“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you.” Jeremiah 1: 5
The Church affirms that every human life is sacred. From the moment of conception, under the benevolent plan of God, a unique and unrepeatable human being with a destiny of eternal beatitude is brought into existence. “Although most developmental changes occur during the embryonic and fetal periods, some important changes occur during later periods of development: infancy, childhood, adolescence, and adulthood. Although it is customary to divide human development into prenatal and postnatal periods, birth is merely a dramatic event during development resulting in a change in environment. Development does not start or stop at birth.” 1 The beauty and mystery of the development of the human is one to be revered and respected for its true dignity - from the moment of conception.
Facts & Figures
"A child ... is a gift. The 'supreme gift of marriage' is a human person. A child may not be considered a piece of property, an idea to which an alleged 'right to a child' would lead. In this area, only the child possesses genuine rights: the right 'to be the fruit of the specific act of the (marital) love of his parents,' and 'the right to be respected as a person from the moment of his conception.' " 2
Once the sperm and egg join in the fallopian tube, a unique human being is created. Learn More:
- By day 20 after conception, a very young person's heart, brain, spinal column, and nervous system are almost complete and his eyes begin to form
- By Week 5 after conception a very young person's face is taking shape; his forehead, eyes, nostrils and mouth are evident; external ears are beginning; hand and foot plates appear in his limb buds.
- By Weeks 9-10 after coneption, all areas of a very young person's body are sensitive to touch. He sucks his thumbs, swallows, squints, frowns and puckers his brow. If his palm is stroked, he will make a tight fist.
- By month 4, this little baby's heart is pumping six gallons of blood every day, and his mom can now feel him jumping around and turning somersaults, exercising the muscles and lungs he will need to live outside his mother's womb. Rapid eye movement (REM) can be recorded while he's sleeping, indicating that he is dreaming.
Educational Materials on Church Teaching
Respect Life Programs
Cures Without Cloning
Meet Life (KofC)
Respect Life 101
Fetal Development: Presentation / Facilitator Notes
Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC): Fetus
Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC): Respect for Human Life
Evangelium Vitae: The Gospel of Life (EV)
Donum Vitae: The Gift of Life (DV)
Humanae Vitae (HV)
Mulieris Dignitatem: The Dignity and Vocation of Women (MD)
Blessed John Paul II's Letter to Women
Leadership & Volunteer Opportunities
If you or your organization has expertise or an interest in the topic of fetal development, or if you would like to learn how you can assist in the life-saving work of the Respect Life Office by becoming a resource for information on the Church's teaching on fetal development, please contact us.