When does life begin?

When does life begin?

Pro-abortionists avoid this issue, because they know that they can never succeed if the public is informed about the facts about life before birth.  Scientifically and medically, this question is answered conclusively and unanimously.  Let us examine the various alternative ideas (Refer to section 3, p7 for the facts of life before birth).

Unscientific ideas


Some people argue that life begins at birth.  Any woman, who has had a child, has felt it kicking in the womb and knows that this is not true.  This is nevertheless the position of the South African ‘Abortion and Sterilization Act of 1975’, which sets no limit on when abortions may be performed, although late abortions are, in practice, more difficult to obtain.  The idea is really based on an unscientific notion that children that cannot be seen (without the help of medical technology) are not alive.  ‘I think the issue is we have to start defining when life begins and ends…we must be able to be concerned with the life which is born and not one which we have not seen…I think that is what we must do: save real life which we can see with our eyes’.[1]  In reality, a ‘born child’ is no different to an unborn child, except for its place of residence.

In many countries, such as America, abortions are regularly performed in the late stages of pregnancy.  In the same hospital, one may find an unborn child being aborted, which is in fact older than a prematurely born child being given special medical assistance.  A major dilemma faced by abortionists is that children are often born alive after attempted abortion.  The abortionist then has to decide whether or not the child then has the right to life.  Some kill the children, while others make every effort to save their lives – most simply leave them to die by neglect.


A popular idea a few hundred years ago was that life begins at a certain moment when the mother is able to feel the child kicking in the womb (20 weeks).  The child was thought to have come alive at this moment.  In reality, the child has been kicking and swimming about in the womb from a much earlier age (6 weeks)- (See section 3, p7).  All that has happened, is that the child has grown big and strong enough for the mother to feel the kicking.  Today, an expectant mother can watch her child moving about in the womb on an ultrasound scanner.  The idea of quickening is unscientific, but nevertheless it still forms the basis of many otherwise educated people’s belief on the abortion issue.[2]


The question of viability is an important one in that certain pro-abortionists have in the past argued that the unborn child could only be considered alive and human after viability.  Viability is the potential ability of a baby to live outside the womb.  This idea is also based on the unscientific, but popular idea that a child becomes human when it is first seen.  According to this logic, since prematurely born children can be seen and are therefore alive, other unborn children of the same age must also be alive.   Some countries have based their abortion laws on the concept of viability, thus allowing abortion up to a certain number of weeks after conception.

One problem with the concept of viability is that nobody can agree when it begins.  As a result of the advances of medical science over the past few decades, doctors have been able to preserve the lives of younger and younger prematurely born children.  In the 1960’s, a baby could survive outside the womb after 32 weeks.  In the 1970’s, it was considered to be 24-28 weeks.  Today, viability has been reduced to 19-23 weeks.[3]  At present, the main limitation to viability is the development of the child’s lungs and thus the child’s ability to breathe.  If medical science continues to progress in this area, viability may be reduced to 12-15 weeks, possibly even earlier.  In the future, it may be possible to maintain new human beings in a totally artificial environment outside the womb right from the time of conception thus removing the issue of viability completely.[4]

It is therefore clear that viability cannot be used as a measure of the humanity of the unborn child because it is constantly changing.  Thus, no clear line can be drawn by viability in deciding when life begins.  Rather it is a measure of the sophistication of external life support systems, scientific knowledge and the ability of doctors and nurses.

When does life really begin?

Dr Bernard Nathanson, former director of the world’s largest abortion clinic and personally responsible for 75 000 abortions said: ‘I am often asked what made me change my mind.  How did I change from prominent abortionist to pro-life advocate?  In 1973 I became director of obstetrics of a large hospital in New York city and had to set up a perinatal research unit, just at the start a great new technology which we now use every day to study the fetus in the womb.  A favourite pro-abortion tactic is to insist that the definition of when life begins is impossible; that the question is a theological or moral or philosophical one, anything but a scientific one.  Fetology makes it undeniably evident that life begins at conception and requires all the protection and safeguards that any one of us enjoy…  As a scientist I know, not believe, know that human life begins at conception.’ [5]

Examine for yourself the evidence in section three, p7, which shows clearly the evidence of human life whilst the unborn child is still in the womb.  This information on the development of the child can be verified from any medical text on embryology.[6]

Do abortionists really believe that the children they kill are not alive?

