Which side of the abortion rights debate is backed by scientific evidence?

Unborn Baby - 10 weeks old
Unborn Baby – 10 weeks old

Once upon a time I didn’t know much about the case for abortion rights or the case for the right to life of unborn children. My reason for not reading much about it is that I thought that it was kind of a subjective issue. But, I started a project to read 1-2 books on every conceivable topic, including one on abortion. Lo and behold, it turned out that one side did have the backing of science.

This article from The Public Discourse explains: (links removed)

The following are typical examples—only three of the many, many we could cite. These are from standard texts by embryologists, developmental biologists, and microbiologists:

“Human life begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm unites with a female gamete or oocyte (ovum) to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.” “A zygote is the beginning of a new human being (i.e., an embryo).” Keith L. Moore, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, 7th edition.

“Fertilization is the process by which male and female haploid gametes (sperm and egg) unite to produce a genetically distinct individual.” Signorelli et al., Kinases, phosphatases and proteases during sperm capacitation, Cell Tissue Research.

“Although life is a continuous process, fertilization (which, incidentally, is not a ‘moment’) is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is formed when the chromosomes of the male and female pronuclei blend in the oocyte” (emphasis added; Ronan O’Rahilly and Fabiola Mueller, Human Embryology and Teratology, 3rd edition.

The genetically distinct part is key – this unborn child is has a different DNA signature (a human signature) than either the mother or the father. Nothing will be added or taken away from this new signature as the unborn child grows. It never changes.


These authorities all agree because the underlying science is clear. At fertilization—or, more precisely, when the sperm (a male sex cell) fuses with the oocyte (a female sex cell, more commonly referred to as an egg)—each of them ceases to be, and a new entity, one that is both genetically and functionally distinct from either parent, is generated. This new entity, initially a single totipotent cell, then divides into two cells, then (asynchronously) three, then four, eight, and so on, enclosed all the while by a membrane inherited from the oocyte (the zona pellucida), which then dissolves during implantation, allowing for continued growth in the direction of maturity as a member of the species. Even prior to implantation, however, these cells and membrane function as parts of a whole that regularly and predictably develops into the more mature stages of a complex human body.

How do we know that the result of sperm-oocyte fusion is a new entity, rather than a continuation of the oocyte? We know that a new entity exists because, once the sperm penetrates the oocyte, a completely new trajectory of biological development commences. The biological activity of an oocyte is directed toward successful fertilization; the biological activity of sperm is directed toward penetration of an oocyte. The biological activity of the new entity that results when sperm and oocyte fuse, however, is directed toward nothing less than the development of a mature human organism, distinct from either parent. Further, this new entity’s activities are directed not by instructions from the mother’s body, as some people wrongly suppose, but by its own unique set of instructions, especially the blueprint for development contained in its unique genetic material. The mother’s body recognizes the zygote and then the embryo as an entity distinct from itself. In fact, the embryo must send out chemical signals to prevent the mother’s immune system from attacking it. The embryo also emits chemical signals that induce changes in the lining of the mother’s uterus to enable successful implantation.

If this embryo is provided a suitable environment, nutrition, and protection from deliberate attack, serious injury, or disease, it will develop to the mature stage of a human organism. Thus, from the zygote stage onward this distinct, new organism has all of the internal resources—in its genetic and epigenetic structure—needed to develop itself (or, rather, himself or herself, since in the human sex is determined from the very beginning) to the mature stage of a human organism. At no point after fertilization—implantation, gastrulation, birth, puberty, etc.—does a fundamental change in biological trajectory occur. These subsequent stages of development are simply the unfolding of the zygote’s inherent dynamism toward human organismal maturity. This shows that the zygote already is a human organism—a member of the species Homo sapiens—albeit at an early stage of his or her development.

So, since I like to win arguments with science, I just took the side of the debate that was backed by science. I really hate to lose debates, you know. I really like to cite scientific evidence when I’m debating.

The crime of abortion, it seems to me, is that you are depriving a human being of his or her future, because of your convenience right now. Human beings don’t have the right to take away the futures of other human beings because they want to be unburdened by the results of their own actions. We shouldn’t resort to violence in order to escape responsibility for our own actions. In almost every case, (except to save the life of the mother), killing the unborn child isn’t justified. It’s actually very scary to me that anyone would think that hurting other people was a reasonable response to one’s own diminished happiness. How did we ever get to a place in society when people don’t think that taking responsibility to care for the unborn child is morally better than killing the unborn child? It’s a baby for goodness sake. We ought to be serious about setting up our lives and controlling ourselves so that we never hurt an unborn child.

5 thoughts on “Which side of the abortion rights debate is backed by scientific evidence?”

  1. Sorry for the length of this comment, but a couple of observations.

    1) I’ve seen comments by those who denigrate fetal life as either “incapable of knowing/experiencing pain” or dehumanizing “the blob of fetal tissue” or “stopping a chemical reaction.”

    In addition, I’ve also seen nasty reviews for Crisis Pregnancy Centers on places like yelp declaiming how ‘unscientific’ the CPC’s are in their methods and so on (i.e., that they use ultrasound to demonstrate the growing life form — fetus is just the Latin word for ‘baby’).

    Unfortunately, I believe that people do choose to justify their actions and rationalize what they are doing. As J. Warner Wallace points out, vlitional resistance to Christianity often masquerades as rational opposition.

    2) I do want share something personal and it is public knowledge.

