leukemia, and if so, abortion would be unlikely to prolong, much less save the life of the mother."

-Alan Guttmacher, former Planned Parenthood president "There are no conceivable clinical situations today where abortion is necessary to save the life of the mother. In fact, if her health is threatened and an abortion is performed, the abortion increases risks the mother will incur regarding her health."

-Dr. Bernard Nathanson, American Bioethics Advisory Commission There is only one purpose for abortion —to deleberately end the life of the child. The "life of the mother" situation for abortion is simply bogus.

See also "Abortion —NOT Even When the Pregnancy Threatens the Life of the Mother?"

What’s Really Going on at Missouri’s Last Abortion Clinic?

Published by Can't Say You Didn't Know July 9, 2019

There has been a lot of hype over the past month about the fate of Missouri’s last abortion clinic. On June 1st, Missouri’s Department of Health and Senior Services refused to renew the Planned Parenthood of St. Louis’s license after finding serious health concerns back in March. Planned Parenthood was quick to decry the decision as an attempt by the state government to enforce their anti-abortion agenda after the Governor signed a bill outlawing abortion after 8 weeks. Abortion rights advocates say that this is yet another attempt for “women’s reproductive rights” to be reduced. ...Read More

But What About Human Rights?

Published by Can't Say You Didn't Know June 18, 2019

Previously, we discussed that the abortion debate boils down to a question of, “Who gets rights?” The Pro-Life side asserts the fundamental right to life for all; the Pro-Abortion side claims that a woman (person’s) right to bodily autonomy is greater that a fetus’s (“non-person’s”) right to life.) We noted that the issue of personhood must first be decided and demonstrated that the pre-born human is just as deserving of personhood as humans who have already been born. ...Read More

But What About Personhood?

Published by Can't Say You Didn't Know June 14, 2019

The abortion debate hinges upon the issue of “rights.” Proponents of abortion claim to advocate women’s rights- the right to bodily autonomy. Pro-Life individuals point to the intrinsic right to life of every individual. These “rights” issues are the hinges upon which both side’s arguments swing. They are not mutually exclusive and both Pro-Life and Pro-Abortion individuals acknowledge that both rights exists. However, the issue arises as to which right is allowed precedence over the other. With all the medical and scientific advancements available to us today, it is near impossible to deny the life and humanity of the pre-born in the womb. While the denial of life and the humanity of the pre-born is still common debate among the “pro-choice” crowd, many have given up this tactic and instead focus on the perceived lack of personhood and moral and legal equivalence. This is why the term “fetus” has been so emphasized. “Fetus” has come to mean a “non-person” human. They discourage the use of “baby” because it implies humanity and instead use the medical term for “unborn human offspring.” These individuals acknowledge that the fetus is indeed a human life, but claim that they are not in fact “persons” and, because of this, greater deference should be given to the person of the woman carrying the fetus. Put simply, this argument is that a woman’s (person’s) right to bodily autonomy is greater than the right to life of a fetus (a non-person). ...Read More

But What About the Thousands of Children Already in Foster Care?

Published by Can't Say You Didn't Know April 4, 2019

“But what about all the children already in foster care?”

“If you’re so pro-life, how many kids have you adopted?”

“If abortion is outlawed what are you going to do about the thousands more children who go into foster care?”

All of these are common Pro-Abortion rebuttals to Pro-Lifers. They claim that Pro-Lifers don’t really care about children because they aren’t concerned with those that are poor and/or come from broken families and are in foster care. They claim that Pro-Lifers are merely “Pro-Birth”, not truly Pro-Life. However, is this a fair claim? Let’s break down this argument. However, before we start I want to open with a preface. As of September 30, 2017 there were 442,995 children in the foster care system in the United States. This staggering number is not just a statistic, it represents over 400,000 broken homes and hurting children. In this discussion we cannot forget that, just as one abortion is one too many, one hurting child or one broken family is one too many. With that preface in mind, let’s begin. ...Read More