Indisputable Fact: Life Begins at Fertilization (Updated Edition)

In The Party of Death, National Review’s Ramesh Ponnuru writes:
We have developed ways of talking that enable us to pretend that the point can be blinked away. In the case of abortion and embryo research, the main technique is to suggest that there is some great mystery about “when life begins,” and that this alleged question is a religious or philosophical one. Yet science has since solved the mystery. From conception onward, what exists is a distinct organism of the human species. The philosophical question is what we make of that fact. To jumble these issues together—the essentially scientific question of categorizing an embryo as human and living, and the moral question of whether it follows from that categorization that it has a right to life—is a logical error. Justice Blackmun, of course, proceeded in just this erroneous fashion in Roe. And if we are not careful, talking in terms of “meaningful life,” or, as [author Ronald] Dworkin does, of “life in earnest,” can lead us into this error as well.

All of us who read this page were once human embryos. The history of our bodies began with the formation of an embryo. We were those embryos, just as we were once fetuses, infants, children, and adolescents. But we were never a sperm cell and an egg cell. (Those cells were genetically and functionally parts of other human beings.) The formation of the embryo marks the beginning of a new human life: a new and complete organism that belongs to the human species. Embryology textbooks say so, with no glimmer of uncertainty or ambiguity.

That new organism is alive rather than dead or inanimate. It is human rather than a member of some other species. It is an organism distinct from all others. It is not a functional part of a larger organism (the way a kidney is part of a larger organism). It maintains its own organic unity over time. It directs its own development, according to its genetic template, through the embryonic, fetal, and subsequent stages. Such terms as “blastocyst,” “newborn,” and “adolescent” denote different stages of development in a being of the same type, not different types of beings. At each of our earlier stages of life, we have been, as we are now, whole living members of the species Homo sapiens.
(hardcover, p. 77-78)
Ponnuru is correct. It is simply a fact that, once fertilization has occurred, a living, individual human being exists. Among the well informed, there is no real dispute about these facts, and where issues as serious as life and death are involved, there is no excuse for policymakers or commentators to not be well informed. Here are just a few examples of quotes demonstrating as much (sources linked at bottom of post).

Medical Authorities:
“Zygote. This cell results from the union of an oocyte and a sperm during fertilization. A zygote is the beginning of a new human being (i.e., an embryo).” … “[The zygote] marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.” (Keith L. Moore and T.V.N. Persaud, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, 7th ed., Philadelphia: Saunders, 2003, pp. 2,16)

“The zygote thus formed represents the beginning of a new life.” (J.P. Greenhill and E.A. Friedman, Biological Principles and Modern Practice of Obstetrics, Philadelphia: W.B. Sanders, 1974, p. 17)

“When fertilization is complete, a unique genetic human entity exists.” (C. Christopher Hook, MD, Mayo Clinic, as quoted by Richard Ostling in an AP news story, 9/24/99)

“The beginning of a single human life is from a biological point of view a simple and straightforward matter—the beginning is conception.” (Dr. Watson A. Bowes, University of Colorado Medical School)
Abortion Advocates:
“I think we have deluded ourselves into believing that people don’t know that abortion is killing. So any pretense that abortion is not killing is a signal of our ambivalence, a signal that we cannot say yes, it kills a fetus.” (Faye Wattleton, President of Planned Parenthood, 1997 Ms. Magazine interview)

“Clinging to a rhetoric about abortion in which there is no life and no death, we entangle our beliefs in a series of self-delusions, fibs and evasions. And we risk becoming precisely what our critics charge us with being: callous, selfish and casually destructive men and women who share a cheapened view of human life…we need to contextualize the fight to defend abortion rights within a moral framework that admits that the death of a fetus is a real death.” (Naomi Wolf, “Our Bodies, Our Souls,” The New Republic, October 16, 1995)

