How would you answer someone who claims that if embryo experimentation produces a cure, e.g., for Down’s syndrome, it can be justified? M.C., St. Catharines, Ontario.

For the sake of argument, and without prejudice, let us suppose such a discovery is possible. The argument of the end justifying the means is still untenable, for it is the identical argument used by the Nazi doctors to justify their barbarous experiments on prisoners in Dachau, Auschwitz and Belsen. The infamous Dr. Josef Mengele, in his study of twins in the camps, excused his inhuman experimentation because he was engaged in research on “genetic abnormalities.”

Mengele’s human subjects for experimentation could be seen; the embryos used in research are very tiny, and have never been seen outside a laboratory, but they are just as alive and just as human as the victims in Auschwitz.

An English writer, Andrew Gimson, The Spectator (April 5, 1986) answered your question in these words: “We could act from the most humane motives, and achieve astonishing scientific advances, but in the process we would lose our humanity.”

Is it true that unborn babies have been seen sucking their thumbs? J.S., Barrie, Ontario.

Yes, indeed, and not only their thumbs. Some unborn babies suck their fingers, and a few suck their toes. Interestingly enough, the babies who suck their thumbs before birth continue to do so after they are born. Such babies can be quite unhappy when they are wrapped up and cannot get their thumbs into their mouths. It has been said they are as irritable as a man who has mislaid his pipe.

How soon does an unborn baby’s heart begin to beat? When can it be heard? How can you tell the baby’s heart from the mother’s? J.S., Barrie, Ontario.

According to Sir William Liley (the father of fetology), a baby’s heart begins to beat around 24 to 25 days after conception, and by 35 to 37 days the heartbeat can be heard.

An unborn baby’s heartbeat is much faster than his/her mother’s. Professor Lejeune compares the two heartbeats to music in a disco: the mother’s heart has a strong beat at around 60 a minute; the baby’s beat is like maracas at 150 to 170 a minute.

Is it true that an Italian doctor succeeded in producing a test-tube baby before Louise Brown in England? S.J., Port Hope, Ontario.

You are probably referring to the reports of an experiment carried out by an Italian biologist, Dr. Petrucci. In 1961 he hit the headlines with his claims to have fertilized a human ovum, in vitro, and to have allowed it to grow for 59 days outside the womb. He is reported to have said that the embryo had a discernible heartbeat, but it was a “monstrosity,” and either he destroyed it or “allowed it to die”. There was, and still is, controversy over both the experiment and his claims. According to reports, he stopped this type of experimentation with human life on the direct orders from the Pope.

Does an abortion affect the health or lives of future babies? M.H., Toronto, Ontario.

Dr. Jack Willke in his book Abortion quotes a number of studies that show that previous abortions can, and do, cause premature births, brain injury at birth, low birth weight, and deaths of newborn babies.

Furthermore, an abortion may affect blood-group sensitization, e.g., an abortion by a woman who is RH negative may affect the heath or even cause the deaths of later children.