Fetus Pictures

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Warning: This post is a highly-subjective and personal rant. If you're looking for a detailed analysis of a post-Roe United States, the latest polls about abortion, or the status of unborn children in other countries ... skip to the next post. Are we clear?

When I returned to blogging after my leave-of-absence, I posted two pictures of my third child (then at 32 weeks' gestation) in a post praising the modern-day miracle of 4D ultrasound. Feel free to take a look at them for yourself.

In addition to posting these pictures on my blog, I have also been showing them to my neighbors, my co-workers, and people at my church. Frankly, I've been forcing our pictures on anyone who will stand still long enough to see them. The response has been unanimous: Wow! A few of these people have seen 4D ultrasounds before, so they're slightly less amazed then those who haven't ever seen such a thing. But everyone is either impressed or polite enough to "fake it" for my benefit. Nobody has had any doubt about what they were seeing.

My other two children, ages five and three, were present at the appointment with us. They knew exactly what they were seeing. "Look, baby!" Yes, sweetie, that's your baby brother.

We have also shared these pictures with our families. My aunt thought they were very cool. My in-laws, who are very involved with all of their grandkids, were thrilled. My parents didn't know what they were seeing. When my wife showed these pictures to my mother, she responded by saying that she didn't know if she was looking at his face or his backside. (My oh-so-patient wife did not utter the obvious reply, I'm pleased to say....) Later in the same visit, my wife noticed my mother taking a good, long look at the pictures when she thought she wasn't being observed. What did she see there? Did she see her grandson's face, or not?

I would have forgotten about my mother's incomprehension, except my father compounded the problem in a recent phone call. I asked him if he had seen the 4D ultrasound pictures, which I had emailed around to everyone in our families. He responded that he had seen them, but he wasn't sure what he was seeing. I composed an acid retort in my own mind, but I held back. In fact, I even gave him an "out": my father is colorblind at the blue-green end of the spectrum. Despite the fact that the ultrasound pictures are not within that range of colors, I suggested that maybe his disability could prevent him from seeing his grandson's face. Truthfully, I don't know enough about colorblindness to know if that's possible, but it seemed like a graceful way to avoid any unpleasant confrontation. (It might even be true; please let me know!) He accepted my olive branch, and we moved along in the conversation.

We discussed that ultrasound technology has come a long, long way in the last few years. Indeed it has! He remarked that he could never make any sense out of ultrasounds, especially the ultrasound images in The Silent Scream. I even agreed with him on that point. Frankly, the "old warhorse" of pro-life movies is severely out-of-date; today's technology could do a lot better. Then my father remarked on the growing trend of expectant parents who show off their ultrasounds: "Instead of baby pictures, now it's fetus pictures!"

"Fetus pictures," indeed. I let a few seconds go by while I quickly considered whether or not to let the remark pass without comment. On behalf of my family, I could not stay silent. I corrected him: "Baby pictures, Dad."

He stammered a bit and protested that he didn't mean to bring politics into our discussion. I told him it wasn't politics, but it was our son (and his grandson!). He stammered and stumbled a bit more, and then we changed the subject.

The following morning, I shared the conversation with my wife. She was even more outraged than I was. "Fetus pictures!" At 37 weeks' pregnant, my wife is acutely aware of every little hiccup and twitch from our son. For example, she knows that his most-active time of day is between 8pm and 9:30pm. (Maybe he's also an Idol fan!) The other day, the little guy kicked his big brother in the side of the head when that same child was cuddling with his Mommy. (Unborn sibling rivalry?) "Fetus pictures," indeed.


I don't think this is about politics, not exactly. For one thing, my in-laws are both pro-choice (although my mother-in-law is wavering), but they both recognized their grandson's face. I'm not going to tell you where I work, but let's just say that there are plenty of pro-choicers in my office. They all knew what they were seeing in those 4D ultrasound pics.

Just as an experiment, I sat down with our daughter and one of the pictures to see what she would make of it. Our daughter is almost four years' old. I showed her the picture and asked her what she saw. "Baby!" (Actually, she correctly identified him by the name that we have picked, which I won't share here.) I asked her to point to his nose. She did so. I asked her to point to his eyes. She got that one wrong on the first try, but the second try was a success. I asked her to point to his mouth, and she did so. Two out of three ain't bad, as the saying goes.

