Issue Analysis

Recent improvements in ultrasound technology and advancements in scientific knowledge of fetal development have caused a shift in American attitudes toward preborn life. Increasingly, evidence shows that a growing preborn child possesses many of the physical and physiological characteristics that will be present at birth and into adulthood. From the moment of conception, all genetic material is present in a preborn child and the preborn child possesses the beginnings of every major essential organ. By week eight, every organ is in place and growing.

Diagnostic and 3-D ultrasound technology now provides parents the opportunity to have “portraits” taken of their children as they grow in the womb. The images viewable by ultrasound show the child’s characteristics with striking detail, clearly showing even less conspicuous physical characteristics. In light of parents’ ability to witness their preborn child’s movement and development, the position that an abortion merely rids the mother of “products of conception” or a “clump of cell tissues” lacks credibility and is an untenable argument. Even those in the media admit, “Ultrasound has exposed the life in the womb to those of us who didn’t want to see what abortion kills. The fetus is squirming, and so are we.”[1]

Fetal Development[2]


A zygote is formed when sperm and egg join. Twenty-three chromosomes from each parent also join to create the zygote with an entirely new, complete set of DNA. From the moment of conception, the zygote contains all of the genetic material necessary for the determination of any inherited characteristic.

Day 3 through 4

The zygote travels down the fallopian tube to the uterus, and it rapidly divides into cells. At this point, it is called a blastocyst.

Day 5 through 9

After the blastocyst attaches to the uterus, the uterine lining starts providing nourishment.

Week 2

The blastocyst splits into two sets of cells that form the placenta and the embryo.

Week 3

Brain, spinal cord, heart, and gastrointestinal tract begin to develop.

Weeks 4 and 5

Brain waves can be detected.

The vertebrae and muscles begin to form throughout the body.

Arm and leg buds are beginning to grow from the body.

Nostrils become visible and eye lenses begin to form.

The preborn baby now possesses the beginning forms of every essential organ.

Week 6

The brain begins to control muscles and organs; both lungs begin to form.

Hands and feet begin to move.

The preborn baby may begin moving around in the womb this week and is about ½ inch long.

Fingers begin to form.

Everything that is present in an adult human is now present in the preborn child.

The heartbeat is now detectable with an ultrasound.

Week 7

The jaws, teeth buds, tongue, hair, and nipples begin to form.

As the trunk straightens, the elbows and toes become more visible.

The preborn baby is now about ¾ inch in length.

Week 8

Every organ is in place and bones begin to harden.

The muscles can contract.

External features of the ear begin to take their final shape.

The preborn baby sighs, stretches, moves the head and tongue, and sucks the thumb.

Weeks 9 through 12

The preborn baby’s face now has a fully human profile.

The preborn baby can turn his head.

The liver begins to produce blood cells.

Sex is well differentiated.

The preborn baby can make a fist and fingernails begin to form.

Tooth buds appear.

Eyelids close, not to open until Week 28.

Weeks 13 through 16

The preborn baby is now about six inches long.

Facial muscle growth now makes expressions possible.

Fine hair called lanugo begins to grow on the head.

The preborn baby begins to suck and swallow amniotic fluid.

Sweat glands develop.

The liver and pancreas produce fluid secretions.

Weeks 17 through 20

The preborn baby is about eight inches long.

The heartbeat is now audible through a normal stethoscope.

Ears are developed and hearing begins for the first time.

Nails can be seen on fingers and toes.

The preborn baby becomes more active with increased muscle development.

There is substantial and well-documented medical evidence that a preborn child by at least 20 weeks of gestation has the capacity to feel pain during an abortion.[3]

Weeks 21 through 23

All the components of the eyes are developed.

Fingerprints and footprints are starting to form.

The skin becomes less transparent as fat begins to deposit.

Week 24

Air sacks are forming in the lungs.

Eyebrows and eyelashes are well formed.

