Is the Fetus Just Part of the Mother? What the DNA Tells Us.

ReformedWiki Post

Some claim that the unborn is just a part of the mother’s body, like her tonsils or appendix. For example, philosopher Mortimer Adler claims the following:

[The unborn is] a part of the mother’s body, in the same sense that an individual’s arm or leg is a part of a living organism. An individual’s decision to have an arm or leg amputated falls within the sphere of privacy —the freedom to do as one please in all matters that do not injure others or the public welfare.” 

Mortimer J. Adler, Haves Without Have-Notes: Essays for the 21st Century on Democracy and Socialism (New York: Macmillan, 1991), 210.

Note: This page heavily utilizes Randy Alcorn’s terrific book, Pro-Life Answers to Pro-Choice Questions .

One answer: A body part is defined by the common genetic code is shares with the rest of the body. The unborn’s genetic code is different than the mother’s genetic code.

A mother’s body, tonsils, appendix, arms, and legs all share the same genetic code. An unborn child within a mother has a genetic code that is completely distinct from the mother. The unborn child may also have a different blood type, or a different gender, than the mother.

The baby has forty-six chromosomes, twenty-three from the mother and twenty-three from the father. The combination of these chromosomes is completely unique (except in the case of identical twins). When there is a baby inside the mother, there are two distinct individuals, two distinct people.

John Jefferson Davis says this:

It is a well-established fact that a genetically distinct human being is brought into existence at conception. Once fertilization takes place, the zygote is its own entity, genetically distinct from both mother and father. The newly conceived individual possesses all the necessary information for a self-direct development and will proceed to grow in the usual human fashion, given time and nourishment. It is simply untrue that the unborn child is merely “part of the mother’s body.” In addition to being genetically distinct from the time of conception, the unborn possesses separate circulatory, nervous, and endocrine systems. 

John J. Davis, Abortion and the Christian (Phillipsburg, N.J.: Presbyterian &Reformed Publishing Co., 1984), 23.

Here are some other considerations that demonstrate the baby is a completely distinct individual from the mother:

  1. If an African zygote is implanted in a German woman, the identity of the zygote will be African because its genetics are African, not German.
  2. If the baby is part of the mother’s body, then does the mother have two heads, two brains, two stomachs, etc.? Of course not.
  3. If the baby is male, then does the mother also have male sexual organs (testicles and a penis)? Of course not.

It is obvious that the mother and unborn child are two distinct, unique individuals, and that the unborn child is not merely a body part of the mother.

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