Know the five key aspects of pregnancy biology that often come up in abortion debates

  • The United States Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade on June 24, a landmark case from 1973.
  • There are already laws restricting access to abortion in some states.
  • Clear distinctions between having a heart and not having a heart, or between being able to survive outside of the uterus, are rare or nonexistent in the language surrounding these concerns.

The United States Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade on June 24. The highest court in the land overturned the historic 1973 ruling that upheld a person’s right to an abortion, delegating control over this medical procedure to each state and local government. There are already laws restricting access to abortion in some states. Now that Roe v. Wade provided federal protections, other states will probably follow suit.

For instance, Texas’ 2021 “heartbeat bill” outlaws abortion after around six weeks of pregnancy, when heart cells are said to start beating. There isn’t a completely formed heart to beat at that early stage of pregnancy. According to this, abortion restrictions at six weeks that have been passed into law in Texas, Oklahoma, and Idaho go into effect earlier than most people realize, according to Nisha Verma, a fellow at the Washington, D.C.-based American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.

State legislators in certain states are debating abortion laws that would extend to fertilized eggs; a similar measure was already approved in Oklahoma. This includes fertilized eggs that land improperly, as in the fallopian tube. This condition, known as ectopic pregnancy, can result in internal bleeding caused by the growing tissue rupturing the tube, which poses a life-threatening medical emergency. According to Sandoval, “These are pregnancies that under no circumstances may become a healthy pregnancy.” The patient will actually die from them if they are not treated and allowed to progress. Laws that apply to a fertilized egg may restrict how we may care for patients with ectopic pregnancies, the author warns.

The 5 key aspects of pregnancy

1. Misunderstanding the early timeline of pregnancy:

Actually, two weeks before a sperm cell and an egg come into contact, the normal pregnancy clock begins to run. Around day fourteen of a typical 28-day menstrual cycle, the ovary releases an egg. Day 1 marks the beginning of menstruation, the day an egg is fertilized, and the beginning of a pregnancy. This implies that a person is legally two weeks pregnant as soon as sperm fertilizes an egg. As absurd as that may sound, it is the most straightforward method for medical professionals to date a pregnancy.

In 2020, Nisha Verma, conducted a survey amongst the people in Georgia, about their perceptions about the timeframe. Some claimed that the six weeks begin after the first missed period, while others said that it begins on the day of conception. Both, according to Nisha, are mistaken.

Beginning four weeks following fertilization, the ban would apply. Two weeks after missing menstruation, which is frequently a female’s first sign that she might be pregnant, if you go backward in time, is two weeks. Two weeks following a missed menstruation is the shortest window of opportunity these bans give a woman to obtain an abortion.

2. Sperm and egg alone do not cause pregnancy:

The process of fertilization, in which two cells fuse and mix their genetic material to create a zygote, often occurs in one of the two fallopian tubes close to the ovaries. However, pregnancy is not always the result of a fertilized egg, according to obstetrician and gynecologist Jonas Swartz of Duke University School of Medicine. From a medical perspective, it doesn’t make sense to compare them. Researchers estimate that up to 50% of fertilized eggs do not implant in the uterus. The correct genetic elements must come together. The developing ball of cells must move to the uterus and insert itself there. And to support this, the proper hormone balance needs to be produced. “There are so many things other than the sperm meeting the egg that actually matters for this to become a pregnancy that has a chance to develop further,” says Selina Sandoval.

3. The so-called “heartbeat laws” are deceptive:

Abortions are prohibited in Texas “once the heartbeat of an unborn child is detected.” However, the club dub sound that is typically made by the heart’s valves opening and shutting as they circulate blood through its chambers is not what causes the rhythmic noises that can be heard during early pregnancy on an ultrasound. That is due to the fact that those chambers have not yet been formed. The heartbeat-like noises on early ultrasounds are produced by the ultrasound machine itself.

Nisha claims that what is being observed is actually the primitive heart tube and the cells within that heart tube that are exhibiting electrical activity that results in fluttering. According to the electrical activity and fluttering motion, “the ultrasound is truly producing that sound.

4. The fetal ache might be complex to describe:

The idea that fetuses, which begin to develop around week 11 of pregnancy, experience pain are a piece of biology that is frequently used to limit abortions. Although it is hard to know what a fetus goes through, research on brain development gives some indications. The first sign of pain is when the senses pick up on something unpleasant. The cortex, the brain’s outer layer that aids in sensation interpretation, must then receive these impulses. Those neural connections don’t develop in human fetuses until roughly week 24 or 25 of pregnancy. The Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine’s guidelines states that while these connections are necessary for the perception of pain, they are not sufficient in and of themselves to establish the existence of pain.

Other research indicates that these connections aren’t genuinely functional in human fetuses until about week 28 or 29 of pregnancy. According to Sandoval, “we can state with really, really excellent confidence that [pain] is even feasible no sooner than 28 weeks.”

5. Fetus self-survival:

When defining the age at which a fetus could survive outside of the uterus, the word “viability” is frequently employed as a sharp cutoff point. The issue is that there isn’t a single, distinct cut-off. On average, kids delivered between 22 and 24 weeks gestation either die or have serious health issues. According to Swartz, a variety of additional factors determine whether or not a fetus will survive if delivered. They cover things like fetus sex, weight, developmental problems, and mother’s health, not to mention the capabilities and education of various healthcare facilities.

According to Swartz, inaccurate explanations of biology can have an impact on the limitations placed on people’s access to reproductive health care. For instance, when a coworker showed signs of a miscarriage, she was unable to receive the necessary medical attention. Her doctor delayed treatment because of state laws prohibiting abortion; this very upsetting event inspired her to write about it in Obstetrics and Gynecology last year. According to Swartz, laws against abortion that are founded on dubious medical and scientific foundations “put primacy on a potential life over the actual life of the person sitting in front of me.

Disclaimer: This information is covered based on the latest research and development available. However, it may not fully reflect all current aspects of the subject matter.

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