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Life Support

“‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’

…‘We are his offspring.’”

Acts 17:28

During the twenty-ninth and thirtieth weeks, our baby’s muscles are continuing to grow and mature. His total-body hair (lanugo) is beginning to disappear. The umbilical cord is constantly coiling as he somersaults in the uterus. It will not crimp or cut off circulation because of a lubricant known as Wharton's jelly. The amniotic sac has stopped growing and the amniotic fluid will begin decreasing as Baby takes up more space in the uterus.

The amniotic sac and the uterus – together with the placenta – are the principal means of life support in the womb. The placenta is the link between the baby and the mother, providing nutrients, oxygen, and other substances, as well as giving off carbon dioxide and other wastes. The umbilical cord is a ropelike structure between the fetus and the placenta, which contains blood vessels that link the fetus to the mother and transfers the placental nutrients. The baby’s blood does not mix with the mother’s blood. The amniotic sac is the fluid-filled sac that surrounds and cushions the developing baby.

Technology uses the umbilical cord model to tether astronauts to the “mother ship” and help them breathe during space walks. Astronauts train underwater using the same umbilical technology that transfers the right mixture of gases, communications and heat under pressure to commercial divers. Patients who undergo heart bypass surgery are dependent upon a heart-lung machine to circulate oxygenated blood during the procedure. Like the child in the womb, divers, astronauts and heart surgery patients are all passively dependent upon their “umbilical cords” for what they need to survive.

This is an important counter to those who argue the fallacy that preborn babies are “part of the mother’s body”: They are separate in their DNA, blood flow and nutritional supply. When abortion advocates promote the idea that killing the preborn is permissible because the fetus cannot survive on his own outside the womb, the illustration of the space-walking astronaut, the commercial diver and the heart patient is helpful – developmentally, even mature adults can’t survive in hostile environments without external life support.

The uterine life support system is itself a bit of a Trinitarian metaphor: Through Christ (our “umbilical cord”) (Romans 8:34; I Timothy 2:5), God (as our “placenta”), gives us all that we need for life and godliness (2 Peter 1:3); and we are enveloped in the love of God by the Holy Spirit, our protector and comforter (the Believer’s “amniotic sac”) (John 14:16; 15:10; 16:13; Acts 10:38), as we develop into the image of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Our providential God has provided for our protection and survival from the first moments of life. Our survival after birth is no less dependent upon Jesus, in whom we are to abide throughout our lives until we are united in eternity (John 15:4-9).

“I am the vine; you are the branches.

If you remain in me and I in you,

you will bear much fruit;

apart from me you can do nothing.”

John 15:5

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