When Does Life Begin?
There has been much debate as to when does life begin? Some don’t accept the embryo as a living being and they claim “it’s just a living organism.” These add that for this reason abortion is justified. And they add that if the embryo is really just a clump of cells, then those cells must rely on external guidance in order to survive because these cells have no control and no autonomy.
But New research shows that the cells of the embryo can actually divide without any external control. A recent study published online May 4, 2016 by Marta N. Shahbazi and colleagues from the UK demonstrated that the newly formed cell knows what to do post-conception regardless of whether or not it receives signals from a host uterus. Shahbazi and colleagues showed in their study that a fertilized egg is an autonomous living being. This one little cell, with its complete genetic content, can and does begin to divide and to grow, even in an experimental dish in an incubator in the closet space of some lab.
Shahbazi and colleagues thawed out frozen embryos that were donated to their research group from an IVF clinic. The embryos had been frozen after fertilization, and they were at various stages of first-week (pre-implantation) development when they were thawed. Shahbazi and colleagues, then, grew these embryos past the point at which they would normally implant themselves into the uterine lining, using an in vitro culture system that they made. The authors stated in the paper that their culture system “allows human embryos to undergo the pre- to post-implantation transition in vitro, in the absence of any maternal tissues.”
The result was that these cells were able to successfully organize themselves despite not being implanted in a uterus. This means that embryos knew what they’re supposed to do to survive and continue on living whether they’re in their mother or not. The Shahbazi research showed that the cells were programmed for survival from day one. The embryos grown in this experiment were not manipulated or forced to keep on going. They grew on their own.
A newly fertilized embryo goes on living regardless if the mom is around. The authors of the Research refer to the “critical remodeling events” of these embryos as “embryo-autonomous.” The Research data shows that these embryos are autonomous human beings who are simply in an early stage of development. In the past, scientists who studied cells could say that a dividing cell is not alive. But today no scientist can say that a growing embryo lacks organismal autonomy.
For this reason, we should value the human species because of their intrinsic value. And we should value them at all stages of development equally. Human beings don’t acquire person-hood at some developmental milestone. And they don’t magically become alive when they pass from the mother’s womb to the outer world.
An embryo is a separate body and entity, and not a growth in the female body. After fertilization, the packets of DNA from male and female merge to form the first new human genome which is distinct genetically from the mother. If the unborn child was actually a part of the mother’s body, the unborn’s cells would have the same genetic code as the mother. But this is not so. Also, the blood type of the unborn child is different than the blood type of the mother.
So, the slogan, “My Body, My Choice,” is a sad misunderstanding of what is taking place inside the womb of a mother. Biologically, at no stage can we say that the fetus is simply a part of the mother’s body.