She’s Having a Fetus

Commenting on the news that Kate Middleton is pregnant, Denny Burk wonders Why aren’t we calling it the “royal fetus”? In 2004, I considered what a conversation would sound like if pro-choicers used language that was consistent with their beliefs.

Overheard at a local shopping mall:

Jan: “Marsha! How are you girl? I haven’t seen you in ages.”
Marsha: “Hey Jan, you’re looking great. How’ve you been?”
Jan: “Just peachy. Hey, guess what? I’m going to have a fetus!
Marsha (excited): “That’s wonderful! Oh, I’m so happy for you. Now we both have parasites growing in us.”
Jan: “Yeah, but you’re having twins. I’m so jealous.”
Marsha: “Oh, I only have one now. Greg didn’t get his promotion so we decided to selectively reduce one of them.”
Jan: “Aww . . . well, that’s a valid choice. I was hoping to have two fetuses because this one is going to be used to harvest organs for Alice. It took us forever to find an IVF facility that would help us with a ‘designer fetus’
Marsha: “I’m glad everything worked out. So when is it due?”
Jan: “My doctor says I’ll be delivering sometime in July.”
Marsha: “No, I mean when’s it due to become a human.”
Jan: “Oh, well, Bobby and I draw the line sometime within the first few weeks after birth.”
Marsha: “Hmm, Greg and I think it occurs in the third trimester but I can respect that. It’s a valid choice.”
Jan: “Hey, what happened to Cindy? I heard she was having complications with her pregnancy. Did she ever deliver her fetus?”
Marsha: “She did. Back in September. But the baby was born retarded so, you know, she did the right thing and took a trip to Holland.”
Jan: “That is so like Cindy. She has always been so compassionate.”
Marsha: “Oh, I know. She was really thinking about the child. I mean, what kind of quality of life would it have?”
Jan: “Exactly. It’s just a shame that she has to go all the way to Europe.”
Marsha: “Tell me about it. At least Cindy has the money to travel. Just think about the poor women that have to resort to back-alley euthanasia.”
Jan: “Thank God, Obama was reelected. Can you imagine if the fundies had elected that anti-woman extremist?”
Marsha: “I’m still shocked Romney came so close. I don’t know what those Red State nuts were thinking.”
Jan (mockingly): “But the election was about moral values.
Marsha (rolling her eyes): “Yeah, some values they stand for.”
Jan: “Hey, I hate to run but I have to finish up my Christmas shopping. You know, it’s depressing how commericalized the holidays have become.”
Marsha: “Haven’t they, though? People have completely forgotten the ‘reason for the season.’ Well, it was great seeing you again. Give me a call sometime.”
Jan: “I’ll do that. Hope you have a great Christmas.”
Marsha: “You too. Bye.”

  • Thrownaway

    Wait, really? Never mind how incredibly dismissive this is of the many terrible situations where a woman faces the choice of abortion, but seriously, it’s not even a clever misunderstanding.

    Simply: A pregnant woman is *going* to have a baby, she currently *has* a fetus, or embryo, or zygote or blastocyst. That is true until birth or C-section or other emergency procedure separates the two, allowing the new form to live on its own or not.

    You link to an article about the Dutch euthanizing infants but your fictitious person talks about traveling there in order to euthanize a developmentally challenged child? You didn’t dig enough to find that the Dutch have rules in place, and the very first criteria is “The presence of hopeless and unbearable suffering.” If you have another way to relieve the suffering of critically malformed infants, you should probably share it because this tragedy happens more than we’d like to believe.

    There’s more to object to, but I don’t really have that kind of time. In short, your premise is weak, your strawmen are unbelievably vile (as in I cannot believe such heartless people exist) and you seem to be perfectly okay with allowing infants to suffer and women to be held hostage by their wombs. Gross.

    • http://www.fromcajuntoasian.blogspot.com Adam Cavalier

      Infants to suffer?! Women to be held hostage to their wombs?! Is that even a serious comment?

      You want to talk about vile? That’s about as repugnant as it gets! You should be ashamed of yourself and remove your comment. It’s okay to disagree with the manner in which the post was written… but to say something so willfully ignorant is down right asinine! You should be ashamed of yourself. It’s no wonder you put your comment down under a pseudonym. I wouldn’t want anybody to know who I was if I wrote something like that.

