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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Insight to Life from Human Embryology

Dakota Voice is reviewing the Report of the South Dakota Task Force to Study Abortion, in light of the upcoming November vote on Initiated Measure 11 to end most abortions in South Dakota. Pertinent sections of the report will be reviewed each week for the next several weeks which may shed light on Initiated Measure 11.

First week: The Incorrect Assumptions of the Roe v. Wade Decision

Second Week: What Has Been Learned Since the Roe v. Wade

Third Week: The Current Practice of Abortion in South Dakota

Fourth Week: The Experiences of Women Who Have Had Abortions

Fifth Week: Molecular Biology & Other Science Sheds Light on Abortion

Sixth Week: Science Now Explains the Uniqueness of Every Human Being from Conception

Last Week: Children are Surviving Premature Deliveries at Younger Ages

The following is from Section II.B.5 on the findings of the report: ===================================

A declaration from the nationally recognized human embryologist, Dr. Bruce Carlson, MD, Ph.D., was made part of the record. Dr. Byron C. Calhoun, a specialist in internal fetal medicine, and President of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians also testified before the Task Force. Both experts provided evidence concerning the gross morphological appearance and functions of the unborn child during the embryonic and early fetal ages of the child.

Dr. Carlson is widely recognized as one of the leading experts in the nation in the field of human embryology. He taught human embryology and anatomy continuously from 1966 to 2004 at the University of Michigan Medical School. He is the author of a text on human embryology (Human Embryology and Developmental Biology) that is used in medical schools throughout the United States and many other parts of the world. He has conducted embryology research over the years in different parts of the world including periods in Moscow, Russia, Czechoslovakia, The Netherlands, and Helsinki, Finland.

Dr. Carlson set forth facts about what can be observed about the unborn child from fertilization to 12 weeks post-conception. He testified that it is a scientific fact that an abortion at any age of gestation terminates the life of a living human being.

He stated: "The post implantation human embryo is a distinct human being, a complete separate member of the species Homo sapiens, and is recognizable as such." (Carlson, P. 3, Par. 5.) He stated that this statement of biological fact is indisputable, and cautioned that this biological fact should not be confused with moral or philosophical considerations. Dr. Marie Peeters-Ney, an accomplished human geneticist, Dr. Saugstad, and Dr. Mark, also cautioned against this confusion. The Task Force also received the official report of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Subcommittee on Separation of Power after hearing testimony from 24 prominent scientists. That report stated that: "Those witnesses who testified that science cannot say whether unborn children are human beings were speaking in every instance to the value question rather than the scientific question." (Report to the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, made by its Subcommittee on Separation of Power, U.S. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C. 1981, P. 11.)

Dr. Carlson submitted with his declaration a nine page attachment that sets forth a list of structures from three systems found in the adult human being, the nervous, circulatory, and digestive/respiratory systems, as they have been observed and described in 10 millimeter human embryos, the size of the unborn child at five weeks post-conception. Dr. Carlson's attachment lists approximately 106 components of the nervous system, 63 components of the circulatory system, and about 40 components of the digestive and respiratory systems.

It is noted that the unborn child's heart is beating at three weeks old. The 2003 South Dakota Vital Statistics Report published by the Department of Health reports that in 2003 and 2002, 92% and 95% of all abortions performed in South Dakota were from 5 weeks to fourteen weeks post-conception. That means that in each of these abortions, the unborn child had 210 components of these three systems visibly in place.

Both Dr. Carlson and Dr. Calhoun explained how the child functions and interacts with his or her environment in utero. The child's heart typically starts to beat at 21 to 22 days old. Soon the baby's heart starts to fold into a structure in preparation of its subdivision into the familiar four chambers of the mature heart. At this age of 22 days, the major blood vessels that enter and leave the heart are visualized. The gut tract is visible by the end of the fourth week, and a recognizable mouth is visible. The brain is forming at a rapid rate. In the fourth week cells of the neural crest migrate throughout the body and form an astounding array of structures, including the sensory and autonomic nerves, pigment cells, and most of the bones and connective tissue of the face and neck. In the head, the earliest recognizable traces of the future eyes and inner ear are readily distinguishable. (Carlson, P. 10-11.)

By the end of the fourth week the unborn child has a highly functional circulation with three sets of blood vessels. The fifth week is characterized by profound changes in almost all organ systems of the human being. The brain becomes subdivided in 5 parts, corresponding to the major divisions of the adult brain, and nerve cells are forming. The eyes have formed a lens, and the nerves in the retina are taking shape. An olfactory placode, the precursor of the organ of smell in the nose is prominent. By the end of the fifth week, the 210 components of the three systems of the human body are observable.

On the first day following fertilization, the human embryo is identifiable as a specific individual human being on a molecular level. At the end of the sixth week, the unborn child is clearly recognizable as a human being even by gross morphological observation.

The sex of the child is also determined at fertilization. During the sixth week after fertilization the unborn child can respond to local tactile stimulation by reflex movements. Spontaneous movements are seen shortly after the completion of the seventh week. During the eighth week the heartbeat is approximately 160 beats per minute. (Carlson, P. 13-19.) A detailed discussion of the neurological development of the unborn child is found in Section II-H dealing with fetal pain.

The Task Force finds that the new recombinant DNA technologies indisputably prove that the unborn child is a whole human being from the moment of fertilization, that all abortions terminate the life of a living human being, and that the unborn child is a separate human patient under the care of modern medicine.

*Emphasis added

The 2005 South Dakota Task Force to Study Abortion was created when the South Dakota legislature passed HB 1233 with a bipartisan majority in both houses. The purpose of the task force was "to study abortion and to provide for its composition, scope, and administration." The report was completed in December 2005 after several months of meetings.


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