Conceiving 'Pregnancy' U.S. Medical Dictionaries And Their Definitions Of 'Conception' And 'Pregnancy'By Chris Gacek Senior Fellow for Regulatory Policy
Given the hyper-politicized nature of the times we live in, it is not surprising that determining when human life begins has become the focus of an intense political struggle. It is a struggle of great importance because many people believe that human life begins at fertilization and that pregnancy follows from that developmental starting point. Many who hold this position work in the medical professions, and they object to using technologies that would destroy such nascent life and abort pregnancies. In effect, these individuals are conscientious objectors to the use of certain birth control technologies.
The validity of their objections rests on the plausibility of the objectors' claims about the beginning of human life, conception, and pregnancy. Given our current state of scientific and medical knowledge, can such claims be held with credibility? That is, can one credibly claim that pregnancy begins at conception which is traditionally defined as occurring at fertilization? It is the purpose of this paper to provide some clarity on this subject by surveying the American medical profession's reference dictionaries to ascertain the range of opinion that exists regarding these questions. The paper will demonstrate that these conscientious objectors' scientific analysis is not only reasonable but that it reflects the predominant worldview presented by the dictionaries and the historical usage they represent.