top of page

CONCEPTION: A Contradiction?

From the “Opinion of the Court” and the dissenting opinion of Roe v Wade to International Bioethical Law

by Francis Etheredge

This is the first in a series of three articles: it takes two instances of uncertainty about the meaning of conception. The first case of uncertainty comes from the documents of the Catholic Church and are drawn upon with a view to its development. The second case of uncertainty comes from the “Opinion of the Court” in Roe v Wade and is drawn upon, along with a dissenting opinion, because between them they give a comprehensive range of points relevant to this discussion and, in view of the court’s pro-abortion outcome, it shows the social necessity of clarity concerning the first instant of human conception.

Prologue: A Modern Moment

Providence gives us many gifts and one of them is the help in a particular historical moment to develop our understanding of a truth that is related to our faith – even to a dogma of our faith: the moment of human conception; indeed, as the document on the Word of God, Dei Verbum, says:

‘This tradition which comes from the Apostles develops in the Church with the help of the Holy Spirit[1]. For there is a growth in the understanding of the realities and the words which have been handed down. This happens through the contemplation and study made by believers, who treasure these things in their hearts (see Luke, 2:19, 51) through a penetrating understanding of the spiritual realities which they experience, and through the preaching of those who have received through Episcopal succession the sure gift of truth. For as the centuries succeed one another, the Church constantly moves forward toward the fullness of divine truth until the words of God reach their complete fulfillment in her’ (8).

In other words, the reality of participation in the development of our faith is multi-personal and multi-disciplinary; and, in addition, there is progress in the truth which brings faith and reason into a renewed dialogue: a dialogue that has, in some way, to go beyond recriminations, regrets and even accusations[2]. For, bearing in mind the enormous implications of how the world has lived in the light of the uncertainty about the beginning of human life, we need to proceed with an amazing interrelationship of truth and love. But, at the same time, we are on the threshold of untold developments in which what was thought to be an ethical development is in fact in danger of being the total opposite. Thus there are frozen human embryos which have not only suffered the real frustration of the right to natural, completing human development, but which are now being proposed for some kind of mass production whereby they have been ‘prevented from reaching their full potential by depriving them of the extra-embryonic cells required for implantation into the uterus, [whereas] … if they, along with the extraembryonic cells, were implanted into a surrogate uterus, [they] could develop into a living human infant’[3]. Therefore, there is an urgency to clarify what we now understand to be the moment of human conception: a conception which establishes the human relationships regulated by human rights; for, not only are we conceived-in-relationship but we are conceived in a relationship of reciprocal rights from conception onwards.

Introduction: Who is My Neighbor?

When I plant a tomato seed it grows into a tomato plant; and, in time, produces a crop of tomatoes. When a potato starts to shoot it grows into a potato plant and, as if on umbilical cords, the potatoes grow at the end of a long thin tube. When a runner bean plant is sown, after nurturing it inside for a while in ice-cream tubs on the windowsill, then outside in cut-off milk bottles and then, finally, in boxes in the garden - they grow into runner bean plants and produce runner beans. Why is the human being any different? A tomato plant, a potato or a runner bean do not become anything other than what they are in the course of developing. This, it seems, is the natural order; where what is begun is what it is. If, therefore, a child is conceived then a child comes into existence and the identity of that person unfolds through the stages of growth and maturity that is a part of ordinary development. A child does not become anything other than who she or he is.

Making the same point in terms of the poignant sufferings we know to exist, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith said: ‘Beginning at conception, children suffering from malformation or other pathologies are little patients whom medicine today can always assist and accompany in a manner respectful of life. Their life is sacred, unique, unrepeatable, and inviolable, exactly like that of every adult person’ (the Good Samaritan, Samaritanus Bonus, 6[4]).

Why, however, begin a discussion on the nature of conception with a reference to plants and a document which, generally, attends to the sensitive care and treatment, as well as the accompaniment of, people approaching the end of life and the help that they need: particularly the help that they need to hope in God and to experience the love of neighbour, whether that neighbour is a member of his or her family, a doctor, a nurse or any person with whom they come into contact? Indeed, ‘neighbour’ is a word rich in significance[5]: ‘neighbor (n.): "one who lives near another," Middle English neighebor, from Old English … "one who dwells nearby," from neah "near" … "dweller," related to bur "dwelling," from Proto-Germanic * … "to be, exist, grow".’ In other words, there are many who live near another, dwell nearby and are, whether literally near or close to the heart of others in need, a neighbor: a concrete help to others. Who, then, can be a closer neighbor to the unborn than God Himself; and, therefore, who better to communicate the truth concerning conception than the Church? As Gaudium et Spes says: ‘For by His incarnation the Son of God has united Himself in some fashion with every man’ (22[6]); and, therefore, if this is a union prior to baptism what moment is prior to that of conception and corresponding, as it were, to the moment of the Incarnation?

The following discussion begins with Part I: The Teaching of the Church and the Problem of Uncertainty; Part II: On the Interpretation of Texts: Particularly “Amendment 14”; Part III: An Answer to the Uncertainty of What or Who Exists at Conception; and a Conclusion: Lest we Forget Mother, Child and Father. In all, then, it is hoped that by examining different kinds of teaching on the beginning of human life, the event of human conception, and the translation of what we have come to understand into law – we will better see how each helps the other to be truer to itself; and, therefore, drawing on reason and Revelation enables the whole truth to emerge, justice then compels a universal recognition of what is good for us all and the remembrance that, in the end, we are addressing the reality of real people’s lives out of love.

Part I: The Problem of Uncertainty in Both Church Teaching and the “Opinion of the Court” in Roe v Wade

But to go back to the question: Why, however, begin a discussion on conception with reference to plants and a document on hope and compassion for the vulnerable, whether elderly or just conceived? There are two, if not three reasons for beginning in this way. Firstly, the compassion and hope which fills this document is as applicable, as it suggests, to the needs of the unborn, their mothers and fathers, as to the needs of the vulnerable at whatever time and stage of life; indeed, especially where ‘Beginning at conception, children suffering from malformation or other pathologies are little patients whom medicine today can always assist and accompany in a manner respectful of life’ (Samaritanus Bonus, 6). Secondly, yet again the Church has used the expression, concerning the beginning of human life: ‘Beginning at conception, children …’ (Samaritanus Bonus, 6); and, therefore, the Church is clearly articulating constant teaching that a child is conceived at conception. In the Gospel of Life, Pope St. John Paul II says: Every person can come to recognize ‘the sacred value of human life from its very beginning until its end, and can affirm the right of every human being to have this primary good respected to the highest degree’ (2[7]); and, indeed, what does conception ordinarily mean but the ‘very beginning’? Donum Vitae, on the Gift of life, says in its introductory comments: that ‘the first part will have as its subject respect for the human being from the first moment of his or her existence[8]; and, therefore, can he or she exist from the first moment of his or her existence without being a person? It is certainly true that a person can exist without being recognized to be present; and, as such, there is a process through which that presence, which is ordinarily hidden, is made increasingly visible and recognizable. Thus, as even the Warnock Report admitted, there is ordinarily a seamless unfolding of each one of us from conception onwards. Thirdly, again the Church speaks of the child’s life being ‘sacred, unique, unrepeatable, and inviolable, exactly like that of every adult person’ (Samaritanus Bonus, 6); and, as such, echoes Pope Paul VI and Pope John XXIII, who said: ‘"Human life is sacred—all men must recognize that fact," Our predecessor Pope John XXIII recalled. "From its very inception it reveals the creating hand of God"[9]’. Thirdly, discussing the ordinary propagation of plants helps us to understand in a simple, concrete way, the natural order by and through which one kind of being reproduces another; and, in this simplistic sense, it anchors the imagination that can envisage a whole plethora of possibilities which, however, need a basis in reality if they are to be relevant. In other words, in view of the multitude of possibilities which an imagination can generate, itself going beyond the evidence speculatively and implying the existence of that which enables this to be possible, namely the soul informing the body and constituting the whole of human personhood – there is a need to think in terms of what actually exists.

