More on Conception

Paul A. Byrne
June 23, 2008
Reproduced with Permission

It appears as though Professor Dianne Irving did not read my entire article. Words, like conception, have definition and meaning. The roots of words never change, no matter how distorted.

A true physician always is defined in relationship to the patient. A veterinarian is defined by beast and brutes. The embryologist is defined by a time period from the zygote to the fetus (8 weeks). The patient is a person. The person is an individual substance of a nature rational. Human life on earth is the substantial fact of the unity of soul and body. The formation of the body at the instant of conception manifests the person created by God. "The body, and it alone, is capable of making visible what is invisible: the spiritual and the divine."1 Within the body of the mother, conception occurs and can be known to have occurred when the conceptus, (the baby at the one cell stage), is referred to as the zygote. When the conceptus is present within the body of his/her mother, we can know that the person is present. The hereditary characteristics of the mother and the father are contained in the sperm and egg and passed on to their children. In the zygote, the new person's genetic material is now present. This new person is unique and unrepeatable. Through this knowledge we know that the true beginning of life on earth of this newly created human being has occurred at the instant conception takes place. The person is created from nothing in the Image and Likeness of God. The physician has the privilege of protecting and preserving the life of every person from its conception to its natural end. Much of the rest is in my article. I hope those interested in this important dialogue read my entire article, not only Prof Irving's response.

Certainly twins, triplets and quadruplets are persons (and Louise Brown also). Recently I had the privilege of participating in the delivery and treatment of quadruplets. We can know that each of them is and has been a person since their conception. To infer anything that their origin is different from the origin of every other person is ridiculous and a play on words that is unfair to every twin, triplet, quadruplet, etc. And to the rest of us!

Professor Irving referred to Wilhelm His (1880-1885). She states, "It has been known for a hundred years that the beginning of fertilization is the beginning of sexually reproduced human beings." This helps to explain why Professor Irving is not on the same page that I am. A human being is not reproduced, much less to identify the beginning of a person exactly at the point of the "beginning of fertilization" is simply making a statement, as specific as it is, that might or might not have anything to do with the presence of a person.

No argument on this subject would be valid unless we begin with the wonder of creation by God. "Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you" Jeremiah 1:5. "Truly you have formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother's womb" Psalms 139:13.

When I testified against the legalization of abortion in Missouri in 1967, I presented arguments about identification of the person beginning with color of skin and eyes, fingerprints, chromosomes, DNA, etc. It was effective until Roe v Wade in 1973. It was correct to argue that way. The argument is still correct when going in a retrospective manner from the living person we know as ourselves and our friends. However, when going forward, we must begin with creation by God who creates from nothing. The body is formed. Please read my entire article again.

After the term "pre-embryo" was coined and after the misleading of trying to make implantation the beginning of human life, violating the sacred meaning of conception (what was invisible is now visible) is very worrisome. Many began using fertilization, (including myself), to identify the true beginning of human life. Even though well meaning pro-life physicians and scientists succumbed to the influences of higher authorities within the scientific world, 'what is true is always true even if nobody is accepting it, and what is false is always false even if the whole scientific community promotes it as accurate. Therefore, I wish to encourage Prof. Irving to go back to using the correct word, conception. When the conceptus (zygote, embryologic term) is present, then we can know that the person is present. After that Prof Irving and whoever else can do everything to protect and defend the life of the person. And when they say it is a person, I will be right there defending and protecting the life of that person -- with them.

I readily admit that I am greatly influenced by the Incarnation of Christ, His living within the body of His mother, and the Immaculate Conception of Mary. I know the teachings of the Church. I can use my personal knowledge for images of early life of Jesus.

The 24th edition of Steadman's Medical Dictionary states under the word Conception: The act of conceiving, or becoming pregnant; the fertilization of the oocyte (ovum) by a spermatozoon.

"Contraceptive Technology's" 18th edition, funded originally by the Rockefeller Foundation, John's Hopkins and other of the same…admit under the heading" FERTILIZATION AND IMPLANTATION", "A woman is most likely to conceive if fresh sperm are present in the upper reproductive tract when ovulation occurs.

However, if I were to quote The Royal Spanish Academy dictionary, (the most respected dictionary of the Spanish speaking world, 1984 twentieth edition), their definition of the word conception is extremely clear: "Action and effect of conceiving. 2. Par excellence, that of the Virgin Mother of God. 3. Feast that annually the Catholic Church celebrates the dogma of the Immaculate Conception of the Virgin, December 8." This definition would shock the leadership of the medical profession, but as faithful Catholics, we find it perfectly accurate.

To infer and support a recently changed definition, primarily because the leadership of the scientific community has conveniently deemed it important to do so in order to circumvent laws that would have prohibited research by special interest groups, from the true moment of conception to implantation, that is her prerogative, but at the same time, a major scientific blunder. If she wishes to discard the sacred word conception and change it to fertilization to fit and be accepted into the modern/liberal wishes of the secular scientific community, it is up to her and her conscience. It is critical to remember that in the U.S. the Helms (1973) and Hyde (1981) Amendments prohibit the use of taxpayer funds to be used for abortions. However, the recipients of massive federal funding and special interest groups circumvented the mandate by redefining the beginning of life from conception to implantation. This allows the continuation of massive national and international funding of abortifacient birth control methods, morning after pills, post conception experimentation and population control under the guise of "Reproductive Health Programs".

But as Catholics, not pseudoscientists, we must restrain from being absorbed and/or manipulated by special interests of immoral modern research scientists.

There is a reason why Our Lady said to Bernadette: "I am the Immaculate Conception", not the Immaculate Fertilization.

There is a reason why we say in the Apostles Creed: He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, not fertilized by the Holy Spirit.

There is a reason why it is called "in vitro fertilization," not "in vitro conception". Is it because one is Sacred and the other is human manipulation?


1 Pope John Paul II, February 20, 1980 [Back]