Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Baby's First Smile; Stunning New Scanning Images Reopen Debate over Feelings of Unborn Children

Newspaper article The Evening Standard (London, England)

Baby's First Smile; Stunning New Scanning Images Reopen Debate over Feelings of Unborn Children

Article excerpt

Byline: ISABEL OAKESHOTT

THESE astonishing new pictures offer a remarkable insight into foetal behaviour and stand to revolutionise health care for unborn children.

But the images are also bound to intensify the debate over abortion, with pro-life campaigners claiming they prove their argument that foetuses can feel emotion and pain.

For the first time, an unborn foetus can be seen smiling in the womb months before it was thought babies could make such expressions.

Until now, doctors thought infants did not make such expressions until after birth. They believed babies only learned to smile from copying their mothers.

The images were captured 26 weeks after conception using groundbreaking ultrasound scanning techniques.

The procedure, pioneered in London, has revealed unborn children sucking their fingers, blinking and even crying in the womb, long before the 24-week legal limit for terminations.

Obstetrician Professor Stuart Campbell said: "With this new advance there are many questions that can be investigated."

Paul Denon, a spokesman for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, said the development was "delightful".

"Babies are babies right from the start and are human beings.

We are pleased that this development will show people the humanity of the unborn child.

"It is good for our cause as it will show more people that they are not destroying a lump of tissue or a blob and that abortion has no place in a civilised country."

Professor Campbell used highly sophisticated scanning machines and the technique can be used to produce live, moving images, or still pictures, which are shaded to show detailed features of the unborn child's body and face.

Pictures developed by Professor Campbell reveal foetuses moving their limbs at just eight weeks.

From 15 weeks, they can be observed making complex finger movements, whilst from 20 weeks, they can be seen yawning. …

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