“Whether a being is a member of a given species is something that can be determined scientifically, by an examination of the nature of the chromosomes in the cells of living organisms. In this sense there is no doubt that from the first moments of its existence an embryo conceived from human sperm and eggs is a human being.” (Peter Singer, Practical Ethics, 2nd Edition, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993, pp. 85-86)
Abortionists:
“If I see a case…after twenty weeks, where it frankly is a child to me, I really agonize over it because the potential is so imminently there…On the other hand, I have another position, which I think is superior in the hierarchy of questions, and that is “who owns this child?” It’s got to be the mother.” (Dr. James MacMahon, Abortionist)

“When you do a D & C most of the tissue is removed by the Olden forceps or ring clamp and you actually get gross parts of the fetus out. So you can see a miniature person so to speak, and even now I occasionally feel a little peculiar about it because as a physician I’m trained to conserve life and here I am destroying life.” (Dr. Benjamin Kalish, Abortionist)

“It [abortion] is a form of killing. You’re ending a life.” (Ron Fitzsimmons, President of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers)

“I have never denied that human life begins at conception. If I have a complaint about our society, it’s that we don’t deal with death and dying. Do we believe human beings have a right to make decisions about death and dying? Yes we do, and those decisions are made every day in every hospital.” (Tim Shuck, Clinic Counselor)

“We know that it is killing, but the states permit killing under certain circumstances.” (Dr. Neville Sender, founder of Metropolitan Medical Service, an Abortion Clinic in Milwaukee, Wisconsin)
There is much, much more where those came from. The following links contain more than enough evidence to prove the humanity of the unborn to any honest person:

Westchester Institute for Ethics & the Human Person: When Does Life Begin? – Scientific exploration of “two central questions concerning the beginning of life: 1) in the course of sperm-egg interaction, when is a new cell formed that is distinct from either sperm or egg? and 2) is this new cell a new human organism—i.e., a new human being?”

Pro-Life on Campus: When Does Life Begin? – Collection of quotes from respected embryology textbooks and scientists, 1981 Senate testimony & report, and admissions from leading abortion advocates

Princeton Pro-Life: Life Begins at Fertilization – Collection of quotes from respected embryology textbooks and scientists

Eternal Perspective Ministries: Abortion Providers comment on whether abortion is the taking of a life – collection of quotes from abortionists who admit that they end lives

Abort73: Medical Testimony – Collection of quotes from respected embryology textbooks and scientists, and admissions from leading abortion advocates

Abort73: Prenatal Development – Detailed exploration of early fetal development

Abort73: Part of the Mother’s Body? – Explanation of how the preborn human is an individual separate and distinct from the mother’s body

Abort73: Are Sperm and Egg Cells Alive? – Explanation of the difference between a zygote and individual sperm or egg cells

Carnegie Stages of Early Human Embryonic Development – Links to extensive fetal development information

WebMD Pregnancy Center – Comprehensive pregnancy information

Baby2See Fetal Development Guide – Week-by-week fetal development information for expecting mothers

Endowment for Human Development: Prenatal Image Gallery Index – Over 200 images through every stage of development


 Abort73: Abortion Pictures – WARNING: Graphic Images


Klan Parenthood: 100 Abortion Pictures – WARNING: Graphic Images
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Three Lousy Objections to Susan B. Anthony’s Pro-Life Pledge…and One Real One

Republican presidential candidates Mitt Romney and Herman Cain have come under fire for refusing to sign the Susan B. Anthony List’s Pro-Life 2012 Citizen’s Pledge, which reads:
I PLEDGE that I will only support candidates for President who are committed to protecting Life. I demand that any candidate I support commit to these positions:

FIRST, to nominate to the U.S. federal bench judges who are committed to restraint and applying the original meaning of the Constitution, not legislating from the bench;

SECOND, to select only pro-life appointees for relevant Cabinet and Executive Branch positions, in particular the head of National Institutes of Health, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Health & Human Services;

THIRD, to advance pro-life legislation to permanently end all taxpayer funding of abortion in all domestic and international spending programs, and defund Planned Parenthood and all other contractors and recipients of federal funds with affiliates that perform or fund abortions;

