The Powerful Imagery of Life

“I ran the largest abortion clinic in the world for two years. I had no conflicts whatsoever at the time I was doing the abortions. I changed my mind because the new scientific data which we were getting from advanced technology persuaded me that we could not indiscriminately continue to slaughter what was demonstrably a human being.” –Dr. Bernard Nathanson
America is one of only 30 percent of countries permitting abortion on demand. We surpass many of those countries by allowing it, with few restrictions, until birth and for any reason. That liberality opens the door for late term abortions. And we as a people are becoming more uncomfortable with that.
We can see into the womb now. We know who resides there periodically and temporarily. And now we are voting that some of these people not be torn apart–yes, literally. The legislatures of five states have so voted. And more are considering similar legislation.
Ultrasound technology first came to light in the 1950s. But it did not become common for parents to peer into the womb until the 1970s. In 1984, Dr. Bernard Nathanson, renowned abortion proponent who converted to the pro-life perspective, filmed a sonogram of a procedure–the abortion of a twelve week old unborn baby. (Viewer discretion advised.)
The monochromatic images show the baby move away from the instrument that will tear him apart. The child opens his mouth in what Nathanson called “The Silent Scream”–the title of the film.
The film was controversial. Pro-lifers lauded it. Others argued that the fetus doesn’t sense fear or feel pain. “It” just has reflexes. Mere reflex caused the child to move away from the invasive instruments. Mere reflex caused the child to express what most of us would call a response of terror.
Imagery is powerful. But many still buy into the notion that the “product of conception,” a euphemism for the resident of the womb, is indistinct and something less than the rest of us.
Nathanson once thought so too. Then he saw sonograms. Then he understood.
And many others are coming to understand as well.
I had the chance to hear Nathanson speak in 1984. I watched his clinical and factual narration of atrocity even as he acknowledged its atrociousness. He said the doctor who performed the filmed operation swore he would never do another.
Imagery is powerful.
But the assertion that the baby feels pain also motivates this discussion. One expert says pain can’t happen before 26 weeks. Another says 29 or 30 weeks.
Yet another says babies can feel pain at 18 weeks. And that is why surgeons operating on babies in utero use anesthesia for the babies. They further note that anesthesia for such operations decreases the amount of stress hormones the child produces.
Some insurance companies such as Aetna cover the cost of medically necessary fetal surgery. I hope the coverage includes anesthesia.
The laws that five states have passed and others are considering would not prevent abortions like the one Nathanson filmed. They would prevent the ripping apart of children who are weeks older. (Proposed laws vary from 20 to 24 weeks.) One bill does not name a number of weeks but exempts the kind of abortions (done earlier in pregnancy) depicted in Nathanson’s film.
Alabama, Kansas, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and West Virginia have now outlawed dismemberment abortion. Idaho, Louisiana, Missouri, and Nebraska are considering similar legislation.
Legislation is pending in my home state of Pennsylvania. If it passes, it awaits a sure veto from the governor who called Cecile Richards, head of Planned Parenthood, in for backup.
Like the ban on partial birth abortion, such laws remove one method from a list of possible modes of death for the unborn.
Let’s pray for more. Pray that some day, doctors will open wombs only to help, and never to harm.

Photo Credit: The Silent Scream

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