Recent improvements in ultrasound technology and advances in scientific knowledge of fetal development have caused a shift in American attitudes toward preborn life. Increasingly, evidence shows that a growing preborn child possesses many of the physical and physiological characteristics that will be present at birth and into adulthood. Only a few weeks into pregnancy, a preborn child possesses the beginnings of every major essential organ and, by week eight, every organ is in place and growing.
Diagnostic and 3-D ultrasound technology now provides parents the opportunity to have “portraits” taken of their children as they grow in the womb. The images viewable by ultrasound show the child’s characteristics with striking detail, clearly showing even less conspicuous physical characteristics. In light of parents’ ability to witness their preborn child’s movement and development, the position that an abortion merely rids the mother of “products of conception” lacks credibility and will become untenable.
- A zygote is formed when sperm and egg join. Twenty-three chromosomes from each parent also join to create the zygote with an entirely new, complete set of DNA. From the moment of conception, the zygote contains all of the genetic material necessary for the determination of any inherited characteristic.
Day 3 thru 4
- The zygote travels down the fallopian tube to the uterus, and it rapidly divides into cells. At this point, it is called a blastocyst.
Day 5 thru 9
- After the blastocyst attaches to the uterus, the uterine lining starts providing nourishment.
- The blastocyst splits into two sets of cells that form the placenta and the embryo.
- Brain, spinal cord, heart, and gastrointestinal tract begin to develop.
Weeks 4 and 5
- The preborn baby is about ¼ inch long.
- The heart pumps blood with a regular rhythm of between 105 and 121 beats per minute
- Brain waves can be detected.
- The vertebrae and muscles begin to form throughout the body.
- Arm and leg buds are beginning to grow from the body.
- The preborn baby now possesses the beginning forms of every essential organ.
- The brain begins to control muscles and organs; both lungs begin to form.
- Hands and feet begin to move.
- The preborn baby may begin moving around in the womb this week.
- The jaws, teeth buds, tongue, hair, and nipples begin to form.
- As the trunk straightens, the elbows and toes become more visible.
- Every organ is in place and bones begin to harden.
- The muscles can contract.
- External features of the ear begin to take their final shape.
- The preborn baby sighs, stretches, moves the head and tongue, and sucks the thumb.
Weeks 9 through 12
- The preborn baby’s face now has a fully human profile.
- The preborn baby can turn his head.
- The liver begins to produce blood cells.
- Sex is well differentiated.
- The preborn baby can make a fist and fingernails begin to form.
- Eyelids close, not to open until Week 28.
Weeks 13 through 16
- The preborn baby is now about six inches long.
- Facial muscle growth now makes expressions possible.
- Fine hair called lanugo begins to grow on the head.
- The preborn baby begins to suck and swallow amniotic fluid.
- Sweat glands develop.
- The liver and pancreas produce fluid secretions.
Weeks 17 through 20
- The preborn baby is about eight inches long.
- The heartbeat is now audible through a stethoscope.
- Ears are developed and hearing begins for the first time.
- The preborn baby becomes more active with increased muscle development.
Weeks 21 through 23
- All the components of the eyes are developed.
- Fingerprints and footprints are starting to form.
- The skin becomes less transparent as fat begins to deposit.
- Air sacks are forming in the lungs.
- Eyebrows and eyelashes are well formed.
- The preborn baby has startle reflexes.
Weeks 25 through 28
- The nervous system begins to take control of some body function.
- The lungs are immature, but rhythmic breathing begins.
- The eyes are wide open and the preborn baby blinks.
- Hands are fully developed.
Weeks 29 through 32
- The preborn baby is 15-17 inches long and weighs over 4 pounds.
- All bones are fully developed, though still pliable.
- While lungs are still forming, the preborn baby begins to practice breathing.
- Preparation for birth begins as the preborn baby shifts to a head-down position.
- The preborn baby stores its own calcium, iron, and phosphorus and begins to gain weight rapidly.
Weeks 33 through 36
- The preborn baby is 16-19 inches long and weighs between 5 ¾ pounds and 6 ¾ pounds.
- Toenails reach the end of the preborn baby’s toes.
- The preborn baby’s head has dropped into the pelvis.
- Antibodies increase.
- At week 35, or full term, the organs are ready to function on their own.
Weeks 37 through 40
- The preborn baby weighs six to nine pounds and is fully capable of surviving outside the womb.
- The preborn baby now fills the entire uterus and fetal movement decreases.
- Breast buds are present in both sexes.
- The lungs are maturing up to the day of delivery.
- All other organs are fully developed.
- Preborn children are not “potential life,” they are a life with potential. From the moment of conception, all genetic material is present in a preborn child. All that remains is for the child to grow and develop between conception and birth. Since the Supreme Court issued their decision in the controversial Roe v. Wade case, more than 50 million of these innocent lives have been taken.
- The humanity of a preborn child is evident even at the earliest stages of a pregnancy. In only a matter of weeks, every major organ is present, along with the extremities fingers and toes. When discussing the humanity of the preborn child, use some of the simple facts about fetal development. For example, say to someone who supports abortion: “Did you know that in the first trimester of a pregnancy the hands and feet begin to move?” or “Did you know that a baby’s brain waves can be detected as early as week 4 or 5?”
- Abortion has a higher medical risk when the procedure is performed later in pregnancy. Although abortion always poses significant risks for the mother, the likelihood of complications rises during the duration of a pregnancy.
Many Americans are unaware of the realities of fetal development, yet there is no greater evidence of the humanity of a preborn child. Advancements in ultrasound technology show why the sanctity of human life must be protected from its very beginning.
© October 2011 Center for Arizona Policy, Inc. All rights reserved.
This publication includes summaries of many complex areas of law and is not specific legal advice to any person. Consult an attorney if you have questions about your specific situation or believe your legal rights have been infringed. This publication is educational in nature and should not be construed as an effort to aid or hinder any legislation.
 Information throughout taken from the following sources: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: Fetal Development, National Institutes of Health (2009), www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002398.htm (last visited Dec. 1, 2011); Fetal Development, American Pregnancy Association (2007), www.americanpregnancy.org/duringpregnancy/fetaldevelopment1.htm (last visited Dec. 1, 2011); Fetal development, Mayo Clinic (2011), www.mayoclinic.com/health/prenatal-care/PR00112 (last visited Dec. 1, 2011); Interactive Prenatal Development Timeline, The Endowment for Human Development, www.ehd.org/science_main.php?level=i (last visited Dec. 1, 2011).