FOURTH, advance and sign into law a Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act to protect unborn children who are capable of feeling pain from abortion.
Romney’s instead offered his own pro-life pledge, consisting of good-but-mild promises regarding thinks like opposing Roe and backing the Hyde Amendment, and explaining where SBA goes too far:
It is one thing to end federal funding for an organization like Planned Parenthood; it is entirely another to end all federal funding for thousands of hospitals across America. That is precisely what the pledge would demand and require of a president who signed it. 
I could ask why somebody who claims to understand conservative principles and the original intent of the Constitution is so hung-up on ensuring that hospitals continue to receive federal funding, but here it’ll suffice to echo SBA’s reminder that the pledge doesn’t say anything about defunding hospitals, which “has never been considered by Congress [and] is not part of public debate,” and ask why it would be a bad thing to make abortion so radioactive that hospitals know even tangential dealings with abortion providers could risk their access to the public trough. And frankly, the 5% of hospitals that SBA says do perform abortions should be defunded.
The pledge also unduly burdens a president’s ability to appoint the most qualified individuals to a broad array of key positions in the federal government. I would expect every one of my appointees to carry out my policies on abortion and every other issue, irrespective of their personal views.
Actually, the pledge doesn’t cover a “broad array” of federal posts; merely those “relevant” to life issues, namely “National Institute of Health, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Health and Human Services.” Romney says, “oh, my guys will do what I want, regardless of their own views,” but that’s simply not good enough. For one thing, it’s not enough for the president to have confidence in a public servant; the American people must be able to trust that they’ll execute the law the way we voted for. Can anybody seriously say that they’d be comfortable with a pro-abortion Health and Human Services Secretary, even with a self-described pro-lifer in the White House? For another, abortion is a question of basic liberty, so you can’t just separate someone’s position on abortion from his position on other issues and expect someone who thinks it’s okay to let babies be murdered for convenience to be just fine on everything else.

As someone who strongly supported Mitt Romney last time around (a decision I stand by, as the viable alternatives were still worse), this is the most damning evidence yet that he doesn’t truly take the pro-life cause seriously. (Charles Krauthammer and Bill O’Reilly are full of crap on this issue.)

Herman Cain, meanwhile, says his problem was the wording of point four:
I support right-to-life issues unequivocally and I adamantly support the first three aspects of the Susan B. Anthony pledge involving appointing pro-life judges, choosing pro-life cabinet members, and ending taxpayer-funded abortions. However, the fourth requirement demands that I “advance” the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act. As president, I would sign it, but Congress must advance the legislation.
Cain seems to be alluding to the fact that presidents don’t have a constitutional role in the legislative process until a bill reaches their desk, which is true, but come on. Rejecting an entire pledge because of one word that wasn’t quite precise enough for Cain is awfully nitpicky, even for a disgruntled constitutional purist like me. Cain’s pro-life street cred is far better than Romney’s, but this is just the latest in a string of bungles by Cain that convince me he’s not ready for primetime.

Now that we’ve got the candidates’ crappy reasons for rejecting the SBA pledge out of the way, we must unfortunately turn to a real problem with it that few people have touched upon. David Kopel explains why the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act may be constitutionally problematic:
The federal version of PCUCPA is S. 314, introduced by Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.). After the definitions section of the proposed statute, the bill states: “Any abortion provider in or affecting interstate or foreign commerce, who knowingly performs any abortion of a pain-capable unborn child, shall comply with the requirements of this title.”

Federal abortion control under the purported authority of congressional power “To regulate Commerce…among the several States” is plainly unconstitutional under the original meaning of the interstate commerce.

Even under the lax (but non-infinite) version of the interstate commerce power which the Court articulated in Lopez,  a federal ban on partial-birth abortion is dubious, as Glenn Reynolds and I argued in a Connecticut Law Review article. Indeed, in the 5–4 Supreme Court decision upholding the federal ban, Gonzales v. Carhart, Justices Thomas and Scalia, who voted in the majority to uphold the ban as not violating the Casey abortion right, concurred to point out “that whether the Act constitutes a permissible exercise of Congress’ power under the Commerce Clause is not before the Court. The parties did not raise or brief that issue; it is outside the question presented; and the lower courts did not address it.”

