Scientists Speak before the Senate: Human Life Begins at Conception

In 1981 (April 23-24) a Senate Judiciary Subcommittee held hearings on the very question before us here: When does human life begin? Appearing to speak on behalf of the scientific community was a group of internationally-known geneticists and biologists who had the same story to tell, namely, that human life begins at conception – and they told their story with a complete absence of opposing testimony. (Subcommittee on Separation of Powers to Senate Judiciary Committee S-158, Report, 97th Congress, 1st Session, 1981):

*** Dr. Micheline M. Mathews-Roth, Harvard medical School, gave confirming testimony, supported by references from over 20 embryology and other medical textbooks that human life began at conception.

“It is incorrect to say that biological data cannot be decisive…It is scientifically correct to say that an individual human life begins at conception.”

***”Father of Modern Genetics” Dr. Jerome Lejeune told the lawmakers:

“To accept the fact that after fertilization has taken place a new human has come into being is no longer a matter of taste or opinion…it is plain experimental evidence. Each individual has a very neat beginning, at conception.”

*** Dr. McCarthy de Mere, medical doctor and law professor, University of Tennessee, testified:

“The exact moment of the beginning of personhood and of the human body is at the moment of conception.”

*** Dr. Alfred Bongiovanni, Professor of Pediatrics and Obstetrics, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, concluded,

“I am no more prepared to say that these early stages represent an incomplete human being than I would be to say that the child prior to the dramatic effects of puberty … is not a human being….I have learned from my earliest medical education that human life begins at the time of conception.”

***Dr. Richard V. Jaynes:

“To say that the beginning of human life cannot be determined scientifically is utterly ridiculous.”

***Dr. Landrum Shettles, sometimes called the “Father of In Vitro Fertilization” notes

“Conception confers life and makes that life one of a kind.”

And on the Supreme Court ruling Roe v. Wade,

“To deny a truth [about when life begins] should not be made a basis for legalizing abortion.”

*** Professor Eugene Diamond:

“…either the justices were fed a backwoods biology or they were pretending ignorance about a scientific certainty.”

***Gordon, Hymie, M.D., F.R.C.P., Chairman of Medical Genetics, Mayo Clinic, Rochester:

“By all criteria of modern molecular biology,life is present from the moment of conception…Science has a very simple conception of man; as soon as he has been conceived, a man is a man.”

** C. Christopher Hook, M.D. Oncologist, Mayo Clinic, Director of Ethics Education, Mayo Graduate School of Medicine:

“When fertilization is complete, a unique genetic human entity exists.”

The official Senate report reached this conclusion:

“Physicians, biologists, and other scientists agree that conception marks the beginning of the life of a human being – a being that is alive and is a member of the human species. There is overwhelming agreement on this point in countless medical, biological, and scientific writings.”

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