The thing is that activists can redefine pregnancy all they want and it won’t change the central issue at hand — the question of whether it’s ok to end the life of a genetically distinct human. We won’t resolve that debate any time soon, but obscuring the facts on when and how human life begins will not help matters.
Last week, Sen. Marco Rubio took some heat for saying that he was skeptical of global warming activism. He was asked about the reaction to some of his comments and he noted some hypocrisy he’s witnessed on scientific consensus:
All these people always wag their finger at me about ‘science’ and ‘settled science.’ Let me give you a bit of settled science that they’ll never admit to. The science is settled, it’s not even a consensus, it is a unanimity, that human life begins at conception. So I hope the next time that someone wags their finger about science, they’ll ask one of these leaders on the left: ‘Do you agree with the consensus of scientists that say that human life begins at conception?’ I’d like to see someone ask that question.
Now, it’s probably worth noting at the outset that everything Rubio said in this paragraph was true. Human life begins at conception and nobody is ever asked about whether they deny that.
But let’s look at what the Washington Post‘s Chris Cillizza tweeted out in response:
Marco Rubio demanded people look at the science on abortion. So we did.
The blurb for the piece says, “‘Science is settled … that human life beings at conception,’ Sen. Rubio said. We spoke with an expert on the science who didn’t agree.”
The story itself, with the same UpWorthy headline, is written by one Philip Bump and reads, stunningly:
We reached out to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, an association comprised of a large majority of the nation’s ob-gyns. The organization’s executive vice president and CEO, Hal C Lawrence, III, MD, offered his response to Rubio.
Government agencies and American medical organizations agree that the scientific definition of pregnancy and the legal definition of pregnancy are the same: pregnancy begins upon the implantation of a fertilized egg into the lining of a woman’s uterus. This typically takes place, if at all, between 5 and 9 days after fertilization of the egg – which itself can take place over the course of several days following sexual intercourse.”
In other words: Consensus exists (if not unanimously), and the consensus is that uterine implantation is the moment at which pregnancy begins.
We presented that description to the senator’s office, asking if he wanted to clarify or moderate his statement. Brooke Sammon, the senator’s Deputy Press Secretary, told us that “Senator Rubio absolutely stands by the comment.”
Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear. Oh dear. It is somewhat mortifying that the idiocy of this is not immediately apparent to everyone. Did you catch it? Are you smarter than a Washington Post reporter? Do you know that “when human life begins” and “when an embryo implants in the uterine wall” are actually not synonymous statements? I bet you did. Or I bet you could figure that out pretty easily.
See, you will not learn this — or much of anything else about the reality of abortion or unborn human life — from the media, but in fact there is consensus about when human lives begin. It’s almost a tautology to say what Rubio said. It’s like saying “human life begins when human life begins.”
Scientific Consensus On When Human Life Begins
Here are just the first five examples cited by a Princeton group of scientific statements on when human life begins:
- “Development of the embryo begins at Stage 1 when a sperm fertilizes an oocyte and together they form a zygote.”
- “Human development begins after the union of male and female gametes or germ cells during a process known as fertilization (conception). Fertilization is a sequence of events that begins with the contact of a sperm (spermatozoon) with a secondary oocyte (ovum) and ends with the fusion of their pronuclei (the haploid nuclei of the sperm and ovum) and the mingling of their chromosomes to form a new cell. This fertilized ovum, known as a zygote, is a large diploid cell that is the beginning, or primordium, of a human being.”
- “Embryo: the developing organism from the time of fertilization until significant differentiation has occurred, when the organism becomes known as a fetus.”
- “Embryo: An organism in the earliest stage of development; in a man, from the time of conception to the end of the second month in the uterus.”
- “Embryo: The early developing fertilized egg that is growing into another individual of the species. In man the term ‘embryo’ is usually restricted to the period of development from fertilization until the end of the eighth week of pregnancy.”
Some of those are a bit old so here’s a listing of quite recent statements from “scientific textbooks, papers and medical agencies” that were mentioned in a 2013 legal brief prepared for the Supreme Court. And here’s another list showing the consensus on the topic.