Below, we will examine some of the scientific data now available on the humanity of unborn infants. Whilst reviewing this data, we should always be mindful that it has been long held that life begins at conception.
It was once thought that human life began at the time of quickening or on reaching the stage of pregnancy at which the movements of the foetus first become perceptible, when the foetus first begins to manifest signs of life. This position was taken in the absence of any other conclusive evidence due to the limitations of science.
Since then medical and scientific technology and data has increased tremendously with ultrasound, photography, and even surgery within the womb.
You may recall the picture of Samuel Armas who was operated on in 1999 to correct spina bifida. As Samuel was being returned to his mother’s uterus, his tiny hand reached out to clutch the surgeon’s finger.
During the last few decades, the age of viability has reduced with the result that babes born at 20-21 weeks gestation are surviving. What we are seeing is mounting evidence that it is a child within the womb and not a cluster of cells that suddenly assumes a human form during the process of birth.
The Beginning of Life
Sperm enter the women’s vagina, swim through the cavity in her uterus and out through her fallopian tubes. It may only take 5 minutes to reach the fallopian tubes and as little as another 15 minutes to reach the ovaries.
When the sperm penetrates the ovum, “the egg reacts in a split second and initiates a mechanism that prevents other sperm from penetrating. The 23 chromosomes from the male sperm combine with the 23 chromosomes from the female. ovum and a new human life is created. Some 30 hours later the first cell division occurs.
At the one cell stage, it is easy but erroneous to make the comparison to any other single cell in the body. The first single cell is probably the most complex type of cell that is likely to be found anywhere as from it derives the complex anatomy of the human being. A single cell from the skin is not capable of doing this.
At about one week of life, at the blastocyst stage of about 128 or 256 cells, it implants into the nutrient lining of the uterus. There only three days later, this tiny child sends a chemical-hormonal message into the mother’s body, which stops her menstrual cycle.
“Physicians, biologists, and other scientists agree that conception [they defined fertilization and conception to be the same] marks the beginning of the life of a human – a being that is alive and is a member of the human species. There is overwhelming agreement on this point in countless medical, biological and scientific writings.”
Report, Subcommittee on Separation of Powers to Senate Judiciary Committee S-158, 97th Congress, 1st Session 1981, p.7
“Each individual has a very neat beginning, at conception.” - Professor J. Lejeune
“It is an established fact that human life begins at conception.” - Professor H. Gordon, Mayo Clinic
“It is scientifically correct to say that individual human life begins at conception” - Professor M. Matthews-Roth, Harvard University
The DNA genetic signature proves that the unborn is human.
- The DNA indicates what kind of bodily form the adult is going to take, even at the earliest stage the zygote is still human.
- Looks can be deceptive especially when we are not used it but the DNA give unmistakable evidence
- If we watch the development long enough we will see the zygote form into a more recognisable human shape.
- The zygote cannot develop in any direction, but only in a way consistent with its internal structure or nature.
- The unborn does not change into a human it only looks more human to our eyes.
- Living things don’t become different creatures when they change their outward appearance.
- Living beings develop according to a certain physical pattern based on the kind of creature they already are.
The Principle of Biogenesis Proves the Unborn is a Human Being.
In the 19th century, scientist Louis Pasteur among others disproved the theory of the spontaneous generation of life.
a) maggots don’t spontaneously spring from discarded meat.
b) mice aren’t spontaneously created from piles of rags. Pasteur’s discoveries led to the principles of biogenesis, which states two things
a) all life comes from pre-existent life
b) each being reproduces after its own kind
The unborn is genetically distinct from her parents. Unlike sperm and ovum, the zygote possess the inherent capacity to develop into an embryo, foetus, infant, child, adolescent and adult. Though the sperm and ovum are human cellular material they will never become human beings. In the same way a severed hand is totally human but will never become a human.
A caterpillar does not look like a butterfly but we know and accept that it undertakes a developmental stage to become one and this fact is not disputed. The caterpillar, crystalis, and the butterfly are merely developmental stages of the same creature even though the appearance at various stages of development is markedly different.
If humans lose value when they don’t conform to our perceptions of what they should look like then there is no defence against racism or ethnic cleansing.
The words “fertilisation” and “conception” were always used to mean the union of the sperm and the ovum. However in the 1960′s, the US FDA and the American College of OB&GYN agreed to redefine “conception” to mean implantation which occurs 7 to 14 days later. NZ law refers to implantation hence drugs or procedures used in the 1st 14 days are not technically regarded as abortions even though they destroy a human life. In this discussion we give the words their original meaning.
Consider what Dr Alan F Guttmacher said on the subject prior to his advocacy for abortion;
We of today know that man is born of sexual union; that he starts life as an embryo within the body of the female; and that the embryo is formed from the fusion of two cells, the ovum and the sperm….This seems so simple and evident to us that it is difficult to picture a time when it was not part of common knowledge.
But 40 years of working with Planned Parenthood has altered his thinking.
