“See what great love the Father has lavished on us,
that we should be called children of God!” John 3:1a
At week 12 Baby Chris is continuing to develop at a rapid pace: his fingers curl and eyelids and genitals appear. As genitals appear, Baby Chris’s parents can now say, “It’s a boy!” although it will be another few weeks before his sex is clearly visible with ultrasound. At the moment of fertilization, a baby's genetic make-up is complete, including its sex, but up to now, the sex of the baby has been known only to God. It is the baby’s father who determines the sex of the child: If a Y sperm fertilized the egg, the baby will be a boy; if an X sperm fertilized the egg, the baby will be a girl.
We hear a lot about women, their bodily autonomy and the misnomer “reproductive rights,” but it is clear that no child is conceived without both a mother and a father. Clearly, the presence of a male infant in the womb of a female is one of the best – and simplest - examples of how an infant is not “just some tissue” that is solely part of the woman’s body.
But fathers are much more than mere “sperm donors.” From the very beginning of life the father is definitively important to the child’s development and future. The "Father Effect" in child development begins as early as maternal labor and infants with involved fathers have higher cognitive scores, even though they will never remember playing with their father at that age. Fathers help boys learn how to form relationships and develop social skills. Active, warm and involved fathers influence girls to avoid sexually risky behaviors and develop expectations for men to invest meaningfully in long-term relationships.
Something rarely mentioned in the abortion debates is that while a woman may think she is ridding herself of a child by terminating her pregnancy, the fact is that the child – whether male or female - remains present in her blood, organs and cellular structure. “A study of women who had died in their 70s found that over half of the women had male DNA (a snippet from the Y chromosome) in their brains, presumably from when their sons were in the womb.” As many as 500,000 fetal nucleated cells are transfused following an elective first trimester termination of pregnancy. Children lost before birth live on in more ways than in our memories.
Sometimes we make the mistake of assigning the characteristics of our less-than-perfect earthly fathers to our heavenly Father, imagining God to be disinterested at least or vindictive at worst. The Bible is full of examples of poor fathering and dysfunctional families, but over and over Scripture redirects our focus away from our fallen ancestors towards the One “…who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?” Romans 8:32.
Even if our own fathers fail to step up, we are not orphaned (John14:18): We bear the image of our heavenly Father (Genesis 1:27), who adopted us (Ephesians 1:5), rejoices over us (Zephaniah 3:17), waits for us (2 Peter 3:9), carries us (Isaiah 40;11), meets our needs (Philippians 4:19), upholds us throughout our lives (Isaiah 41:10; 46:4), and has made a home for us (John 14:1-4).