Part 2 of 2 parts: Glossary of terms about abortion or
that begin with letters M to Z:
This topic is a continuation of the previous essay which
defined terms that begin with the letter A to L.
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.
Some often used and confused terms related to abortion are:
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.
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.
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.
Oocyte: an ovum
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
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.
Partial Birth Abortion (PBA): A recently coined non-medical synonym for
intact Intact D&X abortion.
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.
As used by pro-life groups: pregnancy extends from conception
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
www.missionariestopreborn.com noted that now even a person
only opposed to partial-birth abortions can sell themselves as pro-life."1
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.
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.
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.
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
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.