With my Shut-up Sunday rant on abstinence-only education I thought I’d follow it up with a debunking of a bumper sticker slogan that right wingers love to use: “Life begins at conception”.
This is a platform that should be debunked in high school health class.
Conception is when the sperm fertilizes the egg forming a zygote, this zygote travels down the fallopian tube for four days. It does not attach itself to the uterus and is completely independent of the mother. In a natural conception (people having sex) the zygote cannot be observed, zygotes can only be seen under a microscope outside of the body.
In rare cases the egg will spontaneously begin dividing leading to asexual zygote formation. In the few cases where these have gone all the way to birth the offspring was a female genetically identical to the mother, no baby Jesus that way.
Pregnancy doesn’t begin until the zygote attaches itself to the uterus and becomes an embryo. At that time the woman’s body begins to undergo changes that can be observed.
In a healthy female in her 20s the zygote attaches itself to uterus roughly 65% of the time. The other 35% of the time it is passed out of her body in the menstrual cycle. As the woman gets older the uterus becomes less receptive to the zygote and the chances of it attaching become smaller.
In other words if you believe that life begins at conception and you are trying to get pregnant and both the man and woman have no fertility problems, if you don’t succeed in a month you should gather up your rags and have a funeral. Chances are a zygote lies dead on one of them.
The fact that the zygote needs to attach itself to the uterus for pregnancy is the principle behind the “morning after drug”. It conditions the uterus to be in an unreceptive state, blocking the zygote from attaching.
Although the “Life begins at Conception” is a catchy bumper sticker phrase, it means that life would start at an unobservable, and therefore indeterminate, time. As all women over childbearing age may or may not have a zygote floating around. Therefore, all women would be responsible for caring for a life that may or may not exist.
As the same people who scream that phrase want a stricter legal responsibility placed on women to care for the embryo than the child after it is born, transferring that to a zygote means all women would have to take extreme measures to protect a zygote that may or may not exist.
In other words all women of childbearing age would need to stay home and care for something that may or may not exist.