I've been digging a little since dinner. By all appearances, the experts in human development before birth consider human life starts well before birth. The US Congress and the Big O also imply it, because they banned federal embryonic research.
During each fiscal year from 1995 to 1999: the US Congress has passed appropriation bills which totally banned all federal government funding of human embryo research. The ban continues as of mid-1999. For example, the 1996/7 appropriation act which funds the NIH included the amendment:
"No federal research funds may be used for the creation of a human embryo for research purposes or for research in which a human embryo is destroyed, discarded or subjected to more than minimal risk." 4
The National Institutes of Health interpreted the 1998/9 appropriation act as follows:
"Section 513 reinstates the current ban that prohibits NIH from using appropriated funds to support human embryo research. Grant, cooperative agreement and contract funds may not be used for:
1. the creation of a human embryo or embryos for research purposes; or
2. research in which a human embryo or embryos are destroyed, discarded, or knowingly subjected to risk of injury or death greater than that allowed for research on fetuses in utero under...the Public Health Service Act." 5
Why would they do that for a mushroom?
The most prominent medical dictionary around implies that a human zygote is nothing else than a human zygote:
“The development of a human being begins with fertilization, a process by which the spermatozoon from the male and the oocyte from the female unite to give rise to a new organism, the zygote.” — Langman’s Medical Embryology, 7th edition, 1995
For people who advocate the killing of embryonic human beings in the cause of biomedical research, the Holy Grail is an argument that would definitively establish that the human embryo, at least early in its development, is not a living human organism and therefore not a human being at all. The problem for these advocates is that all the scientific evidence points in precisely the opposite direction. Modern human embryology and developmental biology have shown that fertilization produces a new and distinct organism: a living individual of the human species in the embryonic stage of his or her development.
Some proponents of embryo-destructive research are willing to face up to these biological facts. They concede that human embryos are living individuals of the human species, but deny that this gives them the moral status of being persons. According to this argument, not all human beings are equal; not all possess inherent dignity and a right to life. Some, including those at early developmental stages, are not (or are not yet) “persons,” and they may therefore (at least in some circumstances, or in the pursuit of some goals) legitimately be killed.
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But are human embryos human beings?Quote has been trimmed
Indeed they are, and contemporary human embryology and developmental biology leave no significant room for doubt about it. The adult human being reading these words was, at an earlier stage of his or her life, an adolescent, and before that an infant. At still earlier stages he or she was a fetus and before that an embryo. In the infant, fetal, and embryonic stages, each of us was then what we are now, namely, a whole living member of the species Homo sapiens. Each of us developed by a gradual, unified, and self-directed process from the embryonic into and through the fetal, infant, child, and adolescent stages of human development, and into adulthood, with his or her determinateness, unity, and identity fully intact. Although none of us was ever a sperm cell or an ovum—the sperm and ovum from whose union we emerged were genetically and functionally parts of other human beings—each of us was once an embryo, just as we were once infants, children, and adolescents. In referring to “the embryo,” then, we are referring not to something distinct from the human being that each of us is, but rather to a certain stage in the development of each human being—like saying “the teenager” or “the five-year old.”
- Robert P. George is the McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence at Princeton University and a member of the President’s Council on Bioethics. Patrick Lee is professor of philosophy at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. The New Atlantis » Acorns and Embryos (external - login to view)
Human embryos are defined as human organisms derived by fertilization from 1 or more gametes or diploid cells.
- Human Embryo Research -- Committee on Pediatric Research and Committee on Bioethics 108 (3): 813 -- AAP Policy (external - login to view)
CNSNews.com - Obama Signs Law Banning Federal Embryo Research Two Days After Signing Executive Order to OK It (external - login to view)