The preborn baby has startle reflexes.

Currently, 24 weeks gestation is considered the point of viability.[4]

Weeks 25 through 28

The nervous system begins to take control of some body function.

The lungs are immature, but rhythmic breathing begins.

The eyes are wide open, and the preborn baby blinks.

Hands are fully developed.

Weeks 29 through 32

The preborn baby is 15-17 inches long and weighs over 4 pounds.

All bones are fully developed, though still pliable.

While lungs are still forming, the preborn baby begins to practice breathing.

Preparation for birth begins as the preborn baby shifts to a head-down position.

The preborn baby stores its own calcium, iron, and phosphorus and begins to gain weight rapidly.

Weeks 33 through 36

The preborn baby is 16-19 inches long and weighs between 5 ¾ pounds and 6 ¾ pounds.

Toenails reach the end of the preborn baby’s toes.

The preborn baby’s head has dropped into the pelvis.

Antibodies increase.

At week 35, or full term, the organs are ready to function on their own.

Weeks 37 through 40

The preborn baby weighs six to nine pounds and is fully capable of surviving outside the womb.

The preborn baby now fills the entire uterus and fetal movement decreases.

Breast buds are present in both sexes.

The lungs are maturing up to the day of delivery.

All other organs are fully developed.

Talking Points

Preborn children are not “potential life,” they are a life with potential. From the moment of conception, all genetic material is present in a preborn child. All that remains is for the child to grow and develop between conception and birth.

Since the Supreme Court issued their decision in the controversial Roe v. Wade case, more than 50 million of these innocent lives have been taken.

The humanity of a preborn child is evident even at the earliest stages of a pregnancy. In only a matter of weeks, every major organ is present, along with the extremities, fingers, and toes. When discussing the humanity of the preborn child, use some of the simple facts about fetal development. For example, say to someone who supports abortion: “Did you know that in the first trimester of a pregnancy the hands and feet begin to move?” or “Did you know that a baby’s brain waves can be detected as early as week 4 or 5?”

Abortion has a higher medical risk when the procedure is performed later in pregnancy. Although abortion always poses significant risks for the mother, the likelihood of complications rises with the duration of a pregnancy.


Many Americans are unaware of the realities of fetal development, yet there is no greater evidence of the humanity of a preborn child. Advancements in ultrasound technology show why the sanctity of human life must be protected from its very beginning.

© January 2014 Center for Arizona Policy, Inc. All rights reserved. This article has been reproduced with permission. The original article can be found here:

This publication includes summaries of many complex areas of law and is not specific legal advice to any person. Consult an attorney if you have questions about your specific situation or believe your legal rights have been infringed. This publication is educational in nature and should not be construed as an effort to aid or hinder any legislation.

[1] William Saletan, Sex, Life, and Videotape, Slate, April 28, 2007, visited Sept. 23, 2013).
[2] Information throughout taken from the following sources: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia: Fetal Development, National Institutes of Health (2009), (last visited Sept. 23, 2013); Fetal Development, American Pregnancy Association (2007), (last visited Sept. 23, 2013); Fetal development, Mayo Clinic (2011), (last visited Sept. 23, 2013); Interactive Prenatal Development Timeline, The Endowment for Human Development, (last visited Sept. 23, 2013).
[3] K. Anand et al., Pain and its effects in the human neonate and fetus, 317 New England J. of Med. 1321-1329 (1987).
[4] Pregnancy Viability – What Does It Mean?, BabyMed (2013), visited Sept. 23, 2013).

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    Nebraska Family Alliance is a non-profit 501(c)3 research and educational organization committed to strengthening the family. NFA is the only state-based family policy council in Nebraska and is associated with Family Policy Alliance.

    Nebraska Family Alliance is a non-profit 501(c)3 research and educational organization committed to strengthening the family. NFA is the only state-based family policy council in Nebraska and is associated with Family Policy Alliance.