In other words, if the attorneys who challenged the federal ban on partial-birth abortions had been willing to raise all plausibile constitutional claims, instead of losing the case 4–5 they probably could have won 6–3, by assembling a coalition of 4 strongly pro-abortion-rights Justices, plus Scalia and Thomas on the commerce issue.
Clearly, using the Commerce Clause for authorization is every bit as invalid as when liberals do it. Congress’s power to regulate interstate commerce was meant to prevent the states from placing onerous restrictions on interstate commerce. Using it to justify regulations on abortions that cross state lines violates the spirit of the clause, and using it to justify regulations on abortions that don’t cross state lines violates both the spirit and the letter of the law.

Can the bill be justified on other grounds, though? The Fourteenth Amendment says no state can “deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws,” and empowers Congress to enforce that promise. As Ronald Reagan famously pointed out, the architect of the Fourteenth Amendment, Rep. John Bingham, said the amendment’s guarantee of “life, liberty, and property” would apply to “any human being.” I think a case can be made that the Fourteenth Amendment gives Congress the constitutional authority to prohibit abortion (more on that later), but then we come across another problem: does a measure designed to merely discourage abortion constitute protecting fetuses?

I’m not sure. (UPDATE: Here’s my first stab at the issue.) As much as I want Republicans to fight abortion harder, I also want them to do it constitutionally. At the very least, pro-life policymakers cannot justify exploiting chinks in the Constitution’s armor first made by the Left. And that the trickier legal issues involved can be vexing even among pro-lifers is all the more reason to support the Human Life Amendment.

Of course, any progress on that front would require statesmen of a higher caliber than Mitt Romney and Herman Cain.

UPDATE II: Ramesh Ponnuru has another, more substantive beef with the pledge: 

But this pledge, taken seriously, would preclude me from voting for Mitt Romney against Barack Obama in 2012 — which is to say, that given these entirely imaginable options, it would preclude me from doing what I can to advance the pro-life cause. (It would have precluded me from supporting Bush over Gore in 2000, too, since Bush made no such commitment on personnel.) It would preclude me from voting for Romney in the primaries even if I believed he offered pro-lifers our best shot at replacing Obama with someone who would appoint good justices to the Supreme Court.

What Is the Libertarian Position on Abortion? UPDATED

That is the question posed by Hot Air’s Ed Morrissey to Reason Magazine’s Matt Welch and Nick Gillespie for their “Ask A Libertarian” video series:

Ed reacts with appreciation for a “measured, thoughtful response.” As you might expect, I’m not so charitable.
No, Ed, this was not a thoughtful response. A thoughtful response would have asked what the scientific evidence reveals about the humanity of the unborn, and the discussed how the answer relates to the nature of liberty (you know, the root word of “libertarian”) and the libertarian purpose of government. Instead, all we got was platitudes about respecting differing views wrapped around, quite frankly, Naziesque talk of a “sliding scale of humanity” and how “definitions of life and death change with time.” Gillespie even admits that the sliding scale is an intuitive idea, rather than a logical argument.
I’ll be the first to acknowledge that there are principled, consistent libertarians out there, like Libertarians for Life, who embrace the full implications of the statements “all men are created equal” and “to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men.” But in what might be the most disturbing part of the video, Welch claims that only about 30% of libertarians call themselves pro-life. If that number is accurate (and I don’t know if it is), then that confirms my worst suspicions about libertarianism being merely a form of liberalism that wants to keep its paycheck rather than a sincere, coherent liberty ethos.
But hey, that moral and intellectual confusion is one of the reasons I’m a conservative and not a libertarian. That’s their knot to untangle, and I hope for the sake of the Right as a broader coalition that pro-life libertarians are successful in untangling it.

UPDATE: Speaking of libertarians and social issues, Ann Coulter nukes Ron Paul and company along similar lines, in a column so good we’ll let slide her misguided infatuation with Chris Christie:

Most libertarians are cowering frauds too afraid to upset anyone to take a stand on some of the most important cultural issues of our time. So they dodge the tough questions when it suits their purposes by pretending to be Randian purists, but are perfectly comfortable issuing politically expedient answers when it comes to the taxpayers’ obligations under Medicare and Social Security.

