Conception

I have some thoughts on “life begins at conception” definition:

From a scientific standpoint, the definition is not true; life had been continuous for something close to 4 billion years. Had it been interrupted at any point, no conception would have been possible. In the same sense, every single-celled creature is about four billion years old.

From a definitional standpoint, the definition is not unique. We now know how, though it doesn’t seem that it’s been done with humans yet, to trigger the growth and life-building process of a single cell without conception. This is parthenogenesis, or “cloning” in the popular terminology. Such a person would (probably) be genetically an identical twin born at a much later time. That person would risk never having been “alive” since “life [never] begins” for her. (This may be easier for human females for technical reasons.) Would it be legal to shoot her as an adult as for her life never began, thus could not be taken? Of course not.

(Hmm. If created from a single cell from one parent, and subsequently decanted from a constructed artificial womb instead of “born” in the usual sense, would she be considered a “natural born citizen” eligible to be president of the United States?)

And finally, from a legal standpoint, the definition creates a risk that any mother who loses a fertilized egg (this is often very difficult to confirm!) could be guilty of negligent homicide. Even if you bump the definition up to “implantation in the uterine wall,” there are still times of great risk and threats to successful development. By the time that the blastula grows to embryo/fetushood, and incorporates the fair beginnings of a developed brain (we might use overall size as a simple and ultrasound-measurable metric for this), the often-accidental threats to developmental completion are much reduced. Thus, too, the threats to prosecution of the mother are similarly reduced.

I don’t like the idea of prosecuting mothers who don’t even know that they are mothers for having a drink the next day, buttressing a negligent homicide charge.

Practically, the “life begins at conception” definition also has no chance to get a majority agreement. The later definition, while still early, has a very good chance — and is at a stage early enough to prevent the sort of mindful slaughter of mindful humans that I and most others would both like to prevent.

===|==============/ Keith DeHavelle

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