NRL News

It’s painfully, embarrassingly lame to argue that life does not begin at conception

by | Mar 5, 2024

By Dave Andrusko

Editor’s note. This post from a while back is one of my favorites. It delves into a truth that pro-abortionists will do most anything to obscure/deny/obfuscate: that the life of each individual human being begins at conception.

With all that we know, it’s hard to believe that  pro-abortionists still cling to the notion that either (a) life does not begin at conception, or (b) at least it’s an open question. In fact, it is open: open and shut.

Which is why Richard Paulson’s commentary, “Why life doesn’t begin at conception” is embarrassing on so many different level.

Paulson, among other things, is a past president of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. So, he’s obviously no dummy, yet he argues a position that is almost comically indefensible.

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 (by definition) “religious” as opposed to “scientific.” The all-purpose slur–“junk science” –is 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 was a draft of a governmental strategic plan in which the agency’s mission statement said it would “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.

Really? Is someone of his stature unaware that there are loads of textbooks affirming that basic biological truism? Minnesota Citizens Concerned for Life’s Director of Communications Paul Stark has addressed this on multiple occasions and always lists just some 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 once 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 rhetorical sleight of hand: 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 once 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. [My underlining.]

When that doesn’t work, rather than retreat, pro-abortionists such as 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 underlining.]

To return to Dr. Paulson, he concludes that “science and data, not faith-based belief” should drive the question of when life begins.

Actually the “driver” 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.

Categories: Fetal Development