One of these things is not like the other
Sperm are as much potential life as those dividing cells, zygotes, fetus…prior to brain activity.
If we must consider early stage human development the same as a birthed human because it has human DNA, then it makes little sense to me that we wouldn’t also consider sperm and egg to be the same as a birthed human.
Clearly my Facebook debate opponents were familiar with many of the common pro-abortion arguments and leveled just about every one of them at me. This one tries to make the “life begins at conception” argument seem absurd by suggesting that if the one-celled zygote is a human being then why not the one-celled sperm or egg? All are human cells with human DNA, as is every cell in the human body, but if it’s ludicrous to consider the destruction of sperm murder, then it’s also ludicrous to make that charge about the one-celled human zygote.
But as Frank Beckwith points out in Chapter 6 of his book which I am currently reviewing (1), the pro-life position is not that the unborn is a human being from conception based solely on the fact that it has a human genetic code. Rather, that it is “an independent living human organism in a certain stage of development” which has as one of its characteristics a human genetic code. So, “possessing a human genetic code is a necessary but not a sufficient condition for human personhood.”
No sperm or egg, nor any other human cell or body part, is an independent organism which if simply nourished and protected will grow and develop in size and complexity until it can no longer remain in the host body. The one-celled zygote is totally unique among human cells.
I often wonder if any abortion-rights advocates ever take a few minutes to ponder the amazing phenomenon that is human reproduction. One microscopic cell contains within it the capacity and the instructions for developing into an independent, staggeringly complex, multi-billioned-celled entity without anything being acted on it from the outside. If just left alone to do its thing, it transforms…not from something other than a human person into a human person…but from a tiny person with a natural inherent capacity to develop all our human features and functions into a larger person with all those features and functions developed.
As I’ve argued before, there is no more logical and reasonable way for a new human person to be reproduced than to start out as a tiny cell and gradually grow. Could we just pop into being fully-formed at 7 lbs. 4 oz.? Or perhaps each of our body parts develop independently and then assemble themselves into a person?
No. The way it is is the way it has to be. Every human person begins his or her life as a tiny cell that quickly grows in size and complexity into a recognizably human body. But nowhere on the spectrum is the entity other than human, and there’s no good reason to believe that the entity which is human is at any time not also a person.
Beckwith closes out Chapter 6 with a discussion of the criteria of personhood. I’ll save that for next time.
(1) Francis J. Beckwith, Politically Correct Death: Answering Arguments for Abortion Rights (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1993)