Thinking Citizen Blog — Abortion: the ‘Heart Beat” Debate
Thinking Citizen Blog — Saturday is Justice, Freedom, Law, and Values Day
Today’s Topic: Abortion: the ‘Heart Beat” Debate
“The Texas law banning abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy is based on a singular premise disputed by many medical experts: that once an ultrasound detects electrical cardiac activity in an embryo, its heart is beating and a live birth is on the way.” So begins a recent article in the New York Times that caught my attention. To me, the abortion issue is a complicated one worth learning more about. So I kept reading. Today, what I learned. Experts — please chime in. Correct, elaborate, elucidate.
AT SIX WEEKS THE EMBRYO IS THE SIZE OF A POMEGRANATE SEED
1. “The appeal is emotional: Many parents-to-be are moved by sounds during an ultrasound scan. But what the law defines as the sound of a heartbeat is not considered by medical experts to be coming from a developed heart, which forms later in pregnancy.”
2. “At least a dozen states have passed similar heartbeat laws that could be established if Roe v Wade were overturned.”
3. “At the moment, the Supreme Court appears to be leaning toward upholding a Mississippi law that bans abortion after 15 weeks of pregnancy, effectively ending the right to abortion established by the Roe decision in 1973.”
WHILE MOST ABORTION OPPONENTS ARGUE THAT CONCEPTION IS WHERE YOU DRAW THE LINE, OTHERS SEE THE HEARTBEAT AS THE TURNING POINT
1. “The heart is one of the first organs to start developing, because the embryo’s growth and survival depend on the circulation of the blood carrying oxygen and nutrients. The electric activity begins at around six weeks in a tube of cells that will become a heart after multiple gyrations.”
2. “It will bend and loop and twist itself into an S shape. Thick cushions of embryonic tissue will grow toward one another to create walls, and a ridge on of the ventricle will rise to meet them to partition the heart.If all goes well, four chambers and valves will form by the ninth or tenth week of pregnancy, and the heart will continue to developing throughout gestation. But a heartbeat’s familiar “lub-dub, lub-dub” sound is created by the closing of the hearts valves, which do not exist in the six week-old cardiac tube.”
3. “To opponents of abortion, that is a distinction without a difference. “It is a heart tube, but it is still a heart,” Dr. Francis said. “The shape is different, but that does not change the essence of what it is.”
ARE THE ODDS OF A LIVE BIRTH RELEVANT TO THE ETHICAL CALCULUS?
1. “A 2004 study found that when a moving heart tube could be detected at six to eight weeks of pregnancy, a live birth resulted 98% of the time.” (Dr. Pierucci, a neonatalist at the Charles Lozier Institute)
2. “But that study — which compared women who had lost earlier pregnancies with those who had not — also found that cardiac activity did not lead to a live birth among one in five women who had lost previous pregnancies.”
3. “The consensus among most medical experts is that the electrical activity picked up on an ultrasound at six weeks is not the sound of a heart beating and does not guarantee a live birth.”
NB: “The sound expectant mothers hear during a scan is created by the machine itself, which translates the waves of electrical activity into something audible. Doctors are partly to blame for the confusion. Many physicians whose patients are excited about a desired pregnancy will use the word “heartbeat” to describe the cardiac activity on an early ultrasound. The word has crept into the medical literature.”
FOOTNOTE — “Only seven countries in the world allow elective abortions after 20 weeks” — true or false? what are the seven countries? what about after that? what about federal versus state limits?
1. The Washington Post fact checkers were surprised to find that the claim is true.
2. The seven countries are: US, Canada, Netherlands, Singapore, China, North Korea, Vietnam.
3. Limits beyond 20 weeks: 24 weeks (Singapore, Netherlands).
NB: US: no federal gestational limits but 43 states have gestational limits between 20 and 24 weeks. What does your gut say? What does your ideology dictate? How would you vote? Gestational limit on elective abortions or none? When? A conversation to avoid at all costs or one worth having?
For the last four years of posts organized by theme:
#2 “39 Songs, Prayers, and Poems: the Keys to the Hearts of Seven Billion People” — Adams House Senior Common Room Presentation, 11/17/20
Please share the coolest thing you learned in the last week related to justice, freedom, the law or basic values. Or the coolest, most important thing you learned in your life related to justice, freedom, the law, or basic values. Or just some random justice-related fact that blew you away.
This is your chance to make some one’s day. Or to cement in your mind something that you might otherwise forget. Or to think more deeply about something dear to your heart.