NRL News

The Biology of Prenatal Development: Must Viewing

by | Aug 17, 2011

By Dave Andrusko

Editor’s note. My family is on vacation. While we are gone I’ll be running articles from the past 12 months that you’ve indicated you particularly enjoyed. Dave

“Biologically speaking, human development begins at fertilization, when a woman and a man each combine 23 of their own chromosomes through the union of their reproductive cells.”
     — Opening of “The Biology of Prenatal Development.”

In recent years, our cause has been the beneficiary of a number of awesome DVDs visually detailing the incredible complexity of the developing unborn child. I would direct you to A Baby’s First Months: Infinite Possibilities, a breathtaking DVD available from the National Right to Life Educational Trust Fund. (See

There is a new addition from EHD–The Endowment for Human Development–an organization that describes itself both as “a nonprofit organization dedicated to improving health science education and public health” and as “committed to neutrality regarding all controversial bioethical issues.”

The Biology of Prenatal Development is 42 minutes long and adheres to its promise of neutrality, which is, of course, fine by us but anathema to pro-abortionists. In a moment I’ll talk about what makes the 42 minutes seem like ten minutes.

First, let me give you a description of the DVD, which is distributed by National Geographic.

“This award-winning science documentary features rare imagery of the living human embryo and fetus, while growing inside the womb. Produced in conjunction with and endorsed by human development experts, this DVD combines facts gleaned from the medical literature with images produced from six different imaging technologies. This visually compelling program is intended for general audiences and communicates an unparalleled visual appreciation of early human development.”

I have to admit at first I was amused when I read the description that this in intended for an audience 12 and older.

while not brain surgery, there is a lot of data. And then it dawned on me that I was missing the point.

It isn’t about remembering that “A woman’s reproductive cell is commonly called an ‘egg’ but the correct term is oocyte.” Or that “The zygote’s 46 chromosomes represent the unique first edition of a new individual’s complete genetic blueprint. This master plan resides in tightly coiled molecules called DNA. They contain the instructions for the development of the entire body.” Or even that “The heart begins beating 3 weeks and 1 day following fertilization.”

Rather it’s about, if you will, the mega-narrative: This is not the story of your life or my life but all our lives.

Right out of the box you see a collage of people flashing before your eyes–all ages and races. The point does not need to be articulated: men or women, young or old, Scandinavian or Japanese, all started their existence in the same way and undertook the same journey.

In a DVD that is ingenious at so many levels, what jumped out at me is the very helpful way the producers intersect and compare images and representations.

For example, in addition to a compelling narrative, all throughout the DVD you see an animation that shows you the size of the baby on the left: from the size of a pea held between the thumb and forefinger to a baby at birth that needs to be held in both arms. Alongside that on the right you see spectacular video of the developing child at that stage.

The description above mentions “six different imaging technologies.” Whichever one is used it gives you a bird’s eye look at the baby as she or he develops.

I’m sure I must have known that during the first trimester developmental period “all body systems and more than 90 percent of body parts emerge and begin to function.” But I had forgotten important markers of fetal development.

Let me end with this. It is so beautiful, so awesome, it almost takes your breath away. For what it’s worth, everybody at NRLC who has seen the DVD has raved about it. Not because it takes a stand against abortion. If it did, its science would be unfairly questioned.

Instead The Biology of Prenatal Development just tells it the way it is, a story that not so long ago was impossible to convey. We all know technology can cut both ways, but in this instance it is an enormous boost to the cause of unborn babies.

You can order The Biology of Prenatal Development at The price is $19.95 plus shipping.

Categories: Fetal Development