FACT CHECK: Stacey Abrams is Wrong; Heart Rate at Six Weeks is 110 Beats Per Minute

Charlotte Lozier Institute  

Scientific Consensus Shows First Heartbeat Occurs 22 Days After Fertilization, Embryonic Heart Vital for Oxygen and Nutrient Distribution


Washington, D.C.Stacey Abrams incorrectly claimed earlier this week that “there is no such thing as a heartbeat at six weeks,” seeming to ignore scientific consensus based on published, validated, objective, biological investigation.


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:


“One wonders if Ms. Abrams was absent the day her health class covered human development?  Even now, all it takes is one quick search of the public database of scientific and embryology research to confirm that the heart is the first functioning organ in a developing human being, with the first heartbeat just 22 days after fertilization.


“A baby’s heart is actively beating at six weeks gestation and will have already beat nearly 16 million times by 15 weeks.  In fact, at six weeks, when Stacey Abrams says a heartbeat doesn’t exist, that baby’s heart is actually beating at about 110 beats per minute (bpm).


“Most American parents have seen their baby’s beating heart during prenatal ultrasound and discussed it with their obstetrician.  The mainstream media can perform Olympic-level semantics 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.
  • The brain has divided into three primary sections responsible for sensing and decision-making, moving and tracking objects, and vital body functions.
  • Eyes, ears, and nose start forming.


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.  22 days post-fertilization equates to 6 weeks’ gestation.



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.




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