    • tlhughes

      The above is indeed a poor caricature. You are basically making stuff up about your opponents which don’t even come close to what they actually think, in an attempt to make them look bad. Bearing false witness, right?

      What Throwaway said is not vile at all. Whether you agree its the right thing to do, its not vile to wish to show mercy to persons whose suffering is extreme and cannot be medically ameliorated. I also agree with Throwaway on forced pregnancy. Even if you come down on the side of fetal rights (personally I think its extremely important to identify rights, or personhood, only with those that have a consciousness… it is the conscious part of you that loves, that has feelings, that can be wronged or hurt… and that means no earlier than the 3rd trimester), you should at least be able to acknowledge that its a balancing of evils, and avoiding one (killing a fetus, if you’ve granted it rights in its pre-conscious stages) is causing another (enslaving the woman, and possibly endangering her health). Someone who comes down on the other side of that argument is not being vile, they are simply weighing the various evils differently.

      By the way, its not a universal Christian position that pro-choice is bad, its just “in vogue” right now. I personally think the “pro-life” position is not ethical, and seems to result from a deliberate confusion between what we mean by life and what we mean by a person (ie. something that, when awake, is conscious) Granted, people that hold the pro choice position may hold it for many different reasons (same with pro-life), but I refer you to Frank Schaeffer’s views for a different Christian viewpoint.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/joecarter Joe Carter

        You are basically making stuff up about your opponents which don’t even come close to what they actually think, in an attempt to make them look bad. Bearing false witness, right?

        How is it “bearing false witness” when every one of those things I list is something supported by pro-abortion advocates?

        By the way, its not a universal Christian position that pro-choice is bad, its just “in vogue” right now.

        Yeah, it actually is the universal Christian position among orthodox Christians.

        but I refer you to Frank Schaeffer’s views for a different Christian viewpoint.

        Frankie is no longer a Christian, so he’s hardly someone to provide a Christian viewpoint.

        • Steve

          “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the BABY leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit.”” – Luke 1:41

          If the Holy Spirit thinks that children in the womb are babies, I’m not one to argue. Someday I’ll have to stand naked before the judgement seat of God, and none of my excuses will work.

  • http://www.peicurmudgeon.com peicurmudgeon

    There are numerous christian sects that do support a woman’s reproductive rights.

    Also, the real (original) reason for the season is axial tilt.

    • http://www.fromcajuntoasian.blogspot.com Adam Cavalier

      What do you mean by “reproductive rights”? Do you mean they support the right for a woman to “kill the baby in the womb if she doesn’t want it”? If that’s the case, you are simply referring to people who call themselves Christians, but are not true Christians. I could put on a jersey and call myself a member of the Los Angeles Lakers, but that doesn’t make it so. Matthew 7:21-23

      Also, what’s the reason for the axial tilt?

      • Steve

        He means the same thing all pro-choicers mean: “I do not want to think about the life of unborn babies, nor do I want to confront what abortion does to them. I will suppress my knowledge of the truth by using euphemisms. Shut up and let me continue condescending on you.”

        But someday that party will come to an end. Christ will say to the people on his left, “I was being murdered, and you did nothing.”

        And the crowd will say, “When, Lord, were you being murdered and we did nothing?”

        Christ will reply, “What you did not do for the least of my brothers, you did not do for me. Now go off in the eternal punishment that is prepared for you.”

        • http://peicurmudgeon.wordpress.com peicurmudgeon

          I am not referring to myself here. I am making the statement that many people label themselves both pro-choice and christian. I guess I’ll need to get them to check with you to see if the ‘christian’ label is appropriate. What other criteria do you use to determine a person’s right to claim their own religion?

          The Earth’s axial tilt was most likely caused by one or more collisions with other bodies during the early stages of the soalr system.

          • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/joecarter Joe Carter

            What other criteria do you use to determine a person’s right to claim their own religion?

            How about this for a criteria: To call yourself a Christian you should not endorse or support the killing of the most innocent human beings created in God’s image.

