Global Evangelicalism and the Humanity of Embryonic Children

The pro-life movement has consistently held that “life begins at conception.” In the post-Dobbs era, special medical attention has now shifted to the status of the embryo. Inevitably, the global community is looking to evangelicalism for its position on the personhood of embryonic human individuals. The search for a theological determination is not only inevitable because of the nature of the question, but it was also seen in Chief Justice Tom Parker’s landmark decision on February 16, 2024. On that day, the Alabama Supreme Court ruled 7-2 in a decision that declared protections “to all unborn children without limitation. And that includes unborn children who are not located in utero at the time they are killed.” Justice Parker’s decision was thoroughly rooted in his evangelical theology. “In summary,” he argued, “the theologically based view of the sanctity of life adopted by the People of Alabama encompasses the following: (1) God made every person in His image; (2) each person therefore has a value that far exceeds the ability of human beings to calculate; and (3) human life cannot be wrongfully destroyed without incurring the wrath of a holy God, who views the destruction of His image as an affront to Himself.” As a result of the Supreme Court’s decision, for the very first time, Alabama’s Wrongful Death of a Minor Act could now be applied to an embryo that exists in a lab.) Fearing criminal prosecution, several fertility clinics in Alabama paused their IVF treatments within one week of the court’s ruling. This paper will examine that assertion from both an evangelical and scientific standpoint. An examination of the question from an evangelical perspective is foundational—not only because Chief Justice Parker nested his ruling in theology—but also because Princeton University’s Dianne Irving once wrote, “The question as to when a human person begins is a philosophical question not a scientific question” (Irving, 1999). An examination of embryo personhood from a scientific perspective comes from an examination of papers—from the non-evangelical academic scientific community—which have published its perspective that, “If a human organism exists, then he or she exists as a whole and not just partly, and this is true for all the times that he or she exists. Embryos are whole human beings, at the early stage of their maturation. The term ‘embryo’, similar to the terms ‘infant’ and ‘adolescent’, refers to a determinate and enduring organism at a particular stage of development” (Lee & George, 2008).