Finding definitive answers for doubts that the human fetus is fully human at some stage (conception to 9-months)

Human fetus. Photo copyrighted, Films for Christ.
Young human fetus. Photograph copyrighted, Films for Christ. From the motion picture, “The Origin of Life”.

Throughout the history of the abortion controversy, many have put forth criteria by which to judge whether a human organism has reached the point in its development at which it is fully human. Some criteria are based on so-called “decisive” moments in fetal development. Others are based on certain conditions any entity—born or unborn—must fulfill in order to be considered “fully human.” And others argue that there is no “decisive” moment but that the unborn's rights increase as its body develops.

All these views are flawed. The pro-life view that full humanness begins at conception is the most coherent—and is more consistent with our basic moral intuitions.

In order to defend this position adequately, I will critique a number of decisive moment and gradualist theories, whose defenses contain many objections to the pro-life view.

Choose the question(s) you want answered…

  • [Next] Isn't it true that "No one knows when life begins"? Answer
  • Isn't life-at-conception a "religious belief"? Answer
  • Is an embryo really alive before it implants in the womb? Answer
  • How can a fetus be a human being before it "looks human"? Answer
  • Does life begin only when there is human sentiment for the embryo/fetus? Answer
  • Does life begin only when the fetus moves? Answer
  • Does life begin only at birth? Answer
  • Does life begin only when the brain starts functioning? Answer
  • Does life begin only when the fetus is “viable”? Answer
  • Does life begin only when the fetus becomes Sentient (aware)? Answer
  • Is there a difference between being human and being a person? Is an unborn child a person? Answer
  • Does the fetus gradually become more human and of greater value? (The Gradualist Thesis) Answer
  • Why don't sperm and ova have a right to life since they are also genetically human? Answer
  • Doesn't the pro-life view “absolutize” biological human life? and the unborn's right to life? Answer
  • Doesn't the pro-life position mean that some forms of artificial birth control result in homicide? Answer
  • Isn't it true that some zygotes do not have forty-six chromosomes? Answer

Author: Francis J. Beckwith, adapted from a series in Christian Research Journal, Spring 1991. Provided with permission by Summit Ministries and the author.

Copyright © 1995, 1998, Christian Research Institute. All Rights Reserved—except as noted on attached “Usage and Copyright” page that grants ChristianAnswers.Net users generous rights for putting this page to work in their homes, personal witnessing, churches and schools.

Go to Summit Ministries

For further reading on abortion issues

  • Francis J. Beckwith, Politically Correct Death: Answering the Arguments for Abortion Rights (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Baker Book House, 1993).
  • Francis J. Beckwith, Abortion and the Sanctity of Human Life (Joplin, Missouri: College Press, 2000).
  • Stephen Schwarz, The Moral Question of Abortion (Loyola University Press, 1990).
  • Randy Alcorn, Prolife Answers to Prochoice Arguments (Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah Press, 2000).

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