"Sanctity of Human Life Act", and the March For Life "Principles 2013"

Dianne N. Irving
Copyright January 15, 2013
Reproduced with Permission

I. Introduction

When erroneous science, usually called "scientific fraud", is knowingly used in any endeavor it is bad enough. But when such erroneous science is knowingly used in any legal laws, regulations, guidelines, etc., the fraud becomes legalized and the deadly consequences are considerably magnified.

Below is an analysis of a "prolife" bill pending in the U.S. House of Representatives: the "Life at Conception Bill", just renamed the "Sanctity of Human Life Act", followed by a short observation of similar scientific and logical errors in the current March For Life Principles 2013. These observations are hardly new, all involved have long known the accurate scientific definitions, yet most people apparently see no problems or don't care.

II. The Federal "Life at Conception Bill" [aka, the "Sanctity of Human Life Act"]

Note that the federal "Life at Conception Bill" was just changed (January 3, 2013) to the "Sanctity of Human Life Act", HR23IH [see: http://thomas.loc.gov/cgi-bin/query/z?c113:H.R.23:]. Its stated purpose is: "To provide that human life shall be deemed to begin with fertilization." Thus regardless if the term "conception" or "fertilization" is used, even the new bill's title would provide "sanctity" to some but not to all human lives.

The rest of the bill remains exactly the same as the "Life at Conception Bill", including the bill's formal legal definitions. Granted that some human lives begin with fertilization, clearly not all human lives begin with fertilization -- as the following analysis will demonstrate. Are those innocent living human lives not "sanctified". Are they not to be legally protected as well? If not, why not?

I have noted below several scientific -- and even logical -- concerns I have with the Life at Conception Bill -- now called the "Sanctity of Human Life Act". I've been doing these analyzes for at least 20 years now, and these are not based on my "opinion". They are all based on the Carnegie Stages of Early Human Embryonic Development (updated just in January 2012), as well as from various human embryology and human molecular genetics text books. For more precise details and lengthy references, see Irving:

-- "Why Accurate Human Embryology Is Needed To Evaluate Current Trends In Research Involving Stem Cells, Genetic Engineering, Synthetic Biology and Nanotechnology" (November 20, 2012), at: http://www.lifeissues.net/writers/irv/irv_206accuratehumanembryology1.html

-- "Any Human Cell - iPS, Direct Programmed, Embryonic, Fetal or Adult - Can Be Genetically Engineered to Asexually Reproduce New Human Embryos for Purposes of Reproduction ('Infertility')" (November 2011), based on the recent UNESCO International Bioethics Report, at: http://www.lifeissues.net/writers/irv/irv_194cellasexuallyreproduce1.html

-- "Personhood 'Language' 2008 - 2011" (October 2, 2011), at: http://www.lifeissues.net/writers/irv/irv_192personhoodlanguage.html

-- "In the womb" and "conception": Poland's abortion bill, and U.S. federal judge's "science" (June 28, 2011), at: http://www.lifeissues.net/writers/irv/irv_189polandabortionbill.html

A. The title of the bill

First let me address the very title of the bill referred to as the "Life at Conception Bill" (HR23). The title of the bill uses the term "conception", but that very term itself would cover only some human beings and not others. It would also contradict the legal definitions therein, because regardless of how the term "conception" is defined, it would still not cover any of the asexually reproduced human beings used in the legal definitions in this bill. Indeed, it would contradict them.

The term "conception" usually refers only to the process of fertilization (fusion of sperm and oocyte), or human sexual reproduction. It does not include and thus would not cover any human beings who are asexually reproduced (i.e., without the immediate use of sperm or oocyte). Thus it would not include all human beings reproduced by genetic engineering, including the many different kinds of cloning techniques, or any other asexual reproductive methods (including those using synthetic biology, nanotechnology, etc.). It would also not include one of every pair of "identical twins" (monozygotic twins, maternal twins) -- whether they are reproduced naturally within the woman's body or artificially reproduced in "infertility" clinics and research laboratories. Given that such facilities have been and are implanting human embryos that have been both sexually and asexually reproduced, such embryos/fetuses could still be legally aborted. Thus the term "abortion" should now include the killing of both sexually and asexually reproduced (without the use of fertilization) human beings.

Also, some mis-define the process of fertilization itself, claiming that the new human being begins to exist with the "zygote". This is erroneous (see Carnegie Stages), as the zygote is formed at Stage 1c at the end of the process of fertilization. But the new human embryo already exists before that, at Stage 1a and Stage 1b at the beginning of the process -- which just so happens to be when a lot of current destructive and unethical genetic engineering is performed on these early living human embryos. When the term "zygote" is depicted as the beginning of even sexually reproduced human beings, the earlier already existing sexually reproduced human beings would not be covered. Thus, by using the term "conception" (understood as "fertilization"), some human beings would be protected and covered, but many other human beings would not.