What better starting point, then, than concrete and familiar phenomena and from there to go on to what is more difficult to understand but which belongs, as it were, to the same universe of truths? In other words, what is the meaning of conception, of human conception, if not the beginning of the life of the person; for, by definition of a person coming to exist, the person’s coming to exist has a beginning.

The Problem of Uncertainty in both Church Teaching and the “Opinion of the Court” in Roe v Wade

On the one hand in 1995, in Evangelium Vitae, The Gospel of Life, Pope St. John Paul II quotes from the Declaration on Procured Abortion, published in November, 1974, which said: ‘modern genetic science … has demonstrated that from the first instant there is established the programme of what this living being will be: a person, this individual person with his characteristic aspects already well determined’ (60)[10]. The phrase which attracts attention, in this context, is where the declaration speaks of what has been established: ‘modern genetic science … has … established … what this living being will be: a person’. In other words, ‘modern genetic science’ has established the possibility that there ‘will be’ a person; and, if there ‘will be’ a person, then when will that person be there? When will the person who will come to exist – come to exist from the existence of ‘the living being’ which does exist? Thus there seems to be a distinction between the ‘living being’ which has come to exist and the person which will come to exist. What has come to exist, then, that is a ‘living being’ and yet is not a person? As a kind of explanation of the possible thinking behind this distinction between a ‘living being’ and the person that that ‘living being will be’ there is a note that was added to the English translation of Donum Vitae, The Gift of Life.

‘The point of this part of the discussion is to show that, in fact, there was a dimension of meaning that “seemed to be omitted by addition” in the English translation of Donum Vitae, namely, that the zygote comes to exist ‘when the nuclei of the two gametes have fused’. Thus the additional English expression, ‘the nuclei of’, is both an additional phrase to what is in the Latin text and, at the same time, it is a phrase that seems to delimit the definition of a zygote to the fusion of the two nuclei. However, as we shall see, the Latin expression, ‘orta a fusione’ (arising from a fusion), does not mention nuclei and, therefore, is a more comprehensive account of the nature of the zygote. Thus the Latin text may include, in its range of meaning, the development of the zygote from the first instant of fertilization; and, therefore, the Latin may well be more inclusive of that first instant than the English expression: ‘when the nuclei of the two gametes have fused’. The expression, ‘when the nuclei of the two gametes have formed’ tends to make one think that the zygote has not formed until the nuclei have fused; and, as such, could be described as an interpretative translation, referring to a developmental point which is not so clearly evident from the Latin text. For there is a case to advance that the Latin expression, ‘orta a fusione’ (arising from a fusion), could apply from the very first moment that fusion occurs: the first instant of fertilisation’[11].

On the other hand, On January 22, the U.S Supreme Court legalized abortion in Roe v. Wade; and, without going into the details of the whole judgement, pronounced that the ‘State … has legitimate interests in protecting both the pregnant woman’s health and the potentiality of human life’[12]; however, the wording of the “Opinion of the Court” is inconsistent: it both refers to the ‘potential life’ and ‘fetal life after viability’[13]. In other words, it looks as if the Court’s opinion is that there is ‘potential life’ up until there is ‘fetal life after viability’. But, one may ask, what is the woman pregnant with? If she is pregnant with the ‘potentiality of human life’ then what is that potentiality except for viability? - for viability refers to the child being able to live outside the womb, with help, just as the womb is the right environment for the child to develop in. Thus the “Opinion of the Court” has conflated the existence of a child’s life and viability whereas viability is only possible because of the existence of a child’s life in the first place; and, therefore, the very recognition of viability is recognition of the life of a child from conception. The view that a child’s life is not a child’s life because it is not developed enough to exist outside of the womb is the same as claiming that any child that cannot live independently is not a child; but, in reality, it is in the very nature of being a child that development proceeds from conception onwards, through all the development stages that characterize a person’s life, and which include pre-and-post birth stages of development. Thus the claim that a child is not a child if it is not possible for it to survive outside the womb is an incoherent and contradictory claim which has nothing to do with the reality of human development and everything to do with a prior judgement of a philosophical nature: a claim that is neither vindicated by biology nor logic. The claim that a child is not, by definition of his or her very existence, a human child, is contradicted by the very identity of the sperm and the egg through which he or she came to exist or, in the case of technological interventions, the human egg and nucleus through which he or she came to exist[14]. Furthermore, the claim that a child is not, by definition of his or her very existence, a human child, is not a logical claim; for, if what begins is typically human then he or she has a characteristically, developmentally, progressive expression of his or her identity. Therefore it follows that what has begun is typically the first of many stages through which his or her development passes in the course of showing “who” was present from the beginning; and, if this is true, then it follows that we are obligated to recognize the rights of this child: to life; to completing human development; and to integrity – to begin with but a few that need to be recognized. For, more generally, if the truth establishes our common human identity then it establishes, at the same time, our ethical responsibility for each other.

In the end, then, there seems to be a coincidence of meaning: that a woman is pregnant with a ‘living being’ that ‘will be’ a person or the woman is pregnant with whatever it is that has the ‘potentiality of human life’ but, again, is not yet a person. In the first case there ‘will be’ a person and in the second case there is the ‘potentiality of human life’ and, presumably, at some indefinable point a human person. In the context of each document, however, there is a world of difference between how these two starting points are evaluated. In the case of The Gospel of Life, Pope St. John Paul II says: ‘what is at stake is so important that, from the standpoint of moral obligation, the mere probability that a human person is involved would suffice to justify an absolutely clear prohibition of any intervention aimed at killing a human embryo’ (Evangelium Vitae, 60). Whereas in the case of Roe v Wade the uncertainty as to what the woman is pregnant with has led to the possibility of the destruction of whatever she is pregnant with which has the ‘potentiality of human life’. In other words, there is uncertainty in both expressions of what has come to exist at conception and yet they are evaluated in completely different ways.

What follows next is to discuss some aspects of the “Opinion of the Court” of Roe v Wade and the timely necessity of the development of Church teaching.

Part II: The second article in this series of three examines, more closely, the issues that arise from an examination of the “Opinion of the Court” and a dissenting opinion in Roe v Wade.

On the Interpretation of Texts – Particularly “Amendment 14”


[1.] All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws’[15].

