By Judie Brown
We all realize theoretically the importance of language and the necessity for accuracy, but unfortunately these concepts do not always get applied when it comes to the real world. When discussing the stages of life and how they apply to human beings, there can be no room for error. There can be no misunderstanding of facts and no misrepresentation of the facts to others. Lives are at stake.
If it were not so disturbing, it would be a little bit humorous. Anyone who has had children knows the drill. When a child comes home from school and reports that he failed an exam, the typical parent immediately asks why. And when the answer is that little Johnny never studied for it in the first place, a parent can respond with several different emotions, including the all-knowing smile because, perhaps, this has been a learning moment for the kid. One can always hope!
But leadership in the pro-life movement is not about bringing home failing grades. It is about understanding the value of using accurate language, understanding the need to be consistent, and understanding that, when lives are at stake, words always matter.
So why the ongoing scientific errors among those who claim to know what it takes to win a battle as significant as that being waged against the culture of death? Let’s examine one situation in particular—the question of when a human being begins to exist.
If this sounds like a broken record message, then those reading it have not been paying attention to the ongoing, prevalent disconnect between facts and political manipulation of those facts. Case in point: “‘Fertilized Eggs’: One of the Least Scientific Terms in the Abortion Debate” is an article that asserts that a correction is going to be made debunking the non-scientific term “fertilized egg.” Instead, the article errs not once, but several times, especially by restricting the “science” to sexually reproduced human embryos only. By setting forth error at the same time one is claiming to be correcting error, nothing but confusion reigns, and in the rhetorical fog the impression is left that, as pro-lifers, we are avoiding the facts on purpose. After all, we are not children. One would think the author should know better, having worked with Personhood USA.
The LifeNews article states:
Through fertilization, “a new, genetically distinct human organism is thereby formed.” See, there’s a very big difference between an egg, a sperm, and the new, unique, separate human being formed through the combination of an egg and a sperm. By themselves, an egg and a sperm only have potential to become a new life. But they are not new life in and of themselves. However, once they combine, it’s a different story, and our words and descriptions ought to reflect this.
Yes, that is correct if one is discussing the sexual reproduction of human persons by means of fertilization, where the term “egg” is involved. But that does not justify also claiming that all human beings begin to exist by means of fertilization. In the case of asexually reproduced human beings, such as the second of two naturally occurring monozygotic twins, as well as all those human persons reproduced asexually in IVF/ART research laboratories and “infertility” clinics (many of whom have been or will be implanted for “infertility” treatments), other human reproductive processes are used that don’t involve fertilization. These long-acknowledged scientific facts are even posted on the PUSA website.
The writer tells us that “science doesn’t deceive,” but then proceeds to fail to call the reader’s attention to theCarnegie Stages of Early Human EmbryonicDevelopment that gives the student of scientific facts the exact description of when a human being begins to exist by means of the sexual reproductive process of fertilization. That is, the new human being begins to exist at the beginning of the process of fertilization (Stage 1a), not at the end of the process with the formation of the “zygote” (Stage 1c). It also explains one kind of asexual reproduction—MZ twining—in Stages 2 - 5. Instead, the writer refers those who want to know more about science to an article entitled “Life Begins at Fertilization” which, obviously, bolsters her own false argument that leaves out all asexually reproduced human beings. Her link to another “resource” also describes only sexual reproduction (“conception”—a term that does not apply to asexual reproduction), and even “teaches” that the “embryo” doesn’t begin until the third week post-fertilization! If she had simply referred her readers to the genuine Carnegie Stages, she would have been scientifically correct about “fertilized eggs” and would have instructed her readers well.
The writer totally opposes bias in news report. Yet, she further confuses the facts by alluding to the suggestion that the phrase “in the womb” could be used to define when the preborn child’s life begins. “In the womb” is more of an obfuscation than “fertilization.” Nobody’s life begins “in the womb,” but rather much earlier at his biological beginning, whether sexual or asexual. (For more information, see: “FERTILIZATION and IMPLANTATION of the Early Human Embryo: Accurate Scientific Resources” at http://www.lifeissues.net/writers/irv/irv_212accurateresources1.html.)
It is of utmost importance for every pro-life leader to take great care in the language he or she uses to get the accurate facts into the public lexicon because a great deal is at stake. Johnny needs to get his facts straight or stop pretending to be an expert.
Judie Brown is president and cofounder of American Life League and a three-time appointee to the Pontifical Academy for Life.