The Political/Scientific Divide of Abortion

There are two aspects of the abortion debate we need to be concerned about in determining the definition of an unborn child: biological and political. Humanity and person-hood are two different things and we must be careful not to confuse them.

On the biological side, there should be no argument about the humanity of the child, no matter its age. See here. Embryonic biology confirms 100% that a new, unique, human, individual comes into being at the fusion of the sperm and egg cells. This is objective, fixed, and permanent. It is based on science–cold, hard facts.

On the political side, there is the question about person-hood, which is an arbitrary, subjective decision. It is fluid and can mean different things at different times, depending on the fickle whims of the populace or its rulers. This is what we are dealing with in our current debate on abortion, not the humanity of the unborn fetus. See here with my reply to Walter Block concerning a snippet he wrote about the meaning of the libertarian philosophy.

Michael Rozeff has written about creating a new definition—nascent human—attempting to define the time when an unborn child becomes human and therefore legally protected from abortion. See here, here, and most recently, here. During a brief e-mail conversation between Rozeff and myself, he asked the question, “Is the category of nascent-human plausible or specious?”

Merriam-Webster defines nascent as ‘coming or having recently come into existence’, which can easily describe a zygote or embryo, but the fact remains that while the term ‘nascent’ might apply at the very beginning, it must be discarded at some point. When and at what stage of development does that occur? Can that even be determined? When does a nascent human become a full-blown human? Who is going to make the decision?  This plays into the political argument, but not the biological one and is no different than trying to determine at what stage an unborn fetus becomes a person. Brain waves? Heartbeat? Viability at 24 weeks? Or maybe 26? As such, it will constantly change and reflect the mindset of societies in the future as the thinking about abortion changes. This is not solid ground on which to base an argument and Rozeff is in danger of losing his footing.

The social trend toward moral subjectivity and away from moral objectivity has not done us any favors. We need to change that as concerns the humanity of the unborn child. It is a human being, no matter what anyone thinks, and, as such, merits protection against the aggression of abortion, which results in the death of an innocent human being, which is murder according to Rozeff’s definition. The descriptive terms—nascent, potential, developing, etc.—are irrelevant. This is not to say they are not accurate, but as far as concerns the humanity of the unborn child, they are irrelevant.

The abortion war can be settled once we decide to stop defining the unborn embryo or fetus in political (subjective) terms and start defining it according to biology (objective). Born or unborn, a human being is a human being. End of argument. So long as we focus on whether it is a person or not, we will have abortions and the legal murders of countless human beings. The attitude of the general public is what will change the dynamic of abortion, not because laws are passed, but because already born individual, human beings decide to do what is right and refuse to be a part of that murderous lifestyle any longer.

Is this wishful thinking or a pipe dream? I think not. Tides advance and they retreat. So do societal and moral values. I am under no illusions about the length of time it may take, but I am certain that abortions will one day, someday, again be verboten, because, as a society, we understand what is right and are willing to act on that understanding.

Without Question: The Beginning of Human Life

Within the abortion debate, one of the most pervasive tactics of the pro-abortion side has been to paint the unborn child in a dehumanizing manner. Consequently, the unborn child became a fetus [i], the embryo became a clump of cells, protoplasm, uterine content, etc. In addition, groups such as Planned Parenthood use the technology of ultrasound, not to show women a true picture of their unborn baby, but to deceive [ii] them into proceeding with a planned abortion. Deception and dissembling have been hallmarks of the abortion lobby from the very beginning. In fact, their tactics resemble those of a State or society which seeks to “dehumanize” its enemies [iii], i.e., especially in the time prior to and amid a war, political conflict, or social reconstruction [iv].

This has led to a considerable amount of confusion regarding the humanity of the unborn embryo or fetus. When does human life start? Is the fetus a human being? If not, when does it become one? These questions are all separate from the ones concerning person-hood, which is not the thrust of this article. In fact, the question of the beginning of human life and the time that life attains person-hood are two separate questions and must be addressed by different methods. Person-hood is a matter of belief, opinion, persuasion, subjectivity, etc., and is susceptible to a wide variety of influences—religious, philosophical, social, financial, etc.

There is only one qualified discipline which can state emphatically (and has hard evidence to back it up) when a new human life begins—embryonic science. This is strictly a scientific matter and science has clearly stated what so many believe or feel to be true.

“…scientifically something very radical occurs between the processes of gametogenesis and fertilization, the change from a simple part of one human being (i.e., a sperm) and a simple part of another human being (i.e., an oocyte, usually referred to as an “ovum” or “egg”), which simply possess “human life”, to a new, genetically unique, newly existing, individual, whole living human being (a single-cell embryonic human zygote). That is, upon fertilization, parts of human beings have actually been transformed into something very different from what they were before; they have been changed into a single, whole human being. During the process of fertilization, the sperm and the oocyte cease to exist as such, and a new human being is produced.” –Dianne M. Irving, M.A., Ph.D [v]

In other words, what Dr. Irving has said is that when a sperm cell and an egg cell fuse (conception), a new, unique, individual human being has begun. The sperm and the egg were individual human cells before the fusion, after that, they were combined and changed into something completely different—a live human being which had never existed before. Of this, there can be no doubt. The life of every human begins at conception. This is unassailable, indisputable fact.

Dr. Irving goes on to explain (and goes into intense detail) why a human being comes into existence at conception. She lists and destroys several myths which have been promoted over the years and decades concerning this issue and never equivocates from the main premise–that a human being comes to life at the moment of conception.

“The issue is not when does human life begin, but rather when does the life of every human being begin.”—Dianne M. Irving [vi]

From the moment of conception, a human being exists within the womb–zygote, blastocyst, embryo, fetus—right up to the point of the delivery of a newborn baby. At every stage of development, this is a live human being. Whether he is a person or not doesn’t matter. Whether she has rights or not is irrelevant. He is a human being. She is a human being. As such, abortion is a procedure which literally kills a human being. Abortion has probably killed hundreds of millions of human beings in the 20th century alone.

Every person who is alive today, every person who has ever lived, started out in exactly the same way—as a newly conceived zygote with all the genetic material necessary to become the persons we are today. We should be grateful that our mothers didn’t simply decide to throw us away.


[i] The term “fetus” generates a lot of heat on both sides of the aisle. The pro-abortionists use it almost exclusively and refuse to use the terms unborn baby or child for obvious reasons. The pro-lifers prefer “baby” or “child” and generally avoid using the term fetus, again for obvious reasons. Fetus, though, is simply a Latin word which can have many meanings, however, all of them are related to reproduction and refer to very young, immature offspring. It is medically correct and refers to the stage of human development in the womb from embryo (about 8 weeks) until birth. I do not generally make distinctions between fetus, baby, and child, but use the terms interchangeably.

[ii] https://www.liveaction.org/news/planned-parenthood-abortion-deceptive-ultrasound/

[iii] https://www.npr.org/2011/03/29/134956180/criminals-see-their-victims-as-less-than-human

[iv] Nazi Germany, for instance, successfully used this tactic against the Jews. Today, political parties attempt to divide the electorate into what are basically enemy camps.

[v] https://www.princeton.edu/~prolife/articles/wdhbb.html  Dianne N. Irving, M.A., Ph.D (International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy 1999, 19:3/4:22-36

[vi] Ibid. Section B, Fact 1.