As, however, the 14th Amendment states that it is concerned with ‘All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside’ it could, therefore, be said to exclude a more universalist claim to apply to all human beings, whether in America by immigration or for whatever other reason. But then it also says: ‘nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws’[16]. In other words, there is scope for the possibility that the meaning of the statement that no State can ‘deprive any person of life’ is in fact of a more universal character; and, therefore, there is a sense in which, perhaps not fully consciously, the legislators intended an implicit declaration of human rights which, in the nature of the law, is simply expressed according to the natural jurisdiction of this law applying specifically to those born or naturalized in America[17]. In other words, as citizenship naturally applies to those ‘born or naturalized in America’, it follows that the American Constitution is not excluding the right to life from conception onwards; rather, the Constitution is defining the common understanding of an American citizen being, ordinarily, one ‘born or naturalized in America’. Therefore, as we shall see in the following paragraphs, the right to life is within the general understanding of being ‘born or naturalized in America’ as, without life, there is no child to be ‘born’ an American citizen or, subsequently, no person to be naturalized.

What, then, will help with the interpretation of legal texts?[18] Thus, just as there is a concern for the original meaning of the philosophical understanding of ‘first matter’ and ‘form’[19] which lies behind the triple conception of human being, whether in Aristotle or St. Thomas following him, so there is an interpretation of legal texts which endeavours to understand the original intention of the document. Just as there are principles and practices basic to the interpretation of Scripture which, generally, develop from the principle that the literal sense is the sense intended by the author[20], so there seems to be a parallel sense of interpreting legal texts: ‘a method of statutory interpretation that relies on the plain text of a statute to determine its meaning’[21].

‘Clearly, then, the American Constitution follows Lincoln’s address that ‘all men are created equal’[22]; for, in the common understanding of being created equal, there is an ordinary sense, no doubt common at the time, that whatever constituted the original moment of a human being’s creation was a moment common to all. Therefore, it could be said, whatever is now understood to be the common starting point of all human beings is what establishes our common equality before the law.

Thus the principle: Where the body lives, there the soul is and where both are is the person[23]. Therefore, the first instant of human conception is ordinarily the first moment of a person beginning to exist. Where this first instant is subsequent to the first instant of fertilization, as in the case of twins, in the first instant that the body of the twin comes to exist is the first instant that the twin human being has come to exist; and, irrespective of the difficulties of conjoined twins, the reality of conjoined twins shows forth the truth that bodily existence expresses personal existence.

In the first instant of what is established by artificial methods of human conception, it is the first instant in which the bodily existence comes to exist that there is what expresses the existence of the human person, whole and entire; it being the nature of bodily development to progressively manifest the existence of the human person from conception.

In other words, again in the common understanding of the time, a person would have been understood to exist from conception in that the life of the person exists from conception: parents conceive children not plants and mourn the loss of a child – not the loss of a plant; and, now that conception is better understood to have a first instant, then it follows that personhood begins from the first instant of human conception: from the first instant that the sperm-egg union effects the whole of the embryonic child expressed, bodily, in the enclosing of the sperm in the newly formed and active embryonic wall.

In other words, there is a moment when there is an active sperm and an inert egg and then there is the embryonic child expressed in the bodily integrity of the newly “walled” human embryo. For, quite apart from the philosophical problems that have arisen and, in a sense, which have always accompanied the definition of terms, there is the reality of a living presence from the first instant of conception: a person’s life: what is understood to be the life of a human child: the life of a boy or a girl.

The American Constitution, then, establishes a wonderful precedent to which not only American abuses of this truth can be appealed[24], but to which the world can “measure” its juridical claim to expressing and embodying equality before the law; indeed, while other legislation is more explicit, such as the 1990 German Embryo Protection Act passed ‘in compliance with the Nuremburg Code’[25], the American Constitutional reference to the life of a person is as true now as it always was and communicates a common understanding that each one of us begins at conception.

Nevertheless, the opening wording of the 14th Amendment provides a context in which to understand the protection of the life of a person; for, it says: ‘All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States’. In other words, a person is clearly understood to refer to ‘All persons born or naturalized’; and, in general, a number of the cases which were heard with respect to this Amendment were concerned with, quite rightly, the reality of equality between races before the law[26].

Thus, it could be argued, the 14th Amendment is referring to the life of a person who is born, in that this simply reflects the concern of the legislation at the time, bearing in mind its desire to establish racial equality before the law; however, the life of a person who is born may well be a way of presuming that the life of an unborn child is implicitly defended in that this naturally leads to the life of ‘All persons born’. In other words, the fact that the words of the 14th Amendment are concerned with the life of a person who is born is naturally the basis on which to recognize the implicit concern of protecting the life of all innocent people – from conception onwards.

One of the ways, then, of corroborating this claim is looking at the cultural climate which developed in the course of the period both leading up to and following the 14th Amendment. In other words, there are cultural, even legal developments, which elucidate the basic meaning of a text. In the case of the contemporary question of the validity of Anglican Orders, the question of what intention was expressed in the Anglican ordination of a priest, it was historically demonstrated that an Anglican priest was ordained in a specifically different sense to that of his contemporary, Catholic priest. In other words, an Anglican ordination was specifically intended to repudiate, or reject, the Catholic understanding of the priest as celebrating, effectively, a sacramental mystery of the presence of the body and blood of Jesus Christ[27].

The point of this observation, however, is not to confuse the issue by assuming that there is no other intention possible, either then or now, but rather to recognize that a historical account can elucidate what is specific in a public enactment characteristic of a historical period. Similarly, then, the very developing of laws, across the United States[28], protecting the unborn child from the possibility of abortion is itself confirming evidence of the historical intentionality expressed in the 14th Amendment. Indeed, this is precisely the argument of the dissenting judge in Roe v Wade:

‘MR. Justice Rehnquist, dissenting

‘As early as 1821, the first state law dealing directly with abortion was enacted by the Connecticut Legislature’[29] … ‘By the time of the adoption of the Four-teenth Amendment in 1868, there were at least 36 laws enacted by state or territorial legislatures limiting abortion.’ In due course Rehnquist says: ‘The only conclusion possible from this history is that the drafters did not intend to have the Fourteenth Amendment withdraw from the States the power to legislate with respect to this matter’[30].

In other words, both before and after the 14th Amendment the very development of legislation which protected the life of the unborn child, as it became increasingly threatened due to the increasing practice of abortion is itself evidence of how the 14th Amendment’s protection of the life of the person was and is to be understood. In other words, while the 14th Amendment was specifically addressing the rights of citizens, the more universal right to life is implicated; and, as such, the 14th Amendment understood its remit to be that of referring to legal citizenship and, as such, no doubt had in mind the common practice of registering a birth, or the naturalization of a citizen, – as the natural point from which citizenship dates.

Citizenship, however, registers a workable legal definition of a subject of the American Constitution; and, therefore, citizenship is the natural expression of what follows on a human life as it becomes possible to identify the application of citizenship. Thus, for example, a premature baby falls quite squarely within the meaning of the birth of an American citizen; and, even recently, it is furthermore recognized in President Trump’s specific intention to sign a “The Born-Alive Infant Abortion Survivors Act” which will ensure medical treatment of a child that survives an abortion[31].

The question, then, of citizenship is different from the question of preserving the life of a child; but, clearly, they are related: if the life of a child is not protected from conception then there is not a citizen to be legally recognized on being born and registered. The recognition of potential citizenship is different, then, to the speculative claim of a ‘potential life’: the former is a coherent legal definition whereas the latter is both unverifiable and derived, it seems, from a quasi-philosophical understanding of the relationship of a child’s viability to a right to life.