            I don’t really think that is too much to ask, do you?

            • Loo

              Then ban the US military. Really, demand it. Christian’s should not endorse the killing of the most innocent human beings created in God’s image – so we are innocent and sinless in utero, good to know – and we shouldn’t support anything that kills uterine children – such as, oh, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc, etc. My, there are a lot of innocent casualties by American bomb happy air force pilots … OK, I expect you at the next peace march Joe. The Mennonites have a good policy on war in general – shun it.

              I don’t like abortion, I think it is more harmful than not, but there are medical reasons for it. Most Christians agree. Now, and this is where it gets difficult, in certain instances a fetus/baby in utero can be dead but still have a heart-beat. Death is a process, not a instant shut down of all systems. When the baby dies, it can, in rare instances create a life-threatening condition for the mother. In the US, and recently, Ireland, doctors insisted the fetus is alive because it has a heart-beat. Well, in born humans, we can also use brain activity to check of life. Although we have a fuzzy notion of brain activity in fetuses, it can’t be used to assess consciousness.

              All this to say, we can’t actually draw a line between a living/non-living fetus/unborn, however, for medical reasons, doctors need permission to D and C when the fetus /unborn (often called dead, but with a heart-beat) when the mother’s life is in danger. Certain insurance co. will not cover this, nor would Ireland permit a D and C (not an abortion because the fetus/unborn is already dead) due to the detection of a heart beat. Here is where Pro-Life groups put on blinders – there is not clear cut way of determining if a fetus is technically alive or not. Again, natural death can be a long process – both for in utero and out. When in utero, letting the baby (called fetus at that stage) die naturally, can kill the mother (rarely, true, but it is a risk). With legislation not even being available to deal with this because the Pro-Life side says it is life with a heart-beat. In humans we also use brain-wave activity – but except for brain-stem activity, that is often not well enough developed to measure for life in the unborn fetal stage of pregnancy.

              So, those who want to be Pro-Life need to be much more educated. First, we all hope Dutchess Kate is not “having a fetus” or she would give birth in the next few weeks and the baby would be called a “miscarriage”. When a baby is delivered at term, then a woman delivers a “baby’ – so, no, people don’t go around saying they are having a fetus – that would upset people – the mother would be having a miscarriage – they go around saying they are having a Baby – as the hope is the in utero fetus will continue to develop towards maturity and be born a baby.

              In these very early stages – which is not when Mary visited Elizabeth (the fetus’ movement is not as detectable) – even knowing if a fetus is alive or dying or dead is difficult and not clear cut.

  • Josh Lyman

    If you call a foetus a baby, how many legs does a dog have. Seriously, you moan about words having meanings and then you post this nonsense!

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/joecarter Joe Carter

    If you call a foetus a baby, how many legs does a dog have. Seriously, you moan about words having meanings and then you post this nonsense!

    A fetus is the name for a baby at the earliest stage of human development. Can it really be possible that so many people are ignorant of basic biological and semantic facts? I doubt it. I think people recognize the truth but are unwilling to admit it because of pro-abortion bias.

    • Josh LymaN

      Nope. A baby has been born.

    • jose

      An adult is a human at the 18 years stage of development (0r 21 in some places). Fact.

      Why don’t you grant the right to vote to 8 year olds?

  • http://peicurmudgeon.wordpress.com peicurmudgeon

    Lets look at the stages of development shall we:
    1. Conception
    2. Zygote (first through third day).
    3. Blastocyst (second day through second week)
    a. By the end of the 2nd week, implants itself in uterine wall (“nidation”)
    4. Embryo (third through eighth week)
    5. Fetus (9th week until birth)

    Basic embryology with no pro oor anti abortion bias.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/joecarter Joe Carter

      Yes, those are all the scientific terms we use to describe an infant at the earliest stages of human development. I’m not sure what your point is. Does the fact that we use different terms to describe the change (just as we do with newborn, toddler, etc.) change the morality of killing a human being?

      • http://peicurmudgeon.wordpress.com peicurmudgeon

        Isn’t this exactly how christianity has splintered into so many sects over the centuries. Different groups put emphasis on differing aspects and interpretations. Some put emphasis on the fetus, some on supporting the women. Some believe that marriage is sacred, even in the face of abuse, and divorce should never be sanctioned. Some believe in equality between genders, some believe men ar superior.

