Claims of politicians not withstanding, the point at which human life begins is settled science. At the moment of fertilization, when the sperm and ovum join, a totally new and unique human being is formed. This single-celled zygote has the full complement of human DNA and immediately begins the self-directed process of maturation and development. His or her mother provides a nurturing environment for this growth, but she is a passive observer as her child grows from zygote to morula to blastocyst to embryo to fetus. There is no point along this developmental continuum where the child is any more or less alive, any more or less human.
This inconvenient fact has been largely ignored by those who advocate for abortion, embryonic stem cell cloning, and assisted reproductive technologies like in vitro fertilization (IVF) that use human embryos. Instead, they use language to cloud reality. At the moment of conception they call the newly formed person a “fertilized egg” as if conception results in the mere modification of the female gamete instead of the creation of a complete human being. Abortionists never speak of babies or unborn children. They call them embryos, fetuses, or just “products of conception.” Abortion itself is described as the termination of a pregnancy with no reference to the loss of life that always ensues. Planned Parenthood never asks, “Would you like to end the life of your child today?” Their pitch sounds more like, “Let’s terminate your pregnancy,” or “Would you like to exercise your right to choose and have an abortion today?” Notice they never finish the phrase and tell a woman the complete truth about what she is choosing — life or death for her unborn child.
Even the definition of pregnancy has been manipulated to bypass the recognition of conception as the beginning of life. Conception usually occurs in the Fallopian tubes of the female reproductive system. The resulting single-celled human being continues to grow and develop as he travels from the tubes into the uterine cavity. This takes about one week. Upon reaching the uterine cavity, if all goes well, this new life attaches to the uterine wall, a process referred to as implantation. Currently, both American and European medical societies choose to define pregnancy as beginning with implantation and not with conception. Utilization of this definition allows birth control methods that prevent implantation to be classified as contraception instead of abortion-inducing agents.
Cognizant that these word games do not change the reality that preventing implantation destroys a human life, advocates of the IUD, morning-after pill, and regular hormonal contraceptives have downplayed the abortifacient nature of such birth control. But now there is a push to drop the façade and embrace prevention of implantation as an acceptable mechanism for birth control. Writing in the Journal for Family Planning and Reproductive Health Care, a team led by Dr. Elizabeth G. Raymond calls on the medical community to pave the way for the acceptance and development of new abortifacients. The first step is again a semantic maneuver with the adoption of the term “post-fertilization contraception” for medications and procedures that prevent implantation.
Dr. Raymond’s next step is to stop highlighting the pre-fertilization mechanisms of many common birth control methods and admit that they have post-conception effects that contribute to their efficacy. She claims that focusing on the prevention of conception attaches a stigma to the prevention of implantation, implying that the former is more desirable than the latter. It is interesting that Dr. Raymond freely confesses that the chronic use of hormonal contraception alters the lining of the uterus, making it less receptive to the developing embryo. Instead of minimizing the significance of these effects, Dr. Raymond urges medical professionals to celebrate the post-fertilization mechanisms. She claims that if doctors would only say that preventing implantation is a wonderful thing, women will believe that it is so.
Finally, she calls for more research and development of post-fertilization options for birth control. She envisions the development of a drug that could be used as “emergency contraception” as long as four weeks after sexual intercourse. In addition, such a pill could be taken once per month on a regular basis to prevent or disrupt a pregnancy no matter how many times a woman had sex during the month. Dr. Raymond argues that women want and need such a post-fertilization alternative and the development of such a pill has been stymied more by political controversy than by scientific obstacles.
Dr. Raymond cites the results of numerous international studies that indicate women view a medical option for ending a pregnancy as more “natural” or more compatible with religious and ethical views that oppose surgical abortion. She suggests that a drug that evacuates the uterus without determining if pregnancy occurs is more acceptable in communities where explicit abortion is forbidden.
What Dr. Raymond is actually saying is that if abortion supporters in the medical community and their allies keep women in the dark about what is happening within their bodies, they will accept post-fertilization interventions. She seems to want women conditioned not to ask questions about whether or not conception has occurred and just destroy their uterine lining so that any developing child will pass unnoticed in the menstrual flow. They want to just pretend the week of life that occurs before implantation does not exist.
This approach is very similar to that of abortion advocates who fight informing women of their unborn child’s level of development or showing women ultrasound pictures of their developing child. When a woman finds out that the child within her womb is not a lifeless clump of cells but a living human being, she is far less likely to abort. Likewise, if a woman realizes that her child’s life began at the moment of conception and not after implantation, she would see post-fertilization interventions for what they are — abortions.
Life begins at conception. We cannot change that by refusing to recognize pregnancy until after implantation occurs. Similarly, calling an abortifacient “post-fertilization contraception” does not alter the fact that any medication or procedure that prevents implantation destroys nascent life. This life, no matter how small, is still a complete human being made in the image of God with an intrinsic dignity that must not be violated. No amount of Orwellian doublespeak can change this truth.
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