When does human life begin? This question has confounded individuals and divided our society. Opinions have come from the right and the left, from pro-life advocates and those in favor of abortion on demand, from physicians and lawyers, from the pulpit and the courtroom. When did I begin to be me? Is this a scientific question or a theological one?1 Would this question be best left to scientists or to preachers and philosophers? Information and viewpoints from secular scientific sources and from theologians will be examined in this chapter, but the ultimate answer can have no authority unless that answer is based squarely on the Word of God. The Bible, because it is true, will not disagree with genuine science. Furthermore, the Bible is the only valid and consistent basis for making moral judgments, since it comes from the Creator of the whole world and all people in it. Any other basis for judgment would be a useless clamor of divergent, man-made opinions.
Who Is More Human?
Life is a continuum. From the season of growing in the womb to being born, from playing as a child to growing older, each stage of life seems to blend gracefully (or not so gracefully in my case) into the next. Life progresses and time passes, culminating in death. Death, a very visible end point, is more easily defined than the point at which the continuum of human life begins.
Where is the starting point? If life is indeed a continual process, can we not just work backward to its beginning? There are a variety of opinions about life’s beginnings. Many say life begins at conception. Others argue strongly that life does not start until implantation in the womb. Still others say that human life begins only when the umbilical cord is cut, making the newborn child an independent agent. How is fact separated from opinion?
Perhaps another way to ask the question is, when do we become human? Certainly a child sitting on grandpa’s knee or a fully grown adult would be considered human. Is the adult more human than the child? Of course not. No reasonable person would consider the child to be less human. At what point along the journey did this child become human? Was it at conception, somewhere during his development, or at birth?