Life Begins at Conception (Except When That’s Inconvenient for Republicans)

In Healthcare On

When, exactly, do abortion opponents think life begins?

Over the past few months there has been a rush to pass abortion bans. Most of these bans center on the idea that abortions should be banned as soon as the fetal heartbeat is detected; that’s because “a heartbeat proves that there’s life that deserves protection under law,” according to a state representative in Kentucky, Robert Goforth.

On the other hand, many, including Mr. Goforth himself, also believe “life begins at conception,” as Tom Cotton, the Republican senator from Arkansas, said on “Meet the Press” last month. Or to take it still further, that the blastocyst, that clump of cells smaller than a raspberry that forms in the early days after a sperm meets an egg, is a person. As an Alabama state representative, Terri Collins, put it: “This bill addresses that one issue. Is that baby in the womb a person? I believe our law says it is. I believe our people say it is. And I believe technology shows it is.”

And yet.

Representative Collins recently sponsored what is arguably the most extreme abortion ban to pass to date — Alabama’s near total prohibition of the procedure, with no exceptions for rape or incest. But this ban does have one exception: Fertilized eggs, blastocysts, five-day-old embryos — people, according to some definitions — are exempt and can be destroyed, so long as they are not contained in the body of a woman. “The egg in the lab doesn’t apply,” said Clyde Chambliss, a state senator and another sponsor of the abortion bill. “It’s not in a woman. She’s not pregnant.”

But I was told by Tom Cotton that life began at conception?

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