So, we’ve done politics, we did religion a while back (will resurrect that soon – pardon the pun), so what’s left – ah yes, abortion.
This topic comes to mind for two reasons. One, because a blog reader suggested it*, and two – because I had a discussion with someone close to me about it recently.
It goes back to my earlier post ‘At what price life’.
But a step back. When does life begin? Does it begin at conception? Does it begin at time of implementation? Does it begin when the heart starts beating? Does it begin when the foetus is viable? Or does it begin at moment of birth?
Before IVF I was kind of fuzzy around the actual point where life begins. IVF was a scientific, factual living lesson in exactly how the process of life does begin, from a biological point of view.
The moment sperm meets egg (this can be done through a processes called ICSI – I had this done with K&A), and fertilization happens (conception) – an embryo is formed. At that moment the two-celled embryo has all the DNA needed to form a human being. Of course, so much more is needed before the embryo can grow any further, and in fact many many embryos are created and then die naturally, either do to faulty DNA, faulty fertilization or lack of implantation. Every month to millions of women, without them even knowing. So, can we reasonably argue that life begins at conception? Not sure. (and how did this affect the argument raised by some that all embryos created during IVF should be considered to have ‘life’?)
Then, once the newly formed embryo begins to develop into 4 cells, 8 cells etc, doubling every day, the embryo starts growing and the cells start beginning their specific journey to their own particular end goal in the body – to become the hands, the feet, the brain etc. Do you know, that at 3 days old, when the embryo is a mere 8 cells big, you can already tell whether it is a female or male embryo? The process called PGD . A single cell is removed from an 8-celled embryo and sent away for analysis (at the 8 cell stage, each cell is capable of becoming any organ, it is only after this stage that each cell has a specific end goal). I had this done on Kate and Adam. When they were 8 cells big, they had a cell removed and tested. Isn’t that amazing. So, does life begin then?
However, as many many IVF patients will tell you, you can have 10 zillion embryos, if they don’t implant into the womb, there is no baby to be had. Implantation is the last, big unknown in the infertility world . We can stimulate the ovaries to make eggs, we can create fertilization through ICSI, we can culture embryos through lab and petrie dishes, but we can’t force an embryo to implant in the womb. We can transfer as many embryos as we want into a ready and willing womb, but only once one the embryo has implanted can that embryo become your baby. So, does life begin at implantation?
So, once the embryo has implanted, it has to reach the critical phase of the heart beating. It is a pass/fail point for many aspiring embryos. Once you’ve seen the heart beat, the next big thing is to get through the first 12 weeks. The first 12 weeks are crucial, because that is when all the organs are formed. It is during this time that your embryo, your foetus is at its most vulnerable. Amazingly enough, after only 12 weeks, your baby is fully formed, just very little. Does life begin after 12 weeks?
However, even with all its organs there, with a brain and a beating heart, your baby can not survive outside of the womb until at least 22w, and even then, sadly, the chances are survival are not great.
Once you start hitting 26w, your baby has a better chance of surviving outside of the womb. So, does life begin at stage of viability? (viability is the term for when the baby is able to survive outside of the womb). But not all babies born at 26w survive – some do, wonderfully. Some survive even earlier, but some don’t.
Or is it that life only begins at birth?
It is a very difficult issue – with so much emotion, faith, feelings involved. Even from a factual, scientific point of view, as I have described above, it is difficult to pin down.
Of course, this brings up the whole abortion issue – how does this play against abortion, where does life begin? And of course, at what price life? Is it life at all costs? And whose life takes precedent?
It is an academic debate for most. Until you have been in that situation it is difficult to say with total conviction what you would do.
I am interested to hear from you,
when you do feel life begins?
An admin note: I am happy to hear all points of view, but I wont tolerate any one being ugly to any one else. We are adults here, lets debate things intelligently and without anger or ugliness. Tell me how YOU feel, and your reasoning.
*As punishment for taking my previous poll too literally, I made the errant blog reader come up with a new poll. So this is her poll choice.