Is the beginning of life or the beginning of personhood the key issue in the abortion debate? Pro-choice advocates who opt for the former often say no one really knows when human life begins. That is a religious, philosophical or metaphysical question. But if the beginning of life is the key, and it is impossible to know when it begins, then when and whether to abort are decisions between the mother and her physician. It is a widely held Christian conviction is that embryonic life is indeed sacred—that personhood begins at the moment of fertilization.
Those who argue that “viability” is the point where babies should get rights of protection know that a baby’s living without an umbilical cord is not the criterion of human personhood and the condition of the right to life. They all acknowledge this because their own living on a respirator or dialysis machine would not jeopardize our own personhood. The source of food and oxygen does not determine personhood. They know that the size of a human is irrelevant to human personhood. They know this because they do not make a one-month-old postborn baby vulnerable to killing even though it is so much smaller than a five-year-old. Yet they act as if the littleness of the embryo makes it less human.
Adam and Eve were created in God’s image to be equal in personhood but distinct in gender (Gen. 1:26–27; 5:1–2). The phrase “a helper who is like him” (Gen. 2:18), conveys equality and compatibility on the one hand but also indicates a functional distinction that was part of creation. We know from the Bible that God has emotions, values, chooses, appreciates beauty, demonstrates creativity, makes distinctions between right and wrong, loves and even sacrifices Himself for the sake of others. We know from the Bible that God is a Person, with identity and individuality.
These attributes constituting personhood mark humanity from the rest of creation. In fact, all those elements of good which are found in man must have their source in likeness to the Divine.
According to Psalm 139:13–18 God has His eye on us before we are born. These verses avow that personhood does exist from the moment of conception. The psalmist affirms God’s knowledge of his life from the pre-embryonic stage through death. The Lord weaves and knits together our beings in the wombs of our mothers (v. 13; see Gen. 9, Sanctity of Life; Jer. 1, Abortion). We are in a real sense “prescription babies” in that God has a custom design for every individual, equipping each for specific achievement and purpose (see Is. 43:7, 21; Rom. 9:20; 1 Thess. 1:4). Even the greatest tragedies can be overruled or transformed to good within the providence of God (Rom. 8:28). We praise God for the wonderful way in which He fashioned our bodies, our minds, and our spirits. We marvel at the magnitude of His thoughts (vv. 17, 18). We are grateful that He never finishes His edification process (Eph. 2:10; 1 Pet. 5:10). Even our worst negative traits can be transformed into positive qualities (Rom. 12:2).
The defining, or lack thereof, of personhood has dramatic and far-reaching implications. Unfortunately, many who use the same language, have very different meanings for the same basic words.
 John S. Feinberg and Paul D. Feinberg, Ethics for a Brave New World (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1993), 57.
 Gary Stewart, Basic Questions on Sexuality and Reproductive Technology: When Is It Right to Intervene?, BioBasics Series (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1998), 24.
 John Piper, Brothers, We Are Not Professionals: A Plea to Pastors for Radical Ministry (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2002), 216-17.
 Paul H. Wright, "Gender Equality" In , in Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, ed. Chad Brand, Charles Draper, Archie England et al. (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 632.
 Larry Richards and Lawrence O. Richards, The Teacher’s Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1987), 28.
 Inc Thomas Nelson, The Woman’s Study Bible (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995), Ps 139:13.
Billy Crow, Christ follower, husband of Meggin, daddy of Hannah and Eli. Blessed beyond measure in every way.