Is abortion a sin, even if it is done to a single cell? Does a single cell have a human soul?
Abortion is a hotly debated topic, and people have very strong feelings about it. So let’s first start with the single cell organisms question. After all, do single-cell organisms, small insect, etc. have a soul?
Do Bacteria, Viruses, Single-Cell Organisms, or Insects Have a Soul?
First you have to understand something about single cell organisms. They don’t grow into humans. The difference between a human fertilized egg is that it develops into a human. A random single cell like an amoeba remains the same. Yet the single cell of a human oocyte rapidly divides and becomes a human. That is a big difference.
Does an insect, or simple bacteria have a soul? The answer is no. God created a lot of things in this world. Some were created to perform specific functions. All of the creatures (even bad ones) help perform some function to keep the life cycle going on Earth.
A single cell organism, while incredibly complex, is also very basic in function compared to a human being. Why? Because God created these things (insects, creatures, bacteria, viruses, etc.) to carry out functions. But we humans are massively different. We are the only species in the world that can think, reason, design, create, feel emotions, etc. to the degree in which we can. Not even monkeys come close to us! We are completely unique and superior to all other creatures on this earth. This is because God designed us in His image. He took more effort designing us. He created us to be similar to Him in many ways. He created us to have a relationship with Him.
Think of it like this: If you were an architect, there would be a big difference between drawing a simple 1 dimensional stick house on paper (like you might see a pre-schooler draw), and creating the complete 3D plans for a skyscraper, right? The difference would be that you really have to put effort into the skyscraper. You have to put yourself into the project, and work really hard and design it with extreme precision.
That is how God created us. The small cell organisms and insects, while still incredibly complex, were created with simple features to perform tasks to keep life going for us. A bee, while simply designed, has a major impact on our food production because they pollinate so many plants so they can produce food. A bee doesn’t likely have a “soul” simply because God created it for simple functions and to live, carry out a function, reproduce, and then die. They help sustain human life.
We are vastly different, however. We are designed in a superior way to every other animal, insect, or organism in this world. That is why Adam wasn’t happy when God brought all of the animals to him. He couldn’t find one that was like him. So God created Adam a wife (Eve) and created her from Adam.
So it is very likely that humans are the only creatures that have “souls.” Some argue that animals may also have souls. The Bible doesn’t really mention whether or not animals have a place in God’s plan. We are told that in the new Earth, the lion will sit with the lamb in peace. But we don’t know if they have any purpose or not in terms of a soul.
Okay, But Does a Fertilized Human Egg or Embryo Have a Soul? Is Abortion Wrong or a Sin?
Now, does a fertilized human egg (also called an oocyte) have a soul? Yes. Is abortion or killing of that egg a sin according to the Bible? Yes. The Bible indicates that we should protect and preserve life. It also indicates God knows us in the womb, and even before we were formed in the womb:
Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, and I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations.
For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother’s womb.
The scriptures above clearly show that God knows us before we are born. God knits us together in the womb as well. When God speaks, atoms rush to obey Him.
Do Single Cell Organisms Have Souls?
Most other single cell organisms most likely do not have a soul, simply because they are like “machines” God has created to carry out functions in life. We were designed more complex, and more sophisticated because we were created in God’s image. We have His attributes of a spiritual nature. So a cell that forms just after a human sperm penetrates an egg is a life containing cell.
Even this tiny human cell contains all the information necessary to build a unique human body. So Yes, in the confines of a tiny microscopic cell the soul could exist, since it has the complete code for what we will physically be. You literally started out as a speck, and you were a soul precious to God.
Think of it like this: An architect works very hard to design a massive skyscraper building. He works and builds the plans for it. That whole entire building comes from a set of plans that could fit on a tiny hard drive or a briefcase. That is the whole essence of the building. If they plans aren’t there, then the building just won’t be able to be built properly.
So you could say the empire state building came from a few drawings on a computer chip or on paper. It existed on paper before ever in reality. Once an egg and sperm combine, the life started with a spark, and the plans were set in motion. In other words, you came alive because your design was set in stone!
Likewise, we all start from a basic code within a tiny cell. That tiny cell (once a sperm and egg combine) has all the information necessary to build a human being. It comes alive. It divides. It becomes human. It lives, it eats, it grows. It is living.
Just because a microscope can only see a round cell, doesn’t mean there isn’t more to it. People used to think atoms were the smallest unit, until they discovered electrons, protons, and neutrons. They used to think those were the smallest until the realized quarks exist, etc.
Just because we don’t fully know or understand it, doesn’t mean it isn’t a human yet. Would you blow up a building if you were not 100% sure everyone had evacuated it? Probably not. Why would anyone ever abort a baby, even if it is as small as a single cell?