Joseph Tamney (1992) conducted a study to determine Americans' views on abortion and the reasoning behind their positions. Tamney (1992) divided the responses into the following four categories:
should never be permitted . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10%
Abortion should only be permitted if the mother's life is in danger . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 44.9%
Abortion should be permitted if the woman would have difficulty caring for the child . . . 18.9%
Abortion should never be forbidden . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26.2%
The answer to the question, "When does human life begin?" determines many people's view on abortion. Those who see life as beginning at conception generally believe that abortion is unacceptable because it murders innocent human life. People on the other side of the fence who accept abortion defend their stance with their belief that life does not begin until some point after conception.
When does life begin? The philosophical theories, which cannot be scientifically proven, point to many different times when human life begins: with the attainment of the soul, at birth, at viability, when the brain begins to function, or at conception. Others often attempt to simply describe life as a continuum; the fetus gradually becomes more human with the passage of time. All of these theories have flaws, however, which result from the sometimes considerable leaps that need to be made between any type of scientific evidence supporting the theory and the resulting conclusions.
Thus, the necessity arises to closely examine the biological facts. The fertilized egg does meet the criterion that are set to determine if organisms can be classified as living or non-living. In addition, an analysis of the development of the unborn being from conception through birth reveals many facts such as the presence of a beating heart, a functioning brain, and muscular movements which can only be found in living organisms. Finally, research has shown that the fetus is a separate entity from the mother. They are not one being, but two distinct individuals.
These biological facts lend strong support to the idea that life begins at conception. Nat Hentoff (1996) quotes Dr. Joel Hylton who wrote in the February 18, 1990 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association: "Who can say that the fetus is not alive and is not a separate entity? Its humanity . . . also cannot be questioned scientifically. It is certainly of no other species. That it is dependent on another makes it qualitatively no different from countless other humans outside the womb."
The fertilized egg does possess the properties of living organisms; therefore, life does begin at conception. Since this is the case, then abortion is the murder of innocent human life. Abortion should not be allowed to occur in any situation. Hentoff (1996) again quotes Dr. Hylton: "It strikes me that to argue that one may take an innocent life to preserve the quality of life of another is cold and carries utilitarianism to an obscene extreme. Nowhere else in our society is this permitted or even thinkable--although abortion sets a frightening prospect." Abortion is murder, and it should not be tolerated. The following slogan which is often used by pro-life advocates holds much significance:
Planned Bank Robbery:
This commentary by Jim Watkins compares the pro-choice
position to a pro-bank robbery position. This article also describes the pro-choice
arguments along with the arguments held on the pro-life side.
Abortion Terms: This site provides many definitions for abortion-related
words. The words defined fall in the areas of abortion, pregnancy, and the pro-life
and pro-choice positions.
For Life, Inc.: The number of abortions conducted annually is reported
here. A chart
shows the number of abortions for each year between 1970 and 1992.
Return to "When Does Life
Begin?" home page.