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“The Fetus is Squirming, and So Are We”

William Saletan of Slate.com is among the best in the business when it comes to reporting on biomedical and ethical controversies. Saletan is not pro-life, but he is usually quite fair in representing pro-life arguments and motivations.

Such is the case with his article published at Slate.com on April 28, 2007. In this article, Saletan argues that the real challenge to the continued legalization of abortion is the ultrasound machine.

While others have contemplated the impact of a woman seeing the image of her unborn child as an individual matter, Saletan looks also at the broader cultural and legal meaning of this technology.

From his article:

Pro-lifers are often caricatured as stupid creationists who just want to put women back in their place. Science and free inquiry are supposed to help them get over their “love affair with the fetus.” But science hasn’t cooperated. Ultrasound has exposed the life in the womb to those of us who didn’t want to see what abortion kills. The fetus is squirming, and so are we.

As one abortion rights activist complained, “The fetus beat us.” In other words, the image of the unborn child revealed the basic horror of abortion. This is the killing of a child.

Interestingly, Saletan argues that the Partial Birth Abortion procedure was understood by Congress to be particularly abhorrent because the baby is partially visible (and undeniably human) during the procedure. The more traditional methods of abortion dismember the baby in the womb, completely out of sight. But, as Saletan notes, that “out of sight” dimension is utterly transformed by ultrasound technology.

With several states considering laws that would require a woman seeking an abortion to see an ultrasound image of her baby, Saletan goes so far as to support the basic logic of the bills:

Critics complain that these bills seek to “bias,” “coerce,” and “guilt-trip” women. Come on. Women aren’t too weak to face the truth. If you don’t want to look at the video, you don’t have to. But you should look at it, and so should the guy who got you pregnant, because the decision you’re about to make is as grave as it gets.

Parts of Saletan’s article are certain to rankle pro-lifers, but the very fact that his article appears in Slate.com sends a signal. As Saletan said, the fetus is squirming and those who support abortion are squirming as well.