Gingrich fertilizationYesterday the Gingrich campaign sent further clarification to pro-life bloggers and reporters (not me, I’m now off their dance card; such is the heartbreak of being bad cop) that when he clarified over the weekend he believes “human life begins at conception,” he meant “at the moment of fertilization.”

Some may wonder why this distinction was necessary. It was necessary because the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists defines conception as “the implantation of a fertilized ovum,” i.e., implantation. Pro-lifers wanted to make sure Newt wasn’t pulling a fast one to square his interview with ABC’s Jake Tapper.

Paul Pauker at LiveAction.org got even more useful information:

This distinction is crucial. Gingrich has said he supports Congress enacting pro-life legislation under the 14th Amendment, including legislation that would define personhood as beginning at conception.

When asked if Gingrich will be supporting this definition of conception (fertilization not implantation) in such legislation, DeSantis said: “Yes.”

Newt has come a long way in five days – from when he told Tapper life begins at “implantation and successful implantation.”

Given that only two weeks before that, as Paul wrote, Gingrich said he would support legislation defining personhood as commencing at conception, it is impossible to fathom what in the world he was thinking when he spoke with Tapper.

Since the Gingrich campaign has decided to step over the blip and not explain it, I await the day Tapper or another astute reporter gets a chance to ask him.

Takeaways

There were several positives from this dust-up:

  • That this was even a flap to begin with, and that a presidential campaign thought it important enough to contact pro-life online journalists for damage control, is forward progress.
  • Other presidential campaigns have certainly been watching and taking notes.
  • Gingrich is now on record. This was a teachable moment for him, particularly in regard to his new Catholic faith. I’m glad pro-life Catholics like Robert George have his ear.
  • This controversy has kept the important first week of human life in the spotlight, the 5-9 days before a new baby implants in the wall of his or her mother’s uterus, or while s/he is stuck helplessly in frozen animation in some IVF clinic…
  • … or when a birth control pill or IUD may abort the baby before s/he can implant, as a blogger at  liberal ThinkProgress.org pointed out…

Gingrich fertilization

Although GOP presidential frontrunner Newt Gingrich previously took the view that “personhood begins at conception,” on Friday, Gingrich told ABC’s Jake Tapper that life begins at the “successful implantation” of a fertilized egg in a woman’s uterus. This position would effectively lead to a ban on all abortions while still maintaining women’s access to most forms of birth control. Unfortunately for Gingrich, however, this position proved insufficiently radical to his anti-choice base, and he flipped back to an even more right-wing stance just one day later….

Gingrich’s current stance closely maps the views of radical “personhood” advocates who don’t just want to ban abortion, but who also intend to ban many common forms of contraception. Because birth control bills and IUDs prevent fertilized eggs from implanting, Gingrich’s Friday position suggested that he wanted to preserve women’s right to use these forms of contraception. His sudden switch, however, appears to abandon this view in favor of the much more radical belief that women should not be allowed to use the pill.

I don’t expect Newt is to the point of saying abortifacient contraceptives should be banned, but this all certainly gives him food for thought.