On the Question of the Rightful Protection of Women

As regards the related claim that pro-abortion legislation is about protecting women[32] it is true that, in general, regulating a procedure entails protecting a person from harm. However, it is far from established that there is no harm to the woman, per se, in virtue of the very act of carrying out an elective abortion. Indeed, the many testimonies of women who have had abortions and profoundly regretted them[33], quite apart from increasing psychiatric evidence of an adverse psychological reaction to what was thought to be some kind of simple “medical procedure”[34], not to mention the various medical complications of such an act[35], all contribute to the view that an elective abortion is not in the interest of the health of the woman.

Therefore, whatever distressing circumstances there may be involved in the actual context of a woman deciding on an abortion, it is clear that an abortion is an invasive medical action on “who” is not part of the woman’s body; for, if the child were a “part of the woman’s body”[36] then how would she or he, ordinarily, be birthed? In the case, however, of complicating factors, then clearly medical help may well be necessary; however, if there is no child present, then the medical action would be an amputation or the removal of a random growth, and not an abortion. In a word, then, the direct object of an elective abortion is the removal of a child that a woman is carrying; and, at the same time, that the removal of this child is generally done in such a way as that it does not involve the least consideration for preserving the life of that child.

By implication, then, a medical act that intends to help the unborn child to be better placed for his or her development and, at the same time, is an act by which the mother is helped, is clearly of a different kind; and, therefore, one wonders why, given the increase in medical expertise, that there are so few documented cases of a woman being helped with an ectopic pregnancy: a human embryo that implants in the fallopian tube or in some other place rather than in the womb. In other words, does the overriding mentality of abortion and abortifacient drugs obscure the real help that both mother and child need?

In sum, having read through the “Opinion of the Court” in Roe v Wade there is neither any real recognition of the harm to the woman of the event of the abortion itself nor any mention of the obvious harm to the child: the truth about what actually happens to a child in an elective abortion. However, reviewing the “Opinion of the Court” has, very helpfully, brought out a number of aspects that, as we can see, need a resolution.

The Principle of Determining an Appropriate Level of Legal Action

‘Barrett … states that she “tend[s] to agree with those who say that a justice’s duty is to the Constitution and that it is thus more legitimate for her to enforce her best understanding of the Constitution rather than a precedent she thinks clearly in conflict with it. That itself serves an important rule-of-law value”’[37].

In a word, the historical consistency with which a statute is interpreted, whether in a constitution or elsewhere, reflects its underlying meaning and is a part of the evidence of what constitutes its original and stable meaning; and, therefore, the evidence of legislation, pre and post 14th Amendment, protecting human life against a rising tide of claims to justify deliberate abortion is itself evidence of what was understood by the 14th Amendment’s protection of the life of the person.

Furthermore, then, in the specific context of the American Constitution it makes sense that the first duty of a judge is to express ‘her best understanding of the Constitution’; and, at the same time, it makes sense to have a view as to which level of the judiciary or the legislature is appropriate for the handling of a particular case or enunciating a particular law for the good of both the rule of law and the good government of a country[38]. More widely, then, this raises the possibility of biolegal principles that can inform, not just national governments but the good of the human race[39].

Part III: This is the concluding article in this series of three and begins to address the problems raised by both the uncertainty concerning conception in the teachings of the Catholic Church and a number of related points which have arisen from the “Opinion of the Court” in Roe v Wade, notably the need for a universal recognition of human rights from conception onwards.

An Answer to the Uncertainty of What or Who Exists at Conception

Uncertainty is a characteristic of human experience; and, therefore, it is not unusual for a variety of factors to help determine the reality of what actually exists: What the real situation actually is. Uncertainty, however, expresses a value. There is an uncertainty about whether or not a specific act of spousal love will beget a child; and, indeed, it is possible that the very uncertainty that exists allows for the perception and reception of a child as a gift: a gift from God[40].

In the case of pregnancy, then, these two very different documents agree that there is an uncertainty about what is happening. On the one hand the woman is pregnant with a ‘living being’ and, on the other hand, with what has a ‘potentiality of human life’. In neither case does there seem to be any clarity about what comes to exist at conception; except, that is, there is a common agreement that “something” comes to exist at conception. The question is, then, what comes to exist at conception. What follows are a number of considerations which, together, constitute an answer to the need for certainty.

What is the Experience of Women in Pregnancy?

My wife spoke of looking forward to meeting the person conceived[41]; and, as such, echoed the certainty of Eve: ‘I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord’ (Gn 4: 1; but consider the whole biblical witness to the real experience of women, children and men written about in the Scriptures). Even, then, if it was not so clear to my wife that conception involved an act of God, it was certainly clear to my wife that she had conceived a child: ‘a man’ (Gn 4: 1). There are many other testimonies, too, both in human experience generally[42] and in the human experience embedded in the Scriptures. What is the identity of the human longing for a child which makes the suffering of infertility so painful?[43] What is so disappointing about a miscarriage? Surely it has nothing to do with the abstract claim of losing a blob of cells: a claim so contrary to the reality of the organized human embryonic child whose development is so interactively ordered to his or her presence in the nurturing womb of his or her mother[44]. What is the value of this human experience? Why is it only a question of arguments based on often difficult philosophical positions when, in reality, there is a wealth of human experience, particularly the experience of the woman and mother?[45]

It is true, however, that there are many and varied injustices in the treatment of women and, in particular, in the abuse of women that leads to pregnancy; however, these problems need addressing independently of the child that may be conceived as a result of this mistreatment, just as children need help in families where the parents are struggling in other ways.

The Witness of Each One of Us

In contrast to the uncertainty that surrounds human conception, there is no doubt that a person who comes to exist, comes to exist at a certain point in time. In other words, each one of us is an indelible, irrevocable and incontrovertible witness to the three-dimensional fact: firstly, each one of us comes to exist; secondly, we come to exist amidst multiple relationships, beginnings with those from whom we received our ordinary human inheritance, ordinarily our parents; and, thirdly, that our life is a gift and, if we are well disposed to recognizing it, we recognize it as a gift. Whatever we may think about the multitude of questions that surround human conception, that we are conceived is certain: that conception, which means ‘beginning’, is certain. The contrary claim, that we did not come into existence, is clearly contrary to the facts of the union of sperm and egg and the existence of each one of us.

Even with respect to the manipulation of human life which involves the multiple injustices of fertilization in a glass dish, discarding unwanted human embryos, freezing of human embryos, experimenting on human embryos and combining different paths to the whole of conception, wherever there is the living human body there is the presence of the person. Otherwise why would husband and wife, from the dawn of time, come together and exclaim, like Eve, ‘I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord’ (Gn 4: 1)? Otherwise why would a human egg be fertilized in a ‘petri dish’ in 1977, and born in 1978, make the birth of Louise Brown ‘headline news around the world’[46]? Otherwise why would a frozen human embryo returned to the nurturing womb be a human being: a girl called Hannah?[47] Thus there is the corresponding human right of the human life, once conceived, in whatever way he or she is conceived, to the completing nurture of maternal implantation and development.

