If you are around young children very often, you’re probably familiar with the Olivia the Pig series. My niece loves those books. But you’re probably not as familiar with Oliver the Egg. Let me tell you about him. Christopher Franceschelli has written a cute book about Oliver, who is really a chick growing inside of an egg.
Since I’d really not enjoy being sued for copyright violations, I won’t quote this entire six sentence book. Suffice it to say that Mr. Franceschelli describes the very few things that Oliver could do as an egg. He says, “But he was simply an egg and that was that.”
This little book (while very cute) completely misses the boat on science. It’s final pages say, “until one day” (with a picture of an egg) “everything changed” (with a picture of a chick). While rather entertaining for a small child, this book lacks any scientific or accurate value. It’s patently untrue to say that, before hatching, a chick is “simply an egg.” Uh, no. It’s an unhatched chick inside an egg.
Oliver serves to illustrate the general lack of scientific and medical knowledge that many people and some pro-lifers have about the beginning of human life. When exactly does human life begin? Is there such a thing as a “fertilized egg”? What’s the accurate term to call a new human being at the earliest stages? Can we really prove from science that we should defend all human life? What do medical experts say about this issue? Pro-lifers need to be more knowledgeable about what we are for and why we believe what we believe.
Well, the very simplest way to answer this question is to say “at the beginning.” What a novel thought. Honestly, though, pick up any embryology textbook (yes, doubters, please go do this), and you will find that these textbooks teach that a new, unique human being (i.e., not the potential for life, but an actual life) begins at the moment of fertilization; the moment the sperm meets the egg.
To clarify even further, an egg or a sperm are “potential life” because, under the right circumstances, they can combine to create a new, unique human being. However, once that combination (fertilization) occurs, we are talking about an actual human being.
Don’t want to take my word for it? I don’t blame you. Read from these experts:
“(Fertilization is) that wondrous moment that marks the beginning of life for a new unique individual.” Dr. Louis Fridhandler, in Biology of Gestation Volume One
“A new individual is created when the elements of a potent sperm merge with those of a fertile ovum, or egg.” Encyclopedia Britannica
“I have learned from my earliest medical education that human life begins at the time of conception….I submit that human life is present throughout this entire sequence from conception to adulthood and that any interruption at any point throughout this time constitutes a termination of human life….I am no more prepared to say that these early stages [of development in the womb] represent an incomplete human being than I would be to say that the child prior to the dramatic effects of puberty…is not a human being. This is human life at every stage….” Dr. Alfred M. Bongioanni—professor of pediatrics and obstetrics at the U. of Penn
2. Is there such a thing as a “fertilized egg”?
Uh, no. Only in the biased minds of A LOT of media and Planned Parenthood and company. Several politicians and others also parrot this term commonly. But really, to call a new, unique human being a fertilized egg is just ignorance (or blatant lies) talking. There’s a really BIG difference between an egg or sperm and a human being.
Fertilization is the means by which a new human being is usually created, but that human being is never a fertilized egg. He or she is a human being at the very moment that fertilization occurs. “Fertilized egg” is an ignorant, dehumanizing, and VERY unscientific term.
3. What’s the accurate term to call a new human being at the early stages?
Well, if you want to use scientific terms, the early stages of human growth and development include: blastocyst, zygote, embryo, and fetus. You may think these don’t sound any better than “fertilized egg”, but “fertilized egg” does nothing to communicate the fact that a new human being is actually who we’re talking about. At least the scientific terms are human and living terms. They communicate that who we’re talking about is human and living.
It would also be perfectly fine to call an unborn child at any stage exactly that…an unborn child, baby, etc. We don’t tend to refer to any other human being by the scientific stage of growth they’re in, after all!
Along these lines, it’s also important to note that humans continually move through different growth and development stages throughout our lives. These stages just happen more rapidly when we first start to grow. If you think about it, though, why should a “zygote” be any less worthy of protection than an “adolescent”? Every person (who lives that long) goes through every stage and is the exact same person at each stage. Their value shouldn’t—and doesn’t—change as they go along.
Ok, so there you go, in a nutshell. We pro-lifers have no excuse to fail to understand or be able to explain exactly how and when human life begins from a scientific standpoint. If you believe that every human is worthy of protection, here’s your scientific basis for arguing that a new human life begins at the moment of fertilization and ought to be protected from that point.
One last thing. ALL pro-lifers should read this research paper, or at least the section on science. It’s incredible! I’d also suggest that before you disagree with anything I’ve written here, you read the paper. If, after that, you disagree, let’s hear what you have to say.
LifeNews Note: Kristi Burton Brown is a pro-life activist in her home state of Colorado, a pro-bono attorney for Life Legal Defense Fund, and a stay-at-home mom. This column originally appeared at the Live Action blog.