Life Inside The Womb

Scientists have found that children in the womb can laugh, smile, and cry thanks to remarkable new ultrasound technology that can give a remarkably precise image of a fetus.

Images like this do far more to influence the abortion debate than all the shock tactics of the anti-abortion lobby. How one can deny that a fetus is life after seeing their face is beyond me.

6 thoughts on “Life Inside The Womb

  1. The article offers surprizingly little information. Not merely enough, in any case, to raise a need for re-evaluation of one’s stance on abortion.
    Even the most blatant pro-abortionist (assuming that such a person exists) will agree that foetuses are able to move their muscles. The article does not offer any more information than just that: a foetus will move their muscles, including facial ones. No information is given at what stage facial muscles come in (it only talks about limbs). The article does not even speculate about what causes those facial “expressions,” it is very careful to say that the foetus “seems to smile.” As is, the article only suggests that the beholder interpretes the “expression” as a smile or frown.
    Mind you, I am not defending either the pro-life or the pro-choice side here. I am only commenting on the article as such and on what you can make of it.
    I find the article highly alarming in a different context, however. It says, “Experts believe the breakthrough could lead to advances in baby health for a whole range of conditions, including Down’s Syndrome.” Now there is a problem. This article tells you about the causes of Down’s Syndrome. It says that it is caused (in most cases)in the process of an egg’s fertilization – a long time before a foetus can show up on any photograph. This leads me to conclude that all a doctor can do from looking at such pictures is tell the parents that their kid will have Down’s Syndrome. Where is the advance in baby health care in that? Surely they are not suggesting anything like pre-natal removal of unwanted kids???

  2. Who says that fetuses aren’t alive? They’re clearly alive, just as the mold on my bread is alive.

    What they aren’t is human, because they have no minds. We know they have no minds because it takes exposure to language to develop human-scale intelligence – as the phenomenon of “feral children” demonstrates – and in the womb they’ve had no exposure to language.

    On the other hand late-term abortions are just plain bad news. You should have made up your mind by then. But there’s no way that ending the life of some cells can be rationally construed as murder by anybody with even a basic understanding of biology.

    Furthermore no male can have more than a second-hand opinion on this subject, let’s just make that clear.

  3. What they aren’t is human, because they have no minds. We know they have no minds because it takes exposure to language to develop human-scale intelligence

    While I don’t want to get into the whole abortion debate, your definition of what constitutes humanity just doesn’t work.

    By that definition, children with mental disorders can’t be labeled as human – they don’t have language skills, and are often incapable of developing what could be considered human-scale intelligence.

    It wouldn’t exactly be moral to advocate that the killing of such an individual would be a morally acceptable answer, so clearly that can’t be a universally acceptable definition for humanity.

    The reason why I tend to shy away from the abortion debate is that we just don’t know what really constitutes humanity. Is it genetic, in which case a fetus would be alive at conception? Is it based on intelligence, in which case those with mental disorders could be considered not to be human? Or does it have to do with "ensoulment" – a concept that is based on the acceptance of the concept of the soul in the first place.

    I don’t have the answer to that question, and I’m not even sure it is answerable. However, in the meantime, I do believe images like this will influence the debate over abortion more than any of the usually heavy-handed tactics of the pro-life lobby. Ultimately, the only consensus on abortion will come from a shift in attitudes rather than a shift in policy.

  4. By that definition, children with mental disorders can’t be labeled as human

    Yeah? So? If you’re so profoundly retarded that you literally can’t absorb language to any degree, then you’re a vegetable, not a human. Luckily this represents only the rarest of situations. The vast majority of people with mental disorders can absorb enough language to construct self-identity, and are therefore human. But prior to the development of self-identity, human babies are no more special than chimpanzee babies – in fact they develop at the same rate, right up to the langauge discrepancy. Then the human babies take off, obviously.

    For anybody who accepts the genetic definition of humanity that Jay mentioned, here’s a question: would you be comfortable if we took a few cells from anywhere in your body that you chose, kept them, and then destroyed the rest of you? No? Then if a few cells isn’t enough to preserve your life, how can a few cells be life for anybody else?

  5. For Republicans, the abortion issue is a classic example of “be careful what you wish for….it just might come true.” As soon as that “smiling, laughing fetus” passes through momma’s loins, then he or she is one of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of unwanted children born annually, and thus a tremendous liability to the party of “tax cuts, limited government and more personal responsibility.” To be taken seriously on the issue, the fundamentalist wing of the party must come to the realization that comparably liberal Catholic Church has that outlawing abortion is not consistent with the GOP platform of “every man, woman and infant for themselves.”

    The increased birth rate of unwanted and often poorly nurtured newborns, coupled with the increased law enforcement cost of attempting to enforce yet another prohibition, will require massive public investment that the short-sighted “give me my tax cut” crowd most likely to be “pro-lifers” haven’t quite put two and two together about yet.

    The reality is that the Republicans have absolutely no interest in seeing the abortion issue go away. It’s a political gold mine for them unlike any other issue. I have talked to so many apolitical voters (mostly rural) whose vote is determined solely on opposition to abortion. I venture to say that abortion is the deciding factor in about 20% of the electorate. The gun issue probably buys the GOP another 5-7% of the electorate and discrimination against gays probably buys another 3-5% beyond that.

    Losing control of these issues, especially abortion would be devastating for the Republican party because a high percentage of these voters aren’t associated too closely with the anti-populist Jay Reding wing of the party. Most one-issue social conservatives aren’t comfortable with the prospect of giving unlimited control to corporations or putting blind faith in lawless markets, and they don’t enjoy seeing their neighbors suffer the way that the Jay Redings of America do. Only by piggybacking these dimwitted one-issue voters onto the plutocratic bandwagon can the Republicans win elections, since only about a third of Americans are plutocrats. It’s worked so far, but resolving the abortion issue in favor of prohibition would be doomsday for the party for all of the aforementioned reasons. Thus, expect continued hot-blooded rhetoric and assurances that overturning Roe versus Wade is “just around the corner” if you re-elect Bush, but don’t expect to see it happen…ever.

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