The question of when life begins is not an issue of theology or philosophy; it can easily be answered by elementary biology. For more than a century medical science has known conclusively that every individual's life begins at conception.
From the time of conception, the unborn child bears the undeniable stamp of a separate, distinct human being, structurally and totally different from his/her mother with his/her own blood system, nervous system and genetic code.
Fetology, the study of the unborn child or fetus, has become one of the fastest growing and most promising fields in medicine. New techniques and sophisticated instruments have given us a view into the previously hidden world of the unborn child. We can watch the child developing, moving, touching and responding. When ill, in some cases the unborn child has been diagnosed, treated and cured.
HIGHLIGHTS OF THE HUMAN LIFE CONTINUUM
- Conception - when the sperm and ovum unite in fertilization, genetic makeup is complete and a unique individual comes into existence. ("Conception--the start of a baby." See page 35 in brochure Coming to Life, Medical Services Branch, National Health and Welfare, Supply and Service Canada, 1987.)
- 18 days - the heartbeat can be detected.
- 30 days - foundations of brain, spinal cord, nerves and sense organs are complete; the new human being has eyes, ears, a mouth, kidneys, a liver and blood circulation; the mother may not yet know she is pregnant.
- 43 days - brain waves can be detected
- 6 weeks - nerves and muscles begin working together; the skeleton is fully formed but made of cartilage; lips become sensitive to touch.
- 7 weeks - all internal organs are present; stomach produces digestive juices; liver manufactures red blood cells
- 8 weeks - lines of the hands develop and will remain a distinctive feature of the individual throughout life.
- 8 1/2 weeks - the child squints; the fingers close into a fist if palm is touched.
- 10 weeks - thyroid and adrenal glands function.
- 12 weeks - the child kicks, turns his feet and curls and fans his toes; swallows and drinks amniotic fluid; inhales and exhales; sucks his thumb.
- 16-20 weeks - hair grows on head; eyebrows and eyelashes appear; the child sleeps and wakes; he can be aroused from sleep by external noises. As the basic structure of the human being has been in place for some time, all that the unborn child now needs is time to grow.
"A new individual is created when the elements of a potent sperm merge with those of a fertile ovum, or egg."
Article on "Pregnancy," page 968, 15th Edition, Encyclopedia Brittanica, Chicago, 1974.
"Development begins at fertilization when a sperm fuses with an ovum to form a zygote; this cell is the beginning of a new human being."
Keith L. Moore, The Developing Human Clinicallv Oriented Embryologv, page 1 2, W.B. Sauders, 1974.
"It is the penetration of the ovum by a spermatozoa and the resulting mingling of the nuclear material each brings to the union that constitutes the culmination of the process of fertilization and marks the initiation of the life of a new individual."
Bradley M. Patten, Human Embrvoloav page 43, - McGraw Hill, New York, 1968.
"... with the advent of realtime ultrasound in 1976 obstetricians abandoned the trimester concept as a crude and unscientific antique and began to describe pregnancy in the more precise language of weeks..."
"Viability is a pathetically unreliable criterion for protection of a human being under the law; there are so many variables and it is so poorly defined that it is all but useless."
Bernard Nathanson, M.D., Bernadell Technical Bulletin, Vol. 1, No. 1, October 1989, page 1-3, Bernadell Inc., P.O. Box 1897, New York, NY 10011.
"Society and religion, over the centuries, have had differing views on the mores of aborting, of killing an unborn child. Let us not be afraid of the vocabulary."
Hon. Barbara McDougall, Hansard, P. 1 8080, July, 1988
"There is no Bar Mitzvah in the womb."
Bernard Nathanson, M.D.
Action Life Online Article