    My wife and I wanted to do a Dedication service (i.e., dedicating our lives to raise our children in the knowledge of God) and we found out this was scheduled on Sanctity of Life Sunday, 2014. This is the message I gave:

    Good morning. It’s exciting to see so many of you we know; thank you all for gracing us with your presence today. [My wife] and I are thankful for this time of dedication and we don’t believe it’s anything magical to have [one of the ministers] lay hands on our children; at this time, we are dedicating our lives to raise our children to know about God’s love and His grace, and we humbly ask for your continued assistance. [My wife] and I did not grow up knowing God; [my wife] felt the God-shaped void in her heart that is in all of us, and learned of Jesus’ unconditional love for her. In my search for truth, I too sensed a God-shaped void in my heart; God Himself is the only satisfying answer to joy. Friends, campus fellowships and churches have kindled our faiths and taught us His truth, His love, His faithfulness. We continue to be ever-so-dependent on God, and trust in Him, day by day. God loves our children and each one of us much more than we love our children. Even by my best efforts, I know I have, still am, and will fall short and not be the perfect father for my children. There is a Perfect Father in Heaven, who gives them everything they need, that we hope and pray, they will get to know, and one day, they too will choose Him as the ruler of their lives – He who wants to give them the most abundant life because He is our Creator and knows what is best and has shown us through Jesus Christ and empowers us to live it through His Holy Spirit.

    I would like to tell you a special story about [our daughter]. We stand before you providentially this Sunday – Sanctity of Life Sunday. (It was truly a coincidence and coincidences are usually the handiwork of God). No matter how brief, all life is a gift from God. Two-and-a-half months into the pregnancy, [my wife] had a pregnancy complication: a fairly large (4 in x 1 in x 1 in) subchorionic hematoma which threatened both [my wife]’s life and [our daughter]’s life; the Emergency Room doctor advised a DNC procedure [dilation and curettage, i.e., an abortion] as [my wife] could have bled to death. But God sustained both [our daughter] as she fought to live, and our fight for [our daughter]’s life. We prayed every day, thanking Him for one more day of life, not knowing what the future held but knowing a God, who cares for us and upholds us with His powerful hand, that we are dependent on Him for His immeasurable love, His grace, and asked Him to strengthen [my wife] and to keep [our daughter] safe. God did miraculously heal [my wife] four months later and [our daughter] is here today – our miracle child, and we find ourselves no less dependent on God. It may sound silly, but when [my son, the oldest] was born, I found myself praying multiple times a day, Lord, please watch over him, please help him grow, please keep him safe, please take care of him. I pray like this for both my kids. I cannot provide the most basic, vital and important needs; I find myself helpless and completely dependent on God. Our kids’ lives are given to us as stewards, we want to tell them all about God’s love, God’s goodness, God’s grace, God’s sovereignty.

    We are an example the temptation to kill our unborn babies through abortion comes to us all in different ways and times. But we respected life and our God who says simply not to murder, so we fought for life and trusted Him and Him alone with the outcome, even though it could have gone very bad.

    And we could not have gotten here had we not the church. My parents were a great help, but so many others—many of you—came to our aid, including praying for us. Many, especially the [ministry that helps people in need], some who knew us, some who didn’t, sent us cards and cooked us meals. You have loved us and shown us mercy, showing us the face of God. By standing with us and by us, by serving us and loving us, you have been committed to life. If it takes a community to bring a child into this world, how much more so do we need the community of faith, symbolically represented by [our local church], to raise, to teach, to encourage, to exhort, to instruct, to counsel the ways of the Lord and bring our children up in the faith?

    We are proud to be part of a church that will stand for life such as you have and also helps couples in crisis through [various crisis pregnancy centers] and other ways.

    God does not promise us a trouble-free or problem-free life, one going from mountaintop experience to mountaintop experience; but He gives us something immeasurably greater: Himself. God Himself will walk with us and He gives us each other: the church. Praise be to God.

    So we ask for your continued assistance. So many of you have helped us and we thank you and would like to honor your example. Will you stand with us, walk with us, counsel and comfort us, teach us and [our city] and the world Christ’s example through word and deed? Will you serve in formal ministries like nursery and Sunday school as well as informally, wherever there is a need?

    Liked by 3 people

  2. From the first sin till today mankind has always wanted to hide their transgressions from God, as evidenced by Adam and Eve hiding from Him in their nakedness. Give people a way to hide their sins and they will beat a path to your door. Give people a way to avoid their responsibilities and they will beat a path just as quickly. Unfortunately by convincing women that babies are a bad thing the abortion lobby has created a massive industry in providing both, but there is a flaw in their logic. Nothing escapes the eye of God, and all will be made to answer in the end. The abortion lobby in the West is nothing more than the cults of old, reborn and rebranded. Molech is “alive and well”, and many are his followers. No Christian, for any reason, should be in agreement with abortion for any reason, and one who is needs to do some serious introspection.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. And in pushing legal no reason needed abortion people ignore that most Christians weren’t going to force a rape victim or someone who would die giving birth to take or to term. I am not saying we agree with the abortion choice there.

    But those examples were never illegal reasons for a doctor to approve one. But they use them as a the excuse to make all things permissible


  4. Abortion is truly legalized murder. Our government may back it by a law but it is genocide. Under a good society it would be branded that way.
    I have always found the points of how the fetus fights to live in the mom by its chemicals it uses as even more evidence of design. The atheist all fetus species are the same is an absolute myth. Even the environment the fetus develops in changes at different stages and it matters to the outcome and health of the baby.
    Truly a wonderful system.
    But as a society we have an amazing ability to put out of our mind thoughts that don’t affect us personally. It is how we can live happily knowing full well our temporary pleasure makes the lives of other people worse. Abortion relies on people just not thinking about the topic at all


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