On Life, Liberty, and Abortion

What Does The Science Say?

Melinda "Millie" K. Dooley
21 min readJun 26, 2022


This is a long piece — turns out I had a lot to say on the subject — so feel free to bookmark it to read in more than one session. It’s also link-heavy, mainly to referenced materials, so check the links before you ask me for citations. Cheers!

The Supreme Court building with a flag and flowering tree in front
Photo by Bill Mason on Unsplash

In the United States, Roe v. Wade, the landmark supreme court case that established a constitutional right to privacy that made abortions legal up to fetal viability, has been overturned, as of 24th June 2022.

It seems like everyone has an opinion on this. (I certainly have more than one!) Some women are rioting in the streets; some people are fighting it out via social media.

One of the more common tropes I see is that “pro-abortionists” simply cannot accept that life begins at conception; that is, the only way we can support choice is to deny science.

As a Biology and Health educator, I can’t accept this myth. I am as pro-choice as they come, and I like to think I have a thorough understanding of the relevant biology. We can disagree on interpretations, as long as we agree on facts.

To that end, let’s have a discussion about life, humanity, personhood, and bodily autonomy. As much as possible, let’s use peer-reviewed scientific journal articles as our sources, but textbooks and dictionaries will serve as well.

To make sure we’re on the same page with lingo, here’s a quick refresher: cells are the fundamental unit of life, whether you’re a single-celled organism or a complex, multicellular human.

Zoom far enough back in time (your age plus 9 months, approximately), and we were all a single cell — a fertilized egg, or zygote, made from one of mom’s eggs and one of dad’s sperm. That cell divided a whole lot, first in mom’s body and then eventually in the outside world, and became you.

“Baby” isn’t a scientific term, so I’ll try to only use it when the fetus/neonate is wanted by the mother or parents.

These are red and white blood cells. Fun fact: the white blood cells have a nucleus, but the red ones don’t. Are they still human? Photo by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

Everything else, I’ll try to define as it comes up. Ask questions and take advantage of the…



Melinda "Millie" K. Dooley

Ms. Melinda Dooley is a lifelong educator and enthusiastic biologist, and has earned her expertise the hard way.