Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Rational Look at Abortion - Part 3

Prenatal Development

In my last article I showed from medical testimony that from the moment of conception, a fetus is a distinct human being. Some will realize that because a fetus is a human being, killing this human being would be wrong. For others, they will look at the fetus as morally insignificant because of the level of their development.

During the several days following implantation, the embryo doubles in size every day. In only a span of six weeks, the baby goes from looking like a "clump of cells" to looking like a baby, though only a half of an inch tall. At the moment of fertilization, a new and unique human being comes into existence with it's own distinct genetic code.Twenty-three chromosomes from the mother and twenty-three chromosomes from the father combine to result in a brand-new and totally unique genetic combination. While the heart, lungs and hair of the woman share the same genetic code, the embryo has it's own distinct genetic code different from it's mothers.There is enough information in this tiny zygote to control human growth and development for the rest of its life. Until implanting into the lining of the uterus, each cell lives off of stored energy and newly manufactured DNA; at this stage in development the zygote is receiving no direct sustenance from the parents.

In Geraldine Lux Flanagan's book, The Beginning of Life, it is stated, "In the hours of conception every aspect of the genetic inheritance for a new individual will be determined once and for all: to be a boy or girl, with brown, or with blue eyes, fair or dark, tall or short; all the rich detail of physical attributes from head to toes... The new genetic program is achieved when the two parent pronuclei come to lie side by side within the egg for perhaps a day, as their contents combine in the ultimate biological union of male and female. In the instant when the union is consummated, the whole egg substance divides into two entirely new cells, identical to one another. These are the first two cells of the baby-to-be. So begins the first day of the first nine months of life."

In National Geographics In the Womb documentary, the narrator says, "Over the course of the first trimester or first three months, the single egg will begin to transform itself into a fully formed baby. But all the features of the human body, nerves, organs, muscles, are mapped out in the fragile first weeks."

Lennart Nilsson and Lars Hamberger wrote in A Child is Born, "[At] five weeks old, [the embryo] is well past the stage when it looks like a formless clump of cells. The skin layers are still barely developed, and the tiny body is quite transparent. The head and tail can be distinguished, as well as the heart, the vertebrae of the spinal column, and the beginnings of a tiny hand." An important thing to keep in mind is that abortions aren't performed until the fifth week after conception for the safety of the mother. At week 5 you can see from the statement above that the embryo's head can be distinguished and that the heart, vertebrae of the spinal collumn and the beginnings of a tiny hand can be clearly seen.

Another point to make is that since when is it okay to kill somebody based on their level of development. Sure, embryo's aren't as developed as you or I, but 4 year old girls aren't as developed as 16 year old girls. Does that mean 16 year old girls are more human and deserve more protection and rights than 4 year old girls? You could also look at mentally or physically handicapped individuals. Does their lower level of development make it okay to dispose of them as an inconvenience for those who care for them? It would also mean that anyone who is more mentally or physically developed than you would be able to do what they wish with you because they are more advanced in their development. Does that make sense? Would they be justified in killing you on the grounds of their superior level of development?

"By six weeks, the cerebral hemispheres are growing disproportionately faster than other sections of the brain. The embryo begins to make spontaneous and reflexive movements. Such movement is necessary to promote normal neuromuscular development. A touch to the mouth area causes the embryo to reflexively withdraw its head."

The Biology of Prenatal Develpment, National Geographic, 2006.

"Day 49 has been elected to be the final day of the scientifically recorded day-to-day diary of development. On this day, the embryo is seven weeks old and is considered to be essentially complete. The creative enterprise of prolific cell division, differentiation, streaming migrations, establishment of new cell communities, and specialization: these come to rest when the foundations for all the working parts of the body are in place."

Geraldine Lux Flanagan, Beginning Life. New York: DK, 1996. pp. 55, 56.

"Measuring one-and-one-fourth inches from crown to rump and weighing about one-thirtieth of an ounce, the (56-day-old) embryo is now all but fully formed. All body systems are in place and elaborated. Architecturally, the organism is more or less whole... Though the energy output is about one-fifth that of an adult, the heart is functionally complete... A great passage has been made."

Alexander Tsiaras, From Conception to Birth. New York, NY: Doubleday, 2002. p. 183.


"The little fetus moves more and more every day, and the jerky body motions during the embryonic stage are now replaced by slower and aparently more goal-oriented movements. The hands often find their way to the mouth, ultrasound scanning shows, and the arms and legs are stretched and bent. The occcasional breathing movement also appears; the fetus can be seen to yawn or hiccough now and then and seldom lies perfectly still for any length of time. "

Lennart Nilsson and Lars Hamberger, A Child is Born, 4th edition. New York: Bantum Dell, 2003. p. 122.

"Where once it seemed that the mental development of a baby began at birth, now it appears that birth could be a relatively insignificant event in developmental terms."

In the Womb, National Geographic, 2005.

From the statements above regarding the development of the embryo, it is clear that it is more than just a clump of cells. The embryo is a distinct, self-integrating human being. Distinct, self-integrating human beings, like you or I, deserve the right to live and prosper. Why is it that just because the baby is still in the womb that we can be justified in taking it's life?

My next article will deal with the common objection that though embryos may be living human beings, there is a difference between being alive and being a person. Abortion may kill a living human being, but not a person. There's more to personhood than biology. I hope you will come back in a couple of days and read my response to this objection. Thank you.

Joel Varner

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