Challenge: The Life Is in the Blood

Posted: September 11, 2012 by Amy Hall in Do the Right Thing, Weekly Challenge

The challenge this week was suggested by one of our readers:

I have heard pro-choicers argue that we shouldn’t believe life begins at conception because Leviticus 17:11 says the life is in the blood. I know they have missed some things because the context is about sacrifices, but what is a good response to this?

What do you think? How would you answer this challenge? Give it your best shot, and then we’ll hear from Alan on Thursday.

  1. Sam Harper says:

    If we assume life doesn’t begin until the embryo has blood, that’s still pretty early. I’ve been googling this morning and found that the heart starts to beat at 21 days after conception. Abortions usually don’t take place until after six weeks. So practically speaking, it wouldn’t make any difference if life began when the embryo got blood rather than at conception.

    • The first thing to note is that the person making this challenge usually isn’t a Christian and does not accept the Bible as authoritative. This being the case, my initial response is usually, “Wait, I thought you said you don’t accept the Bible as authoritative. If that’s the case, how does your challenge in any way undermine the scientific and philosophical case I’ve made for the humanity of the unborn? I may be a Christian, but the Pro-Life position is not directly tied to any specific scripture.” This challenge really has nothing to do with the abortion issue. The Mosaic Law has little to nothing to tell us about the question, “What is the unborn?” and that is the only question that matters in this controversy.

      Granted, the critic may respond that as a Christian, this leads to a contradiction in my worldview, and that is an issue I will have to deal with. The problem with this challenge is that the person who makes it has clearly not read the whole passage in context. “For the life of a creature is in the blood,” is only the first line of the verse. Let’s take a look at the entire verse, “For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life.”

      If we read the entire passage in Leviticus 17, we find that this passage is describing the uncleanliness of the blood as it relates to animal sacrifice. The reason the “life” of the creature is in the blood is because the blood is what is offered to God in the sacrificial process. The rest of the animal used in a sacrifice could later be eaten, but the blood was the offering for the atonement of sin. Thus, to eat the blood was forbidden, as that was to be offered to God alone. This passage does not in any way indicate that something is not alive if it does not have blood.

      This challenge is really a red herring. The only relevant question is, “What is the unborn?” The abortion choicer must either demonstrate scientifically that the unborn are not human or philosophically that there exists some morally relevant reason that we ought not value their lives. Unless they can do, one or both of these things, the Pro-Life case still stands.

      Finally, as Sam Harper just said, an unborn child already has blood by three weeks after conception. Seeing as the vast majority of abortions take place between 8 and 12 weeks, this challenge is completely nullified.

      P.S. I can’t seem to log into this blog with my facebook account anymore. Is anyone else having this problem?

  2. Albert says:

    I also found a site ( that explains that: “at 5 – 6 days post-ovulation, The uterus is therefore swollen with new blood capillaries and the circulation between mother and blastocyst begins, a process needed for the continuation of pregnancy.”

    So even at this early stage, if the blood is the life, this is so early an abortion becomes impossible because the pregnancy really hasn’t been noticed yet by the mother.

  3. Albert says:

    I wanted to add something; A survey of textbooks on embryology by medical professionals shows that regardless of what the person on the street says, science tells us that from conception there is a new human being. I will now demonstrate through the citation of many such sources.

    Zygote: this cell results from the union of an oocyte and a sperm. A zygote is the beginning of a new human being (i.e., an embryo). Human development begins at fertilization… This highly specialized, totipotent cell marks the beginning of each of us as a unique individual. [Moore, K. and T.V.N. Persaud, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology (6th ed.), (Philadelphia: W.B. Saunders Company, 1998), pp 2-18.]

    “Embryo: An organism in the earliest stage of development; in a man, from the time of conception to the end of the second month in the uterus.” [Dox, Ida G. et al. The Harper Collins Illustrated Medical Dictionary. New York: Harper Perennial, 1993, p. 146]

    In this text, we begin our description of the developing human with the formation and differentiation of the male and female sex cells or gametes, which will unite at fertilization to initiate the embryonic development of a new individual. Larsen, W.J. 1998. Essentials of Human Embryology, Churchill Livingstone, New York, pp. 1-17.

    Fertilization is an important landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is thereby formed… O’Rahilly, R. and F. Muller. 1996. Human Embryology & Teratology, Wiley-Liss, New York, pp. 5-55.

    The development of a human being begins with fertilization, a process by which two highly specialized cells, the spermatozoon from the male and the oocyte from the female, unite to give rise to a new organism, the zygote. [Langman, Jan. Medical Embryology. 3rd edition. Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins, 1975, p. 3]

    The development of a human begins with fertilization, a process by which the spermatozoon from the male and the oocyte from the female unite to give rise to a new organism, the zygote.
    [Sadler, T.W. Langman’s Medical Embryology. 7th edition. Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins 1995, p. 3]

    My resource: [ ]

  4. Erik says:

    I think Spencer said it best by indicating this is nothing more than a red herring. A challenger is likely expecting that the person to whom they address this challenge will be ill-equipped to answer without coming off as someone who either doesn’t understand Scripture and thus can’t respond or will be too afraid a response may make them look like a hypocrite. All the previous reviewers rightly make the same point – we need to address the question “what is the unborn?” If it is human being, then the answer is simple – we don’t take the lives of human beings because it’s inconvenient to care for them, because they aren’t what we wanted, they are too expensive or because we made a mistake. It’s unfortunate that more people can’t see it this way, especially Christians. I know far too many that support the pro-choice position (or the modified pro-choice position) due to social pressure or just plain lack of knowledge about the value that God places on every human life. If more people learned these facts, perhaps challenges posed like this would meet with a swift and sure answer that would end the argument there, perhaps even making the person presenting the challenge to actually reconsider their position.