The Corner

Science & Tech

Pro-Choice Luddism

For Vice, Amarens Eggeraat, drawing on the work of political scientist Rosalind Pollack Petchesky, laments that there exists no pro-choice “image powerful enough to match the foetus as an icon of the anti-abortion movement.” Apparently she doesn’t quite equate the symbolic power of the “pussyhat” with that of human life. Credit where it’s due.

Eggeraat’s premise is a false one, though. She presupposes that the clear images of what our offspring look like before they’re born — available thanks to the incredible leaps and bounds made in medical technology over the last few decades — are misleading. It’s entirely unclear why. They show a small, growing, developing human being because that’s what it is. Eggeraat protests that most abortions occur by 13 weeks gestation. Well, this is what a human fetus looks like at 12 weeks, complete with eyes, ears, and a nose. Teeth, toes, fingers, and nails too. Their brains have been working for weeks, and their hearts have been beating for over a month.

The pro-choice position is one that starts with an assumption — that abortion is morally permissible — and works backwards from there to prove it. Any facts and advances that cut against it must therefore be undermined. Of course, the idea that an unborn child may not be human until it looks human is decidedly unscientific in and of itself (what is it before it crosses the arbitrary threshold of “looking like” us?) but Eggeraat is correct to assert that prenatal imaging is a powerful part of the pro-life argumentative arsenal. How could it not be? For that reason, abortion activists have embraced a kind of Luddism that understands such imaging not as a tool helping us to ascertain the truth of the matter, but, much more ominously, a “public window into women’s private domain.”

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