Three Bad Arguments against Life Beginning at Conception

By Amy K. Hall Published on November 17, 2017

A recent article on Romper argues “3 Ways Science Proves Life Doesn’t Begin at Conception.” The arguments are not good ones. To begin with, the author is not really arguing that embryonic humans are not alive (this is clear, since she also argues we should be allowed to kill them). Rather, she’s arguing that these reasons prove embryonic human beings are not valuable human life.

The arguments are: 1) many embryos die, 2) many embryos have genetic abnormalities, and 3) embryos can’t survive without receiving sustenance from another human being. To test whether her reasons prove embryonic human beings are not valuable, I’ve slightly adjusted the words of the three points in her article in order to apply her value-determining principles to newborns. Since we’re not used to hearing these arguments made about newborns, you’ll hear them with fresh ears, which should provide some clarity.

See if you find them convincing.

A Newborn Can Turn into a Toddler — But That Doesn’t Mean It Will

Regardless of your viewpoint regarding newborns, it does make some sense that anti-infanticide advocates consider birth as the beginning of life. Once a baby is born, it has the chance to eventually grow into a toddler, who theoretically could become capable and self-aware and, thus, would be considered a person with all the associated rights. But as ethicists promoting after-birth abortion have pointed out, birth shouldn’t be considered the beginning of life, because, well, biology is much more complicated and flawed than our ideological opinions might like it to be.

Protecting the rights of newborns might seem like a good way to ensure they grow into toddlers, but the idea doesn’t even sort of align with the medical reality. Why? Because there are newborns that never become toddlers, but instead die in various, natural ways.

Many Complications Can (And Often Do) Occur between Birth and Childhood

Then there’s the fact that, while we may prefer to think of birth as a beautiful time in which a human being grows and flourishes without issue, something often goes wrong. Early deaths occur, sometimes due to nothing more than a chromosomal mixup. And as upsetting as that can be, it’s ultimately just a reality of the human body.

Complicating matters further, though, is that significant genetic abnormalities or other complications don’t always result in the death of the baby. In these cases, killing the baby can be the medically-advised option. But a definition of life beginning at birth can change what would otherwise be considered the best medical option, as the baby would have to be allowed to live, regardless of the outcome.

Without the Mother, the Newborn Wouldn’t Survive

Perhaps the most obvious argument against the idea of life beginning at birth, though, is that it takes a long time after birth before that newborn will have become a child capable of obtaining food and water on its own. In many cases, this happens around two or three years. Babies who are just born still need quite extensive intervention to live.

It’s not exactly news that a baby can’t survive on its own, but it’s actually a very important distinction from a technical standpoint. If a baby needs another person’s bodily actions in order to live, then it means that person is essentially lending her body to the baby to allow it to survive. Again, that baby might eventually be able to be a human being existing in the world independently, but for a long while, it is entirely dependent on another person’s body to sustain it. While making birth the beginning of life might be helpful for anti-infanticide advocacy, it unnecessarily infringes on the rights of adult humans, who could then be expected to continue to use their bodies to care for a growing baby.

Infanticide has always been an incredibly controversial topic, and it’s unlikely that that will change anytime soon. But ideological notions of protecting babies from “murder” just don’t align with what science and medicine knows to be true: that there isn’t much about making birth the beginning of life that is actually helpful or valuable.

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It hope all this sounds horrifying to you. In the original article, the author applied these arguments to embryonic human beings. But as you can see, they could just as easily be applied to newborns since newborns are also dependent and vulnerable. Therefore, if her arguments did not convince you newborn humans are not valuable human beings, then neither should they convince you embryonic humans are not valuable human beings. The reasons she offers are simply not relevant to a human being’s value.

Originally published on Stand To Reason on November 16, 2017. Republished with permission.

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  • Trilemma

    If a fertilized egg has the same value and right to life as a newborn baby then how much effort should be made to save the lives of babies that fail to implant themselves in the uterine wall?

    • GPS Daddy

      Tom’s article on “How America Turned Into a Nation of Small Gods” addresses your comment.

      • Trilemma

        How so? I don’t see an answer to my question in Tom’s article.

        • GPS Daddy

          What’s Tom’s article about? People who think they can create life in their image. Its there’s to form as they wish. Do you fall into that?

          The human sexual function was not designed by me or you. We are not the designers of it. If the fertilized egg does not implant then thats the design of the system. The one who designed it is the one who is responsible. Since God gives life and takes life then He is morally free to do this.

          Since neither you nor I have any moral responsibility here. Its a different story if we choose to stop an implanted fertilized egg… A grey area would be should be stop a fertilized egg via birth control?

          We are created in the image of God. We all see that and we see an image of the divine in us. We see this in that we participate in the bring forth of life. How do we handle this responsibility? Society cannot survive unless we procreate. But we think that all of our sexuality is to do with as we wish… we have become little gods. And God will deal with us as such showing us that He alone is God. You do NOT want to be on that end of the stick.

          • Trilemma

            So, if a baby is born 9 months early then nothing needs to be done to save its life because that’s the design of the system. If a baby is born 3 months early, shouldn’t nothing be done to save its life because that’s the design of the system? Why should we try to save a life that God designed to die?

          • GPS Daddy

            Really? These are dilemmas for you? I suggest you contemplate Tom’s article.

          • Trilemma

            There’s no dilemma for me. A fertilized egg is not a person and it’s not a baby so its death is nothing to be concerned with. The dilemma is for Christians who claim a fertilized egg is just as much a baby as a newborn baby. It’s Christians who make themselves God by deciding which baby is important enough to save and which isn’t.

          • GPS Daddy

            Your filtered view of Christianity through the view that you accept the premise that Tom is debunking causes you to think Christians have a dilemma. I hope you discover that your putting yourself in God’s place,

          • GPS Daddy

            >>A fertilized egg is not a person and it’s not a baby so its death is nothing to be concerned with

            Trilemma, the god and designer of life.

  • tz1

    A Zygote is a human being (or a giraffe, fish or whatever).
    Some will not live a full life, but do we really want to euthanize toddlers if we think they won’t live to become adults?
    Consider Jerry Lewis Musclar Dystrophy telethons. Should we cure it by aborting or euthanizing those with the disease?

  • Conr

    This argument will always boil down to world views that no legislation can change. Do you find intrinsic value in human life because we are created in the image of God, or are we just beings destined to exist and die with no real cosmic purpose. If you prescribe to the first view the answer will always be Life. If you don’t then the corruption of sin in the world will always lead to Death.

Walking in God’s Wisdom: Psalm 5:8
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