Abortion access:


A detailed discussion of the central
question in all abortion conflicts
between the pro-choice and
pro-life positions:
"When does human personhood begin?"
Also: the new abortion battleground:
personhood amendments.


  • "Whether or not abortion should be legal turns on the answer to the question of whether and at what point [an embryo or] a fetus is a person. This is a question that cannot be answered logically or empirically. The concept of personhood is neither logical nor empirical: It is essentially a religious, or quasi-religious idea, based on one's fundamental (and therefore unverifiable) assumptions about the nature of the world." Paul Campos, professor of law at the University of Colorado. (2002) 1

  • "The real question today is not when human life begins, but, 'What is the value of human life?' The abortionist who reassembles the arms and legs of a tiny baby to make sure all its parts have been torn from its mother's body can hardly doubt whether it is a human being." President Ronald Reagan, (1983). 2

  • "In a world where man must learn more and more to recognize and to respect his brother. The [Catholic] Church wishes to make her own contribution to the service of the human community, while pointing out ... the relation that binds each person to the Creator of all life and the source of the inalienable dignity of each person, from conception to life's natural end." Pope Benedict XVI (2005) 3 (Emphasis not in the original)

  • "Do not tell me these are not children. A heartbeat proves that. ... So do I." Testimony by Gianna Jessen before Congress offering her belief that human personhood starts when an embryo's heart starts beating. She claims that she was born in spite of an attempt to abort her. 4

On 2019-JAN-22, the New York legislature passed Bill S2796, the Reproductive Health Act. Governor Cuomo is signed it into law . it states, in part:

" 'Person,' when referring to the victim of a homicide, means a human being who has been born and is alive." 5

This means that although an embryo and fetus are both forms of human life, they don't become a human person until birth, at least in New York state. At about 24 weeks gestation, a fetus is aware of its environment to some degree, is capable of hearing and feeling motion, etc. But at this point in pregnancy, she or he is not considered a human person in New York State until it is born at about 39 weeks gestation.

Stacey Lennox, writing for The Resurgent implied that perhaps most New York Legislators believes that a fetus becomes a person only at birth:

"Because there is magical fairy dust that creates a person when a baby passes through the birth canal or something." 5

horizontal rule

Webmaster's note:

I posted the following to the Comments section of The Resurgent's article as "ocrtol," which is an abbreviation of "Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance:"

"Scientists and informed pro-lifers, & pro-choicers agree that life begins at conception. The scientific definition of life requires that she or he have five properties. Both an ovum and a spermatozoon lack one of the five and thus is not alive. An ovum cannot reproduce itself and produce two ova. Thus, it is not a form of life. A spermatozoon cannot reproduce itself and produce two spermatozoa. Thus, it is not a form of life. But a zygote (a fertilized ovum during the process of conception) can split, produce two zygotes and eventually may result in identical twins being born. Thus, a zygote is alive. Because it contains human DNA, it is a human life. Thus, human life begins at conception.

Meanwhile, just about everyone believes that a newborn baby is not only a form of human life but is a human person. (I say "just about" because some aboriginal groups only believe that a newborn becomes a person only after she or he has gone through a group naming ritual.)

The problem that prevents the resolution of the abortion debate is that individuals and groups cannot agree when human life becomes a human person. Many pro-lifers say it happens at conception. New York legislature and the traditional Jewish position has it happen at birth. Others say that it happens about 24 weeks gestation when the fetus' higher brain functions first turn on and the fetus becomes aware -- at some level -- of her or his environment. Others have dozens of other timings for personhood. For example, when a heartbeat can be detected, or the embryo loses its gill slits and tail and begins to look human. Until we can reach a consensus on when personhood is attained, we will not be able to resolve the great abortion debate.

Personally, I believe that it happens before birth. See: https://www.religioustolera..."

The link directs the reader to this essay.

I was doubtful that this comment would see the light of day. Very few of my comments have when posted to Christian web sites. I checked back a few months later to see if it survived the The Resurgent's censors. I was surprised to see that it had!

horizontal rule

Webmaster's comment:

If you want to learn only about the:

  • Pro-life position, then there are lots of web sites on the Internet that will inform you. Googling the term pro-life found about 110 million hits.

  • Pro-choice position, then there are lots of web sites on the Internet that will inform you. Googling the term pro-choice found about 22 million hits.

If you want to look at both sides of the debate, we encourage you to read some of the essays linked below. We try to explain both or all sides objectively -- something that very few other web sites attempt.

  • horizontal rule

Sponsored link

horizontal rule

This section describes various beliefs about when human personhood begins, and attempts to legislate those beliefs:

Some positions that people and groups have taken:

Sponsored links:

The path by which you may have arrived here:

 Home page > "Hot" topics > Abortion > here

 Home page > "Hot" topics > Abortion > Basic facts > here

 Home page > "Hot" topics > Abortion > Laws > here

 Home page > "Hot" topics > Abortion > Religion/ethics > here

References used:

  1. Paul Campos, "Opinions: PAUL CAMPOS: Abortion and the rule of law ," Scripps Howard News Service, 2002-JAN, at: http://www.nandotimes.com
  2. President Ronald Reagan, "Abortion and the Conscience of the Nation," The Human Life Review, 1983-Spring, Online at: http://www.nationalreview.com/
  3. "Dignity of man, from conception until natural death, is primary, says Pope," Catholic News Agency, 2005-JUN-01, at: http://www.catholicnewsagency.com/
  4. "Gianna Jessen Asks Congress: 'If abortion is about women’s rights, then what were mine'?" I was a naive pro-lifer, undated, at: https://i-was-a-naive-prolifer.tumblr.com/
  5. Stacey Lennox, "New York Reproductive Health Act Is Beyond The Pale," The Resurgent, 2019-JAN-23. at: https://theresurgent.com/

Copyright 1995 to 2019 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest update: 2019-AUG-21
Author: B.A. Robinson

line.gif (538 bytes)
Sponsored link

Go to the previous page, or return to the main "Abortion" menu, or choose:

Go to home page  We would really appreciate your help

E-mail us about errors, etc.  Purchase a CD of this web site

FreeFind search, lists of new essays...  Having problems printing our essays?

Twitter link

Facebook icon

GooglePage Translator:

This page translator works on Firefox,
Opera, Chrome, and Safari browsers only

After translating, click on the "show
original" button at the top of this
page to restore page to English.

Twitter icon

Facebook icon

About us
Our beliefs
Is this your first visit?
Contact us
External links

Recommended books

Visitors' essays
Our forum
New essays
Other features
Buy a CD of this site
Vital notes

World religions
-Christian definition
 -Shared beliefs
 -Handling change
 -Bible topics
 -Bible inerrancy
 -Bible harmony
-Interpret the Bible
-Beliefs & creeds
 -Da Vinci code
 -Revelation, 666
Other religions
Cults and NRMs
Comparing Religions

Non-theistic beliefs

About all religions
Main topics
Basic information
Gods & Goddesses
Handling change
Doubt & security
Confusing terms
End of the World?
True religion?
Seasonal events
Science vs. Religion
More information

Morality & ethics
Absolute truth

Attaining peace
Religious tolerance
Religious freedom
Religious hatred
Religious conflict
Religious violence

"Hot" topics
Very hot topics
Ten Commandments
Abortion access
Assisted suicide
Death penalty

Same-sex marriage

Human rights
Gays in the military
Sex & gender
Stem cells
Other topics

Laws and news
Religious laws
Religious news




Sponsored links: