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Baby, Baby

A previous post from many years ago, “You Decide”, depicted the model of a baby at about 12 weeks of gestation and asked some provocative questions.  I had totally forgotten about that post until recently.  I just received several comments questioning the accuracy of that image.  The comments and responses are posted separately.  But I felt the topic needed to re-visiteed in greater depth.

1)  My first assertion in the post was that a picture is worth a thousand words.  The fact that here I am writing over 2,000 words on the topic confirms the truth of that saying.  The fact that the picture created a strong emotional response in some readers years after initial publication confirms the assertion that the picture bears a strong message.

What was the message?  Simply that a baby at 12 weeks gestation in the womb is clearly recognizable as a fully human being – a person.  Apparently some readers found this simple message troubling.

2) My second assertion was that the picture presented an accurate, life-sized model of a baby at 12 weeks gestation.  The comments took issue with some minor details of the image, using information apparently gleaned from a snopes fact check.

In this post I will examine both the accuracy of the model and the accuracy of the message in the original post. I will address the snopes “fact-check” in a separate post because there is much to be learned there.  Lastly, I will provide some common-sense cautions in a brief third post, “A Matter of Timing.”

The Accuracy of the Model

Fetus or baby?The original image is reproduced on the left.  It shows the model of a tiny human, approximately 2-3 inches long, with fully formed face and body, and closed eyelids.  It has normal human skin tones and features.

A model must be a reasonably accurate representation of reality, but not a complete duplication of that reality.  A good model is realistic.

In this particular case the model is a life-sized depiction of a typical human being at 12 weeks gestation in the womb.  Therefore the model should faithfully represent all key characteristics of the real object, but not necessarily all the details.  The question then becomes, “What are significant characteristics of a baby at 12 weeks of gestation that the model must satisfy?”

Significant characteristics are the characteristics that differentiate the real object of interest from all other objects NOT of interest.  In this case, the significant characteristics are

  • Size and shape, which define whether it is human or something else
  • Development maturity and features, which defines age.

For example, if I wanted to make a life-size model of an adult human being, I would create a male or female statue about 5-6 feet tall, having all the physical appendages and features one expects to see in a human being of that sex at the prime of life.  The statue could not be 1 ft. tall; nor could it be 10 ft. tall.  It would need arms, legs, hands, feet, faces, features, etc. without blemish.  A statue with just one arm or crushed hand would be unacceptable.  The statue would be in some natural position, such as standing, sitting, or lying down, but not doubled up in pain because that is not “normal” for a human.  If possible, the statue would have a realistic complexion of some sort but that is not essential.  After all, bronze and marble statues are quite recognizably human! Everything else is insignificant.

Based on the above example, I would propose that our model of an actual size baby at 12 weeks gestation must meet the following requirements:

Characteristic Requirement Model Accurate? (Yes/No) See Selected References and Links (at end)
Size Should be 2-3 inches long Yes1 4, 6, 8
Body shape Easily recognizable as human being, clearly not a dog, cat, etc., or an undefined blob of disorganized cells Yes 2,  3, 4
Development maturity Fully formed body with all parts, but not necessarily well proportioned (e.g. head may be “too large”), not necessarily fully functional, and perhaps not fully defined Yes 1, 5, 6
Body position Fetal position Yes 1, 5, 6
Body color Normal color for humans Yes See discussion of color below
1 Comparing measurements to a woman’s palm, I estimate the model in the image to be about 2 ½ inches long

CAUTION:  Due to the rapid development and growth of the baby at this stage of life, uncertainty regarding the actual date of conception and variations in individual baby sizes and development processes, specific details in an image could vary considerably.  Therefore one cannot use a specific detail to evaluate the validity of the whole, but must evaluate it holistically.  See post “A Matter of Timing”

For example, body size and skin tone may vary considerably, as they do in adults.  Sex organs may or may not be present yet.  Most, but not all, sites indicate that webbing between fingers and toes has disappeared.

Baseed on he above table, we can see the image meets all the requirements to be a realistic, reasonably accurate depiction of a 12 week baby.

Some readers took issue with the model’s skin tone, which they felt did not precisely duplicate the look of a real baby’s skin tone.  So let’s examine the issue of color briefly:

Adult humans come in all shades from translucent pink to dark black – but they are all humans.  Therefore we have wide latitude of colors to select.  However, adult humans don’t normally come in bright greens, purples, blues, etc.  Therefore our model must not be rendered in any of those colors – and is not.

