Conception 101

During my few short years of Internet-based pro-life advocacy, I have come across some pretty wild allegations, such as, “If abortion is murder, then masturbation must be genocide” and “If abortion is murder, then a woman must be a murderer every time she passes an egg during her menstrual cycle.”

Quite frankly, both of these claims are entirely false. “But how are they false?” you may ask. “If eggs and sperm make babies, then shouldn’t killing eggs and sperm be murder?”

To understand the fallacy of this mindset, one must first understand the nature of egg and sperm cells.

A cell is the smallest unit of life. Human beings consist of many billions of cells, each specialized to perform a certain function (skin cells, blood cells, brain cells, etc.). Human cells contain forty-six chromosomes in their nuclei. A chromosome is a tiny bundle of DNA. DNA is short for deoxyribonucleic acid, which is a string of molecules that essentially program our bodies to look and act the way they do. Everyone’s DNA is different. DNA makes Suzie a girl and Johnny a boy. DNA makes Charles have blue eyes and Angie have green eyes. DNA makes our skin colors white, tan, brown, or black.

Now what does this have to do with eggs and sperm? Recall how I said that human cells have forty-six chromosomes. Well, eggs and sperm are a little different–they only have twenty-three chromosomes! That’s right, folks. Egg and sperm cells have half the amount of DNA as other cells in the human body.

When a woman ovulates, an egg cell is released from one of the ovaries and travels down the Fallopian tube, hanging out for a day or so before continuing on its way out of the body. If the woman has unprotected sexual intercourse during this time, chances are that one of the man’s sperm cells (expelled during ejaculation) will encounter it. And then a miraculous thing occurs!

A sperm cell — almost but not always one, will then penetrate the egg . When this happens, the chromosomes from each cell recombine to form a new set of DNA. This new cell (and new human being) has forty-six chromosomes: twenty-three from Mommy and twenty-three from Daddy. The new cell begins to rapidly divide into more cells that differentiate themselves over time, and nine months later Mommy will give birth to her new bundle of joy.

An egg is an egg is an egg; a sperm is a sperm is a sperm. The death of an egg or sperm cell is not an act of genocide. The deliberate deaths of millions of embryos and fetuses who are never given the chance to see the light of day, however, is genocide indeed.


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