Why Pro-Life?/Is the Unborn Really a Human Being?

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By Randy Alcorn About Abortion
Chapter 1 of the book Why Pro-Life?

Pro-choice advocates once commonly stated, “It’s uncertain when human life begins; that’s a religious question that cannot be answered by science.” Most have abandoned this position because it’s contradicted by decades of scientific evidence. However, this out-of-date belief is so deeply engrained in our national psyche that it’s still widely believed.

The only way pro-choice logic can prevail is if people believe the unborn are less than fully human.

Are they?


Dr. Alfred M. Bongioanni, professor of obstetrics at the University of Pennsylvania, stated, “I have learned from my earliest medical education that human life begins at the time of conception…human life is present throughout this entire sequence from conception to adulthood…any interruption at any point throughout this time constitutes a termination of human life.”

Speaking of the early stages of a child’s development in the womb, Professor Bongioanni said, “I am no more prepared to say that these early stages represent an incomplete human being than I would be to say that the child prior to the dramatic effects of puberty is not a human being. This is human life at every stage.”[1]

Dr. Jerome LeJeune, then genetics professor at the University of Descartes in Paris, stated, “After fertilization has taken place a new human being has come into being.” He said, this “is no longer a matter of taste or opinion. Each individual has a very neat beginning, at conception.”[2]

Professor Micheline Matthews-Roth of Harvard University Medical School said, “It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception.”[3]

The moment of each person’s creation is the moment of his conception. Before that moment the individual (with his unique DNA) did not exist.

From that moment he does exist. It’s not merely pro-life people who believe this. The owner of Oregon’s largest abortion clinic testified under oath, “Of course human life begins at conception.”[4] The award-winning secular book From Conception to Birth documents the child’s beginning at conception and his movement toward birth.[5]

How clear is the proof that human life begins at conception? So clear that the Missouri General Assembly overwhelmingly approved a 2003 bill which stated, “The general assembly of this state finds that: (1) The life of each human being begins at conception; (2) Unborn children have protectable interests in life, health, and well-being…. The term ‘unborn children’ or ‘unborn child’ shall include all unborn child or children or the offspring of human beings from the moment of conception until birth at every stage of biological development.”[6]


The newly fertilized egg contains a staggering amount of genetic information, sufficient to control the individual’s growth and development for his entire lifetime. A single thread of DNA from a human cell contains information equivalent to a library of one thousand volumes.[7]

The cells of the new individual divide and multiply rapidly, resulting in phenomenal growth. There’s growth because there’s life. Long before a woman knows she’s pregnant there is within her a living, growing human being.

Between five and nine days after conception the new person burrows into the womb’s wall for safety and nourishment. Already his or her gender can be determined by scientific means. By fourteen days the child produces a hormone that suppresses the mother’s menstrual period. It will be two more weeks before clearly human features are discernible, and three more before they’re obvious. Still, he is a full-fledged member of the human race.

At conception the unborn doesn’t appear human to us who are used to judging humanity by appearance. Nevertheless, in the objective scientific sense he is every bit as human as any older child or adult. He looks like a human being ought to at his stage of development.

At eighteen days after conception the heart is forming and the eyes start to develop. By twenty-one days the heart is pumping blood throughout the body. By twenty eight days the unborn has budding arms and legs. By thirty days she has a brain and has multiplied in size ten thousand times.

By thirty-five days, her mouth, ears, and nose are taking shape. At forty days the preborn child’s brain waves can be recorded and her heartbeat, which began three weeks earlier, can already be detected by an ultrasonic stethoscope. By forty-two days her skeleton is formed and her brain is controlling the movement of muscles and organs.

No matter how he or she looks, a child is a child. And, always, abortion terminates that child’s life. The earliest means to cause abortion, including Mifepristone (RU-486) and all abortion pills, are too late to avoid taking a life.