As for identical "twinning", a form of cloning, there are two kinds of twins -- identical (monozygotic, maternal) and fraternal. With fraternal twins, two different oocytes are fertilized by two different sperms. Each twin begins to exist at the beginning of the process of fertilization (according to the Carnegie Stages). That is not a problem. The problem concerns identical twins (monozygotic, maternal). With identical twins only one of them is sexually reproduced and that twin begins to exist at the beginning of the process of fertilization. (See Carnegie Stages). The other twin is asexually reproduced later without the immediate use of fertilization (or sperm, oocyte), and can begin to exist at many different times.

Here is the usual course of events: After fertilization the sexually reproduced single-cell human embryo then proceeds to grow bigger, increasing the number of cells in his/her body. There is no other "twin" yet! Each of those cells of the original sexually reproduced embryo is "totipotent", capable of being reverted back from a mere human cell to a new whole organism if separated from the original embryo, and this happens without the use of fertilization (sperm, oocyte); it is a form of asexual reproduction. If this happens, it is accomplished by the natural biological process of "regulation" -- that can both heal the original embryo, as well as revert a totipotent cell or group of totipotent cells that have split off of the original embryo back to a whole new organism. Regulation basically de-programs the DNA in the split off cells back to what it should be for an organism, i.e., a human being (rather than for just a mere cell). This splitting can happen from the 2-cell through the blastocyst stage (even beyond, e.g., with Siamese twins). No "fertilization" is involved. No sperm or oocytes are involved. Most of these asexually reproduced human twins are never "zygotes" -- two-thirds of naturally occurring human identical twinning takes place long after fertilization, e.g., when the 5-7 day old blastocyst splits into two multi-celled parts, and each multi-celled part is then regulated back to a new human embryo. This can take place before implantation, and some occurs even after implantation. In such a case, the asexually reproduced twin does not begin to exist until 5-7 days after fertilization of the first twin. The same asexual reproductive technique is used artificially in IVF/ART clinics and labs, and has been for decades now.

In short, the term "conception" usually refers to only the sexual reproduction of new human beings by means of the process of fertilization (fusion of sperm and oocyte). It does not refer to or include any human beings who are asexually reproduced, such as those asexually reproduced by means of genetic engineering, cloning, etc. This also includes one of every pair of identical twins -- whether naturally or artificially asexually reproduced. The asexually reproduced identical twin is not reproduced sexually (fertilization), is usually never a "zygote", and does not usually begin to exist until a week or more after the original twin comes into existence.

The term "conception" itself has by now been mis-defined in many states laws to mean "implantation". However, by the time an embryo implants he/she is already at least a week old. Thus such already existing state laws would not cover the early human embryo from the beginning of fertilization until implantation (5-7 days post-fertilization). Even in the use of artificial reproductive technologies, while the woman may not be pregnant until the embryo is implanted into her uterus, the embryo is already existing in the petri dish, and has been for about a week. How a federal law on "contraception" would be interpreted by any of these state laws is rather unclear. If the state interprets the federal law on "contraception" to mean "implantation", then such laws would not cover even sexually reproduced human beings that already exist before implantation, and they could be legally used in destructive research, or killed by the use of abortifacients. And it would not cover any asexually reproduced human beings -- in vivo or in vitro.

By the way, the above mis-definition of "conception" to mean "implantation" is also expressed in the phrase "in the womb" that is often heard, and means essentially the same thing, with the same results. The error is that the new sexually reproduced human embryo actually begins to exist in the woman's fallopian tube -- not in her uterus/womb. The embryo is not "in the womb" yet.

B. The first title of the bill would contradict the contents of the bill

As the above explains, regardless if the term "contraception" is defined as "fertilization" or as "implantation" (or "in the womb"), the term would cover only some of the human beings listed in the bill's definitions, but not all human beings.

C. Erroneous scientific definitions used in the bill

The bill mis-defines "fertilization" as follows:

For purposes of this Act:
(1) FERTILIZATION- The term 'fertilization' means the process of a human spermatozoan penetrating the cell membrane of a human oocyte to create a human zygote, a one-celled human embryo, which is a new unique human being.

