Blogging in Berkeley. Notes on news, politics, law, and technology in the US and China. [This blog is inactive. I am now staying busy and having a great time at UVA Law.]
Tuesday, November 16, 2004

Ultrasound at 24 weeks of development.

BBC NEWS Health Scans uncover secrets of the womb:
“The images have shown:

-From 12 weeks, unborn babies can stretch, kick and leap around the womb - well before the mother can feel movement

-From 18 weeks, they can open their eyes although most doctors thought eyelids were fused until 26 weeks

-From 26 weeks, they appear to exhibit a whole range of typical baby behaviour and moods, including scratching, smiling, crying, hiccuping, and sucking.

Until recently it was thought that smiling did not start until six weeks after birth.”

If I could wave a magic wand and overturn Roe v. Wade I would not do it. If a Supreme Court decided that the US Constitution can not be construed to contain a right to abortion I would not be upset that it would become a state rather than a federal issue. I am sympathetic to the concerns of life advocates. Partial birth abortion is not a simply a medical procedure, it is the killing of a child. We must have a PBA ban upheld by the courts. Life does not start at birth, it starts some time before.

I read an article several months ago about the new the new 3D ultrasound imaging (and I heard about it on NPR), so I went to check out what everyone was raving about. The images are impressive.

Here are some images from the BBC

Here are more images using the new ultrasound technology from

As I looked at the images it occurred to me that perhaps some of these unborn babies were still early enough to be aborted. There was no political subtext to anything I had heard about this new technology up to that point. I figured ones past 12 weeks could not be, since abortions are not normally done after the first trimester. Then it occurred to me that I didn't really know that for certain, that is just what I had heard. I decided to google it, to try to find a website with information on how late an abortion could be had in this country. I expected to find shrill, polemical, angry anti-abortion websites when I typed in "25 weeks abortion." I did find some of that, but what I also found was web advertisements for late abortions. I found one page of links to websites for clinics in 23 states offering abortion on demand until at least 22 weeks from the last menstrual period, some as late as 26 weeks.

Dr. Hern is a heavy web advertiser. It's hard to search the net for abortion information and not find his ads. He has even paid to have a sponsored link for the search term "third trimester abortion" at Google. His services include: "Outpatient elective abortion through 26 weeks from the last menstrual period." They are trying to sell a service, so the description provided on this type of website for the procedures are certainly presented in way that make it seem as inoffensive as possible. Yet the descriptions are still disturbing, especially after seeing an ultrasound image of a baby blinking and smiling at 26 weeks of development.

At the point at which a baby can live independently outside the mother's body nobody should have the right to kill that baby. If the doctor could induce labor or remove the baby by cesarean section then the doctor should not kill the baby. At some point it stops being "reproductive rights" for the mother and becomes an issue of human rights for the child.

What is the point at which a life is a life? I don't think it happens at the moment of conception. So somewhere between the extremes of the moment of conception and the moment of birth there should no longer be elective abortions performed. Since the majority of people in the US are pro-choice and the majority of people also oppose partial birth abortions I suspect most people fall somewhere in between the extremes as I do. I think that the pendulum has swung too far toward one extreme and it is time for it to swing back in the other direction. This is not an issue of religion. France is probably the most aggressively secular nation on the planet; in France abortions are "available on demand until the tenth week of pregnancy on condition that they undergo counselling on alternatives and observe a one-week waiting period." I don't agree with the French on much, but I think they have a better policy on abortion than we have in the US.


Good Morning-

I was just on your website looking at those ultrasound pictures—amazing! I also have not heard any political discussion surrounding the new technology. It certainly gives a new perspective on the beginning of life. It complicates the issue for me somewhat because the babies in those pictures are not necessarily viable, but they are not exactly lumps of tissue either. When I look at the pictures, it strikes me as more of a responsibility that the mother has to protect this tiny little life, rather than a right to destroy it. What a hard distinction to make though. If life begins before the point when the fetus becomes viable outside the womb, but sometime after conception, then when do you draw the line? Is it when it starts to look like a baby? That doesn’t seem quite right, but maybe any woman seeking an abortion should be forced to look at the ultrasound before she makes a final decision.

