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LIFE – in the beginning A reflection on human foetal development "Human life is sacred because from its beginning it involves 'the creative action of God', and it remains forever in a special relationship with the Creator, who is its sole end. God alone is the Lord of life from its beginning until its end: no one can, in any circumstance, claim for himself the right to destroy directly an innocent human being". Donum Vitae, The Gift of Life, 5 CDF
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…” Jeremiah 1:5a Early development of the child Week 3: Blood vessels start to form at around 13 to 18 days after conception. Week 4: The eyes begin to develop early in the fourth week followed by the gall bladder, lungs, liver, pancreas, pharynx, stomach and trachea. The heart begins to beat at around the 22 nd day; followed by the arms (26) and legs (28). The beginnings of muscle development can be seen at this time. Week 5: At this stage the embryo has grown more than 10,000 times! Blood begins to flow through the veins and we can see the jaw and ears beginning to form.
“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you…” Jeremiah 1:5a Reflex responses begin in the 6 th week as the brain co-ordinates movement in the organs and muscles The eyes are now obvious and we can see fingers and toes developing. The forehead and nostrils are taking shape and teeth are beginning to appear. At week 7, the lips are sensitive to touch and the ears may be seen to resemble a family pattern. The arms continue to lengthen and the wrist is taking shape.
“For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Psalm 139: 13 At 8 weeks the foetus looks like a baby! Every organ is formed and the heart beats strongly. The stomach, kidneys and liver are working; all limbs are clearly formed and the major blood vessels are taking their final shape. At the 56 th day, the hands can usually be seen tucked in against the nose. The face is now well developed. By the end of week 8 the gender is usually obvious. By the end of week 8 the majority of the body’s organs, structures and systems have begun to develop. From this time onward, the child’s development is about growth and maturation.
“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139: 14 At 10 weeks almost the entire body is sensitive to touch. The child can be observed squinting, swallowing and frowning. At 11 weeks the child can be seen to react to sounds. At 12 weeks the child can kick, turn its feet, move toes, make a fist, bend wrists, turn head and open the mouth. At 13 weeks, facial expressions already resemble those of the parents. The child can perform ‘back flips’.
“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139: 14 At 14 weeks, slow eye movements first occur. During the fourth month, palm lines develop that are as individual to each person as finger prints. Pain pathways spread and the nervous system is close to being fully developed. At between 14 and 18 weeks, the mother first starts to feel movement as the child grows larger and stronger; moving more frequently. The child’s ears begin to stand out from the head.
“When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the child leaped in her womb.” Luke 1: 41 From about 20 weeks the foetus is considered to be viable. Prematurely born infants have survived at 22 weeks. From around week 26 the child responds to sounds. The child will respond to bitter taste sensations with facial expressions. Between week 26 and 29, the lungs are capable of breathing air and the central nervous system can regulate body temperature.
“See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands.” Isaiah 49: 16 By 30 weeks, the child is about 24 cm long. The bones are gaining strength now and the child is kicking and moving around more frequently. At around 34 weeks, the child has grown to around 46 cm in length – that’s 12 cm in around 4 weeks! In the last few weeks before it is born, the child will grow a further 4 cms and will gain in weight at the rate of 230 grams per week! From about 34 weeks onwards the child is getting ready to be born…
“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Psalm 139: 14 “Can a woman forget her nursing child, or show no compassion for the child of her womb? Even if these may forget, yet I will never forget you.” Isaiah 49: 15&16
LIFE ISSUES “The Gospel of life is for the whole of human society. To be actively pro-life is to contribute to the renewal of society through the promotion of the common good.” The Gospel of life 101 “As far as the right to life is concerned, we must denounce its widespread violation in our society: alongside the victims of armed conflicts, terrorism and the different forms of violence, there are the silent deaths caused by hunger, abortion, experimentation on human embryos and euthanasia. How can we fail to see in all this an attack on peace? Abortion and embryonic experimentation constitute a direct denial of that attitude of acceptance of others which is indispensable for establishing lasting relationships of peace.” Benedict XVI, World Day of Peace address, 1 st Jan 07
LIFE ISSUES “…in the name of God: respect, protect, love and serve life, every human life! Only in this direction will you find justice, development, true freedom, peace and happiness!” Evangelium Vitae, The Gospel of Life 5 The Gospel of life is for the whole of human society. To be actively pro-life is to contribute to the renewal of society through the promotion of the common good. Evangelium Vitae, The Gospel of Life 101