A brief scan of in-utero photographs displays images with a generally pinkish tint.  This tint is due to the baby’s environment in utero.  Ultrasounds are artificially colored.

In truth, it is difficult if not impossible to get an accurate picture of skin color in-utero.   Since a baby’s skin color doesn’t change dramatically during birth, probably the best way is to examine the color of a newborn.  The skin tones of a healthy newborn generally correspond to normal adult skin shades.  This is not always the case.  My daughter had a mild case of jaundice and was more yellowish than normal at birth.

The baby’s skin at 12 weeks is extremely thin and may appear to be almost translucent.  This condition is almost impossible to replicate.  The model’s creator had this comment about skin color which was included in the snopes review:

“As for the translucency of the skin, that is a hard thing to capture. I hand-paint each one of these in multiple layers, but the transparent very thin skin of a 12 week old is difficult to portray”

I also examined images of aborted babies, assuming that they were healthy at the time of abortion.  Gruesome task!  Ignoring the blood, gore, and body discoloration from extreme bruising, the youngest appeared to have a translucent (but not transparent) pink skin tone.  I will not provide links to those images here; they are too sad and disturbing to see.  Imagine pictures of Auswitch gas chambers and worse…

Premature at 21 weeksLastly, I searched for pictures of the earliest premature birth and found some pictures of one born at 21 weeks.  It had normal pinkish-reddish skin coloring, as can be seen from the picture at left. [See reference #18]

Therefore, I believe the model’s light pink color is a reasonably realistic and commonly used representation of the skin tone for a typical baby at 12 weeks of gestation.

 

AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH

When faced with an inconvenient truth, we humans immediately rise up, take strong defensive positions, and attempt to neutralize the inconvenient truth.  This reaction is particularly common with issues that strike at our fundamental beliefs.  A person’s view of life, birth, and death is one of hottest of those issues, and anything that might possibly contradict our views is automatically treated as an inconvenient truth:

We immediately react to it as a potentially threatening message.   Therefore, if something triggers our conscience but we resist  the response demanded, our first line of defense is to discredit the source of our discomfort in any way possible.  Having done that, we rationalize that the source was inaccurate and illegitimate; therefore we’re not required to respond and can freely ignore our conscience.  Most common is the tactic of taking issue with a specific, typically insignificant characteristic of the unpleasant truth.  I suspect this was the mechanism behind some of the readers’ comments.

In this particular case, the model of the unborn baby triggers a strong emotional response of nurturing and protection for a helpless human being.  However, abortion, by definition, is the termination of a life.  It is the polar opposite of nurturing and protection.  Therefore, if we are pro-abortion, the presence of such an attractive model could be quite disturbing because it demands self-evaluation and possibly an undesired change of position.  Those are unpleasant and difficult tasks we don’t want to do.

So, in order to continue justifying our current pro-abortion position, we rationalize that the model we are viewing does not reflect true reality because it differs from our self-defined “reality” in some small, insignificant way.  Then, once we have defined the troubling image to be incorrect, we are no longer obliged to reevaluate our position and can continue our lives as before.

Our self-defined pro-abortion “reality” in this case might be:

  • A “real” baby is not as mature at this stage of development as depicted in the model (e.g. no eyes)
  • A “real” baby lacks some functionality of a fully developed adult implied by the model (e.g. feels no pain)
  • A “real” baby does not look like the model at all (e.g. it’s just a blob of cells)
  • Some aspect of the model does not meet some arbitrarily self-defined characteristic of a “real” baby (e.g. color of skin is not appropriate)
  • Sometimes we seek out an“expert” to validate our pre-conceived position as accurate so we can label the inconvenient truth as inaccurate (e.g. refer to snopes)
  • …and so on.

If we can establish any of the above to be true to our satisfaction, then we can

  • Freely dismiss the offending inconvenient truth (the model of the unborn infant) as inaccurate and ignore our conscience, or
  • We can conclude that the offending model is not worthy of our attention and ignore our conscience.

