Study reports that 96% of biologists confirm that human life begins at fertilization

By Jonathon Van Maren

Earlier this month, Quillette published a fascinating piece by Steve Jacobs titled “I Asked Thousands of Biologists When Life Begins. The Answer Wasn’t Popular.” He writes:

Shortly after being awarded my Ph.D. by the University of Chicago’s department of Comparative Human Development this year, I found myself in a minor media whirlwind. I was interviewed by The Daily WireThe College Fix, and Breitbart. I appeared on national television and on a widely syndicated radio program. All of this interest had been prompted by a working paper associated with my dissertation, which was entitled Balancing Abortion Rights and Fetal Rights: A Mixed Methods Mediation of the U.S. Abortion Debate.

As discussed in more detail below, I reported that both a majority of pro-choice Americans (53%) and a majority of pro-life Americans (54%) would support a comprehensive policy compromise that provides entitlements to pregnant women, improves the adoption process for parents, permits abortion in extreme circumstances, and restricts elective abortion after the first trimester. However, members of the media were mostly interested in my finding that 96% of the 5,577 biologists who responded to me affirmed the view that a human life begins at fertilization.

It was the reporting of this view—that human zygotes, embryos, and fetuses are biological humans—that created such a strong backlash. It was not unexpected, as the finding provides fodder for conservative opponents of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 case in which the U.S. Supreme Court had suggested there was no consensus on “the difficult question of when life begins” and that “the judiciary, at this point in the development of man’s knowledge, [was] not in a position to speculate as to the answer.”

The entire controversy would be humorous if it weren’t so depressing. There has been an iron-clad scientific consensus on when life begins for decades. If you go to medical school anywhere in North America, your embryology textbook will inform you that a new, unique, living, and whole human being begins at the moment of fertilization. We know when life begins, and have for a very long time. And yet, the statement of this scientific fact by someone who wouldn’t even identify himself as a pro-lifer still sends the mainstream media and the progressive Left into fits of outrage—because they know that this fact reveals the barbarism of the position they hold on abortion.

Even the language we use indicates that we do, in fact, know when life begins. When we say that a child in the womb is “twelve weeks” or “twenty-two weeks,” what are we saying? Twelve weeks from what, exactly? The answer, of course, is obvious—twelve weeks from the beginning of that new human being’s life. Progressives claim that science is the ultimate standard, and eagerly brandish any new study that confirms a point of view that is currently in vogue with their set. But when science proves that their abortion advocacy is a grotesque push for the violent ending of a human life that has already begun, they angrily demand that the evidence be tossed out so that they can continue to live–and kill–as they wish.

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