‘When Does a Human Life Begin?’ Answered by Science

'Just as you and I were once toddlers, we were also once embryos' — stunning how many people don't or won't acknowledge this

by Leah Jessen | Updated 09 Jul 2017 at 8:40 PM

“When does a human life begin?”

This question should not be hard to answer — but in today’s culture, the topic is more contentious than ever.

"This is not about opinions, politics, or religion — nor should it be. It is about modern, objective, relevant science," Brooke Stanton, founder and CEO of the nonprofit Contend Projects, wrote on her organization's website. Based in Washington, D.C., and founded two years ago, the secular and nonpartisan Contend Projects is working to inform people, based on science, about when life begins.

"Although we live in a secular and scientific society, it's surprising how many intelligent, educated and otherwise informed people don't know fundamental truths about the beginning of human life, sexual reproduction, and human embryology," said Stanton.

She added, "Throughout my research and learning, I kept returning to the idea of taking a step back and separating the objective science from the drama and politics surrounding these issues."

Statistics about sex, abortion, and pregnancies can be alarming. "By their 19th birthday, seven in 10 teens have had intercourse," notes the Contend Projects site. And: "A new human being could begin to exist (and pregnancy could begin) within hours of sexual intercourse."

Related: The Newest Planned Parenthood Fetal-Tissue Scandal

Yet 22 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds think human life begins at birth, according to data from market research firm YouGov; 36 percent of this demographic believe life begins at conception.

"It's surprising how many intelligent and educated people don't know fundamental truths about human life."

"Nearly half of pregnancies among American women in 2011 were unintended (2.8 million), and about four in 10 of these were terminated by abortion," according to Contend Projects. "Unintended pregnancy rates are highest among women aged 18-24."

In 2014, there were about 926,200 abortions in America, according to research from the Guttmacher Institute.

"These decisions are some of the most important we will make [in] our lives — but surprisingly, the basic scientific facts about reproduction are widely misunderstood, or not understood at all," said Contend Projects.

For example, fertilization begins in a woman's fallopian tube. The embryo grows and in about a week implants itself in the uterus.

"As early as 12-24 hours after fertilization begins, pregnancy can be confirmed by detecting a protein called 'early pregnancy factor' or EPF in the mother's blood," said Contend Project. "Just as you and I were once toddlers, we were once embryos. Human development is a continuum, and at any point along this continuum — including the very beginning — there exists the same whole, individual, integrated human being. He or she is not a 'potential' human being, or a 'possible' human being, or a 'pre-embryo,' or 'just a cell.'"

Related: 'Life Doesn't Always Go According to Plan,' Says Pro-Family Ad

"One of the basic insights of modern biology is that life is continuous, with living cells giving rise to new types of cells and, ultimately, to new individuals," according to the pro-life Charlotte Lozier Institute. "The conclusion that human life begins at sperm-egg fusion is uncontested, objective, based on the universally accepted scientific method of distinguishing different cell types from each other and on ample scientific evidence (thousands of independent, peer-reviewed publications)."

As any mother-to-be knows well — the growing baby inside the womb is living and active.

In the Bible, the Lord says in Jeremiah 1:5: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations."

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