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Insights in reproductive health research and practice from CompassCare's medical team.

Scientifically, What Is a Fetus?

fe·tus noun from the Latin root ‘fe’ meaning to bear or suckle. It refers to the generating of offspring. Historically used to refer to an infant.

8 Week Old Fetus

Immediately upon fertilization of a human egg, the resulting “zygote” begins to divide, or cleave, into multiple cells containing its own unique and complete set of DNA, different than the mother’s. The basic structural plan of a separate human life exists at fertilization and contains all it will ever need to mature and survive throughout its lifetime. Aside from nourishment, the human fetus grows independently of his mother. The human fetus is, in all scientific respects, his own separate and distinct human being. Most induced abortions occur when the baby is between 8-12 weeks old.1

1 The Guttmacher Institute. (2011). In Brief: Fact Sheet; Facts on Induced Abortion in the United States. Retrieved from: