There are various answers to the question when does ‘human life’ begin. It is also tied to the question’ what is meant by ‘human life’’? The term personhood is often used to describe the point when ‘life’ becomes an individual human that is entitled to rights. This essay will explain the various answers to when this point arrives.
Firstly there are those who believe that ‘human life’ begins at birth. Warren argues that ‘birth, rather than some earlier point, marks the beginning of true moral status’ Birth gives a clear boundary and clear stage in the process of coming into the world and presents a stage of recognition by others that the baby is an individual. If potentiality is taken into account and the foetus is a person, then sperm and ovum are persons which would also be entitled to the right to life.
The Roman Catholic answer to the question when does ‘human life’ begin is illustrated by Pope Pius. He declared that a foetus is a ‘human person from the moment of conception. This belief is supported by Jack Scarisbrick, of the charity Life, who points to the fact that conception is the point at which the unique selection of genetic information is present. It is also the moment the sperm and the egg have combined to create a fertilized ovum. The key point though is that if ‘the unborn child ’is allowed to continue and is successful in development will go on to be a unique human being.
A further answer to the question when does life begin is put forward by scholars such as Norman Ford who believe that at the point of conception, it is too early to say that an individual ‘human life’ has begun. They argue that this point is reached with the presence of the primitive streak on the fourteenth day after fertilization, as the point at which a unique human being (life) can be said to exist, albeit in potential form. The primitive streak provides the structure around which embryonic structures organize and align themselves. Up until that point it is...