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. Arizonas Vision

    Good post. I learn something new and challenging on sites I stumbleupon everyday. It's always helpful to read through articles from other authors and use something from their websites.


    May 4, 2021 at 17:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. truck tire repair


    May 4, 2021 at 18:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. RV Storage Orange County


    May 4, 2021 at 20:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. LebnEncox

    canadian pharmacy store http://xlnpharmacy.com/ canadian pharmacy world

    May 4, 2021 at 20:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. aika online review


    May 4, 2021 at 20:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. BbshMile

    viagra pictures http://loxviagra.com/ better than viagra

    May 5, 2021 at 00:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. western star 6900


    May 5, 2021 at 01:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. RV Headlights Orange County


    May 5, 2021 at 01:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. RV Parts Los Angeles


    May 5, 2021 at 02:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. judi online terlengkap

    Hello! I know this is kinda off topic however I'd figured I'd ask.
    Would you be interested in exchanging links or maybe guest writing a blog
    article or vice-versa? My website goes over
    a lot of the same topics as yours and I think we could greatly benefit from each other.
    If you happen to be interested feel free to send me an e-mail.
    I look forward to hearing from you! Great blog by the way!

    May 5, 2021 at 04:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. marketing memberships


    May 5, 2021 at 08:38 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. FmrfEncox

    genereic cialis http://cialisee.com/ – cialis dapoxetine where can i buy cialis

    May 5, 2021 at 12:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. LbsoZisse

    how can i get cialis fast https://ucialisdas.com/ – canadian drug stores cialis cialis payment paypal

    May 5, 2021 at 15:06 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. used tires near me

    Good info. Lucky me I discovered your website by accident (stumbleupon). I have saved as a favorite for later!


    May 5, 2021 at 19:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Page Eye Center


    May 5, 2021 at 19:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. handicap van conversion


    May 5, 2021 at 20:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. RV Body Shop Los Angeles


    May 5, 2021 at 21:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. sportsmobile van conversion


    May 5, 2021 at 23:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. large truck repair

    Nice post. I learn something totally new and challenging on websites I stumbleupon every day. It will always be exciting to read articles from other writers and use something from their sites.


    May 6, 2021 at 04:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. accountability group

    You ought to be a part of a contest for one of the most useful websites on the internet. I'm going to recommend this web site!


    May 6, 2021 at 05:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  21. LebnEncox

    safe reliable canadian pharmacy https://xlnpharmacy.com/ safeway pharmacy

    May 6, 2021 at 06:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  22. JebgEncox

    canada pharmacies online pharmacy Voltaren prescription online

    May 6, 2021 at 09:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  23. fire truck repair


    May 6, 2021 at 10:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  24. RV Windshield California


    May 6, 2021 at 12:16 | Report abuse | Reply
  25. jobs near me

    Oh my goodness! Awesome article dude! Many thanks, However I am encountering difficulties with your RSS. I don’t understand why I can't join it. Is there anyone else getting similar RSS issues? Anyone who knows the solution can you kindly respond? Thanks!!


    May 6, 2021 at 13:17 | Report abuse | Reply
  26. Forklift Repair California

    Wonderful article! We are linking to this great post on our site. Keep up the great writing.


    May 6, 2021 at 16:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  27. food trucks near me

    Good blog you have here.. It’s hard to find excellent writing like yours these days. I honestly appreciate people like you! Take care!!


    May 6, 2021 at 17:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  28. trailer repair places near me

    You're so awesome! I don't suppose I've truly read through a single thing like this before. So nice to find somebody with a few unique thoughts on this issue. Seriously.. thank you for starting this up. This website is one thing that is required on the internet, someone with a bit of originality!


    May 6, 2021 at 17:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  29. Used Forklift Repair California

    When I initially commented I seem to have clicked the -Notify me when new comments are added- checkbox and now whenever a comment is added I receive 4 emails with the same comment. Is there a way you can remove me from that service? Thanks!


    May 6, 2021 at 17:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  30. Pale Ale Beer Near Me


    May 6, 2021 at 17:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  31. BbshMile

    viagra for pulmonary hypertension https://loxviagra.com/ viagra alternatives over the counter

    May 6, 2021 at 21:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  32. pet store near me


    May 7, 2021 at 04:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  33. rv slide out remodel


    May 7, 2021 at 06:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  34. priligy

    buy priligy online dapoxetine pharmacy

    May 7, 2021 at 08:27 | Report abuse | Reply
  35. Forklift Cylinders Orange County

    Hi there! I simply would like to give you a huge thumbs up for your excellent information you've got right here on this post. I am coming back to your site for more soon.


    May 7, 2021 at 08:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  36. steak near me


    May 7, 2021 at 15:00 | Report abuse | Reply
  37. FmrfEncox

    cialis for daily use disount https://cialisee.com/ cialis 200 mg.

    May 7, 2021 at 18:36 | Report abuse | Reply
  38. rv generator repair


    May 7, 2021 at 19:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  39. GtnbCrulk

    safest place to buy viagra online http://jokviagra.com/ how much does generic viagra cost

    May 7, 2021 at 20:15 | Report abuse | Reply
  40. JebgEncox

    online med pharmacy http://pharmacylo.com/ online pharmacy birth control pills

    May 7, 2021 at 21:19 | Report abuse | Reply
  41. Social Media Marketing Pictures

    Howdy! This article could not be written much better! Reading through this article reminds me of my previous roommate! He continually kept preaching about this. I am going to send this article to him. Fairly certain he'll have a great read. I appreciate you for sharing!


    May 7, 2021 at 23:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  42. rv repair near my location


    May 7, 2021 at 23:29 | Report abuse | Reply
  43. Digital Marketing Firms Orange County

    The next time I read a blog, I hope that it does not disappoint me just as much as this particular one. After all, I know it was my choice to read, but I truly thought you would probably have something useful to say. All I hear is a bunch of crying about something that you could possibly fix if you were not too busy seeking attention.


    May 7, 2021 at 23:40 | Report abuse | Reply
  44. Internet Marketing Experts Near Me

    Everything is very open with a clear description of the challenges. It was definitely informative. Your website is very useful. Thank you for sharing!


    May 7, 2021 at 23:58 | Report abuse | Reply
  45. Digital Marketing Agency California


    May 8, 2021 at 02:09 | Report abuse | Reply
  46. Internet Marketing Consultants


    May 8, 2021 at 02:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  47. Social Media Marketing Consultants Near Me

    Way cool! Some very valid points! I appreciate you penning this post plus the rest of the site is really good.


    May 8, 2021 at 03:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  48. RebfZisse

    cialis black http://rcialisgl.com/ cialis at a discount

    May 8, 2021 at 04:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  49. Digital Marketing Quotes


    May 8, 2021 at 04:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  50. Local Marketing Firm


    May 8, 2021 at 12:22 | 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 AnooEncox


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.