The Child-In-Utero, A Medical-Scientific Analysis

I.      Medical/Scientific Analysis
A.    What is Pregnancy?
Having a child/offspring developing in the body
Conception/Fertilization View

Strictly speaking, the most exact and technical definition of pregnancy is that it starts at the fertilization of the egg and sperm gametes in mother’s fallopian tube. A.K.A., conception. The new human life first begins. This stage is a radical break from other life, a new organism is formed, genetic and biological individuation occurs, and all the functions of a living human organism are begun. The majority of medical doctors agree on fertilization as the start of new human life and thus, the technical start of pregnancy. But they disagree about when to date “pregnancy” since the mother’s body may not have changed yet, fertilization is often unknown/ invisible to the mother, and practically they are better served by allowing a range for where pregnancy begins, i.e., estimating due-dates.

1. Last Menstruation Doctors often date pregnancy at 1st day of most recent menstrual cycle. This dates pregnancy up to 2 wks before conception. Practically useful for projecting due-dates, etc. However, this is not very exact since a women would be considered “pregnant” before having a child is conceived.
2. Ovulation Release of the egg to travel down the fallopian tube. During this stage pregnancy is thought to happen if there is fertilization. As with the menstruation definition, this is helpful for estimating due dates but isn’t very exact. Only if ovulation happens at the exact same moment as fertilization would this be a good technical definition of pregnancy.
3. Conception/Fertilization —>
4. Implantation Some suggest that pregnancy begins when the zygote implants in the uterine wall. This definition is used for justifying abortion pills as “contraception” (i.e., prevention of pregnancy). This definition, however, defines leaves a women officially “non-pregnant” for several days before the conceptus implants.
5. Chemical Detection Mother now tests positive on pregnancy tests. Practical method of determining whether one is pregnant but not when it began.
6. Quickening Detection of fetal movement. Classical method of determining pregnancy. This view has become outdated, falsified by way of modern fetology. While she is indeed pregnant at this point, she was biologically pregnant long before the fetal human moves, detectably, on his or her own.
B.     What Is the Preborn/Unborn?

Through every stage of fetal development, from conception to birth, the fetus is . . .

