Suppose you and I are “human beings” in the sense of human animals, members of the genus Homo. Given this supposition, this article argues first and foremost that (it's at least very plausible that) we originated not at the moment of our biological conception but either before or after. For biological conception is most plausibly seen as a momentous event in the continuing life of a preexisting organism—the egg—rather than a cataclysmic event ending one life and creating another. This article considers and rebuts the most likely challenges to this claim. This metaphysical point carries moral freight concerning abortion. This article surveys familiar “pro-life” principles and argues that if any of them raises moral qualms about the permissibility of aborting zygotic pregnancies, then these qualms apply equally (or at least almost equally) to the permissibility of contraception and abstinence. Hence no such principle provides a justification for condemning zygotic abortion while condoning abstinence or contraception.

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