Skip to content

SPECIAL: Science Backs Up Humanity of the Unborn

Dr. Carlo Bellieni Tells of Prenatal Suffering and Development

ROME, MAY 14, 2004 (Zenit) - The verifiable suffering of the human fetus poses serious reflections for doctors and researchers, and proves it is unscientific to treat "prenatal life as second-class," says a noted Italian neonatologist.

Dr. Carlo Bellieni, in his book "Dawn of the I: Pain, Memory, Desire, Dream of the Fetus," published by SEF, addresses questions such as: What does a fetus experience? What are its rights? Is artificial insemination really harmless?

Bellieni has spent years studying the suffering of the fetus and the newborn, as part of his work in the Department of Neonatal Intensive Therapy of the Le Scotte University Polyclinic of Siena. He speaks about his work below.

Q: Does the fetus feel pain?

Bellieni: Indeed. Modern neonatologists have the privilege of caring precisely for fetuses. We have them in our hands. Sometimes they have the weight of an apple; some are slightly longer than a hand.

They have been born prematurely and they will have to stay for months in sophisticated incubators, cared for and controlled 24 hours a day with high-technology instruments.

And no one who is caring for them doubts that they are our patients, that they are persons. Sometimes they are so small, that our efforts are useless. They die. And only we can, together with the parents, baptize them.

And all show an unexpected vitality because of their age and dimensions. Today, we know that the fetus inside the maternal womb perceives scents and tastes, hears sounds, and remembers them after birth.

Of course, we know that the fetus, at 30 weeks of gestation, is able to dream. All these characteristics allow us to appreciate the human dimensions. In recent years, this patient has been the object of research to guarantee its health from the maternal uterus.

Q: Can you give us some examples to illustrate your saying that the fetus is a person?

Bellieni: As soon as it is born, the child shows in a scientifically demonstrable way that it recognizes its mother's voice and distinguishes it from that of a stranger. Where has he learned that voice other than in the maternal womb?

There are also direct proofs. For example, we register how the movements and cardiac frequency of the fetus vary if we transmit unexpected sounds through the uterine wall. And we see that at first the fetus is startled, then it gets used to it, just like we do when we hear something that does not interest us.

In fact, the scientific evidence is immense. We cannot understand how it can be thought that it becomes a person at a certain point, perhaps when coming out of the uterus.

From the physical point of view, at the birth very little really changes: Air enters the lungs, the arrival of blood from the placenta is interrupted, the type of circulation of blood in the heart changes, and not much more.

As I often say, only blind faith in magic arts or some strange divinity can lead one to think that there is a "human" quality leap at a given moment -- certainly not science.

Q: Therefore, the affirmation that human life begins at birth is less scientific than that which holds that it is linked to the moment of conception.

Bellieni: Undoubtedly! When the genetic heritage of the ovule is joined with the spermatozoid, a process begins which is unique and unrepeatable precisely because no one in the world has a DNA that is the same as that of that little fertilized cell. Not even the parents.

Therefore, it is absurd to say that the fetus is the property of the mother or the father.

A few days ago I was talking to high school girls and I said to them: "If you return home today and your father tells you to do something because you are 'his,' because you are 'one of his rights,' what do you think? That your father is not feeling well. Well, at present, they are teaching you this: that the child is a right of the parents, a 'choice' of the parents."

Q: Is it not so?

Bellieni: Precisely by studying the premature child, the fetus, one sees that human dignity is not acquired with age, or with birth, or weight; otherwise, only the handsome, rich, and powerful would be human.

Respect for these very frail little children is immediate and teaches us that their value -- our value -- does not depend on contingent things. It depends only on being, and forming part of that level of nature called humanity.

It is easy, to be able to act on somebody, to take away his status as person, but we mustn't allow it.

Q: But with artificial insemination many families seem to become peaceful by having such a child.

Bellieni: We can wish for these parents all possible satisfactions. In any case, we must not forget that in vitro fertilization makes the survival of many embryos debatable.

Nor must we forget that the risks are not that few. In vitro fertilization can cause problems for the mother. A beautiful book came out in 2001 of a French woman journalist of "France 2" entitled, "A Child, But Not at All Costs," in which she explains the psychiatric risks of these practices.

But suffice it to read the scientific literature. It is surprising how much it is ignored.

In vitro fertilization entails the risk of multiple births and of prematureness. And these are risks for the health of the unborn child. Other works also, published in 2002, show that these risks exist even if only one embryo is implanted.

Q: What can be said, by way of conclusion?

Bellieni: That there are paradoxes. So much so that abroad things are going another way. In France there is a "Defender of Children, elected by Parliament," Claire Brisset, a famous journalist.

In the interest of children conceived this way, she has called for a moratorium on the fertilization technique called "ICSI," which introduces all the spermatozoid in the ovule with a minuscule needle.

Q: Can you explain what paradox you are referring to?

Bellieni: In the first place, the fact that we all remember: the prohibition to eat bovine meat out of fear of spongiform encephalitis [mad cow disease]. And how many cases there have been of culpable people. However, the health authorities have adopted precautionary criteria with reason.

In regard to these fertilization practices, we know what the risks are for the health of the one conceived and of the woman. Is it right to take those risks? Is it right to make one's children take those risks? Or is a prudent attitude more correct?

Moreover, I think one should say "enough" to that anti-scientific attitude that regards prenatal life as a second-class life. And the paradox is that instead the Church is accused of retarding progress. In reality, the Church has an attitude of protection of health.