If they could only resist sucking up to Rolling Stone-reading, status-obsessed losers, they’d probably be interesting to talk to.

In my book “Demonic: How the Liberal Mob is Endangering America,” I make the case that liberals, and never conservatives, appeal to irrational mobs to attain power. There is, I now recall, one group of people who look like conservatives, but also appeal to the mob. They’re called “libertarians.”

Happy Birthday, Mr. President

Today would have been the late, great Ronald Reagan’s 100th birthday. Many rightfully remember him for his unwavering support of free markets, limited government, and those suffering under Soviet oppression, but here it seems fitting to highlight one aspect of Reagan’s philosophy of liberty that the Right may be in danger of forgetting. In 1983, Reagan wrote a stirring essay called “Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation” which demands to be read in full by all who call themselves conservatives. A key excerpt:

Regrettably, we live at a time when some persons do not value all human life. They want to pick and choose which individuals have value. Some have said that only those individuals with “consciousness of self” are human beings. One such writer has followed this deadly logic and concluded that “shocking as it may seem, a newly born infant is not a human being.”

A Nobel Prize winning scientist has suggested that if a handicapped child “were not declared fully human until three days after birth, then all parents could be allowed the choice.” In other words, “quality control” to see if newly born human beings are up to snuff.

Obviously, some influential people want to deny that every human life has intrinsic, sacred worth. They insist that a member of the human race must have certain qualities before they accord him or her status as a “human being.”

Events have borne out the editorial in a California medical journal which explained three years before Roe v. Wade that the social acceptance of abortion is a “defiance of the long-held Western ethic of intrinsic and equal value for every human life regardless of its stage, condition, or status.”

Every legislator, every doctor, and every citizen needs to recognize that the real issue is whether to affirm and protect the sanctity of all human life, or to embrace a social ethic where some human lives are valued and others are not. As a nation, we must choose between the sanctity of life ethic and the “quality of life” ethic.

I have no trouble identifying the answer our nation has always given to this basic question, and the answer that I hope and pray it will give in the future. American was founded by men and women who shared a vision of the value of each and every individual. They stated this vision clearly from the very start in the Declaration of Independence, using words that every schoolboy and schoolgirl can recite:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

We fought a terrible war to guarantee that one category of mankind — black people in America — could not be denied the inalienable rights with which their Creator endowed them. The great champion of the sanctity of all human life in that day, Abraham Lincoln, gave us his assessment of the Declaration’s purpose. Speaking of the framers of that noble document, he said:

This was their majestic interpretation of the economy of the Universe. This was their lofty, and wise, and noble understanding of the justice of the Creator to His creatures. Yes, gentlemen, to all his creatures, to the whole great family of man. In their enlightened belief, nothing stamped with the divine image and likeness was sent into the world to be trodden on. . . They grasped not only the whole race of man then living, but they reached forward and seized upon the farthest posterity. They erected a beacon to guide their children and their children’s children, and the countless myriads who should inhabit the earth in other ages.

He warned also of the danger we would face if we closed our eyes to the value of life in any category of human beings:

I should like to know if taking this old Declaration of Independence, which declares that all men are equal upon principle and making exceptions to it where will it stop. If one man says it does not mean a Negro, why not another say it does not mean some other man?

When Congressman John A. Bingham of Ohio drafted the Fourteenth Amendment to guarantee the rights of life, liberty, and property to all human beings, he explained that all are “entitled to the protection of American law, because its divine spirit of equality declares that all men are created equal.” He said the right guaranteed by the amendment would therefore apply to “any human being.”

Pro-Life Resource Update

Thanks to a handy page on Pro-Life on Campus, I’ve updated my blog post presenting the evidence that modern science unambiguously considers human life to begin at fertilization/conception. It’s a helpful one-stop reference that has the potential to convert the simply misinformed; if you haven’t bookmarked it already, please do so right away.