November 7th, 2011
06:14 PM ET
Medical views: When does human life begin?
Mississippi residents vote Tuesday on a controversial ballot initiative that seeks to define a fertilized human egg as a person with full legal rights.
Anti-abortion advocates crafted Initiative 26, which defines personhood as "every human being from the moment of fertilization, cloning or the functional equivalent thereof."
Amendment would declare fertilized egg a person
If passed, the law could affect a woman's ability to get the morning-after pill or birth control pills that destroy fertilized eggs, and it could make in vitro fertilization treatments more difficult because it could become illegal to dispose of unused fertilized eggs.
Opponents of the measure have said they are concerned that people may not be able to understand the complexity and the consequences of the amendment.
The central question in this Mississippi controversy is when does human life begin?
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine represents fertility specialists in the United States and more than 100 other countries. The group's spokesman, Sean Tipton, tells CNN that his organization opposes the Mississippi initiative "because it interferes with the physicians' ability to provide needed care for their patients, whether that's helping someone have a child or keeping them from having children."
Tipton says while a fertilized egg is necessary to make a person, fertilization alone is not enough to create a new human being. "A fertilized egg has to continue to grow, attach itself to a woman's uterine wall and gestate for nine months before it is born, and there are many potential missteps (that can happen) along the way."
Dr. Joseph DeCook, executive director of the American Association of Pro-life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, a group of about 2,500 members, said an embryo is a living human being at the moment of fertilization.
“There’s no question at all when human life begins,” said DeCook, a retired obstetrician-gynecologist. “When the two sets of chromosomes get together, you have a complete individual. It’s the same as you and I but less developed.”
Pregnancy begins when the embryo is implanted on the uterine wall, he said.
“But we’re not talking about pregnancy,” he said. “The question you have to focus on, is when does meaningful, valuable human life begin? That’s with the union of the two sets of chromosome. You have a complete human being that begins developing.”
The American Society for Reproductive Medicine's Tipton points out that sometimes fertilized eggs split and create two babies. "Unfortunately nature and science are messy and defy attempts to create human categories."
He adds that while saying personhood begins at conception is a nice ideological statement, it can create some real life problems. For example, unless an egg is fertilized in an IVF petri dish, it can be difficult to determine when exactly a baby was conceived because sperm can survive inside a woman's body for days and it can take several more days for a fertilized egg to implant in the uterus, thus leading to a pregnancy and the potential birth of a baby.
"There are lots of fertilized eggs that never become human beings," Tipton says. "Humans are notoriously inefficient producers, and we believe most (fertilized eggs) actually go out with a woman's menstrual flow."
Mississippi is the only state voting on a "personhood" initiative this year, but the issue could reach far beyond that state’s borders. Efforts to bring the personhood issue to a vote are in the works in at least five other states including Florida, Montana, and Ohio, according to supporters.
The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, which represents 55,000 doctors providing health care for women, says Initiative 26 must be defeated in the best interest of women's health.
In a statement Monday, the group said the Mississippi referendum has "wide-reaching implications that will impact access to women's health, including treatment for cancer, infertility treatment, birth control options, and pregnancy termination. This proposal unnecessarily exposes women to serious health risks and significantly undermines the relationship between physicians and our patients. The vague and overly broad terms in Proposition 26 will prevent physicians from providing the care vital to women's health."
In vitro fertilization treatments could become more difficult because of the legal question of what to do with the unused eggs.
An unused fertilized egg is a human life, said DeCook, because “it has the mom’s DNA and the father’s DNA,” The unused fertilized eggs should be adopted through an embryo adoption program, he suggested.
“We determine a human being by chromosome, so although they (abortion rights supporters) have all sorts of word games. They’re only word games,” he said.
After fertilization, “it’s a complete human being in the process of development. It deserves protection of the law.”
About this blog
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.
Very good info. Lucky me I came across your blog by accident (stumbleupon). I've book marked it for later!
Howdy! I just want to give you a big thumbs up for your excellent info you've got right here on this post. I will be returning to your site for more soon.
I like it whenever people come together and share thoughts. Great website, continue the good work!
After checking out a few of the blog posts on your site, I truly appreciate your way of writing a blog. I saved it to my bookmark webpage list and will be checking back soon. Take a look at my web site too and let me know what you think.
Can I just say what a comfort to uncover a person that genuinely understands what they are discussing online. You definitely understand how to bring a problem to light and make it important. A lot more people have to look at this and understand this side of the story. I can't believe you're not more popular given that you definitely possess the gift.
cialis generic reviews by cialis tablets in frankfurt pharmacy cialis buy on line
Everything is very open with a clear explanation of the issues. It was truly informative. Your website is extremely helpful. Thanks for sharing!
This excellent website certainly has all of the info I wanted about this subject and didnít know who to ask.
When I originally left a comment I seem to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now each time a comment is added I recieve 4 emails with the exact same comment. Perhaps there is a way you can remove me from that service? Cheers!
cialis 20mg cialis uk no prescription 40 mg cialis
Pretty! This was a really wonderful post. Thank you for supplying this information.
This is a topic which is near to my heart... Cheers! Exactly where are your contact details though?
Excellent site you have got here.. Itís hard to find quality writing like yours these days. I truly appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!
You made some decent points there. I checked on the net for more info about the issue and found most people will go along with your views on this web site.
Oh my goodness! Awesome article dude! Thank you so much, However I am experiencing problems with your RSS. I donít know the reason why I cannot join it. Is there anybody else getting similar RSS issues? Anyone who knows the solution can you kindly respond? Thanks!!
This blog was... how do I say it? Relevant!! Finally I've found something which helped me. Appreciate it!
This is a good tip especially to those new to the blogosphere. Short but very precise informationÖ Thanks for sharing this one. A must read article!
Good web site you've got here.. Itís hard to find high-quality writing like yours these days. I really appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!
Good information. Lucky me I discovered your website by accident (stumbleupon). I've saved as a favorite for later!
That is a very good tip especially to those fresh to the blogosphere. Simple but very precise informationÖ Many thanks for sharing this one. A must read article!
There is definately a lot to know about this topic. I love all the points you made.
I like reading an article that can make men and women think. Also, thank you for permitting me to comment!
This is a great tip particularly to those fresh to the blogosphere. Simple but very precise informationÖ Thanks for sharing this one. A must read article!
I couldnít refrain from commenting. Very well written!
Greetings! Very helpful advice in this particular post! It's the little changes that make the greatest changes. Thanks a lot for sharing!
Good day! I just would like to give you a huge thumbs up for your excellent information you have here on this post. I'll be returning to your web site for more soon.
I absolutely love your site.. Excellent colors & theme. Did you build this site yourself? Please reply back as Iím looking to create my very own site and want to find out where you got this from or what the theme is called. Thank you!
An interesting discussion is worth comment. There's no doubt that that you ought to publish more on this issue, it may not be a taboo matter but typically people don't discuss such topics. To the next! Best wishes!!
Good day! I could have sworn Iíve been to this blog before but after browsing through many of the posts I realized itís new to me. Regardless, Iím certainly happy I came across it and Iíll be bookmarking it and checking back often!
An impressive share! I have just forwarded this onto a co-worker who was doing a little homework on this. And he in fact ordered me breakfast simply because I stumbled upon it for him... lol. So let me reword this.... Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanx for spending the time to talk about this subject here on your internet site.