When does “potential human life” become human life? At what precise point should we treat “that which will become a human being” as a full fledged human being? These questions have plagued humanity for centuries; however, the whole area of inquiry has been a hotbed of debate in recent decades.

          Theoretically, every time a man and woman come together as husband and wife there is the potential for human life. Does that mean that contraception-the intentional prevention of the fertilization of an ovum by a spermatozoon-is in effect the avoidance of human life? If so, how is that ethically different from the destruction of human life? Critics of birth control argue that while it may be different in degree, the final result is the same: a potential human life has been intentionally prevented from developing into an actual human life. Such interference with God’s design is presumptuous and sinful, say the critics.

          Supporters of birth control assert that such decisions come under our assignment to “subdue and rule over” God’s creation. We have the right-and the duty-to limit the world’s population to that which we can manage. Given our present level of development, we can afford to feed only so many children. In other words, we are not prepared to have that many children. The obvious difficulty with this line of defense is that these are the precise arguments made in favor of abortion-or at least very similar.

          Many people assert that human life begins at conception. Others claim that it begins at the implantation of the blastocyst in the uterine lining. In the landmark case of Roe v. Wade the United States Supreme Court ruled that viability ought to be the focal point of the inquiry. Once a fetus is capable of independent life outside the womb it has become “potential human life.” At the point of viability the unborn fetus, while still not a human being for legal purposes, is entitled to receive the protection of the U.S. Constitution as a “potential human life.”

          What about the Bible? Does the Bible tell us precisely when human life begins? If so, where? And what about birth control? Is our opposition to abortion and our support of birth control logically consistent? If so, how?