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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


    Pro-life display isn’t pro-life enough

    On Monday and Tuesday, the pro-life group Justice For All graced our campus with its display of bleeding, mutilated, humanoid forms. They deserve credit not only for their gutsiness but for their choice of an effective method to change minds; showing people nasty pictures has a rich history of success (just ask PETA). Unfortunately, while they mean well, JFA does not go far enough in its attempt to stop the slaughter of innocent humans.

    JFA, like other pro-life groups, recognizes that both advocates and opponents of abortion must draw the line between “”human”” and “”non-human”” somewhere. The pro-choice movement is left with a decision: either, at some arbitrary point in pregnancy, a developing fetus suddenly goes from non-human to human, a position which is ontologically silly, or the distinction between human and non-human is sometimes blurry and difficult to define. We pro-life people know that simply cannot be true.

    According to many pro-lifers, nature permits only one time when something suddenly goes from non-human to human: fertilization. Much pro-life rhetoric is devoted to the notion that human life begins “”at the moment of conception.””

    But this presents a stumbling block for us pro-lifers: Which moment? After all, conception, like development, takes time.

    Is it enough for the sperm to reach the zona pellucida of the egg? Do the cell membranes of the sperm and oocyte need to fuse? A JFA member I spoke to informed me that the transformation from non-human to human occurs at the first mitotic division. But this sounds horrifyingly arbitrary – it’s no different from “”at three months a fetus is not a human, but at four months it is.””

    The only defensible position, and the only position which allows us pro-lifers to keep the advantage that we don’t draw arbitrary lines, is to accept that human life begins before conception.

    One form of the “”conception”” meme I’ve heard goes like this: “”A fertilized egg is human from the moment of conception. From that point, it is a full, developing human being which will become a baby if given nutrition and a proper environment, and it has its own human DNA, separate from its parents’.””

    But sperm and eggs also contain their own set of recombined DNA, separate from their parents. The only difference is that they represent the haploid phase of the human life cycle, meaning they have 23 chromosomes, not 46 like we do (we’re diploid). Many organisms spend large parts of their life cycles as haploid individuals – why is it that only the diploid phase of the human life cycle gets recognized?

    There is no warrant, natural, biblical, or otherwise for deciding that haploid, human organisms are not human whereas diploid ones are. Sperm and egg are also fully human, and they deserve the same moral respect that we give every other stage of the human life cycle, from fertilized egg to adult.

    Just like fertilized eggs, human gametes will also develop into humans as long as they’re allowed to do what’s natural for them – be in a proper, pH- and temperature-controlled environment and come into contact with one another.

    Another variant of the conception myth goes: “”A fertilized egg is clearly not something other than human – it isn’t a dog or a rock, for example – so it must be a human.”” This impeccable and foolproof logic can also be used to show that human sperm and eggs are also fully human. Clearly, human gametes are not something other than human – they aren’t dog or rock gametes – so they, too, must be human.

    If this is true, then the ethical implications are staggering. Every woman who uses birth control is a serial killer, as she knowingly contributes to the death of many haploid humans. Every teenage boy who masturbates is a genocidal maniac on par with Genghis Khan or Pol Pot, as he slaughters millions of innocent, sinless, haploid human souls. And every used condom is a mass grave that puts Auschwitz to shame.

    The number of human sperm and eggs that are never allowed to live out full, natural human lives is staggering and represents a human rights challenge. Before we pro-lifers worry about the genocide of the unborn, we should focus on the genocide of the unfertilized.

    The pro-life movement’s inability to recognize that haploid humans are fully human is just another form of dehumanization – when we say that sperm and eggs aren’t human, we’re trying to put ourselves in a privileged class, and we’re no different from pro-choice murderers who assert that embryos aren’t human.

    Besides, if we refuse to at least be consistent in our beliefs, it’s just a matter of time before some snarky liberal looks at other conservative positions, like opposition to support for single moms or our dislike of birth control, and accuses us of simply wanting to punish women for having sex.

    It’s about time the pro-life movement steps up to the plate and acknowledges the right to life of every single human, not just diploid ones. As Michael Palin and Terry Jones once wrote, “”every sperm is sacred; every sperm is great”” – and so is every egg.

    – Taylor Kessinger is a senior majoring in ecology and evolutionary biology, math, and physics. He can be reached at

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