Story time: Earlier this year I saw on Facebook that a friend from a decade ago had given birth prematurely. I don’t remember how prematurely, but I remember I googled “X weeks premature survival rates” and the percentage scared me. (Just letting you know now: her baby is fine). It was around this time that I also saw those lamb fetus artificial womb bags. Cool, I thought, this would’ve helped my friend. But then I saw a comment on the video along the lines of “Doesn’t this make everyone re-think being pro-abortion?”
No, of course not. They aren’t two mutually exclusive things! Is this why we can’t have nice things? Of course new advances in science are great! Of course we want to learn more about how the human body works. That doesn’t at all mean we are gonna change our opinion that a pregnant person’s social and economic freedom is tied to their ability to get an abortion if they need one. We’re not anti-baby, we’re pro-choice.
So this brings us to an at times interesting, but also very one-sided article in the Atlantic titled: “Science Is Giving the Pro-Life Movement a Boost.” Ugh, the headline alone gave us hives! The actual article is a little more subdued, although, again stop calling them “pro-life” in everything. We’re all pro-living.
In fact, the author continuing to use “pro-life” points to one of the main problems with the article: it spends all this time talking about the “science” of fetuses in the womb, but never acknowledges the realities of the lives of the pregnant people. Why the eff do we have to spend this much time defining what a baby is while completely denying the humanity of the person with the uterus making the decision. So let’s dive in to some of the more ridiculous parts, to clear some things up, hopefully once and for all:
On Ultrasounds and “Humanity”
“when they see their fetus on an ultrasound, they may see humanizing qualities like smiles or claps, even if most scientists see random muscle movements”
These advances fundamentally shift the moral intuition around abortion. New technology makes it easier to apprehend the humanity of a growing child and imagine a fetus as a creature with moral status.
OK, so this isn’t really “science.” Sure, it’s scientific advancement that ultrasounds are so much better now, but this is still just a moral argument. “Feel shame at seeing this thing in your body, feel shame that, yes, in fact, if it were 9 months from now and it came out of you it would be a full-blown baby?!” How much we can or cannot see of a fetus does not change our view on abortion. We all know where babies come from (much as anti-choicers have tried to make it so that high schoolers still think dancing too close could get them pregnant). We all know that eventually, without interference or a miscarriage, there is a baby.
The fact that doctors can point to a little pod earlier and be like “Oh look, there’s the head” doesn’t mean a pregnant person is going to suddenly: 1.) Want to be a parent; 2). Be able to afford to be a parent; or 3.) Stop the fetus from having some terrible abnormality that makes caring it to term possible. Calling shit like this “science” is actively cruel. It presents this dichotomy of “if you could see the fetus as a baby… then the fetus is a baby.” Um no, if a person wants to have a baby, and they are excited to see how it is developing, that is great! If they do not want to have the baby it doesn’t make them into some cruel monster.
On Doctors Doing Their Jobs
Medical teams spend enormous effort, time, and money to deliver babies safely and nurse premature infants back to health. Yet physicians often support abortion, even late into fetal development.
THIS IS NOT A CONTRADICTORY THING! In these cases the parent has chosen to carry their baby to term, and the doctor is acting in their best interest. Ditto in cases of abortion. Notice how these sentences don’t mention the parent ONCE??
On the Hypocrisy of it All
“It’s been very difficult to convince folks within the pro-life community that the science seems to be … suggesting that [Plan B] is not abortifacient,” he said. “They are too readily dismissing that work as being motivated by advocacy.”
HEHEHEHEHE! So we don’t entirely hate this article, because it does acknowledge that people just use “scientific” facts only as far as they prove their point. And that leads us to this very dark quote:
“Anybody with money can get a scientist to say what they want them to say,” said Largent. “That’s not because scientists are whores. It’s because the world is a really complex place, and there are ways that you can craft a scientific investigation to lend credence to one side or another.”
YIKESSS! Look, scientists are supposed to be cautious and not jump to conclusions. We could say that a lot of anti-choice scientists do seem to have an agenda, but, I mean, this article already kinda says that. But the point of quotes like this is: you can’t just consider any new study empirical fact. Things need to be peer-reviewed. Studies can be contradictory. New information can come out. There’s not gonna be one “bombshell” study, much as anti-choicers would hope. In fact the very nature of scientific research PREVENTS a bombshell study from occurring.
And even still, there’s never gonna be a study that says “We feel specifically that Jean should not get an abortion because of science.” There is however, a lot of empirical evidence that abortion is safer than carrying a baby to term. There are economic and health factors to consider. And honestly, if Jean wants an abortion, it’s her right to get one.
On anti-choicers making everything about them
Reid found the experience perplexing. “I’m very proud of what I did … because it made genuine advances in our understanding of human development,” he said. “It’s frustrating that people take something which actually has no relevance to the position of anti-abortion or pro-abortion and try to use it … in a way that’s been pre-ordained.” He’s not going to stop doing his research on fetal development, he said. But he “will probably be a bit more heavy, perhaps, in my anticipation of how it’s going to be misused.”
LOL so here this poor scientist interested in studying fetal development had his work about fetuses in the third trimester (just a reminder, abortion in the third trimester is extremely rare) used by anti-choicers to fuel their rhetoric. And he was just like, “Man, just let me do my WORK and stop using me.” That’s the thing, we as pro-choicers are OBVIOUSLY not anti-scientific development. Honestly, again, it’s GOOD if they are making discoveries about how the body works. It’s fascinating even. It doesn’t change that sometimes a pregnant person needs to have an abortion, wants to have an abortion, or can only have an abortion. But if you are, you know, 40 weeks pregnant, carrying your baby to term, and you read a study about what the fetus can do at that point and it seems interesting to you, well, that’s great too!
So where does this article leave us?
Ultimately, this is the pro-life movement’s reason for framing its cause in scientific terms: The best argument for protecting life in the womb is found in the common sense of fetal heartbeats and swelling stomachs. “The pro-life movement has always been a movement aimed at cultivating the moral imagination so people can understand why we should care about human beings in the womb,” said Snead, the Notre Dame professor. “Science has been used, for a long time, as a bridge to that moral imagination.”
We all frickin’ know about the miracle of life though! This again is just meant to shame. (Also, quick reminder that “fetal heartbeat” for the most part is BS, especially at 10-weeks like Congress was trying to say. The heart is NOT developed then, so while the clump of cells may make a noise, it’s not a full-grown heart.) This whole article is “just putting it out there” that knowing more about the “science” of how a fetus develops should make people IGNORE THE PERSON WHO IS HOUSING SAID FETUS! But we can’t, we absolutely can’t. Because they are the person who has to carry the fetus for 9-months. They matter! They cannot be excluded from the narrative.
The judgments you make, knowing what an ultrasound looks like at 10 weeks, knowing how big the fetus is at 15, those are not scientific things. It’s a bullshit fallacy of the anti-choice movement that if the pregnant person just knew “A LITTLE MORE” if they had to just wait “ONE MORE DAY” then they’d suddenly say “Nope, just kidding.” But frankly, it’s cruel to argue this kinda thing. It’s cruel towards someone who already is trying to make an important decision. And no fringe study is gonna change that.