In my last brief , I discussed the genetic individuality of the zygote and how, from this first, singular cell, nothing other than a person, and only a particular person, could possibly result. Now, we will address the development of the zygote and the autonomy of prenatal life, further demonstrating the truth that a human being is created at conception.
From the first cell that divides and organizes itself toward its plenitude, there are many important stages. Among the first is implantation, and the profound transformations due to the formation of fundamental tissues. As science has demonstrated, these transformations proceed according to a singular, absolute and irreversibly-continuous process fixed by the initial program (the human genome).
It is necessary to recall that genetic information has the characteristic of being in potential , i.e. what is present in the genetic patrimony is not formally the brain or any other organ, but only the program for its future formation. Nevertheless, though there is not a formal presence, neither is it merely an abstract or indeterminate possibility. Rather, it is real - materially present in the chemical structure of the DNA and absolutely determined in its specific and individual characteristics.
In the unity of this gradual development, there is no "threshold" after which something that was not yet human becomes human. Science leads us to affirm that if it was not human from the beginning, it would never become so. Therefore, we must cast out any temptation to establish a "before" and "after," because there is no qualitative leap, no transformation in essence, by which the zygote, embryo or fetus becomes at some moment of its development something that it wasn't from its conception.
The term preembryo , (a term that first made the public stage in an embryo disposition case in the state of Tennessee and not in scientific literature), is a legal creation, but a scientific fiction. At the moment of conception, an embryo is created. Prior to conception what we have is two gametes (the ovum and the spermatozoon). There is no state in between the two.
Despite the intimate relationship that is established between the body of the mother and the child, the formation process of the embryo is autonomous .
Through the techniques of in-vitro fertilization, it has been verified that conception is carried out directly by the cells. That is, the technician or scientist only observes with the microscope how the spermatozoon penetrates the ovum, without himself intervening in the process.
Immediately upon conception, the zygote not only develops on its own but also actively acts upon the mother, exercising an influence over her organs. For example, six days into life (at which stage the embryo is called a blastocyst ), an embryo implants in the uterus of his or her mother. On the sixth or seventh day, the embryo, via a chemical message, suspends the mother's menstrual cycle. At this point, he or she is only 1.5 mm long and is already influencing his or her environment.
In the period that precedes implantation, when the zygote seems most precarious, his autonomy is paradoxically greater. During the first 14 days, the tiny embryo breathes and eats on his own. Upon full implantation, the baby breathes and eats thru the placenta. Although the baby depends vitally upon the mother, that doesn't mean at all that he is part of her.
Implantation itself is in great part the fruit of the activity of the embryo or of the joint action of the trophoblast (the outer layer of the blastocyst) and maternal tissues. The placenta is an organ designed for the exchange of material between the blood streams of the mother and the fetus, without there being a mixing of the two streams. The placenta separates two organisms that, though in communication, are distinct and autonomous.
Professor Jerome Lejeune, before the legislative assembly of the State of Louisiana on June 7, 1990, affirmed the following:
To recap what science teaches us: we know, without any doubt, that in the beginning, the message exists, the message is vital and its manifestation is life . Even more briefly, if the message is a human message, then the being is a human being.
Science and genetics prove demonstrably that from the moment of conception, a new life is inaugurated - a life which is complete, unique and unrepeatable. This life is not that of the father or of the mother, but that of a new human being that develops on its own, possesses its own genome, its own personality, and its own autonomy. Therefore, after conception, anything that ends this life , ends the life of a human being.