Tuesday, May 21, 2019

"Fetal heartbeats" actually are "embryonic cardiac activity," and pro lifers use such fraudulent language to boost their "babyfication of the embryo" campaign


Dr. Jen Gunter

Alabama has passed a "fetal heartbeat" law that even televangelist Pat Robertson says has "gone too far." Who knew something could be so far right that it would make Pat Robertson retch? But that has happened, and a prominent gynecologist saw this coming several years ago because of what she calls the "babyfication of the embryo."

Dr. Jen Gunter, who practices in Canada and the United States and publishes the blog drjengunter.com, addressed the babyfication issue in a 2015 post after the Ohio House passed a "fetal heartbeat" bill. Why are such bills generally so dishonest? Because, at six weeks, there is no fetus and there is no heartbeat, Gunter says. The proper term would be "embryonic cardiac activity," which is essentially a throbbing, but not from a heart. That term isn't catchy enough to rile up the right-wing fundies, so someone created the bogus term "fetal heartbeat." Writes Gunter (again, this is in 2015, before Donald Trump added his toadies to the U.S. Supreme Court):

The Ohio House just passed a “fetal heartbeat” bill, which is the first step on the road to legislation that would ban abortion after embryonic cardiac activity.

Embryonic cardiac activity is typically seen by 6 weeks gestation (42 days into the pregnancy or about 2 weeks after a missed period), which is before many women know they are pregnant and certainly before many have really had time to consider what being pregnant means for them. Thus this kind of legislation really has one goal – to eliminate abortion.

This type of bill has been tried elsewhere and while it hasn’t become law anywhere, typically because some politician decides it won’t hold up to in the Supreme Court against Roe. With that in mind, why keep churning these things through State Legislatures wasting tax payer dollars?

If Dr. Gunter sounds disgusted with the "pro life" crowd, it might be because she has spent considerable effort (and money) to master a challenging discipline, only to see know-nothings abuse its facts and language in order to score political points:

Possibly the “pro-life” forces that support this legislation think that if they keep throwing enough garbage that something is going to stick. If the balance of the Supreme Court changes to an even more conservative bench we’ll see a flurry of these things, so testing out the kinks in advance might be a useful strategy. Also, chest thumping about anti-choice zeal is helpful to raise money for campaigns. But there is also something more insidious about these bills and it is the terminology “fetal heart beat,” because at 42 days it’s an embryo and it doesn’t have a “heart beat;” it has cardiac activity.

We encourage you to let that last sentence sink in: "But there is also something more insidious about these bills and it is the terminology “fetal heart beat,” because at 42 days it’s an embryo and it doesn’t have a “heart beat;” it has cardiac activity." So, it's an "embryo" (not a fetus), and it has "cardiac activity" (not a heartbeat) -- but that's not a distinction you will hear from the Republicans (mostly white and male) who passed the Alabama law that disturbed even Pat Robertson. Here is more from Dr. Gunter:

Using terms like fetus and “beating heart” conjures up an image of a tiny human almost able to live on its own . . . . Cardiac activity can be detected when an embryo is 3 mm and the actual visual isn’t very baby-like at all. (See image of an actual embryo at the end of this post.) 
To the average person who a fetal heart beat bill sounds a lot more like preventing a 2nd trimester procedure and a greater number of Americans oppose those. The majority of voters support 1st trimester abortion, so if you want the average person to think you are limiting 2nd trimester procedures repetitively talking about a fetal heart beat would be one way to do that. The more “baby like” the image the better, and so fetal heart bills sound more like saving close to term “babies” than restricting access to 1st and 2nd trimester abortion.

In short, "pro lifers" are conning the American public, and Dr. Gunter is brave enough to call them on it:
The imprecision also contaminates legal cases, if a 6 week embryo with cardiac activity becomes a fetus with a heart beat to the general pubic then at 23 weeks a fetus seems a lot closer to term than the reality of being barely on the cusp of viability even with intensive neonatal care. This what happened in Purvi Patel’s case. The pretrial motions indicated her fetus was 30 weeks when it was 23-24, but the damage was done. The image that this was a 3rd trimester pregnancy was set. Shifting the paradigm of what sounds like a baby earlier and earlier has lots of anti-choice payoffs. 
Using incorrect terminology isn’t just sloppy, it has a purpose – the babyfication of the embryo and it’s just one more back door way to erode choice.


12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Right wingers are experts at making up words and phrases to gain political power by fooling he public. Been going on a long time.

Anonymous said...

The very term "pro life" is a joke, coming from the side that supports the death penalty and guns everywhere.

Anonymous said...

Pat Robertson thinks Alabama has "gone too far." What a hoot!

Anonymous said...

It's like Jeff Daniels was saying yesterday on MSNBC: It's all about race. If abortions were available only to women of color, white fundies would be fine with that.

legalschnauzer said...

