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The Beginning of a New Life

Some people are okay with abortion because they think it doesn’t truly end a life. In reality, a new human life begins when a sperm fertilizes an egg. These posts will help you understand how and when to defend this biological fact.

Person 1: Nobody knows when life begins. Person 2 (our hero): I’m not sure I understand. Are you talking about the beginning of a biological organism? Or the beginning of a valuable person?Our hero: Infants aren’t “constructed” from the outside. Instead, after fertilization, the zygote directs her own growth and development. A fetus grows a heart in more or less the same way an adult grows new skin.Person 1: Nobody cares when sperm or eggs die. Why care when a zygote dies? Person 2 (our hero): It’s true that they’re all tiny living cells, but unlike sperm and eggs, a zygote is a new entire organism, a member of the human species, with its own DNA.Person 1: Acorns aren’t oak trees; fetuses aren’t humans. Person 2 (our hero): I want to understand what that line means to you. Do you think that biologically speaking, a fetus isn’t a human organism? Or are you concerned about something more philosophical?Person 1: Why are zygotes more valuable than sperm? Person 2 (our hero): Good question! A zygote is a whole organism. When you were a zygote, you had the same DNA you have now. Before that, a sperm had just half your DNA.Person 1: It’s alive, but it’s not really alive, you know? Person 2 (our hero): I think I might know what you mean. Maybe you’re saying that a fetus is biologically alive, but it’s not a valuable person yet. Is that right?Person 1: We check for brainwaves to see if someone’s dead, so a fetus without brainwaves isn’t alive. Person 2 (our hero): I agree the brain is a critical organ. But it’s not required for biological life. E.g., trees don’t have brains, but they are alive.Person 1: It’s just a blob of tissue. Person 2 (our hero): I’m not sure I understand. I agree a fetus is made of tissue, but so are you and I. Is your point maybe that a fetus seems like “raw human material” that still needs to be “assembled” before it’s a real human?Our hero: I wish it were easier for women to decide when they have kids. But after fertilization a unique human is already present with DNA that won’t be repeated in a later pregnancy. Abortion determines which kids are born, not when kids are born.Our hero: A human fetus displays the key characteristics of life, such as cellular reproduction, responding to stimuli, and converting food into energy. It’s debatable whether viruses are alive, but it seems pretty clear that a human fetus is biologically alive.Person 1: It’s just a clump of cells. Person 2 (our hero): I’m not sure I understand. I agree a fetus is made of cells, but so are you and I. Is your point maybe that a fetus seems like “raw human material” that still needs to be “assembled” before it’s a real human?Person 1: We check for a heartbeat to see if someone’s dead, so a fetus without a heartbeat isn’t alive. Person 2 (our hero): I agree the heart is a critical organ. But it’s not required for biological life. E.g., flatworms don’t have hearts, but they’re alive.Person 1 (our hero): When would you say life begins? Person 2: Hm… 12 weeks after fertilization. Person 1 (our hero): Okay. If you don’t mind, could you explain your reasoning? What do you think is the crucial change at that point?Person 1: The beginning of personhood should be an instant. Fertilization is a process that takes hours. Person 2 (our hero): I agree. I’m just saying personhood begins sometime in that interval. Similarly, marriage begins with a wedding.
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