Pastor's Briefing: When Does Life Begin?
Earlier this month I read a very important article titled, I Asked Thousands of Biologists When Life Begins. The Answer Wasn’t Popular, by researcher Steve Jacobs, who has a Phd from the University of Chicago. Jacobs surveyed professors in biology departments from over 1000 institutions around the world. He wanted to learn their answer to the question of When does human life begin?
Part of Jacobs’ underlying motivation is related to the issue of abortion. He is hoping to build consensus on the nature of the fetus with the further hope that this will lead to a middle position, or a compromise between pro-abortion and pro-life individuals on the issue of abortion. In other words, his goal is to help close the divide between abortion opponents; not to build a case for a strictly pro-life position.
He reports that another survey of Americans shows that 82% say that
"the question of ‘when life begins’ is an important aspect of the U.S. abortion debate."
Further, 96% of
"Americans believe a human’s life is worthy of legal protection once it begins."
The question of when human life begins is no insignificant question for most Americans.
Jacobs received responses from 5,577 biologists and 96%
“affirmed that a human’s life begins at fertilization.”
Of equal interest to me was the make-up of those who responded. Jacobs reports,
“The majority of the sample identified as liberal (89%), pro-choice (85%), and non-religious (63%).”
With 85% self-identifying as ‘pro-choice’, their response to this question concerning the beginning of human life, knowing that their answer will strengthen the pro-life position, is an admission that science is both clear and unified on this issue. From the moment of fertilization, we are talking about human life.
Of course this has been the majority view of the historic Christian church. Christians have maintained for centuries that human life begins at the moment of conception. Christians add to this the biblical teaching that humans are uniquely made in the image of God. This means that all humans have inherent value and dignity. At minimum, we conclude that every human being, born or unborn, has the right not to be murdered.