Scientifically all we know is that a living human sperm unites with a living human egg; it they were not living there could be no union….Does human life begin before or with the union of gametes, or with birth, or at some other intermediate time? I, for one confess, I do not know.
Dr Landrum Shettles, the first scientist to achieve conception in a test tube, writes that conception not only confers life, but “defines life”.
- 1st day the child’s conception takes place
- 7 day a tiny human implants in the mother’s uterus
- 10 days the mother’s menses stop
- 18 days the child’s heart begins to beat
- 21 days the heart pumps own blood through separate closed circulatory system with own blood type.
- 28 days the child’s eyes, ears and respiratory system begin to form
- 42 days the brain waves can be recorded, skeleton is complete, reflexes are present, hiccoughs first occur.
- 7 weeks thumbsucking has been photographed, startles first occur from 6-7 1/2 weeks
- 8 weeks all body systems are present, isolated arm movements begin about 7 1/4 to 8 1/2 weeks after conception. Breathing movements begin during the eighth week. Stretches first occur during the eighth week.
- 9 weeks the child squints, swallows, moves tongue and makes a fist. Rotations of the head also begin from the middle of the seventh week after conception to the middle of the tenth week.
- 10 weeks Hand to face contacts first occur 8 to 10 1/2 weeks after conception.
- 11 weeks spontaneous breathing movements, the child has fingernails and all body systems are operating. Jaw openings and forward head movement begin during 8 1/2 to 12 1/2 weeks after conception.
- 12 weeks the child weighs one ounce
- 16 weeks genital organs clearly differentiated, the child grasps with hands, swims, kicks, turns and somersaults (still not felt by the mother)
- 18 weeks the vocal cords work and baby can cry
- 19 weeks Kenya King’s birth, Florida, June 1985
- 20 weeks the child has hair on its head, weighs one pound, 12 inches long
- 23 weeks 15% of babies survive premature birth
- 24 weeks 56% of babies survive premature birth
- 25 weeks 79% of babies survive premature birth
- 39-40 weeks normal birth
During the whole process no further genetic material is added. The mother supplies food and a warm environment in which the baby can grow. This is the same pattern of nurturing that occurs after the baby is born.
The arguments against the unborn are generally grounded in four areas and we will consider those areas in turn. The examples are taken from the writings of Francis Beckwith “Politically correct Death” pages 113-114.
Size or Physical Appearance
The unborn is smaller than the newborn. But a 6’5″ basketball player such as Larry Johnson is much bigger than my wife, Frankie Beckwith, who is 4’11 3/4″. It would be absurd to say that Frankie has less moral value than Larry.
If someone says, “the fetus doesn’t look human,” ask, “if the fetus doesn’t look human, then you will have no objections to showing pictures of aborted fetuses, will you?” People object to graphic images precisely because the mangled forms look unmistakably human.
Level of development
A newborn baby is less developed than an adolescent, but that does not mean that the newborn has less of a right to life. According to Schwarz, “he is equally a person; he is the same person at his earlier stage of development as at the later stages, or else it would not be his development”. Therefore, the fact that the unborn is less developed than the newborn has no moral relevance.
Many disabled people are less “developed” than many newborns, but that hardly justifies killing them. It raises the question, “Do stronger, more capable, more intelligent people have more rights than others?”
If a human being’s value is determined by his abilities – by what he can do or can’t do – then all those who are handicapped are in danger
Where one is is irrelevant to who one is. The fact that a child may be in her mother’s womb is a geographical fact, not a value judgement. A newborn in an incubator is not worth less than one in her mother’s arms or one who is a week younger and still in her mother’s womb. It is easy to see that environment is not at all morally relevant.
A person fishing for hapuka will know that when the fish rises to the surface its swimbladder inflates to such an extent that it will protrude through the mouth. This occurs because of the change in environmental pressure. The Hapuka live under conditions of pressure and removal from that environment is extremely detrimental to its welbeing.
To state the more obvious, removing a fish from the water causes death but does not cause it to become something other than a fish.
Degree of dependency
To a great degree we are all dependent on one another, some less than others and some more than others. For instance, a person in a nursing home is more dependent on another’s care than a healthy twenty-five year old attorney.
Yet it seems obvious that the nursing home patient’s greater dependence does not disqualify his right to life. As Professor Schwarz points out:
“I remain myself through the various changes, phases of growth and development, phases of relative dependence or independence, that pertain to my body. I am not any less me because my body may be in a state of greater dependence than at another time. Thus we see that dependency through connection to another person has nothing to do with being a person. It only has to do with how the body is sustained.” Consequently, the fact that the unborn through most of her development is physically dependent on her mother has no moral bearing as to her nature or whether she is a person with a full right to life.”
There is reliance placed on the viability of the unborn and at what age this is attained. By this it is held that a child is capable of surviving outside the womb. This argument is based on an unsound premise as it ignores the fact that the baby is quite incapable of fending for itself for some years after its birth and in some instances will need to be cared for the entirety of her life. Does such a person fail to become a human person.
If dependency determines worth, then no moral principle protects the weak and vulnerable from the strong and powerful.