Famous intrauterine photographer Lennart Nilsson is best known for his photo essays in Life magazine and his book A Child Is Born. In his “Drama of Life Before Birth,” he says this of the unborn at forty-five days after conception (before many women know they’re pregnant): “Though the embryo now weighs only 1/30 of an ounce, it has all the internal organs of the adult in various stages of development. It already has a little mouth with lips, an early tongue and buds for 20 milk teeth. Its sex and reproductive organs have begun to sprout.”[8]

By eight weeks hands and feet are almost perfectly formed. By nine weeks a child will bend fingers around an object placed in the palm. Fingernails are forming and the child is sucking his thumb. The nine-week baby has “already perfected a somersault, backflip and scissor kick.”[9]

The unborn responds to stimulus and may already be capable of feeling pain.[10] Yet abortions on children at this stage are called “early abortions.”

By ten weeks the child squints, swallows, and frowns. By eleven weeks he urinates, makes a wide variety of facial expressions, and even smiles.[11] By twelve weeks the child is kicking, turning his feet, curling and fanning his toes, making a fist, moving thumbs, bending wrists, and opening his mouth.[12]

All this happens in the first trimester, the first three months of life. In the remaining six months in the womb nothing new develops or begins functioning. The fully intact child only grows and matures—unless her life is lost by miscarriage or taken through abortion.

It’s an indisputable scientific fact that each and every surgical abortion in America stops a beating heart and stops already measurable brain waves.

What do we call it when a person no longer has a heartbeat or brain waves? Death. What should we call it when there is a heartbeat and there are brain waves? Life. Every abortion ends a human life.


Scott Klusendorf says, “The answer to the question, ‘What is it?’ trumps all other considerations.”[13] He points out that there are only four differences between a pre-born and a newborn. They can be remembered through the acronym SLED,[14] which I’ll briefly summarize:

Size: Does how big you are determine who you are?

Level of development: Are twenty-year-olds more human than ten-year-olds, since they are smarter and stronger?

Environment: Does being inside a house make you more or less of a person than being outside? Does being located in his mother’s body rather than outside make a child less human?

Degree of dependency: Does dependence upon another determine who you are? Is someone with Alzheimer’s or on kidney dialysis less of a person? Am I, an insulin dependent diabetic, less of a person than before I contracted the disease?

A three-month-old is much smaller than a ten-year old, far less developed, and just as incapable of taking care of himself as an unborn.

The question is not how old or big or smart or inconvenient the unborn are, but who they are.

The answer is simple—they are human beings.

  1. Subcommittee on Separation of Powers to Senate Judiciary Committee S-158, Report, 97th Cong., 1st Session, 1981.
  2. Ibid.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Lovejoy Surgicenter v. Advocates for Life Ministries, et al., 1989, testimony of Aileen Klass.
  5. Alexander Tsiaras, From Conception to Birth: A Life Unfolds (New York: Doubleday, 2002).
  6. Missouri Revised Statutes, chapter 1, “Laws in Force and Construction of Statutes,” Section 1.205, August 28, 2003. SeefckLRwww.moga.state.mo.us/statutes/C000-099/0010000205.htm.
  7. R. Houwink, Data: Mirrors of Science (New York: American Elsevier Publishing Co., Inc., 1970), 104–190.
  8. Lennart Nilsson, “Drama of Life Before Birth,” Life, 30 April 1965.
  9. “The Facts of Life” (Norcross, GA: Human Development Resource Council), 2.
  10. Vincent J. Collins, “Fetal Pain and Abortion: The Medical Evidence,” Studies in Law and Medicine (Chicago: Americans United for Life, 1984), 6–7.
  11. See Newsweek, June 9, 2003, “The War Over Fetal Rights,” 40–47.
  12. These are well-established scientific facts. See, for instance, Landrum Shettles and David Rorvik, Rites of Life (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1983), 41–66.
  13. Scott Klusendorf, Pro-Life 101: A Step-by-Step Guide to Making Your Case Persuasively (Signal Hill, CA: Stand to Reason Press, 2002).
  14. Justin Taylor, “Sticker Shock,”World, January 17, 2004, 43.
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