A Discussion on the Teachings of the Catholic Church and the “Opinion of the Court”

In the course of the “Opinion of the Court”, although there was a review of ancient views on human conception, the judge said that it is now the ‘official belief of the Catholic Church’ to ‘recognize the existence of life from the moment of conception’[48]. But, having said that, it appears that St. Thomas Aquinas’ antiquated biology, among other sources, was used to justify the claim that ordinarily there is not a human being from the first instant of conception[49] because, in the “Opinion of the Court”, the judge said: ‘We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins. When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man's knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer’.[50]

Firstly, then, the statement of the judge clearly neglects to consider his own observation that Catholic Teaching, resourced as it is by numerous experts, now teaches ‘the existence of life from the moment of conception’. Secondly, the judge showed signs of recognizing the growth of a consensus when he said: ‘As one brief amicus discloses, this is a view strongly held by many non-Catholics as well, and by many physicians’[51]. Thirdly, the embryological evidence which would have helped the judge recognize the beginning of human life resulted in the opposite, namely, misleading him to think that there was no clarity about the beginning of human life; and, therefore, as an objection to the view of a first instant of human conception the judge said: ‘new embryological data … purport to indicate that conception is a "process" over time, rather than an event’[52]. In other words, there is no inconsistency between conception as a process over time and a first instant of fertilization.

For, a process over time has a beginning, namely that there is a first instant that the sperm is enclosed by the closure of what was the egg’s open pores and thus the walled embryo is the first stage of a new entity: the nascent human being; this first instant of the human embryo is in contrast to the prior, separate existence, of the active human sperm and the inert human egg. Furthermore, then, the process of fertilization is simply the first stage of human growth from the first instant of fertilization to the fusion of the respective nuclei of what was a sperm and an egg and the expulsion of unrequired chromosomes. Normal development, as even the Warnock Report concluded, proceeds uninterruptedly from the beginning onwards[53].

Fourthly, the presence of ‘new medical techniques such as menstrual extraction, the "morning-after" pill, implantation of embryos, artificial insemination, and even artificial wombs’ seemed to have confused the issue of when life begins because each of these medical techniques required a careful examination of their relationship to the beginning of life and, therefore, should have at least raised a cautionary note about their use as an objection to there being a moment of the beginning of human life. Indeed, as already noted, where the human body lives there is the presence of human personal life – especially bearing in mind the principle that biological development is inherently, as it were, psychological development: being a male or female person is to be a ‘psychologically inscribed embryologically-begun human individual’[54].

Finally, then, the following two claims are problematic: that ‘We need not resolve the difficult question of when life begins’ and ‘When those trained in the respective disciplines of medicine, philosophy, and theology are unable to arrive at any consensus, the judiciary, at this point in the development of man's knowledge, is not in a position to speculate as to the answer’[55]. They are problematic because, in effect, the “Opinion of the Court” has speculated about when life begins, calling it ‘potential life’, and has concluded that the state need not defend the interest of the nascent human life from his or her very beginning. In other words, instead of the court ruling that the question of the beginning of human life required further investigation and withdrawing from making a judicial judgement, the court implicitly held a quasi-philosophical view of there being a ‘potential life’ and permitted the destruction of a child from his or her beginning.

A Clarification as Regards the Teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas

As regards the view of St. Thomas Aquinas; he argued, not simply that there are three stages to ordinary human development but that, as a whole, nature intends a man:

‘St. Thomas embraced such a comprehensive account of Christian and philosophical thought that it is worth considering his understanding of the implication of the delayed ensoulment of a human being; he said: ‘foetuses are animal before they are human ... [but] nature, in producing the animal foetus, is aiming at producing a man’[56].

What is more, the philosophical biology on which St. Thomas based his three phase conception of human being was Aristotelian in that Aristotle held that matter was eternal and that, therefore, form (which determines what first matter will be) was always necessary to differentiate the matter that eternally existed into its various kinds; and, as it was held that human conception was not developed enough to receive a human soul, so it was understood that there was a three phase ensoulment: plant; animal; and then rational ensoulment[57]. But, all the while, St. Thomas held the sophisticated view that nature, nevertheless, ‘is aiming at producing a man’; and that, therefore, even modern embryology confirms the view that the fruit of spousal union, ordinarily, in fact and from conception intends a man or a woman.

What seems to be much less well known, is that St. Thomas Aquinas also argued that the conception of Christ was immediate: ‘conception of the body [does not precede] ... animation by a human soul ... in Christ’[58]; and, indeed, it is this understanding, explicit in St. Maximus the Confessor, which advances the view that what happened to Christ, notwithstanding the virginal conception, is what happens to us. ‘Fr. John Saward, drawing on St. Maximus the Confessor, says: ‘Apart from the saving novelty of its virginal manner, the conception of Christ is in all respects like ours’[59]. In other words, while there is an argument from St. Thomas concerning the delayed animation of a being from conception by a rational soul – there is a more important argument that Tradition has taken up, namely, that human conception follows, however imperfectly, the conception of Christ: that just as Christ was one in body and soul from conception so we are one in body and soul from conception.

The Contribution of Revelation and Dogma

Drawing ‘on St. Maximus, Fr. Saward says that ‘if the embryo immediately after fertilization is endowed with only a vegetative soul, then men father plants, not men. But in fact the act of fertilization establishes a human-to-human relationship between father and child; I am conceived by my father’’[60]. Alternatively, what is the living human life which has begun: Is it not an actual human life with the potential of manifesting the whole presence of the human person? Within the very tradition of the Church, then, there is the unique conception of Christ drawing us ever closer to the truth of human conception, one in body and soul from the first instant of human existence; and, in addition, there are scriptural and other dogmatic resources to be drawn upon to elucidate the mystery of human conception. Indeed, notwithstanding the different accounts of human conception and their authors’ purposes[61], there is a sense that who is conceived is conceived as a whole; as David says:

‘Thy eyes beheld my unformed substance; in thy book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them’ Psalm 139: 16; and, indeed, the very unique Hebrew word, golmi, communicates an incredible summary sense of ‘an unfinished vessel’ which is inescapably personal: my unfinished vessel[62].

At the same time there is the mystery of Mary, the Mother of the Lord which has, in the last century, come into great and greater prominence for a variety of reasons but, in truth, to assist us in a timely and providential understanding of both the mystery of the Church, the mystery of salvation in Christ and the mystery of each one of us. This great untapped mystery offers us a singular glance at the moment of human conception, primarily so that we can understand that Christ inherits human flesh free from original sin – but nevertheless it does so in such a way as to illuminate the moment characteristic of human conception:

‘If grace requires the presence of the human soul, then for grace to be effective in the flesh, as it were, as well, then body and soul need to be united. Thus the mystery of the Immaculate Conception implies that Mary is one in body and soul (Gaudium et Spes, 14) at the instant of their reciprocally coming to exist; indeed, as it says simply in Lumen Gentium: ‘Enriched from the first instant of her conception with the splendor of an entirely unique holiness, the virgin of Nazareth is hailed by the heralding angel, by divine command, as “full of grace” (cf. Lk. 1: 28 …)’ (56). In other words, while the Church does not explain the ‘first instant of conception’ – the ultimate ‘first instant’ is the first instant that the sperm animates the egg and the embryo expresses this through the formation of the embryonic wall’[63].

