Politics & Policy

The Corner

Fetal Heartbeat Doesn’t Prove ‘Life?’

Good grief. Some on the left keep pretending that we don’t know when human life begins.

Sure we do. That’s a scientific question. Embryology textbooks tell us at the completion of fertilization.

That means you and I are the same organism now that we were at that point in time when we consisted of one cell.

Sometimes, the attempt to deny this scientific reality gets comical. Like in this Slate piece by Elissa Strauss that actually claims a beating heart isn’t necessarily proof of life. From, “When Does Life Begin? It’s Not So Simple:”

In the debate over life’s beginnings, the heartbeat is a metaphor, a visceral and potent symbol of life that some can’t help but interpret as proof of life itself.

It’s hard to be unmoved by the coursing of blood through an embryo or fetus’ heart, something many women and men now bear witness to in the exam room, with our eyes, ears, and, yes, hearts.

Still, the heartbeat deceives. It renders the grayscale beginnings of life in black and white, in refutation of the fact that this is a mysterious process with many possible ends

What does that even mean?

Strauss’s thesis seems to be that when life begins is a matter of what one feels about the question.

But that’s not true. Whether an eight-week gestated fetus is “alive” is beyond doubt. That’s basic objective science.

If the living fetus is human, he or she is a human life.

Whether that matters morally, and if so, how much, is a subjective question of values, morality, religion, ethics, philosophy, etc.  

Hence some will admit a fetus is a human life but claim he or she is not a “person,” and therefore possesses less or zero moral value.

Strauss uses “life” and “person” as if they are interchangeable. They are not. Life is objective, the existence or nonexistence of which can be demonstrated by science.

Personhood is not a scientific category. It is a subjective value judgment or philosophical concept. 

Attempts by abortion supporters to conflate these two different realms intend to sow confusion–apparently because they believe admitting the embryo or fetus is a human life, that is, a human organism, and hence, a member of the human species–makes their policy advocacy challenges more difficult.

Wesley J. Smith — Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism.

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