Analysis

Fact checking the claim that “fetuses aren’t people”

unborn-human-fetus

On October 22, Live Action published a response to RH Reality Check’s “The Day I Learned Aborted Fetuses Aren’t People,” an article in which Amy Littlefield attempts (with no real evidence given) to convince us that fetuses, i.e. preborn children, are not people. Are the things she says about aborted babies correct?

Littlefield freely admits she is a former clinic worker. This means she has seen the bodies of aborted babies. She must know exactly what preborn babies look like at each stage of development. However, in the article, she appears to mislead the reader in a way that seems deliberate.

Littlefield says:

Sometimes patients would ask me about their embryo or fetus. Would it feel pain? No, I would assure them. How big was it? For the vast majority of patients, who were in the first trimester of pregnancy, the answer was: tiny. More than 90 percent of abortions occur at or before 13 weeks of pregnancy, when the embryo or fetus ranges from little more than a bundle of cells to no more than a few inches long. But some patients I saw were much further along. Their questions were more difficult to answer. Their fetuses looked more like babies, even though they were still not viable outside the womb….

Later in the article, Littlefield says she saw an aborted baby at 22 weeks. At this stage, there is good evidence the baby can feel pain.  But I’d like to focus on her descriptions of earlier preborn children.

Littlefield says that that 90% of abortions take place in the first trimester. The actual number, according to the Alan Guttmacher Institute, is 89%.  She says that these first trimester abortions remove “a bundle of cells” which is “no more than a few inches long.” Littlefield only admits that “fetuses look like babies” when they are “much further along.”  Although Littlefield is correct in saying that the preborn baby in the first trimester is still small, her choice of words implies that the first trimester preborn child is not very developed and certainly doesn’t look like a baby. As a matter of fact, the fetus begins to resemble a baby far earlier in pregnancy then Littlefield implies.

From The Endowment for Human Development, a scientific site on fetal development that is not affiliated with the pro-life movement, we see a 3-D sonogram of a preborn baby at 10 ½ weeks.

left-knee-and-hip-flexion

At this time, the baby not only has arms, legs, fingers, and toes, a face, a beating heart, (here is a video of a preborn baby’s heart beating at 4 ½ weeks) and a brain that produces brain waves, he has every organ that he  will be born with. In fact, if the baby is a girl, she has her own ovaries and womb.

The preborn baby also has her own unique fingerprints. These exact fingerprints have never existed before in all of human history and will never exist again. They identify the child as a unique human being, and  they can be used to identify her throughout her entire life outside the womb.

This picture of an 11-week-old preborn baby shows every detail in the hands and fingers. You can see joints and fingernails.

joints-of-the-fingers-

This is far from “a bunch of cells.”

Later in the article, Littlefield says:

Only about 1 percent of abortions take place at or after 21 weeks—and these are the abortions the pro-choice movement is most reluctant to talk about. Why? Because the fetuses look more like babies than the bundles of blood and tissue that constitute the vast majority of abortions.

Bundles of blood and tissue? Let’s take a look.

First let’s look at a chart from the Alan Guttmacher Institute which shows when abortions are performed.

WhenWomenHaveAbortions-Graph

The 2010  chart gives the most recent calculations available. Later figures have not been released.

As you can see, 33% of all abortions take place before seven weeks. These represent only a third of all abortions. Almost 30% are done at 7 to 8 weeks, and 25.7% are done at 9 to 10.

The calculations here are tricky, so bear with me.

The life of a preborn baby begins when an egg cell is released by the woman’s body (ovulation) at about 14 days into her cycle (or two weeks after her last period), and is fertilized by a male sperm.  Counting from this time, the time of ovulation, we get the age of the baby. Since fetal age, and not the time since a woman’s last period, is the most logical way to measure how old a preborn baby is (it doesn’t make sense to start counting fetal age 2 weeks before the fetus even exists) pro-lifers usually use this measurement.

But the graph above specifies that the numbers in the chart are calculated by weeks since the last period. This  measurement uses the end of a woman’s last period to calculate length of pregnancy, so this would account for a two-week difference in the numbers on the chart and the age of the baby.

Put another way, a woman who is 8 weeks pregnant (by the chart) is carrying a 6 week old preborn baby (6 weeks since conception).  A woman at 9 weeks of pregnancy (by the chart) would be carrying a 7 week old baby. And on and on like that.

We see by the chart that 55%  of all abortions abortions take place between 7 and 12 weeks.  7 to 12 weeks on the chart means 5 to 10 weeks fetal age.  The pictures below are labeled by fetal age.

This famous picture of a preborn baby removed intact during ectopic pregnancy surgery is labeled as 6-6 ½ weeks fetal age.

6 w best

Below: Fetal age 7 weeks

7wkbaby

Below: Fetal age 8 weeks

8weekbluebackground

Below: Fetal age 10 weeks

ehd-10

It seems that a large number of aborted children look far more like babies than “tissue and blood.” So we can see that Littlefield is being deceitful.

Of course, abortion is wrong regardless of what the baby looks like. A preborn baby is a developing human life whether she looks human or not. On a philosophical level, a developing human at any stage is far more important and precious than “blood and tissue.”, which is a dehumanizing way to describe a developing baby at any stage. Not only do Littlefield’s words show a shocking lack of respect for human life in the womb (not surprising considering her conclusions in the article), they are not even truthful.

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