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Published: September 28, 2011 4:29 am to Analysis

Planned Parenthood’s preborn child development timeline lacks major milestones and details

The following excerpts are from the Q&A section of Planned Parenthood’s website about fetal development, called “Pregnancy Week by Week.”  It conveniently neglects some big milestones during prenatal life.  If a pregnant girl were to look for facts about her unborn baby’s development on Planned Parenthood’s page, she would receive only a small fraction of the information she desires.

Planned Parenthood describes gestational age by LMP (last menstrual period); certain milestones appear as though they occur later after conception than they actually do.  For example, when Planned Parenthood says “Weeks 5-6,” this simply defines when the woman’s last menstruation was, and her unborn baby is actually only 3-4 weeks old:

“The ball of cells develops into an embryo at the start of the sixth week. The embryonic stage of pregnancy will last about five weeks. During this time all major internal organs begin developing.

Weeks 5–6

  • The embryo is less than 1/5 inch (4–5 mm) long.
  • A very basic beating heart and circulatory system develop.
  • Buds for arms and legs develop.
  • The neural tube begins forming. The neural tube will later form the brain, spinal cord, and major nerves.
  • The bud of a tail develops.
  • The umbilical cord begins developing.”

That “ball of cells” is scientifically and biologically a newly conceived human being, but don’t expect Planned Parenthood to ever admit such a thing.  The “very basic beating heart,” which isn’t basic in any sense of the word, is pumping blood throughout the baby’s body just 21 days after conception—before the vast majority of women even realize they’re pregnant.  By 28 days after conception, an unborn child’s heart is beating about 121 beats per minute.

Planned Parenthood claims that “the neural tube will later form the brain,” at 5-6 weeks of pregnancy when, in fact, the brain is the first organ to begin developing.  By 3 weeks after conception, the forebrain, midbrain, and hindbrain can be identified.

“Weeks 7–8

  • The embryo is 1/4 to 1/2 inch (7–14 mm) long.
  • The heart has formed.
  • Webbed fingers and toes develop.
  • The arms bend at elbows.
  • External ears, eyes, eyelids, liver, and upper lip have begun forming.
  • The sex organs are the same — neither female nor male — in all embryos until the seventh or eighth week. If a gene triggers the development of testes, the embryo develops as a male. If there is no trigger, the embryo develops ovaries and becomes female.”

It’s interesting that Planned Parenthood’s website states that an unborn child’s heart has formed 7-8 weeks into pregnancy when their medical staff claims that there is “nothing there” at this age.  Other staff members claim that the baby’s heart doesn’t begin to beat until 17-18 weeks into pregnancy.  Fact is, both Planned Parenthood’s website and workers mislead on the development of the unborn, especially on their heart development.

This timeline conveniently neglects to mention the fact that an unborn baby’s brainwave activity can be recorded as early as 6 weeks, 2 days after conception via EEG, and by 7 weeks, he or she demonstrates reflexive movements if touched.

“Weeks 9–10

  • The embryo develops into a fetus after 10 weeks. It is 1–1.5 inches (21–40 mm) long.
  • The tail disappears.
  • Fingers and toes are longer.
  • The umbilical cord connects the abdomen of the fetus to the placenta.  The placenta is attached to the wall of the uterus. It absorbs nutrients from the woman’s bloodstream. The cord carries nutrients and oxygen to the fetus and takes wastes away from the fetus.”

Around 8-10 weeks after conception, the preborn child has a very complex brain, practice his/her breathing motions, can grasp an object placed in the hand and respond to light touch, and begin thumb-sucking, and many demonstrate left- or right- hand dominance.

Why aren’t these fascinating details on Planned Parenthood’s fetal growth timeline?  Where are the videos of unborn children in the womb on Planned Parenthood’s fetal development section?  Where are the photographs?  There are absolutely no detailed descriptions or images of preborn babies on Planned Parenthood’s website.  If a pregnant girl were to look for facts about her unborn baby’s development on Planned Parenthood’s page, she would receive only a small fraction of the information and facts that she needs and deserves to know.


1/06/2012 Note: Planned Parenthood recently added crude drawings of unborn children to correspond with their fetal development timeline.  They can be viewed at the bottom of this page.

  • Grace

    Hmmm. A tad bit afraid of informed choices, are we, Planned Parenthood?

  • Guest

    I think they also talk about a ‘tail’ developing to make the baby seem less human. People don’t develop tails, it is the coccyx. True, the end of the spine sticks out noticeably in a one-month embryo,
    but that’s because muscles and limbs don’t develop until stimulated by
    the spine. As the legs develop, they surround and
    envelop the coccyx, and it winds up inside the body.

    • Marauder The Slash Nymph

      That probably was their intention, but personally, I think it’s cool that humans go through a period of having tails. :D

  • oldmanbob

    Having PP describe what they call medical waste in detail, not likely.  After all if what is shown looks human then it might be human and another fat killng fee goes out the door (maybe even to a pregancy care center). 

  • Charlene

    This is freaking ridiculous. If Planned Parenthood’s information has had these mistakes in the past, then why don’t they change? Or more importantly, why any has not told them to change it? Is it being overlooked? Is it because the only sector that is telling them they are wrong is the pro-life supporters?

    I am sure there are thousands of information and stages of a baby’s growth and development cycle. I mean, I read the same thing when I was pregnant with my son in a packet I received from my OB-GYN.

    What is being argued here is not about the lack of information Planned Parenthood is giving but the way it is being relayed to the reader.

    There many ways to give information and say information. Just because it is not they way you want it to be, so many others could care less. Not caring less about unborn babies, but caring less about the way information is proposed.

    SAVE UNBORN BABIES THROUGH EDUCATION! PEER EDUCATION! Let young girls and women know that there is a right time to have a baby. It’s not about what age a girl gets pregnant. And that is when two people, the parents, are able to love, care, nuture, and provide food, have an income or job, a stable home, a safe environment for their child. So many babies that are born are neglected either totally, globally, and partially. Their parents go through the motions of parenting without building connection with their children, and that’s where we fail in the system.

  • Christina

    Great post, I actually was just reading this information on Planned Parenthood’s website yesterday and was really upset that they called it a “basic heart beat”…such a lie! Your post highlights exactly what needs to be highlighted, thanks!

  • Marauder The Slash Nymph

    “Ball of cells” again? They can’t use “zygote” and “blastocyst”? As Bill Nye the Science Guy’s theme song used to say, “Science rules.”

  • Katie McDonald

    Maybe they don’t ‘trust women’ enough to understand scientific facts.

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  • John

    It isn’t the essence of an argument between one side and another, its a political and religious war. From the moment they are conceived, they are holy. The most sad thing in the world is how the child doesn’t have a choice. Its not supposed to be warzone, the womb is the babies home, and it is invaded everyday. From the one sided view of a decision that has two parties, ‘pro-choice’ is, and has always meant ‘anti-christ’ in this particular decision.

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