As noted above, in concert with the Carnegie Stages, the zygote is not when a new human being begins to exist during fertilization (sexual reproduction). The zygote is formed at the end of the process of fertilization at Stage 1c; the embryo already exists before that at Stage 1a and Stage 1b. The new human being sexually reproduced begins to exist at the beginning of the process of fertilization: http://www.medicalmuseum.mil/assets/documents/collections/hdac/stage01.pdf; also see: http://www.ehd.org/virtual-human-embryo/stage.php?stage=1; see also: http://www.unifr.ch/ifaa/Public/EntryPage/ViewTE/TEe02.html; see also: http://apps.usa.gov/embryo.shtml. Again, note that much of the current destructive and unethical human genetic engineering is performed on the earliest human embryo before the formation of the zygote. If "fertilization" is defined as resulting in a zygote as a new human being, then the bill will not cover the earlier human embryo at Stages 1a,b -- thus such unethical human genetic research will still be allowed.

The bill mis-defines "cloning" as follows:

(2) CLONING- The term 'cloning' means the process called somatic cell nuclear transfer, that combines an enucleated egg and the nucleus of a somatic cell to make a human embryo.

This erroneous definition of "cloning" clearly comes from the erroneous Weldon/Brownback "total" cloning bills -- bills that would result in the banning of no human cloning because of the false scientific definitions used in those bills (see Irving: http://www.lifeissues.net/writers/irv/irv_52weldonbrownback1.html). Cloning is a sub-category of genetic engineering, and there are at least two dozen different kinds of cloning techniques being used at present. The definition of "cloning" above only defines one of them (SCNT) -- thus all the other kinds of cloning techniques would not be covered by this bill.

The bill's definition of "human being" also contradicts the very title of the bill:

(3) HUMAN; HUMAN BEING- The terms 'human' and 'human being' include each and every member of the species homo sapiens at all stages of life, beginning with the earliest stage of development, created by the process of fertilization, cloning, or its functional equivalent.

While the phrases "at all stages of life" and "the earliest stage of development" could refer to Stage 1, they would not necessarily refer to the beginning of Stage 1 -- i.e., Stage 1a and Stage 1b. It could just refer to Stage 1c -- the zygote. Thus, as noted above, the already existing living human embryo at Stages 1a and b would not necessarily be covered by this bill. Again, the title of the bill includes only the term "conception" -- which would contradict the definition above when referring to "cloning, or its functional equivalent". Which is it? Also, I've never heard the phrase "functional equivalent" used in any related research; how it it defined?? Finally, if some reproductive process is a "functional equivalent" to ONLY CLONING, then the bill would not cover any genetic engineering or other reproductive processes that are different from that of cloning. The whole definition is bazaar and self-contradictory, internally and externally.

III. The March For Life Principles 2013

Having presented twice as a speaker in the past at the March For Life, I remain puzzled as to why they continue to knowingly use similar erroneous "science", even so far as to re-define the phrase "from the beginning of each human being's life" by erroneously equating that with "fertilization" only.

For brievity, I will not repeat again why the term "fertilization" would apply to only some living innocent human beings, but hardly to all of them. See above comments for details.

In short, the March For Life "Life Principles" [http://www.marchforlife.org/life-principles] state the following:

"The life of each human being shall be preserved and protected from that human being's biological beginning when the Father's sperm fertilizes the Mother's ovum,";

Clearly, they have now re-defined the phrase "from the biological beginning" to mean only "fertilization" (sexual reproduction) -- which of course leaves out all asexually reproduced human beings -- both in vivo and in vitro. It would also leave out all sexually reproduced (fertilization) human beings before implantation if the phrase "in the womb" were used.

Again, in their "Applying the Life Principles", they repeat the same erroneous definition:

"The protection shall extend from the beginning of each human being's life - acknowledged to be when the father's sperm fertilizes the mother's ovum - and throughout the natural continuum of that human being's life."

I don't know who "acknowledged" that the beginning of the life of all human beings is synonymous with "fertilization", but I'd like to see his/her scientific credentials. And how would they define "natural continuum"? Is that a substitute for the problematic phrase "until natural death"? If so, that would mean protection and respect for human beings who die unnatural deaths would not apply! The "application" continues:

Although a pregnant mother and/or her preborn child may die, there is no justification in the law of God or man for the intentional killing of even one innocent born or preborn human in existence at fertilization. NO EXCEPTION! NO COMPROMISE!" "With these Life Principles in mind, the MARCH FOR LIFE is the collective effort of grassroots prolife Americans to assure that our state and federal laws shall protect the right to life of each human in existence at fertilization. An important step is adoption of a Mandatory Human Life Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. Such an amendment would be simple and require that individuals and society provide protection for the right to life of each human in existence at fertilization."

If by referring only to a preborn child of a "pregnant mother" they mean "in the womb" only, then even sexually reproduced human preborn children before implantation would not be covered by these Life Principles. And hopefully the March For Life would not support an amendment to the U.S. Constitution that uses false science as in the HR23 bill analyzed above.

Seems there are quite a number of "exceptions" and "compromises".