|A Publication of the Republican National Coalition for Life||January/February 2003 - No. 47|
Untangling The Ribbons of Life
by Dr. Jerome Lejeune
Roe v. Wade said that because nobody can really know at what moment human life begins, we are free to decide such and such. Since then, science has made vertiginous progress. I'm going to tell you how much more we know now about the beginning of the human person than we knew in 1973.
Life has a very, very long story. It has been transmitted for millennia inside the human race.
There is not the slightest doubt about that.
We know that this information is written on a kind of ribbon that we call DNA. It's a long molecule on which, under a specific code, all the qualities of the future person are defined. It measures exactly one meter in length inside the sperm, split into 23 little bits inside the chromosomes, and one meter inside the ovum; so that at the beginning of our life, we have two meters of ribbon, so to speak, on which everything is coded. To help you understand the miniaturization of these tablets of the law of life, this meterlong molecule is coiled so tightly that it fits easily on the point of a needle. Life is written in a fantastically miniaturized language.
At the time of Roe v. Wade, we knew that the information was inside the first cell, but nobody was able to read it, and nobody was able to say how it was going to express itself, so that the information would finally become a living thing telling us, "I am a man."
Today we know that life is very similar to what happens with a magnetic tape on which music has been recorded. On the tape itself there are no notes. In the tape recorder there are no musicians, no instruments. Nevertheless, because the information has been coded at the moment it was received by a microphone and then transmitted to the tape, the player/recorder can read it again and give some movement to loud speakers, so that what is reproduced for you is not the musicians, nor the notes of the score. What is transmitted to you, if you are listening to "Eine Kleine Nachtmusik," is the genius of Mozart.
In exactly the same way, the symphony of life is played. It is written in a very special code on DNA, and the first cell is the first part of the magnetic reading machine, so that it will decipher the code on DNA, and play human life. If the information that is inside the tape recorder, which is that first cell, is human information, then this being is a human being. We know that at the beginning there is a message, and this message, if it is spelled out in the human way, makes what is a human.
This notion of information is not wishful thinking. It's not a metaphysical hypothesis. It's plain science. Those who do not wish to face its implications often say that life is purely a dynamic, a movement that continues. Well, we can freeze early human embryos. As we lower the temperature, we slow down time; and when we get very deep into the freeze, time is suspended.
But the human beings that have been frozen are not dead; if we give them back a normal temperature, they will continue again. They will regain their own autonomy and begin again to be themselves. So we know that we have interrupted the dynamic, the movement; but if we have not destroyed the information, life can start again.
In 1973 we could not tell anything about the content of the first cell. If we looked at what was inside it, at the genetic message which was coded inside, we killed that cell. It was the same with the very young embryo. For the human embryo of a day, two days, a week of age, it was impossible to look at him and see whether this embryo had suchandsuch a quality without destroying the embryo, because of the invasiveness of the technique.
Now an extraordinary discovery was made in 1985 and has been used in laboratories since 1987. From an embryo at three days of age who has possibly four or eight cells, we can very carefully take one of these cells, puncturing the zona pellucida with a tiny hole and removing it, then closing the hole. Then from the cell, with a new technique called PCR, that is "chain polymerization," we can reproduce the DNA that was in that unique cell and have enough of that DNA to make an analysis of it. With this technique, we can reproduce from one molecule of DNA millions of copies of the same molecule in just 24 hours. It's quite miraculous because it works faster than life but is just using tricks that life itself uses, that is, using a special enzyme and a special cycle that are normally used in life.
In 1990 it was published in England by Monk and Holding that, working on human embryos produced in vitro, they were able to remove one cell of those embryos, have the DNA of that cell polymerized, look at the DNA with a special probe, and determine whether those tiny embryos were male or female.
So even in an embryo a week old, with those new techniques, we can say already, "It's a man," or "it's a woman." It passes our imagination that lawyers knowing suddenly that this embryo a week old is a guy, or a girl, would not recognize at the same time that it is a human person.
Celebrate Life magazine Sept/Oct 2002
Reprinted with permission.
As prolife activists, we must remain constant in our pursuit of justice for the entire class of unborn human beings who continue to be deprived of their fundamental rights under the law because the Court has said their mother's right to privacy is more important than their right to life.
Our mission has not changed, but it has gained a focus that didn't exist even a few years ago. Our sights are now trained on the human embryo the human being at his earliest stage of development when he is but a single cell. The degree to which we, as a society, afford that tiny boy or girl the dignity, respect, and protection to which he is naturally entitled, will ultimately determine the fate of humanity.
Thirty years ago, the Roe v. Wade decision spawned a movement that has, through education and political action, enlightened millions of people around the world to the miracle of developing life in the womb. Obstacles to the effective delivery of our message by a hostile media have been largely overcome by endless debates about abortion in candidate forums and most particularly, in Republican Party local, state and national conventions which the media could not ignore.
Incredible new information resulting from the science of fetology, marvelous photographs taken in utero with microscopic cameras and published in popular magazines, the advent of sonography leading to the revolutionary ability to see an unborn baby in four dimensions, all have come about since 1973.
We know that God's ways are not our ways. Consider that our enhanced understanding of fetal development might not have come about, had not the great evil of abortion been legalized in America. And, it is that understanding that enables us to address the life issues of the 21st century, issues that we couldn't imagine 30 years ago. After all, the assault on human life cannot be stopped by ending abortion alone. Today, hundreds of thousands of tiny embryonic human beings exist, not in the warmth of a mother's womb but in the hard glass of a petri dish in an invitro fertilization clinic, or in suspended animation in the frigid metal of a liquid nitrogen tank, or in the sterile environment of a scientific research laboratory.
The petri dish and the liquid nitrogen tank have no rights to be pitted against those of the human beings they house. Those little embryonic babies are all alone and at the mercy of those who consider them to be nothing more than "property." The struggle for the right of those babies to live under the protection of the law must be the focal point of ongoing prolife activities because, if they are protected in law, innocent human beings at every stage of development must also be protected. Otherwise, every human life remains at risk.
We invite you to copy and widely circulate the preceding article by Dr. Jerome Lejeune so that your friends, colleagues and family members will gain a keener understanding of the human embryo the tiniest "guy or girl." Please keep it in your files as a valuable resource for those who question why we oppose experimentation on and cloning of embryonic human beings.
In the 1998 divorce case, David Litowitz was awarded custody of the embryos. Now, against the wishes of his exwife who has no biological connection with the children, he wants them killed. Becky Litowitz claims that her exhusband promised to put the embryos up for adoption, not kill them.
Richard Ackerman, lead attorney for Becky Litowitz, cites in his defense of the legal rights of human embryos in California, a complex decision, Moore v. Regents of the University of California, in which "it appears that human embryos cannot be considered as 'property' or an 'economic interest.' "
Scott Lively, head of the ProFamily Law Center near Sacramento who also represents Becky Litowitz, argues that the court appointment of David Litowitz as guardian of the embryos was an implicit acknowledgement that they are human beings. "They don't appoint a 'guardian ad litem' for property," he pointed out. "Property doesn't have rights, people have rights."
Lively believes that recognition of the embryos' right to life "would go a long way to advancing the prolife position" in the courts.
Republican National Coalition for Life Box 618 Alton Illinois 62002|
618-462-5415 Fax: 618-462-8909 E-mail