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America's Culture War: Abortion

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Fetus Recognizes Mom’s Voice

by  Brad Harrub, Ph.D.

In writing his lengthy opinion for the court in the infamous Roe vs. Wade case, the late Justice Harry Blackmun stated: “We need not resolve the question of when life begins.” And with those words, he ended the lives of millions of children, and prematurely sent their souls heavenward. Our Supreme Court, in its “infinite wisdom,” by a seven-to-two vote has told our society: “That ‘thing’ growing in the human uterus is not a human. It’s a thing. And it’s not living. So, if you want to rip it out, slaughter it, throw it in the local dumpster—anytime up to, and including the ninth month (with a physician’s permission)—you may do so in this country.”

Interestingly, that “thing” is known to have well-developed internal organs, and a heart that already is beating by day twenty-one. This “nonliving blob of tissue” possesses active brain waves by day forty, responds to light and sound, and occasionally will suck its thumb. As James Drummey has pointed out:

One of the key elements in the abortion debate is the true nature of the victim. If the unborn child is a human being, then he or she deserves the full and equal protection of the law. Though it may still surprise some, there are few things more certain in January 1986 than that the unborn are human beings. It is a biological and scientific fact that human life begins at fertilization, when the sperm cell of the father penetrates the egg cell of the mother. That unique genetic package, something that each of us once was, contains everything that a person will become—the color of her eyes, the size of his feet, even whether he or she will contract diabetes at age fifty.

Thanks to the wonders of modern technology, we are able to study the unborn child from the earliest moments of its existence. We know that its heart begins to beat eighteen days after fertilization, that brain waves can be recorded by the fortieth day, and that all body systems are present at eight weeks and working by the eleventh week. Technological advances are such that more and more babies are surviving births after only 20 to 24 weeks of the normal forty-week pregnancy. And yet, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled last month that an 8½ month-old unborn child was not a human being under Minnesota law (1986, p. 22).

While Minnesota and Justice Harry Blackmun may not view the unborn as human beings, scientists are finding it harder and harder not to do so. A study reported from Queen’s University revealed that, even in utero, human fetuses have the ability to recognize their mother’s voice (see “Fetal Heart…,” 2003). This study demonstrated that the fetus not only could recognize its mother’s voice, but also could distinguish it from other female voices. Using thirty fetuses in their experiment, university researchers played a two-minute audiotape of each fetus’ own mother reading a poem. The researchers then played a second, two-minute audiotape of another female voice reading a poem. The scientists discovered that the unborn babies responded to their own mother’s voice with heart-rate acceleration. When the stranger’s voice was played, the heart rates of the infants decelerated. This confirms what scientists have speculated for more than twenty years—that experiences in the womb help shape newborn preferences and behavior.

Dr. Barbara Kisilevsky, a Queen’s University professor, believes this research indicates that a fetus in the womb can exhibit “preference/recognition” before birth. This would suggest that fetuses are capable of learning in the womb, and can remember and distinguish several different voices. How does our federal government continue to designate these babies as “nonliving tissue” when, in fact, we have evidence that they can learn, even while in the womb?! Dr. Kisilevsky’s team is continuing its study to determine if there is a similar fetal response with the father’s voice. Scientists speculate that these results may help demonstrate when the foundation for speech and perception is laid down.

Life—contradictory claims by eminent scientists and Supreme Court justices notwithstanding—begins at conception. When the gametes join to form the zygote that will grow into the fetus, and when the full complement of chromosomes necessary to produce and support life combines, it is at that moment that the formation of a new body begins. It is the result of a viable male gamete joined sexually with a viable female gamete, which has resulted in the formation of a zygote containing the standard human chromosome number—46. The embryo is growing, and is alive. It is not just “potentially” human; it is human!


Drummey, James J. (1986), “Abortion: The Other Holocaust,” The New American, 2:21-26, January 20.

“Fetal Heart Races When Mom Reads Poetry,” (2003), Queen’s University New Center, [On-line] URL:

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