The following is a reflection by Youth Protecting Youth’s vice-president of activities:
An argument I’ve heard several times against recognizing the unborn as persons is that they are less cognitively developed than others, or that they don’t do the things that born people do, like interact and form relationships. The reason, of course, for these differences is that the unborn are at an early stage in the complex process of human development. They aren’t “supposed” to be able to do those things yet. To say they are not persons because of this is simply discrimination based on level of development.
Let me state from the beginning that the reason I believe abortion is wrong is because it is an action that directly and intentionally kills an innocent human being. I recently came across an article, though, which provides even more food for thought on just how human the unborn are.
Researchers in Italy used 4D ultrasound technology to observe twin fetuses at 14 weeks, and again at 18 weeks, of development, noting that a twin pregnancy “offers the unique opportunity to explore social behavior before birth”. The type and frequency of movements was recorded. The researchers observed that the twins reached out to touch one another, and that their motions toward one another were different than their motions toward the uterine wall. The frequency of interaction was higher at 18 weeks than it had been at 14 weeks. They stated:
“We conclude that performance of movements towards the co-twin is not accidental: already starting from the 14th week of gestation twin foetuses execute movements specifically aimed at the co-twin.”
A while ago the National Post ran a story that stirred up a lot of controversy: there is an increase in cases of mothers pregnant with twins deciding they want one child, not two, and requesting a procedure called “selective reduction”, in which one twin is aborted. Obviously my objection to this procedure is that it kills a baby, and as one person quoted in the article suggests, treats babies as a commodity. My immediate question, though, was what would it be like to find out later in life that you had a twin but your parents only wanted one of you, so they aborted the other? Given the new insight into social interactions between twins early in development, I think the effect of this procedure on the surviving twin becomes an even bigger question.