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.”

soundoff (1,173 Responses)
  1. RV Repair Places Near Me


    June 19, 2021 at 18:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. RV Repair Mission Viejo

    I could not refrain from commenting. Very well written!


    June 19, 2021 at 19:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. RV Repair Shops Near Me


    June 19, 2021 at 19:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. RV Repairs Nearby


    June 19, 2021 at 19:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. RV Repair Near Me Now


    June 19, 2021 at 20:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. RV Repairs Near My Location


    June 19, 2021 at 23:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. RV Repair Garden Grove


    June 20, 2021 at 00:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. SEO Marketing Experts


    June 20, 2021 at 05:08 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. Social Media Marketing Near Me


    June 20, 2021 at 09:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Rosann Desort

    Blogspot Question: How can I make my current blog appear on my personal webpage?


    June 20, 2021 at 09:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. Google Marketing Agencies


    June 20, 2021 at 10:44 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Digital Marketing Specialists

    There's definately a lot to find out about this issue. I love all of the points you made.


    June 20, 2021 at 10:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. Tobias Reddoch

    Great info. Lucky me I discovered your blog by accident (stumbleupon). I have book-marked it for later!


    June 20, 2021 at 16:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. Rashida Basnett

    You need to be a part of a contest for one of the best blogs online. I'm going to recommend this web site!


    June 20, 2021 at 16:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Lorine Hinckson


    June 20, 2021 at 16:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Jacki Sampere


    June 20, 2021 at 20:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Renna Lober


    June 20, 2021 at 21:11 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. Palmer Yannotti

    I really like it when people get together and share views. Great blog, stick with it!


    June 20, 2021 at 21:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Janette Koeppel

    Greetings! Very helpful advice within this article! It's the little changes that make the most important changes. Many thanks for sharing!


    June 20, 2021 at 21:22 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. panera bread near me


    June 21, 2021 at 03:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. fires near me


    June 21, 2021 at 03:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. cheap gas near me

    An outstanding share! I've just forwarded this onto a coworker who has been conducting a little homework on this. And he actually ordered me breakfast because I stumbled upon it for him... lol. So allow me to reword this.... Thanks for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending time to talk about this subject here on your internet site.


    June 21, 2021 at 03:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. pharmaceptica.com

    cloriquin https://www.pharmaceptica.com/

    June 21, 2021 at 04:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. papa john's near me

    I really like it when people come together and share ideas. Great blog, keep it up!


    June 21, 2021 at 07:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. Camper Repair Places Near Me

    An impressive share! I've just forwarded this onto a coworker who had been conducting a little homework on this. And he in fact bought me lunch due to the fact that I discovered it for him... lol. So allow me to reword this.... Thank YOU for the meal!! But yeah, thanks for spending the time to discuss this topic here on your website.


    June 21, 2021 at 07:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. electrician near me

    This website was... how do you say it? Relevant!! Finally I've found something which helped me. Thank you!


    June 21, 2021 at 08:02 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. currency exchange near me


    June 21, 2021 at 08:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. pharmaceptica.com

    sildenafil pills uk https://www.pharmaceptica.com/

    June 21, 2021 at 09:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Camper Repairs Near Me


    June 21, 2021 at 10:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. jobs near me

    Greetings! Very helpful advice in this particular post! It is the little changes that produce the largest changes. Thanks a lot for sharing!


    June 21, 2021 at 11:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. Sprinter Repair Shop Near Me

    Good post. I learn something new and challenging on sites I stumbleupon everyday. It will always be useful to read through content from other writers and use a little something from their web sites.


    June 21, 2021 at 12:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. RV And Truck Repair Near Me


    June 21, 2021 at 17:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. Pump Windshield Washer Sprinter Repair

    Hi there! This blog post could not be written much better! Reading through this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He continually kept talking about this. I am going to forward this information to him. Pretty sure he will have a very good read. I appreciate you for sharing!


    June 21, 2021 at 18:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. RV Brake Repair Near Me


    June 21, 2021 at 18:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Rv Restoration

    Itís hard to come by well-informed people for this subject, however, you seem like you know what youíre talking about! Thanks


    June 21, 2021 at 22:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. Marin Sockey



    June 21, 2021 at 23:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. RV Repair Shop


    June 21, 2021 at 23:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. Rv Upholstery


    June 21, 2021 at 23:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. Rv Mechanic Shop Near Me


    June 21, 2021 at 23:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. Nearby RV Repairs

    You're so cool! I do not suppose I have read anything like this before. So wonderful to discover somebody with some original thoughts on this subject. Seriously.. thanks for starting this up. This website is one thing that's needed on the internet, someone with a bit of originality!


    June 22, 2021 at 02:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. RV Repair Near Here

    Oh my goodness! Incredible article dude! Thanks, However I am experiencing troubles with your RSS. I donít know the reason why I cannot subscribe to it. Is there anyone else having identical RSS issues? Anyone who knows the solution can you kindly respond? Thanks!!


    June 22, 2021 at 02:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. RV Repair Near Me


    June 22, 2021 at 05:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Frightliner Sprinter Repair Shop


    June 22, 2021 at 06:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. online marketing coach


    June 22, 2021 at 08:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. health membership


    June 22, 2021 at 09:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. business memberships

    An interesting discussion is worth comment. There's no doubt that that you need to publish more about this topic, it might not be a taboo subject but usually people don't talk about such subjects. To the next! Kind regards!!


    June 22, 2021 at 10:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. RV Window Repair Near Me


    June 22, 2021 at 12:41 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. Utility Van Repair

    I really love your website.. Great colors & theme. Did you make this site yourself? Please reply back as Iím looking to create my very own blog and would like to find out where you got this from or exactly what the theme is named. Many thanks!


    June 22, 2021 at 12:51 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Delivery Van Repair


    June 22, 2021 at 13:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Sprinter Van Recall Repair Near Me

    Excellent site you have here.. Itís hard to find quality writing like yours nowadays. I honestly appreciate individuals like you! Take care!!


    June 22, 2021 at 15:41 | Report abuse | Reply
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21

Leave a Reply to RV Repair Mission Viejo


CNN welcomes a lively and courteous discussion as long as you follow the Rules of Conduct set forth in our Terms of Service. Comments are not pre-screened before they post. You agree that anything you post may be used, along with your name and profile picture, in accordance with our Privacy Policy and the license you have granted pursuant to our Terms of Service.

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.