Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Obstetrics

The beginning of our obstetric pathology unit at school just happened to coincide with the Roe v Wade discussion here. Since I find this topic fascinating and somewhat relevant, I thought a spinoff post about the science of conception might be fun. I'll post things I think are interesting for a non-medical audience as I learn them, including carry-overs from our Roe v Wade thread.

12 comments:

Monkey Lung said...

Something interesting I learned in class today: Many argue the fetus is not a human being but rather the potential to form a human being. To defend this idea that human rights begin at birth they cite the high number of spontaneous abortions in the first trimester. Actually, less than 50% of all miscarriages contain an embryo. Most represent the body's erroneous determination that it is pregnant when no fertilization has taken place. This would seem to suggest conception is a less capricious process than we are led to believe by some. Just food for thought.

Monkey Lung said...

Identical twins can arise from a single embryo anytime from fertilization up to the formation of the primitive streak. Many have used this to argue for embryonic stem cell research. The idea being that if an embryo could possibly give rise to one or two individuals, it does not possess identity and therefore is not worthy of protection under the law. This doesn't really hold water for me. If the embryo might develop into two people instead of one doesn't that increase, rather than decrease, its value? By that kind of logic we ought to feel worse about terminating a two week old embryo than a three month old fetus since the embryo might have represented more than one life.

Monkey Lung said...

Medically, embryo refers to the preiod from two weeks post-fertilization to seven or eight weeks, fetus there-after. Before that we use a variety of terms depending on the number of cell divisions and morphology (zygote, blastula, morula, etc.)

Monkey Lung said...

Here's another one. If a pregnancy terminates for any reason prior to 20 weeks its called an abortion. If the pregnancy terminates after 20 weeks it's termed livebirth/stillbrith depending on whether the baby shows signs of life upon delivery. Despite this apparent medical distinction between human baby and undeveloped fetus at 20 weeks, most legal limits on elective abortion are still at the beginning of the third trimester (27 weeks). It seems like a double standard to start calling something a birth at 20 weeks but reserve the right to kill it until 27.

Monica said...

Well, to carry over from what my husband posted last night, here's an update on what's happening in South Dakota. Check out the NYT for the article, in case this link doesn't work.

I think I really do agree with Monkey Lung. I hate the idea of abortion--and just for the record, I really hate the medical practice of referring to a miscarriage as a spontaneous abortion--but there is something in me that understands why women revolt against being told what they can and can't do to their bodies. I know the government gives us all kinds of directives in all kinds of areas, and I know that abortion kills babies and that it's horrible, but I think there's a part of me that wouldn't like it if Roe was overturned. I know it seems odd to juxtapose those things, but there it is.

Becca said...

http://www.mirrorofjustice.com/mirrorofjustice/2006/02/elizabeth_brown.html has stuff about the "plan B" pill I found interesting.

Becca said...

grrr for non-automatic html tags...

plan B commentary

Becca said...

Huh. Apparently the Pope has something to say on when conception happens.

Monica said...

Isn't that pretty much the standard line from that quarter?

Becca said...

Well, yeah. Pretty much.

Andrew Gerber said...
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Andrew Gerber said...

To digress slightly from the conception angle, I came across a Christian website that takes a very graphic stand against abortion. I suggest starting with the background page... http://www.abort73.com/HTML/VII-A-believe.html