Abortionists rely on the ignorance of the general public about the facts of life before birth.  They know that the unborn child is alive, but denying this or withholding the facts from those considering abortion is a useful way of dealing with women who have sensitive consciences.  Abortionists believe that because the unborn child is unseen, weak and defenceless, it has less right to life than those individuals who are able to defend and speak for themselves.  Abortionists tend to use deceptive language to avoid admitting that killing is taking place.  Aborted children, even in later months are referred to in non-human terms such as ‘P.O.C.’ (Products of Conception), ‘conceptus’ or ‘abortus’.  They tend to avoid use of the term ‘abortion’ and prefer ‘T.O.P’ (Termination of Pregnancy) or just ‘termination’.  In reality, they are just denying what is obviously true.


Recognising that they have lost the medical argument of ‘when life begins’, many abortionists have invented a new philosophical problem.  They argue that although the child is alive, it is not yet a person, thus diverting the debate into unscientific speculation amongst themselves of what, in their eyes, constitutes a ‘person’.   Even if this view were accepted, we would surely be under an obligation to give the unborn child the benefit of the doubt in order to avoid possible murder.  One cannot really argue against this idea, since it has no logical scientific basis to attack.

All that can be done is to draw into focus the results of the idea that certain members of the human race are less human than others.  If unborn children can be declared inhuman by abortionists, then why not other people? In fact, this has happened frequently in human history.  Extreme racism perpetrated by many in our own country is to a certain extent a product of this philosophy, although it did not result in quite as evil actions as abortion and the denial of the right to life, which has occurred in other countries.

The American Supreme Court used this argument to uphold Slavery, by arguing that black people were non-persons (1857)

The Nazis used this argument to justify the killing of the Jews by arguing that they were ‘sub-human’ (1940)

The American Supreme Court used this argument to legalise abortion by arguing that the unborn are non-persons (1973)[7]

The most serious danger of this argument is that it could be used to question the ‘personhood’ of anyone, including you, the reader!

The idea that the unborn child is part of the mothers body.

This unscientific idea is vigorously promoted by pro-abortionists and forms the basis of many of their slogans (See section 6.2, p24 on Women’s Rights).  Medical evidence shows clearly that the unborn child is not at any stage of its development part of the mother’s body.  The child, from fertilization onwards, has a separate body and its own genetic code.  The mother and child do not even share the same blood and often have different blood types![8] The placenta prevents any mixing of blood, but allows nutrition and oxygen to pass through it.  If the child’s blood were a different type to that of the mother, then any of her blood entering the child would kill it.  The idea that the child is at some stage part of the mother is simply abortionist propaganda.


The related argument that the child is dependent on the mother for support.

True, the child is dependent on the mother for support until viability, but since when is our right to life determined by our dependence on other people? As infants, we were also dependent on our parents for our safety and nutrition.  Did this give them the right to kill us? Of course not! Likewise, there are many others in our society who are dependent on other people – for example, the aged, institutionalised, hospital patients etc.  This is a very weak argument, but brings out the dangerous logic behind the abortionist movement.  If killing is justified simply because people are dependent on others and unwanted by society, then who knows who else will be considered unfit to live in future.

The argument that the child is only partially human if it is only partially developed.

The major weakness in this argument is that development does not stop at birth.  The child does not have fully developed sex organs until after puberty.  As far as size is concerned, all organs are in place by eight weeks (See section 3, p7), but do not reach full size until the child reaches his or her late teens.

The argument that abortion is justifiable since many unborn children die naturally due to miscarriage.

It must be pointed out that miscarriage is natural death, while abortion is the deliberate taking of a life.  We will all die naturally at some stage, but this does not justify murder.  In some areas of the world, there is very high infant mortality.  Does this give people the right to deliberately kill these children? No! Natural death is very different to deliberate killing, which is murder.


     [1]Pro-abortionist arguing on ‘Agenda’ TV debate, April 1994

     [2]’The crime of abortion’, Unpublished PhD Thesis at University of Pretoria, Linda Hawthorne, 1982,p216

     [3]As an example, Marcus Richardson of Cincinnati, Ohio was born at four and a half months (19 weeks), a perfectly normal child.

     [4]’The Tiniest Humans’, Prof J.  Le Jeune and Prof Sir A.  Liley, edited by R.  Sassone,1977,p36

     [5]See Appendix: ‘Open letter from Dr Bernard Nathanson’

     [6]Contact Students for Life if you would like to view ultrasound video of the unborn child’s activity from a very early stage in the womb.

     [7]’Abortion: Questions and Answers’, Dr and Mrs J.  Willke, Hayes Publishing Co, 1990,p17&194

     [8]’Matters of Life and Death’, F.  Beckwith & N.  Geisler, Baker Book House, Michigan, p23