The Corner

Law & the Courts

Sixth-Circuit Judges Adopt Progressive Terms on Heartbeats and Gender Ideology

Pro-life activists outside the Supreme Court in Washington June 26, 2014. (Jim Bourg/Reuters)

In a decision last week, a three-judge panel for the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals blocked two pro-life provisions in Tennessee, and in their majority opinion, two of the three judges exposed their sympathy for the progressive view of gender and abortion. (The third judge on the panel, Amul Thapar, wrote his own opinion, a remarkable and thorough broadside against Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey.)

In one footnote of the majority opinion, Judge Martha Craig Daughtrey wrote, “We use the word ‘patient’ or ‘person’ instead of ‘woman’ where possible, to be inclusive of transgender and non-binary individuals, who also can become pregnant.”

This language is a recent development among abortion-rights supporters and progressives in general, who increasingly refuse to use the word “woman” in the context of pregnancy and abortion because to do so would violate the tenets of gender ideology. Needless to say, any individual who can become pregnant is a biological woman; any effort to obscure that fact is merely a rhetorical game undertaken at the behest of ideologues and activists.

In a second footnote, the judges indulge in the strange pseudoscience that the abortion-rights movement has concocted around fetal heartbeats:

Although the statute refers to the “fetal heartbeat,” one expert explained that “early cardiac activity” is a more appropriate term because at the developmental stage in question, there is not yet a cardiovascular system. So, what is termed a “heartbeat,” at that stage, is simply a group of cells with electrical activity.

In some sense, every human heart — whether it belongs to an unborn child, a newborn, or an adult — is “a group of cells with electrical activity.” When a mother and father hear their unborn child’s heartbeat for the first time, no sane or competent doctor would advertise the sound as evidence of their child’s “group of cells with electrical activity.” It is only in the context of abortion that advocates use a sleight of hand such as this one, a means of dehumanizing the child in the womb. Federal judges should know better than to indulge in this lazy and ideologically motivated terminology.

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