Why does looking at a fetus rile us so much? Because it matters
Proving yet again that real life will always outdo even the most preposterous Onion story, a chilling feature in Friday’s New York Times on the latest from the anti-choice front reveals an increasingly pervasive strategy undermining women’s reproductive rights: making them look at ultrasounds before granting abortions. An astonishing 20 states now encourage or enforce pre-abortion ultrasounds, most notably Oklahoma, which last month enacted an especially draconian law to require women seeking abortions to view their ultrasounds and have them described in detail by their doctors.
Forcing a woman to look at her fetus in order to manipulate her sympathies is, make no mistake, an insulting interception of a private procedure, one that anyone who cares about reproductive freedom should be outraged over. Hey, ladies, if we can’t take away your constitutional right, we’ll just guilt-trip your ass! It’s also, the Times notes, pretty damn ineffective. In Alabama, for example, the ultrasound stricture “has had no apparent impact on the number of abortions.”
But the tactic, despicable as it is, does raise an uncomfortable issue. Abortion is a deeply personal enterprise riddled with conflicting emotions, one few women take lightly. Among those of us who are pro-choice, I’ve long considered my own simple belief that life starts at conception a verboten topic. And I’ve been disappointed when I’ve heard friends taking the convenient semantic dodge of referring to an abortion as a decision regarding “a clump of cells” and then calling a planned pregnancy at the same stage “the baby.” Aren’t a wanted and unwanted fetus made of the exact same stuff, even if the Times quotes a Birmingham clinic patient saying, “You almost have to think of it as an alien”?
I believe wholeheartedly that no one should be obligated to bring a child into the world, nor should anyone exerting her reproductive rights be subject to government-enforced dissuasion, period. And it’s not for me to tell anyone else what defines personhood. I’m just pretty confident it isn’t one’s desire for it to be so or not. The fight over ultrasounds starkly shows exactly what anti-choice forces have glommed onto, and what unnerves some of us on the other side so deeply: that having a choice and seeing that choice are two different things. Because, uncomfortable as it may be for many of us to acknowledge, a human heartbeat is a powerful thing.
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Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
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Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
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A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
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Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
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Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
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Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
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O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
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Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
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When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
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A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
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