1. Biological life—has all features of life: environmental response, self-direction, digest., excretion, reproduction
2. Organism—distinct from homogenous or unorganized cells (organs, tissues, tumors, follicles, etc.).
3. Homo Sapiens –member of the genus homo and species sapiens.
4. Human—genetically and biologically human
5. Human being—from conception to birth it is developing member of the human race. homo sapiens.
5. Distinct individual—it’s a genetically distinct individual, different from the mother potentially having different blood type, gender, etc.
6. Child-in-utero–“Child. Progeny; offspring of parentage. Unborn or recently born human being” (Black’s Law Dictionary , 5th ed.; “Unborn Victims of Violence Act of 2004” , a.1. )
7. Legally Innocent—having no legal offense that can rightly be attributed to it.
8. Morally Neutral—having no active moral ability, much less moral culpability (guilt).
9. At a particular developmental stage—Zygote/Blastocyst/Embryo/Fetus.  * “Fetus: a human being or animal in the later stages of development before being born” Merriam-Webster [On-line], 2015.
10. The preborn organism is a genetically distinct individual living human being. A child-in-utero, legally innocent, and morally neutral.
11.  Regarding arguments for fetal “personhood” see below, “H. The Child-in-Utero and Personhood”. Some argued that the fetus is a person, thus having/deserving full rights of personhood (i.e., life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, etc.). This route may be possible, but “person” is a legally/philosophically defined term whereas biological humanity is in the domain of science. It can be objectively defended. Since human rights are predicated on humanity, and the original rights of “life, liberty, pursuit of happiness” are met w/ “all men are created equal”—these “men” (i.e., humans) are equal from creation onward, i.e., at conception.
C. What Is a Conceptus?
The fetus at earliest developmental stage, termed “conception.” Also called, the zygote or blastocyst. Conception is the moment of fertilization where the male sperm and the female egg meet and first mingle DNA. The 23 chromosomes of the mother and the father pair up, making 46 chromosomes that constitute a genetically distinct living human organism.
D.    Quotes Supporting the Conception Definition of Human Life
1. “[It is] a scientific fact, which everyone really knows, that human life begins at conception.” California Medical Society, in California Medicine: The Western Journal of Medicine, 113, no. 3 (1970), 67-68.
2. “A zygote is the beginning of a new human being (i.e., an embryo).” And “Human development begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm (spermatozoa development) unites with a female gamete or oocyte (ovum) to form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marked the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.” Keith L. Moore, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology, 7th ed. Philadelphia: Saunders, 2003. p. 16, 2.
3. “Development begins with fertilization, the process by which the male gamete, the sperm, and the femal gamete, the oocyte, unite to give rise to a zygote.” T.W. Sadler, Langman’s Medical Embryology, 10th ed. Philadelphia: Lippincott Williams&Wilkins, 2006. p. 11.
4. “[The zygote], formed by the union of an oocyte and a sperm, is the beginning of a new human being.”
Keith L. Moore, Before We Are Born: Essentials of Embryology, 7th edition. Philadelphia: Saunders, 2008. p. 2.
5. “Although life is a continuous process, fertilization (which, incidentally, is not a ‘moment’) is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new genetically distinct human organism is formed when the chromosomes of the male and female pronuclei blend in the oocyte.” Ronan O’Rahilly, & Fabiola Müller, Human Embryology and Teratology, 3rd ed. NY: Wiley-Liss, 2001. p. 8.
6. “Human embryos begin development following the fusion of definitive male and female gametes during fertilization… This moment of zygote formation may be taken as the beginning or zero time point of embryonic development.” William J. Larsen, Essentials of Human Embryology. New York: Churchill Livingstone, 1998. pp. 1, 14.
7. “It is the penetration of the ovum by a spermatozoan and resultant mingling of the nuclear material each brings to the union that constitues the culmination of the process of fertilization and marks the initiation of the life of a new individual.” Clark E. Corliss, Patten’s Human Embryology: Elements of Clinical Development. NY: McGraw Hill, 1976. p. 30
8. “The term conception refers to the union of the male and female pronuclear elements of procreation from which a new living being develops.” And “The zygote thus formed represents the beginning of a new life.” J.P. Greenhill, & E.A. Friedman, Biological Principles and Modern Practice of Obstetrics. PA: W.B. Saunders, 1974. pp. 17, 23.
9. “Every time a sperm cell and ovum unite a new being is created which is alive and will continue to live unless its death is brought about by some specific condition.” E.L. Potter, & J.M. Craig, Pathology of the Fetus and the Infant, 3rd edition. Chicago: Year Book Medical Publishers, 1975. p. vii.
10. “Every baby begins life within the tiny globe of the mother’s egg . . . . It is beautifully translucent and fragile and it encompasses the vital links in which life is carried from one generation to the next. Within this tiny sphere great events take place. When one of the father’s sperm cells, like the ones gathered here around the egg, succeeds in penetrating the egg and becomes united with it, a new life can begin.” Geraldine Flanagan, Beginning Life. New York: DK, 1996. p. 13.
11. “Biologically speaking, human development begins at fertilization.” Biology of Prenatal Development, Nat. Geo, 2006.
12. “The two cells gradually and gracefully become one. This is the moment of conception, when an individual’s unique set of DNA is created, a human signature that never existed before and will never be repeated.” In the Womb, National Geographic, 2005.
E.    Arguments and Quotes Supporting the Fetus as “Human Being”
1.      The “human” status of the child-in-utero is already established scientifically (see above), yet since it’s an organism it is an individual being instead of just a partial or potential being (a tire isn’t a “car” but a car part. Neither is a blueprint of a car the same thing as a car, is only a potential car). As such it is literally a “human” and a “being” a human being.
2.      “Human being” is the normal title for any member of the genus and species homo sapiens.
3.      “Human being” is the normal title for any member of the human race. And all members of the genus and species homo sapiens are in the human race.
4.      Human beings go through developmental changes, without sacrificing humanity or individual “being” status. “Human being” status can accommodate a wide variety of changes including maturation, growth, and actualizing genetic potencies. A fetus can look very different from another stage of human development without necessarily sacrificing any humanity in the process.
5.      “Human being” distinguishes the human animal from other animal species. Human being does not distinguish stages of development within the human species.
6.      “Human being” can be used to refer to things like, “citizen” or “adult” yet those would be human beings by extensional definition (i.e., examples of a “human being”) without exhausting the intentional definition (i.e., all the essential properties, relations, or states that characterize a human being). Just as adults exemplify “human being” at an adult stage, so fetuses exemplify “human being” at a pre-natal stage.
7.      Defining “human being” in a radically exclusive sense, where developing humans do not even count as “human being” raises unnecessary challenges to inclusive definitions found in, for example, transhumanism and other bioethical fields like bionics, cloning, genetic engineering, etc.
8.      Oxford English Dictionary—“a man, woman, or child of the species homo sapiens, distinguished from other animals by superior mental development, power of articulate speech, and upright stance.” And the fetus is a “child-in-utero” by legal and common definition.

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1 Response to The Child-In-Utero, A Medical-Scientific Analysis

  1. Pingback: Is Abortion a Legal Contradiction? | Abortion History Museum

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