Issues

Abortion advocates’ latest anti-science nonsense: Ultrasounds make women ‘disappear’

One of the abortion movement’s most maddening lies is its claim to have a monopoly on unbiased science, a wholly unearned authority they use to deceive the public on every factual aspect of the debate. But while pro-lifers know full well that abortion advocates’ devotion to science is phony, it’s actually worse than that: abortion advocates hate and fear genuine science, because it reveals the horrifying truth of the “right to choose” that they’d rather hide from the public.

A new Atlantic piece by Moira Weigel embodies that hatred better than anything in recent memory. The publication tweeted out the piece with the truly Orwellian summary, “How the ultrasound pushed the idea that a fetus is a person.”

“Pushed the idea”? As if ultrasounds somehow perpetuate a false impression? These completely accurate, live, un-doctored images don’t make it seem like preborn babies are recognizably human; they reveal what is actually there, unfiltered by the biases of any messenger. Weigel writes:

Doctors do not even call this rapidly dividing cell mass a “fetus” until nine weeks into pregnancy.* Yet, the current debate shows how effectively politicians have used visual technology to redefine what counts as “life.”

More know-nothingism. A rose by any other name smells just as sweet, and a baby by any other name is just as human. Whether one calls him or her a zygote, embryo, fetus, or baby no more changes his or her status as a living human person than whether something is called an infant, toddler, adolescent, adult, or octogenarian.

And the only one trying to redefine life here is Weigel. As any decent embryologist could explain to her, dozens of mainstream and non-political scientific textbooks, organizations, and experts clearly confirm that the life of a new human being begins at fertilization, and the science really is settled that three relevant variables to the question—what constitutes an organism (as opposed to an organ or tissue belonging to another organism), how we know it’s alive, and how to classify it as human—have settled, unambiguous criteria: growth, reproduction, metabolism, response to stimuli, and human DNA distinct from one’s parents.

Incredibly, Weigel purports that her piece will go on to prove that “science does not bear” out the “assumption” that “an ultrasound image has an obvious meaning.” At the risk of being accused of “mansplaining,” I would suggest that if the meaning is not obvious—showing the world that this thing we allow to be destroyed is a child, for God’s sake—then one has a far deeper problem beyond the abilities of a single article to work out. She writes:

The framing of the ultrasound image was notable for what it excluded: the woman. In order to make the fetus visible, it made her disappear […] Like many other uses of this technology across history, The Heartbeat Protection Act enlarge the fetus in the public eye, while edging women out of the picture.

This is incredible—the mere act of reminding people that the baby’s there too is considered ignoring the woman. Including is redefined as excluding. If this is not narcissism in its purest and most heinous form, then the word means nothing anymore.

But this really is abortionism’s true face: selfishness at any cost, even the death of innocents.

Weigel goes on to make a passing shot at the possibility of fetal pain (see here and here for the truth) and attack the accuracy of the famous anti-abortion film The Silent Scream (never mind that modern videos far more medically up-to-date reveal the same truth), and makes the following point—which inadvertently and hilariously undermines her own premise:

New “informed consent” laws and the Congressional “heartbeat bill” follow the same logic that The Silent Scream did. Their sponsors act as if ultrasound images “prove” that a fetus is equivalent to a “baby,” and that pregnant women only have to be shown ultrasound images in order to draw the same conclusion. But the “heartbeat” made visible via ultrasound does not actually demonstrate any decisive change of state in the cell mass that might become a fetus.

That’s our point exactly! There is no decisive change of state after fertilization! From that point on, nothing along the fetal development trail—not body formation, not heartbeats, not pain sensitivity, not viability, not even birth itself—magically transforms a “cell mass” into a real boy or girl. None of it fundamentally changes the prenate from one kind of entity into another; once he or she exists, he or she already is every bit the living human being you, I, or even Moira Weigel is.

The ultrasound does not depict a change; it simply takes what was already there, and reveals how recognizable it has become. And yet, to Weigel, “it remains unclear what the popular enthusiasm for fetal images actually means.” The use of imagery to highlight the personhood of victimized groups is not exactly a new phenomenon in American history, so it’s stunning that abortion advocates completely fail to see how continually playing dumb about the obvious invites some less than flattering historical parallels

Weigel also attacks the effectiveness of mandatory ultrasounds at discouraging abortions:

Research shows that different women react differently to ultrasound images depending on their attitudes toward their pregnancy. While older mothers, and women who have struggled to conceive often express great joy, women who do not desire a child often remain indifferent. A 2014 study published by the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, which drew on the medical records of nearly 16,000 women seeking abortions, found that viewing an ultrasound had a negligible impact on whether they decided to proceed.

What a surprise; I addressed that exact same study and presented the real evidence back in June 2015. Planned Parenthood sponsored the study, which performed all the ultrasounds in a single Planned Parenthood facility, and Planned Parenthood workers themselves collected all the data and gave it to the “independent” researchers. Also, the vast majority of the women in the study went in already certain of their decision, so it didn’t even look at how ultrasounds persuade more open-minded women.

So of course, it should come as no surprise that other sources have reported the opposite findings—for example, a 2011 study by Quinnipiac University’s Mark Gius found “ultrasound laws had a very significant and negative effect on the abortion decision,” and a 2002 report from Massachusetts News found significant drops reported from a variety of pregnancy centers across the country.

Finally, a bit of perverse irony: the following appears shortly above the tweet of Weigel’s article in the Atlantic’s Twitter feed:

I know the feeling.

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