FACT CHECK: S.C. Chief Justice Beatty is Wrong; Heart Rate at Six Weeks is 110 Beats Per Minute
‘Semantic Gymnastics’ Doesn’t Change the Scientific Consensus That a Baby’s First Heartbeat Occurs at 6 Weeks
Washington, D.C. – South Carolina Chief Justice Donald W. Beatty today incorrectly claimed that a six-week gestation baby does not have a heartbeat, stating in a South Carolina Supreme Court hearing that, “it’s really not a heartbeat. It’s an electrical signal.” Associate Justice Kaye G. Hearn, quoting pro-abortion medical organizations, added that “what this act considers a heartbeat is actually embryonic cardiac activity … a true heartbeat does not occur until all four chambers in the heart have developed.”
Dr. Tara Sander Lee, Ph.D., who studied heart development at Harvard Medical School and serves as Director of Life Sciences at Charlotte Lozier Institute (CLI), responded:
“With respect to Associate Justice Hearn, I must point out that the human brain isn’t fully developed until around age 25. Would she suggest that a toddler or teenager doesn’t actually have a true brain?
“‘Embryonic cardiac activity’ is often defined by the medical community as the number of times the heart beats per minute. At 6 weeks, the baby’s heart, or cardiac activity, is 110 beats per minute! By 15 weeks, the baby’s heart will have already beat nearly 16 million times.
“Is the heart still developing? Yes! So is the rest of the body. The heart is the first functioning organ to develop in a human baby, because that embryonic heart is vital for oxygen and nutrient distribution. A heartbeat at six weeks is scientific consensus based on published validated, objective, biological investigation, not a public relations campaign.
“Most South Carolina parents have seen their baby’s beating heart during prenatal ultrasound and discussed it with their obstetrician. Politicians and abortion advocates can perform Olympic-level semantic gymnastics all they want, but most Americans instinctively understand that a developing human organ which beats rhythmically and pumps blood throughout the body is, in fact, a heart.”
The peer-reviewed science on babies at 6 weeks’ gestation includes:
- The heart is actively beating at 6 weeks. Between fertilization and birth, the baby’s heart will beat approximately 54 million times.
- The baby’s average heart rate is 110 BPM. This will rise to 159 bpm by 8.0 weeks’
- The presence of a heartbeat at 6-8 weeks’ gestation correlates with a live birth rate of 98% in normal pregnancies without intervention.
Dr. Sander Lee, who has also directed a medical college research lab studying congenital heart disease in children, is lead editor of VoyageOfLife.com, which details what science says about unborn babies at each week of prenatal development.
Gestational age, which is calculated based on a woman’s last menstrual period, is the most commonly used measurement of pregnancy.
Charlotte Lozier Institute was launched in 2011 as the education and research arm of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America. CLI is a hub for research and public policy analysis on some of the most pressing issues facing the United States and nations around the world. The Institute is named for a feminist physician known for her commitment to the sanctity of human life and equal career and educational opportunities for women.