November 11, 2011

The Nov. 5 front-page article “Miss. effort seeks to criminalize abortion” contained the following line: “National medical groups have opposed personhood efforts, saying that they ignore the fact that, left to nature, a large number of fertilized eggs do not survive to birth” (emphasis added). And the eggs that do survive to birth are then, what, hatched? Given the context, this can’t be chalked up to mere writer’s slip (and editor’s oversight); in fact, it’s the very point of the dispute.

At the moment when a human sperm penetrates a human ovum, or egg, a new entity comes into existence. The earliest developmental stage of the human embryo is called the zygote, followed by the morula and blastula stages, and then the fetal period, which continues until birth. To persist in using the word “egg” as a descriptive term past fertilization is inaccurate and unscientific; to use it until birth is downright ridiculous. It’s an error worth squawking about.

Cathy Cleaver Ruse, Arlington

The writer is a senior fellow at the Family Research Council.