I think that we may have talked about this before, but I am struck by how little we really hear about emergency contraception. I believe that some education, and easy access to the product, could go a long way. I was at the OBGYN recently, and I left with 5 lbs. of paperwork on everything under the sun, but information on the morning after pill was not included in the literature I received. I just don’t understand why that is. I suppose you run into religious opposition—the same people who are adamantly pro-life—but it is my understanding that these pills can be taken to prevent conception in the first place. How is that different than any other contraception? Even if you don’t believe in contraception at all, isn’t it better than the alternative? I guess some people won’t ever see it that way.

Alright, I’ve got to get back to work, but I just wanted you to know I enjoyed reading your thoughts on the issue.

I am getting so excited about coming home! See you soon.

(my perspective on abortion)

The saying is true, "We are free to choose our actions, but we are not free to choose the consequences of our actions." While there may be people who think abortion is perfectly acceptable, and should be readily available (even for convenience and other purely selfish reasons) it is rare that a girl who has had an abortion does not live, for the rest of her life, with the guilt and sorrow of that choice – and not because someone else makes her feel guilty, but because she knows within herself what she has done. So why would anyone who really cares want to see a life sentence of remorse imposed upon her? Those who really want what is best for women, would not support a practice that goes so completely against the very nature of women, which is to nurture and protect life, not destroy it.

So - what is life?

Life: The property or quality that distinguishes living organisms from dead organisms and inanimate matter, manifested in functions such as metabolism, growth, reproduction, and response to stimuli or adaptation to the environment originating from within the organism.

That should answer the question, but proponents of abortion don’t like it, so they have said there is still a question of just when that life begins (though that only, and deliberately, serves to cloud the issue). We all know that none of us would be here if not for an act of conception, so arguing that life begins at some other time is only a means to excuse the practice of abortion, to make it seem benign, instead of the wretched and evil practice that it is. Do the words, “wretched” and “evil” sound too harsh? Well how many people who say they are pro-choice would think it perfectly okay for someone to walk into a nursery, snatch a helpless infant out of its crib, and tear it limb from limb, even if it had such a disturbed mother that she was willing to consent? Yet - they think nothing of advocating such a thing when the child is nested within a womb. But since they say its not life yet, lets look at that and see if there is really much difference. Since the most current argument is that of viability in determining when life begins - lets consider viability.


1. Capable of living, developing, or germinating under favorable conditions.

(Woops - wouldn't conception equate to "germinating under favorable conditions"? And wouldn't the growth of a "developing" child in utero be consistent with that definition - and constitute being “capable of living” - in other words - life?)

Since number one kind of ruins the argument that life does not begin at conception, lets look at number two.

2. Capable of living outside the uterus. (A much more recent addition if you can't tell)

So according to advocates of abortion, a fetus is not life if it isn't viable - capable of living outside the uterus. Exactly what do they consider not being capable of living outside the uterus? Are they saying its not viable because its still relying on its mother to provide what it needs, to nourish and protect it, in order for it to continue to develop further, before being born? And because of that dependence for survival, it’s okay to destroy it?

So then how much more viable is a newborn infant? Can it provide for its needs? Can it nourish or protect itself? Can it continue to develop further without being nourished or protected by someone else? A healthy full term new born baby may have sufficiently developed lungs to breathe without assistance, but how long would that same infant survive after birth, if it had no one to provide what it needs - no one to continue to nourish and protect it? How long would it live if it was laid aside and left to itself? How much more viable is that newborn, than it was when it was in the womb? It is still completely dependent on another, and cannot survive on its own. We have then, with abortion, the moral issue of deliberately ending life. Why do we think we have that right, especially for such frivolous reasons as not wanting to disrupt our own lives? So what about that failed birth control? Hardly a justification for depriving our very own children the opportunity to live and experience the wonders and beauties life has to offer. And who knows what greatness we destroy, when we say our own convenience is of more value than another’s very life with all the promise it could hold?
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