When Does a Human Life Begin?
“MY BIOLOGICAL mother was 17 years old and 7 1/2 months pregnant when she made the decision to have a saline abortion,” explained Gianna.a She added: “I am the person she aborted. I lived instead of died.”
This testimony was given by 19-year-old Gianna in 1996 before a U.S. government committee hearing on the subject of abortion. By the time Gianna had been inside her mother’s womb for seven and a half months, her body parts were clearly developed. You probably agree that she was actually a person, since she continued her life as a person outside the womb.
Well, then, what about Gianna when she was a five-week-old embryo, measuring a third of an inch [1 cm] in length? True, her body parts were not yet fully formed, but the foundation for her nervous system, including her brain, had been established. She had a heart beating 80 times a minute that forced blood through vessels. So if Gianna was a person after seven and a half months in the womb, might one not logically conclude that she was a person at five weeks—although not as developed?
The Miracle of Conception
The development of all the parts of an embryo begins at conception, when the ovum, or egg cell, of the woman is fertilized by a sperm cell of the man. New advances in technology have enabled scientists to observe the amazing changes that take place in the nucleus of this one-celled fertilized egg. The molecules making up the DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) of the father and mother combine to create a human life that never existed before.
That original single cell begins the truly miraculous process of constructing a fully formed human. The nature of this “construction” project is determined by our genes, which are segments of DNA. These control virtually everything about us. They determine our height, facial features, eye and hair color, and thousands of other traits.
Afterward, as that original cell divides, the complete genetic “blueprint” is duplicated into every new cell. Amazingly, each of these is programmed to develop into whatever kind of cell is needed. This includes heart tissue, brain cells, bone, skin, and even transparent tissue for our eyes. The initial programming within the original cell for the development of a unique new person has understandably often been referred to as “a miracle.”
“The human being is fully programmed for human growth and development for his or her entire life at the one cell age,” reported Dr. David Fu-Chi Mark, a celebrated molecular biologist. He concluded: “There can no longer be any doubt that each human being is totally unique from the very beginning of his or her life at fertilization.”
A Person Inside the Womb?
From the time of conception in the womb, the child is, not just another part of the mother’s tissue, but a separate person. Her body views it as a foreign object. It would be quickly rejected were it not for the “protected world” created in the mother’s womb. This new human life—separated from the mother by protective housing—is a person with a unique DNA fingerprint.
Some argue that a woman’s body spontaneously aborts many fertilized eggs because of abnormalities, so why shouldn’t a doctor be able to abort a pregnancy? Yet, there is a big difference between spontaneous death and deliberate homicide. In one South American country, 71 out of 1,000 children die within their first year. But just because so many die prematurely, would it be acceptable to kill a child under the age of one? Of course not!
Significantly, the Bible describes a human life as existing in the womb. The psalmist David wrote concerning God: “Your eyes saw even the embryo of me, and in your book all its parts were down in writing.” (Psalm 139:16) David does not simply say “an embryo” but “the embryo of ME,” thus accurately revealing that David’s life began when he was conceived, long before his birth. Under inspiration by God, David also revealed that at conception the development of his body parts was according to a plan, or detailed ‘written’ instructions, which made him the person he was.
Please note also that the Bible does not say that a woman conceives a piece of tissue. Instead, it states: “An able-bodied man has been conceived!” (Job 3:3) This too indicates that according to the Bible, a child exists as a person from the time of his conception. Yes, that is when human life begins.
a A saline abortion involves the injection of a toxic salt solution into the mother’s womb, which the baby swallows, usually causing death within two hours. The mother goes into labor about 24 hours later and delivers a dead or—in a few cases—dying baby.
[Pictures on page 6, 7]
A five-week-old human embryo is not a mere piece of tissue—it has within it the foundation for all the organs of a grown person