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When Does Life Begin

How to Get Pregnant

When does a life begin is one of the most controversial questions faced by anyone involved in the pro life or pro-choice arena. Doctors have also been debating this question for many years. Does it start at inception? Does it start when their heart starts beating, when they start to feel pain, or at another time? In the United States alone, over 40 million unborn babies have been killed in the 39 years since they legalized abortion.

Life Starts at Conception

According to the early definition of life, life begins at fertilization, when a sperm merges with an oocyte. Biologically, from the moment of conception this new human being is not part of the mother's body; it is its own body, developing inside of the mother's. The formal definition of an embryo is "the youngest form of a being". So, that answers the question about whether or not, at conception, it is a human being. By very definition, it is.

The Genetic View, the Embryologic View, and the Neurological View

The genetic view, held by many religions, says that life begins with the acquisition of a genome, which is an organism's hereditary information, it's DNA. The embryologic view believes life beings when the embryo undergoes gastrulation, at about 14 days into development. The neurological view states that life begins when an EEG pattern can be detected, at about 24 weeks.

Life Starts upon the Presence of a Heart Beat and the Fetus' Ability to Feel Pain

Circulation begins at about three weeks after conception, including the heart and major blood vessels coursing through its body. At five weeks, all of the basic body systems are now developing, including the brain and nervous system. This is the time the zygote can start to feel pain. At eight weeks it becomes a fetus, and the start of tooth buds, finger nails and genitals are starting to form. By sixteen weeks the arms and legs are complete and there is hair on the head.

Life Starts upon the Presence of Brain Waves

If medical science refers to a spontaneous heart rhythm and brain waves to determine whether or not someone is alive, as they do when they determine if they should "pull the plug" or decide if the patient is "brain dead", shouldn't this same determination be used to decide the question of when does life begin? If so, we would condemn every abortion because heart rhythm and brain waves have already been established before the woman even knows she's pregnant.

What Pro Choicer's Say

The majority of pro choicer's agree that life starts at the moment of conception. Its stance is that it's not their business to determine when life begins, just that the woman has the right to choose whether or not to have an abortion. According to Diana Philip, interim executive director of the National Coalition of Abortion says, "Ultimately each patient determines the value and definition of life and that definition lies within her own mind and heart."

This shows that every abortion, by the generally-accepted standards of medical science, aborts an innocent human life. It's not necessarily a medical decision, but a moral one. Physicians and scientists will be debating this issue for many years but in the meantime, we each have to make our own determination. We have to decide if we're asking the right question; when does life begin or when do we start to value that life?