News & Politics

47 Percent of Americans Think Life Begins at Conception

Most Americans believe that life begins in the first three months of pregnancy, but nearly half of them believe it begins at the very moment of conception — when a sperm and an egg fuse to create a zygote with unique human DNA.

According to a new survey, 47 percent of Americans said life begins at conception, while only 14 percent said it begins at “viability outside of the womb,” and only 10 percent said life begins “when a baby is born.”

Nearly two-thirds of Americans (62 percent) said life begins either at conception or within the first three months of pregnancy, according to the survey, which was released by Marist Poll and the Knights of Columbus (KoC) earlier this month.

This view helps to explain why Americans favor broad restrictions on abortion. According to the poll, half of Americans (50 percent) said abortion should only be legal in cases of rape, incest, or a threat to the life of the mother; or only to save the mother’s life; or never at all. A full 76 percent said abortion should be restricted to the first three months of pregnancy, or these rare cases.

The origin of life question proves particularly interesting in this discussion, because many media outlets present pro-life Americans as quacks. They cover the March for Life as a rally “against abortion,” and they often present pro-abortion protesters as true champions for women.

In reality, nearly half of Americans believe life begins at conception, and nearly two-thirds of Americans believe it begins during the first three months of pregnancy. More Democrats believe life begins at conception (32 percent) than at any other time (21 percent said “viability outside the womb,” 17 percent said “when a baby is born”). The same holds true for Independents (44 percent said life begins at conception, 17 percent said the first three months, and 17 percent said “viability outside the womb”).

Unsurprisingly, Republicans proved most likely to say life begins at conception (72 percent).

When asked whether the statement “human life begins at conception” is a scientific fact or a philosophical or religious belief, Americans were evenly divided, 46 percent to 45 percent. Pro-life Americans (59 percent), Republicans (52 percent), and Independents (49 percent) were more likely to say it is a “biological and scientific fact.”

Self-identified pro-choice supporters (58 percent) and Democrats (55 percent) said “human life begins at conception” is a “philosophical or religious belief.”

There are good reasons to consider this conviction a scientific rather than a philosophical one. Many embryology textbooks state that life begins at conception or fertilization. Last year, the Trump administration’s Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) underscored this position in its 2018-2022 strategic plan.

“HHS accomplishes its mission through programs and initiatives that cover a wide spectrum of activities, serving and protecting Americans at every stage of life, beginning at conception,” the draft plan said.

Almost half of Americans agree. Hundreds of thousands marched for life earlier this month, and singer Joy Villa wore a pro-life dress to the Grammy Awards on Sunday.

Whether their reasons are scientific or religious, most Americans support restricting abortion, and most believe that human life either begins at conception or within the first three months of pregnancy. Democrats may be shooting themselves in the foot with their pro-abortion “litmus test.”