Interesting piece from Josh Moon of Alabama Political Reporter:


Alabama’s biggest problem today isn’t racism or misogyny, it isn’t crooked politicians or far-right legislation.

It’s a fear of ostracism.

It’s a fear of being shunned by the church groups or written off as a loon by your friends. It’s a fear of being disinvited to the weekend get-togethers or the summer beach trips. It’s a fear of being ridiculed at family gatherings or snubbed by co-workers. It’s a fear of missing out on business opportunities — the big sale or the next promotion.

And look, I get it. Believe me, do I ever get it.

I’ve lost at least two radio shows, each of which were doing pretty well. The Montgomery Advertiser was planning to kill off what was its most popular opinion column to appease conservatives when I left there. And I didn’t even get started using my real estate license (which is just a side hustle) before people were harassing the poor broker who was nice enough to hold it for me.

So, yeah, I get it.

But you don’t have to be like me. You don’t have to live it every day. You just have to speak up for what you believe in and inject facts and rational thought into the conservative group-think that dominates Alabama life.


https://www.alreporter.com/2019/05/21/opinion-want-to-change-alabama-speak-up/

Anonymous said...

"Babyfication of the embryo" is an interesting term. Reminds me of hearing "unborn child" for the first time back in the 70s. I remember thinking, "A child, by definition, is born, isn't it." My, how the right wing has changed our language. And we've let it happen.

legalschnauzer said...

@11:15 --

Your comment reminds me of the song "Unborn Child," which kind of derailed Seals and Crofts' career back in 1974. Their record label warned them about the song, but they released it (and an album by the same name) anyway.


http://somethingelsereviews.com/2015/06/27/seals-and-crofts-unborn-child-supreme-court/

Anonymous said...

Dr. Gunter speaks truth here:

Possibly the “pro-life” forces that support this legislation think that if they keep throwing enough garbage that something is going to stick. If the balance of the Supreme Court changes to an even more conservative bench we’ll see a flurry of these things, so testing out the kinks in advance might be a useful strategy. Also, chest thumping about anti-choice zeal is helpful to raise money for campaigns. But there is also something more insidious about these bills and it is the terminology “fetal heart beat,” because at 42 days it’s an embryo and it doesn’t have a “heart beat;” it has cardiac activity.

Anonymous said...

This all is being driven by Putin's "appointment" of Trump, and Trump's appointment of Gorsuch and Kavanaugh. The record shows Putin is trying to sow discord in the U.S., and it is working beautifully for him.

e.a.f. said...

they are what back in the day one of British Columbia's feminists used to refer to as "friends of the fetus". they didn't care about anything but the fetus. Never cared whether it died or lived once it was born.

You have to laugh, when you hear or read about these anti abortionists and hear them say all life is precious. So my questions are: Why don't they provide free pre natal care, free food programs and housing for pregnant women? why don't they provide adequate salaries, welfare programs to feed, cloth, house and education children? its because they don't give a shit about fetuses once they are born and can live outside the womb. these friends of the fetus don't even pay for the delivery of a child being born.

what this eventually will do, if they keep these "anti abortion" laws, is criminalise women. In some Central American countries, which ban abortions, some doctors won't even treat women who have miscarriages because they are afraid they might be accused of providing an abortion. women who have suffered miscarriages have actually been sent to jail for having an abortion, when all that happened was they had a miscarriage. How powerful those laws are when it comes to controlling women. Want a woman in jail, well you have a chance if she has a miscarriage.

Its rather interesting that Margaret Atwood wrote a book so very long ago which is now a t.v. series and various levels of American government are attempting to criminalise women.

The upcoming elections across the U.S.A. are going to be very important indeed if women want to retain the rights they have now. If they don't vote for politicians who will support women's rights, they may find, with in 10 years they don't have any and that includes the right to vote. Don't think it can't happen? think again,.

legalschnauzer said...

e.a.f. --

"Friends of the fetus." What an interesting term. I'd never heard that one, but it's a perfect fit.

They certainly aren't "buddies of the baby," once it's born.

Anonymous said...

Pat Robertson was talking about the lack of exceptions not heartbeat legislation.

Also, the "debunking" of the fetal heartbeat has itself been debunked:

Magazine Retracts Claim That Fetal Heartbeats Are ‘Imaginary’
Atlantic buries corrections to error-filled piece on ultrasounds

"...The article originally claimed that fetal heartbeats depicted in ultrasound are "imaginary" because there is no heart in the body during early stages of development.

"It is dubious to call this movement a ‘heartbeat'; there is no heart to speak of [at six weeks]," the article said.


The Mayo Clinic states on its website that "just four weeks after conception, the neural tube along your baby's back is closing and your baby's heart is pumping blood."

The Atlantic later deleted the sentence from the story, dropping any mention that heartbeats captured by ultrasound were imaginary."

https://freebeacon.com/issues/magazine-retracts-claim-fetal-heartbeats-are-imaginary/