I would like to remind that in vitro fertilization was invented by a priest, Abbot Lazzaro Spallanzani, 300 years ago. He united in vitro the semen and ovule of a frog and obtained tadpoles. He used dog sperm to artificially fertilize a female dog. He was a precursor. He was a scientist. He knew what could be done to an animal, and what can be done, on the other hand, to man.


Catholic Online CA, US
Catholic Online - Publisher, 661 869-1000



Unborn, Children, Abortion, Women, Fetus

More Catholic PRWire

Showing 1 - 50 of 4,718

A Recession Antidote
Randy Hain

Monaco & The Vatican: Monaco's Grace Kelly Exhibit to Rome--A Review of Monegasque-Holy See Diplomatic History
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

The Why of Jesus' Death: A Pauline Perspective
Jerom Paul

A Royal Betrayal: Catholic Monaco Liberalizes Abortion
Dna. Maria St.Catherine De Grace Sharpe, t.o.s.m., T.O.SS.T.

Embrace every moment as sacred time
Mary Regina Morrell

My Dad
JoMarie Grinkiewicz

Letting go is simple wisdom with divine potential
Mary Regina Morrell

Father Lombardi's Address on Catholic Media
Catholic Online

Pope's Words to Pontifical Latin American College
Catholic Online

Prelate: Genetics Needs a Conscience
Catholic Online

State Aid for Catholic Schools: Help or Hindrance?
Catholic Online

Scorsese Planning Movie on Japanese Martyrs
Catholic Online

2 Nuns Kidnapped in Kenya Set Free
Catholic Online

Holy See-Israel Negotiation Moves Forward
Catholic Online

Franchising to Evangelize
Catholic Online

Catholics Decry Anti-Christianity in Israel
Catholic Online

Pope and Gordon Brown Meet About Development Aid
Catholic Online

Pontiff Backs Latin America's Continental Mission
Catholic Online

Cardinal Warns Against Anti-Catholic Education
Catholic Online

Full Circle
Robert Gieb

Three words to a deeper faith
Paul Sposite

Relections for Lent 2009
chris anthony

Wisdom lies beyond the surface of life
Mary Regina Morrell

World Food Program Director on Lent
Catholic Online

Moral Clarity

Pope's Lenten Message for 2009
Catholic Online

A Prayer for Monaco: Remembering the Faith Legacy of Prince Rainier III & Princess Grace and Contemplating the Moral Challenges of Prince Albert II
Dna. Maria St. Catherine Sharpe

Keeping a Lid on Permissiveness
Sally Connolly

Glimpse of Me
Sarah Reinhard

The 3 stages of life
Michele Szekely

Sex and the Married Woman
Cheryl Dickow

A Catholic Woman Returns to the Church
Cheryl Dickow

Modernity & Morality
Dan Shea

Just a Minute
Sarah Reinhard

Catholic identity ... triumphant reemergence!
Hugh McNichol

Edging God Out
Paul Sposite

Burying a St. Joseph Statue
Cheryl Dickow

George Bush Speaks on Papal Visit
Catholic Online

Sometimes moving forward means moving the canoe
Mary Regina Morrell

Action Changes Things: Teaching our Kids about Community Service
Lisa Hendey

Easter... A Way of Life
Paul Spoisite

Papal initiative...peace and harmony!
Hugh McNichol

Proclaim the mysteries of the Resurrection!
Hugh McNichol

Jerusalem Patriarch's Easter Message
Catholic Online

Good Friday Sermon of Father Cantalamessa
Catholic Online

Papal Address at the End of the Way of the Cross
Catholic Online

Cardinal Zen's Meditations for Via Crucis
Catholic Online

Interview With Vatican Aide on Jewish-Catholic Relations
Catholic Online

Pope Benedict XVI On the Easter Triduum
Catholic Online

Holy Saturday...anticipation!
Hugh McNichol

Never Miss any Updates!

Stay up to date with the latest news, information, and special offers.

Learn about Catholic world

Catholic Online
Inform - Inspire - Ignite

Catholic Online Saints
Your saints explained

Catholic Online Prayers
Prayers for every need

Catholic Online Bible
Complete bible online

Catholic Online News
Your news Catholic eye

Daily Reading
Today's bible reading

Lent / Easter
Death & resurrection of Jesus

Advent / Christmas
Birth of Jesus

Rest of Catholic Online
All Catholic world we offer

Products and services we offer

Catholic Online Shopping
Catholic medals, gifts & books

The California Network
Inspiring streaming service

Advertise on Catholic Online
Your ads on

Catholic Online Email
Email with Catholic feel

Catholic Online Singles
Safe, secure Catholic dating

The California Studios
World-class post production service

Learn the Catholic way

Catholic Online School
Free Catholic education for all

Student Classes
K-12 & Adult Education Classes

School Teachers
Teacher lesson plans & resources

Support Free Education
Tax deductible support Free education

Connect with us online

Catholic Online on Facebook
Catholic social network

Catholic Online on Twitter
Catholic Tweets

Catholic Online on YouTube
Enjoy our videos

Catholic Online on Instagram
Shared Catholic moments

Catholic Online on Pinterest
Catholic ideas style inspiration

Catholic Online Logo

Copyright 2018 Catholic Online. All materials contained on this site, whether written, audible or visual are the exclusive property of Catholic Online and are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws, © Copyright 2018 Catholic Online. Any unauthorized use, without prior written consent of Catholic Online is strictly forbidden and prohibited.