New Study Reveals foetuses have the same cognitive ability as infants

A ground-breaking and enlightening new study has shattered the common and insidious cultural misconception with regards to foetuses: the elusive idea we come across that birth is the real beginning of a human’s life. This is a commonplace belief for some, not just because birth is when that child is first given social recognition and welcomed into the world by other humans, but also because deep down we assume that birth is when these young humans themselves first experience anything of significance in the world.  Indeed, we may ask ourselves, what could foetuses actually be doing in the womb apart from sleeping, kicking around, and impatiently waiting for life to begin?

It’s odd, but we seem to hold this deep-rooted perception in our minds that the human foetus is totally and utterly unaware of anything at all, prior to the moment of that great awakening, when it leaves the mother’s womb and that new life bursts into the awaiting world. When in fact, by direct contrast, infants from the very second they emerge are recognized as being awake, alert and unequivocally aware of everything happening around them.  After all, in the elementary months of baby’s lives, we often marvel in awe at the way that baby is constantly observing, seeing, hearing, developing, learning, experiencing. It is as if we genuinely believe that birth is the one and only moment that matters – a young human is suddenly switched from OFF to ON – however, of course we know that the truth is rarely so simple. There is no moment of magic when the child in the womb suddenly transforms from inhuman to fully human by virtue of their mother giving birth to them. That’s ridiculous, when in actuality, scientific studies are repeatedly and emphatically demonstrating that there is very little infants do that foetuses haven’t done first. It turns out that the womb may actually be a more stimulating and interesting place than we thought!

For instance, scientific studies have confirmed that foetuses can hear voices and distinguish between unique speech patterns, allowing them to recognize (and prefer) their mother’s voice over any other’s. Furthermore, this new study amongst others shows that a foetus will learn to recognize a song or a story which is repeatedly played or read to them and will retain a familiarity with that story or song after birth.  Scientists call this “preconscious learning” – a foetus’s brain will even notice when a familiar song is played slightly incorrectly, which of course would require some level of basic ability to remember what the song is supposed to sound like in the first place and then compare the two.

This new research which comes from Lancaster University however goes deeper; it demonstrates clearly that foetuses will react to face-like shapes in the same way in which infants do. How do we know this? Researchers shone different combinations of red dots to foetuses and observed their responses via ultrasound, and the foetuses displayed interest in face-like clusters in particular.  The researchers themselves explain, “This tells us that the foetus isn’t a passive processor of environmental information. It’s an active responder.”

This research paper is a ground-breaking one because it’s the first real study on what foetuses see, and confirms that they do have visual experiences while in utero. It has shattered common misconceptions and tells us that the womb obviously is not pitch-black nor is it silent as many assume. One of the authors of the paper expands on this, describing what foetuses likely experience in their life in the womb as being akin to being in a dark room with the lights off and the curtains drawn, yet it is still very bright outside. These tiny humans are believed to begin to see as early on as 20-24 weeks gestation, so they will have numerous chances to watch shapes pass by before they are born into the world.

Now that we know more and more about how these human foetuses are developing physically in the womb, we also know more about their cognitive abilities too. Surely such trailblazing new evidence will make it increasingly harder for abortion advocates to insist that a foetus and an infant are like chalk and cheese, or uphold the preposterous and illogical notion that a foetus doesn’t count as a human at all.

Studies like these are so telling when it comes to the topic of abortion, and they should command our attention. Study after study is showing us that foetuses are doing so much more at such an earlier stage than previously believed, which undoubtedly makes it harder to follow society’s insistence of relying upon any of the developmental milestones – the first heartbeat, the end of the first trimester, viability – to tell us when a human life earns acknowledgement. With these human foetuses hitting incredible milestones so early on, society’s haphazard belief in defining a life based upon specific developmental milestones seems completely arbitrary.

This most recent study of what foetuses are capable of is yet further indication that as monumental as birth is, it is not the beginning of a human being’s life, learning, or experiences, or the start of anything that wasn’t already happening before.

This most recent study into the capabilities of fetuses fresh out of Lancaster University serves as yet another reminder that birth is not a magic trick which transforms a baby from inhuman to human – it is not the beginning of a human being’s life, experiences or learning. It is simply a continuation of what was happening before. Birth is a physical movement of a baby from inside the womb to outside the womb and this physical change hardly endows that child with a whole range of completely new abilities, nor does it actually intrinsically change anthing about it biologically, so why should it change the worth of that life? This is surely a question worth asking ourselves.

With such comprehensive and illuminating new information, which of course wouldn’t have been available at the passing of Roe V Wade or the UK abortion act back in the late sixties, we are empowered to take a stand against abortion with good reason. The poignant quote by William Wilberforce springs to mind: “You may choose to look the other way but you can never say again that you did not know." 

« Back to News