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Jerome Lejeune: Science and the ProLife Movement


“A month after conception, a human being is one-sixth of an inch long. The tiny heart has already been beating for a week, and the arms, legs, head and brain have already begun to take shape.

At two months, the child would fit into a walnut shell: Curled up, she measures a little more than an inch long. Inside your closed fist, she would be invisible, and you could crush her without meaning to – even without noticing. But if you open your hand, she is virtually complete, with hands, feet, head, internal organs, brain, everything in place. All she needs to do is grow. Look even more closely with a standard microscope, and you’ll be able to make out her fingerprints. Everything needed to establish her identity is already in place.”

Jerome Lejuene was a remarkable man who united two worlds: religion and science. Lejuene’s life is an example of a man whose work in science supported his understanding of the beauty, and preciousness, of life.

In 1958, Professor Lejuene discovered the chromosomal reason behind Down Syndrome, an extra chromosome in pair 21. He hoped that this discovery would lead to a greater outpouring of research and support to care for children with Down Syndrome. He dedicated his entire life to caring for and healing these children.

He was horrified when it became increasingly obvious that his discovery instead would be used to get rid of children with Down Syndrome instead of to heal and care for them. As soon as pro-abortion laws began to be passed in Western countries, Professor Lejuene became one of the most vocal advocates against them. He fought to protect the unborn with Down Syndrome by giving hundreds of conferences and lectures.

His advocacy culminated in his appointment by Pope John Paul II as the first Chairman of the Pontifical Academy for Life in 1994. He died shortly after, on Easter morning in April 1994.

Jerome Lejuene’s work in science led him ever more deeply to understand the humanity and presence of life in all people, no matter their condition. Instead of scientists who argue about the “beginning of life” and who justify abortion by negating the humanity of embryos, Professor Lejuene understood that science described a sacred thing: life.

The cause for the beatification and canonization of Jerome Lejeune was opened in 2007. Let us pray for his intercession for the end of abortion and the protection of the unborn!