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Abortion access

Part 2 of 2 parts:
Glossary of terms about abortion or
that begin with letters M to Z:

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This topic is a continuation of the previous essay
which defined terms that begin with the letter A to L.

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Notes (repeated from Part 1):

Terms -- particularly those directly or indirectly related to religion -- should be used with great care. Otherwise -- because various groups define words differently -- misunderstandings are common.

We feel that it is counter-productive to refer to groups different from one's own in derogatory terms, unless the purpose of the discussion is to terminate useful dialog. We recommend that when referring to other groups, one should use the terms that they use to describe themselves. Thus, we recommend that groups taking various positions on abortion should be referred to as pro-life and pro-choice, not anti-choice and pro-abortion. The Ethic of Reciprocity, which is more commonly referred to as the Golden Rule, is found in all major religions and requires treating of other groups and individuals as they wish to be treated.

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Some often used and confused terms related to abortion are:

bullet Meiosis is a process by which the number of chromosomes in a germ cell are halved. In humans, this is normally a reduction from 46 to 23. This happens to an ovum after it is fertilized by a sperm. It happens to sperm before they are released by the testes. The process of fertilization recombines two forms of DNA with 23 chromosomes to a complete DNA with 46.
bullet Miscarriage: Interruption of pregnancy prior to the 7th month. Usually used to refer to an expulsion of the fetus which starts without being induced by medical intervention. Approximately 40% of all pregnancies end in a miscarriage. This is a very inexact number, because many embryos occur unnoticed; they are rejected by the woman's body before she is aware that she is pregnant. 

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bullet Morula: A very early stage of pre-natal mammalian development. This stage starts when the zygote has developed into a mass of about 16 cells. This is typically 4 days after fertilization, and about 6 days before it becomes implanted in the inner wall of the womb.
bullet Oocyte: an ovum
bullet Ovum: The mature sex cell generated by females in an ovary. They are about 1/100 inch in diameter and are often (although not necessarily) released from alternate ovaries about once per month. Probably over 99% of ova die without being fertilized and given the opportunity to develop into a fetus. It is a form of human life because it contains human DNA; however, it is not generally regarded as a human person.
bullet Pain, fetal: Some pro-life advocates note that an embryo at seven weeks, early in the first trimester, has developed pain sensors. They assume that it can feel pain -- particularly pain associated with abortion. However, this appears to be impossible, because the pathways that connect these sensors to the brain have not developed at this stage of pregnancy. Also, the higher functions of the embryo's brain are undeveloped; the embryo is not sentient; it is not conscious of its surroundings. Most developmental neurobiologists who are not pro-life believe that the sensing of pain can only happen sometime after about the 24th week of gestation when thalomocortical connections are established and sentience begins. State and provincial medical associations prohibit abortions long before that time, except for very unusual circumstances.
bullet Partial Birth Abortion (PBA): A recently coined non-medical synonym for intact Intact D&X abortion.
bullet Pregnancy:
bullet As used by the medical and pro-choice communities: The stages of pre-natal mammalian development which extends from the time that the embryo attaches to the wall of the uterus until birth. Pregnancy thus starts about 10 days after conception.
bullet As used by pro-life groups: pregnancy extends from conception until birth.
bullet Pre-embryo: A zygote, morula, blastocyst, or embryo before it develops a "primitive streak" that will eventually form the spinal column. Once this happens, twinning is essentially impossible.

bullet Primitive streak: A marking which appears on an blastocyst about 14 days after fertilization, at about the time that it is implanted in the wall of the uterus. Division into identical twins is very rare after this point. (See "Twinning"). The streak will eventually develop into the fetus' spinal column.

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bullet Pro-abort, Pro-abortion: Derogatory term used to refer to the pro-choicers, implying that they promote abortion. In reality, their motivation is to give women choice in controlling their own bodies. More info.
bullet Pro-choice: A belief that women should be given access to abortions if she wishes to terminate a pregnancy. People who consider themselves "pro-choice" take many positions on access. Some believe that a woman should have access to abortions up until fetal viability; some would permit abortions for any reasons up to the time that the fetus becomes sentient (i.e. when its higher brain functions first turn on and they become conscious). Still others say that a woman should be able to choose to have an abortion later in pregnancy. More info.
bullet Pro-life: In general, this is movement whose members believe that human life (in the form of a spermatozoon and ovum) becomes a human person during the conception process when a unique DNA is produced. Thus the lives of all pre-embryos, embryos and fetuses should be protected under law until birth. The term has been embraced by some who feel that abortions should be totally unavailable, even to save the life of the woman. Others would allow a woman to have an abortion to avoid disastrous or disabling health problems. At the other end of the spectrum are persons who would allow abortions if caused by of rape or incest or for health reasons. According to one Pro-life group, legislators who have vote in favor of a ban on partial birth abortions sometimes call themselves "pro-life:" Pastor Matt Trewhella of noted that now even a person "who is only opposed to partial-birth abortions can sell themselves as pro-life."1
bullet Sperm, Spermatozoa: The mature sex cell generated by males. They are about 1/500 inch long. Almost all of their length is formed by a tail. Many tens of thousands are generated every minute by most males, starting at puberty. Over 99.999% of sperm die without being able to fertilize an ovum.
bullet Stages of development: An ovum, after fertilization, is called a zygote. This becomes, in turn, a morula, blastocyst, embryo and fetus. At birth, the fetus becomes a newborn. Pro-lifers often refer to all stages of development after fertilization as a baby. 
bullet Trimester: A period lasting nominally 3 months. A human pregnancy is often divided into three trimesters, between fertilization to birth. U.S. state laws and regulations by state medical associations that restrict abortions often differ among the trimesters. Canada is believed to be unique in the world: it has no laws regulating abortions. However, provincial and territorial medical associations have established regulations that define under what conditions abortions may be performed.
bullet Twinning: A process by which an morula, blastocyst or embryo divides in half to produce twins with identical genetic makeup. This normally happens at some time up to the 14th day after fertilization, before the "primitive streak" appears. Twinning does rarely happen later that 14 days and produce conjoined twins; these are popularly called "Siamese twins.'
bullet Viability: The ability for the developing fetus to live on its own if it were delivered by cesarean section or by normal delivery, and given expert medical care. This typically occurs sometime after the 21st week of gestation or the 19th week following fertilization. By about the 23rd week gestational age or the 21st week following fertilization, on the order of 60% of fetus can survive outside the womb. Abortions are allowed by various state and provincial medical associations only prior to viability. Terminations of pregnancies at or after viability are not usually performed, except for overwhelming medical reasons (threat to the woman's life, a dead fetus, or the need to terminate the pregnancy to avoid a very serious disability to the mother). The US Supreme Court defined viability (Roe v. Wade, 1973) as "potentially able to live outside the mother's womb, albeit with artificial aid." Needless to say, if ectogenesis (artificial wombs) become practical, viability will occur much earlier in pregnancy.
bullet Zygote: A recently-fertilized ovum.

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  1. Pastor Matt Trewhella, "Coming home to roost: Fruit of the Ill-conceived Partial-Birth Abortion Strategy," at:

  2. "Fetus," Wikipedia, as on 2011-AUG-15, at:

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Copyright 1997 to 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Last updated and reviewed on 2015-OCT-18
Author: B.A. Robinson.
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