When Does A Human Life Begin? – Trust the Science (2023)

  • Life, Science, Women's Issues
  • Christina M. Sorrentino
  • |11 November 2020
  • |One Comment

When Does A Human Life Begin? – Trust the Science (1)

“Every human embryologist in the world knows that the life of the new individual human being begins at fertilization. It is not belief. It is scientific fact.”

(Dr. Ward Kischer, Human Embryologist, University of Arizona)

We know and believe as Catholics that science, specifically biology, only re-confirms what we already know on the matter of when a human life begins within a female’s body. It is during conception, specifically fertilization, that a new life is formed within the fallopian tube before there is growth and development within the uterus (womb) after the process of implantation. The life of a human being begins at fertilization. (Mayo Clinic)

When I was at the Capitol in Albany, New York outside the door to the Senate chambers one afternoon at a pro-life rally, one of the most memorable signs that caught my eye was “Keep your theology off my biology.” Looking across at the woman holding high her seemingly witty words on a poster, I could not help but wonder if she really knew and understood “her biology.” Biology and theology are not in competition with one another when it comes to the issue of when a new human life is created.

As a high school educator teaching science in a public school, human development, was one of the major topics for the students to learn during the tenth grade. The following standards are a part of the New York State Living Environment Curriculum:

4.1c – The processes of meiosis and fertilization are key to sexual reproduction in a wide variety of organisms. The process of meiosis results in the production of eggs and sperm which each contain half of the genetic information. During fertilization, gametes unite to form a zygote, which contains the complete genetic information for the offspring.

4.1f – The structures and functions of the human female reproductive system, as in almost all other mammals, are designed to produce gametes in ovaries, allow for internal fertilization, support the internal development of the embryo and fetus in the uterus, and provide essential materials through the placenta, and nutrition through milk for the newborn.

4.1h – In humans, the embryonic development of essential organs occurs in early stages of pregnancy. The embryo may encounter risks from faults in its genes and from its mother’s exposure to environmental factors such as inadequate diet, use of alcohol/drugs/tobacco, other toxins, or infections throughout her pregnancy.

When we look at the standards one may argue that the term “baby,” is never mentioned, which is true. But let us take a closer look at the meaning of the terms that are used within the curriculum; fertilization, zygote, embryo, and fetus as defined by the Meriam-Webster Dictionary:

Fertilization – the process of union of two gametes whereby the somatic chromosome number is restored and the development of a new individual is initiated

Zygote – a cell formed from the union of two gametes; the developing individual produced from such a cell

Embryo – the developing human individual from the time of implantation to the end of the eighth week after conception

Fetus – an unborn or unhatched vertebrate especially after attaining the basic structural plan of its kind; a developing human from usually two months after conception to birth

(Video) DEBATE: Michael Knowles vs. Medical Student on When Life Begins

Do you still not believe that science teaches us that a human life begins at the fertilization stage of conception? Do our biology textbooks have it all wrong? Perhaps, we can also review the meanings of these scientific terms in the Farlex Medical Dictionary:

Fertilization – in human reproduction, the process by which the male’s sperm unites with the female’s oocyte, creating a new life

Zygote – the cell resulting from union of a male and a female gamete; the fertilized ovum

Embryo – a new organism in the earliest stage of development. In humans this is defined as the developing organism from the fourth day after fertilization to the end of the eighth week. After that the unborn baby is usually referred to as the fetus.

Fetus – the developing young in the uterus, specifically the unborn offspring in the post embryonic period, which in humans is from the third month after fertilization until birth.

Our Catholic faith teaches us that we are called to respect and protect life from the moment of conception (fertilization) because we know that is the beginning of a human life. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2270) Since the days of early Christianity the Church Fathers have taught that the second commandment; “Thou shall not kill” calls for us to protect a human life; to defend against the killing of an unborn and newborn child. (Didache 2:1–2 [A.D. 70]) We have a moral obligation to safeguard the life of every human being. (CCC, no. 2271) The right to life is an issue of the natural law, which is founded on moral truth and wisdom. The preamble to the Declaration of Independence states:

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”

As Christians living in the world, we have the responsibility to profess the truth; that a human life begins at fertilization, and to protect the life guaranteed to us by the moral law. When we look at the science of human development, we see that the biology behind the process only supports and re-confirms what we already know to be true.

Why is it so easy for us to believe the science behind the wearing of masks during this coronavirus pandemic, climate change, vaccines, and genetically modified foods, but find it difficult to believe the science of embryology and genetics behind when life begins for a human person? If we say that we trust the science, then we need to actually trust the science.

(Video) SCIENCE SAYS when human life begins | Dr Steve Jacobs on #PelloweTalk

For more information on this topic please check out:

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Photo: Graphics RF, Vecteezy / PD-US
Video: Nucleus Medical Media, YouTube

(Video) When Does Life Begin - Legally?, Susan Crockin, JD, May 2, 2017

When Does A Human Life Begin? – Trust the Science (2)

Christina M. Sorrentino

Christina M. Sorrentino is the Editor-in-Chief at Ignitum Today, and a regular contributor to Word on Fire. She is also a co-leader for a Maria Goretti Network Chapter, the facilitator of a Vianney Cenacle affiiated with the Foundation of Prayer for Priests, and teaches religion at a local Catholic high school. Sorrentino has contributed to various publications, including Missio Dei and Homiletic and Pastoral Review, has appeared on Sacred Heart Radio, and has been featured in the National Catholic Register’s “Best in Catholic Blogging”. She is the published author of Called to Love A Listening Heart - A Book of Catholic Poetry. She is a devout Catholic who resides in Staten Island, New York, and you can visit her website at Called to Love - A Listening Heart, where she writes about the musings of a millennial Catholic called to love, or follow her on Twitter.

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