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When does life begin?
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To the editor:

When a human ovum is fertilized, the DNA from the father and mother combine to form a single cell. This single cell quickly begins dividing into more cells. As the cells continue to divide they begin to differentiate into the many different tissues and organs that begin to form into a human body through four processes: cell proliferation, cell specialization, cell interaction, and cell movement.

During this process, the 20,000-25,000 genes in the humane genome create as many as 100,000 different proteins which develop into the newly forming child. Amazingly, in as little as 21 days from conception, the heart begins to beat. For this to happen, it is necessary for neurons and nerve development to have occurred to stimulate the heart to beat through electrical impulses that are being sent from the brain, which has begun to develop in 18 days from conception. As the cells continue to divide and differentiate the other organs and tissues necessary for life continue to form and develop.

The eyes, with the eye color already determined, begin to develop just 22 days after conception. At about six weeks, the baby’s fingers and toes begin to develop and are clearly visible by week seven. Four weeks later the fingerprints begin their seven-week formation process that results in fingerprints uniquely different from every other human being that has ever existed.

At about eight weeks of age, the baby begins to move spontaneously, and its body is well proportioned. Every organ is present but immature. The skull, elbows and knees are forming. At 11 weeks, the baby begins to practice breathing and has facial expressions. At week 12, the baby begins to swallow and respond to skin stimulation. As development continues throughout the pregnancy, cells continue to divide and differentiate through the aforementioned processes until all neurological, muscular, skeletal, organs and physiological systems are completed and properly functioning.

As the baby’s heart beats it pumps blood throughout its developing body. This blood comes into contact with the mother’s blood through her placenta through diffusive exchange; which provides the functions of nutrition, respiration, excretion, synthesis of hormone and enzymes and a barrier action for the prevention of the intrusion of bacteria. This is all necessary for healthy development to maintain life and is accomplished through the umbilical cord, which serves as a physiological lifeline throughout the pregnancy.

Fetal surgeries have been performed in the first trimester and throughout all stages of pregnancy to save the life of the baby in the womb. Babies can survive outside the womb as early as 20 weeks of a full-term gestation of approximately 40 weeks.

So ... When does life begin?

Tom Ridder