In a word, then, just as St. Thomas Aquinas argued that we need the help of Revelation to aid our understanding of whether or not there was a beginning to creation so we need the help of Revelation to determine the truth concerning human conception: a truth which confirms and expresses the common understanding of personal experience.

A Variety of Bioethical Declarations

Controversies, as we know, have raged and will continue to rage down the centuries of human history; but, in contrast, we have a number of helps. The Hippocratic Oath states: ‘I will not give a woman a pessary to procure abortion’[64]. The Nuremburg Code says: ‘No experiment should be conducted where there is an a priori reason to believe that death or disabling injury will occur’[65]. The Belmont Report says: ‘persons with diminished autonomy are entitled to protection’[66]. Indeed there are any number of wonderful declarations that seek to draw the truth from human experience, rectify wrongs and establish a way forward for us all; and, indeed, as it has been discussed, it involves the use of technical terminology which, however, has an understandable significance: the reality that each one of us begins: a beginning which entails an inviolability which requires recognition and, where appropriate, the remedies of medical help which are possible and applicable for the benefit of each human subject, whether embryonic or adult.

In a word, however, there is an ongoing necessity that there be an explicit recognition of what constitutes both the historical truth of what was intended by specific national legislation and its updating according to a more explicit understanding of a relevant reality, such as human conception; but, also, we are in a new human context that requires a renewed understanding that even specific, national laws, exist in the context of universal truths and rights and that, in the end, these are a part of what will fashion the future for all of us.

Thus, it seems, we are already beginning to see the articulation of principles which are capable of being the basis of national and, possibly, international law: ‘it is clear that the principle of respect for human dignity, due to its non-negotiable character and overarching scope, will always play a crucial role in every decision concerning biomedical practice’[67].

Gravitating to a Consensus

Without a beginning there cannot be development and without development there cannot be a precise perception of what began; but, on the basis of what unfolds from a beginning, so what began from that beginning is made manifest. In the words of Pope Francis, collaboratively expressed with the Grand Imam Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, ‘“In the name of innocent human life that God has forbidden to kill, affirming that whoever kills a person is like one who kills the whole of humanity, and that whoever saves a person is like one who saves the whole of humanity …’[68].

How true this is turning out to be when whole countries permit the destruction of the unborn, not to mention international organisations which promote abortion, pharmaceutical and IVF companies which have no regard for the growing recognition of the truth that human life begins at the first instant of conception and that each person has a right to an integrally human identity and his or her completing human development.

By contrast, however, there is a growing international recognition of these human rights which are beginning to be reflected in what is called the “Geneva Consensus Declaration”: the Center for Family and Human Rights ‘has worked for 24 years toward the declaration made by the Trump administration today together with a coalition of 32 UN Member States. There is no international right to abortion. There is no international obligation to fund abortion. The United Nations has no business interfering in sovereign decisions when it comes to protecting life in the womb’ (October 22, 2020)[69].

This is not a naïve proposal – but would clearly require patient, persistent and prudent international cooperation[70]. As Roberto Andorno has said: ‘Global challenges raised by biomedical advances require global responses’[71].

Conclusion: Lest We Forget Mother, Child and Father

There will no doubt be ongoing controversies about the natural right of members of the human race to be conceived free of animal-human hybrid experiments[72] and the right to integral, completing human development: so that once a child is conceived he or she can be protected from exploitation and even rescued from the frustration of being frozen. and, finally, there is the whole field of experimentation on embryonic human beings and the vested interests of investigators, multi-nationals, harvesting of organs and a whole, almost unimaginable world of exploiting the human being as a “resource” – for this human being is our brother or sister.

We stand, then, at a point in human history where it is not so much a question of personal choice determining anything and everything as choosing the truth, as it becomes more fully known concerning human conception, that will take us into a humane future of the human race or the future of the human race will be determined by the most powerful and prevailing vested interests that will determine, on utilitarian grounds, whose future it will be to be a resource for the rest of the human race. If there are documents explaining the ethical relationship to one another, because of our equality as human beings[73] and the tragic events of our times, then how much more necessary is a revisiting of these foundational expressions in the light, or flickering light, of the times in which we currently live.

In the end, then, this is not an abstract discussion although, at times, it takes us into the most difficult philosophical terminology there is, the most amazing and detailed analyses of embryology and the most intense and controversial social disagreements in modern times; it is a discussion about specific people, whether born or unborn: it is about who has received the gift of human life is simply equal to anyone else who has received the gift of life. Thus no one is excluded from the world discussion of what we, as human beings, are bringing about in the present ethical climate of the human race.

As we emerge, then, from our national identities and increasingly recognize that abstract truths about human personhood, that to be a human person is to be a human being-in-relation, need “returning” as it were to the concrete reality from which they came – we will appreciate more and more that parent and child, brother and sister, aunt and uncle communicate the profoundly interpersonal structure of human identity.

There is a mother who needs help[74]. There is a child who needs help. There is a father who needs help to understand his fatherhood[75]. And there is a world of people with vested interests who need help to appreciate that all human beings are a gift, equally given into the care of each of us; and, therefore, that whatever the good intended, there is an obligation on everyone to understand that there is an objective good for each and every one of us, without exception, otherwise there is an actual inequality between us. And if there is an actual inequality between us, as regards who is a human being, then there is the increasing possibility of an exponential increase in the exploitation of all of us; for human rights, in the end, are the rights of relationship: the rights of relationship which come into existence when human beings are conceived – conceived in relationship to the whole human race and to God.

Just, then, as a plant exists in an ecological context and what is done to it, for better or worse as regards the health of the individual plant and its place in the ethico-eco-system, so what is done to individual human beings impacts, for better or worse, on the “ethical” whole of the integrity of the human community. But, ‘Conscious’ as we are of our ‘limitations’, we ask ‘for constant prayer and intercession for’ our ‘efforts to translate the sacred texts “in the same Spirit by whom they were written”’[76]; and, therefore, we need and ask for the same help to read both the book of nature and all that helps us to recognize what is universally good, true and applicable to all. Thus, in a spirit of universal fraternity, any progress in the Church’s teaching on conception can only complement any development in the natural understanding of it; and, in that same spirit, one source can complement another while being very different from it. Thus, in the end, there is the progress of the hope that international agreements and laws will not only help the plight of people in the present but will lead to the protection of our common humanity; indeed, is it time that the “human race” becomes the “subject” of human rights and international agreements and, ultimately, international bioethical law?

