The Separation Between Mother and Fetus

    The question that often arises in regards to the topic of the beginning of human life, especially in relation to the issue of abortion, is whether the fetus is simply a part of the mother's body and thus under her control, or if the fetus is a separate and distinct entity.

    Many people contend that the pre-born baby is part of the mother's body. Yet the fact is often overlooked that biologically the mother's own body views the fetus essentially as a foreigner. Joanne Silberner (1986) observes that because the fetus contains paternal as well as maternal genes, the mother's immune system attacks the fetus. These attacks can even result in a spontaneous abortion in a small percentage of the cases.
    J.T. (1998) observes, "Scientists often describe the immune system as discerning between self and nonself and attacking the latter." Through this conclusion, the assumption can be made that the fetus is not part of the mother's body, but a distinct being with its own unique genetic code.

  The placenta acts as a barrier between the fetus and the mother, further attesting to the fact that these are two separate beings. J.T. (1998) reports that a recent study conducted by Andrew Mellor of the Medical College of Georgia in Augusta and his colleagues has determined that cells on the placenta produce an enzyme called indoleamine 2, 3-dioxygenase (IDO). This enzyme protects the fetus from the mother's attack.

    In addition to this aspect of the placenta acting as a barrier, the placenta also acts as a divider which keeps the mother's blood separate from the blood of the fetus.

    These aspects of the relationship between mother and fetus prove that a separation does exist between the two parties. While the unborn entity is dependent upon the mother for a place to reside during the first nine months of its existence, the fetus is not a part of the mother's body. Even the mother's body views the fetus as a foreigner.

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This page was made by Christina Rutten, a student at  Wayne State College, on April 20, 1999. If you
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