One of the more outrageous attempts to justify abortion comes from those who assert that the intentional killing of new human lives is the moral equivalent of the death of sperm cells or egg cells.
A recently published op-ed asked the question: “A woman’s body kills one ovum a month. Where’s the pro-life movement for those potential humans?” I don’t know whether the author was purposely dissimulating or if she truly likens a human being’s dignity to that of an ovum or sperm (not to mention how this gives her a failing grade in basic biology).
Let’s be clear about something because language is important. A woman’s body is not killing anything. Her body releases an egg monthly and that egg, unless it is fertilized, runs the full course of its brief cell life. Her body is not killing her ovum any more than a change in season kills leaves on trees.
If that ovum were to be fertilized, the joining of sperm and ovum initiates a genetically unique human being — a new organism, which the ovum is not — and his or her lifespan would become a human lifetime. If a woman took a pill to deliberately prevent that embryo from implanting or if she took a pill that blocked off nutrients to that embryo, she is actually killing because she is ending a human life.
That’s a huge distinction. The death of that tiny human is not the same as the natural end of an ovum that was not fertilized. It is not the same as a sperm that did not hit its mark. It is the deliberate imposition of death.
Any middle schooler who took biology could tell you that two parts (on their own) do not equal the whole. Yet junk science is still thrown around, and as the aforementioned article states:
Like an ovum, a fertilized zygote is a pinhead-sized speck of cytoplasm. It is many weeks away from becoming a baby, and weeks from developing a brain capable of conscious awareness. Furthermore, about 20% of conceptions naturally end in miscarriage. To me, the evidence is clear that the early stages of human development are designed to be expendable.
This author uses arbitrary criteria of size and “conscious awareness” and dehumanizing language (“pinhead-sized speck of cytoplasm”) to come to a very unscientific conclusion. She concludes that the early stages of human life are “expendable” simply because 20 percent of pregnancies end in miscarriage. That’s like saying that infanticide is justifiable because 2,000 babies die of SIDS each year in the USA.
“There is ample time at the beginning of gestation for a woman to make a choice,” she continues. “There is no reason why it has to be a moral dilemma in terms of loss of human life.”
If a zygote were truly just an inconsequential organism, there would be no moral dilemma. But there is. That is because basic science tells us — and people instinctively know — that there is a huge difference between a sperm cell or ovum versus what, or who, is created when they join together.
In its International Journal of Sociology and Social Policy (1999), Princeton University published the following:
To begin with, scientifically something very radical occurs between … the change from a simple part of one human being (i.e., a sperm) and a simple part of another human being (i.e., an oocyte usually referred to as an “ovum” or “egg”), which simply possess “human life”, to a new, genetically unique, newly existing, individual, whole living human being (a single-cell embryonic human zygote). That is, upon fertilization, parts of human beings have actually been transformed into something very different from what they were before; they have been changed into a single, whole human being. During the process of fertilization, the sperm and the oocyte cease to exist as such, and a new human being is produced.
It’s a very simple concept, really. Put another way, when was it determined that you would be male or female, or that you would have blue eyes or brown? It was determined at fertilization, as the unique genetic combination of characteristics that describe you came together.
As has long been said, people have a right to their own opinions, but they do not have a right to their own facts. Those who still want to try to justify the holocaust of abortion can at least try to do so by invoking human knowledge rather than denying it and by engaging the intelligence of their fellow citizens rather than insulting it.
Follow Father Frank Pavone, the director of Priests for Life, on Twitter @FrFrankPavone.