Either way, we can dismiss the inconvenient truth and continue about our business as before.  Threat neutralized…

THE REAL TRUTH

But reality is what it is.  In fact, it may be quite different from our self-defined “reality”, because at this stage of development a healthy infant has

  • A fully formed body with all the necessary parts (some not yet fully functional, but in place and ready to start working at the right time)
  • Has a fully formed nervous system and is able to move body parts (therefore possibly able to feel pain)
  • Has a fully formed, easily recognizable, defect-free human body complete with all parts and features that make it unmistakably human (this is not necessarily the case with an unhealthy, miscarried infant)

Based on the table presented earlier, there can be no doubt the model is a realistic representation of a baby at 12 weeks of gestation.

THE MESSAGE

A picture is worth a thousand words…  So what is the picture saying?  What is the message that creates such a strong emotional reaction?

The message is that an unborn baby is a human being with the same rights and privileges as any other living person.  This is an emotional issue that has many implications, so I will just examine it briefly from a scientific perspective:

1)  Each person is uniquely identifiable by his DNA.  A baby’s unique DNA is created at the moment of conception.  The DNA remains a unique identifier of this person for life.  This unique DNA is a mixture of the mother’s DNA and the father’s DNA but is different from both.  Therefore a baby is a uniquely identifiable human being separate from the mother from the moment conception.

2)  Each person is uniquely identifiable by his fingerprints.  By week 16 of gestation, the baby has unique fingerprints that are different from the mother’s or father’s fingerprints.  Therefore the baby is a uniquely identifiable human being separate from the mother by 16 weeks of gestation.

3) The mother’s body treats the baby’s blood as a foreign substance that must be destroyed.  Each baby has his/her own circulatory system totally separate from the mother’s circulatory system, including the blood.  The blood of the mother and baby do not normally mix.  But the baby’s life may be endangered if the baby’s blood type is positive and the mother’s blood type is negative.  If a small amount of the baby’s blood mixes with the mother’s blood, which often happens, the mother’s body may respond as if it were allergic to the baby and make antibodies to remove the foreign “invader” (the baby’s blood), which is likely to result in death of the baby.  Why is this?

If an Rh negative woman becomes pregnant with an Rh positive baby (the baby can inherit the Rh factor from an Rh positive father), the baby’s blood enters the mother’s blood circulation sometime during the pregnancy, usually at around 28 weeks.

The mother’s blood cells recognizes the foetal cells as foreign and produces Anti-Rh antibodies to destroy the cells. Her blood thus becomes sensitized against the Rh factor. When this sensitized blood carrying the antibodies re-enters the baby, it can attack the baby’s blood cells causing them to break down. This can cause acute problems in the baby. The symptoms are usually more acute in the second baby which follows the first pregnancy, rather than in the baby which causes the sensitization.
http://gynaeonline.com/rh-ve_pregnancy.htm

Clearly the mother’s body considers the baby to be a foreign entity, a separate person! [See #15]

Accordingly, we can conclude that science affirms through naturally occurring processes that a gestating baby is a uniquely new person separate from the mother as of the moment of conception:

  1. At conception with the formation of DNA
  2. At about 16 weeks of gestation with the formation of the baby’s unique fingerprints
  3. At about 28 weeks of gestation when the mother’s blood potentially recognizes the presence of the baby’s blood as a foreign substance and attempts to eliminate the baby from the body

Science confirms the message of the image to be accurate and true:  An unborn baby is a fully human being from the moment of conception.   As such, a baby in the womb deserves the same rights and privileges as any other person alive out of the womb.  If that message is true, then abortion – which terminates the life of an innocent, unborn human being – must be a form of murder.

And that is exactly why the model is so offensive to some people.

All is not as it looks
(1250)

REFERENCES AND LINKS

  1. “The nerves and muscles begin to work together. Your baby can make a fist. “
    https://www.medicinenet.com/image-collection/first_trimester_12_weeks_picture/picture.htm
  2. “Your baby looks like a fully formed person.”
    https://www.webmd.com/baby/interactive-pregnancy-tool-fetal-development?week=12
  3. “Eyelids close to protect the developing eyes.”
    https://www.medicinenet.com/image-collection/first_trimester_12_weeks_picture/picture.htm
  4. “Your baby’s face now has taken on a more developed profile.”
    “By now your baby might be about 2 1/2 inches (61 millimeters) long”
    https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/pregnancy-week-by-week/in-depth/prenatal-care/art-20045302
  5. “Your baby’s fingers will soon begin to open and close, his toes will curl, his eye muscles will clench, and his mouth will make sucking movements.”
    “peach-fuzz hair begins to grow on tender skin”