[1] Footnote 5 in the document is:  cf. First Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith, Chap. 4, "On Faith and Reason:" Denzinger 1800 (3020); from: 
  [2] Cf. Pope Francis, Fratelli Tutti, articles 226-227 : 
  [3] “Mass Production of Human “Embryoid” Cells from Developmentally Frozen Embryos: Is it Ethical?”: 
  [4] Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith:
  [5] The definition of neighbour was provided by Mr. Martin Higgins, MA, an Eastern European Linguist.
  [7] Evangelium Vitae: 
  [8] Donum Vitae: 
  [9] Humanae Vitae, 13: 
  [10] Evangelium Vitae: 
  [11] Excerpt from Francis Etheredge, The Human Person: A Bioethical Word, p. 369, St. Louis: En Route Books and Media, 2017.
  [12] Roe v Wade: 
  [13] ‘With respect to the State's important and legitimate interest in potential life, the "compelling" point is at viability. This is so because the fetus then presumably has the capability of meaningful life outside the mother's womb. State regulation protective of fetal life after viability thus has both logical and biological justifications’: p. 163 of ROE v. WADE Syllabus ROE ET AL. v. WADE, DISTRICT ATTORNEY OF DALLAS COUNTY APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS No. 70-18. Argued December 13, 1971-Reargued October 11, 1972-Decided January 22, 1973. Pp. 113-178:
  [14] Cf. Profs. Justo Aznar and Julio Tudela: Chapter 5: Part II of Conception: An Icon of the Beginning, for a biological account of the human identity of the human embryo.
  [17] My perception of this point was sharpened by my daughter, Grace Etheredge’s, reading of a draft of this article; and, in addition, the recognition that there will be a legal tradition defining the term ‘person’. But, at the same time, it must be understood, too, that meaning is never confined to one expression of it and, therefore, there are wider considerations that are needed to help us to understand the use of any specific, legal terminology.
  [18] See: “9 Things You Should Know About Supreme Court Nominee Amy Coney Barrett”,
 SEPTEMBER 28, 2020, by Joe CARTER:
 5. In her judicial philosophy, Judge Barrett is considered a proponent of originalism, a manner of interpreting the Constitution that begins with the text and attempts to give that text the meaning it had when it was adopted, and textualism, a method of statutory interpretation that relies on the plain text of a statute to determine its meaning.
  [19] ‘Form’ is here understood as that which determines the pure potentiality of ‘first matter’ to be a specific entity e.g. plant, animal or rational being.
  [20] Cf. Etheredge, Scripture: A Unique Word, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014.
  [21] Joe Carter: 5th of “9 Things You Should Know About Supreme Court Nominee Amy Coney Barrett”.
  [22] Dr. Elizabeth Rex, “End Word”, p. 607 of Conception: An Icon of the Beginning.
  [23] See this theme developed throughout Conception: An Icon of the Beginning.
  [24] Whether it be the abolition of slavery (Rex, “End Word” p. 607 of Conception: An Icon of the Beginning), the mistreatment of people suffering from syphilis (cf. Etheredge, The Human Person: A Bioethical Word, “General Foreword” by Dr. Mary Anne Urlakis, pp. 13-16) or the manipulation of ignorance which led to such tragic experiments on women in the trials of contraceptive pills (Etheredge, footnotes 780-781 on pp. 583-584 of Conception: An Icon of the Beginning.
  [25] Pp. 597-598 of Conception: An Icon of the Beginning, Elizabeth Rex’s “End Word”.
  [26] Cf. the “List of 14th Amendment Cases”:; but, as one can see, there are many more cases that need to be considered as falling under this Amendment: 
  [27] Cf. For example, a concise summary of the point in question raised and explained by Dr. Francis Clark, SJ, in Anglican Orders and Defect of Intention. By Francis Clark, S.J. Pp. xx + 215. London: Longmans, Green, 1956. 25s.
 A. R. Vidler (a1) 
  [28] Cf. Christian Myers, “Law Professor Reflects on Landmark Case”: ‘Barrett also outlined the history of the Roe v. Wade decision and associated cases in the Supreme Court.
 At the time of the case, most states prohibited abortion, except in cases wherein it protected the life of the mother, she said’:; and, more generally, the article by Steven Mosher: “How Amy Coney Barrett will use science and legal principles to overturn Roe v. Wade”: 
  [29] Pp. 174-175 of pp. 113-178: ROE v. WADE Syllabus ROE ET AL. v. WADE, DISTRICT ATTORNEY OF DALLAS COUNTY APPEAL FROM THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT FOR THE NORTHERN DISTRICT OF TEXAS No. 70-18. Argued December 13, 1971-Reargued October 11, 1972-Decided January 22, 1973: the precise law was included in the text but here is in this footnote: ‘Conn. Stat., Tit. 22, §§ 14, 16.’
  [30] P. 177 of pp. 113-178 of ROE v. WADE Syllabus ROE ET AL. v. WADE etc.
  [31] Christine Rousselle, “Trump announces 'Born Alive' executive order for abortion survivors”:  
  [32] There are various possible references for this discussion, around pages 140-160 of 113-178 of ROE v. WADE Syllabus ROE ET AL. v. WADE etc.
  [33] Why is this kind of evidence not taken into account? See:; indeed, it is increasingly recognized that the father, as well as other members of the family, are suffering too (cf. also: 
  [34] Cf. “Post Abortion Syndrome”:
  [35] Cf. “Risks about Abortion”: 
  [36] ‘In fact, it is not clear to us that the claim asserted by some amici that one has an unlimited right to do with one's body as one pleases bears a close relationship to the right of privacy previously articulated in the Court's decisions. The Court has refused to recognize an unlimited right of this kind in the past’: p. 154 of 113-178 of ROE v. WADE Syllabus ROE ET AL. v. WADE etc. Where is the proof that carrying a child falls under the terms of the following?: a ‘right to do with one’s body as one pleases’.
  [37] From Ed Whelan, “Judge Barrett on Stare Decisis”: 
  [38] MICAIAH BILGER: Amy Barrett Believes Life Begins at Conception, Questions Roe’s “Judicial Fiat” of “Abortion on Demand”:
  [39] Cf. “Principles of international biolaw: Seeking common ground at the intersection of bioethics and human rights”: Roberto Adorno, Bruylant, 2013: “Chapter 1: Principles of International Biomedical law”, pp. 13-35: 
  [40] Cf. Etheredge, The Human Person: A Bioethical Word, St. Louis: En Route Books and Media, 2017: pp. 61-62.
  [41] This was put more formally in the article, Francis Etheredge, “The Mysterious Instant of Conception”: The National Catholic Bioethical Quarterly, Autumn 2012:$FILE/ncbq_2012_0012_0003_0041_0050.pdf.
  [42] Cf. Etheredge, The Prayerful Kiss, St. Louis: En Route Books and Media, 2019: the poem and prose entitled “Indelible”: an account of the loss of a child to abortion from the experience of a father.
  [43] Cf. Etheredge, Mary and Bioethics: An Exploration, St. Louis: En Route Books and Media, 2020, See Leah Palmer’s “Foreword to Chapter Seven” pp. 223-228 and Chapter Seven: “Love, Scripture, Suffering and Bioethical Questions”, pp. 229-254; and see Adriana Vasquez’s Foreword, pp. 84-91, to Chapter Two: “Marriage is a Liturgical Act” of Etheredge’s The Human Person: A Bioethical Word, 2017.
  [44] Cf. Etheredge, Conception: An Icon of the Beginning: the following is a profound analysis of the evidence by Profs. Justo Aznar Lucea and Julio Tudela: Chapter 5: Part II: “The Biological Status of the Early Human Embryo, When Does the Human Being Begin?”, pp. 480-507.
