Fetal Memory

 

Fr. Frank Pavone

 
  1/27/2003
  When faced with the competing claims of two women about who was the mother of a newborn baby, King Solomon found the truth by threatening to have the baby cut in half.

Had he known of the research of behavioral scientist Stephen Evans, however, he might have asked for each mother's favorite music to be played.

Stephen Evans has conducted research that shows how babies who hear particular pieces of music while in their mother's womb will remember and recognize that music after birth. Mr. Evans took unique musical selections and had mothers play them for their baby in utero for 16 minutes a day, for seven days in a row, during the 20th week of pregnancy. Then he took the music back so it would not be heard by the child until after birth.

After birth, he played the music for the child and likewise for a control group of children who had never heard the music. The results surpassed his highest expectations. While any baby will normally calm down upon hearing music, the babies who had heard the music at 20 weeks were dramatically more calm when they heard it than were the babies who were hearing it for the first time.

Similar findings in various areas of fetal learning, fetal memory, and fetal psychology have been reported in recent years. There are even international associations dedicated to the psychology of the baby in the womb.

A natural question that arises, of course, is whether those who consider themselves to be "pro-choice" have heard of these findings, and whether it impacts their view of abortion.

Most people are affected by this research. Simply put, the "fetus" is revealed to be more and more like the newborn, and permitting the fetus to be killed begins to look about as unattractive as permitting the newborn to be killed.

But some will try to maintain that research about the fetus has nothing to do with abortion. Psychology Today featured a story in September 1998 about fetal psychology. A sidebar to that story asked, "What's the Impact on Abortion?" "I don't think that fetal research informs the issue at all," responded psychologist Janet DiPietro. Another psychologist, Heidelise Als, said, "If you believe that life begins at conception, then you don't need the proof of fetal behavior…Your circumstances and personal beliefs have much more impact on the decision."

That kind of side-stepping is pretty unpersuasive. When we separate "beliefs" from any kind of supporting evidence, we end up in a "fideism" that Christianity has always rejected. Christian faith, even about things that cannot be demonstrated by science, is always connected to rational motives for believing.

Moreover, victims of past abuse -- like African Americans burdened by slavery and segregation, or children burdened by child labor -- have had their rights recognized based on mounting evidence of the harm being inflicted on them.

Whether some want to deny it or not, the same is happening now for the unborn.