    https://www.babycenter.com/12-weeks-pregnant
  6. “At 12 weeks pregnant, baby is as big as a plum. The average fetus at 12 weeks is about 2.1 inches long and .49 ounces. Now that baby’s got pretty much all of their important organs, their main job is to keep on growing.”
    https://www.thebump.com/pregnancy-week-by-week/12-weeks-pregnant
    Includes 12 weeks pregnant high-tech ultrasound image
    https://media.front.xoedge.com/images/46e77229-3825-4487-ae4a-9efb9064e76e~rs_660.h
  7. High tech ultrasound image, age unknown
    https://s3.amazonaws.com/dsg.files.app.content.prod/gereports/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/27130942/12-weeks-1024×768.jpg
  8. Fetal development Week by Week
    https://www.momjunction.com/articles/your-unborn-babys-development_00389566/
  9. “As your baby’s muscles start to bulk up at this stage, he’s getting busy stretching and kicking. When you put your hand on your belly, your baby will likely wiggle in response because his reflexes are starting to develop — though it’s too early to feel his movements. He’ll also start to open and close his fingers, curl his toes, and jerk and kick his arms and legs.”
    https://www.parents.com/pregnancy/week-by-week/baby-development/
  10. “At 16 weeks, the fetus is about 4 and one-half inches long and resembles an infant; the eyes blink, the heartbeat is easier to locate, facial features (nose, mouth, chin and ears) are distinct, and the fingers and toes are clearly developed; the skin on the fingers and toes even have distinct patterns (fingerprints!).”
    https://www.parents.com/pregnancy/week-by-week/baby-development/
  11. Photographs of miscarried babies show the humanity of the unborn
    https://clinicquotes.com/photographs-of-miscarried-babies-show-the-humanity-of-the-unborn/
  12. Another picture of Philip (miscarried baby)
    https://clinicquotes.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/05/baby-phillip-04.jpg
  13. Story, Stunning photos of baby Nathan, miscarried at 14 weeks, prove humanity of the unborn
    https://www.lifesitenews.com/news/stunning-photos-of-baby-nathan-miscarried-at-14-weeks-prove-the-humanity-of
  14. Story: Stunning photo of Noah, miscarried at 12 weeks, shows humanity of unborn
    https://www.lifesitenews.com/pulse/stunning-photo-of-noah-miscarried-at-12-weeks-will-amaze-you
    https://www.lifenews.com/2014/02/28/beautiful-photo-of-noah-miscarried-at-12-weeks-shows-unborn-babys-humanity/
  15. Scientists generally accept that unborn babies can feel pain by the 20th week of gestation, possibly earlier.
    “The unborn baby reacts to noxious stimuli with avoidance reactions and stress responses. As early as 8 weeks the baby exhibits reflex movement during invasive procedures.”
    https://lozierinstitute.org/fact-sheet-science-of-fetal-pain/
  16. “If a small amount of the baby’s blood mixes with your [the mother’s] blood, which often happens, your body may respond as if it were allergic to the baby. Your body may make antibodies to the Rh antigens in the baby’s blood. This means you have become sensitized and your antibodies can cross the placenta and attack your baby’s blood.They break down the fetus’s red blood cells and produce anemia (a condition that happens when the blood has a low number of red blood cells). This condition is called hemolytic disease or hemolytic anemia. It can become severe enough to cause serious illness, brain damage, or even death in the fetus or newborn.”
    https://americanpregnancy.org/pregnancy-complications/rh-factor/
  17. Epigenetics: you can change baby’s DNA during pregnancy
    “The chemicals your baby is exposed to in utero via the foods you eat, the paint fumes you may breathe in, and the cigarettes you don’t inhale serve as biological light switches in his development. On, off, on, off—you decide how your child’s genes are expressed, even as early as conception. You don’t have total control, though. We still don’t know how you can change your baby’s eye color or if he’ll go bald at age 35. But we do know how to influence some really important factors, such as your child’s weight and intelligence.”

    https://www.pregnancymagazine.com/pregnancy/pregnancy-health/change-babys-dna-during-pregnancy  
  18. Premature Baby Born at 21 Weeks is the Youngest Ever to Survive (includes pictures)
    https://www.lifenews.com/2018/11/30/premature-baby-born-at-21-weeks-is-the-youngest-ever-to-survive-look-at-her-now/
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  1. May 5, 2020 at 4:50 pm

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