Listening to the pro-choice crowd, you would think that abortion clinics are glistening citadels of medical and scientific advancement. The indispensable Life News undermines this myth every day by publishing horror stories from former clinic workers. Their most recent comes from a former Planned Parenthood employee named Angie, who described what happened when she checked a bleeding pregnant woman to see if her baby still had a heartbeat:
A few days later, Planned Parenthood’s supervising Nurse Practitioner came to my office inquiring why I had used a fetal heart Doppler to allow my patient to hear her baby’s heartbeat. When I said it was part of the routine prenatal exam, she said, “not at Planned Parenthood, it isn’t! We do not allow the patients to hear the heartbeats of their baby because it may sway their decision.” When I commented that it was probably good in this instance because the patient got to the ER where she needed to be, she questioned why I did not send her to Dallas for an abortion.
I said, “You would have done a sonogram and told her that her baby was dead.” She said, “No we wouldn’t have. By the time we do the sonogram, she has already signed consent for the abortion. We don’t tell them if it is dead or alive, twins or triplets.” It was at that point that I knew I could not longer be a party to this type of travesty. (Emphasis added.)
Angie’s experience is shocking, but it shouldn’t surprise anyone. For all the clanging appeals to “medicine” and “women’s health” surrounding abortion, its advocates and practitioners keep it legal only by hiding information and denying science. Planned Parenthood covers up the heartbeats and delays the sonograms. Regulations that would show every patient the evidence, like mandatory ultrasounds, are deemed too invasive. Laws requiring parents to be informed before their daughter receives an abortion are denounced as invasions of privacy. Pro-life protesters handing out literature at clinics are called terrorists.
Conservatives are constantly accused of being anti-science. One of the more insipid political books ever written is The Republican War on Science by Chris Mooney, which accuses the GOP of resisting progress on just about everything. But in the case of abortion, it’s the left that’s dragging its knuckles, shutting out new evidence while making feral grunting noises about “choice” and “reproductive rights.” In contrast, the pro-life movement owes its existence largely to advancements in technology.
The revolting case of Kermit Gosnell is aiding the pro-life movement by putting the barbarism of abortion on full display. But before Gosnell's filthy clinic ever made headlines, the abortion lobby was in trouble. America has been gradually trending pro-life for decades, culminating with an NBC/Wall Street Journal poll earlier this month that found 52% thought abortion should be illegal either with exceptions or without them. Only 45% took the pro-choice position, that abortion should be legal always or “most of the time.” (No wonder the president canceled his speech at a Planned Parenthood fundraiser yesterday.)
Why the shift in opinion? It wasn’t until the late 20th century that using ultrasounds to visualize pregnancies became common practice. This allowed mothers to view the developing human life inside them. As images of babies in the womb became more widespread, the country became more cautious about abortion.
To be pro-life is to be pro-science. That’s what Dr. Bernard Nathanson discovered in his own pro-life enlightenment during the 1970s. An abortionist who had presided over more than 60,000 abortions and a founder of the pro-choice group NARAL, Nathanson began his career as a staunch abortion advocate. But scientific advancements like the ultrasound, which showed babies developing and moving in the womb, began to unsettle him. He eventually declared himself to be pro-life and dedicated the rest of his career to battling the abortion industry.
In 1984, Nathanson narrated the film The Silent Scream, which used an ultrasound to show the a twelve-week pregnancy being aborted. It derives its name from a striking moment when the fetus draws back from a surgical instrument and opens its mouth in horror. The film infuriated Planned Parenthood, which swooped in with a bunch of half-baked excuses. One doctor made the incredible argument that the movie was misleading because the fetal scream may have actually been a yawn. (Well then, kill away!)
Thanks to the Supreme Court’s arbitrary line-drawing, under the law life begins when a fetus is viable – meaning it can survive independent of its mother. Only after this point can states implement abortion bans. The Court said viability falls between 24 and 28 weeks of gestation. Forty years later, remarkable medical advancements have given premature babies a greater shot at life. About 70% of Swedish babies born after 22 to 26 weeks survived for at least a year, according to a 2009 study. And scientists are developing an artificial placenta, which could make fetuses viable at the moment of conception. These advancements are an enormous threat to the pro-choice movement; if successful and applied consistently in the law, they could ban abortion entirely.
Liberals like to portray abortion as a new medical development threatened by right-wing retrogrades. The truth is the exact opposite. As far back as 1648, English common law permitted abortions before “quickening,” meaning when a mother first feels her baby moving, between four and five months of gestation. America inherited this tradition but applied it unevenly across the states. Ironically, Connecticut led the way, passing the first state abortion ban in 1821. Most states followed suit, but then began reforming their laws in the 1960s. By the time the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade, 30 states had outlawed abortion and 20 allowed it under different circumstances: a patchwork. New York, which allowed abortion on demand without a residency requirement, became a destination for abortion-seeking women.
Abortion, then, was already legal for swaths of the country and had been for a long time. Even after Roe, legalization of abortion was relatively uncontroversial. It wasn’t until scientific advances gave us a peek at the baby within that the pro-life movement gained force and public opinion softened. Abortion opponents take heart: You’re on the cutting edge; ahead of the curve.
Unfortunately, the Neanderthal left will continue to obstruct your progress, rigidly clinging to pro-choice dogmas and incantations in the face of evidence. But primitive superstitions can only survive for so long. Abortion may persist in America, but thanks to modern science, heartbeats are being heard and hearts are being changed.