In the current iteration of its 2018-2022 strategic plan, the United States Department of Health and Human Services defines life as beginning at conception. The draft of the strategic plan reads:
“HHS accomplishes its mission through programs and initiatives that cover a wide spectrum of activities, serving and protecting Americans at every stage of life, beginning at conception…”
The current plan, drafted during the Obama administration, makes no reference to the sanctity of human life or a specific timeframe of when life begins. However, science has conclusively shown for some time now that life begins at conception (also known as fertilization).
Planned Parenthood and NARAL hate this language because naturally, it would hinder their profits. Liberal activists are claiming Trump will use this new idea as a way to somehow attack contraception, abortion, and IVF. Even further, some have atrociously criticized Objective 3.3 for saying HHS will “Protect women and their unborn children from harm.”
You may be surprised to know that at one time, even Democrats accepted that life begins at conception. In 1994, the Federal advisory board appointed by former President Bill Clinton affirmed that “The preimplantation human embryo warrants serious moral consideration as a developing form of human life.” [SOURCE]: National Institutes of Health, Report of the Human Embryo Research Panel (Sept. 1994), p. 2.
Unfortunately, present-day Democrats seem to have conveniently forgotten this fact. But that doesn’t change that it is a fact, one which medical professionals have reiterated time and again for years.
A 2014 research brief on the scientific view of when life begins, published by the Charlotte Lozier Institute stated:
“Human embryos from the one-cell (zygote) stage forward show uniquely integrated, organismal behavior that is unlike the behavior of mere human cells. The zygote produces increasingly complex tissues, structures and organs that work together in a coordinated way. Importantly, the cells, tissues and organs produced during development do not somehow “generate” the embryo (as if there were some unseen, mysterious “manufacturer” directing this process), they are produced by the embryo as it directs its own development to more mature stages of human life. This organized, coordinated behavior of the embryo is the defining characteristic of a human organism.”
The research brief concluded in no uncertain terms:
“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). Moreover, it is entirely independent of any specific ethical, moral, political, or religious view of human life or of human embryos.”
The research brief makes an excellent point, demonstrating that the debate concerning when life begins is not a scientific one, but is instead usually a political debate.
“The predominance of human biological research confirms that human life begins at conception—fertilization. At fertilization, the human being emerges as a whole, genetically distinct, individuated zygotic living human organism, a member of the species Homo sapiens, needing only the proper environment in order to grow and develop. The difference between the individual in its adult stage and in its zygotic stage is one of form, not nature.”
The study further noted that in 1965, the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology attempted to redefine conception to mean implantation as opposed to the previous understanding that it becomes a life at the point of fertilization.
In reality, there is no scientific debate whatsoever about whether or not life begins at conception (fertilization). A recent study published by Marta N. Shahbazi and colleagues from the UK demonstrates that an embryo, or the fertilized egg, is an autonomous living being at the point of conception. It is even programmed for survival.
You can call it whatever you wish – a zygote, a clump of cells, an embryo, a fetus, a fertilized egg, or a product of conception – but no amount of renaming can change the scientific fact that it is a human life. It should go without saying that every human has value no matter the stage or circumstances. The draft by the Department of Health and Human Services to publicly acknowledge this scientific fact is one that should be supported and applauded.
Josh Denton is a contributing writer for Family Policy Institute of Washington.