I think this is about worldview. My parents are not merely pro-choice; they have a history of abortion-rights advocacy. Like me, they have worked as abortion-clinic escorts. Like me, they have marched for abortion rights. Like me, they have been members of NOW and associated with the full range of pro-choice activism. My mother has even held a number of prominent offices at the local, state, and national levels of NOW. (No, I won't tell you which offices.) In short, they have served their time "in the trenches" during the abortion war. While they are both currently inactive, that's not because their views have changed in any way. Unlike me, my parents both remain 100% committed to abortion for any reason, at any stage of development.

If my wife decided today to abort our unborn child, I have no doubt that my parents would help her do it ... and hide the fact from me to the best of their abilities.

I have four reasons for posting this rant. First, it is a lament. My parents' hearts have been so hardened that they are not capable of seeing their own grandson. Whatever your position about the legality of abortion, I think this is very sad. Second, it is a warning to pro-lifers. Do not assume that every pro-choicer can be convinced if you can just find the perfect argument. Some hearts can only be changed by the Holy Spirit. Third, it is a warning to pro-choicers. You can admire someone's ultrasounds without having to compromise your commitment to abortion rights, and you should try to do so. Even if you have no idea what you're seeing, the conventions of a polite society strongly indicate that you should fake it.

The fourth reason is a little more complex. Christina has posted on RealChoice about why we should embrace the pro-choice language and refer to unborn children as "ZEF people," or perhaps just "ZEFs." Although I have a lot of respect for Christina, I think she's totally wrong about this idea. The pro-life position depends on the humanity of the unborn child. To be sure, acknowledging the humanity of unborn children is not always sufficient to convince a person that abortion is evil. There are pro-choicers who will readily identify an unborn child as such, even using the forbidden term ("baby") to describe the unborn child, and still argue for the right to kill such children. However, it is very difficult for me to see how we can make a compelling argument for life without first establishing that unborn children are human beings, too. In other words, the humanity of the unborn is a necessary condition to the pro-life cause, even if it is not always a sufficient condition. Because it is a necessary condition, we must not compromise it ... not even in the interests of finding common-ground with others.

Someone will undoubtedly read this post and inform me that the phrase "fetus pictures" is medically accurate. That is true in a way, but only in a very limited way. The sad fact is that the pro-choice movement has spent more than three decades using terms like "fetus" to deny the humanity of unborn children. A definition from a medical dictionary does not capture this added baggage, nor can it hope to do so. In the same way that racists have historically used racial epithets, pro-choicers have used medical terminology to distance themselves from the victims of their philosophy. You cannot separate the words' definitions from their implied meanings.


Normally, I keep these sorts of personal posts on my own blog, not on ProLifeBlogs. However, this rant will be cross-posted to both blogs. I thought about that decision a lot, and I'm still not sure about it, but I'm going with my heart on this one. I am not looking for suggestions or solutions; the situation between me & my parents is complex (at best), and this tangled thread is only a small part of the problems. I'm not even looking for sympathy....

Instead, I hope that my rant could inspire some thought among pro-lifers and pro-choicers alike. Our words matter. Our worldviews matter. What kind of a society have we made when grandparents can't even recognize pictures of their grandson ... simply because he hasn't been born yet?

(cross-posted to Naaman the Ex-Leper)

1 Comment

Naaman,

Like your parents and in-laws my in-laws are very definitely "pro-choice." I, too, had a 4D ultrasound when I was pregnant with my twins, and they are as clear as post-birth pictures, and anyone who saw them (I showed them to everyone as well) could not deny it. I even got a few nice comments from my very pro-choice in-laws, although most did not even react. You are correct, hearts can only be changed by the Holy Spirit, and we can only be His imperfect instruments.

Many times I have been confronted with "it is not a baby, it is a fetus" argument, and have pointed out that fetus does not describe the kind of life that exists, it merely describes a stage of development - the same as infant, toddler, adolescent, adult. In every case, this has disarmed the person making that arguement. I do agree that we ALWAYS need to frame the arguement as one of Human Rights and the need to protect our unborn human brothers and sisters. Funny, isn't it that I don't know anyone who is pregnant who doesn't refer to her baby as a baby, whether or not she is prochoice or prolife. The truth is written on the heart.




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