Does Human Life Begin at Conception or Fertilization?

by Ken Ham on May 5, 2023
Featured in Ken Ham Blog

Does human life begin at conception or fertilization? At Answers in Genesis and the Creation Museum, we make sure we now say human life begins at fertilization. We don’t use the word conception as we have done in the past when discussing the issue of abortion. Why?

Many people may not realize this, but the highly respected Stedman’s Medical Dictionary caved to societal pressures and changed the definition of conception. Why did they change the definition? Before we discuss the why, let’s look at the actual change that occurred. In the 26th edition, published in 1995, conception is defined as taking place at the moment of fertilization (when the egg and sperm come together).

In the 27th edition, published in 2000, that definition was changed and now conception is connected to the end of the implantation process—which can be up to two weeks after fertilization! These are radically different definitions of conception. Why? Well, there was enormous pressure to allow what are really abortifacient drugs to be readily available to “prevent pregnancy”—but these “emergency contraceptive” pills don’t stop fertilization (what used to be called “conception”) from occurring. They stop a fertilized egg (a human being) from implanting in the womb (thus they kill a baby—a human being made in the image of God). But if the definition of conception is changed, the drugs can say they “prevent conception,” when really, what they prevent is implantation of a living being.

Consider what Planned Parenthood, one of the biggest child-killing machines in the world, states,

But emergency contraception can stop pregnancy from happening in the first place – so you use it soon after sex but before you get pregnant.

With this clever sleight-of-hand modified definition, people can justify “guilt-free” abortions by redefining the words involved.

They define “pregnant” as when a fertilized egg is implanted in the womb. But that ignores the fact that a unique person exists from the moment of fertilization. With this clever sleight-of-hand modified definition, people can justify “guilt-free” abortions by redefining the words involved.

In an article on our website, we state,

The move to redefine conception actually started in 1959 when Dr. Bent Boving at a Planned Parenthood symposium pointed out “the social advantage of [implantation preventatives] being considered to prevent conception rather than to destroy an established pregnancy.”

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists followed Boving’s advice in 1965 by adopting this definition: “conception is the implantation of an ovum.” Since fertilization cannot be detected until the time of implantation—when the physical connection to the mother’s body allows a hormone from the developing placenta to enter the mother’s bloodstream—the reasoning was that the beginning of pregnancy could be redefined to the time when we can medically detect it. This reasoning is tantamount to asking whether a man alone on a desert island really exists if no one knows he’s there. Such reasoning amounts to philosophical meandering, not science.

Thus those who cling to the idea that pregnancy begins at conception have been gradually derailed. And with the widespread adoption of these “socially advantageous” definitions having no genuine basis in science much less in biblical morality, people who wish to prescribe or take “emergency contraceptives” need no longer be afraid they might cause an abortion because now no pregnancy actually exists—even if it does.

Dr. Donna Harrison, president of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, testified against approval, telling the FDA that “ulipristal worked as an abortifacient.” She has declared in a letter to members that the labeling of this drug is “deceptive and dangerous to women and their newly conceived baby.” She asserts that the FDA is “deliberately misleading women by mislabeling ella [the European name for the drug] only as contraception and not as an abortifacient.” We applaud her stand for the truth.

Semantics don’t change truth. The FDA’s recent decision continues to reinforce the worldview that a baby’s life hasn’t even started until man says it has. But God created human life. He therefore gets to set the rules. And no matter how many times man redefines human life, God’s truth doesn’t change. The Bible should be the foundation for our thinking in every area.

Yes, changing definitions is sinful man doing all he can to allow people to freely murder as many children as possible from fertilization on. Let’s make sure we say human life begins at fertilization and don’t use the word conception in regard to this matter.

Part of our Fearfully and Wonderfully Made exhibit at the Creation Museum deals with this change in definitions.

  • Stedman’s Medical Dictionary 26th edition definition of conception

    Definition of conception per Stedman’s Medical Dictionary, 26th edition: “Act of conceiving, or becoming pregnant; fertilization of the oocyte (ovum) by a spermatozoon to form a viable zygote.”

  • Stedman’s Medical Dictionary 27th edition definition of conception

    Definition of conception per Stedman’s Medical Dictionary, 27th edition: “Act of conceiving; the implantation of the blastocyte in the endometrium.”

  • Science caves sign at the Fearfully and Wonderfully Made exhibit at the Creation Museum
  • Conception definition exhibit at the Fearfully and Wonderfully made exhibit at the Creation Museum

This beautiful exhibit really is the most powerful pro-life exhibit in the world. Come and see it for yourself! (And, as an aside, I encourage you to plan a visit for May 13, 2023—the Saturday before Mother’s Day. All mothers—including those whose child hasn’t been born—enjoy free admission to the Creation Museum as well as the Ark Encounter on this day. And all kids 10 and under are free, so it’s a great day to visit!).

Fearfully and Wonderfully Made Exhibit

Thanks for stopping by and thanks for praying,

This item was written with the assistance of AiG’s research team.

Ken Ham’s Daily Email

Email me with Ken’s daily email:

Privacy Policy

This site is protected by reCAPTCHA, and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.

Answers in Genesis is an apologetics ministry, dedicated to helping Christians defend their faith and proclaim the good news of Jesus Christ.

Learn more

  • Customer Service 800.778.3390