Across Philadelphia in 2017, more than 11,000 very young humans died from abortion. Over 30,000 died across Pennsylvania.

There’s this debate in America — or what I think is often a sort of pretend debate — about the moral status of the human life in the womb of a pregnant woman. That is, about what precisely it is that a woman is pregnant with. Dare to look closely and scientifically, and there is no denying the answer. Not a clump of cells, not an almost human, not a mere bio-byproduct. Rather, the immediate result of conception is a very young human. Many medical experts across the nation agree that life begins at conception.

“An important fact of embryology,” stated Micheline Matthews-Roth of Harvard Medical School, “is that each member of the human species indeed starts his or her existence as one cell. ...”

A human being, with unique DNA, begins life at the moment of conception. A heartbeat starts by the end of the first month, and the nervous system, digestive tract, and functioning limbs are present by eight weeks. The DNA created on day one will dictate the eye color, and the height and temperament of a unique person who deserves the opportunity to experience the world and contribute to it. The forming heart that beats by the end of four weeks deserves the chance to beat slowly during a blissful sleep, and rapidly in the last two minutes of an Eagles game. The arms and limbs that stretch and shift and grab in week 8 deserve the freedom to reach for the stars or to embrace another.

The commonsense civic debate Americans should be having is over how our country, one of the wealthiest and most privileged societies in human history, can create a wide and broad social safety net to ensure that no unexpectedly pregnant woman is encouraged to abort her child. We should be having this debate because we care about our neighbors enough to not make every issue a partisan one. We should be having this debate because we have the means to provide all persons with a continuum of care that ensures a woman’s opportunities need not be constrained by her becoming a mother. We can provide parent and family benefits, education and workforce training, housing, stipends, and whatever else is needed to return abortion to what even Democrats wanted it to be only a quarter century ago — “rare.”

But we don’t have that conversation, and that’s largely a fault of Planned Parenthood and other “choice” advocates who, in practice, offer only one choice — abortion. They receive hundreds of millions in public funding, and yet they’re not using their power and influence to sufficiently broaden public debate about the range of options that should be offered to pregnant women. What does that tell you about their priorities?

Psychologically, biologically, and scientifically speaking, we know what abortion does. The questions are all political. Abortion destroys all of the potential and opportunity and freedom of a very young human, because abortion ends a life.

Some will suggest that they were not yet “full” persons because they couldn’t survive on their own, outside the womb. But we assiduously protect the lives of babies who can’t survive on their own and prosecute those who would harm our defenseless youth. Self-sufficiency is no prerequisite for humanity. As a society we recognize that physical size, ability, and age do not alter one’s basic human dignity and rights.

The Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia seeks to offer real alternatives. And we want to continue to debate and determine how to address the “problem” of unexpected pregnancy with compassion, care, and practical help in the face of extreme challenges. There are many services and resources across Greater Philadelphia for expectant parents during each trimester and after birth: pregnancy resource centers, Catholic Social Services, local and state assistance programs, low cost/no cost medical clinics all support pregnant women, children, and families. There are homes and housing resources for pregnant women, and adoption services for parents who are unable to keep and care for their child.

Don’t let the lack of hope, misdirected compassion, or status quo beliefs lead us to argue a non-debatable — life or no life. We all want life, but we also want opportunity. Let’s work together to make a difference, help women experiencing trauma or extreme difficulty, and ensure there is always a way to make the choice for life. We can all do better.

Tom Stevens is president and CEO of Pro-Life Union of Greater Philadelphia, the region’s largest pro-life group, and president and CEO of Guiding Star Ministries, a maternity home that provides shelter and assistance to pregnant women and their children.