In an article called “The Texas abortion ban is a performance of misogyny. But it might get worse,” The Guardian’s reporter Moira Donegan attacks the heartbeat bill recently passed in Texas. The bill would make abortions illegal after the baby’s heartbeat can be detected, which occurs at around six weeks gestation, though the heart actually begins to beat during week three after fertilization. Mentioning that such bans are called “fetal heartbeat bills,” Donegan says this is a “misnomer” because:
… at six weeks of gestation there is neither a fetus nor a heartbeat. Indeed, there is no heart. At six weeks, the pregnancy consists of an embryo, which will not develop into a fetus for nearly another month. No heart, and no other organ, is present. The so-called “heartbeat” that abortion opponents refer to is actually the pulsing of some cells that are starting to specialize, and which will eventually form cardiac tissue if the pregnancy continues.
Technically, at six weeks, the preborn human is called an “embryo.” Embryologists use the term “fetus” starting at eight weeks. But “embryo” and “fetus” are simply stages of development such as “infant,” “toddler,” and “teenager.” These terms simply function as labels applied to the same human being at different stages of development.
According to an article published in the medical journal Fetal Diagnosis and Therapy called “The Transitional Heart: From Early Embryonic and Fetal Development to Neonatal Life,” the human heart begins to beat at 22 days after conception.
According to the article:
The human heart is one of the first organs to form and function during embryogenesis. By the end of gestational week 3… the fetal heart becomes vital for oxygen and nutrient distribution. The initiation of the first heart beat via the primitive heart tube begins at gestational day 22, followed by active fetal blood circulation by the end of week 4. The start of early heart development involves several types of progenitor cells that are derived from the mesoderm, proepicardium, and neural crest. This eventually leads to the formation of the 4-chambered heart by gestational week 7…
The medical journal says that the preborn child’s heart “becomes vital for oxygen and nutrient distribution” at just three weeks gestation. This is a full three weeks before the heartbeat law takes effect. So not only does the heart exist at six weeks, it is, according to this journal, both fully functioning and vital for the life of the baby, and has been for weeks. As we can surmise, a functioning circulatory system exists at six weeks.
A textbook used for the course Anatomy & Physiology at Oregon State University also discusses the development of the early heart. It says:
The human heart is the first functional organ to develop. It begins beating and pumping blood around day 21 or 22, a mere three weeks after fertilization. This emphasizes the critical nature of the heart in distributing blood through the vessels and the vital exchange of nutrients, oxygen, and wastes both to and from the developing baby.
In this picture taken from the college textbook, you can see the development of the heart through its various stages in early human life.
As you can see from the diagrams, there is far more to the embryonic heart at six weeks than pulsing cells.
Neither the medical journal Fetal Diagnosis and Therapy nor the college anatomy textbook cited above is considered a “pro-life” source. Rather, they are simply scientific sources that document the development of the embryonic and fetal heart. Clearly, a preborn baby’s heart exists by six weeks.
Incidentally, despite the many pro-abortion activists speaking out against the new law, 49% of Texans, or virtually half the population of the state, support the heartbeat ban.
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