  [45] Cf. Etheredge, Conception: An Icon of the Beginning, for Scriptural citations under the heading: Chapter Two: “The woman’s perception of conception: Part V of XII”, pp. 158-162 and drawing further on Job up to p. 166.
  [46] Dr. Elizabeth Rex, “End Word” on p. 596 of Etheredge, Conception: An Icon of the Beginning.
  [47] Dr. Elizabeth Rex, “End Word”: ‘1998 – Hannah Strege, the world’s first adopted frozen embryo is born in San   Diego, California on December 31, 1998’ on p. 599 of Etheredge, Conception: An Icon of the Beginning.
  [48] Cf. Pp. 160-161 of pp. 113-178 of ROE v. WADE Syllabus ROE ET AL. v. WADE etc.
  [49] Dr. Elizabeth Rex: “End Word”: ‘1973 – On January 22, the U.S. Supreme Court legalizes abortion in Roe v. Wade. The majority decision uses 13th century theology and science to support their erroneous decision about when human life begins, stating: “Christian theology and canon law came to fix the point of animation at 40 days for a male and 80 days for a female, a view that persisted until the 19th century…. Due to continued uncertainty about the precise time when animation occurred, to the lack of any empirical basis for the 40-80 day view, and perhaps to Aquinas’ definition of movement” (footnote 807: Roe v. Wade, 410 U.S. 113 (1973) IV.3, with emphasis and italics added) on p. 611 of Etheredge, Conception: An Icon of the Beginning.
  [50] P. 159 of 113-178 of ROE v. WADE Syllabus ROE ET AL. v. WADE etc.
  [51] P. 161 of 113-178 of ROE v. WADE Syllabus ROE ET AL. v. WADE etc.
  [52] P. 161 of 113-178 of ROE v. WADE Syllabus ROE ET AL. v. WADE etc.
  [53] It is necessary to note that even the Warnock Report recognized that there is a seamless process of development: ‘there is no particular part of the developmental process that is more important than another; all are part of a continuous process’ (Department of Health and Social Security [UK], Report of the Committee of Inquiry into Human Fertilisation and Embryology  (London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, July 1984), para. 11.19, quoted in Catholic Bishops’ Joint Committee on Bio-ethical Issues, Response to the Warnock Report on Human Fertilization and Embryology (London: Catholic Media Offices, 1984), 13. In response, the Catholic Bishops of Great Britain said that ‘our society should resolve to protect the life of the human embryo precisely from the beginning of its continuous development, ie, from conception (fertilization)’ (Catholic Bishops’ Committee, Response to the Warnock Report, 13). In other words, the very truth of the seamless process of development requires the welcome of each human life from conception. 
  [54] Etheredge, The Human Person: A Bioethical Word, p. 311.
  [55] P. 159 of 113-178 of ROE v. WADE Syllabus ROE ET AL. v. WADE etc.
  [56] Summa Theologiae, Methuen, Pt I, Qu 85, art 4, p. 136; but quoted from Etheredge, Conception: An Icon of the Beginning, p. 237.
  [57] For a more comprehensive discussion of this go to Etheredge, Scripture: A Unique Word, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014, pp. 303-306.
  [58] Summa Theologiae, Methuen, Pt III, Qu 5, art 5, p. 484, footnote 239 of p. 233 of Etheredge, Conception: An Icon of the Beginning.
  [59] In footnote 249 of Conception: An Icon of the Beginning: Redeemer in the Womb, Ignatius Press: San Francisco, 1993, p. 12, but see also pp. 8-13.
  [60] Etheredge: Conception: An Icon of the Beginning, p. 221, quoting from Redeemer in the Womb, Ignatius Press: San Francisco, 1993: p. 10, drawing on the Ambigua 2, 42; 1337B-1340B.
  [61] In Genesis, for example, there is a very different account to the creation of human being, male and female, to that expressed elsewhere and yet its very difference is open to interpretive explorations, albeit not contradicting natural truths (according to St. Augustine); see “Chapter Two: Scripture and the Beginning of Human Being”, Conception: An Icon of the Beginning.
  [62] Cf. pp. 190-200 of Conception: An Icon of the Beginning.
  [63] Etheredge, Mary and Bioethics: An Exploration, p. 166; and the footnote to this quotation goes to Etheredge, Chapter 12, Scripture: A Unique Word, in which the intricate evidence for these claims is discussed.
  [64] Courtesy of Dr. Mary Anne Urlakis, p. 21 of The Human Person: A Bioethics Word.
  [67] “Principles of international biolaw: Seeking common ground at the intersection of bioethics and human rights”: Roberto Andorno, Bruylant, 2013: “Chapter 1: Principles of International Biomedical law”, p. 19 of pp. 13-35: 
  [68] Pope Francis, Fratelli Tutti: In Conception: An Icon of the Beginning, there is Muslim scholar who holds the view of human life from conception, p. 575: ‘Germany, however, has gone before the world and enacted the following, 1991 legislation: “Act for the Protection of Embryos” (The Embryo Protection Act). This “word” of law, as it were, has become a world-wide teacher and a noted Muslim bioethicist commented, approvingly, on the German law: Hassan Hathut (1924-2009) ‘referred to Germany, which banned all use of human embryos in biomedical research. As for the surplus of fertilized ova in the IVF processes, the law even banned initiating such a surplus …. Hathut concluded that this law goes in line with Islamic ethics (Hathut 1994, 175)’ (citation on the Muslim scholar from: ‘“Islam, Paternity, and the Beginning of Life”: “The Beginning of Human Life: Islamic Bioethical Perspectives” with Mohammed Ghaly, (Zygon: Journal of Religion and Science, vol. 47, No. 1, (March 2012), pp. 175-213:, p. 207.’
  [69] First paragraph of “Statement of Austin Ruse, President of C-Fam, on the signing of the Geneva Consensus Declaration” (October 22, 2020):; cf. also: Austin Ruse, 23 October, 2020, “Governments Launch Pro-Life Declaration at United Nations
  [70] A relevant essay by Teresa Etheredge, and an article by Grace Etheredge, have helped me to think through these questions: Teresa Etheredge: “Why is the criminological imagination important to the future of criminology? Describe a current issue in criminal justice and explain how the criminological imagination could help us to understand it”; and Grace Etheredge: “The impact of public international law on UK courts”.
  [71] “Biomedicine and international human rights law: in search of a global consensus”: “Abstract”: p. 960 of the “Bulletin of the World Health Organization 2002, 80 (12)”.
  [72] In a brief correspondence with Roberto Andorno, he said: ‘But I don't think that human rights can really help to address the kind of issues that you mention (for instance, a right not to be conceived as a genetically modified human being) because human beings who do not exist yet -who have not even been conceived yet- cannot have any human rights...

 We need some other legal-conceptual tools that relate, not to so much to existing individuals, but to the integrity of future generations, and the "human condition" in general’ ( Thus this raises the question of not just the future of the human race – but the human race as the real and substantial “subject” of human rights.
  [73] Cf. Chapter 5: Part II, a masterful review of the biological evidence concerning conception written by Profs. Justo Aznar Lucea and Julio Tudela in Conception: An Icon of the Beginning.
  [74] Myers, “Law Professor Reflects on Landmark Case”: 
  [75] Cf. Etheredge, The Prayerful Kiss, particularly: “Indelible”.
  [76] Pope Francis, SCRIPTURAE SACRAE AFFECTUS, commemorating the life and work of St. Jerome, citing Praefatio in Pentateuchum: PL 28, 184’: 

bottom of page