When Does Life Begin?

Posted: June 25, 2013 in Christians & Culture

SUGI recently had an interchange via my local newspaper’s reader’s write. An individual was making the case that human life (and hence human value) begins once the fetus is viable. Below you will find his argument and my rebuttal. I hope you find this beneficial for the moral cause for human life and dignity. (Keep in mind we had to limit our arguments to 250 words, hence the conciseness.)

Pro-Choice Argument: Life Begins Viability

What is at the core of the abortion issue? For the “pro-lifers” it is the presumption that life begins at conception. When “pro-choicers” make their case, they often say that women have a right to make decisions concerning their own body. Pro-lifers will retort that the fetus is not their body and shouldn’t be subject to the mother’s will to terminate. I have a different vantage. I argue that to be pro-life, you must explain where life begins.

When we should consider a fetus a living person is just as ambiguous as when we should consider a person dead. Brain activity is the bioethical indicator of life; however, one can still have some degree of brain activity and be considered brain dead.

The fetus has begun moving at week 13; however these are reflexive movements, not including any self-awareness. What is misleadingly called pain (insinuating conscious feeling) is simply the rudimentary nervous system reacting (e.g. like a slug). While neurons begin synaptically connecting at the 17th week onward, a generous estimate as to when pain might begin would be 26 weeks. Viability is 23 weeks onward. Over 98 percent of abortions occur before 21 weeks, this is, before viability, and usually because of inability to afford a child. Also, I am aware that the heartbeat begins at six weeks (which is not a bioethical measurement of life). The Egyptians thought so, but no. Additionally, some will claim very low ages of viability while underplaying the entailing severity of health problems.

Pro-Life Rebuttal: Life Begins At Conception And Value Is Intrinsic

I want to express complete disagreement with _________’s view that claimed human life begins at viability. Mr. ____ errs in his argument and conflates life with the value of the fetus. First, the fetus possesses “life” from its creation. It has the capacity for growth, reproduction, and functional activity. Certainly no biologist would claim the fetus is dead! The fetus does not come alive once pain is felt, rather this is just a built in capacity that begins functioning mid-gestation. Similarly, other capacities (i.e. reasoning) will begin functioning on into early childhood.

The real question is, “What is this life?” Is it a human being or something else? Mr. ______ seems to take the viability position, stating the fetus becomes a valuable human being once it reaches viability (however that is defined). However, biology teaches us that a fetus is simply a human being at an early stage of development. It is not some other creature that becomes human at 26 weeks gestation.

From here, the pro-choice advocate is forced to say human life is not valuable until viability. But this is a dangerous ethical view known as functionalism where something is valuable only because of some function it possesses. But what level of function will suffice? Who gets do decide? This is a dangerous slippery slope – one we must not traverse lest we find ourselves in the company of Adolf Hitler. Human beings have intrinsic value because of who we are – persons made in the image of God.

  1. Kathy Tong says:

    Well done J

    Kathy Tong, CFO

    Frantz Building Services, Inc.

    1326 West Ninth Street

    Owensboro, KY 42301

    Phone: (270) 685-5383

    Fax: (270) 685-7097


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s