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New research shows preference for face-like stimuli begins in the womb.

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Full text of the study

Developing fetuses react to face-like shapes in the womb

Fetuses react to face-like patterns

A message from our President and CEO:

I am fascinated by a new study showing that unborn children have a preference for face-like stimuli. This is really important stuff, not just for the sake of the data, but because the pro-life perspective gets accused all the time of being “anti-science.”

In fact, I saw a story the other day about a guy who boiled progressive philosophy down into six simple sentences, one of which is  “science is real,” implying, of course, that we reject modern science.  I think we can all agree that science is real if by “science” one means the Merriam-Webster definition as “knowledge or a system of knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws especially as obtained and tested through scientific method.”  Science actually serves as a powerful reminder of the beauty of human life in the womb.

But don’t miss this point – polls show there are a lot of millennials who view the Christian worldview as anti-science, so when a progressive states “science is real,” this plays to the anti-science stereotype many millennials may have been exposed to when it comes to an issue believed to be politically charged or strictly religious. One might accurately complete the progressive mantra on science as “science is real, but only when it supports progressive ideology.”

Here’s more on the newest example of how science affirms the humanity of the unborn: researchers at Lancaster University in the UK have released the results of a study on the visual development of babies in the womb. What they found is that unborn babies at 34 weeks are like newborn babies in preferring face-like stimuli. The research team used a light source to project a pattern of three dots in the shape of eyes and a mouth through the uterine wall and measured the way babies responded using ultrasound. To the surprise of even the lead researcher on this project, babies of 34 weeks gestation turn their heads to track the face-like pattern in the shape of a triangle: two dots on top (like eyes) and one dot on the bottom (like a mouth).  Was it just a response to the lights?  No.  There was no such movement when the team projected three inverted dots in the shape of a triangle (One dot on top, two on the bottom), demonstrating that it was not the lights alone which the babies preferred.

Lead researcher Professor Vincent Reid stated, “We have shown that the preference for face like shapes is already present before birth.”

This is the science of life in the womb. Not fairy tale stuff. Not make believe.  Just a better understanding of human development, made possible by rapidly advancing technology such as 4D ultrasound. For those of us working to protect and nurture life – science is in our corner. This is one more study that drives that point home.

Not surprisingly, NPR called the research provocative.  And it is. The more we learn about the science of life in the womb, the more we understand that in every abortion, a human life is being destroyed.

Mike Fichter
President and CEO
Indiana Right to Life




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