        Do they need to check with you to determine if their theology is adequate?

        • http://www.fromcajuntoasian.blogspot.com Adam Cavalier

          Your promotion of a relativistic, post-modern approach to interpretation is so self-contradictory it’s almost not worthy of a response. It outright denies the perspicuity of Scripture (not to mention clear violations of basic interpretive rules). This isn’t about MY (or others’) word, it’s about God’s clear, authoritative Word. It is NEVER okay for a woman (or anyone else) to “choose” to murder a baby in the womb.

          • Gingerbaker

            “It is NEVER okay for a woman (or anyone else) to “choose” to murder a baby in the womb.”

            Really? Where does God specifically point that out, chapter and verse, please. Because, as far as I can remember, the Bible says that when a man harms a woman so that her fetus is injured and lost, there is only a small additional monetary fine involved.

            Please educate me to the contrary? Thanks.

      • http://peicurmudgeon.wordpress.com peicurmudgeon

        A fetus is the name for a baby at the earliest stage of human development. Can it really be possible that so many people are ignorant of basic biological and semantic facts?

        My point is that if you are going to lecture about biology, you should know your biology. The terms are not interchangeable.

        • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/joecarter Joe Carter

          True, the terms “fetus” and “embryo” are not interchangeable, just as “newborn” and “toddler” are not interchangeable. But the colloquial use of “baby” is interchangeable with any of those terms, since they refer to the same entity. My point was that Mr. Lyman seems to think the difference between “baby” and “fetus” is similar to “tail” and “leg.” But the former describes the same entity at a different stage of time while the other describes two distinct types of appendages.

          • John Evans

            Is a molar pregnancy a baby? Are twins one or two babies? Is a chimeric foetus one or two babies? Is a zygote that fails to implant a dead baby?

            • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/joecarter Joe Carter

              Is a molar pregnancy a baby?

              No, of course not. In a molar pregnancy there is no fetus (i.e., human being) only an abnormal placenta.

              Are twins one or two babies?

              After twinning, you have two babies.

              Is a chimeric foetus one or two babies?

              If you’re referring to the types of chimerism that can occur in human development, then the answer is obviously one baby.

              Is a zygote that fails to implant a dead baby?

              A human zygote is a human being and a human being in the stages of development is colloquially referred to as a baby. So yes, you could say that a zygote that fails to implant is a dead pre-birth baby.

              • John

                Thank you for answering my questions. Very few have when I have asked them previously.

                They lead, of course, to follow up questions. If at conception, the fertilized egg is a baby, but a molar pregnancy is not, at what point does the change occur?

                If a chimeric foetus is one person, at what point did the second baby disappear? What happened to it? Is it dead?

                What research efforts are being investigated to prevent the huge numbers (more than half, by some estimates) of conceptions that fail to implant and therefore lead to the deaths of babies?

  • Glenn Piper

    Thanks for this. The conversation may be contrived, but it is a truthful representation of the depths to which people will sink and the real implications of that way of thinking. As to ‘axial tilt’, really?? You are saying you are unaware of the phrase used as a colloquism to refer to the birth of the Saviour. Gods word makes it very clear that the baby is a human life from conception.

    • http://peicurmudgeon.wordpress.com peicurmudgeon

      My point is that the christian holiday celebrating the myths around the birth of Jesus was adopted from earlier celebrations of the Winter Solstice. I am very well aware of hcristians trying to avid the facts of this.

      The real point of the debate on abortion is the conflict between the potential rights of a zygote, blastocyte, embryo, or fetus and the rights of a living adult. The question is often expressed in terms of a pregancy initiated by rape (including incest) or in instances where continuing the pregnancy threatens the life of the woman. In cases of rape, the termination must happen before any rspist in convicted, and in instances of immediate to life threats to the mother terminantion usually must be instigated rapidly. This means that the decision must be left between a woman and her physician, a relationship that contains considerable confidentiality. In my opinion, there is a reasonable debate on the morality of abortion, but the legality mu side with the right of women to control their bodies.


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