Morally, we cannot justify the taking of innocent lives in any context. So before forming an opinion on the topic of abortion, it’s important that we ask ourselves, “When does life begin?” Biologists know the answer. There is almost universal consensus that life begins at conception. Here’s what the science says:
Oxford Languages defines “life” as “the condition that distinguishes animals and plants from inorganic matter, including the capacity for growth, reproduction, functional activity, and continual change preceding death.”
Here’s what we know about human fetuses:
- Human beings are animals — we’re mammals!
- Human fetuses continue to change and grow (from conception until death).
- Human fetuses grow and later have the ability to reproduce at maturation.
- Human fetuses exhibit functional activity in the womb (ex: a heartbeat and brain waves by 6 weeks, responding to sounds and touch by weeks 21 and 22 respectively, practicing breathing by 10 weeks, etc).
What Occurs at Conception?
At conception, the sperm and egg unite to create a new life. With 23 chromosomes from its mother and 23 from its father, this new life has a full 46-chromosome DNA chain, identifying it as a genetic human being. Furthermore, it is a unique human being, separate from that of its mother and father.
With a complete genetic code, this new human being’s gender, eye color, and many other traits are already determined. From the moment of conception, all this human requires is time and nourishment to continue its journey along the continuum of life.
Once conception occurs, we often use scientific terms like “zygote”, “embryo”, and “fetus” to describe the various stages of the developing human being — just as later we use terms like infant, toddler, preteen, adolescent, adult, etc. However, this terminology does not signify a change in genetic identity. There is nothing new added genetically after conception. A fetus is just as much a living human being as an adolescent or adult outside the womb is.
What Does the Research Say?
With 80% of people stating that biologists are the most qualified individuals to speak on the beginning of life, it’s important that we defer to the professionals.
In a landmark study in 2019, Steve Jacobs “emailed surveys to professors in the biology departments of over 1,000 institutions around the world.” The results showed that the vast majority of biologists believe that life begins at conception. Jacobs wrote, “I found that 5,337 biologists (96%) affirmed that a human’s life begins at fertilization, with 240 (4%) rejecting that view.”