Alors, chaque embryon une personne

Jérôme Lejeune

Medical tribune


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Dr. Jérôme Lejeune, the geneticist who discovered that an extra chromosome causes Downs syndrome and soon began "to defend those babies" against abortion based on amniocentesis, today is an international anti-abortion advocate and passionate star witness. He flouts the American Society of Human Genetics view "that the definition of the beginning of human life is not in the province of genetic knowledge." He testified in the Tennessee "frozen embryo" case and addressed the Louisiana legislature, opposing "the toughest abortion law in the nation." He recently testified that a New York man arrested for chaining himself to a clinic door to prevent his fiance's abortion acted out of a legal necessity to save a human life. The 65 year-old Lejeune practices at the Hospital for Sick Infants in Paris.

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By Jerome Lejeune, M.D.

Each embryo is a unique person. Each human being has a unique beginning, when the information is assembled to form the person we will later call Peter or Margaret.

We know from experience both in animals and human beings that this occurs when the head of the sperm penetrates the ovum. Suddenly, a new constitution is spelled out. At that moment a new human being begins its career. That's not rhetoric.

That's not fancy or the hope of a moralist. It's proven every time an in vitro fertilization is performed. If a fertilized egg were not a member of the human species, nobody would dare to put it inside the uterus of a woman. In vitro fertilization and embryo transfer are performed because we know these embryos are human embryos. There you have your experimental proof.

Each species has its own shape of chromosomes. I can show students at the University of Medicine in Paris a picture of a chimpanzee's chromosomes next to those of a man. And the student who cannot tell the man from the ape would fail, as simple as that.

About four years ago, a British scientist named Jeffreys discovered that Within every human chromosome there is a strand of DNA unique to that person. You might compare it to the bar code on a product that goes through a supermarket checkout.

We can demonstrate that from the moment of conception, no other person in the world has the same bar code. The fertilized egg is therefore a unique human being. It just needs nurture and protection.

In the curious decision of the U.S. Supreme Court which legal ized abortion, there is a phrase that it was not possible to reach agreement on when human life begins. But that was 18 years ado, and we did not know of the Jeffreys bar code then, nor a great many other things that reveal the complexity of the human organism from the time it is a single cell.

An abortion kills a member of the human species. This is true even if the abortion occurs when the fetus is eight weeks old. At that point it is a Tom Thumb, measuring one inch.

Each of us has been a Tom Thumb in his mother's womb, a curious shelter lit by a dim, red light, and filled with the loud, strong sound of the mother's heart. Abortion of an eight-week-old fetus kills a human being.

Sometimes the law does not recognize the evidence of biology. For example, when slavery was accepted by the Supreme Court of your country, that negated the status of a black person as a human being. The court was just ignoring the zoological evidence that all humans are members of the same species, which was known then.

When the law forgets to speak the language of biology it is the law that is making the mistake.

The Supreme Court's failure to protect the humanity of the unborn baby is even more curious when one considers that the law recognizes that a company can be a "person" in the legal sense. I do not understand why the same law cannot decide that the "company of cells" that we call an embryo is a person as well.

So if someone wants to tell me chat they favor abortion, that is all right. We can agree to disagree. But please do not tell me that abortion does not involve the killing of a person, because it does.